A green and muddy space

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(All of these photos were kindly taken for us by Kasia Momot!).

This past Saturday I looked out into my backyard and saw a lot of filthy children playing with sticks and wallowing in mud. I recalled long summer afternoons in the countryside of upstate New York doing the same, and felt such a sense of peace. I guess I’d never really thought about the creative kid space that owning a tree and some dirt would bring, but now I do, and it’s awesome.

We’re in our house, and I guess (universe willing) this is where we’ll be!

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Mid-century colonial, is that a thing?

Recently, my friend Kasia asked me about my taste in furnishings. This was a deeper question than she knew, partly because I’ve moved so often for so much of my life that everything that I own only survives because it’s portable. (Thirty boxes of books are totally portable, hush.)

I also grew up with my father in an apartment that had no furniture. Actually, we did have a bit of furniture: a rocking chair, a kitchen table, and a low table and pillows that we picked up from a second-hand store. My father taught me to love a lot of things, but furniture was not one.

My Thai family, on the other hand, absolutely informed my taste. My first few years were spent in my mother’s parents’ house in Bangkok, and I returned to visit fairly often. Their style was a mix of British Colonial and Thai, and included a low outside table that my grandma sat on to cook, and floors made of well-polished teak. Everything was dark wood and upholstered in white with clean, spare lines. The scent of the whole house was a mix of sandalwood and the incense from the room where the Buddhas were kept.

So I thought I’d compile a little list to show my taste; spare lines and mid-century wood with a bunch of bright Moroccan stuff thrown in. These are from West Elm, Overstock, Pier One, and Zulily.

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That terrible moment

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Mandi of the blog Making Nice in the Midwest

A blogger whom I’ve been reading for a while just found out that she has cancer. Her tumor-removal surgery turned into something worse, and now she’s in the middle of discovering the extent of it. Mandi wrote a paragraph that struck me so deeply that I had to post it here:

On Monday, while everyone else was playing April Fool’s jokes on each other, I was staring at my grandma laying in her casket and contemplating how to tell my family I have cancer as we all gathered together after Grandma’s unexpected death. I just wanted someone to shout ‘April Fools!’ and for Grandma to sit up in her coffin and for me to not have cancer any more. (Source)

Cancer changes everything. It nailed my awareness to the present rather than the future or past, and threw every second of my life into the sharpest relief, to the extent that even grocery shopping felt epic. I imagine that Mandi’s mind is spinning right now. How long, how far, how much pain, what next, and will I have to give up what I love? All of those questions crowded into my mind too, and for a while it was like living in a humid climate of sadness.

At the same time, I found that cancer inspired a lot of mental housekeeping. What am I living for? I need to do it, and enjoy the hell out of it, as much as I can. I need to reconnect to the people that I love, and make an effort to stay in touch. I need to maximize the joy, however I can.

I’m not sure what life is about, and never have been, but surely if it’s about anything, it’s about living in a spirit of love and joy. I wish that on you, Ms. Mandi, with all my heart.

White-skinned Asian

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This morning on the radio, Michelle Norris talked about her project entitled The Race Card. This project challenges people to discuss race in six words or less. In her segment, I listened to an African-American man with half-white children talk about a moment in which he realized that he couldn’t make assumptions about his son’s race.

“I was at the dentist filling out his profile and checked ‘African-American’ as my son’s race. After we left, my son said, ‘Dad, I normally don’t just fill in one box.'”

This really struck home for me because I’ve never been able to fill in just one box either. I always check both “Caucasian — Non-Hispanic” (an actual category here in Florida), and “Asian/Pacific Islander”. (I’m not sure why those two are in the same category because “racially” speaking there’s an enormous variation between the continent and the pacific islands, but ah well, race is a problematic concept anyway.)

I decided to send in my six words to the project:

“Half Asian means hearing Asian jokes.”

In the submission box I was encouraged to explain a little, and I wrote this: “Sometimes looking white misrepresents one’s cultural heritage.”

Yes, people have told me Asian jokes before, notably during a backpacking trip to Ireland. In a bar full of laughing Irish folk I felt tremendously embarrassed to speak up and say, “Hey, not that I don’t have a sense of humor, but I’m Asian, so lay off.”  I did, because it was important, but the moment sure was awkward.

I often get this response when I tell people that I’m part Thai:  “But you look so white! I couldn’t even tell.”

…And then it’s hard to know what to say to that, except that skin color is not a very good indicator of someone’s race, and becoming less reliable as more and more of us halfies are born.

I hope that in a few hundred years, people will stare at race checkboxes and feel sorry for a world that had to distinguish between races at all.