Michigan: The First Few Days

Michigan

Photo credit: the Husband, who drove 2405 miles across the country with Sam the Labrador. They made it in just 2 1/2 days (because he is amazing!)

The first few days in Grosse Pointe have been very surreal. I’m more exhausted than I’ve been since the girls were babies (both terrible sleepers) and I’m emotionally…..distressed? stunned? drained? I can’t even find the right word. Perhaps emotionally confused.

I knew once I got here, that my body would shut down somewhat from all the packing and adrenaline surges that got me through the San Francisco moving process, but I didn’t realize just how tired I would be. Every day (no matter how much coffee I drink), I’ve fallen asleep at some point – on a chair (while talking to someone), in a car (while kids were being loud) and I’m not the kind of person who can sleep anywhere (quite the opposite).

Since I haven’t been able to sort out my emotions, it’s also been hard for me to write, which is why this entry comes five days after our touchdown in Michigan. I can’t seem to organize my thoughts properly; everything is jumbled.

GPlakeshore

Lake Shore Drive (also spelled Lakeshore)

But I press on. I’ve gotten out for a couple runs, which always does wonders for my disposition. I’ve found a perfect 3-mile loop, which includes a few blocks on Lake Shore Drive, which borders the calm and beautiful Lake Saint Clair.

The day we arrived, it was cold and raining. As we pulled into town, there was still evidence of the brutal winter that so many experienced this year. Clumps of snow on the ground, ice in the lake, bare trees and bushes, and dry leaves everywhere.

However. All this…cold weather hanging-on stuff means that I haven’t missed a drop of Spring (thank you, Jesus). My heart needs the full season. New beginnings and such.

GPwall

Moran Road, Grosse Pointe Farms.

Yesterday, the girls and I were the only ones at the playground (save for the friends who took us there – friends of my husband’s who are my only friends here) , mostly because it was about 40 degrees out – yikes. But today…today it was sunny and blue skies. The girls played outside while I fixed dinner and kept an eye on them through the kitchen window (we’re at my mother-in-law’s place ’til the moving truck comes). And after dinner, they bundled up and went back out again. Laughing, exploring, not wanting to come back inside. Although this was just a minor portion of my day (there were time outs, tantrums, breaking up of fights, the usual), this is why I came here. And I hope it’s a sign of what’s to come.

The forecast for the weeks ahead show some cold (super cold!) and wet days. But they are dotted between days of sunshine and clear skies. I do believe that Spring has found its way to Grosse Pointe, and I welcome it with arms wide open.

GPrun

 

 

Ocean Beach: the Edge of the World

Ocean Beach from Sutro Heights

Ocean Beach, as seen from Sutro Heights

It’s exactly two miles from my house to Ocean Beach (my Strava app tells me so). Every weekend I make the short run, ending up at the north end of the Great Highway near the Cliff House (today I beat my record: 9-minute miles – hurray! A special thank-you to my running partners, stress and angst).

Grafitti wall

The wall, looking northeast.

Ocean Beach wall

The wall, looking northwest to the Cliff House.

Ocean Beach is not initially beautiful. At least it wasn’t to me, the girl who grew up in Hawaii. There’s a huge, graffiti-covered (only on one side, thankfully) concrete wall that spans the entire length of the beach. It’s supposed to keep sand dunes from piling up on the Great Highway. Still, every summer the highway shuts down for the annual sand removal, a project that moves approximately 7,000 to 10,000 cubic yards of sand (source: SFGate).

oceanbeach.cliffhouse

Another view of the Cliff House.

oceanbeach.crows

oceanbeach.surfer

Even without the eyesore, there’s the weather. The beach is cloudy or foggy or cold or windy or all of the above 360 days of the year. But… like everything else in this town, it’s grown on me. I love how vast it feels, how uncrowded (when it’s a nice day, you know it. Everyone flocks to the beach), how rugged, even how grey (I mean, crashing waves at the edge of the world are pretty amazing, whether the sun is shining on them or not).

oceanbeach.beerbottlesI’m beginning to think San Francisco can make anything beautiful. The old homeless man sitting on a park bench I passed this morning. The abandoned beer bottles I found last week. Maybe my stress level is so high that I’m not thinking clearly (I think I AM a tad delusional right now, let’s be honest). But I think more than that, I just want to love my town as much as I can in these last couple of weeks.

oceanbeach.blue

One of the lessons that San Francisco has taught me (and it’s taught me many) is to look beyond. To look beyond myself, to look beyond first impressions, beyond stereotypes, beyond the hype…to look beyond the concrete wall and the fog, to find the beautiful crashing waves of Ocean Beach.

