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inspiration

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.

Nope, ’tis not a wedding anniversary since I am still single, nor is it the anniversary of this blog (which I would never celebrate anyway)…but ’tis an anniversary of spiritual rebirth.  Some people would call it a one-year-old birthday celebration…but for me, ’twas a great time to reflect the growth I had in a year.

This year’s Holy Week coincided with spring break.  Unfortunately, spring break did not seem to exist for a graduate student in the biosciences.  Many guys I know were in town working on research or preparing for teaching, including my befriended animal staff Patty.  When I attended Dr. Irv Weissman’s seminar session last Tuesday, I was amazed to see the entire forum filled with graduate students and faculty, including one of my committee members whom I know quite well and one good friend of mine who is aiming to finish his studies in the summer.  Of course, Dr. Weissman is famous for his works in hematopoietic stem cells and his seminar would attract many, but the gyms and campus was a lot emptier during break without much undergrads around.

Since the last time I updated, I made quite a few progress in life: getting certified as a doctoral student after meeting with my committee members and obtaining their John Hancocks after answering questions with my best ability and hearing their suggestions (with two I took that were helpful), officially announcing the date of my Qualifying Exam in August 2012, getting approval from a professor in Japan to use his knockout mice, getting some results to analyze, and continuing with my work,…I also got to spend quality time with myself and others.

My “spring break” or Holy Week kicked off with four hours of volleyball followed by four hours of hanging out in front of a bonfire with food and conversations.  Other than that, I also got to catch up with friends through coffee or Korean food or Indian food buffet (instead of the typical Easter brunch) for two hours each, those from Bible study at the Terrace with beer and popcorn on Tuesday evening for two hours, meeting up Saturday morning for an hour and a half with Michael (who is getting married in June),…and the list goes on.  I enjoyed spending time with great friends and good people, and ’tis a blessing to have them in life.  Other than human interactions, I also enjoyed spring break with bike rides, six-mile runs, walks around town, almond croissants, and some of the littlest things in life.  ‘Twas funny to see that week went by quickly too.

This Easter also marked my first year of officially entering into the Catholic church.  ‘Tis true that there are some areas of the faith that I would debate on, but most of the topics were deeply absorbed by me since when I was young.  In college, I lost touch with church and Masses, and I was brought back to faith when I was in New York over a year ago.  I was a tourist at St. Patrick’s Cathedral taking photos, and suddenly a voice in me encouraged me to stay for the 1PM Mass.  I then sat in the pew and stayed for the entire Mass, noticing that I had missed the beauty of the Mass and homilies during the past four to five years.  When getting back to Madison, ’twas the move-in/move-out weekend, and I got so many blessings and free furniture and dishes from friends as I moved from a three-bedroom into a one-bedroom.  I decided to go to Mass that weekend to give thanks, and I met some great friends by then.  I became more involved in choir, eventually participated in an all-male graduate student/young professional Bible study, and volunteered in events if I could.  I was not hardcore though, for I did not attend Mass everyday or befriend the priests and many in church, but my whole being changed with this encounter or call-back.  After being baptised and confirmed last year, I felt that I became more tranquil with no short temper or impatience.  I treated things optimistically while planning for the worst so that I would not be surprised, and I would not lost hope if the worst happened (which occurred with one of the collaborators earlier last June to November/December) but continue to plan ahead and move forward.  I guess I became a happier person while searching and observing the simplest joys in life without materialism, sexual desires/lusts, and more.  Yeah, many of my friends and even parents would consider me living as a Catholic monk since I do not live in bars or that I do not bring folks back to hook up with, but I prefer to live simply without having too much drama and sexually transmitted infections.

Although many would say that science (since I am in the field of microbiology and immunology) and religion do not mix, I would consider them wrong in conversations.  Most people I talked to would be extremists, relying on one or the other.  Most greatness comes from people who have a balance of the two.  Without science, we would not be able to cure diseases with antimicrobials and knowledge of first aid through physiology.  Without faith, we would not be able to realize our wrongdoings and to maintain some moral codes.  Of course both are dangerous when politics is involved, but the roots of science and religion is to contribute to society in a good way.  When people analyze the Bible, they would interpret it in their own ways too and even condemn people to hell.  How would they know if that was really God’s intentions?  Did people also take the historical context into perspective?

