Grace Tu

Grace Tu

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

My Dear Baby

My Dear Baby,

You have been telling me that you are scared of going to school, and that you are scared of certain kids at your school.  It did not take long before I found out that you’re scared of them because they would not play with you. To some people “scared” might be a funny word to use in this context, but my dear baby, when you told me I just wanted to hold you tight so that your heart can feel my warmth because I understand, and my heart broke for your heart and trust me, I am “scared”, for you, too.

Are you just like me? I remember trying so hard to make friends in that after school program in grade one. I was new so everyone else had their groups of friends already, and on my first day there I accidentally broke a popular girl’s vase, so she asked everyone to not talk to me.  I so wanted to make friends that your Grandmom and I bought snacks to share with the class, only to get rejected.  You were shy when you told me but I could almost see you asking if those older kids would play with you, and I could almost see you get rejected, and my heart sank.

You are like me, aren’t you? We don’t feel too comfortable when the group is so big but we can’t find someone who we truly connect to. We are so much happier having intimate conversations (like the talk we have everyday) with someone we truly care about. Is that why, even though you’re such a happy and sweet girl, I often see you quietly play on your own when I pick you up? If you are just like me, let me tell you that I understand. I understand how sometimes I prefer so much to be alone, but at the same time I long for someone to talk to.

My dear baby, if you are just like me, let me tell you that this feeling won’t necessary stop, and that you are likely to always feel it from time to time. But you know what? As you grow older, you will meet great people who can truly connect with you, who care for you, who appreciate you, and who will make you feel you are completely understood.  You may not have a lot of these people, but trust me you do not need a lot. It takes so much time, so much effort, to truly know someone, and for someone to know your precious heart – not too many people will have the time and willingness to do that. But, when some do, they become your lifetime friends, and maybe one of them becomes who you are going to marry.

And for now, let me share your fun and pain of growing up. You don’t need to wait to find someone who is willing to spend the time and energy to know you and to appreciate the whole you, because you have me, and you have your dad. And we do, and will always want to be there for you. And, I wish that you will be especially kind to those who seem to be lonely, and who seem to have been hurt and rejected. To some people, the smallest kindness could mean the whole world.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Happy 15th Anniversary

When we were in Italy, we met this old couple while we were driving between two small towns in Tuscany, and they invited us to their home (I forgot exactly how; I think we were just taking photos and being completely exhilarated). Afterwards they showed us this throne that the husband built for the wife, from the exact location "you can have the best view on this land". It was beautiful, both what was seen and what was felt.

Happy 15th Anniversary, Alan. May we always find time and peace to enjoy the beauties in our lives like that.

Saturday, July 16, 2016



This picture was taken on the day we first brought Nimo to our home many years ago. It was taken in our car in the parking lot. 

We went on vacation on December 16 last year. During the mid-night of December 18, the caregiver started sending us video of Nimo having seizures. Nimo was brought to the emergency room at the animal hospital. A few hours later, after allowing the hospital to use whatever means to save her, we had to let Nimo go.

We were at my parents apartment in Taipei. Anya was very happy; she didn't know and she was too young and probably knew Nimo too little to understand, so we asked if my mom would play with her in the dining room. Alan and I talked to the doctor on the phone in my room. The doctor was very kind. She seemed to understand how guilty we felt that we could not be there. We asked both the doctor and the caregiver to tell Nimo how much we loved her and how sorry we were. We hung up the phone and we started sobbing uncontrollably.

Many years ago when Heimoo, our other dog died, we went through an extended period of pain and we both got into fights with our parents because we did not think they understood. With Nimo the pain was not less and the guilt was so deep, but this time, we knew we needed to put ourselves together. So eventually I stopped crying and I told Alan, the only thing we could do now, to make it up to Nimo, is to love our loved ones and show them we love them. Everything was understood between us and we stopped sobbing.  We walked out and gave our daughter a big hug and told her we loved her. We cooked for her, fed her and played with her. And while we were doing all these things we forced ourselves to not think about what happened... We had to because otherwise the pain and guilt would overwhelmed us and consumed us and leave us incapable of taking care of ourselves and people around us.

But I did not stop missing Nimo. What I discovered was that missing her and thinking about what happened can be separated. One of the saddest things about having to leave this apartment eventually is that this was where almost all our memories of Nimo were created. She was there at the very beginning, when we were still sleeping on the floor. Every time someone knocked on our door we thought of Nimo because she was such a good family watchdog. Every now and then I told Alan how happy Nimo would be in the house we are moving in with us but again I did now allow myself to think about that for too long.

Then this morning, out of nowhere, or perhaps not out of nowhere because as usual I read the news when I got up and the news were mostly about all the terrible things that's happening in the world. I went to Alan and talked about Nimo, and suddenly I started crying and I allowed myself to continue because Anya was still sleeping.

