Friday, September 29, 2006

Free Museum Day 09/30/2006

On September 30, 2006, for one day only, museums across the country will join the Smithsonian Institution in its long-standing tradition of offering free admission to visitors.

That's tomorrow, of course. You can print a pass for one time use on September 30, 2006.

To get a list of partcipating museums near you, see this link. If I can make it after class, I think I'd like to see The Bunny Museum.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Identity Crisis

Growing up in Taiwan as the son of a Chinese woman and a white American man, I did not fit into either culture. I suppose I weathered a deep, lifelong identity crisis. I found myself torn between two cultures, a guest in both but at home in neither one. At school, an English-speaking school for missionary kids, I found myself in a Western culture. At home, I lived in an American culture as communicated by my father, but one that was placed in a Taiwan context.

My father always accepted me. Having retired from the U.S. Air Force, my father spent a lot of time at home and was always there for me. He told me many stories and taught me many lessons; he remains the man I hope to one day become. I suppose he was the only one to understand, perhaps subconsciously, that his son was a Chinese-American amalgamation. Sure, I was more American than not, but I wouldn’t fit in in the United States, either. I did not discover that until I arrived at LAX in 1992; the first thing I saw was a billboard for an “adult bookstore” – talk about culture shock!

My mother has always had great hopes for me, hopes that she encouraged me to follow. She took my father to Taiwan in 1976, where they have remained for the last 30 years. Mom worked hard outside the home; I suppose she has a type-A personality. She used to come home and cook a meal, give me an allowance when she could, and then she’d be off again. She started many businesses, usually in the service industry, such as cafés or restaurants, but she never knew when to sell and get out. In the 15 years I grew up in Taiwan, my family was in or close to bankruptcy four times. We were, therefore, alternately well off or poor. I was always loved, and I never felt insecure, even that period of time when my family lived off egg sandwiches and donated clothing.

Both of my parents expected great things of me. They both wanted me to have more opportunities, better education, and a better life. I fully intend (even now) to provide for my parents in their old age in response to their love. I was expected to achieve, to excel, to succeed at all I set my heart upon; very often, that was indeed the case. After all, my family’s honor was at stake, and I couldn’t let my family down.

But, I am my father’s son. My mother expected me to be much more Chinese than I am. Sure, when I arrived in California I thought I was as un-American as you could get; I was wrong. My identity crisis merely came to the surface as I finally came to realize my fears were well grounded; I didn’t belong in Taiwan’s culture, and I didn’t belong here, either.

I spent 15 years of my life expecting to go the States and fit in, to finally be “home.” I expected to get an education and a job, find a wife and settle down. I didn’t think too much about kids, but I assumed I would have some (we won’t be having any). I always thought my parents would move here by the time I was 30 to 35 and live with my family.

What a shock to discover that I was not a natural fit in America! I feel comfortable now, but the first couple of years were a real struggle. Cathy, my loving wife, has been a great help in my journey.

It is due to all this that I feel deeply saddened by the distance that has come between my mother and me. It is not merely geography, but also emotions and culture. You see, I am not the son my mother thought I would be, that she hoped I would be. She also expected grandchildren that I won’t be able to provide. I had finally and completely failed my mother and let my family down.

My mother is convinced that I do not love her, and I cannot convince her otherwise. I am not her son (as far as she can tell), because I do not respond to her the way her son should respond to her. Instead, I have discovered that I am more my father’s son, for better or for worse.

I think the problem is actually cultural. This came as a realization after seeing a clip from The Joy Luck Club. I heard my mother’s words in the thoughts of Lindo Jong, and I heard my own thoughts uttered on screen. Seeing the onscreen mother and daughter struggling to understand each other reminded me of my mother and me.

