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healthy living

Happy May!  May has always been a joyful month with great weather and my birthday, but it is also sorrowful as I said goodbye to students, friends, and coworkers after the semester ends.  Anyway, school is still in progression and I have tons to do, so I thought of providing a short and quick update with photos.

My breakfast for a day: chicken, mushrooms, and oatmeal.  Although not as heavy as a huge slab of steak or piles of pancakes with bacon, this is also a healthy version of breakfast of champions!

 

My newly found sin: a pint of Haagen-Dacz goodness, which was sold for $2.34ish per pint!  Pineapple coconut was an usual flavor, but ’twas creamy with coconut aroma and pineapple bits.

 

I bought tons of vegetables and fruits to stack my refrigerator, and here are two samples above.

 

I attended a Javanese music and dance performance last Saturday since I never experienced anything like that.  The music was soothing and quite laid back, and not as intense as Beethoven’s pieces.  I felt as if I were slouching and on ecstasy too.  The instruments, although simple and shaped pretty much similarly to one another, produced great harmony although I thought those were pots and pans when I first saw them.

 

And then, I was walking around town and came upon this.  Something inspiring and food for the soul:

For the past forty-something entries, I’ve written about my graduate student self, my scientist/researcher self, my educator self, my Catholic self, my food-loving self, my sporty self, my adventurous and curious self, my tall Asian self, my caring and loving self, my traveler self, my photographer self, and much more.  I have been avoiding writing about one of my other identities, and I instead focus on being my progressive self so that I could get out of this town and get my PhD as soon as possible.  However, a man has feelings and cannot solely think of work the whole time too,…and now ’tis time to introduce my gay self.

Labelling myself gay makes me feel funny, since I would still consider a woman to be beautiful and would be honored to dine with a lovely lady, but I dreamt of being held tightly by a man with strong arms.  There were numerous moments in my life when I was told that I am not too gay, for I do not act flamboyantly nor go to gay bars or socials by myself.  I also know limits and would not prey on students, coworkers, friends, and such…and perhaps my aim to make progress in graduate school and life prevents people from seeing the gay me.  Interestingly, a little bit of me always wonder if I will be loved by others.  I have many friends of both sexes who told me that I am a great guy and that I will make a great lover, but I never thought that I am attractive enough.  For a person who used to be seventy-five to eighty pounds heavier, I did become more confident socially, but I always feel that I could become more muscular or make my physical appearance better with contact lenses and one of those wacky hairdos.  Even if my heart tells me so, I still decided to be my own self with my glasses and short hair, although I do visit the gym to work out my muscles.

Another obstacle is that I am not interested in hookups or one nighters.  I noticed that many people around my age and myself could be horny quite frequently, but I just have my ways to suppress the urge by going to the gym, having long walks, or riding my bike around town.  Perhaps compared to many others I know, I could be considered asexual since I do not dread to bang or be banged by other folks everyday.  Maybe that is why I do not consider myself hetero- or homosexual since I want to focus on love instead of being sexed up.  When having some conversations with a family member who was afraid of HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases when I came out to her last December, I also vowed that I will not have anal sex with any random person I met, and I have been a virgin since birth.   For a masculine man with some manners, I also do not just stare at people on the streets and think if I would penetrate or be penetrated by them or not.

No matter who I am, I feel distant and different compared to most of the gays out there.  I have many wonderful friends and family members, and I will stay loyal to them,…but good gay friends are limited on my list.  I wonder if I am the only gay guy looking for something more meaningful than what is behind the zippers, and why I would feel lonely in an ocean or pond of gay men.  I felt as an old-fashioned gay since I love Frank Sinatra and some classy taste in food and wine, and I do not submerged myself into Lady Gaga or dollar beers the entire time.  I prefer to stay at home, cook dinner, and cuddle with my lover while watching a movie instead of going out onto the dance floor and get wasted.  Even if I dedicate myself to work for now, the little bit of my hopeless romantic self would feel neglected when seeing couples holding hands on streets.  I believe that there is someone out there who really cares about me and that I can be loved, but I was disappointed through time.  Of course, I do have standards to find a guy who is well-educated, who is independent (even financially), who takes good care of himself, who has goals to achieve in life, and who is adventurous and curious (since I did not end up well with a guy who only eats burgers and apples).  One of my friends told me that my standards could be high since many folks would leech onto others and depend on others, and that the independent type pretty much makes the 1% of the population…I also know that I will not be happy when dating a guy who is not disease or drug free, and maybe my standards could be too high in the gay world.

