Posts Tagged ‘family’

Would you rather: career vs. family

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

I just watched the feature on Barbara Walters now that she’s retiring and something she said struck me – how people don’t look back and regret spending too much time at the office, but they do regret not spending enough time with their families. However, I don’t think it’s as simple as that. That’s coming from a career woman’s perspective, but what about the flip side? What about someone who spent their whole lives dedicated to their families? Do they have no regrets? My greatest fear of potentially deciding to stay at home and being a homemaker is that I’ll regret not living up to my potential in a career. So what’s worse – feeling like you wasted too much of your life working away and not being a good family member or feeling like you wasted too much of your time focusing on family and not contributing your skill sets to the labor force?

As it is, it’s tough enough staying home to take care of the family. But then people often think that the home life is just full of daytime strolls and shopping sprees and other fun things. They don’t seem to respect homemakers they way they probably would if they truly understood the challenges (not that I do, but I certainly have seen a glimpse of it and it’s not something I’m confident I can pull off). How would you feel if you worked your butt off for days on end only to have people think you’re lazy? Even worse than that for me is the thought of people thinking you’re somehow less intelligent because you’re not working on some career path. Just because you choose not to be employed doesn’t mean you’re unemployable and neither does it give any indication of your capabilities. Yet inevitably, it comes into question… Did you stay home because you’re not good enough? After all those years away from the workforce, are you somehow less intelligent or hardworking?

So I’ve got to say, at this stage, much as I want to not focus on work so much, I do because I’d rather look back and wish I had taken more time away than wish I had accomplished more in my life. I still grapple with the decision to stay in the workforce and how long I plan on being here. It feels wonderful to be good at a job, be productive, and contribute towards some greater goal. I don’t know if I’d feel as rewarded in terms of my self-esteem when it comes to family life. I can certainly see myself feeling great about raising good kids, helping Panda advance his own career with less stress because of my presence at home, and other less tangible results that have a less direct connection to my contributions. Ultimately, I think I’d want to settle on a part-time opportunity that would give me even greater flexibility in my schedule. For now, since home life is pretty simple without any kids, I’ll stay concentrated on my work.

Would you rather focus on your family if you could give up your job? Have you chosen that path? Or are you determined to pursue a long career?

The one I didn’t know

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

It came as quite a shock to me.

My grandmother had given me a stack of photos to share with my mom and as I flipped through the oldest ones, I found myself staring face to face with a joyous man. Earlier pictures had shown him as a young man in black and white, but this picture… it was thirty years later, just months after I was born. And suddenly it struck me that this was my grandfather, the grandfather I had one vague (possibly fake) memory of. The one who saw me off when I was three and a half, headed to a great new world to join my parents in Pennsylvania, and never saw me again.

grandmother holding granddaughter and grandfather holding on to grandson

Hi gramps. That’s grandma holding me and grandpa holding onto my cousin.

I sat there absorbing the shock as I realized… I never really knew what he looked like. Here I am 28 years old; how did I get to this age without ever knowing his face? Of course I must have known him briefly when I was a baby, but I have no memories of that. The one fleeting memory I think I have was when I was leaving. He sent down a basket from the second floor, I think with something we had forgotten. He was alive when I was born and still alive when I left China for America as a toddler. Maybe I could have known him then. Now that I think of it, was the reason that my grandmother was the only one who came to visit us at Penn State because he had already died? I had no impression of time back then. I vaguely remember watching my parents receiving the news when I was around 5 or 6. Phone calls to and from China were a rare commodity. We couldn’t afford long distance, so it was a pretty big deal. The news wasn’t good – a heart attack. And just like that, any hope of knowing grandpa was gone.

What happened after that? It’s all a blur to me. All I know is that when I was almost too young to remember, my grandfather passed away and I never got a chance to really build memories with him. It was about four years later that I first returned to China again, long after he was gone. In my family, we don’t really talk about the past, so I never asked about him. I didn’t even know who to talk to and I figured I’d learn more over time. Many years ago, my mother took me to his grave. I remember taking a bus far away from the city, to a neat cemetery lined with headstones. I don’t know how my mom made her way to his headstone through the long rows, but I think she had a map. Since then, I haven’t been back. Next time I’m taking notes so I can find it again (though I think that year I actually wrote down some notes in my journal, if I can dig it up).

black and white photograph of young chinese couple

My maternal grandparents in 1956, probably soon after they got married.

