laelene Posted in relationships,Tags: , , , , , ,

I’m such a bleeding heart.

If I ever got measured for sentimentality, I’d probably be off the charts. I have a soft, squishy part of my soul that is reserved just for 6 very important people: my parents and my grandparents. Whenever I see them, I leave feeling a little nostalgic and pensive. It gets more pronounced as we get older and I think of all the love I have for them. How strange that I can feel so loved that it makes me tear up every time.

Growing up, I always thought of my parents as 35. In my mind’s eye, they didn’t age and my impression of them was frozen in time. Then at some point in my 20s, I realized they were hitting 50. Ever since then, they’ve been stuck at that age for me and they probably will for many years to come. Something about that changing doesn’t sit well with me, so I like to keep them in a little time capsule in my mind. Luckily, when I see them in person, they still look 50 to me so it’s easy to keep up the illusion.

Throughout this time, I’ve started to appreciate everything they’ve done for me more and more. We’re not an affectionate type of family, but I’ve taken to hugging my dad and kissing my mom on the cheek whenever I greet them. Just typing that makes the tears well up. What is it that makes me so sappy??

I’ve pretty much always been like that. I’ve written about how I love tenderness before and I shared some stories about my laoye, my nainaimy mom, and my dad and yeye. I guess I should add in a story about my laolao to make it complete. Thinking about each of them tugs on my heartstrings in ways that I don’t understand. Each of them has given so much to get me to where I am today and I feel close to them, yet I hardly ever see them.

I see my mom the most, at about every other month when I go home for a day. I see my dad 2-3 times a year, whenever he is visiting from China. Two of my grandparents died many years ago. I see my living grandma and step-grandpa and other grandpa on average once every 3-4 years. The closeness I feel is certainly not reflected in the frequency of our interactions.

Perhaps this distance is why I enjoy expressing nuggets of love to my friends. Absent cousins or grandparents to snuggle with and share my thoughts, I cherish the friendships that give me that outlet. As an only child, I craved the intimacy of a sibling and I’ve spent my life on the lookout for friends who could fulfill that desire. Maybe that’s where my sentimentality comes from, as I try to derive meaning in every moment, every interaction. I love inside jokes and pet names and hugging and sharing food. All these things that casually indicate a deep level of comfort with each other. To me, that’s love and it’s what I seek. More on that another day.

Back to my family though – the most mundane interaction with them can easily make my heart swell. I don’t know what it is about them that is a huge trigger for me, but I feel it more strongly with each passing year. I mean, just this weekend I had brunch with my parents and I felt incredibly sad to part ways. Did anything notable happen? No. Is either of them in poor health? No. Is there any specific reason to be sad? No.

But I’m a softie with a giant trigger on my heart that is basically a big CRY NOW button. And hanging out with my beloved family activates that for me.

My amazing work husbands

laelene Posted in mba, relationships,Tags: ,

Over the past month, I’ve been on a mission to secure some new work husbands at school. You see, I inadvertently had created these special relationships with some of my fellow MBAs only to realize they are all second years poised to graduate in just 10 days! While I was in Israel for spring break, I began to get anxious about the second years moving on. So… ever since I’ve been back I’ve kept an eye out for some new work husband relationships.

In case you’re not familiar, a work spouse is typically someone you’re close to at work – a confidante and best friend. In my case, I’m in the grad school environment so these are my classmates who I connect with particularly deeply. Everyone goes about this a different way and even between the various ones I have, our dynamic is wildly different. Each one of these guys offers something special (and yes I need multiple because I don’t want to hog all their time!).

One is always there to talk about the goings on of b-school and join me for a swim. One is an old friend from a previous job who shares personal life lessons. One is fantastically patient with my oddities and his place as my cashmere pet. One is awkward yet charming and a strange combination of self-deprecating and cheerful. Funny enough, I also managed my first “work divorce” without ever claiming another one. Can we get divorced if he hated hearing about work husbands and refused to accept the term in the first place? Alas, I’m willing to accept it because we’re splitting custody of the chakra. I like the oddballs.

