Morbid Thoughts

Trigger warning: Some graphic descriptions of the Holocaust, accidents, and anxious thoughts.

As many of you know, my brain is a jerk.

Often times, I will be minding my own business, peacefully driving on the freeway or showering or reading or texting or WHATEVER, and then suddenly, my brain will flash a particularly horrifying vision of my car flipping over and Sasquatch being stuck screaming and crying in the back of my car, hung upside down in his carseat, and me in the front, either dead or pinned with an injury so I can’t get to him and he’s stuck for hours and I have to either listen to him or did I mention that I’ve died and —

I have to physically wrench my brain away from going down that path and either start literally singing “LALALALALALALALA” or force my brain to think of something else. It will often take me a few minutes to wrangle my stupid brain from those horrifying images or thoughts because again, my brain hates me.

Recently, I read Maus by Art Spiegelman for my SFF/Graphic Novel book club. It’s a graphic novel depicting Spiegelman’s father’s experience as a survivor of Auschwitz. This won Spiegelman a Pulitzer Prize.

It was so horrifying.

At first, I didn’t like how Spiegelman drew the Jews as mice and the Germans as cats, but by the end, I understood. I think that due to exposure and education on the Holocaust, many of us have gradually become desensitized to even the more horrific images. But seeing it as mice and cats caused me to see everything anew.

I also learned (or was reminded) of new things that the Nazis did to the Jews. I didn’t realize that near the end of the war, the Nazis just decided to mass exterminate the Jews (as opposed to slowly killing them) as a way to cover their tracks. I also didn’t realize just how gradual the Nazis eroded the Jew’s rights until it was too late.

Too late.

Two particular parts have been ingrained in my mind.

The first, was during a community sorting where all the families and Jews in the Jewish ghetto had to line up and be sorted into two groups. One group was allowed to stay and the other was sent away on trains to the camps.

One woman with four children was sorted to the trains because she had too many children.

I stopped right in my tracks. I have four children. (I was reading this right after Sasquatch was born. Delightful post-partum reading, I know.)

That could have been me. And there would be nothing I could do to change this and protect my children.

I closed the book then and there and took a break.

The other was the story of how near the end of the war, the Nazis moved the Jews from camps as they retreated into Germany and in one of those places they retreated to, they gave up all pretense of even trying to keep the Jews alive. The survivors had to pile up their dead in the hallways and soon, there was no more room to walk and they would have to walk on top of the dead on their way to the bathrooms.

But because there were tens of thousands of people in these camps, the bathrooms soon overflowed and stopped working. And the only way people could relieve themselves was to do so on top of the dead in the hallway.

I just.

How do you recover from that?

It didn’t help that as I was reading, I kept seeing similar parallels to Trump’s ascendancy to POTUS. I know. I’m not unique in this observation, but it’s another thing entirely to read about the Holocaust and then see how it started and then see how history seems to be repeating itself.

Additionally, I came across a video on Facebook (shown below) that told of a woman who gave birth in a concentration camp and I was shocked because it never occurred to me that babies would be born and then SURVIVE the concentration camps.

But of course there were babies in the camps. Pregnant women were sent there. And if they lived, they gave birth there.

I just.

To survive – that tenacity. I hope I never have to find out if I, or my children, are made of that type of stuff.

So of course, my brain freaked out.

I thought of my four children and my husband and assuming we survived being packed into trains like cattle and given no food or water for the weeks it took to get to the camps, how would my children survive and fare?

I thought of Sophie’s Choice, and if I were put in a similar situation, who would I choose?

And a normal person, would then stop their thoughts right there. But not me!

My stupid brain decided to torture me with incredibly logical and brutal thoughts about my kids.

Because really, in this situation, what can you do except choose the child who will most likely survive and adapt? And what else can you do except choose to condemn the children who would suffer more and not be resilient enough or compliant enough to make it through the other side?

And this in no way victim blaming because FFS HOW COULD PEOPLE DO THIS TO EACH OTHER?

And so, I assessed my children.

I decided that Sasquatch is a baby so the odds were against him.

Gamera is too fragile and cries too much.