Now that I actually think of it, it’s so very sad that I let all this time go by without trying to know him. I had no idea there were any pictures of him. We don’t have many pictures from the 80’s and earlier, so I thought I’d seen them all. But now that these have surfaced, I’m realizing that I could have known his face all this time. This smiling man who looks so kind, so amicable. I wish I knew what his personality was like, what he sounded like. I know that he was an excellent student and accomplished professional, but what about home life? Was he a good cook? Did he enjoy playing chess? Did he love animals too? I wonder if I got my smile from him, and perhaps my penchant for reading as a child. Now that I have a face to put with this fuzzy idea of my grandfather, his death seems so much more real. I’ll have to figure out when the 30th anniversary of his death is, so I can make it out to see him.


365great Day 361: roasted chestnuts

laelene Posted in 365great,Tags: , , , ,

365great day 361: roasted chestnutsEvery time I see one of my cousins, she knows exactly what to get me: freshly roasted chestnuts. She’ll stop by a street vendor roasting by the side of the road and buy me a bag or two of the treats. They come out so perfectly that way – a cut in the skin allows me to easily peel it and eat the chestnut whole. The exterior layer of the meat is a little glossy, providing sort of a glazed feel. The rest of it is just the kind of mealiness that I like and a nice sweetness that isn’t overwhelming. When I was young, I remember going to pick chestnuts with my parents – I was amazed by the spiky green ball that they grow in, which we had to step on with our feet to break. We then carefully pried them open to pick out the chestnuts inside. They’re one of my favorite foods and I never really considered them a nut. I guess I do like nuts after all! At least I think chestnuts taste great.

365great Day 352: family

laelene Posted in 365great,Tags: , , ,

365great day 352: familyFamilies can be so wacky, but they’re what you get to grow up with. I mostly grew up on my own as an only child with just my parents around. When I was young I’d go back to China to visit my relatives, spending the summer with them. I don’t see my relatives often, but when I do we pick up right where we were the last time we met. I don’t need to stay in touch with them when I’m not around and I hear news through my parents if anything interesting has developed (marriages, children, and retirements). Ours is a typical Chinese family separated by a vast ocean – my nuclear family unit is used to doing things on our own. Sometimes I find myself meeting more distant relatives when I go to China and I start losing track of the connection. All that matters is that family will welcome you with open arms and support each other. It can be beautiful, it can get ugly, but the strong bonds make it great in its own way.

The academic cost of moving

laelene Posted in stories,Tags: , , , , , ,

When I was growing up, my parents and I would move every few years (no, I’m not a military brat nor are we missionaries – the two most common guesses). As a kid, this was never really an issue – I’d just help pack up my stuff and settle into another new room. I’d go to a new school with new teachers and new friends. Life would continue on its merry way and my experiences expanded further. I even went to China for a full year of schooling when I was 9 and came back without skipping a beat. But then came 7th grade.

We were living in St. Louis at the time. I’d been there for 5th and 6th grade. I don’t know when I found out, but sometime in 7th grade my dad found a better job out in New York. We’d be moving over winter break. In a way, I was glad – there was one class I was really struggling with and I was convinced I’d get my first C in the class. That’s a seriously awful grade for a straight-A student with a Chinese-American upbringing. I don’t know if I would have actually done so poorly, but I was glad I’d never have to know! The move to the New York school system meant that that particular class would get lost in the shuffle; there was no equivalent course at my new school, so it wouldn’t transfer and count for a grade.

I thought my problems were over with this fresh start, but boy was I wrong. My counselor at the new school was concerned with placing me in the advanced track in case I had a gap in education (this was only for science and math classes). She convinced my mom and I that the best course of action would be to take the classes for the normal track and then test out of it before starting high school. So I finished up 7th grade and the next year came and went as well… my counselor had left by that point, so when I went to find out how to test back into the advanced track, I hit a wall. There was no such test to be found. I was stuck taking algebra while my peers in advanced placement had moved on to trigonometry (or something like that… the details are fuzzy now).

girl sitting at hotel desk studying with textbook, homework, and graphing calculator

Studying in our Houston hotel room.