In light of losing these guys to full-time work in the coming weeks and coming back in the fall to an empty nest, I have since recruited some new gentlemen. One is an excellent partner who trains me and shares very thought-provoking ideas that I find fascinating. He’s also my go-to for introducing me to new things (ideas, places, experiences). One is the sweetest and most thoughtful person who checks up with and in on me. And I have a resistant 1/2 one who doesn’t like that work and husband both imply work! 😛 He’s so chill and fun to play fight with yet he’s a total teddy bear on the inside. For now he’s agreed to “fake side babe” as a moniker.

These are all first years who will be graduating with me in 2018, so I’m feeling pretty good. When we start school again, I can also see if some of the 2019ers want to join in the fun as well. Plus, there’s a trio of three guys who are often attached at the hip and I get along with them all quite well too, so perhaps I should recruit them to my squad. 😉

Does this all sound a bit weird to you? It’s all in good fun and all of these guys know about it and each other. You’re probably wondering what my real life husband thinks of all this (he’s cool with it and recognizes that while he’s on the other side of the country, I could use some companionship to keep me active and happy).

Growing up, I did not have a lot of close relationships because I moved so much, so I really cherish these kinds of bonds. I especially love inside jokes and pet names, so that’s what a lot of this comes down to. Do you have any quirky relationships like this?

The nights are the hardest

laelene Posted in mba, relationships,Tags: , , , , ,

It is a hormonal thing that at night I feel more emotional?

This has been going on for about two weeks now. Late at night, as I’m winding down for bed, I find myself feeling melancholic. It’s something that suddenly hits me and makes me cry (or just want to). It’s not that I’m going through a particularly tough time or feeling depressed these days. In fact, I’m very satisfied with where I’m at in life.

But right before I get to bed and before I can fall asleep, sadness hits. Out of nowhere, I miss Panda. It got so bad a few days ago that I basically had to coerce him into flying out to visit me this weekend (yay!). I don’t know why this happens because I’m perfectly fine and happy in the day. I really don’t think about it at all. What is it about the late night that is bringing this out? Am I suppressing something without realizing it?

We are about 8 months in to the third time that we’ve done a long distance relationship. It’s the first time since we got engaged and married. I live with two delightful ladies in my MBA class who I love to pieces. I’ve been doing pretty well in classes, though it feels like a struggle much of the time. Still, I’m very fortunate that I was able to get my recruiting done early so I haven’t had to balance interviewing with coursework. Instead, I’ve been able to focus energy into planning Admit Weekend, which is fast approaching (in early April)!

All in all, things are going well.

So I wonder, maybe it’s because I’ve been very introspective lately? Right now, we are in the midst of electing our student leadership for the next year. I have been struggling with how I want to be involved and how much energy I will be able to dedicate over the next year to new roles. Tooooons of thinking, questioning, and re-thinking there. Also, I am in the Marshall LEAD Fellows Program and we had our first session early this month. Another chance for introspection and reflection. Plus, they gave us Passion Planners and essentialism (a book), both of which I’ve started to use and have challenged me to think hard on my life goals.

I must say, I found it easier to outline what I want long-term. I’m having trouble pondering the next couple of months. Could all this intense thinking and soul-searching be triggering my midnight moods? Whatever the case, I’m glad that I get my husband back ever so briefly this weekend. Maybe that will be the cure (or maybe it’ll be finally settling the roles I may take on).

Oh yeah, and I completely forgot — Happy Valentine’s Day! <3

Communal parenting

laelene Posted in general blog, relationships

In China, personal lives are a family affair. I’ve seen this playing out day after day in my family, even in my relatively short visit. Everyone spends time worrying about others’ situations. Is that nephew struggling to find a job? Can that granddaughter get into preschool? Does that niece have a significant other yet? Is a cousin’s marriage in the rocks? Does that uncle have financial troubles?

These all seem to be each other’s business. It even extends to the in-laws’ families, so it can get quite complicated. One person may be helping pull strings to get so-and-so into a good school, at any age. In fact, the younger children have a harder time just to get into a program. At least when they’re older, their grades play a factor.

Meanwhile other family members are discussing how best to interfere in a relationship that has gone sour. One aunt might go talk to the wife and another aunt or uncle would approach the husband. Of course the parents and in-laws have been heavily involved all along, often in the middle of the conflict.
Then there are those dealing with some crazy complex financial situation regarding property ownership or some business venture. Who lays claim to what? Should they engage in a lawsuit? How much money should each family give? It’s a big muddled mess.