And I thought, okay it's probably time to write something down. So here it is.

We love you, Nimo. You probably did not feel it when you left. But we really do. And I am so sorry. But we will try our best to make it up to you, the way we know how.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

My Dear Baby, Happy Birthday

My Dear Baby,

The other day I was at a mall.

I was walking really fast, but then I stopped.

I stopped because I saw a little kid with her little arms tightly around a woman’s neck, and her little head and the woman’s head touched

I stopped because I realized, even though I did not know that woman, I felt like I knew her and knew how she must had felt at that moment. I stood there and felt your arms around me like that, and I felt your hands softly played with my hairs.

The feeling of having that gentle weight around the neck. The feeling of being completely trusted. The feeling of being completely needed. I now understand.

And I was overwhelmed by this discovery. I must have seen the same scene thousands of times before that day but I never paid attention. I never paid attention because before that day, I could never relate to them.

Before you, some parts of my heart were never activated because before you, nothing had triggered them to be activated.

These are feelings that I could not have understood before I became your mom. Just like a person cannot truly understand what a heartbreak is until that person has gone through one. Just like a person cannot truly understand how it feels to listen to a church bell rings and watch hundreds of birds flying over at the same time until that person has experienced it.  Just like a person cannot understand how it truly feels to be standing on the top of the highest mountain until that person has physically been there, taking in all in, and let that experience influence his or her soul and modify it completely.  

And all these experiences, and all the little new things that we experience every single day, increase the capacity of our emotions and make us whole, more and more.

So, my dear baby, thank you for being here. Thank you for giving me new experience every single day. Thank you for activating so many part of my heart that I did not even know exist and for giving me greater capacity for emotions. Thank you for making my heart and soul whole, more and more.

I love you with all that I have. Happy birthday.
Your mama

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Scotland Day 2 - Oban and Isle of Kerrera

The next morning we spent a little time in George Square watching people getting to work, and then boarded the early train for Oban, where we would be based for two days.

Morning walk at George Squre

Anya finally fell asleep so I could enjoy the scenery a little 

Oban is a little but beautiful Victorian seaside town (An t-Òban in Scottish Gaelic meaning The Little Bay) within the Argyll and Bute area of Scotland. It is the main gateway to many of the Hebridean islands, and it is famous for the fresh seafood and for the more than 200 years old Oban distillery, which produces Oban 14 Year Old Whiskey.


Like I said before, husband and I always love a good picnic, so once we saw that the sky is clear, we went directly to Oban Seafood Hut at the ferry dock to pick up their famous seafood platter and then found us a nice spot overlooking the bay to enjoy our luxurious lunch. Since Alan is the real seafood lover in the house, I very quickly let him took over most of the eating and started following Anya around to say "hello" to all the seagulls. Now, here is something Anya does know: ever since I watched "Finding Nemo" I have grown an unreasonable fear for seagulls (remember how they kept saying "mine mine mine" in the movie? That terrified me.) However, since Alan and I had a deal to not pass on our unreasonable fears to Anya, I put away all my dislike for these birds and tried to admire them with my baby girl. Seriously, all the things we do for our children, even the silly ones, right?

We stayed at the Royal Hotel, which is close to the train station and the ferry. We were given a great big room with a nice view.

It's about a half hour hike to the unfinished "colosseum", the McCaig's Tower, from where we had a nice view of Oban
Our plan for the afternoon was to take the Oban Distillery Tours, but we soon found out that because the tour consisted of visiting the actual distillery process from beginning to end, for safety reasons, children less than 8 years old are not allowed. Just when I was about to give up on the tour, Alan, who probably felt a little guilty from finishing most of the seafood at lunch, offered to take care of Anya so I could do the tour. It was a wonderful gesture and as it turned out truly the right thing to do, because, of all the wine tours and other similar types of tours that I took over the past few years, this was the tour from which I learned the most. I was also lucky to be in the same tour with two people who really knew their whisky, and every time they asked questions I stood by their sides like a good student and listened to the guide provide very detailed answers. At the end of the tour we were given two samples to taste: the first was a sample of Oban malt direct from the cask (undiluted, 60+%), and the second was the diluted and bottled Oban malt. According to the guide some people just love the undiluted, "cask strength" edition naturally, and other people just could not stand it. Personally I preferred the cask strength Oban a lot more, which was why following the first tasting, the second tasting was not as exciting for me.

