Saturday, February 21, 2015

Celebrating Chinese New Year

I think I'm becoming more Chinese. If you didn't already know, I'm an ABC, which stands for American-born Chinese. When Howard and I used to go to church in Chinatown and then pick up lunch from the restaurants, the workers there would know to speak to me in English. I was baffled as to how they knew that, and Howard explained that I even look like an ABC. 

I never quite understood Chinese customs and traditions, and I've definitely had disagreements with my very traditional father when I was growing up because I couldn't grasp why some things had to be the way they were. I mean, having to invite my dad's friends to the wedding when I didn't even have a clue as to who they were? Things like that just didn't make sense to me. Sure, I was all for getting some extra cash in red envelopes during Chinese New Year and respecting elders as they had their big celebration dinners. But there were other customs that seemed pointless to me. Though I may never truly understand why we did things the way we did, I knew I didn't really have much of a choice. Tea ceremony on our wedding day? Um, didn't quite understand why that was important, but I guess I just had to do it. Avoiding black clothing on birthdays? Um, I look thinner in black, but if you say so!

As Howard and I approach our 3-year anniversary in May, I realize that I've actually come to accept more Chinese things without questioning it. I'll be honest and say that when we first got married, I didn't really consider myself part of the "F" family. My parents told me that in the Chinese culture, getting married meant that I was no longer a member of the "L" family. I didn't really take it seriously because as I've mentioned before in previous blog posts, I felt somewhat of a separation due to the language barrier. In my mind I thought that I was marrying Howard regardless of what his last name was. But month after month, I see that I am more and more of an "F" even if I still don't understand all the parts of the conversation during a family gathering!

I came to the realization this week as we went over to my in-laws' house to celebrate Chinese New Year. We already had dinner with Howard's family three times since 2015 began because of my sister-in-law's birthday, Howard's birthday, and my mother-in-law's birthday. But there was something different about Chinese New Year. Maybe it was because it wasn't at a restaurant and was instead at the house where we all sat around the family table. I've sat at that table a few times before when we were dating and then when we were engaged, but something changed that night. Maybe it's because my nephew Toby is in the picture now, and it just made it feel like we were a family of 7 joining together to eat dinner that night. Maybe it was because of the time we were playing with Toby and trying to entertain him while Howard's parents did food preparation and cooked the meal. I can't put my finger on it; it just felt like what a family does. 

I know it doesn't seem like such a huge change, but in my mind, I really do see it as becoming "more Chinese"! 

Here's an overhead shot of the food that my father-in-law and mother-in-law prepared. I remember my grandma and my own mom making the "fat choy" (the black stuff that looks like hair) around CNY, so despite being an ABC, there are some things that I "know" even if I don't remember why it's so important to eat it during that holiday. My favorite dish was probably the "dow mew," which is like, pea shoots or snow pea leaves or something like that (the big plate-o-green). I haven't had it in so long, and Howard and I commented that we haven't had oyster sauce in ages too! I also enjoyed the shrimp, of course, and the mix of veggies with the cloud ear mushroom (bottom left). I even had a few pieces of the tongue (bottom right)! It was a ton of food for the 6 of us since Toby is still too young and was gnawing on a banana.

After dinner, Howard took some pictures. His parents wanted him to take pictures of an orchid plant they're growing, and then my sis-in-law plopped Toby on the table for some pictures too! He's not entirely steady when he sits, so I was behind the table with my hand there just in case! I thought I was hidden, but my hand was in the shots, but hubs was able to edit it and crop it out! 

Later on, Sharon put Toby in some CNY gear, and we gave him some red envelopes. He proceeded to pop them in his mouth and gnaw on them!

We left a little after 10pm. Before we did, we got some homemade turnip cake to bring home! My in-laws make it the best in my opinion. That's probably one of the BEST parts of CNY! 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

False Alarm

It was just one day. I didn't really think much of it. However, when it got to the third, fourth, and fifth day, I couldn't help but wonder, "Am I pregnant?" It ended up being 8 whole days of wondering if Howard and I were about to be parents, but clearly by the title of this post, that didn't happen. 