As I sang during the Easter Vigil and Sunday Mass, many friends and acquaintances would wish me a Happy Birthday or Happy One Year Anniversary with smiles on their faces.  When I saw people willingly to be baptised and confirmed, my heart was filled with joy.  Even the music sang soothed my mind and soul, and I was reminded on the greatness I experienced for a year.  Although I was tired at the end of the Vigil and going into the Sunday Mass with sleep deficiency, I felt as if I was welcomed back into the church again by renewing the vows.  Perhaps the joys from Easter came indirectly from Lent.  ‘Twas a sad period for my family due to some matter, but when telling friends that I gave up alcohol for Lent, my social life did not change at all.  I felt healthier without drinking, and I enjoyed my friends’ company a lot more.  Perhaps drinking would make someone depressed, even with friends…but I still would not mind getting beer with friends once in a while 🙂  Interestingly, tons of beer were provided after the Easter Vigil during the celebration, but I decided to go home to bed instead to prevent myself from passing out after drinking…

The Easter celebration also reminded me to continue working to get my PhD as soon as possible.  With aims to attend a conference next year, I am hoping to do well on my Qualifying Exam and to get some results in order to submit an abstract or a paper.  I also hope to continue excelling in teaching and hopefully be nominated for a teaching award.  Another goal for now would be to continue running and eventually sign up for a 10K run while getting more muscles and being fitter.  I do try to keep myself busy, but I am also open to meeting new people.  I went on a date on the Monday after Palm Sunday for four hours, and ’twas fun to meet new folks.  However, I have to constantly remind myself that I am not that desperate to hop into someone’s pants and that at least I have God in life!

This year brought many rewards and harvests, and I could only pray and ask that I will be similar in the future.  So many individuals brought love into my life, and I also hope that I can pay those forward with my abilities.  School will be starting tomorrow, meaning that I will be back teaching and such, but the summer will be here within four to five weeks!  Hopefully things will continue to go smoothly without violent winds and thunderstorms…but if catastrophe happens, I look forward to seeing the rainbow in the near future!

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!

February started a bit on the sour note for me.  I became occupied with research and teaching, especially on grading weekly quizzes…but I still go to the gym and play volleyball.  The broomball season was actually short since this winter has been warmer than usual, and water has been seeping through ice on the lakes. 

On the evening of 13 Feb (which is the morning of Valentine’s Day in Taipei), I received news that my dear grandma (from my mother’s side) passed away that morning in Taiwan.  This brought a new meaning to the fourteenth day of February for me, and I was feeling awful for weeks since then.  Even my faculty advisor and the coordinator of the course I teach noticed that I was not myself at all.  I only shared this news with close friends and co-workers around then, and I have been in close contact with my parents and brother as well.  ‘Twas interesting since my grandma has been an amazing lady in my life who taught me many things ranging from portraying beauty to the world, showing care to others around you, and staying strong and being happy during the worst of times…She was unconscious and in pain, and she reunited with the grandpa I never saw since birth on a special day.  I became more and more open-minded after a few days instead of burrowing myself constantly in grief since she did live to the old age of ninety-one.  Although I could not attend the funeral in Taipei, I made a recording of myself singing Schubert’s Ave Maria with my cheap digital camera and sent it home.  It will be played during the funeral on Monday, 27 Feb.  My grandma would always applaud and cheer when I sing to her, and I remember that tears streamed across her cheeks when I sang to her last May when I went back home for the urgent two-week visit.  Although she was a vegetable, she would shake when I held her and even wiggle a bit as if she would want to talk to me.  I just hope that the song sang from my heart will be a good send-off for her since her baptismal name is Maria.  I still carry the photo of her and me and would glance at it each day, and I will definitely not forget her.

The Taiwanese custom is that relatives of the deceased will have to abstain from parties, visits to people’s houses, celebrations, and other large-scale joyful/social events.  Interestingly, this period coincides with Lent for me.  Before the incidence, I made plans to grab drinks with co-TAs and friends, to meet and socialize with prospective students of my program through drinks and potlucks, and more…it felt awkward to cancel all those plans, which included telling some curious folks the reason of my absence.  However, most of them were understanding.  Some, such as my professor, the coordinator of the course I teach, and the coordinator of my program, shared their grief and would share their experiences with me too.  Due to limitations in parties and such, this is why I am giving up alcohol for Lent.  It can be healthier for me, and that opens more opportunities for me to go to the gym, walk or bike around town, and keep myself active.  This period also made me closer to my family too, and I am grateful for that.

Throughout this period, I still interact with great friends.  I bumped into Jordan a few days ago, and I remember him as a scrawny kid two years ago when we took a course together.  He is still tall, but perhaps more muscular and mature, and I was surprised that he is still in Madison.  He declined an offer to go to medical school and found passion in teaching and parasitology.  Therefore, he is tutoring students through the Department of Zoology and is working in a company while applying for public health programs in different universities.  I also bumped into many former students, such as Alex the ATP guy, Logan (whom I wrote a letter of recommendation), Stephan (who just got engaged), and Jenn (a great mom and soldier).

