Strawberry Shortcake

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From: Japonaise Bakery

Right in front of the St. Mary T stop on the Green C line is this muted-colored bakery. It’s a hidden treasure, easy to miss, even though it’s located on Beacon Street. The staff is always courteous, helpful, and soft speaking.

When I am there, I am reminded of my childhood in Taipei. Some Taiwanese pastries and cakes are heavily influenced by the Japanese and similar.

My favorite is the Japanese style strawberry shortcake. Typical of Japanese desserts I know of, the shortcake is flavored lightly and not sweet. The taste of the sliced strawberry is mixed with layers of delicate sponge cake and whipped cream frosting on top.  I find it very tasty!

Of course, there are many other pastries to try. I am still working my way through. Don’t expect fancy. No wifi or plugs. Somewhat pricy!

As it is, I love this little unassuming gem that brings Japan to Brookline.

Life in Numbers

The great thing about math is that it can quantify the intangibles. Taking that practice to an extreme, a person’s life can be simplified and expressed in all kinds of numbers.

The most common measure is age: how old we are. Typically expressed in number of years but there is no reason why it can not be in months or even minutes to make us feel more significant. I have not run into ageism professionally yet but I expect less professional opportunities in a decade. I’ll deal with that when I get there. All online dating apps ask for age. With online dating, I can’t help but look for the very basics: age, height, and weight, like I am a five year old. As superficial as these numbers, they make it easier to take the first step to get to know someone new.

From a more practical view, we are often associated with some dollar amounts: net worth, debts, credits, unrealized gain, or annual salaries. Unless famous, these are usually numbers that we judge ourselves in private. Sometimes harshly. They show how successful we are and how far we still have to go. Recently, I was introduced to a new number: my retirement target based on the life style that I want to maintain after I stop working. I did not look into the actual calculation but the target seems taunting and impossible. I was told, time is my friend!

The number of kids is important after we get married. The parents are always counting teams. There are two of us and one of her. Should be fine! Or, we are having a third and will soon be outnumbered! Behind the kids, it’s about number of hours of sleep, play dates this weekend, and trips to the ER. Behind the number, it’s one of the most important responsibilities we can have. I don’t pretend to know all the hard work that goes with raising kids and have the upmost respect to parents around me.

With social media, we have numbers of friends and followers counted for us at all times. I had talked to my dad about this number and he reacted in disbelieve. However, the contact list for my holiday card, the guest list for my future wedding, and the girls at my dinner dates include tighter groups of people who I don’t mind being embarrassed in front of and I can pour my heart out on my most recently blind date. Yeah, you may not want to be part of this. This number is definitely a fuzzy one and not one to be taken too seriously in my opinion.

Health wise, number of steps has become such a common measure enabled by all kinds of new trackers. Even kids know that 10,000 steps is the daily recommendation. Less common is the number of pills taken daily. I realize the importance of this measure from my 96-year-old grandmother and 70-something dad. I remember seeing my grandmother arranging her pill box with such caution and precision. Dad counts the pill every morning and night. Embedded in these pills is the hope that he will continue to live healthily. Right now, I take one before I go to bed, but one day, I’ll get to where he is too.

Number has no judgement but people do.

For my brain disease, a key measure is number of hospital stays. I was at McLean hospital for two weeks. Many people, patients like me, I met there had more. A common goal for us is to stay out of the hospitals. Going to hospital is not seen as having a major stroke and needing medical attention, but as trouble escalating out of control, going through the system often, the resolving door. When I was in the day program at McLean, I asked my doctor how I can go back if I wanted to. He said, no, I can’t just go back. I would need to be admitted. To me honest, I have adopted to that thinking now. My goal is to stay out of (mental) hospitals, right or wrong.

Finally, I have a different kind of number in mind for life: number of pages. Imagine we can all put our life in words in books. What would our books say? Is our life eventful? Are we wordy or concise? What would we include or leave out?

Numbers has no judgement but people do. The simplicity and accessibly of them should not be the only way we see each other. What’s important about age is the life events that happened during that time. What’s important about number of pages is the story in the book. Let’s be curious beyond simple numbers. Let’s be kind to each other.

My Labels

In the last week of the year, I finally have the guts to call myself a writer, a label that I had been very hesitant to give to myself. Instead of writer, I called myself “writer-wannabe” or “scribbler.” I hold quotes like “don’t be a writer, be writing” to heart, using them not only as inspiration to keep writing but also as excuses to avoid clearly defining a part of me. I have not published anything. I have not gotten any stamp of approval from anyone. Even if I had published, would anyone be interested in what I have to say?