I watched a movie called “Is It Just Me?” today, and I felt that I was portrayed in the movie through the main character Blaine.  Similar to him, I could be considered “average” since I am not obese, overweight, muscular, twinkie, or sexually active.  Blaine and I shared many other aforementioned similarities, and the movie gave me courage and hope to continue being who I truly am. ‘Tis not that I am going to break my vow and start sleeping around town,’tis not that I am going to change my wardrobe into flashy neon pink, ’tis not that I am going to ditch my other identities and become a typical gay man.  There is nothing wrong with me; although I could be considered “different” compared to many other gay guys, I am unique and special in my own ways, and I am PROUD of who I am.

Along with reminding me to accept myself and not compare myself to others, the film also sends the message that there are guys out there like me who would appreciate my character.  Maybe he is not discovered by me in Madison, or that–similar to Blaine’s plot in the movie–he is going to be a Texan cowboy with leather boots and hat.  I do know that it is fine if my first boyfriend does not become my lifelong partner, but I do hope that he is there somewhere.

Many folks told me that I am becoming into a Catholic monk and that perhaps I should join the seminary and become a priest.  Unfortunately, I did not hear God’s calling for that but for me to dedicate myself in the health sciences field and to educate others.  Even after being amazingly single for twenty-five years and continuously making improvements in my abilities, my body, and my soul…I am not giving up and am going continue to be patient while meeting more folks in life.

At the end, I dedicate this song to all folks out there, no matter who you are.  Do know that you are loved and that you will find love, and may you continue loving your true self and showering yourself with the simplest joys around you.

One

I never enjoyed running when I was a child.  I used to be overweight, and would moan when my parents took the family to the track or the gym.  I love swimming, volleyball, and soccer…I even joined soccer and volleyball teams and even become a lifeguard, but running just never clicked with me.  Carrying extra baggage made running a tough task too, and I also did not enjoy being on a treadmill.  I just felt that I was dragging my sole and my body unwillingly as I ran from a step to another, and it just felt drowsy.  A few years ago as an undergraduate, I also thought of running along the lake, but I pretty much failed since I would be tired after running a few steps.  Even some passersby who saw me would encourage me not to give up but continue running…but I ended walking back to my residence hall instead.

Time passed by, and I changed my lifestyle to become a healthier guy.  Around the end of last year, I decided to overcome my treadmill phobia and started running on treadmills since then.  I challenged myself to increase my time on the treadmill bit by bit, and soon I was making more progress.  Of course, I did not forfeit my usual routine of rowing, biking, playing volleyball, and taking long walks.  Perhaps my endurance elevated from all the exercising through time.

The weather has become quite warm as if ’twas summer in Madison.  With all the snow gone and humidity increasing under the weather ranging from 60 to 70F, many bikers and runners could be see on the streets.  Guys would be playing frisbee or dipping into Lake Mendota, and ladies could be seen lying on the green grass reading novels or taking naps.  Bascom Hill is once again flown by students and community members who would bathe themselves under the sun.  As I passed by these folks on my bike today, I noticed some topless guys running along State Street.  I have always hope to become one of those muscular guys who could show my body as I was on the streets, and all of a sudden something in me told me to go out to run and enjoy the sun.  I was doubting myself, thinking that I would just run a few steps and started bickering about it, similar to my old self.  However, I started filling my water bottle and preparing myself for a short run after getting back to my place at 5:45PM, and I started my run at 6PM.  ‘Twas still warm and sunny with many folks on the streets, and I just could not tell myself to stop running from there!  Of course I halted from time to time to take water breaks and to stretch so that I would not have a cramp, but I felt so amazing as sweat was streaming down my back and was inked onto my shirt.  I felt the winds next to me and people’s smiles on their faces as encouragement when I passed by them.  I saw other runners around me, which became my single-serving friends and motivators.  Who knew that I would spend thirty to forty minutes running around and stretching out at the end?  I felt as if I became a bird spreading his wings to explore unknown territories, and I did not feel as tired as I would have imagined.

I ended running 2.3 miles, which was longer than I thought.  I remember as a middle schooler that I would spent more than thirty minutes just to do a mile run on those good ol’ days of fitness tests, and taking more than ten minutes to do a 800m run as a high school student.  Those were during my overweight days, and I noticed changes in me as I was stretching in the park in my neighborhood.  The sun was lowering itself as the day ended, and I just felt so peaceful at the moment.  This experience would make me a regular for running, and I am definitely moving forward in life by overcoming my phobia and by making myself into a stronger and better person.

I passed by crowds in the park, and I was overjoyed to see children enjoying time with family and folks enjoying time with friends.  I took a quick shower, looked at myself in the mirror, and hope that I would become even more attractive physically soon.  Running, although considered as high-risk with knee injuries, can be health-improving with many other benefits.  I just hope that I will be able to see the benefits after running a lot more around town.