Cookie Monster is resilient enough and good natured enough and healthy enough and strong enough and usually compliant enough, but if he is pushed to do something that he truly doesn’t want to do, he will not comply at all.

Glow Worm is resilient enough and young enough to be adaptable to most all situations. He is also young enough to not remember as clearly how things used to be.

It would be a coin toss really between Cookie Monster and Glow Worm. They would be separated from me though because they are male – but hopefully Hapa Papa would keep them alive as long as he could. Given that, maybe I would get to keep Sasquatch or Gamera after all.

And then, if I survived, I would hate myself every single day of my life and want to die but live only because if I died, who else would my child have? (Well, I guess here’s to hoping that Hapa Papa also survived.)

OMG. I have to stop.

You see? My brain is an asshole.

How can I detachedly assess my children like this? WTF is wrong with me? (Truthfully, I believe in being prepared.)

And also? HOW COULD PEOPLE ALLOW 6-11 MILLION PEOPLE DIE?

Easily.

You know why? Because it is happening now. It has happened before. And it will happen again.

Because we think we are small and don’t want to make trouble and we are afraid – OMG we are afraid – and when I dwell on this, I AM AFRAID.

I want to say that I would be one of the “good” Germans who actively helped hide Jews. That I wouldn’t prey upon them and steal their jewels as they desperately offered their assets to buy their lives.

But you know what?

I have four kids. And I have eyes. And if I saw people being disappeared, I would be afraid that I and my family would be next.

I do not think I am brave enough in that situation.

I don’t know if Trump will bring us to another Holocaust. I know that the seeds of it are out there – and that Trump has fertilized the seeds and made it more acceptable to be “out.”

I know that if I speak out behind the relative safety of my keyboard that any moment, I could be doxxed (and since I’m a woman and a person of color, the odds of that are high), and that my children could be threatened and harmed.

I mean, odds are against it happening because I am totally small potatoes and who can say when and where a writer will go viral?

But it could.

And that possibility makes me afraid.

Not overwhelmingly yet. But if I let my brain run with it, it can.

So I tell myself to be brave now when the stakes are low so that I can train myself to be brave when the stakes are high. (God willing, this will not happen.)

That my bravery and courage are muscles: the more I use them despite my fear, the more I will choose the right thing for all peoples. And that truly, my standing up for all peoples will ultimately, make the world safer for my children.

And the more of us who do so, the less likely we will ever have to be brave and courageous when the stakes are high because hopefully, we will have stopped it in time. (Whatever that “it” is.)

So, my friends. To those of us who are afraid: be strong and courageous.

Let us practice being brave together. 

 

 

Suck It Up, Buttercup

I can’t believe 2016 is almost over. My Year of Risking Dangerously is almost at an end – and for the most part, unchanged since I last checked in at the end of August. (Well, with the exception of Sasquatch’s appearance. However, he doesn’t count exactly as a risk.)

Anyhow, since it is practically Thanksgiving (HOW HAS THIS HAPPENED?!), it has gotten me thinking about 2017 and what I would like my word or phrase to live by for next year to be. 

Yes, yes. These clichés are annoying when you see them as memes and repeated ad nauseam on Facebook, but hey. Who cares? 

It can be useful. 

So this year, I think I did a reasonably OK job and got myself a C in my year of Risk. (I am totally ok with this passing grade, BTW. I have to say it because I am trying to be more gracious with myself.)

And even if I am not entirely satisfied that I did all that I could, I still ended up doing more than what I would have. 

Does that even make sense at all?

Anyway

!

Last week, I was complaining to Dr. T about my inability to adult again (eg: paying medical bills on time, going through mail, cooking for the family, taking care of my responsibilities) and though she said I should cut myself some slack since I just had a baby (yay, baby!), she also said, (and I quote), that I just had to “suck it up.”

And so, after much thought, I have decided that 2017 is going to be The Year of Sucking It Up (aka: The Year of Being a Grown Up). 

What does that mean, exactly?

Welp, there are a lot of things that I have been wanting to do for myself and for the family but have been too lazy and procrastinaty to do. And really, the only thing for it is to just do them. 

