New Home

I’ve finally gotten off my duff and moved all my blogs to my very own site. What does that mean for you? Well, if you primarily read my blog from my Facebook updates, you don’t have to do anything! YAY! If you happen to use an RSS Reader such as Feedly, then please take the time to re-subscribe at my new Mandarin Mama site. If you primarily read through WordPress, you should still be able to subscribe through WordPress at the new site.

The site shouldn’t look too different since I would rather get something up than make a ton of fancy changes only to never make the transition. I know I often fall victim to perfectionism and as a result, procrastinate until some arbitrary “perfect” state which, of course, never arrives in a timely manner (if ever).

Now that I am older and hopefully wiser, I am more okay with the idea that “good enough” is perfectly good enough. I don’t have to have everything perfect and final right out the gate. In true fact, the creative process is rarely like that. (I know. I’ve written about this before.) Of course, since I love detailed and well working systems, this chafes at my inner anal retentive crazy person. But as my old boss used to say, “A mediocre plan executed perfectly is better than a perfect plan executed mediocrely.” Or something like that.

Besides, the beauty of life is that it is always a work in progress. This site (like life), can have one iteration now and a different iteration later. There is nothing wrong with that. I know. So boring when I’m blabbing on and on about the site (“But it’s a metaphor,” she said pretentiously) when who cares as long as it’s working?

Very well. Moving on! (Pun intended. I’m here all week, folks.)

Speaking of new homes, we’ve been at our current house for about 4.5 years and it STILL has mostly bare walls (except for the wall I’ve designated for all of Cookie Monster and Gamera). I am TERRIBLE at interior decorating and my house is so boring and over-run with toys and functional furniture. There are no interesting eye-catching pieces and we will never be featured in a magazine.

Part of me thinks that when the kids are older, we’ll hire someone and re-decorate and be all fancy and modern. (I do enjoy the modern look.) However, I doubt that will happen because even though I like the LOOK of modern furniture and pretty, sleek designs, it doesn’t seem very ME, if that makes sense. I think I am much more of a comfy, slouchy sofa and well-loved furniture type. Also, I HATE knickknacks and clutter. (I do well enough cluttering up my house, thanks!) But perhaps, someone can spruce “me” up a bit. This will be at least a decade off, so I suppose there is no sense in worrying about it now.

Anyhow, hope you like the new place! 😉

What’s the Worst that Can Happen?

So, on Monday, I was very nervous about posting my thoughts on SCA5 because quite frankly, it required facts and citations and I’m terrible at those things. I would make a really shitty journalist. There is a reason I was not in one of those majors that required writing multiple term papers. After all, you can cram organic chemistry and wing an exam (albeit, poorly) but the only way out of a ten page term paper is to write a ten page term paper (even with double space).

The other reason I found it hard was because it is such a polarizing topic. I was prepared to be called a race traitor or naive or whatever. In particular, I was worried about alienating my Asian friends who were against the measure. I didn’t want them to think I thought they were bad people or cause any trouble. After all, people are allowed to disagree with me – and when they do, they are not always crazy or insane!

I admit, I didn’t even know what SCA5 was about until I saw a friend post about it. Because I learn a lot about the news and the world through Facebook (I find that my friends are endlessly fascinating sources of information), I wanted to see what SCA5 was all about. Once I did, I realized that I very much wanted to vote for it. However, as I am usually wont to do, I didn’t say anything about it on Facebook because in general, I dislike talking politics because I hate arguing issues (see the first paragraph re: facts).

But, after seeing an ever increasing number of friends posting “No on SCA5,” I just couldn’t stay silent on the matter anymore because I firmly believe that SCA5 is a good thing (just like some of my friends firmly believe that SCA5 is a bad thing). Furthermore, I didn’t want my black and Latino friends to think all Asians were against SCA5 and that I was among that group.

