Half or Bi?

Japanese people call mixed race people “half.”

Just “half”.

In western culture, we’ll say the half that is pertinent, like “Oh, Broomhilda there is half Japanese, half human…” but I’ve never heard Americans refer a mixed race person as just “half.”

Recently, my Japanese friend used the term “half” and I interrupted with the insight that the current, politically-correct term is “bi-racial.” She looked a little skeptical, wondering if the term “half” was actually derogatory.

I explained, it’s the glass-half-full terminology because really, the person isn’t devoid of half a culture – they encompass it. Like a Long Island Ice Tea. When in doubt, always involve a cocktail metaphorically.

As a Japanese-American, I used to relate with my bi-racial friends in feeling displaced. In a tale of two cultures, with neither side eagerly claiming you, the only group that’s truly family is the same bunch of misfits as yourself. But for my two guys, a majority of their friends are bi-racial, which caused a stranger to do a double take when he took a group photo of us. I could see his gears turning and asking, who are these Asian moms with Black, Hispanic and green-tinted children?

The green ones – that would be mine. It’s what you get when you mix olive with yellow.

Anyway, my boys just recently tapped into their Japanese lineage after meeting my cousin from Japan. Up until then, Samu thought himself as “white” and I thought I’d need to pull a Dave Chapelle “Racial Draft” to clean his rose colored glasses. Inadvertently, my cousin stirred a dormant curiosity in his Japanese half with the enticement of “gasha gasha” – the capsule toys from those coin-cranking vending machine thingy.

They were amazed because the gashapon machines at home spew out shit. It’s usually a single piece of plastic that my boogers can intimidate. But the toys from Japan – a mini-flash light with Super Mario images, little Lego-like dinosaurs, a teeny Thomas engine (with cargo car) that cranks and goes. And all of them…work.

So now, my boys want to learn Japanese and go to Japan. Not to ride the Bullet train or eat real Ramen or test their ability to withstand an average Tokyo earthquake – no, they want to go there with a suitcase full of quarters and collect gasha-gasha toys.

Wonder if I can convince them we’re actually Canadian.

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Driving Instructor

It’s hard to believe my baby is in the fourth grade. He had a very tumultuous two years, not just with school but with family as well and despite all that – he passed. He’s grown up in ways I didn’t think possible – strengths that only ordeals can shape. In that sense, you have to appreciate people who try to fuck your shit up and force you to prove that you don’t go down that easy.

For the first time since these boys started school, I was the nervous wreck on the first day – Zuki was ready. His group of buddies were standing in the line that was his class and he couldn’t be happier. When I took my fiftieth picture of him standing in line, he was thoroughly annoyed.

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Stop with the pictures, Mom!

At the end of the week, he successfully brought home his homework assignments, the appropriate notebooks, pencil case and yes, his head too. A full week of school and no lost items. A far cry from the days he came home in his undershirt because he left his shirt “somewhere” in school.

From the boy who had no interest in doing anything but watch a movie, now he wants me to sign him up for the school orchestra and chorus in addition to the Hip Hop and Ballet classes he’s already got.

“Any other lessons you want to take this year?” I chided.

A light flickered in his eyes and he folded his hands as in prayer to plead his request, “Pleeeeease – can you teach me to how to drive?”

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The Plan

By the time I was eight (Zuki’s current age), I already went through three career changes. It was nurse, stewardess and actress – in that order. Notice how the work load gets lighter? I’m a born slacker, what more can I say – that was “the plan.”

Then again, anyone who’s ever worked with actual actresses know that they’re the biggest psycho-maniac control freaks – after  stewardesses and nurses. In a way, you can say I actually fulfilled my dreams.

So it was no surprise to me, when I took the boys to the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space museum, that they were enamored with space travel and decided right then and there, they wanted to be astronauts.

The museum guide said, “Okay then, you’ll have to study really, really, REALLY hard in school – because you have to be smart to be an astronaut!”

As we walked away from the bubble-buster, the boys took my hand and said, “Yeah, we’d rather be in the Navy.”

Then we took a tour of the submarine. The small – cramped – like-Manhattan-apartment-space – cramped submarine. Three weeks, no shower – smell the glory.

We emerged to open sky and fresh air after twelve minutes of the submarine tour and again the boys took my hand to say, “Yeah, maybe we’ll join the Army.”