So then. Here are my goals (thus far) for 2017:

1) Take family and personal health seriously. 

What does that look like concretely? 

Cook at least 5 meals a week. 

My kids are currently 1/3 chicken nugget, 1/3 pizza, and 1/3 whatever. I know eating and health habits are established when people are young humans. I would like my children to not have sludge for blood. 

Be active once a week. 

Yes, yes. Weak sauce. But currently one time more than I am doing currently. And let’s be real. I set a real low bar on the activity scale. This will do for me. 

Wash face and brush teeth twice daily. 

Omg. This is mortifying that this even has to be a goal. But, um, yeah. I will attempt to be a kempt human. 

Perhaps I should also add “Brush hair daily.”

Seriously. I have problems. 

Take vitamins and supplements. 

My body is falling apart. This could be a problem if I want to be alive to see my grandchildren. 

Go to sleep when the kids sleep at least 4 nights a week. 

Because I have a newborn. And I homeschool. And I have four children. 

I really shouldn’t be staying up late playing Two Dots or reading or writing or watching TV or Facebooking because lack of sleep makes me really, really grouchy. 

No texting while driving. 

Yeah. I know. I am a horrible human being. 

2) Take my responsibilities as a grown up seriously. 

This is sad that it even needs to be a goal. But be that as it may, these are the practical ways in which to manifest this “easy” goal. 

Pay bills, go through mail, do shit (eg: insurance reimbursements, opening accounts, any outstanding administrative tasks) ONCE a week. 

I would add more but FFS, this is enough to kill me. 

This actually should cut down on clutter (I am looking at YOU, dining table piled with paper). 

3) Write. 

Whatever I want to write – to WRITE. I did a good deal of it this year, I plan to continue it next year. 

This, of course, includes publishing an ebook by end of Q1. (Since I have totally put it off because I am lazy. I am 95% done. Just need to act like a big girl and do it.) 

It also includes writing for my blog (and perhaps other people’s blogs). I have tabled my goal of being internet famous for now. (Don’t get any ideas that I am somehow less narcissistic. I am just succumbing to the reality of NEW BABY.)

Will I be able to do this? Who knows? But Dr. T says to imagine how much happier I will be if I do end up doing some or all of these things. 

I am reminded of something I read on Wil Wheaton’s blog: Do one thing that will make your future self happy. 

Seems unnecessarily complicated regarding time travel, but the sentiment resonates. 

So, off we go, hurtling towards the future, one inevitable second at a time. If I even accomplish half of my goals, I will still be better than where I started. 

Who’s with me? What are you hurtling towards for 2017?

I Am Afraid to Be Brave


I am in shock. 

Whenever I actually think and let the truth sink in of a world where Trump is POTUS, I want to cry. 

I think, Is it wrong to pray for a well placed blood clot?

But then we get Pence. 

Pence is a monumental prick who might be more terrifying than Trump. 

Maybe two well placed blood clots, then. 

I honestly thought America was better than this.

I had hoped America was better than this. 

It is fitting that I woke up in the middle of the night from an asthma attack. 

It is fitting that I woke up on November 9, not being able to breathe. Literally. 

This is what the next 4 years will be like. Every breath a fight. A ragged tear in my chest. In the chests of millions of people who are afraid for themselves and the people they love. 

Here’s the thing: I am not so much afraid of Trump. 

I hope that at least some semblance of checks and balances can keep him in line.

No. 

I am afraid of America – the America that voted for Trump. 

The America that rejects me and my beautiful children. 

The America that hates Muslims, immigrants, blacks, Latinos, Asians, South Asians, LGBTQ+, atheists, women; the list goes on.

I want to be brave and continue to be a voice that cries out against people like Trump. 

People who foment hate. Who peddle death. Who normalize evil. 

But I am afraid. 

Is my mere act of writing and speaking out putting my babies in danger?

And yet, if I say nothing, does that not jeopardize them even more?

I honestly hoped that somehow Jesus wouldn’t let this happen. But why should America be given such mercy when we live in a world of Aleppo?

And I wonder, is Jesus still good? Is the tragedy of America any different today than it was yesterday? Is the world any less harsh or cruel?