What I do remember clearly was that I blazed through my freshman math class with 100% on all homework and an infuriating 98 or 99% on the final. My teacher loved me, probably because I made him feel good as a teacher. At the end of that year, I went to him and asked what I needed to know for the follow year’s math. He got me a book and told me which chapters I’d need to focus on and my mom spent the summer tutoring me. I even brought all my materials with me when we went to visit my dad down in Houston, where he’d been working for awhile. His company headquarters had moved and we were planning on moving there to join him eventually (though we ultimately ended up going out to Los Angeles instead).

Before I started my sophomore year, my mom and I went to the principal and counselor to present all the work I’d done (fully documented in the form of homework and tests). We convinced them to let me take the next level of math with a compromise: they said I still had to sit in the class I was “skipping” due to New York state laws that force you to spend a certain number of hours in that classroom. So I doubled up on math that year and “caught” back up. I don’t remember what happened in science. I wonder if ultimately it made all that much of a difference in my education. The one main component was that I was surrounded by less motivated peers in the normal track, whereas when I got back into the advanced track classes, I was surrounded by overachievers.

Sooo the moral of the story is not to move your kids around in the middle of a school year if you care about high academic performance. Between the different school systems in America, you never know what a transition will do. At least try to hold off until the summer so there’s a much more clean break. I’m going to plan on not moving anytime during the middle and high school years for my kid(s). It’s a whole lot harder to get caught up after the fact and with each step you miss, it could set you back that much more.

The holiday break

laelene Posted in lifestyle glimpses, photo blog,Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

With just about a day left before Panda and I headed back to LAX to return to our life out east, I started to feel anxious. It had been a wonderful two weeks, exactly the sort of healing, growing, relaxing, and enjoying I needed. I was kind of worried about getting back into things at work and all the other obligations being back entails. Luckily, the transition hasn’t been that bad at all and I’m happy to be (what is now) home.

Here are some highlights from my time in balmy SoCal. Other moments included hanging out with my mom, chatting with my cousin (and helping her get a new laptop at Best Buy), enjoying quiet moments alone at the mall, meeting up with some AKPsi pledge bros, grabbing lunch with an old UCLA AFROTC friend, catching up over tea with a friend I met at a Gogobot event, a session with my microdermabrasion guy (it’s been over a year!), relaxing at my fab reflexology spot, and reminiscing over old pictures (many that will slowly make their way into blog posts).

view of other united flights lined up at terminal at iad airport

And off we go on our winter vacation.

girl sitting in first class seat on plane with blanket wrapped around legs

We got upgraded to first class on the way in! I smartly brought a blanket.

aerial of northern virginia area near dulles airport

As we took off, I tried to spot our new condo with little luck.

overhead view of gray clouds and white clouds with shadows of setting sun

The creepy gray clouds tried to climb over the fluffy white ones…

breakfast meal served in first class on united flight, with eggs, potatoes au gratin, meat patty, tomato, cinnamon roll, fresh fruit, and orange juice

Breakfast is served! I enjoyed the potatoes au gratin best.

tiny ice crystals formed on exterior of plane window

Gettin’ frosty up here but I’m toasty in my blankie. 🙂

aerial view of land with bright light in distance

What’s that brilliantly bright light in the distance? I think it was probably a large lake catching the sun.

girl laying on ground looking over and smiling at cat looking into distance

First order of business at home is to hang out with Missy.

apple that burst around the middle and split apart

Umm, how does this even happen to an apple?!

girl holding giant stick of tornado fries in front of kiosk in mall

I discover a new favorite snack at the mall: Tornado Fries! Take a whole potato, swirl cut it, spread out along large stick, fry, and sprinkle on various powders for flavor. Fun!

manya jewelers storefront at valencia town center mall with engagement ring made there in foreground

Had my ring cleaned at my jewelers for the first time since getting it and it was nice to catch up with the owner.

cat laying against leg underneath body pillow facing up

Hehe, Missy doesn’t mind that the pillow is crushing her. She loves snuggling with me anyway.

girl sipping japanese matcha green tea latte with 3d latte art of bear at outdoor table of cafe

For my birthday, I basically hopped from restaurant to cafe to bakery to restaurant. Happy taste buds and belly!

table filled with giant dishes of northern chinese food and girl looking skeptical about two people eating it all

Oops, we over-ordered for food. Two people got what five probably should have.

cat walking on person's butt while she lies across bed on belly

Missy walks all over me and I love it.

