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    April 09, 2014

    Grouchity McGroucherface

    I do not know what is up with me today. I started my day by thinking about how even "good" politicians had to lie and cheat and cooperate with madmen to do good in the world and it just got worse from there. I don't know what's wrong with me, either. Who does that?! I am morose and gloomy and BLAH today. In an attempt to snap out of it I bought six giant glass apothecary jars from Marshall's this morning. And some dishes. Because.


    I don't care that it's sideways. IT'S THAT KIND OF DAY.

    (Buying useless glass items did not help, by the way.)

    Why did I buy six giant apothecary jars? Oh because Katie and I have this silly idea that we might get hired to do dessert tables maybe and Pinterest is sort of into apothecary jars and how cute would they be filled with pink macarons? Except no one is going to order anything from us and everything is terrible. 

    I honestly don't know what's wrong with me. I should be dancing like a fool after finding out yesterday that I'd gone about the permit process all wrong and the permit I ACTUALLY need is $55 instead of $603. Shouldn't I be elated? Except I mostly feel foolish and stupid and exhausted. I spent a lot of energy going down that road and OOPS, SORRY, I now need to swivel my brain towards THIS road instead. I am just tired. It is an incredibly dumb idea to start a food business, folks. Truly. I don't advise it. 

    If I had more energy I would insert here a giant defense of myself and why I expected to pay $603 and how I didn't just pull it out of thin air I actually DID do some research into my next steps but GOD. No one wants to read that and it's not like making giant excuses for yourself really excuses the Dumb. 

    Holly wrote a post about how she is trying to be okay with not being Proficient at everything. I am the same way. Does it make sense? No! I know it doesn't make sense. BUT IT IS HOW I WORK ANYWAY SO THERE. 

    I am also feeling super fat and jowly and large-nosed and old and lumpy dismally unattractive and no amount of makeup can fix THAT. 

    We are driving to Montana this weekend. Spring break is next week and I got the great idea to drive to Kalispell to visit friends. HA HA HA. I totally want to see them and I don't think I'm even minding the drive (which I usually hate because UGH EASTERN WASHINGTON). But all the packing? And getting ready? That's MY job and only my job and I need an assistant who will do all of it for me. 

    Actually, my parents were here most of the day yesterday and my mother did all of my laundry and swept my deck and cleaned up the dishes and hey, I could get used to that. 

    ANYWAY. I think I have grouched enough here. See you later.

    April 07, 2014

    The MTHFR Mutation and Me

    I've been doing nothing but working on the Thumbprints website today and my eyes are starting to cross, so I'm going to take a break. (And do more typing on the laptop!) Besides, my hippie doctor just called to give me the results on my blood test last week and I have Things I Want To Share. 

    Here is a very very tiny very brief history of how I've dealt with anxiety in my life (okay, maybe not that brief):

    • Fall 2001: Experience anxiety for the first time. Freak the you know what out. Wonder whether I should choose institutionalization, substance absuse, or exorcism. (All three of these were Actual Real Things I Considered, I Shit You Not.)
    • Spring 2002: Finally, on the advice of many many friends, haul myself to therapy. Therapist uses the word "anxiety". Is the very first time I've heard of it. OHHHHH. 
    • Summer 2002: All better!
    • Winter 2003: Nope! 
    • Winter 2004: Still nope!
    • 2005-2010: Therapy, books, deep breaths, prayer, exercise, more books, an almost unbearbly close examination of character flaws, near complete revamping of how I talk to myself in my head
    • Fall 2010: Things get bad. I finally ask a doctor for anti-depressants, because after the total insanity that was pregnant-with-Molly-me I promised Phillip that I would never put us through that again. 
    • Fall 2011: Take myself off drugs because 1) I'm nursing Emma and 2) I think I'm invincible
    • Spring 2012: Put myself back on drugs because 1) nursing Emma was a HUGE FAIL and 2) I am not invincible
    • Summer 2012: Summer 2013: WHY ISN'T THIS WORKING? 
    • Summer 2013: I tell all medical professionals everywhere to screw themselves, because I am pleasant and not at all overdramatic, and go see a naturopath. She is lovely. She puts me on a diet of supplements and acupuncture. My verdict is: silly, but at least more pleasant than what I was doing before.
    • Fall 2013: My naturopath says, "So! There's some newer research about the MTHFR mutation and depression and anxiety! I think you should get tested!" I test positive. She puts me on a new diet of giant methylfolate supplements and iron pills. Tells me to come back in January. 
    • April 2014: I finally go back. I feel... great. 

    I stopped taking my lowish Pr0zac dose about three-ish weeks ago. I planned to taper, but I was too lazy to call for new prescription and I couldn't halve the capsules AND I happen to be very good friends with a pharmacist who told me Pr0zac has such a long half life it practically self-tapers. (And so far so good. No horror stories, please.) 

    I want to address the fact that I was still on my anti-depressant while trying to deal with the MTHFR thing - maybe THAT'S why I've been feeling great. Except I don't think so, because I never felt 100% on the Pr0zac and I would often have "episodes" here and there, and getting more frequent. When my doctor put me on the methylfolate I was keeping a journal to track my anxious times and how they correlated with life events and hormones and other stuff I never remember. But I think the last time I wrote in that journal was early January. I feel much better than I did last fall, and I started to feel better in the WINTER (while I was starting a BUSINESS). It's not like I'm only starting to feel better now, when the days are longer and the sun is out more often. This has been the case for a while. 