Two

My brother’s birthday was today, and after knowing that he did not have special plans other than spending time with his girlfriend, I decided to invest in a birthday cake.  I know that he does not like chocolate and that the both of us hate those sugary frosting and icing, so I went to my favorite Bakers’ Window and ordered a carrot almond cake a few days ago.  I figured that Bakers’ Window would be the ideal place since my brother and friends love the croissants and pastries I got them from there.  I also am a supporter of local businesses that use organic and community-produced ingredients when compared to large corporations with their artificial coloring and partially hydrogenated fats.  Plus, the baked goods from Bakers’ Window always tasted wonderful and fresh out of the oven without any sugar-coating.  The dense carrot cake with tons of almonds also left me a grand impression, so I thought that would make a lovely birthday cake.  After seeing me quite often with my bulk orders (since I eat some for breakfast and would share fifty-percent of my purchase with my brother and friends), the adorable managers and bakers (a lovely couple) agreed to make the cake.  When I went to the bakery today, I saw the familiar welcoming smiles from the bakers and staff, and the cake was adorable.  After a few minutes in the bakery and storing the cake in my refrigerator, I started my day and planned on meeting with my brother at night.

My brother stopped by my place at 8PM after he and his girlfriend had dinner together at Bonfyre, which is one of their favorite restaurants for barbecue except that ’twas not as good tonight as the previous times they went there.  They are a beautiful couple, and I am happy for my brother to be in a relationship with a gorgeous, caring, simple (not materialistic), and well-mannered lady when compared to his exes.  They were both glad to see me, and they were shocked by the huge size of the cake when I presented it.  When I told them that ’twas a carrot cake, my brother’s eyes started glittering.  He then told me that he loves carrot cakes, and I guess that is why we’re brothers 🙂  He felt that the cake is different compared to other cakes since ’twas dense but moist, the cheesecake frosting was not as sweet or overpowering, the almonds were a nice decor and complement (and we love almonds), and he simply LOVES it.  His girlfriend, being a foodie, also loves the cake too!  We chatted more throughout the evening until they left, and they ended taking half of the leftover cake with them.  I had never seen my brother hugging that much of a cake, but he indicated that he really loves it and that his friends would not have introduced such a wonderful cake.  I am glad that the cake was a success, and then I presented him and his girlfriend the other pastries and croissants I got for them earlier today.  They went back to my brother’s place happily, and I was glad to send them off.

I only have one blood-related brother, and ’tis amazing to see that he is now twenty-three years old.  When we were younger, I did not cherish him as much since I became independent at a younger age.  We did share bedrooms until we moved to a new apartment during my high school years.  He would want to come to my room, but I ended dragging him out.  Although we have been in Madison together for five years now, we rarely hung out until this year.  Maybe this comes with age.  We met with each other more often on a weekly basis, and our brotherhood became stronger.  For me as the older sibling, I also helped him with groceries, great croissants, and many others, and these simple acts of giving did lighten his heart too.  He is always appreciative of the many wonderful things I gave him…and I could see that he loves those or else he would have returned them to me.  I hope and pray that we will be stronger support for one another and that things will go well for him too.

Three

And just a list of a quick update:

1. I went to All You Can Eat Sushi at Restaurant Muramoto with my brother.  My brother and I are sushi and seafood lovers, and Restaurant Muramoto created many memories for us.  This establishment was introduced to me through my brother when we dined together on the evening of my college graduation, which was on my birthday a few years ago.  We would go to Muramoto establishments for sushi since the Asian fusion style is unique compared to other sushi restaurants.  And then…  Restaurant Muramoto started having the All You Can Eat Sushi deal for $25 per person!  That was a great deal for us since our typical sushi bill would unfortunately be in the hundreds, which is a great contrast between the price and freshness of seafood in the midwest when compared to Taiwan.  We finally went there together two Sundays ago, and the food was great as we remembered.  We ended eating ten rolls and twenty-two pieces of nigiri along with servings of seaweed salads and miso soups for three hours…The original price without the deal would be more than $220, but we only paid $50 without the 5.5% tax and tip!  What a meal!

2. Grad school is going well.  I’m enjoying teaching, and I am moving forward with research.  I will be meeting with my committee next week, hopefully to be certified and to set a date for my qualifying exam.  Some folks have been decontaminating and “fixing” the biosafety cabinets in the lab, so it has been a war zone!

3.  Life is good!  Volleyball, as usual, this weekend.  Hoping to enjoy another three to four-hour game 🙂

Thanks to LMFAO, I have been feeling sexy these days for many reasons.  Not because I’m high on testosterone and that I am horny, but because many wonderful things have happened since the last time I wrote.

My cousin Mel, the Texan native, visited last weekend and we hung out for a bit.  The visit was on a short notice, so we did not have anything planned.  My brother and I were excited though, since we have been telling her to come visit Madison.  She came with three friends (one is working here in a software company and engaged to his gay fiance who visited as well, and the other is a lady who is interested in psychology and sociology).  Although their flight was postponed and the arrival time changed from 11AM to around 11PM last Friday, we still managed to meet on Saturday.

