Posts Tagged ‘new year’

Year 4713

3 February 2011

Dear J-

When I started writing here just over four years ago I reserved this day — Lunar New Year — to reflect on blogs I read and things to look forward to in the coming year. I knew even then that the era of the blog was coming to an end, but didn’t anticipate how quickly it would. Of the blogs I cited in that first entry most have fallen fallow and my laziness has made me overreliant on RSS feeders (I’m using Google Reader) instead of actually visiting sites. Facebook has helped me keep track of people in my life, and the few minutes I do have are usually spent snoozing or playing with the kids now. The only change that can be reliably counted on, so they say, is change. Four years from now Facebook may be a distant memory and there may be an even easier way to apprise your friends on what you’re doing.

We are living in a world increasingly filled with stuff: not only are our physical lives full of things we may never end up using (who has old computers moldering in the closet?) our on-line lives are leaving a permanent record on servers and search engines. Yet these aren’t necessarily bad. The bigger the breadtrail crumbs, the easier it is to connect, the faster we understand each other and the distances have shrunk. Relativity says that as you approach the speed of light your Newtonian physics goes out the window — you get effects like time dilation. We are living in a relativistic world: how did twenty years — or four years — or one year — go by so fast?

So I’ve been following folks I generally know in real life — Ben and Sarah and then the Earls — like living Christmas letters, finding out fun adventures and exciting news. I’ve also tried to keep up with friends known only online — Junior, Doug, Darla, and Jen — who regale me with tales and coincidences. Our lives intersect in neat patterns. As much as I overshare they offer unique insights on similar situations I’ve been through and am about to embark on. On New Year you’re supposed to visit your relatives and wish everyone well for the coming year. It’s no substitute, throwing links around, but it’s a start, and that’s a good way to kick it off.

Mike

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Two Minds

30 January 2011

Dear J-

This morning at breakfast the selections at Big Kitchen were appropriately upbeat Motown and I couldn’t help but laugh inside when Mary Wells came on with Two Lovers. It is melodious and beautifully sung but if you stop to think about it the song is really talking about her relationship with an abusive schizophrenic. I’m not going to drum up any false drama by claiming that figgy has any similar serious medical disorder but there are times that I suspect, although I’m sure that’s no surprise to any other parent of a three-year-old.

This particular three-year-old is a force of nature: contradictory and contrary to an extreme but sweet and clingy as well. She is insistent on being right, both that she is right and that you acknowledge it to be so. The portion of a child’s brain responsible for repetition and routine has developed to an extreme level, where we have simply shifted our schedules and buying habits to compensate (after dinner and a bath, marshmallows and a little TV). You may hope to stop her but the best you can accomplish is maybe a little slowdown.

Today after a long day of walking and fair-going (the Taste of Tet reminded me of the county fair, only less expensive, less crowded, more interesting, and better food) I slept a few hard-earned napping minutes on the floor, cheek pressed firmly to carpet while figgy kept running off in her own world, enough distance to remain friendly while orbiting back and touching base with us to make sure we were following. That kid’s heading well beyond us and all our introverted powers have the ability to follow, and I’m so proud already.

Mike

New Year

31 December 2010

Dear J-

Yesterday I picked up figgy from daycare for the week, meaning that we take home laundry and completed art projects. Part of the activities yesterday was some sort of New Year’s Parade where the kids must have marched around the playground in the finery they got to take home — in figgy’s case, a glitter tiara and tinsel necklace. That was waiting in easy reach when I got there, and she grabbed them for immediate showing off, but she then continued to point at what they call the Parent Pocket, where important letters and other things to keep out of the reach of children are stashed. I pulled a party horn out and immediately grasped the significance: no other kid had a horn, and no other horns were in the Pockets. As we’re walking out another kid says to us “Wow, you got one that makes noise,” which figgy promptly demonstrated, sounding a note halfway between vuvuzela and dead cat.

Man they hate us. We heard that horn at random intervals last night and periodically throughout the day today.

theVet told me a story yesterday too, where she went shopping at our local mall with Calcifer, having to duck into the Nordstrom’s for a quick feeding and running into other moms-with-small-fry. Said kids were misbehaving and so when privileges were revoked, protested with reproachful looks and quiet words: “But I want to go to the bounce house/to have some candy/to look for toys/etc.” The moms were firm, the children relented, and benefits were restored. Are we therefore doing something wrong, to have grand mal tantrums for the slightest offense or contradiction to figgy’s ways? theVet related these stories in a wondering tone, as though this was the norm for the rest of the world and what we’ve gotten accustomed to — volume carrying the weight of authority and truth — the aberration.