    I do feel generally better and I generally feel that it is generally attributable to maybe addressing the MTHFR issue. I've only noticed one concrete change, between last fall and now, but it's a big one: when I DO feel anxious, it doesn't last long. I actually had one day where I went from Fine to WACKED OUT ANXIOUS to Totally Fine in less than 24 hours. That is... well, let's just say that my anxious episode in 2003 lasted well over a year. 

    My THEORY, for now, based on my own personal experience and no one else's, is that I happen to be Inclined Towards Anxiety. Biologically, genetically, emotionally, my personality - it is not a huge surprise to me that I am an Anxious Sort. I didn't start taking medicine until I felt I'd exhausted my own capabilities for managing it myself. Do I recommend this for other people? NO. THIS IS STUPID. But I am stubborn and determined and it made sense to me at the time and there WERE benefits. Because I did it that way, I really do feel confident that I did pretty much everything I could possibly do to take care of this - and it didn't work. It HELPED - it helped immensely - but I was still anxious. And that's the place I found myself in last fall, where I needed an extra something and Pr0zac was clearly not it. 

    The last part of my theory is that the MTHFR mutation is my missing piece. It's the thing I couldn't control. It's the part I couldn't change or self-talk-out-of or scrub away. The jury is still out - you guys, I am SO not saying that THIS IS THE THING - but it DOES make sense to me. The way I would get anxious out of thin air. For no reason. This could be the reason. 

    So there's a couple things I want to say about that. The first is that I haven't done as much reading on MTHFR as I'd like. The most I knew about it was through blog posts on infertility and miscarriage - it's strongly linked to miscarriage. And about the same time I found out I tested positive I was also diving headfirst into starting an online bakery, and that takes up most of my free time these days. I did read a handful of articles and many blog posts written by mothers of struggling children, wondering if an MTHFR mutation had to do with their issues. MTHFR has been linked to everything from miscarriage to autism to pulmonary embolisms to fibromyalgia. I don't know what is a reputable source of information and what isn't. DO NOT USE MY BLOG FOR RESEARCH! I KNOW NOTHING!

    The other thing I want to say is: until I went to a naturopath, possible biological reasons for or causes of anxiety were never discussed with me in a medical setting. (Oh wait, that's not true. They all wanted to test my thyroid and my thyroid always tests fine. I will give them the thyroid test.) My general experience with sharing my anxiety struggles with medical professionals was genuine sympathy followed by "well, this drug seems to work well for my other patients". I have now read articles about simple blood tests that could help a doctor decide WHICH SSRI or other anxiety-battling drug to put you on, rather than just going on what worked for the last person. But no one brought up trying to figure that out either. Doctors wanted to give me a prescription and make sure I was "seeing somebody" (you know, for that other stuff, like a therapist), but as far as choosing what to give me, in retrospect it honestly does seem to me that they just plucked one off the shelf. 

    But that's what they tell you, anyway. "Oh, they're all a little different, and you just have to experiment and see which ones work for you." And since all those SSRIs say they can take 4-6 weeks (or longer) to show any effect (and who knows how long to taper off) you're just sentenced to a year or more of "experimentation". I no longer want to see a doctor who prescribes brain meds that way. 

    Which will be difficult, since I went to see an Actual Brain Doctor and, although I believe he was incredibly well-intentioned and knowledgeable, he was the worst of the bunch. Beyond grilling me on every conceivable symptom (and disagreeing with me about when and how I experience those symptoms), I was not included in my own care. My own "evidence" was the least crucial in the pile of evidence he used to choose my drugs. 

    So I am writing this because... well, because I write terribly personal things on my blog that probably embarrass my parents. (SORRY.) And because when I was lost in very dark anxious places, other people writing about their dark anxious places on the internet was often a rope I could grab to swing myself to another place. And also because I am trying something different and I want to say that it's POSSIBLE to try something different and it's POSSIBLE to find a healthcare provider who takes your evidence into account. No, I do not at ALL believe that we should all be taking giant methylfolate horse pills or seeing naturopaths or anything like that. I DO NOT THINK THAT. Pr0zac is a wonderful thing! Psychiatrists do good work! Doctors want to help! This is just a small story of trying something different, someone coming up with an alternate theory, and results that are 'so far so good'. I hope that is positive or helpful for someone. 

    April 03, 2014

    Extracurriculars: yes/no?

    Molly has ballet on Thursday nights. I've signed both big kids up for swim lessons at the community pool starting in two weeks. We tried out a martial arts lesson last night and now Jack wants to do that too, except I didn't know it's 2 days a week and costs three times as much as the gym membership I looked into today. Because I looked into a gym membership today, did you know that? What am I, crazy? 

    I struggle with wanting to kick the kids out of the house as soon as they get home from school and not see their faces again until dinnertime, like the Olden Days people write about, where you didn't manage and schedule and craft and play and blah blah blah. And then wanting to sign them up for absolutely everything, because there are so many NEAT THINGS they can do and why wouldn't I want them to have every opportunity?! Ballet! Piano! Tae kwon do! Swimming! Camps! MUSICAL THEATER!!!