Why, in a universe that has plenty of evidence to sway a person into believing in the absence of God (or at least, a good God), is it that I only question this goodness when my safe little corner of the universe is rendered a little less safe?

Because I am just as selfish and self-absorbed as the people who voted Trump into office. 

Also? All my friends urging for calm and let’s wait and see? That is shockingly easy to say for people who are likely not going to be affected much (in terms of personally targeted due to them being white and heterosexual Christians). 

And of all things, what I can’t stomach is the Asian Christians (mostly Chinese) praising God for Trump winning. I just. I weep. And I am despondent. And furious. #wewillneverbewhiteenough

They are my mothers, my fathers, my aunts, and my uncles. 

I am so ashamed. 

I am afraid. 

I don’t know what to tell Cookie Monster and Gamera – if only because they have no concept of a president, of what that means, and of what might have been. 

I am a terrible parent. 

I am in shock. A fog of disbelief. 

And when that finally wears off, I want to be brave. 

Brave like the multitudes before me. Brave like the multitudes around me. Brave like Shaun King who writes: 

“Dear Muslims, Immigrants, Women, Disabled, LGBTQ folk, and All People of Color, 

“I love you – boldly and proudly. We will endure. We will not break.”

We will not break. 

We will not break. 

We will not break. 

We. Will. Not. Break. 

Things I Didn’t Realize I Needed to Teach My Children


I have had quite a day full of mishaps with my children. I swear, they are smart kids, but also extremely dumb. If we were early on in the evolutionary chain, humankind would have died out.

Our branch would have come to an immediate and abrupt end. And it would be deserved. Utterly and totally deserved.

Is it sad to say that my kids would win the Darwin Awards? Or some other awful kids do the darndest things awards?

Here then, are some of the things it never occurred to me to tell my kids NOT to do.

Clearly, the fault is all mine.

1) Don’t stick your finger in your butthole and then put your finger into your mouth.

2) Don’t push your sibling off a five foot retaining wall.

3) Stop shoving your finger into your butthole and finish your bath.

4) Don’t draw all over the piano keys. Oh, and the bookshelf. And the books on the bookshelf. And the wall. And the carpet. And the window sill.

In fact, please only draw on paper. BLANK PAPER. No, not your homework.

No, not your siblings’ homework, either.

5) Don’t dump Elmer’s glue all over the carpet.

6) Don’t jump from the couch to the rocking chair. For God’s sake, please stop jumping onto the rocking chair.

7) Don’t climb the toy kitchen. It will topple over. In fact, please stop climbing everything in the house. I don’t feel as if I should have to bolt down every item in my house.

8) Don’t crawl into the washing machine.

9) Don’t sit on my face with your naked butt. Sit on Papa’s face instead.

10) Don’t poke holes into a brand new Amazon box with pencils. Especially when the box is full of air/heater filters.

Hmmm… after reviewing this list, I realize that the main one I didn’t expect to say was the first one. After that, I get it. My kids are just kids. Stupid and not really good at figuring out natural consequences from their actions. But the first point? THAT SHOULD BE OBVIOUS.

Checking In on My Year of Risking Dangerously

I briefly mentioned it in Monday’s blog, but a college friend recently approached me to ask me about blogging. He wanted to know how to make money with the blog, increasing visibility and readership, how to make his blog better, and general advice (like writing) for his blog.

I had a really great time discussing the business side’s minutiae and dispensing advice.

Ok. I won’t lie.

I LOVE dispensing advice regardless of the topic. I am definitely my own favorite echo chamber.

But anyhow, after texting with him over the course of several days, it reminded me of my lofty goals at the beginning of the year and kinda lit a fire in me again.

Now, I’m not saying that my goals are now exactly the same because, HI BABY4! But I didn’t want a pregnancy and subsequent new life form to be an excuse. (Even though it’s been a very handy excuse.)

As a result, I thought I would check in on my Year of Risking Dangerously and see how I was doing.

So, here are a few things I mentioned that I wanted to accomplish this year, as well as some goals I had written for myself in my planner.

1) Become “internet famous.”

I’m not sure how to gauge this exactly. I definitely haven’t gone viral or won any awards or taken the internet by storm.

