Tale of two



What is it with the library?
It seems like every time I go there, I leave with a blog post. I suppose I should be grateful one institution offers so much for so little in return.

On my latest visit I walked away with two books for me, four for my girl, and a life lesson tucked in my pocket. When I arrived home, I fished it out, turned it over in my mind and decided to save it for further examination. 

So, here’s how it happened: I was hoping to find a room full of children to occupy Girl from the East so I could do some research. Instead, I found one woman and one child in a children’s department roaring with silence. 

First thought: Oh, look at the cute little blond girl with the Asian woman. She must be the nanny. 

Second thought: Shame. Shame. Bad. Bad. As a Caucasian mother of an Asian child, where do I get off jumping to conclusions?  I hate it when strangers give us the once-over and draw conclusions about our family dynamic. Why judge at all? Yet, there it was, a judgment. Plain as the nosy nose on my face.

Third Thought: Truth is, I live in an area where it is fairly common to find nannies and au pairs taking their charges to the library for story time. Many a time I’ve started talking to who I thought was the mother only to have her  wave off my questions explaining: “I’m the nanny.” Sometimes that means: No further questions.

Fourth thought (after I learned they were in fact mother and daughter): We are the exact opposite, yet we are exactly the same.  Although I didn’t ask, I’ll bet she gets a fair share of nosy questions and double-takes about her family dynamic.

Then I stopped thinking and started talking.

“Is your  daughter from China?” the woman asked from across the room.

“Yes,” I said.

“I am from China,” she said, pulling up a chair.

This opened the gates to a flood of questions and answers: What province in China? What city? How long have you been in America? Does your daughter speak Chinese? What is your name in Chinese? What did you do for Chinese New Year?

Before long, we were engaged in stories of China, raising multi-cultural children, the best Chinese markets in the neighborhood, and other moms-of-preschoolers related stuff.

At one point, our girls mistook the library for a playground and began running and shrieking between the stacks. The librarian on duty quickly stepped in. I’m sure she had an awkward moment when she attempted to match girl to mother. At first she directed my Girl from the East to the Chinese mother and the blond girl to me, then quickly switched the girls again.

There was a time when that move would have bothered me deeply. But today I just shared a good laugh with this wonderful woman from Beijing.

Then the two of us mothers gathered our things,  slipped into our jackets, and headed our separate ways. She, a dark- haired woman with almond eyes and a blond-haired child, and I, an American woman with a Chinese daughter.

Two books who cannot be judged by our covers.

Anger management – with sprinkles

by youknowlinzo

by youknowlinzo

Right now I’m counting the days until Girl from the West turns 18. I’m encouraging her to apply to colleges on the West coast.
I feel terrible inside for thinking these things, for what is happening to our relationship.
We had a row this past weekend. I suppose we both were to blame. But I am the adult. I should have prevented it from getting to that point.
It may have come down to something as simple as biting my tongue.
“We used to be so close,” Girl from the West said to me through a waterfall of tears. She’s perched on her desk chair, her long wavy hair shielding her face as she picks at a hangnail.

I’m sitting on the rug in her bedroom, my stomach in knots, attempting to reconcile the situation. There is no easy fix. We’ve moved away from the ice-cream-with-sprinkles-fixes-everything territory.

“Right now I need to be your mother, not your friend,” I tell her, working to keep my voice even and calm. “It’s my job to question what you are doing and to be concerned about your behavior. I do this out of love.”
While this sounds nice, what really happened was I launched into her about a number of things. It’s not so important what those things were. It’s more about how I decided to express myself about them.

“Mom, you are so immature!” she barked at me just minutes earlier. “You should hear the way you talk.” She then unleashed a fierce attack, ticking off incidents in the recent past of my brusque behavior behind the wheel, in line at the store, etc.
If I’m honest with myself, she’s right. I lose it a lot.  I acted like Joan Crawford waving the wire hanger at her cringing child.
Let’s face it, there have been a number of high-stress things going on in the MomZombie household. While I’ve discovered some new ways of healing and dealing with all of it, I’m a newbie and have lapses.

I’m trying to to be mindful of my acts: I am angry. But how am I using my anger? Apparently like a weapon rather than as a way to deconstruct my thinking and reactions to outside forces.

The least I could do for Girl from the West is to apologize and admit my behavior was less-than-stellar. I should know that action, not anger, is the way to reach through all the teen angst.