I am also a schizophrenic, for real, medically. I gave myself that label six years ago, the moment that I finally started to understand what I had been fighting against. The journey  to the beginning of self awareness of this brain disease took about seven years, even though my close friends and family all knew what I had by name. Among my own circles, I have become comfortable in discussing what I have. Most of the time, I am the one who initiate that conversation. I want more people to know what it’s like to be a schizophrenic and that I am not at all that different from everyone. Outside of my circles, I oscillate between being brave and cautious. What is smarter? To share or not share? Do I want to have this label when I meet a stranger who does not know anything else about me?

Further more, I am a single-childless woman in my forties. A minority in my circle for sure. Fortunately, I loved the last forty-something years of my life. I have not met the right man even though I did meet many very good men in my life. I embrace my singleness everyday. I believe it is possible to have an open heart for a partner while being happily single. I did not decide that I did not want kids. I did considered having my own biological child by using a donor. That did not work out and was not meant to be. I now made peace with being childless. Being single and married are just two different path down life. This one is mine and it’s okay it’s different from most of my married friends. My time of having children has ran out, however, I am still dating. When I meet men, I sometimes wonder if I am able to let someone in after being single, independent, and peaceful for many years.

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There are definitely risks to owning up to these labels, to be different. But that’s what life is all about. To be uniquely me. I want to write what I have to say, even if only my family and friends read them. I have to speak up for mental illness because I am lucky to be able to. I am hopeful in meeting new people. I have to take a stand in the light, away from the dark, and say, this is me, and it’s okay.

Paris

Paris was easy to travel around, a very walkable city. My top three Paris moments. Eating street crepe under the Eiffel tower. The taste still lingers in my mind. Eating dinner on a restaurant boat on the Seine looking at the Notre Dam.  It was the same view since the medieval time. Visiting museum D’Orsay and Louvre and being impressed by artists old and new.

Liquid Diet

I opened my mouth during my annual health check-up and ended up with an order to get a colonoscopy. I received detailed instruction to prepare my colon. I went to CVS and was given a 4-liter intimidating large bottle with white powders inside. The day before the procedure, I was to clean out my inside through a liquid diet.

My master plan was to stay home and surf the web while drinking pink lemonade, sparkling water, chicken broth and the lemon flavored prep solution.

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Grass-fed cheeseburger and fries from The Kirkland Tap and Trotter

I love food. I eat any time I am hungry. Now it felt like food and I were on a relationship break. I missed food, but I couldn’t have any of it. I thought about sushi, burgers and fries, pasta, bread. I thought of numerous proper meals that I had in the past. I craved food.

I continued to drink the lemon flavored prep solution at the specified times and intervals. I can do this. A few more hours. Drink. Nap. Drink. Think about having a burger. Visit the bathroom. Drink. Knit. Drink. Fries. Drink. Visit the bathroom again. Nap some more. Drink. Drink. Finally, bottom up!

The procedure seemed easier than putting food out of my mind. After the procedure, I ordered a brunch burger and fries. I swallowed it, tasting every bite. The liquid diet brought a new feeling of tremendous gratitude of being able to eat. Just eat.

Food, I am glad we are together again after a very brief separation! Love you!

 

 

Machu Picchu

I talked about Machu Picchu for years and finally pulled the trigger. I took planes, buses, train, and walked to finally see this view. Humans continue to amaze me; Incas built this lost city on a mountain top, surrounded by endless mountain tops above the sacred valley. It was beautiful!

The walk up to the lookout house made me feel very out of shape. I was told that it was the altitude, as I watched a few others zooming by. Well, my lungs were out of shape then. Hopefully every time I think of this place, I want to exercise. Bonus point!

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Machu Picchu, Cusco, Urubamba, Peru

As I made this trip, rules were getting stricter about visiting Machu Picchu since the ancient site was getting damaged by some of the visitors. I am glad I got a chance to see Machu Picchu up close and personal.

One more item in the bucket list, checked!

To Everyone and No One

For the nth time, I am starting a blog. I have stories that I want to tell anyone who would listen. My stories are about living a real and messy life. But I am just an everyday nobody. With all the words I put together, there might be no one reading them. Regardless, I feel brave and am restarting my writing journey again. Welcome to my blog!

Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened. -Ludwig Jacobowski