I know that you’re supposed to spend the last week of the year cruising and looking back, reflecting on all the events of the year past — just a few minutes left to run in 2010, who could have anticipated this — but it’s a bit of a conceit that any events would be worthy of celebration anyway. Instead what else is going on right now? Like the past few nights I’m strapped to Calcifer as he settles in for the night (the Baby Björn is by far his third most favorite thing in the world, after mom and milk), looking forward to lying down and knowing I’m not there quite yet, but soon the change in shift will happen and theVet will get up to feed him while I lie down gratefully, exhausted.  Every day is a full day lately, some more than others.

They say that you can’t pick your family but they’re wrong; sure, you can’t pick the family you’re born into, but when it comes time to choose who you’re going to be spending time with — and really, isn’t that a truer definition of family — by the time you’re out of your parents’ house you’re hanging out with people you like and want to hang out with*.  For how prone I am to fits of anger and impatience theVet is there to step in and make us keep our distance, figgy and I, wary cats eying each other for weaknesses in will and stubborn fight until we’re over it.  And though the storms are passing showers, not prolonged monsoons, their brief intensity is enough to spoil hours of quiet togetherness were it not for theVet’s moderating influence.

What we take for granted is often what we miss first if it goes away.  In the dark, with this occasionally screaming demon** I know that it’s not forever.  Yet the crying is enough to drive rational thought away unless cooler heads prevail.  It’s still 2010, and I know how incredibly lucky I am, I’ve been this year — this now is all I need to know, all that needs to happen in 2011 for me to be just as rich and fortunate.

Mike

* This does not apply to junior high school, unfortunately.

** Not his fault:  Calcifer’s hitting the six-week growth spurt right on time, which is leading to impossibly small clothes (which he was just swimming in a few weeks ago, wasn’t he?) and short tempers from all.

Year 4708

14 February 2010

Dear J-

It’s New Year’s Day and even though I’ve got a small tradition going here already, I’ll take a small deviation to rethink the state of the state, right? Here in 2010 we live in a world of Facebook and smartphones, where I’ve read more books digitally in the last year than on paper. Times change. Even from 2006, when I started this chronicle (if you want, you could see it as an on-line extension of the same things I’ve been writing all my life) blogs have fallen further out of favor; they’re old-fashioned ways of expression, I hear, but it’s something I’ll keep up with until I can’t.

We went to the zoo again today, no great surprise there, I suppose; it becomes ever more difficult to keep her motivated up and down those hills, and why we try doesn’t always make sense. We’ve seen all those animals before, we’ve ridden the tram a million times, it seems, and the paths and stairs now hold no mystery for us. Yet it’s more about being comfortable; we know what to expect when we turn the corner heading down Tiger River or up past the Raptor Trail.

It’s why I write, too; we’ve managed to carve out a little neighborhood on the Internet here with my neighbors — Junior, now featuring in a hockey-writing gig that’s playing to his strengths; Sarah and Ben, whose lives and cultures hold such fascination; Jen, continuing to show us all strength and bravery; Darla, keeping us up to speed on life in Germany; Alexander, now in the midst of exploring the uncharted land of the story inside; and Missy, always teaching me how to juggle life, family, and career. Thanks to all for another great year, and I’m looking forward to how the Tiger treats us this year.

Mike

Tiger in the Tank

12 February 2010

Dear J-

Somewhere along the way innocent turned into guileless, guileless into naive, and naive into stupid: the cynics of the world will assert that the world isn’t fair and that if you’re not out to get it, then it’s out to get you. Naive is a word associated with a Candide-brand of optimism that everything will eventually turn out for the best. I understand it from a change perspective: you’ve got to be willing to take action to make things happen because you can’t rely on anyone other than yourself to do what you want.

It’s the Machiavellian qualities that folks justify that make me nuts; “by any means necessary” is one rallying cry I’ve heard plenty of before. Is there any reason sufficient to abandon tolerance and dignity in the face of desperation? I suppose it’s a personal value; the best of us can spin compelling reasons for the most ridiculous actions when given the right motivation; we tell ourselves it’s just the once but it only gets easier and easier every time we do it.

