Late Night Phone Calls

I got quite a scare the other night. It was 9 pm, I had settled in for the night, reading a book. My phone rings, which is odd in itself because no one ever calls me, and no one calls me at 9 pm.

Getting a call at 9 pm for me is like the average person getting a call at 2 am–you immediately think the worst has happened.

I look at my phone, caller ID says “Mom Cell”. Now I’m torn. She never calls me directly from her cell; she’d never pay the long distance for that. Do I pick up? My immediate reaction is to let it go to voicemail. So I do.

As soon as I’ve decided that, I regret it. What if someone was in an accident? My brothers, my dad? That would be the only reason my mom would pay long distance for.

The voicemail icon pops up on my phone. I listen to it. At first it sounds like pocket dial, but that doesn’t seem right; she’s speaking directly into the phone. You can’t pocket dial someone and then speak directly into the phone. She’s saying something about “hey you–” and then is cut off. I listen to the voicemail twice to see if there was anything else.

It doesn’t take much for me to call her back. I’m now worried and curious. She picks up the phone and says a tentative “hello?” as if she doesn’t know who’s calling.

I forget that she doesn’t have my Skype number. She called me directly on my AT&T number, and I called her from Skype.

“Hey! Ma! You called me.”

“Oh! It’s you! Haha. I am at dinner with my friends and they wanted to see a photo of you so I pulled up your contact in my phone to show them your contact photo, but it called you somehow.”

“Oh. Okay.”

She goes on to tell me random things a mother would tell you about her life if she hasn’t heard from you in a while. I say ‘okay’ to everything and then we hang up. (The quickest way to end a conversation with a talkative person you don’t want to talk to is with one word replies).

I don’t think about the phone call until now. It occurs to me that I am just as terrified as any normal person would be at the thought of something happening to their family. This is good. I had assumed that I would be apathetic to their plight, because of all that’s happened.

Secondly, I dread talking to my mother, even as an adult. I thought it was something I would have grown out of by now, but I haven’t.

Thirdly, despite what she’s done, and all the negative things she’s said to us, she is somehow still proud of us–proud enough to tell her friends about her kids.

This is a new thing–empathizing with my mother to this degree. I think about her when she was my age and I think of her as just a person, rather than just my mother.

I think of her having some of the same self-doubts I have now, the same worries. Whether she’s made the right choices, whether she would be happier doing something else. I wonder about how she felt about my father, and how she could have fallen out of love with him. She must have loved him at one point, right? I wonder how she chose to stay married to a person she no longer loved.

I wonder whether she felt suffocated. In her marriage, in being a mother. She’s told us all, many times before, that she “never wanted any of this”. Our father never forgave her for that. He believes, like most people do, that you should never tell young children you don’t want them–even if it’s true.

What choice did she have, though? I don’t remember her having any friends when we were young. We didn’t have much money, so she couldn’t participate in many of the social things she could have done as a parent with two young children. So who else was she to voice her thoughts and feelings? She had a husband who reprimanded her for feeling suffocated, who never really emotionally supported her through anything.

My dad loves us. He loves the family life. It’s unfathomable to him that anyone could feel anything other than grateful for their children.

She must have felt so alone, in that situation. She must have felt like a monster. She lived in a society that was changing–following in America’s foot-prints: children are everything! Having a family and being the best mother you can be are the the most important things you will ever do!

I begin to see how her life must have been. She couldn’t talk to her sisters about how she felt. Most of them were mothers themselves, and while they weren’t all in happy marriages, they were all grateful for their children. One of them was even barred from seeing her children… so how would it seem to her, for my mom to go to her and complain about what burdens her children are?

When my mother was arrested for essentially being a bad mother (she got caught hitting my brother), her sisters came to be individually and said things like, “we always knew that she wasn’t a good mother. We were all so worried for you kids.”

That says very clearly to me that there is no way my mother could have went to her judgmental sisters for how she was feeling. They would have just painted her as a monster, and made her feel worse.

