Friday, January 27, 2012

Friday, January 27, 2012

A few days of 80°+ weather have catapulted us beyond winter. This week on campus, pea coats and scarves vanished, replaced overnight by the trademark USC look of short shorts, flip flops, and shades. Camps of classes were meeting on the grass, and when I walked into his office this morning, my boss commented on how my floral sweater went with his purple shirt. If nothing else, that must certainly be a sign of spring, from those of us in the “black is an appropriate color year-round” and white-shirt-and-tie fashion camps.

My favorite harbingers of spring are the leucojum vernum or “snowflakes” which have naturalized throughout my garden. The snowflakes are the first to bloom of my seasonal flowers, and I’ve come to know that I can look forward to a couple of months of bouquets in my Waterford Lismore creamer repurposed as a small vase.

Last spring I wrote about how I have assumed that our house’s second resident, artist Geraldine Birch Duncan, was the one who planted a bank of these snowdrops. Our first year in this house, I watched their green shoots resolutely poke up amid the rubble, wondering what they were. I called them my “mystery bulbs” until they revealed their tell-tale white bell-shaped flowers. I’ve transplanted them twice to be in their current beds. As the new landscaping grows in, it looks like some of them need to get transplanted yet again.

I’m actually hoping we are not completely done with winter, though. We need more rain, and all that sun isn’t good for those undergraduates basking in the rays on the quad. And besides, I’ve got more black in my wardrobe than purple.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Monday, January 23, 2012

When he heard that Bing and I both were born in the year of the monkey, Uncle George took this Chinese ink painting off his wall and handed it to us as an engagement present. The Wong side of the family had gathered that Christmas 1982 at George and May’s Presidio home and our upcoming wedding was the favorite topic of discussion. “Double monkeys – that’s good luck,” said Uncle George, explaining that this painting was from a series of Chinese new years animals by one of his insurance clients. Among the many thoughtful presents we received, this painting of two monkeys united, hugging each other, has remained a favorite of mine, always hanging in our home.

This rainy day has ushered in Chinese New Year 4710, the year of the dragon. Although it is not my year, dragon years are considered especially auspicious for everyone. For instance, dragon years are good for making new relationships, launching new businesses, and undertaking new enterprises; you could say a dragon year is the year of the start-up. Kudos to any mother who has a baby boy born in the year of the dragon. For matters both personal and professional, a dragon year is supposed to be a “go-go” year.

This Chinese new years was for me the year of the non-celebration. No hand-made invitations to a nine-course dinner for 10 which took three days to prepare. Do left-over “Asian” spareribs count? (I should think so – they were really good!) No Chinese new years cards, either. It seems that Akemi just left home from the holiday break and I wasn’t even thinking about putting her lai see red envelope in the mail for her to get it in time. Oh, well, I can take it to her when I visit in a few weeks for her orchestra concert.

This year I enjoyed phone calls and e-mail exchanges with a few family members and friends. Here’s to a good year of health, happiness, and prosperity for us all. Double-hugs to other monkeys, and if you’re tackling a new endeavor, “go-go”!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Friday, January 13, 2012

Coming back to work after the holiday break, I knew I needed to anticipate incoming artillery. Spring semester always seems to have a certain stress as we deliver on the current academic year while we plan for the next. That I remained unfazed by the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune through Thursday of this first week of class and university operations has reminded me of the value of getting real rest. Not chemo-necessitated rest, but sofa-lounging, book-reading, nap-taking rest which I got in Cayucos, one of our favorite places in the world.

After the holiday hecticness, Akemi and I made our way from Palo Alto down the coast for a four-day stay in this little beach town just south of San Simeon. We have been coming to this homey place which time forgot since Craig and Wendy’s wedding about 25 years ago. Because of Wendy’s roots and hospitality there, we have returned many times over the years. The long, shallow beach is ideal for toddler sand castles and teenage body surfing. Akemi has enjoyed ocean kayaking and sailing in nearby Morro Bay with Craig, and we have eaten many a s’more, won ton, tuna melt on San Luis garlic sourdough bread, and Seafood Shanty ice cream dessert with Katie and Mitchell. When we could not bear to face the first Christmas after Bing died at home, we took up their invitation to come instead to Cayucos to be with them.