Are Filipinos Asian?

Form

I used to have to choose between Asian and Pacific Islander.

If you’ve been following the blog from the beginning, you might remember the post, Burning Questions, where I ask, “Will I be the only Filipino in town?”

For that post, I looked up some census numbers and cited that (per Wikipedia) as of the 2010 census, there were 1.6% Asians, 0.1% Pacific Islanders and only 1.5% being of two or more races. I didn’t get into detail, but those are only the numbers for Grosse Pointe City, population 5326. (And, if you also read my Welcome post, you’ll know that Grosse Pointe consists of five separate communities. Which are actually cities. Confused yet?). Grosse Pointe Farms, for example, population 9316,  lists 1.3% of their population as Asian, 0% Pacific Islanders and 1% being of two or more races.  Grosse Pointe Park does a little better with 1.8% of Asians (still 0% Pacific Islanders). I could list the other Grosse Pointe percentages, but I think you get the idea.

All these statistics reminded me of the various forms I had to fill out growing up. There was never a box for “Filipino.” Sometimes the form (aka stupid form) would say, “please check only one box.” Okay. I’m half Filipino, half White. Seriously? (And you guys, I even remember forms that asked for “Color”! omg). I’d look at the “White” box and then the “Asian” box and then the “Pacific Islander” box and eventually (and out of frustration) I would just check “White.” This especially bothered me when I started applying for college. “What about me?!?,” I would yell silently at the forms. Last week I got a pleasant surprise while filling out new health insurance applications for the girls. Finally,  someone got a clue; the form listed many ethnicity options, including “Filipino.”

Ask a Filipino

Image Credit: askapinoy.blogspot.com

Still, I wanted to know….Are Filipinos Asian or Pacific Islander? I went online and it’s actually a thing. I found an article that discusses the geography of the Philippines (which would make one lean “Asian”) and the heavy Western influence on the islands (which leans “Pacific Islander”). I found another site (see above graphic) that looks at the question in a more humorous, but still very thorough, way. He also applauds the modernization of “the form.”

The comments sections of both posts are interesting and fun reads in and of themselves, and after reading just a few of them, it’s pretty clear there is no right answer. It appears that “Are Filipinos Asian?” is one of those questions that will always be a question. But at least it’s one I don’t have to worry about answering any more.

Throwback: My First Visit to San Francisco

Kids on Cable Car

That’s me in the yellow coat.

Kids in Union Square

Union Square (circa 1984?)

I found these gems at my mom’s house on our recent visit. One summer in the early ’80s, my mom, grandma, Auntie and sister went on a tour of California and Mexico (the Mexico portion was really, really weird. I think it was Tijuana) and one of the main stops was  San Francisco. Thankfully, my mom was no traveling dummy (she’s been all over, plus she spent a semester at SF State) and unlike many tourists, she made sure we had appropriate attire for this portion of the trip, even in (especially in) the summer.

I don’t remember too many details about the trip. I know we walked on the Golden Gate Bridge and did all the other touristy things like Fisherman’s Wharf (sigh) and Union Square (where we stayed. Possibly the Sir Francis Drake) and rode the cable cars.

Kid in hotel room

At our hotel (in my mom’s nightgown which I looooved).

At the time, I had no desire to live anywhere other than Hawaii. I wasn’t even thinking about my possible future at that age. I wish I could go back and whisper into my younger self’s ear: “Look around you. Breathe it in. Remember this place. You’re going to live here. Find yourself here. Fall in love here. Start a family here. And then you’re going to leave.”

I’m not sure how much attention I would have paid to my older self. But hearing it would have saved me a LOT of trouble (stress, worry, heartache) later on. Even without that voice to guide me, I eventually found my way. And 18 years later, here I am, looking back and looking ahead.  I’m feeling fulfilled, grateful, anxious and optimistic all at once. If my future self could whisper to me now, I hope she would tell me that everything is going to be just fine. Breathe it in, remember this place. And take one day at a time.