Now, before I started Mandarin Mama, I tended to post solely on neutral things. You know, pictures about my kids, rants about my day, funny comments, etc. I purposely avoided posting anything that would even contain a whiff of the controversial. In fact, I’m one of those people who absolutely HATE changing my profile pic to support things. I think it’s the internet version of peer pressure and refuse to do it even when I agree with the issue. (This is just my personal baggage. I am aware people are perfectly capable of changing their profile pic to support issues for completely valid and non-conforming reasons.)

But after regularly posting my opinions here, I realized I was sick of being “neutral.” I was sick of being afraid what other people would think of me if I actually voiced my opinions. I wanted to be brave. I wanted to have opinions about Real and Important things (even if my two cents were just a mere pip in the surrounding cacophony of voices).

I wanted to step away from fear. Fear that my friends would drop me. Fear that I would look stupid. Fear that I would be wrong in public. Fear that I would muddle facts. Fear that I would actually have to research facts. (Funny enough, that didn’t kill me!) Fear that I would have to write in a different style than I was accustomed to. Fear that I was becoming more and more myself – and if people rejected me, they would be rejecting me versus some carefully crafted version of me.

It is scary to put my thoughts on controversial issues out there – particularly since I keep telling myself that I am bad at research and facts. But you know what I discovered? Thanks to the internet, facts are pretty easy to find and check. Also? I am capable of writing something that is not just “slice of life.” And the best part? My friends are a lot more gracious and a lot less petty than I am.

Who I Want to Be

The other day, I unsubscribed from reading a popular blogger because I finally couldn’t stomach his writing anymore. It’s nothing personal against the guy. He’s a decent enough writer and has written some good pieces and in general, I don’t think he’s so terrible. However, after months of reading his posts, I had to quit for my own good. I realized that the majority of his posts were rants and screeds against things that he was angry about or things that were wrong with America/the world/atheists. After reading them, I’d feel angry, too – either at the writer, which is silly because these are his opinions and he’s free to have them, or about the situation in general.

So I quit.

I admit, I took a peek at the site just now just to make sure he was still ranty (yes, he is), and got sucked in for fifteen minutes or so.

At any rate, I get why he rants. There are lots of things in the world to be upset about, particularly if you are a human and are wont to be annoyed at things that run counter to your personal worldview. I am a ranter. I get angry and hold long grudges. (Just ask Hapa Papa. Poor, poor man.)

But I don’t want to be that way.

It’s EASY to rant and be angry. There is plenty of fodder for that. In fact, I’m sure my own writing has its fair share of screeds (dripping with sarcasm, to boot).

I want to be defined by the things I love and find hilarious and life-giving versus by things that I hate and find annoying and infuriating. Even in this space, this blog, I know I’ve had some depressing, angry, or frustrated posts – and I think those deserve to be here because that’s life, right? But I don’t want to ONLY write sad posts about my father or overwhelmed posts about my kids (though these do tend to be popular).

I want to be Real – in whatever moment I happen to be in – whether positive or negative. However, I hope to focus more on the positive. I firmly believe that what we highlight and repeat to ourselves colors everything we see. When I am in a rut of frustration, I tend to see only the annoying habits of Hapa Papa, my mother, or my kids. (Obviously, I would never see my OWN annoying habits – that’s just crazy because they don’t exist!) But when I force myself to stop being such an asshat and focus on gratefulness, those annoyances fade (they’re still there, mind you, but not so heavy and oppressive) and the whimsy and fun and beauty of my life come to the forefront.

I want my writing to be a witness to some of the pain but mostly, to the delight and joy of my life.

Earlier, I mentioned that venting was easy, somewhat implying that exuding happiness was difficult. That is a lie. A false dichotomy.

Choosing joy and hope and love and all the good things in life is no easier or harder than choosing sadness and despair and hate. I know because it is far easier for me to choose joy and hope and love than sadness and despair and hate than it used to be. I just had to re-train my brain to look for the good rather than the bad.

May you all have an easier time choosing joy and hope and love.