    Molly is taking ballet because I happened to find a great dance studio near our house with totally affordable and easy-to-schedule lessons. And because she wanted to. And I thought it would be cute. I signed them up for swim lessons (we started last spring at the Y, but these community pool lessons are SO much cheaper) because that seems like a safety issue. And I don't know how to swim. And I have an enduring fear of water, so much so that I am not really looking forward to an expenses-paid Phillip's-side-of-the-family vacation cruise this summer. And I don't want them to be like me. 

    I REALLY want them to take piano (and so does my FIL, sheesh), but I haven't set that up because it's another night, another expense, with the added bonus of having to make them practice. Sometimes I feel like *I* could teach them, but SNORT we all know where that's going. Phillip found a piano lesson iPad app and is kind of sort of teaching the big kids. (I took yeeeeeeeears of piano lessons. Phillip took a few. But he can play better than me AND knows everything about chords and time signatures and keys and WHATEVER, PHILLIP. HOW NICE FOR YOU.)

    I would love love love to get them involved in music - piano lessons, choirs, theater stuff with music. I would love for them to play soccer and do gymnastics and have dance recitals. I've been looking at summer camp opportunities through the community center system and yes, we'll do all of those, thank you. Oh, and I would also like to join a gym. 

    I DO NOT HAVE TIME FOR THIS. I am just now starting to understand the effect starting a small business has had on my free time. Or, I should say, the time that I divide between chores and household shopping and paying bills and driving around and Managing The Household. I was DISAPPOINTED to remember that this week is watching week at ballet which means I can't edit bakery pictures in the waiting room like I'd planned. When am I going to edit those pictures? WHEN AM I GOING TO WORK ON THE BLATHERING WEBSITE?!

    (Right now, you are saying. Stop blogging and do it now.) 

    So the blog has taken a hit, yes, but I can still do that in a few stolen minutes here and there and it's good for me and helps me figure things out. But I almost never see friends anymore, not during the day. I used to schedule my whole week around playdates and lunches and story times and all that toddler nonsense, but now I take the big kids to school and after that EJ is my Errand Running Companion and/or Dora Watcher While I Do Stuff On My Computer That Isn't Just Reading Go Fug Yourself. On good days I put her down for a nap and hop on the treadmill for the length of a TV show and that is WORKING. Where/why do I think heading to a gym every morning (and putting EJ in the childcare center, which I'm almost positive she would resist) will be easier/better? And what do I do for the kids and what is just silly? 

    Jack LOOOOVED the martial arts class last night and has asked me no less than one frillion times if I've signed him up yet. And I'm mad at the class for having us do that before they gave us any information about how to sign up (THEY'RE NOT STUPID). But even if I didn't mind forking over the money every month, that's two nights a week! That's... a lot! 

    As I sat in that gym last night watching small children learn to kickbox (it was awesome, I have to agree with Jack), I realized that if we joined, we would basically be committing to a Small Children Learning to Kickbox community. That is what they do. Right? Or my friends whose kids play soccer in the fall - that is just what they do in the fall. Right now the Cheungs don't have a Thing that we Do. And quite honestly, I like it that way. For someone so reliable and committed and devoted I am totally stingy with my time and who owns it. I need to own my time, not a soccer team or a ballet class. 

    I don't THINK I'm depriving my kids, but it can feel that way. There's just so much awesome stuff out there and it seems like most families are doing something. On the other hand there's no way I'm going to do ALL of it. It's impossible! And how are they going to learn about disappointment and the unfairness of life?!

    I also have this little problem where any time I go to find out about something that costs money, it takes negative effort on the part of the salesperson to get me to buy it. Martial arts lessons? Gym membership? Church kitchen? New car? New HOUSE? SIGN ME UP. 

    Poor poor Phillip.

    AAAAANYWAY. I'm not sure what to do with all this stuff. WHAT A FIRST WORLD PROBLEM. I want to get Jack involved with something, because his sister has ballet, but I don't think we can do THIS. And I want to get back in shape and develop a habit of fitness, but joining a gym won't magically make that happen. And I want to do piano, but let's face it, that's probably just signing myself up for years of another thing to fight about with the kids. Me = not exactly Tiger Mom. 

    Okay! Time to buck up! Ballet in an hour! Homework! Figure out dinner! Put everyone to bed on my own because Phillip works late on Thursdays! I CAN DOOOOO IIIIIT.

    April 01, 2014

    Oh yeah, I used to write about my kids

    ALL RIGHT. Things are looking up. There was a sudden influx of capital to Thumbprints Baking Co., for which the owners are terribly grateful and over the moon. We have picked a kitchen. We have insurance. The next step is formalizing the agreement and the step after that is (OH GOD) going through the county health department food business application process. I am guessing I will need to restock the liquor cabinet. 

    But I want to exercise my mommyblogger chops tonight and write down a few things I've noticed about my kids. Before I forget. So you can leave now, it's okay, I totally won't be offended. 

