Daydreaming In Bed

Mom went back to work last week and we ended Friday on a good note. I gave in to my hunger and drank quite a bit at grandpa and grandma’s house. This put Mom in good spirits.

I still hadn’t eaten as much as I wanted so Mom fed me as soon as we got home. Her new thing is to feed me lying down while reading travel and food magazines and eating Life cereal. She was duped into buying year-long subscriptions to Bon Appetit and Conde Nast Traveler after seeing some $5 deal on Instagram and has been collecting idle magazines for the last 4 months. She finally found some use for them – reading while breastfeeding.

She still dreams of travel but makes fun of Traveler magazine even as she leafs through the publication wistfully. She finds the whole idea of “high-end boho”  – a term used by an author to describe one particular Marrakech establishment – ludicrous. She is also opposed to another writer’s recommendation to stay at the Park Hyatt Bangkok. We live just two miles away from a Park Hyatt, and mom and dad have attended rowdy holiday parties that end in the hotel’s lobby bar the last 2 or 3 years in a row, so she doesn’t see why she would go all the way to Bangkok and camp out somewhere so familiar. To be fair, the last time Mom and Dad were in Bangkok, mom was a recent law school grad with a ton of loans, so it’s not like she could have afforded to stay there anyway. Could it be sour grapes?


She sneered at a one-paragraph mention of Taiwan, which rambled on only about tea and featured an elderly Asian woman wearing a rice hat in a tea field. Of all the ways to represent Taiwan! However, she got a little nostalgic at the unexpected mention of one Greenbrier resort in West Virginia on the list of top resorts in the United States. She was suddenly brought back to her childhood, at the age of 7, on family vacation. Her dad (my grandpa) rented bikes and in the front of the Greenbrier lobby is where she first felt the freedom of riding a bike.


She considers most of the recipes in Bon Appetit rather unimaginative (read: it’s not Indian, Thai, Korean, Chinese, or insanely spicy) and definitely rolled her eyes at a picture of pasta plated in a bite-size serving on a 4-inch dish. She did dog ear some pictures of the Italian countryside and a hotel in Chile for Dad though.

I eat and eat and meanwhile, she drops Life cereal crumbs on my head and on the sheets. Later at night, while in bed, she will complain that she is being stabbed by crumbled pieces of Life. Dad will ask her if that is meant literally or metaphorically, while I dream noisily in my basinet.

Tiger Mother

I recently read Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, which was both hysterical and inspirational. I didn’t think it was possible, but Amy Chua makes 90% of strict Asian parents seem like lazy bums. I intensely admire her devotion to the betterment and education of her children, but am completely baffled by the discipline and drive required to execute her methods.

I’m really not sure how it’s possible for a full-time attorney or Yale Law Professor to attend music lessons, oversee hours of music practice for two daughters, create measure-by-measure notes and reminders for their pieces, write multiple books, and walk and feed the dogs daily, while still living any sort of humanly existence. Does she ever… eat? Shower? Breathe? It’s mind-boggling.

I used to think my parents were sort of strict. Relatively speaking, they were, as I was surrounded by peers who had what Chua characterizes as “Western parents” in southwest Virginia. I was not allowed to go out to play unless all homework and piano obligations were completed, even if I had just gotten out of Chinese school, music theory class, art class, or some other activity. I was in big fucking trouble if I got any B’s on my report card, while white kids were rewarded for B’s. There was some of, “_____ got a 97 on his Algebra test; you only got a 93” [oh don’t worry, eventually I beat him in Algebra], or “Your cousin is younger than you and is already setting goals to be a doctor, what are your plans?” Summer was not a free-for-all because I still had to take music and music theory class, practice piano, and memorize ancient Chinese poetry. You know, typical Asian parent stuff.

Of course, even in southwest Virginia, there were stricter Asian parents than mine. One time, when I was 10 years old, after a Taiwanese friend who was over to play at our house had gone home, my mother told me, “You know what her mother said? The 4 hours she spent at our house was the longest period of fun time she’s ever had. She’s usually constantly doing something productive.” I was somewhat horrified. While my life seemed more structured and restricted than those of kids with Western parents, clearly, I had it better than I thought. Anyway, in retrospect, I needed this because I was not always very motivated, and was often lazy. I had a tendency to cut corners and daydream, or not take things seriously unless I was doing something I really enjoyed.

In second grade, I was categorized as a gifted student and along with 3 other students, and was given some material to read and write a report as an extra challenge. The material involved some completely boring species of bird, so I procrastinated until the last minute, and then plagiarized some shit when it was due. My parents never found out about this because they were not told about it, and the assignment was not graded.

In fifth grade, I was assigned to perform a duet called The Dolls Have a Party with one of my close friends, Michael. He played the bass part while I played the treble, and he was even less keen on the piano lessons than I was. We performed to perfection at the music school recital out of fear of our teacher’s wrath (she was a Tiger Mom before she even had kids). We were subsequently also volunteered to perform the piece at a nursing home. By the time of the nursing home performance, we had fallen out of practice, completely fucked it up, and played probably a third of the song being a complete measure off from each other. Fortunately, the old people did not notice it and loved us regardless. We could hardly contain our laughter when taking our bows, but I could see our teacher glaring daggers at us from the front row.