However, in my little niche of Mandarin stuff (you like that technical term?), I seem to be “famous” enough. And although it’s not the same as going viral on HuffPo, it’s acceptable to me.

Of course, if HuffPo comes calling, I’m not gonna object. So, you know. Get to working, internet.

2) Submit my work to online publishers.

I was pretty good with this the first few months of the year.

I pitched Postpartum Progress and they published an article of mine on How to Get the Most Out of Your Therapist

I was interviewed at Moms and Biz about Chinese homeschooling and loved my two minutes of fame. 

I also submitted to a few other places, and although it’s technically not an online publisher, I auditioned for Listen to Your Mother and made their San Francisco cast. (You can see the video and read the transcript here.)

So, even though I didn’t do much else after that due to my extreme fatigue, I am satisfied. I may get my act together enough to submit a few more articles, but truthfully, I probably won’t.

I am content to hold off for now (unless I start getting some second or third wind).

3) Create and publish ebooks from my Chinese (and other) series.

I have TOTALLY dropped the ball on this. Like, completely.

I deluded myself into thinking that I would do this during my Taiwan trip, but mostly, I just focused on eating my own weight in shaved ice.

However, after talking to my friend, I am newly re-inspired.

So, I will definitely try and make this happen before the end of the year. (Heck, even if it means squeaking in just under the wire or right at the new year.)

Of course, to get it out in time, I have to let go of my perfectionistic tendencies and maybe not have the ebook be as completely re-written as I’d hoped.

But sometimes, good enough is still good enough.

4) Create material for and launch my own YouTube channel and series. Start a podcast.

Total fail.

I did record some videos, but I don’t think this will realistically happen this year or the next. UNLESS I stop caring about the “professional” look of the videos and just post whatever. Like, Facebook Live quality types of videos.

We’ll see.

Otherwise, I’m content to let this go for the next year or so and wait until Baby4 is a little older.

5) Take myself seriously by owning my talents/abilities/influence and acting like a professional.

Although it did not quite manifest in the ways I originally had in mind (such as starting a newsletter, revamping the website, making it more businessy by getting sponsors or ads), I did start participating more in online communities, subscribing to blogs and Facebook pages and interacting more with the writers.

Also, I’m not sure what it is exactly, but my personal attitude about my writing and abilities has shifted. For some reason, I no longer feel embarrassed (not even sure if that’s the right word) about blogging.

Instead, I’m confident in my writing and my voice.

I don’t know how it happened, but I like it.

So, I give myself a C. I did well on certain tasks, but others, I completely failed. It kind of averages out, right?

Ok. My brain is mush. Introspection apparently hurts me. But thanks for reading anyway! We’ll see if my sudden surge in energy is going to last long enough for me to get things done to my satisfaction.

Otherwise, I’m ok with letting things go.

See you Friday!

Final Money Tally for Taiwan Trip 2016


Ok. I am super reluctant to write this post because it reveals something about me that though I joke about with my closest friends, I don’t mention too often because I personally think it makes me look bad. After all, no one likes a braggart or someone who is seemingly thoughtless with money.

And honestly, I can be pretty thoughtless with money.

Not in the sense that I don’t think about money – but in the sense that I know our general threshold and that as long as an expenditure is below that threshold, I don’t even blink.

We are very comfortable and live a very privileged life. I know it.

You see, I have a thing that Hapa Papa likes to call Rich Girl Syndrome (RGS) in the sense that I think all things can be solved if you throw enough money at it. (Irish Twins’s husband, MBE calls it the Wallet Save.)

As a result, I don’t really think about budgets or how much something costs unless it is exorbitant or something I personally find outrageous. Also, my mother gave me a very generous sum of money for the summer so that I wouldn’t have to worry about taking taxis and books and food. She wanted to make sure I wouldn’t be stingy – and that I would make sure not to get over-tired and take things easy.

So.

Obviously, my budget will likely not be yours in the sense that I thought very little about the costs except in terms of how it cut into the amount I was willing to spend. But in general, I did not count pennies or dollars or NT. I just did what I wanted when I wanted.