Michael, one of my co-TAs, has been amazing since January.  He started as a newbie for teaching who avoided any courses and opportunities for public speaking in the past…He did not do that well during his first week and eventually broke down in tears, but he became a different person the following week and has been doing a brilliant job in standing and delivering.  He became more confident, although he would still say that he is nervous and that the students are plain stupid (he took this course a loooong time ago and got an A without trying too hard, and there are tons of students who have been getting poor scores and cannot organize thoughts or reason through things)…but he is a great guy to talk to one-on-one.  He is funny and great to talk to, and he became a great friend.  I guess that we have been encouraging one another in little ways.  On Mardi Gras, I bought students donuts from Greenbush Bakery and saved one for him since he mentioned that Mardi Gras was his most favorite holiday with hurricanes and parties and that I knew that he would be stopping by the building when I was teaching.  After teaching, I noticed that he was selling like hotcake with five students surrounding him in the TA office, so I dropped off the donut and left.  Who knew that he would run after me and graced me with a red and a blueish green strains of beads?  He is such a funny guy…and he even brought me a huge Snicker’s bar after meeting his wife for dinner prior to proctoring an exam on Thursday.  Speaking of his wife, Michael would describe Brooke in a manner that made me vision her as the one with the whip during S&M play, but I actually meet her on Monday evening, and she was a cute and lovely lady!

At the same time, I still go to Bible study with the same gang and would text and meet-up with my friend Chuck.  I also would text and chat with Matt through gchat, and we went for a walk together after I was done proctoring on Thursday.  We walked around the neighborhood for forty-five minutes to an hour, appreciating the snow and each other’s company.  He has accepted a postdoc position in Detroit since he did not get offered the faculty position at Gonzaga, and I am glad that at least life is not too uncertain for him now.  it turns out that he went to Mass on Ash Wednesday and is giving up alcohol for Lent too!  I gave him a can of beer earlier, and he told me that ’twas still sitting in his fridge due to Lent.  Throughout the walk, he told me about a new bakery in town, and I decided to check it out today.

I walked along State Street and passed by the bakery yesterday, just to notice that ’twas closed although the label and facebook indicated that it should be closed after two hours.  I left, hoping it visit it the next day, and so I dragged myself out of bed to be an early bird who gets baked goods straight out from the oven from Bakers’ Window.  I remembered the label indicating that the bakery would be opened at 8AM…I arrived at 8:30AM, and folks were still setting up things.  Who knew that they actually open at 9?  However, I was offered to enter and purchase goods.  Matt told me about the croissants, and so I purchased some pain au chocolat (with regular croissant being the other option since there were not many other items out from the oven) and was given a wedding cookie for free.  Those chocolate croissants were still hot and just out from the oven, but the bread had some buttery goodness that did not make the croissant too flakey and dry.  It was not too soggy either.  The chocolate was in a generous silky serving, and the pain itself was huge!  That was perhaps the best pain au chocolat I ever have in my life.  Before that, I had great memories of the ones by Cafe Soleil before it closed, but the croissants from there were smaller, the chocolate filling was one single strip in the middle (and could be hard on some days), and also more expensive.  Thanks to Matt, I will definitely pay Bakers’ Window a visit in the near future to try the scones, pies, and other baked goods.

Throughout my interactions with friends, I was also wondering if I should get a new cellphone since I have been eligible to upgrade my phone since last December.  I have one of those free cellphones from Verizon with a keyboard.  ‘Tis handy but I could not use internet and such on it.  I remember when I was crossing Los Angeles back into Las Vegas with a friend three Thanksgivings ago, we were lost and the GPS guided us into a desert area without paved roads but one filled with cacti…which scraped off the tires and ended with a tow truck carrying us back to Las Vegas so I could catch my flight back to Madison.  From then, I noticed that having a technological upgrade could be a plus since I would hope to find routes or maps with a cellphone.  Even my friend Max used his iPhone to search for bus routes when we went to Chicago for the Cubs game two years ago, and ’tis a great tool to search for restaurants and such as well.  However, I could not stand typing an email with a cellphone.  Surfing through the web might be okay and texting friends…but typing a well-written email or an entry like this on a cellphone can be unbearable for me.  When I am outside of my apartment, I also do not constantly use my cellphone since I would love to spend time with the fresh air and scenes around me, so I doubt that I will be facebooking when I am walking on the streets or at work.  I still like to have the feeling of a real keyboard instead of a virtual one.  Plus, while interacting with Matt’s smartphone a while ago, my fingers could be too big for the keys.  I also like the idea of having some apps such as angrybird, but I do not think that I will like the idea of having Grindr on my phone since it can be creepy for people to know where I live…However, Chuck is encouraging me to invest in a Droid RAZR (smartphone) since that is indeed a beauty (I love the Gorilla Glass), and Max has been trying to sell me the idea of getting an iPhone since ages ago.  Therefore, this is pretty much my dilemma: should I get a Droid RAZR, and iPhone, or just stick with the simple but yet functional phone I have now?

So in short, I am doing well and life goes on.  No matter what happens in life–good or bad–I will continue to look forward for the next day while cherishing the present.  I am glad that I did not make anything too regretful at this point; I know that I will not be able to forgive myself if I did not fly back to Taipei last May to see my grandma…and I am still surrounded with the simplest joys and love in life.

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!