    So there's this huge amazing CRAZY thing I've been more and more aware of lately and that is the fact that my two biggest kids seem to be best friends. This is wild to me. It's not that they never fight (they always fight) but they also really really like each other. They don't really want to do anything without the other. We keep asking them if they're ready to stop sharing a room (when are a brother and sister too old to share a room?) and neither of them are interested. Well, they're very interested, just not right NOW. Even when I make a point of reminding them that Molly would share with Emma and we'd move the girls into the room next to Jack's so he wouldn't be alone downstairs. No no, they don't want to do that yet. 

    And they play with the same things and play the same way. They would both choose to do an art project over almost anything else (except perform Let It Go in princess dresses for their parents and all their parents' friends.) They make up plays. They build elaborate forts in the living room and pretend that Emma is their kid or their pet or just some random baby they get to boss around. They squabble constantly and accidentally hurt each other all the time, but I'm not sure either of them has ever been purposefully vicious to the other. 

    My brother and I are the same number of months apart as Jack and Molly. I suppose it's possible we liked each other when we were very small? But my main memories of my brother are of him barging into my room (which was 1) not allowed and 2) totally unnecessary, no I am still not over this and have refused to "just ignore him" for 34 years), messing up my stuff, and being mean to me. Always! My whole life! Not that I was a total peach to him - I remember my dad telling me, many many times, "Some day he'll be bigger than you, Mag! Watch out!" So yes, I shall grudgingly admit that I possibly beat up on him too. I sort of remember playing outside with him, making mud soup and charging through the patch of forest across the street from our house and riding bikes. My mom is probably reading this and thinking, "You did TOO have fun together!" Maybe it wasn't until we were a little older that he became my main reason for wanting to hurry up and go to college already. (Like 5th grade older.)

    But I don't see that with Jack and Molly. Really. I suppose it's possible and I'm sure one day they won't want to do the same things all the time and play with the same kids and feel bad that having a "boys only" birthday party means Molly can't come. (Jack is turning 7 next month. Omg.) But still. They really really like each other, they look out for each other, they give each other heads up when their mom is on the warpath. I'm starting to wonder if they're going to be the kind of brother and sister who are buddies growing up. Who don't have to turn 30 and live in separate houses before they finally tolerate each other. (You may think I'm being snotty about my brother, but I bet you anything he would agree. Also, he called the other day to talk about the bakery and wanted to give me some feedback and he had to say, "Look, I'm not being a jackass like usual, I'm really trying to help." SEE? EVEN HE SAYS SO.)

    And you know what, I'm writing this on April 1, which is basically my brother's personal holiday, the day on which he switched out my morning cereal for dog food, shortsheeted my bed, and set my alarm clock to go off in the middle of the night. HOW APT.

    So yeah, my heart IS warmed over by the affection my two oldest show each other. (Ask me again when they're teenagers.)

    Emma, however, worships the very ground on which her brother and sister tread. All day long I am reminded that something is Molly's, something is Jack's favorite, something is what Molly wants, something is what Jack did. Everything - EVERYTHING - relates to her two favorite people, some way or another. She will play any game they want to play. The big thing right now is "putting Emma to bed" - in the middle of the day, for whatever reason, and she gaily goes along with it, climbing into her bed with her stuffed cow and her pacifier and staying there however long they require. She's the baby and she has her manipulative moments, her fickle devotions, her sudden wails of distress. But for the most part she's all about being where they are, doing whatever they are doing. Including homework. Emma does lots and lots of homework. 

    I just think they are the neatest. I could have never dreamed them up. My creative, sensitive, sweet little boy. My absentminded, giggly, kind little girl. My utterly charming, delighted by everything two-year-old. They are just perfect.




    March 31, 2014

    You know how people say this is hard? IT'S HARD

    Oh gosh oh gosh oh gosh I have Bakery Stress. It is the stress that comes from things working out? But bringing new complications? Mostly financial ones? 

    We have an offer for a rental kitchen. I have liability insurance all lined up and ready to go as soon as I pay for it. This means we could move on to the never-thought-we'd-quite-get-that-far step of contacting the health department, submitting a "plan" for "review", and getting the kitchen inspected for our own use. And then we'd be - dun dun dun - LEGAL. 

    This is not the church kitchen. I'm not entirely sure what to do with our church kitchen situation. I am a card carrying 'Fraidy Cat, so just hanging out at the church kitchen doing our little baking project sounds a lot better to me than renting space at an Actual Factual Bakery Kitchen where we'd be paying some serious rent and hoping against hope we find a regular source of orders. I'm smart enough to know the church kitchen option, even though it is Practically Free, is not the brightest one if we want to be a big girl business. But... I'm pretty nervous. 