At one point in the movie, the mother (Lindo Jong) thinks to herself:
I could see her face looking at me... but not seeing me. She was ashamed... so ashamed to be my daughter.
Shortly thereafter, her daughter (Waverly Jong) says:
You don’t know, you don’t know the power you have over me. One word from you, one look, and I’m four years old again, crying myself to sleep, because nothing I do can ever, ever please you.
There is another scene from the movie that sounds familiar to me. One of the daughters says to her mother:
Well, it hurts, because every time you hoped for something I couldn’t deliver, it hurt. It hurt me, Mommy. And no matter what you hope for, I’ll never be more than what I am. And you never see that, what I really am.
My mother and I have had similar “conversations.” It is, in fact, a cultural gap, a generational gap common to immigrant families.

this is an audio post - click to play

Unfortunately, my family does not fit the typical immigration family model. My mother is not a first-generation immigrant; she married an American and went back to live in Taiwan. I am not a second-generation immigrant; I was born here, raised among Americans overseas, then moved back to the U.S.A.

Yet, as a child, I did compartmentalize my different lives, between American school and Taiwan friends and home. I neither pursued Chinese culture nor rejected it; I took it for granted and only absorbed it in part. I readily accepted my American heritage, but did not know that I was not thoroughly American. As an adult living here alone, I had to integrate my different cultural compartments. Finally, I am comfortable being who I am.

However, now I see I do not know my own mother. My mother is hurt that I do not respond to her the way a Chinese son would. I absorbed some of her values, for example, I accept the mandate to provide for my parents in their golden years. It is likely that I would make a good American son, but I do not know how to express the respect and love I feel for her in her cultural forms, the way a Chinese son would love her.

My mother thinks I am ashamed of her, that I do not love her. That could not be further from the truth.

I do not understand my mother. When she hurts me with her words and actions, perhaps unintentionally but sometimes deliberately, I believe she is attempting to communicate the deep pain she feels. My mother may be hoping that I, seeing her pain, would respond appropriately, the way a Chinese son would.

In the end, I do not know how to be a Chinese son. My best hope to connect with my mother lies in communicating these very things to my father, and pray that he can communicate them to my mother. In the mean time, I struggle with how to honor my parents during this time. Perhaps, with some understanding, we can learn new ways of relating as mother and son.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Boaz's Eyes Opening

Boaz the Kitten's eyes opened today. This morning it was one eye, but now it is both eyes! He is also purring audibly now and has begun to groom himself. The video below shows him licking his paws and Cathy's hand.

Just look at how big he is getting! One week now! Cathy took Boaz to the vet on Friday and got him deworming meds (all kittens need it) and the doc put him on a temporary diet that ends Sunday. Boaz now weighs 4oz. Boaz the Kitten is just beginning to be exposed to the sense of sight, and apparently he finds seeing things as being very distractive. It is actually quite interesting... Cathy tells me that Boaz would be crying, and suddenly he just looks up, looks around, and stares at things around him for 20 minutes or more.

It is very adorable, especially since he isn't sure what to do with being able to see just yet. His ears are opening, too, and he's getting around better.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

White & Nerdy

Every heard (of) Weird Al? He is a very funny man, and his MySpace page has this video, as well as a muted attack on the RIAA.

Get this video and more at

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Boaz Lost His Umbilical Cord

OK, Boaz was apparently born on 09/14/2006, on Thursday. His umbilical cord just fell off on its own, which takes seven days to happen naturally.

Here's some cute pictures of Boaz...

There's also a video of Boaz being fed, here.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Kitten Update: New Kittens

Yes, that's right, new kittens. Cathy brought home two kittens that look like they have some Russian Blue in them. These are less than a week old (ambilical still attached), and the teenage girls that brought them in think 4-days old.

They were quite weak and severely dehydrated, but we are hoping for the best!

UPDATE: I am sorry to say that the girl kitten died Sunday, about 3PM. The boy (we've named him Boaz) is still fussing and fighting, so that is a good sign, I think.

Kitten Update: Sam & Max

Cathy called from the pet adoption center at PetSmart; both found homes today. It never seems to fail... whenever we take kittens to the adoption center, they get adopted the first day!

I haven't posted too many photos recently, but to make up for it, here is a web album mostly of Sam & Max. (If you want a hi-res version of a photo, just email me.)

Max, the playful orange tabby with hazel eyes, went home to a family with a little girl that has been looking forward to having a kitty. I think they'll want to get another kitty to keep Max from going stir-crazy! I don't know Max's new name.