The fact that my body is fairly scheduled really made me think after just two days that I might be pregnant. Howard and I kind of just joked about it at the beginning because we hadn't planned on having a kid in the near future, so it was kind of something that seemed impossible. But as each day passed by, there was a mix of excitement and fear. I didn't tell anyone about it other than my colleague at work who was my mentor teacher and is now the director of the school because I didn't know if any of these things would interfere with a school trip we had coming up.

Howard and I decided that if I was still late when the weekend rolled around that he would go buy a pregnancy test. I was actually anticipating having to find out for sure that way. Though we're not exactly where we should be to have a kid yet (I know there are so many out there who have told us there's never going to be a "right" time where everything is settled), there was a part of me that was honestly hoping that I would be mainly because if I were pregnant, it was clearly all God. If we were going to be parents, we trusted that God wanted us to be parents. If we tried planning all of this by ourselves, I knew it wasn't going to happen for possibly a few more years. 

As we approached that Saturday, I couldn't shake the thoughts from my mind. Each day as I got up for work, I was a little giddy about the possibility and nervous at the same time. I knew there would be a great deal of change if I were. What would I do about work next year? How and when would we move? Would we be able to afford all of it? But then when Thursday rolled around, all the hopes I had were suddenly dashed. I wasn't pregnant. The logical part of me breathed a big sigh of relief. Phew, no need to stress about money and whether or not we were ready to give up our selfish "it's-just-the-two-of-us" ways. 

But as the reality of it settled in, I was deeply saddened. That night when Howard and I went to bed, I moved in close to him unable to truly explain what I was feeling. It seemed silly to be sad. There was never a baby, so how could I be sad that suddenly there wasn't? There was no real loss. The only way that I could express what I was feeling was through tears. Lots and lots of tears. 

It's only been 3 months since that week, and I don't know that I'm completely recovered. Sometimes the sappiest of commercials on Hulu will set me off again. I think November must have turned on a valve of some sort that makes my tear ducts leak a lot more often than it used to! Howard and I will be watching something completely non-baby related, and I'll have tears in my eyes! 

Just a few months earlier, I knew in my heart that years from now, we'd look back on this false alarm and think about how God's timing was perfect. The amazing thing is that I feel that God has been teaching us so much in these past two months. We didn't have to wait to look back on this with hindsight. I know there's more to this story than what I can see right now, but I'm reassured in knowing that God is so great that He can work in people who are experiencing true pain and even those who are dealing with minor "silly" sadness. 

Monday, February 2, 2015

It's Time to Move

The other day, I posted the following status on Facebook:

Ice: 2, Rae: 0.
Howard, let's move to Florida.

In the past, I used to look forward to some snow with hopes of getting a snow day from work. Working at a private school means that we don't follow the same schedule as the public school system, so we will close even if they don't. Our school is kind of located in a remote area, and the staff and students live all over the island so some of us have to drive greater distances. For example, our school closed today because of the potential icy conditions outside. I don't work on Mondays since I'm part-time this year, so it didn't affect me, but I still breathed a sigh of relief knowing that my mom didn't have to drive and neither did my colleagues. Even so, it doesn't mean we close at all times.

Howard's photo that he took on his phone after work today.
A little less than a month ago on January 9th, I had one of the worst driving experiences of my life. The snow was falling so fast during my morning drive that everyone around me was taking it slow too. I believe I'm a very cautious driver, so when I see everyone else taking their time too, I know that it's really dangerous out. I took my normal route so that I could focus more on taking my time and not having to think about anything new that might occur. Well, something new occurred anyway!

As I was approaching a light, I saw that it turned red, so I stepped on my brake. The brake, however, was just not enough to stop the car. I pushed my foot down as hard as I could, but the car kept moving. It was slow-moving, so I actually had time to panic and think, "What am I supposed to do?!" There was the slightest decline, which probably made the whole situation worse. I knew I was going to keep going into the intersection.

For some reason, I have thought about what I would do if my brakes stopped working. Because it was something that has always been on my mind, I immediately thought to honk my horn to alert others around me of my situation. There was one car that could have started moving but didn't, so I just kept honking my horn until I turned left. I couldn't believe I had made it through without any issues. I breathed a sigh of relief and was so grateful that God was right by my side and that because of the timing, the amount of cars at that intersection was nothing like the regular traffic when I drive in the morning!

