Happy 15th Birthday, Saidee

My momma's beagle.

My momma’s beagle.

For all my Texas pride, Saidee’s the only member of the Hu family that is a living, breathing Texas native. She was born in Grand Prairie, the runt of the litter. I remember her dog father being a show dog named “Copper Mountain Cody” — all the official AKC show dogs in her lineage were named by the street they called home.

I was a junior in high school at the time and, knowing I’d be leaving home for college the next year, scoured the classifieds to find a puppy daughter for my dog-loving mom. We hadn’t had a dog in our house since the unfortunate and painful hit-and-run death of my cocker spaniel, when I was 12.

My best friend Erin helped me choose Saidee — we drove out to Grand Prairie in my red Jeep Cherokee and visited the litter, which included three boisterous boys and one girl who seemed to struggle getting to feed as much as her brothers. She also had more brown in her coloring and an identifiable spot, so I picked her out and called dibs until she was old enough to come home. I snuck her into the house in my coat pocket — it was Christmas-time, 15 years ago — and presented her to my mom later that night.

We all fell in love. Saidee lived with my parents until my mom was transferred abroad, at which point she lived with my brother Roger and his then-girlfriend Tracy, in Tucson. She moved in with me and Matty in 2007 and has been with us ever since. In her 15 years, she’s lived in four states, survived a cancer scare, ran away and returned at least five times*, moved across the country by plane and car half a dozen times, explored the nation’s monuments, trekked through the Appalachian mountains, eaten everything that she shouldn’t have, put up with a total of four cats and now, a toddler.

When I got Saidee, I was a girl. Now I have a little girl of my own. We truly grew up together. I don’t mean this to diminish parenting a human in any way, but so much of my confidence as a momma came from learning how to really relate with Saidee and meet her needs over these past 15 years.

Now that she’s 15, she spends most of her days sleeping, has gone deaf in both her ears and is vision impaired, too. But she’s still spirited and spry — getting hyper and running around in circles when we come home, rolling around on her back for belly rubs, tirelessly rearranging herself in bed in order to snag the perfect spot, which somehow always seems to take up a lot more space than her 23 lb body would let on.

Happy Birthday, Saidee. I love you.

*In the most ridiculous Saidee runaway story, Saidee ran away to the home of another Asian-American woman in St. Louis, where she was living at the time. The woman renamed her “DuDu Peng” for the days they were together. I only know this because she took Saidee to the vet for her lifelong affliction with skin allergies, and got a prescription. My dad only tracked down Saidee because he was out at an intersection putting up Lost signs and across the street, his friend spotted “Found” signs showing Saidee/Dudu’s image.

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We Graduated This Weekend, 10 Years Ago

All these fellow Mizzou grads live in Washington and were on my porch. Awesome.

All these fellow Mizzou grads live in Washington and were on my porch. Awesome.

From my Xanga blog, May 19, 2003 (Xanga was a blogging platform back then, okay?):

“So, I’m graduated, and it didn’t feel strange except high school graduation seemed a lot bigger.

My parents had a “So, what are you going to do with your life” talk with me, which means, I should probably get on that at some point. I’ve decided to chill for a few months and then go crazy job hunting in August. Because I like life chapters to be marked by a definitive start and end, I will begin the job hunt phase with a trip to San Diego for a job fair. Fitting, eh?”

This weekend brought back so many crazy wonderful memories about 2003, which marked the end of college and the beginning of whatever this “adult” life I should be leading now. A line from The Office‘s recent series finale actually summed up my thoughts much better than I could:  “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good ol’ days, before you’ve actually left them. Someone should write a song about that.”

The rest of summer of 2003 played out exactly as I described back on my Xanga... we really just partied and chilled for a few months, and it was such a sublime period of zero responsibility that we call it The Lost Summer. I did go to a job fair in San Diego, and most of us found jobs and dispersed by August. I never would have dreamt back then that the last 10 years would be as surprising, interesting and fulfilling as they played out. Or that I’d wind up living and drinking in DC, at least weekly, with so many of the people I loved from college.

Today, I and two of my college besties Beam and Terp (who, fortuitously, also live in Washington now) hosted our fellow Mizzou alumni and other DC pals in a cookout celebrating our Class of 2003 graduation. Everyone got in on the Missouri theme: Friend Joey, who is a master griller, mixed up a signature rub for St. Louis Style ribs. Me and Matty made Jungle Juice, a big hit from my sorority days (which was often made in a bathtub, but we classed it up and made it in a large plastic party tub instead). My dad brought me toasted ravioli (a Missouri fave) from St. Louis to share. Friend Kate made Missouri-shaped cookies but the bootheels kept wanting to break off. Friend Doris brought wine from the Les Bourgeois winery in Rocheport, MO. Friend Patrick got us graduation cards. <grin>

In the spirit of college, we acted a fool, day-drinking to drunkeness, attempting to squeeze through the dog door, singing karaoke from the on-demand karaoke channel and, in proof that we are in 2013 and not 2003, we flew our family drone around in the front yard.