I suppose it helps that I’m not exactly a luxury shopper and all I really spent my money on was food and books. But still, the money went fast and Hapa Papa is mad I didn’t save more money from the trip. (Although I did save a bunch of money two years ago from the generous sum my mother gave me then. But I suppose that doesn’t count for this year.)

So.

Now you know.

My budget likely will not be your budget.

However, at least you will know a bit more about pricing.

I realize that I am a very privileged person in terms of finances and that me blithely saying, “Just go to Taiwan for six weeks! Easy! Just say goodbye to $12-13,000!” is somewhat implausible for many of you.

Also, keep in mind that we choose not to spend money on many other things during the year that likely other people choose to spend their money on (eg: trips, sports, etc.) because I know we’re going to be spending a lot of money on a trip to Taiwan.

So. Please consider my breakdown not in terms of what you HAVE to do, but more in terms of what I spent as best as I can remember it. (Which, honestly, has huge gaping holes in it because um, RGS.)

Obviously, YMMV in terms of costs depending on how often you eat out, how often you take taxis vs buses vs MRTs, how much you shop, where you buy groceries, what extracurricular things you do, what programs you choose for your children, and where you choose to live (and if you choose to rent or live with family).

Author’s Note: Any comments insulting me or the people who spend similar amounts on this type of trip will be deleted. 

I’m sure if any of us were to examine how you spend your money, we could come up with plenty of ways you are a wasteful asshole.

So since you do not know anything about our family income, monthly expenses, or financial situation other than what I choose to share on this blog for the purposes of you having an idea of how much a trip such as this can cost, any judgmental bullshit about how I am such a horrible snob or how it sucks to be poor (which, we can all readily agree that given the choice between having more money or less money, most of us would prefer the more financially secure position), or how it must be nice to be rich can just go suck on an exhaust pipe. 

So, without further ado, here are the costs for my Taiwan Trip 2016. All costs are in USD unless otherwise noted.

Travel: $4,400

– Round trip airfare for 1 adult and 3 children: (We used airline points for Hapa Papa’s tickets) $4400

Accommodations: $3,975

– Airbnb newly renovated 1br 1 bt apartment in a trendy/popular/convenient neighborhood for 40 nights: $3800 (includes about $200 in Airbnb fees)

– Hotel in Kaohsiung 1 night including breakfast: (bought as part of a business package deal including 1 night hotel and breakfast and with a Taiwanese discount so prices are approximate) $175

Education: $2,609

– International School Tuition, 4 weeks: $1,121/child (Total: $2,240)

– Local Camp A, 2 weeks: $306

– Local Camp B, 2 weeks: $339

Transportation: $990

– Taxi from TPE to apt: $40/$1300NT (7 passenger car with 2 rented car seats at $9 per car seat)

– Taxi from apt to TPE: $30/$1000NT (7 passenger car, 0 car seats, private car)

– Taxis in general: $600 (estimate)

– MRT for 1 adult, 1 child, and 1 adult for 2 weeks: $150 (estimate)

– Bus: N/A

– High Speed Rail ticket for 1 adult, 2 kids reserved seating: (bought as part of a business package deal including 1 night hotel and breakfast and with a Taiwanese discount so prices are approximate) $150

Airport Parking: $20 (Keep in mind, we saved a bunch here because we asked friends to drop off our minivan at the long term parking lot the night before we arrived home. Otherwise, if we parked in long term parking for the entire time Hapa Papa was in Taiwan like we did in 2014, the cost for airport parking would be closer to $250-300.)

Food: $1,594

– Groceries/Toiletries/Misc: $382 (estimate)

Eating Out: $1212 (estimate)

Incidentally, I likely would have spent far less if I didn’t have to provide my boys with food for lunch. I only did so because I worry about their food allergies. Otherwise, I would not have to worry about those “extra” meals as they were included in our school tuition.

However, I suppose since I got treated out a lot by family and family friends (and at way more expensive places than I would have personally chosen), it more than evens out in my favor. So, um, nevermind.

Miscellaneous: $1,525

– Kid Playspaces and Activities: $274 (Incidentally, I was an idiot and forgot a pair of tickets I had already bought so I ended up having to buy an extra two tickets. So, I guess I have two tickets for next year. Sob.)