Three career moves in under two hours. They beat my record.

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The Redundant Circle

Pep talk to self: get outta this rut, you bat brain!

That’s how I started my Jewish New Year. Of course, I’m not technically Jewish, but any culture who forces me to observe their holiday and celebrate – by default – has my blessing.

And so, this is my Jewish New Year’s resolution: get back to the path intended and write. Enough of this side-show Bob stuff. I’ve pledged and delivered a bunch of commitments that have lead me astray and wondering where I was. While all were honorable experiences, and I’m grateful for the friendships it created – it’s time to get back to work. Spin off the redundant circle and start walking a straight line.

This morning, with the impeding first day of school less than 24 hours away, Summer of 2013 – seemed complete. I don’t know about my boys, but I enjoyed a memorable summer – which makes it all the more harder to go back and face a void. The Parent Coordinator of Samu’s school is battling stage 4 cancer and won’t be returning to work.

He’ll be devastated when he realizes she’s not there.

She used to greet him every morning with all the animal crafts she was working on, show him all the tools and tricks and even printed a frog and dragon for him to put together. He would hide in her office, whenever he felt anxious and take comfort among her paper zoo collection.

I’m not sure what to say when he asks me where she is. But it’s life like this that encouraged me to write in the first place – guess it’s no surprise that it shows up last.

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Journey To Oz

Sweet, sweltering summer – it’s like cotton candy. Soft, sticky and gone in sixty seconds. Ever since I can remember, Labor Day weekend was the most depressing weekend of the year. It doesn’t matter how much fun you have – each summer totally erases the one preceding it and the pang of letting it go is never easy. Summer is the true meaning of living for the moment. When you arrive at the end, you realize you’ve been home all along.

This summer, more than any other was like a journey to Oz. Like Dorothy, we didn’t go much further than our own backyard and discovered our true selves in the company of true friends.

I’d like to acknowledge all the good sports who came along for the journey. The summer of 2013 will go down in history! Well – at least in mine.

Thank you, Astoria Park Track and Field: Talk about a day. We did this Monday and Wednesdays and most of the time we followed jumping hurdles and throwing javelins with a dip in the pristine-with-a-prison-feel of Astoria Pool.

The city parks department has been running the Track & Field program for years – at least a decade, according to a dad whose kids have been going there so long that he got a t-shirt.

I reckon that’ll be me, someday. Because when possible, I must get clothed for free.

Thank you, New York Hall of Science Family Premium membership: Let’s face it – museum memberships are a rip off. No museum holds enough interest to warrant more than two visits. Except – the New York Hall of Science.

Despite the numerous school field trips and outings with friends – my guys can never get enough of this place. We’ve been there three times this summer alone and we’ve yet to do the mini-golf.

What sold me was the reciprocal admission to other science museums. We’ve been to the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum twice already. If I paid general admission price to the Intrepid, one visit would’ve cost $24 for me and $19 for each of my monkeys.

That’s serious beer money.

With memberships, all you need is I.D. to check in – so I ordered the second adult card under my friend’s name and she did the same for me under her membership to the Bronx Zoo because seriously, would our husbands ever take the kids to these God-forsaken places without us?

So, now we can watch predators and primates in captivity, rather than under the El asking for change in between sips of Georgi vodka. And sometimes, from the window seat at our new favorite eatery.

We’ve probably been eating out a lot more than usual this summer. I think I abused the excuse that it was just too hot to cook, but on the flip side, my Reward points are stacking up.

So, for tax purposes, I’m reviewing the places I felt were truly “Kid Friendly” to my standards. That includes, greeting our party with a smile instead of a sneer and taking drink orders from Mom – not the charming boys asking for seconds of soda.

If you find yourself visiting Legoland Discovery in Yonkers, then you must stop at The Yard House, right outside the plaza. This place was – Spot – Friggin’ – On. As a matter of fact, all restaurants should use this place as an example of “Kid Friendly.” Make good food, bring beer fast, keep it in budget – if that were a girlfriend, she’d be a wife.

When I win the lottery, we plan to revisit Williams Burger, Hinomaru and Landmark Tavern, just because they showed us an awesome time. In the meantime, picnics will do just fine. And for the record, the candidate for Mayor who announces that picnicking moms can serve rice balls with beers – has my vote.

Pass the seaweed, please.

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