Matty's drone didn't stay up in the air for long. The battery wasn't charged.

Matty’s drone didn’t stay up in the air for long. The battery wasn’t charged.

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Last Days in the Old NPR Building: Saying Goodbye With Clever Graffiti

Five furniture auction guys were outside as I pulled up to work today. This afternoon, NPR’s signature show, All Things Considered, will broadcast from our soon-to-be-bulldozed headquarters building for the final time. Tomorrow, Weekend Edition Saturday airs from 1111 N. Capitol, our shiny, gorgeous new headquarters in the city’s Northeast quadrant.

Knowing that our landlord plans to demolish this building has led to some brilliant goodbye graffiti on the walls. A stamp that reads “EVERYTHING WILL BE BETTER,” a familiar trope we’ve heard about the new building, shows up in mirrors and stairwells. “You can see people’s inner monologues about the building as you walk down the hallway,” friend Denise said. I’ve been tickled by the creativity and the doodle skills of my colleagues.

Thank you to my friend and former boss Joel for chaperoning me into a shockingly yellow men’s room for a photo. And whoever wrote the descriptions under emergency signs as if they were high art … I think you are a genius. (Click on any image to start the slideshow)

We employees are moving in four phases. I’m here until the bitter end, next Friday. But digital media — the talented folks responsible for our apps and API and design — as well as multimedia, music and some of the newsroom, like the Washington desk, leave this afternoon. Farewell, 635.

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This February 17th, A Chance to Give Thanks

Midway through our homemade version of the game Taboo, which featured disgraced politicians, sports stars and entertainers.

Midway through our homemade version of the game Taboo, which featured disgraced politicians, sports stars and entertainers.

Feeling too lazy and overwhelmed by a short month that included returning to work after maternity leave, two trips to Miami and the heartbreaking season finale of Downton Abbey, I barely wanted to celebrate my birthday this year. Too. Tired.

It’s a definite shift from the annual norm, since for all five of the birthdays I spent in Austin, my fellow February 17th-ers  and I would throw a massive “Three-Way”  birthday bash that got bigger and more drunken with each passing year. And last year was the unforgettable (and also libation-laden) birthday week in Costa Rica.

So this was the hangover birthday year, if you will.

But my spouse Stiles still managed to make the day quite lovely by inviting a few of my favorite people over to eat brisket and birthday cake. And play a competitive team game in which we all pitched in to provide the content. And watch “classic” YouTube videos together on our big TV. (Grape lady, anyone?)

While I’m overwhelmed by life this month, I also feel overwhelmed by gratitude. My friends and family members are adventure partners, life coaches and constant inspiration. So I want to take this birthday evening to say THANK YOU:

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Birthday Soon and Birthdays Past

Blogger and actress Elizabeth Banks just did a fun post looking back on her birthdays in years past. She encouraged her readers to do the same. It’s perfect timing for me to participate, as the second anniversary of my 29th birthday is in a couple weeks.

Good friends hangin' out at our Costa Rica casa. (Photo by E Brooks)

Good friends hangin’ out at our Costa Rica casa. (Photo by E Brooks)

My Best Birthday Ever was only a year ago…

It involved being in Costa Rica, with 11 amazing people, sharing two idyllic vacation villas, grilling our own food, making fresh guac and eating under the stars, being newly knocked up with the-fetus-that-would-become-Eva, and getting surprised on the actual birth day when the pals all showed up wearing bastardized Costa Rican flag t-shirts with my face on them. (The shirt did lead to a minor snafu at the airport with Costa Rican officials, but we all eventually made it home.)

My Worst Birthday Ever was in sixth grade, when I turned 12.

It started out awesome, with my dad surprising me in the morning with a “dirt cake.” He dumped ice cream into a flower pot and topped it with a layer of oreo cookie crumbles and gummy worms. But that night, when I hosted a little scavenger hunt at the mall, my friends Samantha and Kelly decided to shoplift some rings from JC Penney and got detained by mall security, then slipped out of the questioning room when no one was watching and disappeared. This led to a few frantic hours in which two 6th graders were missing in suburban St. Louis. Birthday FAIL.

My Most Absurd Birthday Ever was when I turned 21.

It involved going to a Ja Rule concert in the basketball stadium at Mizzou. Enough said.