The gang arrived at 6PM, and everyone chillaxed a bit at my place while my brother poured some of the New Glarus Wisconsin Belgium Red for the guests.  Similar to Ben’s Wisconsin friends whom I met in Chicago over New Year’s Eve, the UT-Austiners loved the drink.  We chatted a bit more and then headed out to dinner at 7PM.  Unfortunately with no reservations, we could rarely find a spot for six without a more than forty-five minute wait.  We walked along Capitol Square and State Street, and then my brother and I decided to take them to The Nitty Gritty.  My brother left when we got to the establishment since he needed to go to an 8PM discussion, so the five of us dined there.

Dinner was nice with conversations, and I was surprised by the two gay couple who are engaged.  They were not too handsome or hot, one of them has some gastrointestinal related illnesses and some other diseases, they were nice folks, and yet they look so wonderful next to each other.  I really do admire the both of them since that is true love right there.  They did not love each other due to lust or bed-related actions, but they looked beyond each other’s imperfections and linked their hearts together.  The strong support they provided for each other fascinated me, and I just hope that I will be able to find the special one too.

After dinner at around 8:50PM, Mel’s three friends decided to go back to their place since one of them needed to finish writing a paper.  I was going to send my brother a burger I bought for him, and Mel decided to come along and stick around!  We met up with my brother at 9PM when he was on his way home.  He was going to have a short night and head to bed soon since he was under stress with exams and studying, so Mel was left with me.  I took Mel for a walk, which she enjoyed with the fresh air although ’twas a bit chilly.  We walked around Memorial Union, then hiked up Bascom Hill, then onto Observatory along the lake, then to Tripp and Adams (where I resided during my sophomore year and first year of house fellowship), and then we took a break by the lakeshore area for some ice cream since Mel had not have ice cream from the Dairy State.

We shared a sundae with chocolate peanut butter ice cream, Heath, pecans, and Reeses…and sat on a booth and started catching up with life.  We did talk a lot about academia, her plans after graduating in May, law school, her trip to Italy, dating, and many more.  ‘Twas a great break with many exchanges of thoughts.  At first, I was worried that our four to five year age difference will not have too much in common since Mel was a bit more talkative to my brother earlier during the evening, but I was wrong.  Even my aunt told my parents (who told me later) that Mel has always respected me as a big brother and valued my conversations with her since when she was in high school.  She is hoping to work in Chicago through a law firm after completing an internship through the firm, and I will be glad to take her around Chicago with my brother!

After the break, we walked along Linden, passed by Henry Mall, and went into Union South.  Later, we walked along Johnson and Park Street, and then went into Library Mall and started walking along State Street.  ‘Twas the weekend of WIAA High School Wrestling, and there were many topless youngsters running past by us as celebration after the tournament.  Mel and I even laughed when one of the youngsters slapped my ass so hard that we both heard it.  If I were in an office, that could be sexual harassment, but ’twas fun for the both of us to see youngsters bearing the cold and cheering for their accomplishments.

Mel’s friend called at around midnight indicating that he would be going to bed soon and would like to pick her up since she was staying at his apartment with the others.  We then walked from the Capitol to my place, and she was off at 0:35.  She said bye before she boarded her plane on Sunday, and she enjoyed her visit too.

This visit also affirms my view that family members are the greatest and closest support for one another.  During the period of mourning for my grandma, whose funeral took place on Monday in Taipei, the visit reunited all the youngsters from my mother’s side who are in the United States.  Each visit, similar to the one in Chicago with Ben and those meals and walks with friends, are ways to renew relationships of any sort.  Even a small sundae with great ice cream and Heath toppings could make one smile for a day too… ‘Twas a great visit, and I could not believe that I had not seen her for five years, with the last time being before I went to Germany!!! I do hope that my brother and I will be able to visit her in Austin soon before she leaves that campus.

On a different note, I heard back from my advisor regarding my research proposal two days ago.  I am glad to finally see progress since he had the document for more than a month.  He made some great changes, and I am glad to learn from them and see his thoughts and intentions.  I am hoping to have that done soon so that I can meet with committee members to get their approval and take my qualifying exam soon!!!

Teaching has been going well too.  Students are learning about arthropods this week, and many of them were squeamish and excited.  Some of them were similar to Dora the Explorer (English and Zoology Edition) when observing hexapods, crustaceans, chelicerates, and myriopods with curiosity.  Some of them even dissected the destroyed the entire crayfish, which would need to be used by the next class too 🙂  Anyway, my students (especially the Monday and Tuesday ones) have been doing great this semester, and I hope that they will continue to be this motivated!

