Better Safe Than Sorry

In 1995, torrential rains and flooding washed away Hwy 1 South in Carmel, on both sides of the cliff top hotel where Markus and I worked–Highlands Inn.  For a few days, we lived on an island with a few dozen guests and a handful of employees.  We dined on the finest food, prepared by our friends, world-class chefs.  It seemed like an adventure, but deep inside I was terrified.  As soon as the road was slightly repaired to the south, we caravanned out of there, taking an 8 hour detour into Big Sur, for a drive home that would normally take 30 minutes.  Once home, I went into Safety Mode and immediately purchased a giant red backpack from the Red Cross, filled with emergency supplies, should we ever face such an ordeal again.  Markus laughed every time we moved, and we transferred that red backpack from one front hall closet to another.  In Hawaii, we lived through a magnitude 6.7 earthquake in 2006.  That sent me to the store to stock up on 1 gallon of water, per person, for 3 days.  So the red backpack and 15 gallons of water sat in our closet for the next 2 years.  When we moved to Canada, my husband said, “We’re moving to the Rocky Mountains – no more earthquakes, no more tsunami threats, and mostly snow, not rain.  Please get rid of that old red backpack!”  I responded by tossing out the expired MREs, chocolate, and batteries, and replacing it all with fresh supplies.  The backpack sat in our mudroom closet in Banff for two years, only getting pulled out once, when my husband drove 4 hours to Edmonton in the winter.  He laughed at me and didn’t even bring a coat (it was a warm day).  A blizzard hit while he was getting gas for his car, and as he stood there shivering in his shirtsleeves, he could hear my voice in his head, “Bring your coat – you live in the mountains – weather can change on a dime!”


We’ve since moved 4 hours north of Banff, to the town of Jasper.  In order to travel to civilization, we need to drive through mountain passes with no cellphone reception, past glaciers and avalanche country.  We make that drive dozens of times a year.  Guess where that red backpack lives now?  In the trunk of my car.  My husband still laughs, but he did have an occasion to use the little shovel I added to the kit this winter.  A stranded tourist had driven into a snowbank, and we ended up digging him out.  HaHA!


Just this morning, a little creek in the town of Canmore, where I used to do my grocery shopping, grew to monstrous proportions, jumped its banks, and washed away the highway connecting it to the nearest city.  Homes were evacuated, schools were closed and turned into evacuation shelters, and people watched their back yards get washed downstream. Mudslides from the steady rain closed off the highways connecting the other towns, like Banff and Lake Louise.  Even the highway leading up to Jasper was closed.  We spent the day worrying about our friends, worrying about the roads, and remembering other weather emergencies we’ve lived through.  


Lying in bed tonight, my furry guy turns to me with a twinkle in his eye, and says, “Wow.  People in Canmore should really have a red backpack filled with emergency supplies for times like this.  It would really come in handy.”  I didn’t see the twinkle, at first, and my eyes widened to hear him support the emergency bag for the first time in 17 years.  I enthusiastically exclaimed, “I KNOW, right?!” and then I saw him giggle. Laugh it up, buddy boy.  I grew up with my mother filling the bathtubs with water during monsoon seasons in Malaysia, and typhoons season in Taiwan.  There were storms that forced us to use that water. In west Texas, where my oldest daughter was born, I spent several hours a week IN the bathtub with my baby, during tornado warnings, with the tornado sirens wailing in the background. My backpack is my security blanket.  If I never have to use it for the rest of my life, I will be one very happy lady.  And if you haven’t put together an emergency backpack of your own, now is the perfect time.  Go to:


Hopefully, it will be the best thing you never have to use!Image

Ancient Chinese Seeclet…I Just Don’t Get It

There is a very mature adult, deep inside my head, who insists on keeping my mouth out of trouble.  Some might consider it my Conscience, some might consider it the Voice of God, but I just see it just as a very little person.  Sometimes this little person has a big voice and sometimes a gentle whisper is all I need to close my mouth and smile.  Today, my little inner person screamed herself hoarse, stopping me from outright ridiculing a nice friend of mine.  Unfortunately, now that the little person has laryngitis, there’s a party going on in my head, and my mouth wants to dance on the speakers.  What I am about to write will surely offend many, but I just cannot help myself.


I was enjoying coffee with a visiting friend, this morning (we shall call her Betty), when her carpool partner joined us.  He is also a friend, and a co-worker of my husband.  Very nice man, about as whitebread as I can imagine a Canadian, with Scandinavian roots.  These roots are so strong, he named one of his sons Eric the Red (okay, it isn’t Eric the Red in real life, but a name so close, he might as well have named him Viking Boy).  I shall call this Scanadian Man Bob, to protect the innocent.  We all started discussing their visit to Jasper; my husband had rolled out the red carpet for them, catering all their meetings and hosting feasts at night.  Our Food and Beverage Team went above and beyond, creating drool-worthy meals.  Bob and Betty recalled the yummy food with closed eyes and dreamy voices.  But then, Bob said, “It was all so heavenly, but with my food sensitivities, you know, I really paid for it last night and today.”  I raised my eyebrows in concern and asked, “Food sensitivities?” And he said, “OH, nono, nothing like Celiac or allergies.  But you know mixing the hot foods and the cold foods, and you know, the hot kinds of foods just set me off, and I couldn’t sleep…”


This whole time, my eyebrows are still raised, and my jaw is slowly dropping open, as I realize that this tall white Canadian man is describing ancient Chinese food personalities.  I discretely brought my hand up to my chin to shut it quietly, as Bob proceeded to launch into his special relationship with his food.  He was very quick to point out that Chef had created such amazing delicacies, that he couldn’t resist eating it all.  But the discomfort he described afterwards, made it sound like there was a battle of the food divas in his tummy.  Eventually, we changed the subject, and started talking about little Eric the Red, and my daughter the Assassin – they are growing nicely and are poised to take over the world.