Photos are not allowed during the tour, so we took a picture outside
While I was learning all about whiskey , Alan and Anya took the boat to Isle of Kerrera first, so immediately after my tour I looked for the next boat to take me to the Isle and reunite with them. At this time I was terribly jet-lagged (unlike Alan and Anya, who slept through the night and got to hap on the train), and I also just tasted some really strong whiskey. As a result, I was tired, and extremely emotional for some reason. I sat at the front of the boat and kept looking at the Isle ahead for husband and Anya, and when I finally saw them, I waved so big and with so much happiness, especially when I saw Anya waved back. People on the boat who saw this very kindly share my joy and gave me encouraging smiles - it's all very much like a movie where people reunited with their loved ones after years apart, but in my case, it was two hours.
When my foot touched the Isle of Kerrera it was already getting late, but Alan still wanted to take me to the top of the Island to enjoy the breathtaking view. The weather was perfect until we reached the top, and it started to rain, and the strong wind tried very hard to knock us down. We started rushing down the hills and, holding Anya tightly, I kept whispering to her how sorry I was to put her in such situation and how I was there to protect her. Alan thought I was being ridiculous, but all I wanted to do then really was to tell her those.

With the help from the capital of the small boat we took, we got back to Oban early. The captain made a small exception for us, so we did not have to wait for another hour in the Isle in the rain. We were grateful for his kindness, and made sure he knew that before we parted with the boat.

The weather was great on our way up

The strong wind made Anya close her eyes

I tried to walk fast so we could catch the early boat back

Of course, like a typical Scottish weather, by the time we arrived Oban the sky was clear again. But we were very ready to be back in our hotel to get a good sleep because the exciting trip to the Isle of Staffa was waiting for us the next day.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Scotland Day 1 - Glasgow and Edinburgh

After an eight hour flight we landed in Glasgow. At our ages, all Alan and I really wanted to do was to sleep on the plane and since it would be 9:00 in the morning when we landed, a good rest on the plane would have helped our jet-lag lots and made sure we were mentally and physically in good shape for our first day in Scotland. Of course, Anya had other plans, so all we did during the flight was to entertain her and to walk her here and there on the plane so she would not disturb other passengers.
Although our train to Oban was leaving early the next day, instead of staying in Glasgow, we decided to check out the International Festival in Edinburgh instead. I did however have something that I just needed to buy before we did anything else - the bug repellent for the midge. It might sound a little crazy, but after reading 5 books about travelling in Scotland Highlands & Islands, it was almost impossible for me to not get worried about being attacked by the bugs (note: Alan, who by the way read none of the books, did not believe me and kept saying I was ridiculous, but as I will describe in the later posts, he was indeed attacked by these merciless creatures and I got to say "I told you so".) So, before we catched the train to Edinburgh, we visited Glasgow's famous shopping street - Buchanan street, and got the "smidge", the most promising midge repellent in Scotland.
After a short break in our hotel, we took a short walk to Buchanan St. and we walked by George Square.
There were lots of signs for "People Make Glasgow" close to George square. We later found out they were for attracting investments in Glasgow.
Buchanan St. - By this time Anya was extremely tired from the jet-lag, but she was still smiling. I was so proud of my baby.
We then took what would be the first of our many train rides in Scotland. Anya had always have a thing for trains (which little girl hadn't...?), and this was the first time that she could recognize that she's on the actual train, so it was very exciting for her.
After arriving at the Waverley Station in Edinburgh, we immediately looked for the Royal Mile and walked towards the Edinburgh Castle. I mentioned previously that there was the International Festival in Edinburgh, so the Royal Mile was crowded with lots of interesting performances going on. 

Of all the performances, this was our favorite. This person is so talented and we were lucky to be in the front row for this.

Thousands of flyers for the shows and performances
According to my very nicely done itinerary, we were supposed to enjoy a cup of coffee at the Elephant House, where JK Rowling wrote the Harry Potter books. But the line up was so long and we did not want Anya to wait in the pouring rain with us, so we took a picture and looked for some place else where we could just let Anya take a break from the rain.
We ended up in the café of the Central Library of Edinburgh. It was not at all what I planned. In fact, as I would later discovered, because we were so busy with Anya, we did not really have any proper meal aside from the breakfast in our hotels or B&Bs everyday. However, just like any other time when I travelled with Alan, all those memories picnicking outside or having small snacks in the hotels, on the train, or in some random places became wonderful memories. When we were taking a break from the rain in this library café, we were so happy because Anya was so happy. She got out of her fancy raincoat and truly enjoyed the food there.
After our little snack break, the rain was gone, and we were back on the now much more deserted street. With our clothes dry and our tummy full of food, we walked away from the Castle and was ready to catch the train back to Glasgow.

While it was a lot of traveling both on the plane and on the train that day, we did not regret going to Edinburgh. It is a beautiful city and we would not have wanted to miss it.