I wanted things to be different; I didn’t want to end up where my mother and I landed in the ’80s, with me running out the door in tears, my angry mother waving the latest contraband she found during one of her regular sweeps of my bedroom while I was in school.
If my mother had had her way, I’d have spent my teen years locked in my room reading scripture and knitting. If I’d had my way, I would have been an emancipated minor, like two of my good friends were in high school.

Obviously looking back on that, it was tragic. Teen girls living alone in apartments, away from a family unit. Some of us — I know I did — thought it was the most awesomest ever. But what did we know? How could we know?
My mother and I had such a volatile relationship. We fought brutally. We had no common ground. How could I possibly forge a strong bond with my daughter when I had this model?
It wasn’t until years after I left home and had my own child that we could begin to form anything that resembled a relationship. We are still working on it.

I’m still working on it.

新年快樂 Xin nian kuai le

That’s Happy New Year in Mandarin.
Monday is the beginning of a new lunar year on the Chinese calendar.
Chinese New Year is to the Chinese what Christmas is to Westerners. It is a big holiday that stretches over two weeks. It involves preparation, decorating, visiting with friends and family, giving gifts, and making and eating large quantities of food.
As a dual-culture household we are learning, in baby steps, how to incorporate some aspects of Chinese culture into our lives.
This past weekend we attended two Chinese New Year celebrations. The first was more of a play date with the families in our Mandarin school. Our teacher, who is from Shanghai, China, directed us in serving some traditional dishes: dumplings and noodles with fresh oranges for dessert. She then gave all her young students a small gift.
She also gave us some basic guidelines in superstitions surrounding the holidays:
She said it’s important to thoroughly clean your home for the New Year. It’s bad luck to get your hair cut during this holiday. But eating to your heart’s content is encouraged. So, a little work, some sacrifices and a big food reward in the end. Not too bad.


Image blurred to protect identities

The second celebration was a huge banquet held by our local Families with Children from China chapter. While the event wouldn’t be viewed as traditional in the eyes of Chinese-born celebrants, it is tradition for our large group of families to gather annually and present a number of things that teach, remind and represent Chinese culture to our children.
Aside from a meal of Chinese food, our banquet featured a performance by Xiao Dong Wei; a puppet show that depicted the origins of the Chinese zodiac and the lunar new year celebration; and a dragon parade composed of many of the children in attendance.
Each year our Girl from the East finds more reasons to enjoy herself at this event. This year she summoned enough courage to join the marching children in the parade.

We still have so much to learn about our daughter’s culture, but we enjoy taking it in one step at a time, just as she is.

Happy Year of the Ox.

Girl from the East in toddler parade

Girl from the East in toddler parade


January 20, 2009


Who: Friends and family
What: Lunch, beer, balloons
Where: Front row, center; the living room
When: Jan. 20, 2009 12:00 p.m.
Why: Inauguration of United States of America’s 44th president, Barack Obama
How: … amazing is this? …..far we’ve come. …. inspired we are.


A raging case of poly-blog-a-matosis


It’s difficult to live two lives simultaneously. Just ask Clark Kent or Bruce Wayne.

Just ask the secret polygamist.

Do women do this? Most women I know think their husbands, children and households are more than enough. Why they’d take on multiples would be beyond my comprehension.

Except in the realm of the superhero. In this world, a woman will have a nondescript day job and then slip behind a curtain, do some magical thing to transform herself, and then reemerge with big hair, a body suit, cape and some kind of otherworldly power. The personas of super hero and library assistant would be so vastly different that no one will ever make the connection.

So is the life of MomZombie.

I started this blog almost two years ago as a personal outlet. I kept my blog private for a year, then turned it public, but kept details private and shared none of it with family or friends. But that isn’t very rewarding. 

Last month I gave in to the immense pressure and cajoling from friends and family and got on Facebook, set up a page on Linkedin, started Twittering (still not getting that yet), created a Flikr account  and created a second blog that serves as a resume and job seeking site. (Yeah, uh, this is supposed to be about work.) 

What in holy hell have I done?

Now I’m wondering: Will I have to set up two separate Facebook, Flikr, and Twitter accounts to accompany  each blog, as others have done? 

This seems ridiculously complicated, a recipe for disaster, one in which Clark Kent shows up to the Daily Planet with his cape sticking out of his trousers.

