Detailed About Me

I’m a father, husband and engineer….

The mountains….they call……

I’m a just an everyday suburban man. I started this blog to have a place to share my life experiences as I navigate our modern world. I was recently laid off and felt that I can share some of my thoughts on this as I navigate the next adventure as well as provide some support for those who are also going through the same thing. I hope to share my feelings and thoughts on a variety of topics that I hope you can relate to or just find some catharsis when you read my entries. I also plan to share some tun things too like my hobbies and events from my family life.

So to begin with, let’s start with my background.

In The Beginning

I was born in Nampa, Idaho in the mid 70s. My father immigrated from Hong Kong and worked for his aunt and her husband who owned a Chinese-American restaurant in Nampa. That restaurant is still in operation today and run by her grandson. My father came from modest means as he lived in the rural Tai Shan region grew up during World War II and lived in the rural Tai Shan region of Guangdong province in China. World War II was not easy on my father. He grew up fatherless and had to find his way in this world all while the Japanese occupied China. He often accused the Japanese of his hardship and has not forgiven them for the pain they brought to him and his family. He has found what I found perhaps and unhealthy hatred of the Japanese as he blamed a lot of his misfortune on them. After World War II, he found that the opportunities in Tai Shan province were lacking and made his way to Hong Kong. There he found jobs ranging from taxi driver to auto mechanic. Though the pay was low, it was better than not working in rural Tai Shan county. When the opportunity rose to come to the land of opportunity, he took it. So in 1972, he immigrated to the US and made his way to Nampa, Idaho to settle as a cook.

On a trip back to Hong Kong, he met my mother and got married. Later in 1975, my mother immigrated to Nampa to be reunited with my father all while I was in my mother’s womb. Shortly after the New Year in 1976, I was born in Nampa at Mercy Medical Center. A year later, my sister was born. And a couple of years after that in 1979, my brother was born and my parents purchased their first house in the US and still live there to this very day.

Life in Nampa was quiet. Growing up in the 70’s, 80’s and part of the 90’s there was limited as far as diversity was concerned as well as exposure to the “outside” world. Asians in Nampa were rare and we were one of the handful of families there. Most of the Chinese families there were also of Cantonese decent and Chinese-American restaurant owners. Many Mexicans lived in the area as there was a lot of agriculture. My mother often told us the story of her first arrival there and her sadness of the change she endured. Leaving the hustle and bustle of dense Hong Kong where everyone looked like you and spoke the same language as you to the small rural city of 25,000 people in Southwestern Idaho, where the loudest thing to occur there is the horn of trains going through town to shatter the quiet high plains dessert evenings.

Where’s Art? This is my preschool photo from 1982 in Nampa. The preschool was at a Presbyterian Church near Nampa High School.

I have fond memories of my childhood. I could not have asked for more as my parents worked long hours and did their best to provide for us. We were fortunate to of had my father’s aunt living with us. She also worked at the restaurant with my parent’s during the day and would come home, work in the garden, cook dinner, clean up. She was one of the hardest working women I have ever known and was another mother to me. She took care of us when my parent’s were not able and treated us as if we were her own children. She was a remarkable woman who took on and sacrificed for everyone that lived with her. We lost her early at the age of 70.

School was mostly enjoyable for me. I loved learning and in third grade moved to science as my favorite subject. I wanted to be a scientist up until fifth grade where I learned about engineers on a program that was on the local PBS station. Engineering was explained the application of science to solve problems and design things. From that point on I set my path of becoming an engineer. It probably also helped that my favorite character Star Trek character from the original series was Scotty! I am a big Trek fan as well as Star Wars fan.

Formative Years

From sixth grade through eighth grade, I was an average student mainly due to me not truly applying myself and distracting myself with other things like friends, sports, and having awkward interactions with my peers. Some of the academic mediocrity was also due to the fact that I did not accept the fact that I needed to wear glasses in order to see the chalk board in class. I first noticed that I was losing my far-sighted vision in fifth grade. I got glasses but did not wear them full time until maybe eighth grade. I was inspired to do well in school thinking that having a brain would impress the girls and worked harder to get good grades in ninth grade. I can tell you that the braininess did not help me picking up the girls and let’s face it, I’m a nerd.