After working yesterday, I decided to take a walk in the afternoon and even call the afternoon off.  I left the lab at 2PM, and then bumped into Megan!  She was a former co-TA and a friend, and I was surprised when she walked by me and yelled out my name since she usually has a soft voice!  She was on her way to the library, so we walked together for a bit and caught up with one another.  ‘Twas great to hear that she missed teaching and that she is planning to come back too.  After she left, I continued walking, and eventually revisited Bakers’ Window.  I got to chat with the couple who baked the goodies since the wife started talking to me about organic milk in glass bottles and their use of organic materials.  The husband chatted more with me when the wife went to deal with the delivery man, and I discovered that they went to Munich together before.  They also learned to bake in Paris and also in San Francisco, and they are aiming to open a bakery under their names in the future without another owner or landlord.

My first visit to Bakers’ Window was last Saturday, and I had a great impression of the pain au chocolat.  There were more selections this time, since I went there during their normal hours when compared to thirty minutes before opening.  I got some pain au chocolat for my brother and Michael the co-TA, a Danish for myself, and carrot almond cake.  I am a big almond lover, and I loooooooove carrot cakes as well.  The mix of both made it an expensive dessert to make, and the cake made by the couple who baked all the goodies looked marvelous.  I tried some, of course…and ’twas surprisingly dense that I could only eat one-fourth to a third of a slice each time to feel fulfilled.  The cream cheese frosting and the cake overall was not too oily and sweet as the carrot cake made in other places, and the almond was a great compliment.  In many places, even those in the Farmer’s Market, the pastries and cakes would be swamped with frosting or sugar, but the baked goods from Bakers’ Window have always been simple.  ‘Twas not too plain, but the sweetness tasted came from the ingredients inside the pastry instead of a huge sugar-coating.  The cake was delicious and was worth it.  I am a food lover who would bike or drive for miles just to taste some dishes, and I can now say that Bakers’ Window is the best bakery I have experienced in Madison.

After being indulging on pastries for a while, I finally decided to visit the gym in case if I become a fat jolly Buddha.  I still go to the gym to play volleyball, such as my four-hour session last Saturday.  However, I have not been great at going to the gym on weekdays due to things to do, meetings to attend, and bad weather.  I finally made it to the gym at 7:30PM, started stretching, rowed 5000m, ran and hiked on the treadmill without phobia nowadays, and finished with sit-ups and stretches with an exercise ball.  I then saw Danielle, a grad student I know from a course I took last semester, and we started catching up with one another.  ‘Twas great to see a familiar face in the gym who is striving to live healthily too 🙂  So other than the awesome feeling of perspiration and meeting a familiar face during the work-out session, I felt wonderful after coming out from the shower.  I felt so relieved and clean, and I smelled great! 😉  I even flexed myself in front of the mirror, and boy were my arms getting larger and larger compared to the scrawny and flappy ones I had when I was bigger.

So yes, I’m sexy and I know it…I work out!!!!  Life and God have been good to me, and I just hope that I can continue visiting the gym and started going five to six days again like my usual routine.  I am doing well with my Lenten sacrifice: giving up alcohol.  I wonder if I can survive to forfeit having baked goods or sweets, but we can find that out in another Lenten period.  I hope that I can continue to make more progress with research, teaching, and in social life…and become more muscular soon, especially if I will need to put on swim wear and show my body if I go to Hawaii one day!

Life can be tough with nothing going as smooth as they want them to be.  Our progress could be interfered and delayed by co-workers or people around us, accidents and mistakes happen, people would be late for meetings, you do not hear back from friends when calling or text messaging them, etc.  Sometimes, we are the ones to blame for our own contribution to making life rough, and there are times when there is actually nothing we can do to make the situation better.  As long as we do not think that life is a b*tch and become depressed, we will have the strength to move forward each day with some of the simplest accomplishments and joys.

One of the ways for me to feel better about myself is through exercising.  I spent more than five times a week in the gym, biking around town, and even better during the winter–playing broomball.  The weekly Saturday event is something that I look forward to, or else I would be lazy and stay indoors during the winter.

I was introduced to broomball when I met Joe in my friend Kristina’s Swedish Midsommarfest in summer 2010.  Joe told me about a group of folks (at least a year or two older than me who graduated from University of Wisconsin-Madison, people who were from Monroe in the same high school, elementary school teachers, or those from other places that are working in Madison) hitting a soccer ball as a hockey puck with a broom on the icy lake with sneakers or boots, and it immediately captured my attention.  I reconnected with Joe in early 2011 and soon began playing broomball since that February…I met many wonderful folks such as Dusty (the Godfather or the one who used to be in charge but is now in Florida), Justin, Adam, Brandon, Liz, Karam,…just to name a few.  I also met new folks each week and even one of my former students!  The group was a bunch of nice and encouraging folks, and ’tis great seeing them every wintry Saturday.