Sam, the lap cat, is the blue-eyed white Siamese-with-fawn-tips domestic short hair. Sam went home to a man who sadly lost his pets and was missing their companionship. Sam will be a great match! Sam's new name is Bob. :-)

Kittens 2006
Feb 3, 2006 - 25 Photos

Friday, September 15, 2006

So Far, So Good

"I intend to live forever. So far, so good."
Steve Wright
Cathy got her initial test results back. This test measures for greater than 625 viruses per liter... this test passed. So, praise God and "thank You!" so far.

Kaiser Permanente is skipping the 3-month test. In February, Cathy will get her 6-month test, and that is the "big one" capable of detecting less that 3 viruses per liter (quite a difference).

In the mean time, thanks for the prayers, and please ask God to give Cathy relief from the rashes and the itching. Thank you!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Podcast: Christians & Death

Cathy and I have been talking about death a lot recently. Actually, we've been talking about wanting to live together for several more decades, say... three score?

This is a conversation Cathy & I recorded after church on 09/10/2006. We had just lost one young man to a traffic accident and one old man to cancer. Cathy herself may be dying from liver disease (tests are still out).

Perhaps if we, as Christians, better understood the reality of death and heaven we would have a different response to death.

What is the proper response to death? to fear? to illness? How about to sudden death? We explore these thoughts in this podcast.

powered by ODEO

Perhaps heaven is like Hawaii... if it is truly such a great place, why do we mourn those who precede us there? It seems that the answer is, "we shouldn't", but I still have to work out why we feel sorrow, and the role of pain in our lives.

Hey, our first podcast!

Monday, September 04, 2006

What is the Great Commission?

Note: This is an assigment I have for a class. I'm posting in case any body else has a good insight as well as for future reference.

What is the Great Commission? The Great Commission is to “make disciples of all nations” by baptizing and discipling. Jesus’ words include both the target and the overall method. The book of Revelation indicates that every members “from every nation, tribe, people and language” will be before the throne of Christ, so I would argue that the scope is universal, as I take “all nations” (παντα τα εθνη) to mean “all people everywhere” rather than “nations states” or “ethnic groups” or “language groups.” Both baptism and discipleship of people everywhere would include language study to effectively bring people to faith and to tell them all that Jesus did and taught.

Certainly, we must understand the language. However, it would seem that merely having the language down would be insufficient. Although Jesus does not specifically say so, it seems to me that a prerequisite for fulfilling the Great Commission is love. I have a friend and brother in the Lord who is in Haiti. Learning languages does not come easily for him, but he has learned Haitian Créole in order to serve the Haitians better. What good would I be if I took language classes, graduated from seminary, then joined my brother in Haiti if I did not love the people? If I do not love the Haitian people, I cannot respect their culture, understand and accept their ways and wisdom, nor could I model Jesus Christ to them. Similarly, I think love for a people would also be important in translation work. The closer we can identify and love a people, the closer we can communicate the heart of God in transferring the Word of God into a people’s cultural context.

Indeed, “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” (Romans 10:14 NIV) But how can they listen to a preacher who looks down upon them and fails to understand and appreciate them? So, while language is required to fulfill the Great Commission, love is essential in answering the call of Jesus Christ. Without love, any preaching I do would be just so much noise.

Words of love seem empty to use if they are not paired with corresponding actions. Along the same lines, if I love a person, I do not merely wish them to be well and stay warm; instead, I would provide for a person’s needs if it were within my power to do so. However, it is not enough to merely provide for a person’s physical needs. What good is it for us to save the body but ignore the soul? It does seem clear, however, that we cannot ignore a person’s needs and offer them only the Gospel if we are able to meet their needs.

One final point: Americans in general tend to behave as though we know better than the rest of the world. This tendency, plus a bleeding-heart social mentality that merely masks our need to appease our consciences predisposes us to meet the needs of people that we think are important. However, while we attempt to minister to other people, we must genuinely love them, appreciate them, and find out from them what they feel are their needs. The felt needs of a people are far more important than the needs we feel need to be met, and (I surmise) far less convenient to fulfill.