    Here are some things I've learned in this process so far:

    1. No one is going to tell you what you need or how to do it. 
    2. Applying for a business license and establishing your type of business (LLC, sole proprietorship, etc.) is the easy part. 
    3. You are expected to file taxes, but you will have no idea what those taxes are for, or what you owe.
    4. Should you be so stupid as to start a food business, you will figure out what the health department requires by trial and error, fortuitous googling, website forums, Facebook comment sections, Twitter, returned phone calls from unpleasant government employees, and panicked perusing of small print. 
    5. If you somehow manage to figure out what the health department requires, do not expect it to be logical. 
    6. It appears that many of these rules and regulations are in place not for protection of the public, but to collect fees. That sounds cynical, but that's the only reason I can find for needing to have an established and permitted bakery's kitchen inspected an additional time for our use. 
    7. You need money. Even if you are not opening a storefront and going to bank for a loan, you will need money. You need money for: state business license fee, LLC formation fee, city business license fee, Cottage Food application fee, new food business in your county application fee, insurance, and bank fees. 
    8. After that you need money for and/or will be using money you've earned for: inspection fees, supplies, equipment, PayPal fees, rent, marketing materials, promotional product. 
    9. If you are a person with a skill or trade, but no extra income or savings, you cannot start a business. You can't. That sounds cynical too, doesn't it. But I estimate that just licensing and application fees alone have cost us $500, and we aren't even finished with those. You need a bank loan or generous family members or a money tree to ESTABLISH yourself, long before you start doing the thing you're hoping earns you some money. 
    10. There ARE people who want to help you, but you need to be proactive and look for them. 

    I COULD KEEP GOING. I have a friend coming to get me in 20 minutes for therapeutic shopping and conversation. (She's shopping, I am enabling. I gave up spending money for Lent. TERRIBLE.) So I have to go. But while things are moving forward and we have a huge opportunity in front of us, right now I'm feeling a little bowled over by what it costs to get started, and what we're risking. I knew this going in, but now I really know it. You know? 

    Thanks for reading. Your encouragement on this subject has been huge for me. 

    March 26, 2014


    Tomorrow morning Katie and I have a meeting with a real live coffee shop owner, the sort of coffee shop that bakes all its own treats. I think it's a family business, it seems to be successful, and they have a great space that I've visited many times. I have every reason to be nervous about this meeting and I HAVE been nervous in the two weeks we've been trying to schedule it, but right now I'm not. I think I should just happily accept that fact and move on. 

    If I'm not sure I'm going to ace something, I usually won't want to do it. Which is why I still wonder how I got so far into this little bakery project. Me? I have made self-deprecating jokes about my English major, not-profit-oriented, SAHMness for so long now that even I can't quite wrap my brain around the fact that I am sitting here with calculators and bookkeeping software, editing photos of muffins, and looking up websites for other local bakeries to see what the competition does. I'm talking to people I don't know about things I know almost nothing about. I left a stack of business cards in a hair salon last night. I'm psyching myself up for the day I carry a bunch of cookies around to local coffee shops and try to get them to stock our stuff. WHO AM I?

    Today I decided that this is yet another thing I can blame on anxiety. HOW CONVENIENT. For ten years, TEN, between the ages of 22 and 32, I developed this whole narrative for myself. That I was an un-ambitious, un-goal-oriented, not particularly interested in challenges sort of person. AND THAT WAS OKAY! I spent lots of energy telling myself that this was okay. At the time I think a lot of it was even true. My struggles with anxiety had so beaten me down and exhausted me that I didn't have a lot left over for big ideas. At the time I was just so happy to be married to Phillip, living in our little apartment, hanging out with our friends in the evenings, thinking about maybe buying a townhouse, maybe having a baby one day. Really calm simple things that everyone else was doing. I was HAPPY. I really was. I was extremely horribly anxious, but I quite liked my life. One day I would feel better and everything else would get that much better. 

    I am SO much better. I am not CURED or FIXED or anything like that, but I am SO SO SO much better and I'm different now. Even if I didn't have the anxiety stuff, I'd be different now. Older, I have kids, I have more confidence, I just LIKE myself more - and that makes a difference. And maybe I wasn't ambitious or goal-oriented when I was 24 and just trying to fall asleep at night, but I am now. Maybe I've always been and it was 24 that was the anomaly. I'm just feeling like I need to tell myself to throw out that narrative. It's no longer working for me. Stop being surprised at yourself, Self. 

    I still don't want a Career. I don't want to wear suits and work in an office. I don't want to find childcare for Emma. I don't want a boss. I don't want to work for a product or a company or a cause. Phillip recently went to something at his job that I can only describe as a pep rally. Some sort of huge morale-building event where everyone got t-shirts and listened to the CEO and patted themselves on the back and he is SO HAPPY there, but OH GOD that just sounds awful to me. (For the zillionth time: thank you Jesus that someone in this family wants to earn a paycheck.)

    But I so very much want to DO stuff. I want to accomplish things. I want to improve or add or start or SOMETHING. The bakery stuff is a challenge and I'm realizing how much I like having a challenge. And it's a challenge that's FUN and revolves around things I love (my sister, chocolate) and it just seems CRAZY. Like, how far can we go with this? What's possible? What could we DO?! 

    I love thinking about that!

    I also know that I don't want to do this forever. This is not the Thing I Want To Be or my chosen career or whatever. I don't know where it will go or how long I'll be with it, but at some point there will be other things. I feel pretty sure of this. I feel like maybe I am learning and practicing on the bakery for the next thing. This could go nowhere and I already feel like I've gained a lot of experience. Or it could go totally far and one day I'll have to tell Katie she needs to find someone else to tie ribbons around her macarons because I have to go... I don't know. Start a retreat center or something. Learn to build furniture. Ghostwrite my father-in-law's memoirs. Starting this business has only made me more excited for all the other cool stuff I'm going to do. (I KNOW. AM CRAZY.)