cat taking nap with arms extended over keyboard of laptop while sitting on person's lap

When she’s like this, how can I work? Too cute.

zoomed in view of times square new years ball lit up in blue on tv for new years eve celebration in nyc

I had a quiet NYE just watching the show on TV.

electric guitarist playing music in middle of road at intersection in culver city

Ringing in the new year with this guy jamming on his electric guitar! #culvercitycharacters

booths at westwood farmers market on broxton street thursday near ucla

Lol, I never got to check out the Westwood Farmer’s Market once it was moved to Thursday, and now here I am.

kimchi fried rice dish at gushi's restaurant in westwood near ucla

My absolute fav to get at Gushi.

cat sitting pretty atop luxurious white furry blanket

Little miss princess.

thin crust pizza with half sausage with red onions and half mozzarella with basil

Trying out a new pizza joint in DTLA with my Gogobot buds.

blurry selfie with terrible aim of part of new friend at pizza place

(re)Met a Gogoboter and we do some selfies.

blurry shot of group of friends at dim sum restaurant table

Got together with old friends who I met the year I met Panda! Yes, the picture is intentionally blurry.

box of lady di's cupcakes and two brownies on side

I couldn’t leave LA without bringing some treats.

wolfgang puck express pizza box

At the airport, I got dinner since I hadn’t eaten all day.

wolfgang puck express pepperoni pizza in box

I thought we got a pepperoni and mushroom, but we accidentally left off the mushroom part of the order. Oh well!

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.

November Favorites 2013

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

collage of november 2013 favorites including fall colors, touchscreen laptop, yoga, going home, bruins football, fun hair styles, revisiting new york, long sleeve v-necks, and pumpkin flavored

Well gosh, I better get my Nov favorites up before it’s time for the December ones!

1. fall colors – This was the month of gorgeous colors. Fall beauty was everywhere to be found and I loved it. It’s one of the things about having real seasons that I was looking forward to. I don’t know if it was the richness of the leaves, but I swear even the sky was more pigmented.

2. touchscreen laptop – I’ve been using my new ASUS laptop and now I’m used to having a touchscreen laptop. It’s a lot easier than trying to navigate the touchpad. It’s very convenient just to tap on what I’m looking at. Too bad not all my devices are like that – I’ve found I try to tap all other laptops now too, lol. It’s hard to remember when I’m using other laptops that they don’t have touchscreens. Hopefully everything will just have that in the future so I don’t have to keep track.

3. yoga – I’ve been going to yoga again and picking up my practice, which is wonderful. I like that I can choose from a range of levels depending on what I’m feeling. I’ve tried everything from Hatha Yoga for all levels to Power Yoga with some meditation thrown in too. I look forward to continuing with my practice and getting strong enough to do a handstand one day!

4. going home – It was so nice to return home for Thanksgiving and be reunited with my parents, cousin, and cats. It was the first time I’d been back since starting work out east and it was a welcome break. We also got a chance to get together my family and Panda’s!

5. Bruins football – UCLA’s program has finally been doing better and it was so thrilling to watch our team beat USC in our football showdown this year. Our crosstown rivalry is going strong and with the liberty bell securely in our possession, we can proudly say that we run LA. 😉

6. fun hair styles – For a long time, I’d just let my hair fall however it wanted. It’s the easiest to do and requires absolute minimal effort. I started to play around with some hair styles more recently, particularly a side braid, French braids, or a bun. I want to try a braid that wraps around my head, but I’m not quite sure how to end it so I’ll have to test it out.

7. revisiting New York (and the city) – After over a decade, I finally got a chance to return to one of my childhood homes. It was so nice to be able to share that with Panda so he can see some of what used to be my life. It also became an opportunity to explore parts of NYC that I’m not that familiar with. It’s the first time I’d been back to any of my old stomping grounds other than a brief visit to Penn State many years ago. I’ve never returned to my homes in Kansas and Missouri, but I sure do plan on it!

8. long sleeve v-necks – I find these to be so perfect to wear. They’re comfortable, warm, and flattering. I can wear them under another shirt or alone and throw on a jacket for extra warmth. I even use it during yoga if it’s an extra chilly night. It’s easy to dress them up or down and if I don’t want my neck so exposed, I just throw on a scarf. Simple, the way I like it.

