"You? Really?"

"Yeah, I wanted to ask you to come take a look at -- no, no, Mom, not the whole family, I was just thinking you --"

10 minutes later, my mom and 2ee (mom's 2nd-oldest sister) were debating what to do with the low back cut of the little black dress I was wearing. I'm still not sure what possessed me to walk inside and ask to try on the thing on the display mannequin; I have historically been the girl who's protested against anything remotely formal-looking. But past performance does not need to predict future results, and I'm finding that viewing one's wardrobe as an engineering design project leads to satisfying results -- it's a matter of setting the correct specifications and evaluating options against them. My clothes must allow for a full range of motion, be sturdy and well-made, be easy to care for (in other words, be chuckable into the "darks," "whites," or "cold-wash" washing machine pile, or need to be dry-cleaned at most twice per year), match basically everything else in my wardrobe so I can continue my "pull from top of pile, put on" procedure for getting dressed in the morning, and (the new criteria) look really damn good.

And this dress? It looks daaaaamn good. Maybe it's because I slouch less and carry myself more proudly after 7 months (and counting!) of dancing. Maybe it's because my haircut isn't that of a 12-year-old boy's any more. Maybe it's because I actually wanted to wear this dress instead of being forced into someone else's style for a formal function I didn't want to attend. But man, if you pair that dress with some things I don't yet have -- like sensible sandals (not ridiculously un-ergonomic heels, thankyouverymuch) and some dangly white LED earrings and a laser-cut fractal necklace or something -- I would... actually look... kind of... cute. And... pretty. And... sort of... not mind that.

And so there is now a black dress sitting by my battered Jansport backpack and 3 large bags of spicy hot chocolate and a book on interdisciplinary thinking.

Tonight's dream featured an idea that may add another stepping-stone to my quest for the wall handstand. If I face the wall, get into a tripod and extend my legs into an unsupported headstand (which I can do), then lean my feet against the wall and press up into a wall handstand... yes, I realize this is more muscular effort and probably a "harder" movement physically than kicking up into a wall handstand, but it's a mental/psychological block I'm trying to get around. I'm scared of the uncontrolled inversion, in part because I've drilled such a strong "head upright at all times!" habit into myself through 23 years of lipreading. So I will try this.

Seattle is an awesome, awesome city. Aside from my family being here, it has a booming tech industry, nifty engineering education happenings, funky artsy places, wonderful library systems, good used bookstores, a major airport hub, and Asianness that's blended into the city instead of being segregated from it. You can get proper Chinese food and ingredients here; my dad just returned with buckets of sweet, soft tofu from a tofu-making place nearby, and I'm going to go up and have that for breakfast alongside a big scramble of kale and eggs in just a moment. But... Seattle! Vancouver to the north, Portland to the south, just the right distance away for long-weekend food/adventure runs. A proper city, but with nature nearby.

On that last note, one of yesterday's highlights was going to see something on my uncle's bucket list -- their just-purchased small vacation cabin on an island not too far from Seattle (they've made the commute in an hour with good traffic). It's... perfect. Proud northwestern pine trees and rushing yellow fields; bridges spanning gorges, little roads winding through little towns. A Murphy bed in the living room, a fireplace, a window with a little porch that overlooks the blue waters of a bay, a larger porch out back under a trellis that would be perfect for al fresco dining in the summer; good cheese, good bread, good wine, fresh fruit. It's a short drive to a small strip the military uses for training pilots how to touch down and take off precisely (as on aircraft carriers), so in the summertime people will park by the side of the road and watch fighter jet after fighter jet approach, land, zoom away -- right in front of them. The town is small and friendly and literary; there's a tradition of building a small bookcase shelter by your mailbox and setting out a lending library in it. The ferry that takes you across to the island serves clam chowder and several flavored variants of San Pellegrino (limonata, aranciata, and aranciata rossa) and goes so fast that you can lean against the wind on the front deck. On the way back to Seattle, you drive past the Boeing factory (which gives tours! This is on my to-do list for the summer now).

Yesterday was also Hearing Aids Appreciation Day. I brought my wireless mic set along for the car ride to the cabin, and... all those little conversations people have in the car? Random little things, unimportant things that aren't worth relaying or straining to hear, but which nevertheless float the day's agenda together in little pokes, float people together in little moments -- the tiny snatches and patches and snippets of life that let us get peripheral senses of each others' presence? You who have normal hearing will know it -- probably know it so well you don't even notice it, aren't conscious of it, don't think about how important those conversations are -- not individually, but in aggregate, knitting family members into the fabrics of each others' lives. I... I am amazed. I am still going through these tiny revelations almost every day. I feel like I am starting to weave more fluently into this story that I couldn't overhear before.

And there are many moments that remind me that I'm home. The fluid switching-between-languages, the wordplay that happens when English and Tagalog and Fookien blend, how much of that I can actually pick up in context now -- I often don't know what they're saying, but I can gather what they mean. The meals that are a hodgepodge of cuisines, the way we know each other's favorite dishes, how my 8eetiu (uncle) got out the Milo (malted chocolate milk mix) for me (it's one of my favorite drinks from childhood, but is next to impossible to find outside the Philippines) even before I remembered it myself. The way our conversations jump back and forth in time and space -- last week, last decade, your great-great grandmother, Manila, Chicago, when we went to visit Boston, would you like to take a trip to France. How we climb across so many worlds.

Yes, they can still be overwhelming and sometimes annoying and insistent and a little nosy and prone to interrupting (I should probably keep waking up early to do my work in the morning before the day starts), but... it's part of the package. And it's good to be here. Driving with my aunts. Seeing my Guama. Talking research and grad school and freelancing and design and house construction and all sorts of random awesome things with my cousins, who are applying to grad school, decorating houses, preparing for med school, thinking about college visits, looking forward to watching Wreck-It Ralph when elementary school lets out for the year, looking for interview subjects for a high school econ project, just figured out how to bake pizza from scratch. Planning adventures with them. Today we're going to go wander the university area. Maybe. Spontaneously. Some of us. Still figuring out how that'll come together.

First, breakfast. Any bets on how long the large crate of 2 dozen eggs will last in this family? (My guess: we'll need a new one by the weekend's end.)