Since I prefer to wear shorts and tshirt when working out instead of sweatpants and sweatshirt, I wore a tshirt and a pair of jeans or pants last winter.  That was when I was known as Sleeveless Joe…However, the past few days became a lot windier, so I wore my jacket last time.  However, I was actually in shorts and even on today’s game, so I then became Crazy Joe!  There were two other Joes who usually play: the Joe I met (who became Captain Joe since he took over Dusty’s duties) and Big Joe (or Illinois Joe).

The funny story about today is that there were some folks who were around us taking pictures and such.  Usually, there would be a car or truck parked in front of us, speculating us for a while and then honked and waved at us.  And then, there was a guy who took pictures of us with a professional camera for a while.  Similar to others, he observed us for quite a while…but different from others, he started talking to me and others when Big Joe decided to switch with me to get into the game since I had played for a while.  The guy took a few pictures of me since I was the only one in shorts, and even Brandon (who was beside me and subbing as well) told the photographer that I was known to be Crazy Joe!  The photographer even commented on me wearing shorts under the 18F weather with large calves…Haha the guy took more pictures of me and told me that he is a professional photographer who is just taking pictures for fun.  He took photos for the Badgers too, and ’twas fun chatting with him.  He asked me for my name, told me his, and requested me to find him on facebook.  Later on, he took a group picture of everyone and left as we continued playing.

‘Twas a special experience for me since I have never been asked by professional photographers to take photos of me.  I mean, I do not look like Brad Pitt or a muscular stud (yet), and I am just one ordinary Asian.  I even look fat when bundled with my jacket, scarf, and other clothing to make my upper body warm.  Maybe I might have low self-esteem since I used to be heavier and think that I am not attractive enough for people around me.  However, being placed in the spotlight unexpectedly made me realize that I need to have more faith in myself and love myself more as well.  There were times when I told people who I am not as good as others in broomball or other sports, but I have been improving.  I will definitely continue to push myself to run and reach for the ball when the ice is slippery and even become a better player.  I will also continue to be supportive of my peers too by encouraging them to getting to know them more.  Even for great friends, there is always something new to learn about one another.

And yes–these things I learned from broomball overall and today’s experience relate to life quite well.  Instead of telling ourselves that we are not as worthy or that we cannot do it, we need to have positive thoughts in our minds and set high expectations.  If we keep telling ourselves negative thoughts, we would not be able to give ourselves an opportunity to grow and face challenges to become stronger.  We do not need to be cut-throat or mucho competitive, but we need to say that we are sexy when we look into the mirror and that we can confront challenges.

So am I crazy?  You betcha.  I’m still going to wear shorts or tshirts to future broomball sessions since that is who I am.  I do not care if I am different from others as long as I am enjoying the moment by myself and with others around me.  As long as I am making progress bit by bit, I will be blessed!

The semester is beginning soon, and the streets were occupied by more living souls.  ‘Tis great to see more people on the streets and to bump into familiar faces too!  For example, I bumped into Aaron a few days ago when walking to lab under the sprinkling snow from the skies.  I also met with Duncan yesterday since he is back in school and has math tests coming up…and I attended the first TA meeting of the semester today.  I was excited to see the old and new co-workers, and it seems to be a promising semester.

Anyway, I just came home from lab.  I went to lab at 4PM after the TA meeting and then started killing mice for their cells.  The bloodshed ended at 8PM, and I collected supernatant from cell culture until midnight.  I’m glad to be making progress and to enjoy my walk back to my place, but I am dead tired…however, I decided to write this entry since ’tis a bit different compared to my previous entries.  ‘Tis always good to have something new and different too!

So I am still talking to Matt everyday.  Well, not really talking but texting or chatting on google since we have been busy with research and he has an interview soon.  Matt told me a few days ago that he baked chocolate chip cookies, and we started talking about baked goods.  We both love the cinnamon cake from The Corner Bakery in Chicago, and he is quite an experienced baker with cookies and banana bread.  Similar to Matt, I love the smell of baked goods.  The aroma in a bakery or a patisserie always aroused me, and I love that smell to fill my apartment when compared to fume from grilled steak or fish.  Different from Matt though, I am not a great baker.  I love cooking and have been told to me a great cook, but baking is actually my weakness.  Although ’tis just following recipes and that should be easy for a scientist or graduate student like me, I tend to be a bit more creative and expressive in the past…and with the health conscious me, I would never add some ingredients.  A recipe usually calls for two to three eggs, tons of cream, cups of sugar, and sticks of butter…and I usually skip those.  Perhaps that was the reason why the “banana bread” I was supposed to bring to a potluck tasted like pancakes or cookies instead…Anyway, I also saw some blogs on baking after talking to Matt, including this blog from a Madisonian.  Since Mat told me that he is planning to bake banana bread later this week, I thought of baking something with materials I have…and out comes this gorgeous cake!  Yes, I did let go of a part of myself and added an egg.  However, this is the first cake I baked that actually turned out to be a cake…and a really great one…so I am sharing the recipe/baking experience here since I am so proud of myself 🙂  Cakes from most places can be really sugary, dry, and/or filled with artificial flavors.  This cake turns out to be quite moist (perhaps due to the large amount of berries), and the sweetness mainly comes from the berries too!  I added half a cup of sugar so that this would be a cake and not a tray of muffin.  ‘Tis easy to make too!