High school was for all intents and purposes enjoyable for me putting aside the petty high school stuff. I enjoyed learning again and writing. I still worked hard on my grades. I was an average math student but enjoyed the sciences very much. I took French to impress the girls but that did not work either. Through my years in high school I took an extra class to continue to challenge myself academically. While in junior high and high school, I participated in football and ran track and field mainly because many of my friends participated in those sports. As a child I always enjoyed playing soccer and sometimes wonder why I did not participate in that more. In football I played corner back from eighth grade until my senior year. I was pretty good in junior high but in high school started losing interest in the sport. I played in my senior year mainly due to the fact the defensive backs coach was also my coach from ninth grade and he encouraged me to come and join the team my senior year. It also helped that he thought I was a great athlete. As far as athleticism goes, I would almost agree. I was as athletic as some of the “real jocks” in our class but would say I did not have the technique or training that some of my peers had during their younger years. What I found is that my athleticism could at least keep me in the game to a respectable level, whether that be in soccer, football, or basketball. For track I was an average runner. I ran mostly the 200 meters and 400 meters as well as participating in long and triple jump. I was a respectable 200 and 400 meter runner but not really at a level that was state caliber. As far as the field jumping events, let’s just say it’s not just white men that can’t jump. What I did learn from participating in sports was the value of working hard and to be the best team member as I could despite my lack of athletic achievement. Participating in sports still did not impress the girls.

This was at “The end of the 12 year depression” graduation party after our ceremony (June 1994). It was an all night event at the Nampa Recreation Center. It was a way for graduates to have a safe graduation evening amongst classmates before we all went our seperate ways. Friends here include (counter-clockwise from top right): Justin, Bret, Jaime, Erin.

Education on the Palouse

After graduating high school, I made my way to the Palouse to attend Washington State University (GO COUGS!). I will admit that my choice of university was a little shortsighted as I decided to attend WSU because my two best friends from high school decided to enroll there. I had opportunities at Utah State and the University of Idaho but chose to go to WSU. WSU had a good engineering school so there I found myself on campus for the first time in the Fall of 1994 getting ready to embark on my post secondary education, living on my own for the first time without my parents or my father’s aunt there. They did drive me up to campus and I remember the pride my parent’s and grand-aunt had when they dropped me off. My grand-aunt cried as they left to drive home.

Though I followed my friends WSU we lived on opposite sides of the campus. The rationale was of choosing WSU over the University of Idaho was that we could maintain the friends we had from high school while embarking on new adventures with new friends. I never really got to see my two best friends much once classes got started. I would say it was likely due to the workload I had from the engineering curriculum and just getting used to being on my own. We would meet up on campus from time to time and would mostly ride home together on breaks. But outside of that, campus life was devoted to meeting my dormmates.

I enrolled in engineering and was interested in perhaps serving in the military as an officer so I enrolled into the Air Force ROTC program at WSU. After the first year, I decided military life is not for me, and focused my efforts on obtaining my engineering degree. I started out as an electrical engineering student but switched over to mechanical engineering as that was more interesting to me. I loved the material and worked hard throughout my college career. Maybe it is me but I would spend many weekends studying to learn the subject matter. It was tough but exciting and I was a great student. I loved college life and the freedom and optimism for the future that it afforded me. I have only good memories of my time at WSU. Through my hard work, I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering in December 1998. I stayed an extra couple of years to get my Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and earned that in May of 2001. My parent’s were proud! Through our childhood, our parent’s stressed the importance of education to the three of us. Their expectation was that we go to college as they knew that was the way to climb the social economic ladder. We were fortunate as our parent did not push us to be doctors, lawyers or other high earning professions that is stereotypically common with Asian parent’s. They wanted us to finish college and gave us the freedom to choose our path in life. Yes, they wanted us to do better than them but left the choice of study to us.

The Real World

I loved airplanes and my dream job as a child and into young adulthood was to work at Boeing. After completing my Master’s degree my first full time job was with Boeing in the Environmental Control Systems Group. I was excited to have reached my dream job and looked forward to working on airplanes. I started on July 16th, 2001. Shortly thereafter, September 11th, 2001 passed and I remember that day vividly. It was one of those events that you don’t imagine happening but when you see it on the TV screen and hear it happening it is just so hard to not forget. Two weeks after 9/11, Boeing announced that there would be layoffs. I survived that period and spent the next 19 years working in commercial airplanes.