Those feelings of relief were soon forgotten because suddenly my eyes started filling with tears and I was sobbing. I drove for a few seconds more just so that I could stop my car at the side of the road safely out of the way. I called my mom right away, and when she picked up, I couldn't even speak. I knew I had to say something because my mom would panic considering I text her right before I start driving to her house. There would be no reason for me to call her thereafter unless something was wrong, so I forced myself to say, "I'm okay, but ..." and then proceeded to tell her what happened.

I was never a fan of driving in the first place. This definitely doesn't make it any easier for me! When I finally arrived at my parents' house, I was emotional again. Then when I arrived at school and one of my colleagues mentioned that I was late, I cried again as I tried to tell her what had happened. Then I went into the director's office because I had texted her to tell her briefly that I'd be late, I cried once more! When I got home that day and Howard came home, I cried again. I don't think I actually cried all of it out because I stopped myself each time, so it was just built up inside me because once I arrived at school, I immediately had to get to teaching.

Clearly, ice was the winner in this situation. It definitely got me. But as you saw in the status, the ice won not once but twice!

This past Thursday, there were no easy spots available by my parents' house. Since it was right after the latest snow storm (Staten Island got about 6 inches in some areas, I think, but it was nothing like the blizzard that was forecast), there was snow everywhere. The people shoveled the snow just so that they could pull their cars out. I already don't like parallel parking to begin with and have to do it very slowly, so when there's snow in the way, it's nearly impossible! I also have a very low car, so the snow kept scraping the bottom as I tried to back into a spot. Eventually I gave up and my mom was pulling out of the driveway so I parked there. That meant I had to leave my key in the house in case my dad needed to use my car or his own car in the garage. Since the door was locked, I had to walk to my mom to get the house key. In the process of doing that, I slipped.

Now I've slipped on ice many times before as I'm sure we all have. But this is one of the few times that the slipping actually caused me to fall. My left knee absorbed most of the fall, so my upper thigh was in pain for the next few days to the point where taking the stairs would take my breath away (haha, and not in a good way!). The worst part of the tumble was that I had my tote bag on my right shoulder. Thankfully, it wasn't as full as it normally is, but it was still heavy enough to make me twist as it fell behind me from my right side to my left side. It hurt so badly that I couldn't even stand up right away. My mom said that when she got out of the car, she didn't know where I was. It was because I was on the ground unfortunately!

I was sore for the rest of the day and the next few days. Even today, I'm still not completely better. I have this spot on my back that is rather painful. I'm not one to take Tylenol unless I really have to even though there are times my mom or Howard suggest I take it for pain. Today was a day I took the full dosage because the back spasms were unbearable. Afterwards I went to lie in bed and read my nook until the Tylenol made me drowsy (yes, all forms of medicine make me drowsy!) and I konked out.

I give up. I surrender. The ice has won, but I am afraid that it's still going to come after me anyway. Tonight the temperatures are dropping into the teens, so the icy mess that was out there and all the slush that was making it difficult for commuters is going to be frozen tomorrow. I still have my fingers crossed for a delay just so that there's no stress in getting up super early and dealing with so many other cars on the road because the ice doesn't seem to want to give up on this battle with me even though my white flag was up right after round one! I think the only way I can escape is if Howard and I move. If it gets me again, it might be a clear sign it's just time to say goodbye to NYC!

Friday, January 30, 2015

Tree Card

The last set of cards that I made for my grandfather (here are the links for the first and second) was using another SVG from Miss Kate Cuttables. The original image actually had one more pink layer. You can see that when I made the card, there are some spots that should have had a heart, but I figured it wasn't necessary. 

Though the image is fairly simplistic in that it's just adding one layer on top of the other, it required a lot of work in terms of gluing it together because the branches get rather thin. If I didn't have Zig glue and Tweezerbees, I don't know how I would have handled it!

I kept the rest of the design very simple by just using a piece of green patterned paper to be the grass. The sentiment is from Pink by Design's "Faith" set, which is one of my all-time favorites. 