    Or maybe the bakery stuff takes us into the church coffee shop stuff and that takes us into something else and then something else and then oh look, I've become a fashion designer!


    There are so many good changes in me, because of anxiety. Truly. Which isn't to say I'm glad I deal with it (NO) or that it's been good for me (HECK NO), but I've always been able to appreciate the ways it's made me a better person. I think I'm realizing now that there were/are bad things too. I turned caution and fatigue and fear into character traits, thinking I was happy not to try, not to start or improve or grow or add. I'm trying to shake that off now. Things are different. I think I shall end this post before I start singing a Katy Perry song. 

    March 25, 2014

    Kitchen update, for those of you who care

    So! Funny thing about our meeting with the pastor of the church with the coffee shop this morning: it was NOT the church I thought I was emailing. There's a church I've driven by a number of times that advertises a coffee shop ministry and I thought I emailed THAT church, but when I couldn't quite find it this morning and we pulled up the emails on our phones for the address... it appears that I emailed a completely different nearby church with a coffee shop ministry. Oops! That means there is a SECOND church nearby with a coffee shop ministry that I can contact about kitchen rentals. 

    HOWEVER we may not need to. I'm not sure how these meetings normally go (are these meetings normal?) but ours went pretty well. I'd emailed back and forth with the pastor of this church (a lovely brick Methodist church with a cheery preschool in the basement - another point in its favor, quite honestly). I played up my original coffee shop-as-ministry-to-moms idea and the pastor was all over that, just so encouraging and open and interested in the possibilities. And that's exactly what she was like when we met this morning. She immediately took us to the kitchen, showed us their coffee shop space, talked about the church's efforts in exploring that idea. And she was, well, this is just my impression, I don't know for sure, but she seemed completely ready to let us in and start whatever we needed to start. I like that sort of person! I am that sort of person too!

    The kitchen itself is, on one hand, a better kitchen than we were expecting to see. The flip side is that it's small (separate storage space is a requirement for a permit) and the ovens are BIZARRE. So bizarre that the pastor made Katie a copy of the instructions to take home and study. Katie says she's worked with many a strange oven and in pastry school they used deck ovens and just had to keep constant vigilance - oven weirdness is a definite no go for ME, but I am not the baker. ANYWAY. The kitchen itself is a definite possibility for us. 

    The rest of our conversation was about legal stuff and taxes. I know what WE have to do on OUR end: there's the whole county permitting process and we'd have to get liability insurance. But because this is a church, they need to find out what it means to allow a for-profit business to rent space, whether or not they have to pay property taxes. I told her that the one and only time I've ever been involved in a similar situation (from my old church committee days) is that our church didn't have to pay taxes on a rental property because the tenants were contributing to the mission of the church. (They were seminarians.) I don't know if that is the whole story or if there are plenty of details (I'm sure there are many more details), but I told her that we would be happy and excited to contribute to the mission of THEIR church. I can even see us helping to run the coffee shop, not just keep it stocked with muffins. 

    The pastor offered the kitchen to us on a "trial basis" for now. Katie can test it out and get used to the ovens, and if we needed a space to bake a ton of croissants or a full sheet cake or something like that, I can see them happily allowing us to use their space. That's still not LEGAL, however, and we ended the meeting on the assumption that we will all keep moving towards that goal. With us filling out all the paperwork for permits and getting insurance and with them figuring out their own legal and financial stuff, as well as getting approval from other church folks. 

    My impression is that the pastor saw us as a way to move her coffee shop vision forward, while also aiding and encouraging a pair of women embarking on a truly small business endeavor. Bonus heaven points!

    THAT SAID. We are trying to set up a meeting with an actual owner of an actual coffee shop. She was introduced to us and volunteered to meet with us sometime - I'm not sure if she wants to offer her kitchen space (I've been to her coffee shop many times, it'd be perfect), or just give us some general assistance and advice, which would obviously be super welcome as well. This wouldn't be a mutually beneficial arrangement like it would with the church, unless the coffee shop is looking for a little extra income. Our baked goods wouldn't "work" at this shop, for various reasons. I was hoping to meet with her tomorrow morning, but she hasn't got back to me so I'm not sure what's going on with that. The pastor this morning also told us about another community center type place that had a caterer renting their kitchen for a while. So I do feel like I have a few leads and all is not lost and something WILL turn up. 

    In the meantime we are getting orders here and there (two cakes this week! one cake and one cookie tray next week!) and that feels good. We are still unsure how you write a business plan without having any idea what you can DO - something the pastor this morning totally understood when we told her we just need a kitchen to TRY our idea. 

    So there's your update! The end! Cross all appendages!

    March 20, 2014

    Thursday Afternoon Reads & Recommends

    Let's kick things off on a cheery note and wonder What If The Germans Had Won The First World War? As @hopejumper said on Twitter today, the treaty of Versailles ruined everything. 

    Just as cheery- Ukraine: Is This How The War On Terror Ends? 