1. Grease a typical 13″ X 9″ rectangular cake pan evenly with two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil.  Meanwhile, preheat the oven at 350F.

2. Mix the following in a bowl:

  • two and a half cups of multigrain flour
  • two tablespoons of baking soda
  • one beaten egg
  • three tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • one cup of nonfat milk
  • half a cup of sugar
  • one cup blackberries
  • one cup blueberries

Make sure that the mixture is moist and not too sticky.  All ingredients should be evenly distributed too.

3. Pour the mixture into the pan.  Make sure that the berries are evenly distributed.  You don’t want a bite full with flour and another bite full with berries!

4. Put the pan in the preheated oven and bake for forty-five minutes.  After forty-five minutes, let the cake sit in the oven for ten minutes.  Serve whenever 🙂

I have been hoping to write this entry since most of my friends would cry to me about life in graduate school, their dissolving or empty love life, and many other concerns in life. I do face these worries everyday as well, and there are definitely moments when I would just want to burst into tears and leave my frustrations aside when I stood in front of Lake Mendota. However, numerous homilies I heard from Mass and words from friends would calm me down, and I hope that this entry will serve the same purpose to many of my friends and fellow readers.

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Most of us have been educated by our parents and the society to have goals in life. As a naive child, one would want to become a firefighter or the president of the universe. When one gains more knowledge and eventually become more acquainted with the social order, one would plan to get married one day, have a nice house with children, and live happily ever after. Unfortunately, things are not that easy in life, especially when one leaves the family and learn to become independent in college. Some of us would notice that we do not even fit in the current social order and things need to be changed. Many of us would use all of our strength to reach those goals, but they might not be fulfilled due to the lack of resources around or due to the timing.

When facing obstacles, some might just avoid hardships and choose an easier route. This can be hiding from the true self and work a job that is not as fulfilling. Or that one might forget about seeking love and just give in to instant hookups. For many, even if we decide to choose an easier route, we would still feel awful at the end and bitch about life. Yes, life does suck, life is full of shit, life is pointless, life is just boring…

The society has influenced many to live in fear: whether a nuclear missile will be coming towards our way tomorrow morning, whether those chopsticks made in China are bleached and toxic, whether someone would break into my apartment when I go on a vacation, etc. However, the worst fear is the fear of losing what we currently have, and not gaining what we do not have and what we desire. Many people would worry about the apocalypse and lost the motivation to live fully each day. Many folks would wonder if the relationship is not working and simply let it rot instead of doing something to make the relationship lively again. Many graduate students, like me, would plan a year in advance to submit an abstract to go to a conference in San Francisco…but became discouraged when collaborators lost the samples and did not notify others for four to five months, or when the collaborators are just slow and did not even pick up the samples prepared four weeks ago, resulting in losing the opportunity to submit an abstract. Things do not work out smoothly each time, and we need to keep reminding ourselves that. It is natural for one to feel depressed, sad, lonely, abandoned, discouraged, and sorrowful in life. Perhaps we can never find true happiness on earth, but we have to learn from each moment when we cry, when we just want to cuddle with someone, when we hate ourselves for not being able to go to San Francisco for a conference and a little break from the middle-of-nowhere, and especially when we feel hopeless. These are just some of the road blocks we face in life, and we need to persist and persevere to overcome these moments. Afterwards, we will be able to taste the sweet fruits and we would feel better. Even when we look back to those depressing days, we would simply chuckle and become a better person.

The path to taste the sweet fruits ain’t easy though. I do feel discouraged for a period, and it would not take a minute or a day for me to overcome these negative feelings and thoughts. However, I told myself that this is not going to be the last of me, and that there will be more wonders in my life in the near future.