I love how all the layers give the card dimension without my having to pop anything off the card. It's a simple card yet really pretty, in my opinion!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Me in a Bag: Mini Cooper

Last week, I posted something that I wrote as an example to read to my kids for the "Me in a Bag" assignment. You can find that first post here. This is the second one that I wrote and read to them.


The screeching of those tires is one of the sounds I will never forget for the rest of my life. It not only caused a physical impact on my life but a mental and spiritual one as well. I never would have thought that a car accident could have that much of an effect years later. 

On one mundane Sunday morning, my family and I were on our way to church waiting at the traffic light right after the Manhattan bridge. When the squealing sound first began, I immediately turned around to find the source of the noise. Once I realized that the work van behind us was not going to be able to stop itself from crashing into our minivan, I quickly faced forward and braced myself for the inevitable collision. We were hit so hard that we also rear-ended the car in front of us, which unfortunately meant that my back hit the seat twice. Because I was sitting in the third row, I was the only one who sustained injuries. 

The police officers and EMTs who arrived on the scene told me that the pain would get worse before it got better. I didn't fully grasp that concept until hours later when the adrenaline that was in my system protecting me from fully feeling the pain wore out. My parents took me to the hospital to confirm that it was "only" whiplash and nothing more life threatening.

For months after the accident, I was required to go to physical therapy. Lifting heavy objects was out of the question, but that was difficult to avoid considering I was a college student at the time. There were nights when falling asleep seemed almost impossible because I couldn't find a comfortable position that wouldn't put stress on my back. When I stood in front of a mirror, I could actually see that one shoulder was raised much higher than the other, and it was constantly sore. The only thing that entertained me throughout this whole ordeal was that for years after the accident, I was able to tell with 99% accuracy whether or not there would be any precipitation in the forecast. I was actually more precise than the weather reports because one particular spot near my spine would throb before it was set to rain or snow the next day.

However, the physical struggles after the accident were nothing compared to the mental struggles. While all of my friends in high school were eager to begin driver's ed, I never had the same burning desire to drive. I had actually waited until that year of college to take private lessons. In fact, I had recently completed a number of lessons with my instructor and had my road test scheduled a few short weeks after the incident by the bridge! Though the pain in my body was problematic, the anxiety about getting behind the wheel again was devastating. Though I was not the driver on that unforgettable Sunday morning, I was terrified that if I did drive, I might one day be in a car accident again or even worse, be the reason why someone else had to suffer through the pain and anguish I had experienced.

Thankfully, I was able to take my road test despite the difficulty I had in turning my neck when checking my surroundings. I passed with a perfect score and became a fully licensed driver. Once I got that paper indicating that I could legally operate a vehicle without another supervising licensed driver, I refused to sit behind the steering wheel again. The fear was crippling. 

No one in my life seemed to truly understand my predicament. It was exhausting hearing people tell me that the only thing I could do to overcome my fear was to get behind the wheel and deal with it. Unfortunately, each time I would try doing that, the panic that coursed through my veins was insufferable, and I was never able to turn on the ignition. Some people seemed to minimize my feelings, which made the issue even more challenging to face because half of me was convinced that I was overreacting while the other half of me was insistent that I was the only one who was being logical in this situation! The apprehension I had lasted years so even though I was a 22-year old adult when I got the job teaching here at Gateway Academy, I was still a kid in that I needed my mom to drive me to and from work.

One might think that the only option that I had that would help me conquer my trepidation was through God's help, and in reality, that's exactly what it took for me to get to where I am today! Among the discouragers who thought they were being encouraging, there were a few who let me be and didn't push me one way or the other. Instead, they quietly prayed that one day I would be able to shove the fear aside and get behind the wheel again, and that's exactly what happened. I can't pinpoint the exact day, but I woke up in the morning thinking, "I can drive now." If that's not divine intervention, I don't know what is!

There's no reasonable, worldly explanation as to why that occurred. When fellow Christians talk about how the Lord lifted burdens off their shoulders when they fully submitted to Him, I couldn't quite comprehend that notion myself, that is, until it happened to me. That screeching sound may always be a part of my memory and something I had wanted to desperately to forget, but now when I think about that ordinary church morning, I am reminded of God's awesome power and how He used it to provide a moving testimony for me.