This visit, though, we were there on our own. Without athletic Craig organizing sand dune climbing, our most ambitious activities were to make friends with the dogs waiting onshore for their surfing owners, make our customary pilgrimage to Linn’s in Cambria, and make room for popcorn during a Netflix marathon. We were glad to add another happy stay in Cayucos to our memory book.

The rest did me so much good that I am chagrined, even startled, to realize how much better I now feel, and with the comparison, how crummy I had been feeling throughout December. As Donald said, it is not new information that I do too much. I thought I was doing better in managing my activity level, but I see afresh that cutting back even more has got to be the priority new year’s resolution.

I now have had one more Rituxan treatment than my dad had, and have found myself reaching for the same kind of coping strategies that he tried – hot baths, gentle movement, massage. He took up tai chi and invested in some foul-smelling Chinese herbal tea. I’ll skip the Chinese herbs but see the utility of something like tai chi instead of aerobics. He was in his 70s and retired but I have to figure this out in my 50s while working for the long stretch.

This last week of Akemi’s break, I haven’t been home much. So she and I have a growing list of things to do and take care of this weekend before she heads back to Boston. Then I will take a hard look at my calendar and start penciling in “real rest time.”

Monday, January 2, 2012

Monday, January 2, 2012

Ever since John Elway took Stanford to the Rose Bowl, my mother-in-law Ellen had said, “I just wish Stanford would make it to the Rose Bowl one more time in my life.” I would reply that I wished her a very long life. We all agreed, though, that if Stanford ever did make it to the Rose Bowl again, the Kamei-Leungs would throw the biggest party ever. On New Years Day 2000, we did.

Bing worked hard for months putting together every element for the convenience of his parents and the Kohatsus, connected through two generations of Stanford/Palo Alto ties. A Paul, Hastings friend of mine and patient of Bing’s then on the Pasadena City Council gave us four complimentary grandstand seats for senior Leungs and Kohatsus, right at the corner of Orange Grove and Colorado where the parade makes its famous turn on camera. Another patient who lived a block away from that famed corner saved us space to park in her driveway. Bing scoped out parade route space for himself with Neal and his family, and pre-paid for private parking at the Rose Bowl so we could arrive for the game relatively late and leave relatively early with minimum walking.

About 5 a.m. that morning, everyone arrived at our house, all bundled up and bright-eyed with excitement. I surprised Mrs. Kohatsu with ozoni ready to serve; she thought for sure that they would miss eating new years mochi. No way, I told her. This is not the year to risk any bad luck! With a box of Winchell’s donuts and a thermos of hot coffee, they were off. Akemi and I stayed home to watch the parade on TV and to prepare lunch and dinner.

As we looked for our seats at the Rose Bowl, we headed farther and farther down, and farther and farther to the center. We had gotten tickets with the Bradfords and had no idea where we would end up. We were all amazed to be seated about 40 rows up from the field, nearly dead-on center. To top it off, another good friend then with UCLA who held a seat on the Rose Bowl operating board (because UCLA plays their home games at the Rose Bowl) had our seat numbers from Bing in advance and met us so anyone in our party could go down to the field wearing his field pass.

After the game, we had more food back at the house, and Akemi and I played some music as the big day drew to a close. That Stanford lost to Wisconsin did not mar the day. In fact, when Neal spoke at Bing’s memorial service three years later, he shared a lot of this special new years day out of a lifetime of happy memories together with Bing. This is one of my favorite photos of Wally and Ellen, which Bing took that day.

When I made plans for Akemi and me to visit Bing’s family, I didn’t know that Stanford would be playing tonight in the Fiesta Bowl. Ellen was happy to hear that we will be arriving in time to watch the game together. We are leaving Wisconsin and Oregon to their Rose Bowl festivities, as we hit I-5 north.

Happy new year, and go Stanford!