So I was the sort of kid who needed a serious dose of discipline every once in a while.

By the time I got to high school, my parents loosened up, either because they trusted me or because they were too old to bring down the hammer constantly. My freshman year, history was optional, and 3 out of my 7 classes were fine arts classes. After freshman year, I didn’t really have a curfew. I got occasional B’s because my parents accepted that I despised math. I signed up for computer science at the community college over the summer and flunked because I got bored and stopped going. I also signed up for Spanish one year, but skipped two weeks of class because I had a friend visiting from Virginia, and also went to New Orleans for a school activity, so the teacher flunked me.

I suffered no repercussions for these devious acts, and never had to practice piano for more than an hour a day, so compared to Amy Chua, my parents probably seemed like they were running some sort of laid-back amusement park.

And I did not completely fall apart. Being surrounded by my beloved friends who were also products of Tiger parents, I succumbed to peer pressure and took every honors/AP class available and felt guilty for my 4.3 GPA (4.5 was the max, and I never got a 4.5). Yes, it is actually very possible for peer pressure to work in a positive direction.

I appreciate the way I was raised and will strive to impose equal structure and discipline for my own kids, but Amy Chua takes it to an unfathomable level to which I dare not even aspire. The only way I could come close to her level of dedication would be if I was not working, and even then, I think it would be an incredible task. Employing her tactics necessarily leaves almost no time for the self, but indeed, as Chua points out in her book, the things she did for her daughters were not at all for herself – for who enjoys being a constant disciplinarian, the bad guy, a target of your children’s frustration and ire?


As I near the end of pregnancy, I feel the old doubts of having children surfacing. I’ve spent the last several months treating this entire experience like an important project, with plans, research, classes, books, etc., so I thought I’d resolved such anxieties, but I suppose that is not the case after all. One would think the last 7 months of preparation would have served as a gradual transition, but it seems the impending due date only highlights the severity and certainty of this decision.

I used to be utterly freaked out by the idea of giving birth; that’s still somewhat the case but infinitely overshadowed by the fear that I won’t enjoy being a mother. I’ve had to make many lifestyle changes and compromises since December 23, 2016 but of course none of it can compare to what lies ahead. It seems like having to rebuild an entire life from scratch (mine).

I think my husband and I have built a special life together. I don’t mean “special” in the sense that we’re particularly unique, interesting, or superior compared to others, but 12 years together necessarily results in something irreplaceable and I could easily live another 12 years like this, or the rest of my life.

We met on a rainy night in February painted by the haze of alcohol. The friend who introduced us accidentally set something on fire at a party, after which we quickly made our departure, and I was so drunk I spelled my own name wrong when I entered it into my husband’s cell phone. We didn’t start dating until a year and a half later, because only Fools Rush In.

When I first moved in with him, the living arrangements could best be described as a small fraternity house nestled in the heart of suburbia, inhabited by gamblers and students who drank too much, joined by unruly dogs, and then our equally recalcitrant cat.

During my first year of law school, my husband quit his engineering job and became a professional poker player, so the summer after my first year, we leased our room in the house, and left the country for two and a half months. We rented an apartment in the suburbs of Barcelona, and he funded our trip with poker while I promised to undertake some domestic tasks while he worked. The “tasks” were an adventure in and of themselves, as I enjoyed every moment of Barcelona, including regularly walking 25 minutes to the grocery store (we did not have a car), where I could buy unfamiliar foods and practice Spanish. We fell in love with the city, but moved on to Prague, Milan, Rome, Tuscany, and Yellowstone National Park the rest of the summer.

For the duration of law school, I packed all my classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays so I could have 4-day weekends every weekend, and there were many trips to Vegas with free hotels, compliments of my husband’s card-counting days. When I unexpectedly was notified I was the recipient of a $32,000 merit scholarship I hadn’t applied for, we took tequila shots all night at a bar in Cardiff-by-the-Sea that now longer exists, and I jumped into the ocean with all my clothes on.

Eventually, we moved into a two-bedroom apartment by ourselves, in a neighborhood characterized by beach bums, dirty hippies, quirky stores, and drug use. Our complex was built in the 1970’s, and rumor has it the communal hot tub was built of an epic size because the complex used to be a swinger’s colony. The neighborhood has since gentrified and I miss some of its formerly bummy, disheveled, and unpretentious elements.

After I took the bar exam, we celebrated with an Asia trip to Taiwan and Thailand. We scootered through the canyons of Taroko Gorge and indulged in decadence on Thai beaches. In the first couple of years after I started working, we traveled to Kauai and hiked Mt. Whitney with his family, and I started paying down substantial amounts of law school debt.