I haven’t put my finger on it exactly but i think much of my frustrations lie in not having said that things bother me; if I don’t speak up, there’s no way to change them. It’s an admirable quality to be able to assert yourself un-forcefully yet effectively, and one that I clearly haven’t mastered (or even attempted). The road to recovery starts with recognition, so I’ll make it a resolution (hey, it’s not too late for me; while the rest of you are seeing red this Sunday, I’ll be seeing it for a different reason, Year of the Tiger) to not let these things build up inside.

Mike

New Times

9 February 2010

Dear J-

The Lunar New Year is coming up this Sunday; it was one of those really big-deal holidays for us growing up, but without the same sort of community and peers now it’s going to turn out to be another Sunday this year, in keeping with the way we celebrated most of our holidays. We have some anxiety over what we think figgy should learn as an early language, to say nothing of culture, but our ancestors — Koreans and Shandong Chinese — are remarkably close, culturally, and to be fair to both, we’d have to end up teaching her both or none. So the easy way out is none.

One of the things that I should learn about is all the superstitions that surround the holiday; like other traditions, there are proscriptions (how early is it safe to wish people a happy new year?) and other things you’ve got to do, like eat noodles in your new clothes and hand out packets of money to children (not sure if that last one is something like Charlie Bucket’s grandparents’ gifts or to show how prosperous you are). It’s one thing to make a mistake, and another to repeat a mistake out of cultural ignorance, especially when you’ve been raised in it.

Even though the timing changes each year (the so-called Chinese calendar is on a lunisolar system, whereas the usual Gregorian calendar and its 365.24 days per year is strictly based on where we are around the sun), I’ve always liked the time when it usually falls, a few weeks after midwinter, when you can see the signs that the earth is ready to start wakening from its yearly hibernation. Here in Southern California, at the tail end of a couple weeks of rain, the hills are as green as you could ask for, fresh with low growth and hinting at wildflowers in the desert, new start promising new hope.

Mike

Wings Outstretched

1 January 2010

Dear J-

We found ourselves amongst crowds today — strange, I thought, that we would spend the morning hiking and yet not alone, though I suppose that the appeal of Torrey Pines State Reserve on a sunny holiday is too much for anyone to resist. When we got there, we had to drive past crowds of pedestrians hiking thier way up from the lower parking lot. It’s enough to make you feel like the laziest slob in the world seeing folks grinding up the long winding hill — old folks, children, people starting off their resolutions (I’d be interested to see the crowds on 1 Feb in comparison, but my cynicism knows no bounds).

I keep trying to remember how to get her to walk on her own, but every fifty feet, it seemed, she was running around in front of one of us with arms up hoping to be picked up. I’d look with some envy at the other kids running around the Preserve, dashing away down the trails as free as the wind. At that point I realized how much I’d miss the ache in my arms that comes from carrying her everywhere. The new year marks time in a distinct, abrupt border, and the further along we go, the farther we are from her relying on us for everything. It’s double-edged, time’s pendulum cuts both ways.

Last night our neighbors set off fireworks at the stroke of midnight; we had already retired for the night and the flare lit up the window for an instant, lighting the room in stark monochromatic relief. I could not have asked for a clearer sign even though every moment is lost in the next: there is no difference between this second and the second before midnight, New Year’s Eve. What do we need to know about how the year will turn out? I used to read all the horoscopes and psychic predictions religiously (not only because it was the only reading materials in the store at times) in order to spoil the surprise, but I’m finding now the joy in the journey.

Mike

Year 4706

26 January 2009

Dear J-

According to the zodiac, this is now the Year of the Ox — the outgoing Rat had a reputation for being clever but lazy — the first animal to arrive at the Celestial party, but only because he’d hitched a ride on the Ox’s horns, and hopped off at the last moment.  On the other hand, the Ox has a powerful yet plodding nature, having planned for the slow pace by setting off early.  Then again, there are the other stereotypes — bull-headed, bucking bulls, etc. — that I may be confusing them with, but hopefully this Year of the Ox turns out to be relatively quiet; after last year I think we could all use a little break.