These aren’t exactly what’s happening in my family per se, but you get the gist. I don’t think Western cultures put as much emphasis on meddling in each other’s affairs. It’s completely normal and expected in Chinese families though. Sometimes I wonder about my own sense of obligation to participate in family affairs in the future. In a way, I’m shielded from this because I’m so far and there’s little contact between me and my relatives outside of my occasional visits to China.

Yet, I can choose to engage. As a connection to the Western world, I can help those who want to send their kids to school in the US. Some of my cousins have expressed interest in this when their toddlers get closer to that age. We’ll see what happens when the time comes. Having Eastern and Western influences growing up, but slightly more from the West gives me some freedom of choice which way I want to lean. My heart has always been on the helping side!

What was your upbringing? How much involvement would you think is normal for an extended family?


laelene Posted in general blog, relationships,Tags: , , ,

Monday night I was chatting with my dad about how grandpa was going to be visiting him in Beijing in a few months. He mentioned that grandpa had given me a ton of money for my wedding and that he’s so happy I’ll be married. That was so sweet of him. In my family, money is not really important – it exchanges hands rather freely and nobody hoards it all selfishly. Everyone earns their keep and family members help each other out as needed. The giving of money is really more symbolic than anything. It’s such a touching thing for my grandpa to give me money because he wants to celebrate. It’s completely unnecessary but a really nice gesture. I don’t know why it affects me so much, but it had me gushing tears.

For some reason, whenever I talk to my dad about my grandpa, I get all teary. It’s this crazy weird emotional thing where all the joy of unspoken love is just too much to keep inside.

My grandpa is undoubtedly the patriarch of our family. He is the father to four grown children, each with 2 kids of their own (well, except my father, with just me). We grew up having family gatherings each summer to celebrate his birthday. It was always a big deal, and we’d so some of the traditional Chinese things, like offer a peach bun. My cousins and I would sit at the children’s table as the adults marveled at the years gone by (and how big we were all getting). I always was meeting new relatives at these things (someone from each family including his nieces and nephews had to send a representative to be respectful to my grandfather, after all).

As a child, I would only spend a few months in China before returning to my American life. Most of my time I did not get to spend with family. What precious time I did have I wanted to hang out with my cousins (they were more fun, you see). I never sat with grandpa and had long chats or got to know what was in his mind or heart. We just aren’t that type of family. I have a deep respect and love for him that doesn’t require me to spend tons of time with him or say certain things just to feel or express it. He sits in the tenderest part of my heart.

One year when I went back to China, I was presented with an essay he’d written. In his 80s, he decided to put together a little summary of our family history. He outlined his family lineage all the way through to my cousins and their children. It was such a precious thing. My aunt sat with me and patiently helped me read through it (my Chinese isn’t great, but manageable). Maybe I get my sentimentality from him. That’s exactly the sort of thing I like, knowing some of our past. Now I have a full account of his parents, siblings, children, and grandchildren. It was then that I learned that I would have had another uncle, but he drowned as a child. Wow – the quietest bombshell ever.

Sometimes I do ache for the time that we could have spent together. What would it have been like to grow up being able to visit all the time? What I do know of him is that he loved raising birds. Whenever I was there, he was always checking on his birds, making sure they were doing well. He was enterprising too – in retirement, he found activities to keep his mind sharp even as his body started to weaken. He’s a bit deaf and his eyes are getting droopy, but he’s still got his mind and that’s a blessing.

I see him clearly in my dad and uncle, and maybe that’s why I have similar feelings about my dad. As the only male I grew up with, he was somewhat intimidating but a strong figure I respected. We are not much into expressing ourselves, but in adulthood we’ve started to explore ways to be more affectionate. Funny enough, digital interaction has allowed us to open up more. When I see him I see all the sacrifice, the hard work that he has given. It’s so touching how much he has done to make my life far less difficult. I don’t see him much, but he’s certainly in my heart too.

My father and grandfather’s actions are so subtle in their love that many may miss or dismiss it. But for me, they speak volumes. Ours are not relationships of hugs, praise, and hoopla. It is a quiet, joyous love that touches the heart deeply. And sometimes that’s a little overwhelming.

He’s a keeper

laelene Posted in general blog, relationships,Tags: , , , ,
rows of empty seats on plane as first people start boarding and flight attendant waits near back

I enjoy getting priority boarding using his status. Peace on the plane as I settle in!