Family + Telling the Girls + Bugs

Family portrait

Spring 2012

I haven’t talked about my family a whole lot yet, but family is pretty much the whole reason for the move. This is probably my favorite photo of my three loves. My husband (who is the most private person I know – bless his heart for not collapsing when I told him about the blog) was being silly with the girls one morning and I captured this sweet moment. Lucy was about six months old and Penny had just turned three.

Speaking of the girls, we finally told them about the move last night. The first words out of Penny’s mouth were, “I’m not really that excited because I don’t like walking in Michigan….they have worms!” Not the response we were expecting, exactly, although it wasn’t entirely out of left field. Last summer when we were there, Penny was freaked out by all the bugs.

In the backyard

In the backyard. (No bugs.)

To her credit, they were kind of creepy, especially when they crawled up from the dirt and onto the hot stones of Nana’s deck or concrete sidewalks of the neighborhood. They would writhe around, flipping and flopping, and if they couldn’t find their way back to the earth, they would eventually shrivel up and die. There were also lots of beetles and bees and other flying insects. We rarely see bugs here, even in our backyard.

I feel her pain. Bugs make ms jumpy, too. My gross-out Michigan bug moment was during my early evening runs. Every couple of blocks, I would run through a swarm cloud of tiny bugs in a funnel formation (what were they doing? And what kind of bugs were they? I would Google it, but then I’d have to look at buggy photos). Every once in a while I would inhale one. I got to where I could spot them up ahead, and whenever I reached a swarm, I would flail my arms in an attempt to keep any bugs from entering my nose or mouth. Sometimes I’d let out a battle cry while doing it. Preeetty sure the locals could tell I wasn’t from around there.

Penny and I have some manning up to do, for sure (she’s been talking about worms all morning), especially since I plan on composting and planting an edible garden. I’ll let you know how it goes down.

Gung Hay Fat Choy: It’s Gonna Be a Biggie

Chinese Building on Waverly Place

Building on Waverly Place, Chinatown.

Chinese New Year is a big deal in San Francisco. Public schools are closed, Chinese food is gobbled, firecrackers are popped and at the end of the two-week celebration, a huge parade (the largest outside of Asia) featuring lion dancers, a 200-foot long Golden Dragon, stilt walkers, marching bands and acrobats floats through town.

I’d planned on kicking off the lunar year with an invigorating run. That plan got squashed when I woke up with chills and congestion. Thankfully, I’d scheduled our sitter to come for a few hours, so I took myself to lunch at Woodhouse Fish Co. on Fillmore Street. I ordered the deep-fried fish tacos and a hot water with lemon.

Woodhouse Fish Co. restaurant

As I waited, I witnessed at the table to my left, an exchange between potential business associates, meeting in person for the first time. “It’s so nice to put a face with the voice,” and similar niceties. The woman, a second generation San Franciscan (a rarity, as she pointed out) was upbeat and bubbly. The gentleman, who had never been here before, got a short rundown of some of the city’s history (the African American community on Fillmore Street during segregation, the influx of Japanese and Japantown, the Italians in North Beach, Chinatown). The conversation quickly turned to all the different foods we have at our fingertips, thanks to the mix of cultures. “I love my city,” she said. “I’m always discovering new places.”

fraiche.inside

After lunch, I popped in next door to Fraiche, my favorite frozen yogurt shop. Organic, of course. I always get the same thing: a regular natural (plain, nonfat yogurt) with olallieberry puree and mochi, a Japanese sticky, starchy dessert made from rice flour. (I overheard them saying to a customer once that it was a secret recipe, but I know how to make it. I’ll share sometime). But today I opted for a Blue Bottle cappuchino.

fraiche.window

I tried to concentrate on my library book (The Tiger’s Wife), but it was a beautiful day and I kept staring out the window, watching traffic and passersby. I thought about the woman at lunch and how proud she was of her city and how I share her fervor. Is the move going to be a huge letdown? Am I really going to venture out and discover all the cool places in Detroit? Or am I going to sulk in my kitchen (aka my office) and long for home?

I’m keeping an open mind. My friend Christine says not to think of it as being better or worse, just different. I can live with different.  No matter what, the Year of the Horse is going to be a biggie for us. And so it begins…Gung Hay Fat Choy!