The thing is, it shouldn’t be that uncommon, to feel what my mother felt. It probably wasn’t that uncommon. Talking about it was frowned upon, though. Talking about anything related to motherhood in a negative light was frowned upon. Instead they were taught to “eat bitterness” because that’s what their mothers and their grandmothers did before them. They are taught to “learn their place”. In fact, if you complained about anything you had to do, even if you still did it, that was seen as a weakness of character and you must have been raised with a lack of morals.

I hope society has changed from that, now. I hope I can talk about why it sucks to have kids when I do have kids. I hope I won’t be judged for sharing my feelings. I hope I won’t feel like I have to just keep these things to myself because it’s “horrible” to talk about it.

Because it’s perfectly normal to love your kids, and not to love the work that comes with them. I love the hamster I had, but I didn’t enjoy cleaning out his cage. Who would enjoy scrubbing up hamster pee-mixed wood mush? I did it despite hating it because I loved Sir Roderick enough to want him to have a comfortable home.

If my mother had been allowed to speak her mind without feeling like an outcast, even to her husband, I believe she wouldn’t have taken it out on us. It seems like my brother and I were the only people she could really talk to; we were there all of the time, and we were too young to have any of the adult opinions that would have made her feel like a horrible person.

In the end, I feel bad for her. She has friends now, and she’s close to her sisters–but she doesn’t have us. That is pretty sad.

I hope one day I do grow out of not wanting to talk to her. I hope one day I would be emotionally intelligent enough to help repair what she broke.

Life Got Busy

I’ve been neglecting this place for a while.

We recently got the news that my visa to live in Australia has been accepted. Everything is moving a much faster than I expected.

Oh January… tax season just taking off (I’ve learned to hate taxes ever since I’ve had to do my first US tax return). It’s very busy at work as January is the first month when business starts taking off for our clients; which means they need way more help than any other time of the year.

That along with trying to get everything ready to move to the other side of the world, it’s overwhelming.

I chatted with one of our clients in Australia yesterday. He asked me again if I was serious about moving to Australia. As soon as I said, “it’s very likely”, he freaked out. He told me that I “absolutely” have to work for him, and that they “desperately” need someone like me there. He said he would like me to be there full time, but if I wanted to do part time remotely (we might live on the other side of the country than him), that would work for him, too. He said, “I don’t care how we set it up, as long as we can have you working for our company, I’m happy.”

This is the first time that anyone has ever been so complimentary of my “pay the bills” work. It’s the first time I’ve felt incredibly valued in a work place setting. I was speechless. I told him I would be happy to work for him (frankly, I would). I feel that I would be treated well there.

This client and I have also always been friendly. He chats with me about his relationships (he’s in a defacto marriage with his husband from Germany), and he’s given me some helpful information about relocating to Australia.

Our conversation yesterday has really been be a stress-relief. The uncertainty of moving to a different country when you don’t have your next job lined up is stressful. I’m still not sure if we will be taking a few months off at the TubHub’s home town, but Pete (the client I was chatting with) said that he can hold off on hiring for my position for a few months into this year and that I can take however long I want before I start.

So… I’m really looking forward to changing things up!

A Great Holiday

I have had one of the best Christmas holidays in a long time.

I usually like being around family, but our options for “family” have been pretty limited since we’ve both been living in the United States.

We spent this Christmas eve with a couple of really awesome people. Then we spent Christmas morning exchanging small stocking gifts for each other (after 6 years together, we ran out of “big” gifts to give each other).

And Boxing Day ? I did laundry and cleaning–which are actually amongst my favorite things to do. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but I enjoy housework. TubHubs and I have a running joke; he sometimes wonders out loud how angry he could make me… just so he could get me to go on a cleaning rampage (I clean to calm down).