 

Sometimes Showing Up Is All You Can Do

Lately I have been having a hard time writing posts. It’s not that I am out of things to say (although that certainly is a minor worry of mine), it is more that I do not feel inspired nor inclined to put in the mental effort of crafting thoughts into a coherent and interesting piece.

A tiny and ever increasing little voice in my head seduces with words like, “Why don’t you take a break? This isn’t work or anything important. Who gets hurt if you don’t post? What’s the big deal? It’s just for fun. Just skip today. Or a few days until you get back in the mood to post.”

I want to listen to this voice.

Currently, another, louder, more insistent voice is holding a slight edge. “Get up,” she urges. “If you give in now, it will be easier to give in the next day and the next. Pretty soon, you’ll blink and it will be months from now – maybe even years! Then it will be even HARDER to continue writing. And you want to write, don’t you? So get your ass up and write something. Anything. Even if it’s crap.”

So here I am. There is a post for today.

Writing on this blog three days a week is part of my goals for the year – one small goal in a series of goals I’ve set for myself. True, nothing bad will happen if I don’t do it. But that’s like most things we want or work towards in life, right? But then again, if I do nothing, nothing I WANT will happen, either.

I used to believe many lies about art and creating art. Shoot, it doesn’t have to be art – it could be anything (like getting in shape, studying, a career). I erroneously thought that art required inspiration and without inspiration, it would be hack work. That anything that was “forced” and didn’t come in a flurry or an immediate “in the zone” effect was worthless because it required effort – and True Art was supposed to be effortless. Furthermore, not only was art supposed to be effortless, it was supposed to come out perfect right out the gate. (While we’re talking about stupid art myths, how about we add the “tortured artist” to the list?)

What a load of tripe. (Mmmm… tripe.)

Most art and anything worth attaining is acquired by hard work. Yes, talent has some say in the matter, but talent can only get a person so far. (A post for another day.) And sometimes, the hardest part is overcoming inertia and just showing up and hacking away until you press pass a block. Maybe the block will last a minute. Maybe it will last years. But unless you show up, putting in the time, pounding out words (in my case), IF and WHEN inspiration strikes, you might not be in the place (talent or expertise-wise) to take advantage.

I highly recommend reading Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles (Amazon affiliate link). Here’s a sample:

Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance…Are you a writer who doesn’t write, a painter who doesn’t paint, an entrepreneur who never starts a venture? Then you know what Resistance is.

This book wormed its way into my brain and I am glad. It helps add fuel to the voice which urges me on, pushing me past the dreaded blank page. “Want to be a writer? Then write.”

So here is my exhortation for you this Monday: Want to be a writer/programmer/analyst/consultant/parent/musician/runner/etc.? Then write/program/analyze/consult/parent/compose/run.

Somehow, it always comes back to this for me: Fake it til you make it.

Revisiting Past Creations

I haven’t written poetry in at least eight or nine years. Sometimes, I look back and think, “Gosh, what utter self-absorption. What sentimental dreck.” But then, I go back and read them and some aren’t half bad. (At least, in my personal, unbiased opinion.)

Anyhow, I miss that part of me, but unfortunately, most of my poems sprang from a deep sadness and were a way to cope with depression and typical drama. (Years of therapy have definitely helped!) I am not sure I can even write a poem if I wanted to now. Not because I am in a good place – I find the idea that art must only come from depression to be sad and trite. Mostly, it may just be because I am out of practice and haven’t gotten into that type of mindset anymore. It is a muscle that I’ve let atrophy.

At any rate, this is just a long preamble for me to say that I will likely start sharing some of my poems on this blog. Just because I am a glutton for punishment (and praise!).

This is the last poem I wrote.

In All Seasons

I say
Today
I will blast through the dam of my soul
and tears will spring forth from a well
of thirst
salt water carving its course down
my radiant cheeks
full and round
bursting with joy
as I say,
“Glory Be! Praise the Lord, O My Soul!”
Even if it be through gritted teeth
It is still so.