I think I read other blogs partly as an aspiration as much as for inspiration — hence the blogroll on the side.  Junior and Doug have proven to be a formidable brother-blog bloc between the Slug and the Heroes; I could read Junior’s anecdotes ad infinitum, and ditto for Doug’s visuals and memories.  Jen impresses me with the kind of naked emotional honesty I tend to conceal through too-glib phrasing, and Darla’s incredibly well-read:  I hope to one day have the breadth of literary comparison to match.  Alexander is the sort of writer and man you wish you could be:  fluent, fluid, and focussed.  Finally Missy shows me the art of parenthood; I am too often distracted to be the father I should be, but patience is an art rewarded by practice, as any maturation is.

When and how does New Year become code for dread, not anticipation?  One of the rituals is that everyone’s a year older on New Year, regardless of actual birth day; it’s hard to imagine that one day marks the dividing line between now and then, but time points ever onward, I suppose.  Me, I find myself crippled some times by regret — now already, where did the time go — and list-making — still left to do:  this and this and this.  New Year is a time to reflect on what’s to come, not to drive up anxiety over projections and predictions.  No one’s got a handle on the future; all I need remember is that we’ve got one more year rooted in past experience to get us over the next hurdles.

Mike

Creative New

5 January 2009

Dear J-

Creative opportunities abound at work, although there’s right and wrong ways of doing anything, you get to choose how and how much.  Assuming that you can stomach it, adding more detail is never a bad thing for the future explorers deciphering your hieroglyphics, but at the same time, the sheer volume of work may encourage all kinds of brevity.  It’s been a rude adjustment going back to the full workweek after two weeks of snacks, relaxed deadlines, and early time off.  Space restrictions help out the creative bent too — trimming off the more florid descriptions I tend to attach to otherwise mundane items.

Sadly, though, with the coming down of trees and lights, so too does patience and tolerance.  Our binges come back to haunt us with a remorse chaser as we learn that begging forgiveness is much harder than hoping for timely charity.  It’s almost the Santa effect again; it’s hard to remind kids any time of year but December of the importance of proper behavior, and it’s similarly harder for us to be charitable when confronted by our own folly.  Nonetheless, I’m still intrigued by how the promises of 2008 will translate into 2009.

We have the opportunity to look at things as though it’s either just another day, this New Year, or as an opportunity for a new start.  That’s not a resolution, that’s not a conclusion, that’s a beginning and how many of those will we end up getting?  How many New Years will we end up seeing and remembering?  What memories will you bring out?  How will they flavor your life?

Mike

Next Year

31 December 2008

Dear J-

We’re finding it increasingly hard to stay awake in the double-digit hours of the night (not that I ever, even when I was as young as some of my coworkers, considered going out to clubs), so tonight’s likely to be a quiet night spent much like other nights.  This time of year always makes me think of staying late in the store my parents owned; we’d close the doors and turn off the lights so we could prepare the special orders for Japanese foods, pre-booked weeks in advance.  I wonder if that’s where my brother picked up his love for dessert (food in general, sweets in particular) as there were more delicious treats than you could shake a stick at.  Me, I was always particular to yokan, which is a glutinous bean cake, more so than your typical mochi, but anything sweet would do.

The new year’s typically a time to start with a fresh slate of ideas and resolutions; I don’t have a ton of stuff kicking around my head yet except to keep working on my patience.  I need constant reminding that it’s not my time, it’s our time; that part of what makes any parent a good one is investing in interaction.  This is likely the year that I make the push to finally free ourselves from the small mountain of junk I’ve managed to assemble over the past five years (seriously, who needs a PS/2 model 70?).  We’re starting to actually need the room for living beings, and it’s much more fun to have those around than obsolete electronics.

The house itself needs some work as well; I think I’ve learned enough from laying tile that I can perform that both more quickly and more evenly (match the edge heights and the un-evenness is that much less).  There’s so many interesting layouts available that the standard grid is likely to fall by the wayside.  And if it doesn’t help the resale value of the house, necessarily, there’s always throw rugs and other concealing agents.  I never regret finishing projects, but I’m still not the best at starting them or carrying them through; that’ll have to change, assuming that I can get the time.

I understand the appeal of having a ton of space, but where we are, how we are — our lives are already so full and we’ve more than enough as it is.  Clever storage solutions and judicious editing of stuff (again, how many paperbacks do I really need?) will lead the way, I think.

Mike