The first principle I have is to love myself. I used to think that I am ugly as a guy who is seventy-five to eighty pounds heavier, that I am just a hopeless workaholic who is being utilized by single-serving friends, and that I am just going to die at an early age. I used to treat myself with a whole cheese cake for an evening, but soon I realized that is the wrong way to treat myself. I learned to change my short temper and have more patient with myself. I learned to love my body and soul, exercise a lot more, become more active in life, and even attempted to go on a few days. I also became more social and confident with myself, and I became more cheerful as a person. When I accomplished a task, even a babystep, I would reward myself with a dark chocolate truffle or a short trip. When I am discouraged, I would tell myself that it is not God’s will for me to focus on a certain task, and that I should focus on other items on my list in order to give me more potential and abilities to accomplish that one certain task. No longer do I look haggard with extra packages, but I still treat myself to some cheese cake sometime 🙂

The second principle I have is NOT to quarrel about money with others and to love others, especially those who are greater than myself: God, parents, brother, friends, students, peers, etc. When showing love to others, I felt happy in my soul. Although some people and the old me would bicker about money, I learned that many relationships are dissolved due to quarrels about money. I told myself that I only live once, so ’tis fine for me to enjoy my time with others. Perhaps that is why I became more social in graduate school too: getting beer with friends, going out to eat, have friends over for dinner, attending concerts with others, etc. I do enjoy some of the finer things in life, but I would be frugal with myself as I eat oatmeal in my apartment. However, saving money and contributing them to family and friends could be a wonderful thing. If money would be an issue, do not take your friend(s) to a fine dining establishment and then complain about the cost later during the evening. Instead, go to somewhere affordable so that you and your peer(s) would have a great time.

With this said, I also notice that I tend to be the giving tree in most of the dates and relationships I have been, even brotherhood. This leads to my third principle: to never expect anything back from others. Of course, ’tis nice if someone would give us gifts or spend his or her time with us, but do not expect anything from others. Think of the ability to be loving and sacrificial to be a generous gesture, and thank God that you have the ability to support, help, and show love to others in the world.

Another principle is to be patient with oneself. Many of us, even me, would dream to be in a relationship with the perfect being…and yet we would be too aggressive in that area that we would be disappointed after each date. Learn from each interaction and experience, and prepare ourselves to become greater. What is not meant to be or happen should not be forced to occur. Do not take things too personally too. Afterall, everyone has a different opinion about everything in the world!

Last but not least, enjoy the simplest happiness in life. When we are sad, be grateful to those who would listen to our speeches with agony. When we are crying, be thankful to those who would ask us if we are okay and even offer us a shoulder. When we are hopeless, look for the simplest blessings God has offered to motivate us to live through the toughest of times. Never give up on oneself, and don’t stop believin’ either!

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On a personal note, these thoughts have been circulating and forming in my mind since when I finally told myself that I would never be able to submit an abstract to go to the conference. I prayed to God, and who knew that I would change my view on that and thought of it as a wake-up call for me to focus on getting certified as a candidate for Ph.D. and to take my qualifying exam during the first half of this year? By then, I would feel more comfortable and even less stressful as a graduate student.

Another thing that has been preventing me from reaching where I want to be is due to the situation of the lab. My professor is sixty-eight and was hoping to retire. However, he accepted me to continue for a Ph.D. after I defended my Master’s thesis…and I am grateful for him. Yes, that was the same year the stupid me only applied to one university for Ph.D. I thought about taking a few years off working in labs and then reapply, but my advisor saw something in me and accepted me. He has always been a fatherly figure who cares about me and thinks of the best for me. He also published more than two hundred papers, but I guess that due to his age, he was not too eager to apply for research grants. I was actually fine with that since I am gaining lots from being a teaching assistant, and I also expanded my social network through teaching. I knew that funding would be tight, so I might not be able to fly to Tokyo or Italy for a conference. However, I was surprised that I would spend thousands of dollars on research animals and supplies, and that I was encouraged to continue publishing papers (which ain’t cheap and time-saving, by the way) too. ‘Tis true that I always aim to be as productive and even more efficient than the graduate students at Harvard, Stanford, UC-Berkeley, and other prestigious colleges. Perhaps most of them are better off financially than me with a large research team, but my graduate school experience has certainly made me more independent. Although I have some collaborators, I would be the one to shift the direction of the projects in the near future and I even have the chance to design my experiments too…which is different from other graduate students I know where a topic or project was handed to them. Even until today, I still aim to be as dedicated and motivated as I can be to not just rot in the lab.

Even with love, I have never been in a serious relationship and I never know if I will. Yes, I have been discouraged after dates that never work out–simply because I do not see myself being with the other person most of the time or that I never heard back from the other person. However, I am grateful for the dating experience and I am glad for the friends I have. My close friends have been caring, and we would often meet up and chat. Family is also another great support, as I still talk to my dad and mom every weekend, and my brother and I would often text message one another to see how we are.

Perhaps 2012 started on a sour note for me, but not really! ‘Tis this experience that will make me cherish God, others, and myself more…and I just hope and pray that things will be better in the future.