When Panda and I were flying down to Orlando for a vacation last year, he got an upgrade to first class, which he gave to me. I was sitting there next to a really nice lady who was going down for a meeting with Disney about those new smart bands that you get as your pass (her company makes them). As we chatted and I mentioned that my fiance had given me his upgrade, she commented that “he’s a keeper for sure!” And indeed he is.

tray of hot breakfast offered in first class of united flights

I enjoyed some breakfast on the flight.

With this most recent flight, he got an upgrade again and they were one seat short of upgrading me along with him. As usual, I got to take the seat up front and enjoy the meal service, snacks, and drinks. I’m pretty spoiled by him in general and this is just one of the many ways he pampers me. I love that he never hesitates to share these kinds of things with me. If we don’t get an upgraded seat, I get my beloved window and he’ll accompany me in the middle seat even though he prefers the aisle. At home, he takes care of pretty much all the chores (though I’m convinced that much of that is due to his need to clean more frequently than I – he ends up doing things before I think they need to be done). When we go out, I rarely need to bring anything other than my phone; he’ll take care of the driving and the payments and whatnot.

Even when it comes to things like my personal choices and life changes, he is strongly supportive. When I decided to go try out a job opportunity in Singapore just six months into our relationship, we found a way to stay connected through email and Skype. When I was interning, looking for a job, and then going to work after returning stateside, he opened his apartment to me. When he left to work on the east coast, he (mostly) indulged my newly-implemented 20-minute rule: every night before sleeping he had to announce he was getting ready and then spend the next 20 minutes – minimum – talking to me, no distractions. When I decided to quit my job, he understood my need to strike out on my own.

Most recently, he was the one who encouraged me to keep my name when we get married. I had been wracking my brain trying to figure out how to preserve my current identity yet meld it with his family’s (and no hyphenated names, thank you very much). I thought I shouldn’t shun all traditions, right? But then again, Chinese tradition involves no change of name either, so perhaps we are observing tradition, in a way. 😛 We’ve been together for about 6 years now and I’m so excited to call him husband soon!

plane seat decorated with blue stars and gifts for make a wish kid heading to los angeles

Mostly unrelated, but I wanted to share this from our flight… a special passenger was on our flight – a Make A Wish kid!

Confidence: the most attractive trait

laelene Posted in general blog, relationships,Tags: , , , ,

When I think of what attracts me to a person, the only common factor I can find is confidence. It doesn’t matter what they look like, what their experiences have been, what their heritage is, how social (or not) they are, how intelligent they are, or how much we have in common. Across the board, my closest friends have been the ones who are neither cocky nor needy. They don’t need to be aggressive, but they’ll be as assertive it takes. They stand up for their beliefs, but don’t overpower people with them either. And they certainly aren’t clingy (I can’t stand clingy behavior). They have a wonderful balanced feel that makes them easy to get along with.

That’s exactly what attracted me to Panda when I first met him. He was comfortable with himself – he knew he was good at what he does, he didn’t feel self-conscious, and he didn’t go around seeking validation. He walked with a strut that was not quite peacocking, but let his presence be known. He didn’t feel embarrassed to laugh at himself when he goofed up. He didn’t sit around worrying about what perception others had of him. He just went out and did what he is amazing at, like being an engineer, managing things, researching, and planning.

guy walking on treadmill with confident stride

His confident stride.

He didn’t even want or need a relationship when we met. He was perfectly happy with how his life was. Maybe that’s exactly what I liked. The time we spent together was not because he was dependent on me to make him feel good about himself or to have something to do with his time; we made time for each other because we wanted to be in each other’s company. I don’t do well when I feel suffocated in a relationship (romantic or platonic) and perhaps I feel so far more readily than most. But when someone wants to see me every moment of every day (or even every day, really), that’s when I feel claustrophobic. I once had a roommate like that, who tried to join me on almost all of my social activities, clinging to me and my friends. I didn’t mind inviting her to some events and having her tag along here and there, but every single time got to be too much.