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The Lactation Station (And Other Nursing Adventures)

This is how Eva and I spend a lot of our time together.

This is how Eva and I spend a lot of our time together.

Someday when I am old, I will look back on these days of new mommahood, when at least four times during the workday I find myself in a windowless 3’x5′ room, on the other side of the wall from our national security correspondents, attached reluctantly to an electric breast pump while overhearing conversations about the ramifications of unilateral disarmament.

To be clear, I think nursing is awesome. I truly enjoy providing both physical and emotional sustenance for Baby E in one loving act. It’s really no sweat, either, since Eva is my only baby. My Chinese great-grandmother nursed seven (7) babies in total, earning her the respect of many generations and lasting evidence of her hard work — mom tells me my great-grannie could actually fling her drooping boobs over her shoulders. Impressive on many levels, that lady.

But the difference between nursing a baby and pumping milk for a baby is like the difference between visiting Venice and going to the Olive Garden. Pumping is tedious and soulless and in my case, always really awkward when I emerge from the lactation station and make eye contact with the national security guys who surely overheard my pump as they were discussing war and Syria and what not.

I am glad I had a daughter, because maybe one day she will have a baby of her own, and she, too, can experience the wonder and the weirdness that is motherhood.

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Inauguration Is Over. Now I Have a Brain Cloud.

The presidential motorcade as it headed to the Capitol for the swearing-in.

The presidential motorcade as it headed to the Capitol for the swearing-in.

 

The single best thing about living in DC is that people I love come into town frequently for one reason or another. Since presidential inaugurations only come around every four years, MANY people I love came into town at the same time. I had been training my liver for this weekend for awhile.

My only other DC inauguration experience was when I covered Bush’s first inauguration in 2001 as an intern for WFAA-TV. Attending that swearing-in ceremony was the coldest I’ve ever been. I remember getting dressed up for the Texas State Society’s Black Tie and Boots ball in the public bathroom of Belo’s DC bureau building at 13th and G.  I remember anchor Gloria Campos being in DC to anchor the coverage and wanting her scripts printed in bigger type, and how I had to help rush reporter Jim Fry into a cab so he could go do a post-parade live shot.

I remain on maternity leave, so I got to take part in this inauguration as a straight-up spectator. I skipped the weekend balls but was looking forward to the Common/T-Pain/John Legend concert since, as many of you know, Stiles loves loves LOVES Common. (BTW: Where WASN’T John Legend this weekend? Anyway.) We waited until the day before to respond to the ticket email and it was too late. Instead, we went to a delicious Indian restaurant for our 2nd anniversary dinner, seven months late. (Hey, 2012 was a little busy, okay?)

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Back When I Blogged Brazenly

“I have no idea what compels me to do these things; I will never understand why I need to write about the events that other people merely experience.” -Chuck Klosterman

The year I started blogging was also the year I dated that Mizzou golf team guy in the gray.

The year I started blogging was also the year I dated that Mizzou golf team guy in the grey shirt.

I started blogging just after Christmas break in late 2000/early 2001. My friend Bryan Mathews, a computer geek who was always ahead of his time, encouraged me to write entries to a software called “Live Journal” because he had built me a website as a gift and it needed content. The wayback machine capture of the site doesn’t seem to have the index page image/design on it anymore, but maybe it was cause he used Flash, which was cool back in the early aughts.

In 2002, when I was studying abroad in Taipei and interning at the Taipei Times, I was still under the impression that blogging was ostensibly secret because who would actually read the nonsense I posted? So I was quite candid on my blog, especially about my mad crush on an American expat writer at the paper. I didn’t name names, but that only made things more fun for the staff, because I later learned they started an office pool to bet on which dude it was. MORTIFYING. I ran home alone from the house party where I learned of this pool and proceeded to delete dozens of posts from my LiveJournal.

In my last year of college at Missouri (which is amazingly 10 — TEN — years ago now), I was using Xanga as a blogging platform. And as it turns out, I was using it a lot. I found my Xanga blog tonight and it’s awesome to read about how I spent my days in 2003. It made me wish I’d been blogging more over the last decade. I’m a nostalgia junkie, after all. It’s why I’ve kept a diary since age six. It’s why I love photos and photographers. It’s probably why I’m a journalist. And now, I feel compelled to recommit myself to personal blogging. Not daily, since keeping up my daughter’s Eva’s daily photo blog takes work, but at a more regular clip.

Maybe this will work, or maybe I’ll lose steam. But we’re so quippy now, with our tweets and status updates and our photo Tumblrs. I want a more substantive artifact for later, and I trust my current blog platform, WordPress, is gonna stick around for awhile.

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