– 10/13/05

I am surprised by how difficult this entry is for me to post. In fact, this post is harder for me than some of my more obviously “vulnerable” ones on my father. I suppose it is because while my posts about my father are vulnerable, they are my experiences and feelings. Who can dispute that those are indeed my feelings and experiences? Even if a person disagrees with me, my thoughts are still my own and perfectly valid.

However, if I create “art” (see, I can’t even bring myself to write “art” without quotes. As if what I created is insufficient to be called Art. Well, perhaps just art with no Capital A.), that can be judged as good or bad. may think myself quite the poet or wordsmith, but now, the proof is in the pudding, so to speak.

It’s like the deluded people who audition for American Idol. They think they are the next pop star but in reality cannot carry a tune if their life depended on it and are astonished when the judges boo them. (What they really should be astonished about is that no one in their life loved them enough to say before they humiliated themselves on national TV, “Sweetheart, you are good at many things. Singing is not one of those things.”)

Hmmm. I suppose that is an inaccurate comparison. Mostly because you are either on tune or not. That is not a subjective situation. That is an indisputable fact.

Anyway, you get my drift.

Well, good poetry or bad, it is not the SOLE reason to write and share. In fact, that applies to all art and creation. Yes, we would all ideally create only beautiful, wonderful things. But if that were the limitation we put upon ourselves, likely, there would not be any good (dare I say, transformative) art all. If the main driving factor behind our creations is whether or not something will be “good,” we have already hobbled ourselves, tamping down our free expression. But, if we are free to create utter crap, then we open ourselves up to making something that could possibly be True and Good.

Keep in mind, we likely have to throw away a lot of crap on our way to making something good. For some of us, we may have to throw away a lot MORE crap before we get to make anything mediocre.

That’s ok.

For so much of my life, because I picked up certain things really quickly (such as sight-reading music for singing or playing piano), I found it very difficult to try activities in which I did not immediately excel. Obviously, innate talent is a consideration, but ultimately, most activities worth doing well are only done so after much failure and practice. I wish I had been more willing to accept “failure” along the way to becoming proficient at dancing, drawing, and perhaps basketball.

Well, it’s not too late for me yet! I have enjoyed taking dance classes in my adulthood, and one day, when I am willing to make the time sacrifice, I will take drawing lessons, too. That’s one of my favorite things about becoming older and more comfortable with myself – I have mostly stopped caring about failure. I am more interested in getting what I want and sometimes, the only way to succeed is to fail along the way.

My Top Ten Posts of 2013

Happy New Year, my friends! I hope you had a wonderful New Year’s Eve celebrated however you truly desired! Mine was with some of my good friends who swung by our early NYE party and hung out with us, eating, chatting, and watching our children run amok through my house. The party ended a little before 8pm and everyone in the house was out by 10pm. Glow Worm woke me and Hapa Papa up right before midnight so we celebrated with each other in our raucous, partying fashion by cleaning up the kitchen and breastfeeding. Exciting times, people.

Many of you will be watching parades and football and spending time with family or at the movies – as you should. However, in case you’re bored, I gathered my top posts of 2013 in this one handy centralized location. Thank you for supporting my nascent blog this year! I have very much enjoyed writing and interacting with you on the interwebz and in the comments (though mostly on Facebook). I look forward to 2014!

Top Ten 2013 Posts

1) Non-negotiables in Parenting

2) Embarrassing Confession

3) About My Father

4) I Was a Mean Girl

5) I Don’t Like You and It’s OK

6) Vanity, Vanity

7) Rainbows and Genocide

8) Why Do I Always Ruin Things?

9) Babies are Hard on a Body

10) Chasing that Status

As for my personal favorites, here are two:

1) The Best Advice Cosmo Ever Gave Me

2) Show Me How Big Your Brave Is

Have a wonderful day! See you Friday with our regularly scheduled programming. 🙂