    Okay fine, how about something ACTUALLY uplifting? This is the best thing I've read on the internet in a long time. Reaching My Autistic Son Through Disney

    Study: Milennials Deeply Confused About Their Politics, Finances, Culture. This study made the news outlet rounds about a week back. Did you see it? I am actually only interested in milennials so far as wondering if I AM a milennial - depending on who and what you read, the cut off birth year is 1979 or 1980. As a July 1979 baby I'm either a verrrrry old milennial or a verrrrry young Gen Xer. I find this annoying, because even though I scoff at attempting to define an entire generation, I would still like to know what people define me AS. (This one defines Milennials as between the ages of 14 and 34. I am 34 and a half. So.)

    I have not bugged you about the enneagram in a VERY LONG TIME. Let's amend this right now as I send you off to read this series on the enneagram and blogging. (How does a Three blog? OH SO FASCINATING!)

    May I recommend this orange chocolate chunk (with ginger) quickbread

    And THIS... THIS seems to me to be a VERY convincing theory for Who Is Don Draper. Seriously. I'm only vaguely aware of the D.B. Cooper story, but IT FITS! Doesn't it? It totally does. Either way, I love this idea. (If you're not a Mad Men fan, you can skip it.) (Why aren't you a Mad Men fan?)

    Right now I am reading Venice: A New History by Thomas F. Madden. SUPER READABLE. A lot of times these things are not, so I'm just letting you know. I'm not deeply enthralled, but I have learned two things. Donna Leon, author of the Brunetti mysteries, stole 'Falier', the last name of Paola's parents and fancypants Venetians, from one of the first doges, and 2) can you even IMAGINE escaping to a marshy lagoon ahead of the murderous Huns? (This is how Venice was founded.) For the gazillionth time: thank you Jesus for letting me live in 2014 Seattle, Washington. 

    Which brings me to Bloodlands by Timothy Snyder. I've been trying to figure out what I want to say about this book for weeks. I think the thing it makes me think is: I don't even know what to think anymore. I thought I knew all about the worst of what happened in Eastern Europe but nooooo I did nooooot. Reading Inferno made me wonder why God didn't just send another flood. Reading THIS made me... I don't know. Something worse. Maybe it was reading about the collectivist farm famines in Ukraine knowing that soon my own country would team up with Stalin. Which had to be done, and yet. YET! Ugh. This book made me DESPAIR.


    March 18, 2014

    On having lived a good and full life

    I went to my great-aunt's funeral today. I got there forty minutes early and thought I'd go get a coffee or something before it started, but when I drove by the church there were already people going in and the blocks around it were lined with cars. I had to park several streets away and I'm glad I saw my aunt and uncle walking by and jumped out to join them because otherwise I would have never found a seat. The church was bursting, there were another couple hundred people in the basement watching on a live feed, and then the reception was insane. There were so many people. And I KNEW my great-aunt and -uncle were the sort of people everyone knew and everyone loved, but it was still overwhelming and speechless-making to see the crowd that turned out on a Tuesday afternoon to honor my great-aunt. 

    My grandmother's family is Italian and her younger brother and his wife, whose funeral this was, are/were the most Italian of the bunch. My great-uncle is small and wiry, laden with heavy gold jewelry and a pinkie ring. He's loud and boisterous, he tells the best stories in the best ways, and his wife was a beautiful lady with perfect makeup and a touch of perfume and always called you "dear" and wanted to know what you'd like to eat. For a long time they ran a catering company and between that, the church community, and some other business ventures they seemed to know practically everyone in Tacoma. For SURE they knew every Italian. 

    I think they were alllll at the funeral. 

    I am only one quarter Italian. My kids know Daddy is Chinese and Mommy is Italian - they say this because I lived in Italy with Grandma and Grandpa when I was little, duh. But I'm only one quarter. My Italian grandmother married a German. And my dad is... Polish? Banished beyond-the-pale Jew? Who knows. So it feels a little strange to call these vehemently Italian people my family. They are, at least, the extended family I know. The embodiments of stories my mother told us about her growing up years. And they may not know my name, but they know I'm Mary's granddaughter, and how am I "dear", and did I get anything to eat yet? 

    (The Italian Italian relatives were there too, the ones who speak with an accent. Their son looks like he walked straight out of the show Boardwalk Empire. Even as a kid I was fascinated by these people and their clothes and their jewelry and their red Alfa Romeo with the gold interior and the hood ornament that honked if you tried to pull it off. Don't ask me how I know that.)

    I left the reception thinking how blessed I would be to have a funeral that runs out of space and food. You know what I mean? 

    I wasn't close to my great-aunt, though she passed my bakery business card to her engaged granddaughter while waiting for surgery in the hospital last week. Most of the people I saw at her funeral were people - my mom's cousins, mostly - I hadn't seen in years. But they knew me or they knew who I was and I just felt so lucky to come from this crowd. I come from other places too, but I also get to claim this one and the lady whose funeral it was was the lady who "won" my bouquet at my wedding, because she and her husband had been married the longest. 

    She won it again at my sister's wedding nine years later. 

    I spent the rest of the day at my parents' house, just talking and talking and then I drove home and now I'm here, in my own house, with my own little Chinese Italian Jewish Eastern European family. I hope we touch as many lives as my great-aunt did. 