Long after Betty and Bob headed home, I puzzled over Bob’s latest diet trend. I pondered over this obsession people have with creating meaning from the unknown and manipulating things they just don’t understand.  Dying of the Black Plague and the monarchy has left you starving?  God will save you and punish the rich; you just have to pray pray pray, and give all your money to those less fortunate than yourself.  Don’t want to catch a cold?  Make sure you wear your cozy slippers so you don’t catch cold through the soles of your feet. Oh, and God Forbid you go outside with wet hair – you will catch pneumonia!  Well, if you do, we’ll just throw some leeches on you – the bloodletting will balance your humors…  


Granted, Asians are an old enough race that there are some tried and true remedies that even science has accepted.  But if I mention powdered bear gall bladders as a remedy for male impotence, all of you should roll your eyeballs along with me.  Some things are completely ridiculous.  


Asians aren’t the only ones with a corner on the Crazy Market.  My husband’s family is quite earthy-crunchy when it comes to medicines.  Rather than head to the doctor when coughing up green phlegm, they will try 42 different herbs and potions, all distilled into small vials of alcohol.  My sister-in-law came to visit us when we lived in California, and I wondered why her giant purse clinked when she moved.  It turns out she took a minimum of 6 different potions every hour – several drops of each.  And she said she was very nervous being in America so she also guzzled Burt’s Rescue Remedy too.  I mentally calculated the amount of alcohol in all her potions by the end of the day, and realized that it all seemed to work for her because it was the equivalent of several stiff drinks.  Well, DUH, I could have given you that prescription.  And years ago, I knew a man who went through a very painful cleanse just because his meditating yogi wife told him he would lose 30 lbs in intestinal blockage alone.  After a week of lemon juice and hot pepper water, I’m thinking he was not a fan of hot foods.  


So let’s get back to this hot foods cold foods thing (or the Yin and the Yang foods, as some put it).  According to Wikipedia (my main source for Asian information, as my Chinese mother is currently rolling over in her grave, filled with shame for her half-breed ignorant daughter), “Chinese food or Nutrition therapy, is a modality of traditional Chinese medicine. Central to this belief system is the idea that certain foods have a “hot” or heat-inducing quality while others have a “cold” or chilling effect on the body and its organs and fluids. An imbalance of this “heat” and “cold” is said to increase susceptibility to sickness or to directly cause disease itself. Such an imbalance is not necessarily related to the subjective feeling of being hot (tending toward sweating) or cold (tending toward shivering).

As an example, if one had a cold, or felt he was about to get a cold, he would not want to eat any “cold” foods such as a lemon, melon or cucumber. If one had a so-called “hot” disease, like Eczema, then he would not want to eat “hot” foods such as garlic, onions, or chocolate lest the “hot” disease is worsened. Indeed, it is thought by some that these “hot” or “cold” properties of foods are so intense that merely the eating of too many of one or another can actually cause diseases. For example, the eating of too many “hot” foods like chili peppers or lobster could cause a rash, or the eating of too many “cold” foods such as watermelon, or seaweed could cause one to develop stomach pain or diarrhea. In this way, this health system is in direct opposition to evidence-based medicine and the germ theory of disease (where microbes are described as the cause of many disease states).”  The article goes on to list different foods in a temperature table, showing the supposed side effects of consuming too much…for instance, my over-consumption of foie gras and other duck/goose related products, should give me hemorrhoids.  Well well well, my bottom is as smooth as the proverbial baby’s bottom. I am a walking miracle, then eh?   And how convenient for them that beer is listed as a Yin food, to counteract the dry fire effects of the Yang foods like chili peppers.  Who makes up this shit? Could it be that instead of the explanation for diarrhea after eating too much watermelon is NOT because it too much of a “cold” or Yin food, but because you are a PIG and too much fruit will give you the runs?  It’s all sugar and water, people!

So there you have it.  I am in turmoil.  The Chinese half of me is horrified that I have betrayed my roots and shamed my ancestors.  I actually flinch when I see movement in the corner of my eye, thinking it’s my mom reaching out from the grave to smack me upside my head.  When I do, the American half of me shakes her head and laughs.  SCIENCE.  We have SCIENCE to prove or disprove most of this. I will tell you what we do know.  Yes, there are chemicals in many herbal tinctures that are very helpful.  Yes, too much watermelon will give you the runs.  Yes, I take herbal supplements to help me with PMS, Hashimoto’s, and my immune system.  These herbal supplements have scientifically proven chemicals and properties that do more good than harm if taken in moderation.  But damned if I know whether or not my Evening Primrose Oil is a Yin or a Yang food.  Once again, I demonstrate that I am the Worst Chinese Person Ever, and that my inner white chick has the tiniest brain ever.  I just can’t open it up to let in this “food therapy.”  My idea of food therapy is a pan-seared slice of foie gras, with a few figs and a baguette.  Put that Yin my tummy, and Yang I’m happy! 

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