– Kid Crafts: $90

– Cel Phone: $60

– Books/DVDs/CDs: $720

– Family Gifts/Reimbursements: $400

– Misc: $50

TOTAL: $15,093

Good Lord. Now I really feel like an asshole.

However.

One of my other friends is ALSO in Taiwan and in the same city and they were NOT as thoughtless as I am and STILL, they spent a similar amount. Why? Because some fixed costs you just can’t get rid of like round trip tickets and lodging.

Here are some of her basic numbers:

– Travel: (roundtrip tickets for 2 adults and 2 children) $5,400

– Housing: (4 br, 2 bt, washer/dryer in a less popular neighborhood for 7 weeks) $4,900

– Local camps, 5 weeks: $800

– Adult Language camp, 7 weeks: $500

– Books/DVDs/CDs: $625

– Food/MRT/HSR/Misc: (didn’t really take taxis due to safety concerns) $1642

Total: $13,867

Keep in mind, her housing costs are so high because she had other family members crashing at her place during various points. But she really didn’t eat out at fancy places (mostly the food stands and corner restaurants) and they definitely paid attention to their bottom line.

So, if you are a typical family of four and have no means to get free plane tickets and do not have access to free housing in Taiwan, the bulk of your costs are fixed at approximately $8-9,000. That’s BEFORE you do ANYTHING else.

So, are you just screwed with the costs?

Not necessarily.

While the fixed costs likely will not move much, you can do some small things that might change the hugeness of the number to slightly less huge. (I do concede housing is a place you can fiddle with – but it really depends on what amount of discomfort you are willing to endure for 4-6 weeks.)

So, here is a way to redeem myself.

Therefore, another list: Where you can save money on your trip to Taiwan.

1) Keep all your receipts and get a tax refund.

If you bring your foreign passport to the malls or save all your receipts, you can receive a tax refund on your purchases at the mall or at the airport. But that would require you to keep ALL your receipts.

2) Eat street food and shop at local groceries.

If you didn’t eat out at the more expensive restaurants and ate mostly food court food or street food, you will save a lot of money. I ate a LOT of shaved ice. Some were cheap. Some were not.

I also ate at places that were close to $40USD/1500NT for lunch or dinner. That’s a lot of money in a place where you can get a decent and filling meal for $6USD/200NT or less.

3) Enroll in local schools and camps.

The reason camps were so expensive for Gamera and Glow Worm were because they were in an international school. I got many comments from locals that the school they attended is one of the most expensive schools in the city.

I would have preferred to send them to a local school, but they wouldn’t take Glow Worm due to his food allergies. According to family friends of friends, a month of a local 幼兒 (you4 er2/preschool 3-6yo) or 大班 (da4 ban/kindergarten 6yo+) for $300USD a month.

4) Live in less popular neighborhoods.

I chose to live in a very expensive neighborhood because I wanted to be close to the MRT, to a lot of convenient restaurants I like to frequent, have a renovated space, and I like clean streets that don’t smell. I also don’t like being too far away from my children’s schools and activities.

You do NOT have to choose this for yourself. There are plenty of decent places to live that are larger and cheaper than what I got for my money. If you do not mind living further out on less popular MRT lines, or doing more research in terms of local schools vs. the big popular names, or even choosing less popular cities, you will save a lot of money.

I don’t think your experience will suffer for it.

5) Take the bus or MRT instead of cabs.

Trust me. There were many times I would have preferred to take the MRT or bus – but as things shook out (and with the number of children and them being uncooperative or the weather being sopping wet), I took cabs more often than I technically needed to.

In general, though, I took the MRT as much as possible. I didn’t go for buses at all this time, but I loved buses my last trip to Taiwan. I think it depends on your location and your destinations and what ends up being most convenient.

That said, my average taxi ride was about $5-6/150-200NT. However, an MRT ride is $0.50/16NT regardless of distance and the bus is approximately $0.31/10NT. (Keep in mind that kids are free unless they are 6 or above a certain height. Their fares are even lower.)