How can one person manage this much stuff? How will I connect with all my bloggy friends? I’m struggling with a big dilemma here.

Husband suggests dumping MomZombie and starting over again with a new blog. But, I’m attached to this thing, even if it will never lead to fame and fortune and stats in the double digits. Even if I never get to wear a real superhero cape.

***Since writing this I have considered setting up a Twitter for this blog. I know some of you have asked in the past if I Tweet. If you’d like to connect that way, send me an e-mail on how to find you on Twitter, at momzombie64@yahoo.com Be patient with me. I’m having a heck of a time with the thing.

Why I'm clean and not so rich

A recent report highlighted on Yahoo News*  listed dirty jobs that pay well.

Among the jobs that most likely require a hot shower afterward are:

  • Veterinarian (dog poop)
  • Waste management engineer (everything down the toilet)
  •  Trauma surgeon (blood, guts, poop)
  • Coroner (dead people, plus guts, blood, poop)
  •  Certified nurse midwife (blood, guts, placentas, poop)
  •  Podiatrist (foot fungus)
  • Oil drill worker (not sure about this one, just oily I guess)
  • Gastroenterologist (more of the same, except for the oil)
  • latex1

    Most of these jobs require a substantial amount of education, except the oil drill worker.  All of them require a cast-iron stomach and nerves of steel, which is a fancy way of saying you must control your own bodily fluids while performing your job.

    And it looks like they pay fairly well, too.  At the day’s end, you can scrub from your hands the bodily fluids, change your shoes, and head to the bank with your big, fat paycheck.

     So I was wondering if paid well enough, could I do any of these jobs?
    Could I keep track of the goings on in a waste-water treatment plant, making sure the poop and paper separated from the water?
    Could I grasp a fungus-ridden foot in my hands and scrape it for a sample?
    Could I slice open a dead body and dig out the contents, weigh and measure each organ lovingly as if they were baby birds? 
    No, no and most certainly not.

    I watched an autopsy once. As I stood by the glass window in the public viewing area, I wondered why the body of a young man with curly black hair still had a red bandana tied to its head? Wouldn’t they have had the sense to remove it? Then my ears began to ring and my knees grew weak. The Rice Krispies I had for breakfast started to churn in my stomach.
    It wasn’t a red bandana on his head. It was the underside of the skin flap pulled back to cut open his skull. Silly me.

    I put on my brave face, but inside, I couldn’t wait to get away from that cold, antiseptic place that smelled oddly like a  butcher shop.
    So you can keep your scaly feet, your severed limbs, your spurting oil wells and exploding colons. I’ll take the simple road, the one that pays in small change but smells far more like a bakery.

    *http:// blogs.payscale.com

Setting sail


As I descend the stone steps leading away from the nondescript red building with the Tibetan prayer flags flying over the front porch, I notice for the first time that my feet are cold and that my legs are a bit numb.

But I am abundantly aware of the state of my spirit. My inner being is so light it soars above the snow-covered landscape and cuts straight through the airy clouds to the sun. My head is buzzing. I liken it to a runner’s high. This feeling. It stayed with me all day.

How could this be? My internal weather has leaned toward dark and stormy for months. My inner self a heavy thing dragging on the pavement. In one hour the storms, the weight dissipated. Later that evening, I attempt to recreate the experience at home. Again. Amazing energy flow and calm. I am on to something here.

After an on-again, off-again meditation practice that I abandoned right around the time I became a mother of two, and a missed opportunity to visit a Buddhist Temple in China, I finally summoned the courage to attend a service in Detroit.

I went in with no expectations and more than a little bit of anxiety (of the unknown) but my nerves calmed almost immediately after entry into this peaceful environment.

Even though I had no idea how to conduct myself in this setting, I felt welcome and serene. It’s not often that I get an undisturbed hour to myself.

By the time the service was over, I had a strong feeling that I had found a new spiritual home, one in which I could begin my journey toward healing my inner self and giving wings to a new outer life.

Make it or break it

A lot of people labeled 2008 as their worst year ever. I can’t say the same.

It was a continuation of 2007, good or bad. Both years had me at home with my daughters, outside of the working world. It was a period of adjustment. I had hoped to discover a whole new world, uncover a new way of life. I was going to embrace my domesticity with open, willing arms. Oh, and along the way I was supposed to figure out what to do with the rest of my life.