    March 16, 2014


    I did a bunch of things this weekend that gave me a whole bunch of thoughts and part of me wants to record them all here and part of me is totally over blogging. Weird, huh? I think, at this point, it makes more sense to just keep a journal, but I've grown accustomed to the Typepad interface and also the occasional interaction. I never got tons of comments here, I was never Popular, and I no longer think about how I *could* be Popular - that seems like an era of blogging that is long over. (Is it?) And now so much of the "community" takes place on Twitter and I love Twitter. I am constantly defending Twitter to the people who are all, "No one cares what I ate for breakfast!" Whenever someone busts out the Internet Is A Dangerous Place thesis I am quick to announce that the internet can be used for good - in fact, I have heaps of personal experience. Would they like to hear my stories?! Which is weird, because I am rarely quick to defend anything. That's one thing I could never quite do when I was considering shooting for Internet Popularity. Having opinions is something I do much better one on one, or in my own living room. Never on the internet!

    But here I am, because I just can't QUIT you, Typepad, and I think about how Third Baby will have ninety-five percent fewer stories than her siblings. It's not like I keep an ACTUAL baby book. Also I worry that if I stopped writing here - and I don't think it would be a sudden stoppage so much as a drifting away and forgetting - I would lose contact with all of YOU. I am better at reading Twitter than participating, and Facebook isn't the nice self-selected group I have here... you see what I'm saying. 

    A few weekends ago I visited Blondie and Blondie is one of the very first people I ever wrote about on this website. I STARTED this thing one million years ago when Phillip and I went to China for three weeks. It was my excuse to start my own blog. Blondie was a friend of friends and we were basically going to China to keep her company while most of her coworkers (our friends) were on vacation and that sounds really weird, I know, but it worked. INSTA-FRIENDS. Maybe the three of us were absolutely determined to like and enjoy each other. Maybe we somehow knew there just wasn't enough time to do the usual get-to-know-you type stuff. Whatever it was, it worked, and those were three of the best weeks of my life. In no small part due to Blondie. 

    (I call her Blondie because she's, well, blond. A super white blond girl who spoke fluent Chinese. In China.) 

    BUT ANYWAY. She lives stateside now. She's married with two kids. Life is SO DIFFERENT. For both of us. That WAS ten years ago and we sped through those ten years in the two hours I spent at her house. We are older and tired and even though hanging out with her was, again, the easiest thing in the world, those ten years had made a difference in us. 

    And my great-aunt passed away last week and my mom is calling me and talking about Big Stuff and getting older and I keep wondering what I'll be thinking ten years from NOW. And ten years after THAT. Jack is going to be seven in May. Seven! Remember when we were all having our first babies and writing about the horrors of breastfeeding and how to get them to sleep and baby gear and whoa. Sometimes I think that if Phillip and I were to have another one (CALM DOWN, PHILLIP CHEUNG, IS RHETORICAL) I wouldn't even know what to do. And my youngest is only 2 and a half! I just feel BEYOND that, for some reason. Ready to bring on the big kid activities. We went to Molly's dance studio's "Afternoon of Dance" today and it just felt like YES. This is what we do now. We do this. 

    Blogging isn't the thing it was when I started, but I'M also totally different. If anything I'm MORE open and transparent and not at all bothered by anyone knowing any of these things I write about myself... I just don't know if I need to write it all out anymore. I don't know if I always need to explain myself to me, or hope that the comments section reflects me back to me. I've wanted to be funny, I've wanted to be a terrific writer, I've wanted to have Deep and Amazing thoughts, and maybe I've been all three of those things at one time or another. But mainly what I've done here, I think, is write everything out so I know what I think. I might be doing that now. I guess the difference is, this isn't the first place I think of or need when I want to do that. Not anymore. 

    I hope this is a nice big sign that I Am A Grown Up. I was thinking that in my 20s I was still the same person I was when I was 16 and 17, I just had much better friends (and a boyfriend, heh.) But in my 30s I think I'M different. I have those same friends (how great is that?) (and the boyfriend stuck around), but *I* am different and by that I just mean I've shaken off so much of the stuff I tried on in my 20s. Turns out I like makeup and I have an appointment to light-ify my hair. Turns out I don't need to read every important book and see every important movie. I have politics. I have opinions. (I just don't write about them!) I care SO MUCH LESS about what people think of me. 

    (Since I cared SO MUCH, this is still not enough not-caring. But it's a start.) 

    (And is this a reason I'm not compelled to blog every night?)

    I have less time. That's the biggest reason. But you make time for the things you want to do. I keep surprising myself at the things I choose to do over sitting down at the computer. And you know I'm not saying that all the reasons I write here and all the reasons I'm not writing here so much are also YOUR reasons. Right? I would very much like to read your blog posts about how and why you started and why you're still here. I find this fascinating! 

    I was going to write "I am just finding myself LESS fascinating!" Except, GOD, would that be the lie of the century. Surely that is not the reason I am slowing down on the blog front. It just must be that I am finding other ways to navel gaze. Or other ways of navel gazing are a better fit for me at this stage of life. God forbid I ever stop poking around for lint, right?