During that time, I explored the Seattle area first as a tourist and then as a resident. When I first arrived in the area I explored all the tourist designations. Space Needle, Pike’s Place market, etc.. were steadily checked off the list. I feel like maybe I was about 10 years late moving here as much of the grunge scene in Seattle had passed and the musical identity that the city was so well known for in the 90s was now forgotten and replaced with the frenetic pace of development and growth of the technology companies that now have crept into every aspect of our lives. Still, I loved living in a city that still had a wide variety of cultural activities as well as being so close to nature. It is this proximity to nature that I indulged in hiking, biking, and snowboarding/skiing. It was here where I gained my experience in snowboarding/skiing due to the numerous resorts around the Seattle area. I was alternating between skiing and snowboarding as I learned how to do both. It wasn’t until there was a night skiing session at Steven’s Pass where the snow had accumulated to over a foot and I was snowboarding that night. The runs felt like floating on a cloud and I would make some really sharp turns like a surfer attacking a wave head on only to turn on a dime to retreat from the wall of water. The turns and the runs felts so euphoric that and the feeling of freedom I felt led me to the moment that I decided I would snowboard all the time. Thus my continued enthusiasm and excitement at the beginning of every winter season. It is one activity that I’d like to spend more time doing but life sometimes calls.

Happily Ever After

The one thing that was difficult as a single person in Seattle was the social scene. It has been well known that there is a phenomenon called the “Seattle Freeze”. Basically it is the experience transplants to the area have trying to form some human connection with residents to establish friendships or trying to enter established social circles. Maybe the experience is not common to every transplant but it is common enough that transplants have shared stories of it. For example, just having small talk with a stranger could recapitulated with a wall of silence to the person you are speaking too. I’m not sure what it is. Some have claimed it is due the Nordic and Asian roots of some of the early communities here that were more reserved and introverted. Other’s have blamed the weather or the fact that the nature of the professions here tend to attract more introverted personalities. Whatever it is, I eventually found a group of friends outside of my work environment and eventually met my highly talented wife. And yes, this time it was the brains that got me the girl. Her name was My.

Fatherhood

Our first son was born in 2013. On January 12th in Everett, Washington we were blessed to receive our first son, Isaac. The experience of birth was incredible and I will always remember being there for my wife as our son appeared in the world. The anticipation and excitement of seeing what your child will look like is, in my opinion, something everyone should experience. I remember the morning as the sunlight shown through the hospital window and the caused the frost on the trees to sparkle. It was a new life and a new challenge as we started our journey into parenthood. I felt fortunate that we had each other to experience Isaac’s birth. When I was in the parking lot getting my car, I noticed a woman who was getting into a Mazda Miata with the infant car cradle. I was stunned as it seemed like she drove herself to the hospital, gave birth, and was driving home after being discharged BY HERSELF. I wondered where the father was….but I degress.

Our second son Luke, was born three years later on February 23rd, 2016. He was born at the end of 35 weeks, borderline at being a premie. My had seen her OB/GYN earlier in the day and he told her that he will probably follow his brother and be coming at 38 weeks. Later that night as My was driving home, she started to experience contractions. When she got home, we called the on call nurse and she told her to just lay down and relax and the contractions should subside. We thought it was the Braxton-Hix contractions but my wife felt otherwise. After a couple of hours, my wife had enough and I loaded everyone in the car and an hour and half after arriving at the hospital, Luke joined our family. Compared with Isaac’s 16 hours of labor, Luke shot out and ricocheted off the wall several times. We had now completed our family of four. When we made the decision to have a family we agreed that we would have a minimum of one child with a maximum of two. We had reached our limit with the baby factory.

So now, I’m the doting suburban dad of two wonderful children and a husband of a mighty woman “who means business”. I’m very grateful for my life experiences and the people in my life. There are times of difficulty no doubt and am fortunate to bet in the position to be able to share my life.

Thanks for reading and getting to know me. Read more from my blog.

©Art Ma 2021