Then tonight, we watched two movies in a row–Loopers and Inglorious Basterds–with a bottle of wine. Now we’re both browsing the intermets because we’re drunk. And yes, TubHubs combed his mustache the whole time.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

My Job Is Driving Me Crazy

For the past week, I’ve been checking my work emails at 6 am in the morning–and getting angry.

Monday:

One part of my job is to schedule projects for various members of our development team to work on. I had a project due to release for Thursday last week. I was meant to configure the complete system and show the client their product on Monday.

On Tuesday and Wednesday of last week, I remind my team of the due date. I do this because they’ve been missing a lot of deadlines lately, and I am sick of rescheduling meetings with clients. It makes us look sloppy and stupid.

On Thursday, my boss steps in on the project thread (we have an internal project assignment site), and re-assigns the work to developer Victor because the original developer was too busy.

Friday morning, I check the project thread. No notes, nothing to show that Victor started it.

I remind Daniel (our newest member, who’s not a developer, but hired to share my work load) to make sure Victor completes the work. Daniel and Victor both work in our Vancouver office, and sit in the same room. Daniel assures me that the work will be complete by Monday.

Sunday night–I’m itching to check our internal site to see if work is complete. I decide against it because it’s Sunday. I had a feeling work was not complete, and I had a feeling I was going to mad about it.

Monday morning–The project is not complete. I shoot off an email and a phone call to the client in question and tell him we have to reschedule. He’s understanding, but no doubt as his first interaction with us has been about rescheduling meetings, his impression of us will now forever be, “disorganized”.

Monday afternoon–West Coast team is online. I search for Victor in our work messenger, so I can ask him directly why the project is late. He’s not online.

So I ask Daniel via message: “Is Victor sick today?”

Daniel: “….”

Me: “What’s that mean?”

Daniel: “[Boss] just told us today that Victor is no longer with the company.”

Me: “Uh huh. When did this happen?”

Daniel: “I dunno, I just found out today.”

I feel badly for Victor. He was a funny guy. But in that moment, all I could feel is angry. My boss, the one deciding to let Victor go, or accept Victor leaving (I don’t know whether he was fired or quit), didn’t think it was important to follow up on any of his open projects. He also didn’t think it was important to inform the person (me) who assigns work to our team that one of our main developers is gone.

My company is poorly managed. Our CEO is a creative programmer; he is not organized and lacks the skill to properly assess outcomes of in-the-moment decisions. This is just one of the many examples of how my work and our clients suffer because of our poor management. There’s a reason why creative programmers stick to programming and don’t run a company: they are not good at it.

I have way more to gripe about for the rest of this insane week, but I have to stop myself here. Actually… this one is too priceless not to mention.

My other boss (two of them own the company) sent me some work he had been doing with another client. He was going on vacation (did not tell any of us?) and he had me take over the work. Fine.

Work is importing some data to this client’s system using excel file. Simple enough. Trouble was that the data import wasn’t working.

I spend at least 4 hours the last couple of days just digging through this spreadsheet to find out what might have been wrong (our import tool SHOULD show error messages, but it DOESN’T, so I have to search in the spreadsheet for errors itself).

The spreadsheet is 641 rows long and Y (abcd columns)columns wide.

I finally find the errors last night (I finished work at 8 pm), and I send this to one of our developers to fix. I send off an email to our client letting him know the clerical errors I found on his side–reminding him to check this next time.

This morning, I get an email back from the client… all bitch-toned.

He indignantly informs me that the spreadsheet I was working on is an old one, and “I guess [Your Boss] didn’t give you our updated one before he left on vacation. Our new one should only have 619 rows. Here is the new one, please re-do the upload.”

At this point, I don’t know who to be angry at. The entitled client who insists on having us upload files for him (we built the system, but any upload work is for him and his staff), or the idiot boss who couldn’t be bother to send me the correct file to work with before heading off on vacation.

I CAN’T WAIT TO STOP WORKING FOR THESE PEOPLE. 