I must get it from my family’s lifestyle. We don’t see each other much: my parents and I see each other about twice a year (or in passing when we lived together), my relatives in China and I see each other once every few years for a few days, and even Panda and I are often separated by thousands of miles (generally for a week at a time). In these types of arrangements, you need to have the confidence to carry on your own life when others are not around and not a constant presence. While I don’t think you should “need” anyone as an adult, it sure is good to want certain people. If the reasons you spend time with them are because you like them and you get along well, it’s far more rewarding than because you feel obligated or guilty to do so. I certainly don’t want to get stuck in those situations, where the connection isn’t genuine. Why waste each other’s* time?


*On a side note, I totally went off on a grammar rule tangent with each other’s vs. each others’ (there seems to be a slight consensus that the first case is accurate, but my spell check indicates I should check it… alas, you get the point).

Love overflowing

laelene Posted in general blog, relationships,Tags: , , , , ,

Here’s what I love about this time of year: people are happy, people are celebrating.

I came home initially feeling a bit like I was escaping the challenges of my new life for a bit. Taking a break to return to a place that is familiar, with wide networks of people I know. At first it was a quiet time for me to reflect and enjoy the peace. As my birthday drew near, I started to make plans with people and by the time I leave I’ll have had about half a dozen meet ups with very different social groups. I hadn’t quite realized how lonely and disconnected I felt until I began reconnecting. Suddenly I noticed that I was happier and the feeling multiplied on my birthday, as old friends left me messages. It’s such a marvelous feeling to have all these social connections and I’m going to have to find some groups to get involved with out east.

Not only are a ton of people around for the holidays, they are generally in high spirits. This is a time to reunite with loved ones, to reflect on a year gone by, to celebrate a fresh new start. A new year gives people hope and something to look forward to. It’s the perfect time to try to make the kinds of changes we’d like to see in our lives. Oh, and for me it’s also a time to think about the age I just passed and what another year can bring. I certainly don’t feel 28, but hey it happened! The combination of people being excited about the prospects of a new year, happy to be with family, and wishing me well on my birthday has been such a mood booster.

green tea latte drink with 3d latte art bear and the world love written on its bellyI feel loved. Loved by my family (Missy included), loved by my fiance, loved by my friends. The pride in my mom’s demeanor when she told me about my birthday gift was priceless. My parents’ love for me runs incredibly deep and when they can set me up for a good life, it makes them happy. This year they were able to gift me a sizable contribution towards the down payment of the condo. It’s not about the money itself, but the fact that they can provide me with a springboard toward a life of success and happiness. And seeing how proud it makes them touches my heart. I am so fortunate to have hardworking parents who put so much into me.

It’s times like these that I’m reminded of a quote from Sister Wives: “Love should be multiplied, not divided.” Indeed, I don’t see why loving one person takes away from the love of another. I love the people in my life in vastly different ways, depending on the nature of our relationships. At the moment I feel so much joy in the love around me it’s beautiful. I guess it’s also easy because I can manage my time between all the people (and animals) I want to be around. I don’t have any of them hogging my time and energy or complaining that something else is. And so I’m at a good place again, basking in the final days of this retreat as I look to transition back east and find some friends outside of work. Maybe I’m ready for 2014 after all.


laelene Posted in general blog, relationships,Tags: , , , , , ,

I came across some bloggers who are in long distance relationships, writing about the challenges of it. It got me thinking about my own LDR.

sitting on plane in window seat at night with earbuds in ears

We spend a lot of time flying back and forth.

Usually it’s not in my conscious mind that I’m actually in a long distance relationship. Perhaps I’ve just been doing it for so long? The way my life is now, well, it’s all pretty normal to me (but it’s certainly not what I want long-term). Panda and I are coming on 5 years and at least half of that time has been apart, whether just a city or two away or an entirely different side of the world. Just months into our relationship, I decided to take an opportunity to work in Singapore. I was gone for about half a year and it was hard. Our relationship was actually fine the whole time – we got to chat on Skype and write long emails to each other to share our days. The strain was more in other aspects of my life, brought on in part due to the fact that I missed him so much. When I came back, we had some precious months together.

About a year later, he had moved home after graduating college and was preparing to start his working life. For another half a year or so, I only got to see him fleetingly whenever I could visit him at his house on weekends or days off work. And then, since March of 2011, he has been living out on the east coast. At first, I got to see him about one week a month. As that first year was ending, I was seeing him less and less (not as much travel for work) so I made a bold decision to quit my job and try out entrepreneurial endeavors. This gave me a chance to stay with him more frequently – a few months out of the year – and that’s where we’re at now.