But life just got in the way of all those lofty goals. People died. Friendships fell apart. Big chunks of our household income were lost. The economy really tanked. On the upside, I made new friends, tackled a lot of unfinished business around my home, managed  to do a bit of traveling, and began my super secret affair with the Internets.

But the honeymoon is over. Reality has hit home and hard. I need to roll up my sleeves and find a way to bring in some money. I need to do all this from home or fairly close to home. These past two weeks have been a whirl of scouting out preschools and digging through boxes of my past work, trying to devise a plan. Trying not to panic.

Which  leads me to an epiphany I had this week: This year is either going to make me or break me. I am on the edge. I need to shore up inner strength and set aside my pride, my insecurity and whatever the hell else is gnawing at me and just get moving. I need faith, direction and a few guiding principles.

At least once a month, if not more, I am going to push myself outside of my comfort zone to do something to shake things up and wake me up. I have a plan for this weekend that I hope to share soon.

White bear, white bear, what do you see?


Like bears holed up in their dens for too long, we jumped at last week’s unusual day of sunshine and ambled outdoors to stretch our limbs. We dressed in many layers and headed to our favorite winter destination to walk off a few calories: The Detroit Zoo.

Within that destination is a favorite place: The Arctic Ring of Life, a simulated polar habitat that is home to arctic foxes, polar bears and seals. The animals here come to life in the colder months. This past December was one of our coldest, snowiest and iciest in nearly a decade. During our visit, the bears were practically dancing on their simulated polar ice cap.

One of the best features of this exhibit is the underwater viewing tunnel. I love how the shafts of sunlight shimmer through the blue water. I love how on one side of the tunnel, seals swoop and twirl in the current like flocks of birds while the hulking polar bears bounce like astronauts doing the moonwalk on the other. (The seals and bears do not intermingle, for obvious, food-chain related reasons.)

In this scene below, a bear sits with its back to the many human visitors watching from the tunnel. Within seconds, the bear plunges under the surface and swims directly toward Girl from the East. For a heartbeat, they are nose-to-nose at the glass. Girl then lets out a little shriek and jumps into my arms. The bear then paddles upward and stands atop the glass tube, looking down at us, swiping its massive paws at a seemingly unreachable human snack buffet.

The guy next to us shoots a question out the room: “Hey! What if that glass broke? We’d all be lunch!”

Nice observation to make in a room full of preschoolers. Even if we were all thinking the same thought.



Justification, punk

While assembling an online profile about myself recently (more on that later) I mentioned that not only am I driven to write, but I also write while driving.

This, naturally, elicited a response: “What?! You write while driving?” 

Yeah. I keep lots of notepads and pens in my console and when an idea slams me between the eyes, usually at 70 mph on the Interstate, I’m ready.

This goes back to my reporter days. Way back. Before Wi-Fi. Before laptops and modems were commonplace. Back in those days a reporter drove to a city council meeting, took notes and watched the clock, balancing the need to stay long enough to “get the story” against how much time it would take to commute  to the office and  file the story before deadline.

One of the ways to beat the clock was the write the story’s lead while driving back to the office. Sometimes I’d dictate into a portable tape recorder. But most of the time I’d just reach over to the passenger seat, grab a pen and begin scribbling on my notepad.

I didn’t take my eyes off the road. I kept one hand on the wheel.  At a red light, I’d make adjustments for legibility, clarity. I got quite good at it.

I still do it. My best ideas come to me while driving.

Recently, while driving — but not writing — I tuned in to NPR.  “Fresh Air” with Terry Gross (Dec. 31 broadcast date; sorry couldn’t get a link to stick) was on, featuring an interview with former Punk rockers Mick Jones of the Clash and Tony James of Gen X. They are now in a band called Carbon/Silicon.


Tony James (left) and Billy Idol of Gen X

After a bit of banter about Jones’ and James’ musical roots, Gross asked them where they get their ideas, how they write their songs. And this is where my car probably swerved into the next lane rather unexpectedly as I let go of the wheel and pumped my fists while shouting “Yes!”
They said they write while on the bus (or in the bath, can’t always understand those Brit accents) and while driving.
Yes! Yes! Yes! Exoneration, justification and cred all in one.
Just when I was feeling like my usual dorky self, my Midwestern, semi-weird, mom self, I realized I have something in common with British punk rockers.
Who the hell knew?