Goodbye, Yahoo

Yahoo Becoming Internet History

Goodbye, Yahoo. I only ever had one email address (candyass2you@yahoo.com) with you, but your contributions to the internets were great.

Day Ten – No Noodles; No Rice

For as long as I could remember, I’ve always had either noodles, or rice, once per day. Chinese people eat rice and noodles like it’s bread. On this low carb diet, I’ve challenged myself to not have any noodles, or any rice. Today is Day 10.

The first couple of days were difficult, but now I’ve actually gotten used to it. For a cheat day this Saturday, TubHubs suggested that we get noodles. I get to celebrate my efforts.

As much as I love noodles… it feels even better to be look forward to enjoying something. Not that I didn’t enjoy the foods I eat on my diet, but they’re really nothing compared to a good bowl of Taiwanese Noodles Soup.

Saturday!!!!

Tale of Two Computers

ASUS X205TA 11.6 Inch Laptop (Intel Atom, 2 GB, 32GB SSD)

Versus

HP Stream 11.6-Inch Laptop (Intel Celeron, 2 GB RAM, 32 GB SSD)


I’ve wanted a smaller laptop that ran Windows OS for a long time. I currently own a Samsung Chromebook, but after using it for a year, the glitter has worn off.

Whenever I took the Chromebook somewhere where Internet wasn’t readily available, the functionality of the Chromebook suffers. As well, there were everyday software that I needed to use (like Skype) that I couldn’t install on a Chromebook. Some of these programs offer web versions, which can be run of a Chromebook, but it’s certainly not ideal.

So I started the search into a very portable and very cheap machine that will still run Windows OS. These 2 small notebook laptops were what I found in terms of portability and price.

Let’s do a general comparison:

In terms of portability…

While these were both lightweights, the ASUS computer is at least 1 pound lighter than the HP.

In terms of cost…

ASUS cost me about $250 USD. HP cost $199 USD. Both are about the price of a Nexus tablet.

In terms of Windows OS usability…

The ASUS came with windows 8.1. That’s its first downfall. The second? When I tried to upgrade directly (it was advertised with free Windows 10 upgrade) to Windows 10, it turns out there wasn’t enough SSD space to upgrade.

Both the HP and the ASUS have 32 GB SSD space… but what I found with the ASUS was that a good 10 GB of that 32 was already partitioned into a recovery disk apart from C Drive, this completely changed how easy it is to upgrade to Windows 10. HP doesn’t have the same nonsense.

Not to mention, the HP actually came with Windows 10 loaded already.

Another point in favor of the HP: Intel Celeron is faster than Intel Atom.

Web Browsing…

The ASUS was much faster for web browsing than the HP. Although this could be due to me not using the ASUS for very long (I returned it pretty much as soon as upgrade to Windows 10 wasn’t feasible).

Edit from Starbucks down the street:

Turns out the slow web experience could have to do with our home internet. Web browsing on the HP loaded at normal speed in Starbucks WiFi.

General Experience…

Overall, the HP is more preferable for me than the ASUS. It is:

  • Cheaper
  • Runs Windows 10 smoothly
  • Has most of its SSD space allotted to C Drive
  • Faster USB ports (ASUS only has USB 2.0 ports)
    • 2 USB 3.0 ports, one of these is SuperSpeed

One huge problem about the ASUS:

As soon as Windows 10 upgrade was complete, the wireless network adaptor broke. Broke as in no matter what kind of fixes (upgrade drivers, uninstall and then reinstall drivers, etc) I applied, it simply wouldn’t work.

For the HP computer—I set up the machine straight out of the box. I’ve been using it for writing offline and just about anything else I do for work, and so far it’s running fine. Web browsing is a bit slow; but only on my Chrome browser. This is most likely due to the fact that I have so many extensions built into my Chrome browser that it’s taking a toll on this small laptop with 2 GB ram.

Final thoughts…

I’m very happy with the HP. I purchased this mostly for offline writing, and it’s doing that very well.