We got married in 2013, 2 weeks after our 8-year anniversary in a ceremony officiated by a dear friend. We wrote our own vows and exchanged them in the glow of the southern Californian sun, and at the reception, through a series of small mishaps, many guests got unbelievably drunk. Two weeks later, we honeymooned in Bali, Macau, and Taiwan.

In 2014, we went to Colombia, where we ate ceviche on Cartagena beaches, hiked a beautiful national park, and walked the romantic alleys of Santa Marta at dusk. I took a picture outside the former residence of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and constantly had a Colombian beer in hand to counter the Caribbean heat. We spent one night in some of the worst accommodations I have ever experienced, and when I was awoken at 4 a.m. to roosters, cats, and dogs brawling in the streets amid human yells, 90 degree heat/90 percent humidity with a broken fan, and a broken bed, there was nothing to do but laugh at the outrageousness of the situation.

In 2016, we picked Vietnam over Greece and had a dream vacation at beach side resorts, daily all-you-can-eat buffets of Vietnamese breakfasts, luxurious city hotels, lush jungle retreats, and scooter rides in Saigon, Hue, Hanoi, and the Vietnamese countrysides. We took the longest cable car ride to the highest peak in Indochina and enjoyed the view as lone passengers in a car designed for 30 people with a 360-degree view of the valleys, rice terraces, and mountains of Sapa.

We drink, cook, hike, exercise, and laugh together. We’ve taken painting classes, dance classes, and played on a soccer team. We own a house and a condo together, refurbish old furniture sometimes, save for early retirement, and spoil our cats. We are very different in some ways and have been at each other’s throats yet are fundamentally so well-suited for each other that if I weren’t an atheist I’d chalk this up to fate.

Our years together have not been extraordinary in and of themselves (plenty of people hike, drink, and travel), but for me, the last 12 years has been characterized by little pieces of magic here and there, and everywhere.

When I was little, I was prone to impractical daydreaming. I would daydream of being a rock star or sprouting wings and flying, for instance. On the other hand I rarely contemplated much in detail about the specifics of my future life. My eleven-year-old self didn’t care to think about what kind of career, husband, house, kids she’d have, or vacations she’d take, beyond assuming that there would eventually be a job, a dude, and an abode in the mix on an abstract level, because that’s what adults do.

So what I mean by “special” is, it’s special to me, and if my eleven-year-old self was given a glimpse into this future, she’d be pretty damn smug and content, implausible fantasies of growing wings and flying across oceans aside.

Having a kid is supposed to be the “next” step, a higher level or deeper stage, but sometimes it feels more like we’re tearing parts of a great creation down and rebuilding it to be something completely different and unfamiliar.

So, what will the next 12 years be like? Stay tuned…


Daydream II

When she is with him there is a wild-eyed vulnerability in his face that makes her fall again and again, something uncertain and anticipatory when he leans in and she had an urge to reach for his hand on the cliff, overlooking rippling forests in relentless existence. She traveled across Mexico with him in her mind, across several instances of levitation with the same sadness in his liquid slate eyes

Then she was in the old cafe again, dreaming she was feathery, ethereal, weightless hope gliding in the ocean night, losing her reality in the mirrors, so she could not belong to herself or anyone else


drifting in and out of sleep floating through disturbances of phone calls and scrambled details of a faraway night-glory when riddled with shivers she found a warm body, let herself crumble to elusive plans not her own, victim to sloshing in the head, a warm bloody release of the fulfillment. she slept alone above a pool of aquamarine liquid, disconnected from infidelities.

there’s a vague flash of pink, metallic, chipped nailpoish, and bent wings. here’s the skin my flesh and all the youth for you to feast on. she raged and dragged a furor through the bones with a fresh madness and love that has never idled away in a pantry or been stored in a can.

waking up penless and thoughtless, light was starting to claw at the blinds and she was still waiting for unconsciousness and relief from the battle schemes of the day. coffee and spirits have flooded the veins, burst against reason, spun the head with heavy confessions in a rotation of heavenly uncertainties.

an entreating voice is on the phone, asking for warmth, because he is about to leave again, restless to wander while she stews contentedly in suburbia, breathing in a fateful and constant concrete, only half listening because she catches sight of a man on a balcony and trails off to stale thoughts and imagined with him there would be the final reduction of the fatal rush and the pleasure of letting the unknown melt in slate irises, gold-flared in the midday sun, a faithful and eternal reflection of unending sand and flawless sky.

now they suffer the musicless hum of the 405 together and she is reminded they have always been imaginary. you might be remembered best if you finished here violently and grandly and young because continuity threatens to be the most inglorious concession.


i daydream about waking up in his apartment between cocoon sheets and quietly folded dreams of the faded night before

and padding down the hallway on his pine wood floors in the morning as a crisp reminder of reality

but he never calls me so

let us stare mindlessly at the yellow roses by the mailbox together until this song runs out

we’ll pick up guitars and play until i am ready for coffee highs and long days

we’ll make our own viscous, blurring nights with liquid destruction in our hands

you can have all my secret fascinations and my immutable kingdom

as long as we can spend all summer on the cafe patio

with old men


and iced tea