I’m on the cusp of my next change: finding a job in his area so I can move there. Is it possible that our long distance days might finally be over? I dare not believe it yet. Not until I’ve secured a job and moved in and settled for a bit. It’s one of those dreams that has been following me for quite some time now and I’m really looking forward to making it come true. It’s been a long time coming and I want nothing more than a nice little home life with my beau. Oh, and I guess I want a house too. 😉

I think the greatest challenge in my LDR is the communication. It’s a lot harder when the sound quality on phone calls and video calls aren’t always that great (and things lag). It’s also hard trying to type it all since you often miss tone and true meaning. Panda and I will sit on Skype for hours at a time, both of us going about our days but being able to check in visually when we want, so we can feel like we’re almost in the same space. My favorite time with him is really the simple stuff in life – being able to sit next to each other as we do our own work, being able to go grocery shopping together, being able to take a stroll outside together… many plans have been put on hold just because we are not cohabiting and cannot do them just yet. Within the next year I plan on putting our LDR to rest! I’m sure it will pop up again over the years, but hopefully it will be less often (and certainly a minority of our time).

Are you in a long distance relationship too? What challenges do you find and how do you cope?

First (Chinese) wedding

laelene Posted in general blog, relationships

My cousin just got married and I got to experience my first wedding in China.  The only other time I attended a wedding was when I was too young to remember anything.  I believe it was in Pennsylvania?  Anyway, it was pretty exciting to see what a Chinese wedding is like, from the early morning pick-up of the bride to the touring of their new place to the ceremony and meal.

Our day started around 4-4:30, when we got up to get dressed.  By 5:30, we on the groom’s side were outside putting festive bows on the cars that would be caravaning to the bride’s.  All sewage access points were covered with red paper and routes were chosen so the couple wouldn’t have to retrace their path (both traditions to ensure an auspicious day).  We then headed over to the bride’s, where her bridesmaids had set up some obstacles for the groom to get to her, including agreeing to treat her well and take care of most chores.  He also had to call her 10 terms of endearment and pick from a handful of ribbons, each tied to something.  When he passed those tests, he shared a stack of hong bao (red envelopes) with everyone and was allowed to join his bride in her room.

From there, tons of traditions ensued, ranging from sharing a bowl of noodles for longevity in their marriage to officially addressing his new parents and receiving red envelopes from them.  A lot of pictures were taken before they went downstairs and the groom carried the bride through the threshold into the waiting car adorned with flowers.  Confetti was popped and glittered all about them to celebrate the event, and then we were off to their new home.

At the new place, guests explored the rooms and admired the dozens of pictures laid out from their engagement photo shoot.  Once again, another round of pictures were taken and this time I got one in with our other cousin in attendance.  After that, it was over to the hotel, where the ballroom on the third floor was reserved for our ceremony, slated to start at 9:58.  A video played on the large screen, showcasing my cousin and new cousin-in-law in ancient Chinese times, destined for each other.  After that, the couple made a quick appearance and then we saw another video, this time about how their relationship developed.

At that time, the bride and her parents were outside the ballroom and my cousin was inside on the podium, ready to receive her.  Her father walked her in, handed her to my cousin, and they held a kiss as the podium rose and spun them around.  Flowergirls and pageboys showered petals down the walkway and the newlyweds walked to the stage, where the host asked them some questions about their relationship history.  An officiator was invited on stage to pronounce them husband and wife and another gentleman gave a speech wishing them the best.

Next up, the parents of the bride and groom made their way from the podium down the aisle to the stage to join the couple.  Both fathers spoke to the guests and sent their well-wishes to the couple.  I believe at this point, a video of a ring spinning played on screen and then my cousin picked up the two rings from the screen.  They put the rings on each other and to wrap up, the groom made some drinks for himself and his new wife, which they drank with intertwined arms.  Then it was time for lunch!  While the guests ate, the newlyweds went around to everyone, accepting red envelopes and offering them cigarettes.  Oh, and all the guests were given keychain coinpurses as a gift.

And that wraps up my experience at a Chinese wedding.  Quite different from the American version you see on TV, but still with its similiarities.  At the end of the year I’ll be attending an American wedding, so we’ll see how that one goes.

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