Week 1 of “Healthy Eating”

Trying to lose some weight for the holidays this year, so I decided to diet, for the first time in my life, ever.

I started out this week with eating about 3 snack meals a day. Some raspberries in the morning with sine ginger tea. Then chicken thighs & baby bok choy stir fry for lunch. Some nut and raisins in the afternoon.

I’ve also started drinking way more water. I skipped coffee (until Sunday).

All of this started lasts Wednesday. Each day I’ve eating roughly the same amount and roughly the same things. We decided to make Saturdays a cheat day, so I got to eat more food than the rest of the diet days.

The one thing I’ve cut out completely? Noodles. I used to eat some kind of noodles (flat noodles, egg noodles, pasta noodles) just about every single day. I knew the carb count for noodles (or rice) were high, but I just didn’t care; my addiction to noodles was something I wasn’t ready to give up.

Today is Day 5 without noodles. I saw a photo of beef noodles in Flushings, NY last night, and I forcefully told myself not to keep staring.

Good news is: I dropped 2 solid pounds in 5 days.

Also for the first time in my life, I have a “goal weight”. I’ve always been happy to stay around my current weight; but recently the numbers just don’t seem to sit so well anymore on this aging body.

I can’t promise I’ll never eat noodles again; but I need to cut back for a while before I can get back into it with moderation.

I, ____

I have two hometowns. I identify with 2 cultures, and I’m married into to a third. I hold two–soon to be three–citizenships.

I have two names.

This is how my next writing project begins. I plan for it to be the most truthful account of my experiences. By truthful, I mean to say it will be written without any attempt to make anything sound more interesting than it actually is; it will be written without any intention to make myself more likable.

I’ve been writing for roughly 18 years now. I made up stories about fictional characters, and I wrote about my life and experiences in various blogs.

But this is something I’ve never tried: writing something without worrying about what the eventual reader will think.

Sure, I’ve kept personal (hand-written) diaries. I have 6 notebooks of it so far, the oldest entry dating back to 1999. When I go back and read these diary entries, I realised something: even when I write in paper notebooks that I assume no one will ever read, I’ve actually been writing to impress my future self.

So the new writing project, I, ____, is my attempt at writing about myself, my past, my beliefs, without bias, or expectation.

I’m only a few pages in, and already I am afraid. Here is some of what I wrote on the first page:

I worry that by putting all of this down on paper and one day actually publishing this, I will lose everyone. My family will disown me, my husband will divorce me, and our future children would never speak to me again.

Whether this thing will ever see the light of day, I have no idea. It’s something I really should try at least once, though–writing a piece of work with complete honesty.

Perhaps that’s why some writers only write fiction; they put their horrid thoughts and feelings and pin them on some innocent fictional character, just so they can get their thoughts out there somewhere without being directly associated with having those thoughts.

And really, I tried that. I started the story of my family many times, in fictional format. Over the years, I shed my childhood fears and sorrows all over the pages as if they were happening to someone else. There are many versions of my story in the shorts and poems I’ve generated, but none of them were actually me.

What I found? Invariably the characters themselves grew their own sense of independence. They end up entirely different than I am, and forcing my own thoughts and beliefs upon them would no longer feel right. I let them veer off in the directions they wanted to go, and that’s usually when I end up with a story I like. A story about an actually fictional character with a completely different life than mine.

That reminds me of a quote from another great writer:

“This is the beauty of fiction. Giving your characters what you never had, which then comes around and is a vicarious gift to yourself.”

— David Wong Louie.

But I’ve had enough of “vicarious gifts”. Instead I think it’s time to write about the things I’ve been afraid to put down on paper. Maybe by committing past atrocities and childhood memories to paper will make them smaller and more bearable.

There’s a Chinese expression that I was taught to adopt; swallow bitterness. It’s something Chinese girls have always been encouraged to do in order to keep our families happy. Today I’m deciding to do the opposite of that. I’ll spit out all the things that poisoned me in one place, and move on.