I’m certain there are plenty more ways to save money. (Such as not buy so many books or CDs or DVDs – but since you would spend more to have the items shipped since shipping to the US is approximately $75-100/22kg box and takes at least 2-3 months, personally, I think it costs more money not to.) But being as I am likely the last person on Earth to be useful in this arena, I am all tapped out for suggestions.

If you have any to share, please do so in the comments! (But keep in mind: not every one has access to mileage points or relatives in Taiwan. That, in itself, is a privilege of sorts.)

Alright, I’m done for today. Have a great day!

My Love is an Act of Will

LoveIn case you missed my performance back in May, here is a video of my reading for Listen to Your Mother SFI’ve included the transcript of my piece after. Also, please do check out the entire line up for Listen to Your Mother SF 2016. They are hilarious and moving and fantastic women with wonderful stories. You will not regret!

“Mama,” said Gamera. “I love Daddy more-er. He’s the funnest.”

Twice a day, my 4 year old daughter, will inform me without fail that she loves my husband more than she loves me.

She has her reasons.

He was her first word. He’s way more fun. He plays with her (especially that awful Cooties game that I would rather stab my eyes out than play). He takes her to McDonald’s and indoor play spaces and to the park.

He calls her “Sweetness” and “Baby Girl” and cuddles with her at night and throws her onto his shoulders and plays Tickle Monster until she collapses into giggles on our bed.

He is the funnest.

And most of all – he rarely yells at her.

For the first eighteen months of my oldest son’s life, I never yelled or raised my voice in anger. I used to be so proud of myself.

Gamera never got to meet that person. She was six months in my belly and had another three months to go. By the time she showed up, I was tired and overwhelmed and had made yelling a way of life.

It was slow at first. A slow ramping up of fury until it broke over my small children in a consistent wave of screaming and yelling.

And later, at two and a half, she would defend herself and her older brother, holding her ground. “You don’t know what you talking about it!” she would stomp, face red with scowling, arms crossed in indignation. “Mama, you’re NOT kind!”

So I totally get why she loves my husband more-er. Who wouldn’t?

Before I had children, I thought love would be effortless, flowing through me as water from snow melt.

Who would have ever predicted it would be like squeezing blood from a stone?

Who knew love could be so hard – especially when it sent the dark corners of my heart into stark relief?

Of course, I knew that love was not always easy. I had plenty of experience of that in my romantic relationships. And I knew from growing up with an abusive father that love for our children could look much different than what I wanted for my own kids.

But I had thought – I had hoped – that I would be better. I would be different. I wouldn’t let my father win.

But I was broken still and my inner beast, the echo of my father – his script, his cadence, his very words – spilled hot and rushed through my trembling lips and clenched fists.

Of course, she loves her Baba more-er.

I accept that she may never know or understand that my loving her is an act of will.

Not because she is not lovable. She is. All my children are.

But I hope and pray that they will never understand firsthand how I clawed my way up from my despair, buried under decades of lies, denial, and self-protection.

That I love her when I ensure that the cycle of abuse will end with me and not be passed onto them.

I love her when in November 2014, I decided enough was enough and asked for help.

I love her when I choose to do the hard mental and emotional work when I go see my therapist every Friday and plonk down $150.

I love her when after a year and a half of weekly counseling, I have finally turned a corner and now rarely yell.

I love her when I get enough sleep.

I love her when I pay attention to what my body is telling me – and when I listen to my body.

I love her when I drop my armor of anger and apathy and allow myself to feel and process pain, fear, and anger.

I love her when I look at the hard truths of my growing up, my coping mechanisms, and their consequences.

I love her when I choose to walk away from her instead of scream.

I love her when I humble myself to apologize and ask her for forgiveness.

I love her when I let her feel what she feels and say what she thinks – even if it’s messy and dramatic and overblown and infuriates me to no end.

I love her when I model how to pursue healing.

I love her when I tell her that even if she loves Baba more-er than me, or is angry at me, or even hates me, that I will love her. That she can never lose my love.

I love her even though she loves her Baba more-er than me.

It doesn’t matter.

Because every day, my love for her is a hard won act of will. And that is enough.