9. pumpkin flavored – I almost never get pumpkin flavored stuff, but somehow I ended up trying a few this month and they were quite good! This was a pumpkin souffle I got at a happy hour. Very yummy. I also had pumpkin spice caramels and a pumpkin creme brulee snack. Maybe I should try more pumpkin things since I really enjoyed those foods.

What about you? What did you find yourself gravitating towards in November?

Holiday traditions Asian-American style

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

Merry Christmas to those who celebrate!

My family has sort of stopped, but the holiday season is a time to celebrate in general and that we do, in our own little ways. While the rest of the country was scrambling to get gifts for their loved ones around this time of year, I was sitting back and only had to figure out what to bring to the company white elephant last week. Other than that, I really didn’t have any gifts to get. Since I ended up putting together items I had at home (champagne, cookies, and a hangover drink) for the white elephant, I haven’t had to buy a single gift for the season. This actually seems to be pretty common among many Asian American households, so I doubt we’re that unique.

christmas tree in living room decorated with poinsettias and ornaments

The last time we broke out the tree was 2006 I think.

When I was a kid, my parents adopted the American holiday traditions as you often see them advertised. We had Christmas lights and a tree and gifts. One year, I wrote a little letter to Santa and left some cookies and milk, even though I didn’t quite believe it would work. Still, for the sake of participating in a tradition, I gave it a shot. Since my birthday happens to coincide with all the celebrating that occurs between Christmas and New Year’s, I wanted to make sure we celebrated it all lest my birthday get lost in the shuffle. Being an only child, my mom indulged me and even let me dictate that I would get 25 (or was it 30?) gifts one year. Of course, when pencils and socks count, it’s not too hard to get that count. Still, I grew up pretty spoiled and always well-taken care of. While I never got the video games I begged for for years, I did get plenty of other items ranging from clothing to books to toys.

Sometime around high school, I began to really notice how impractical it was to wait til the end of the year just to get a camera or some article of clothing that I could have been enjoying long before. One time when I asked my mom for a particular item only halfway through the year, we decided that it would count as one of my holiday/birthday presents. From that point on, it made more sense to get what I wanted/needed when the timing was right and then we’d just do some small thing at the end of the year more as a gesture than anything else. Over the years, that transitioned into a family trip in the winter and no official gifts. We’d also make sure to get at least one meal together as a family. It’s more about the time and experiences now.

This year for Panda I asked what he wanted and he said much of the same. Time spent together now that we’re both back in LA. We’ll visit some of our favorite stomping grounds and also take some time to explore new ones. I’m finally going to get to a restaurant I’ve wanted to eat at for ages! And that’s how I see us celebrating my birthday in a few days – a whole lot of eating, driving, exploring, and picture-taking. Just the way I like it.

The commercial products? We’ll get them as we see fit, when we see fit.

Meet & greet

laelene Posted in general blog, lifestyle glimpses,Tags: , , , , ,

Today’s a pretty momentous day in the history of my life. For most people it’s just another Black Friday, but in my world it’s also my mom’s birthday and the first time my parents and Panda’s parents met.

cat sleeping with arms stretched out straightIt started off as a nice lazy day – I woke up around 9 and lay in bed playing games on my phone for a good two hours. Missy came to find me at one point and napped by my side as I enjoyed lounging in bed. Eventually, my mom came up to discuss stuff for a bank account I’m opening and I wished her a happy birthday. She’d forgotten it was today, as usual. For the past couple of years, she probably wouldn’t have known when her birthday was if I didn’t remind her. 😛 I went through the mail that was waiting for me from my time away and went downstairs to join everyone for lunch.

rainbow seen by freeway while driving

Saw a rainbow on our drive!

After sitting around for a bit to chat with my mom and catch random bits of the show my dad was watching, I decided it was time to head off to Chase, where I was going to open a savings account. That turned out to be a bit of a disaster (offer had expired but I called in weeks ago to make sure to lock it in… and they had no record of it) and an hour later, I only kind of sorted it out. Oh well, I did the best I could and I might still get the offer. Sometimes I really hate large organizations. How do I ever get to the person who can actually help me? Bleh. From there, I had hoped to swing by the stores for a quick look around at the Black Friday deals, but it was time to go home to get ready for our trip out to Panda’s parents’ place. My parents, cousin, and cousin’s friend all came along for the festivities. 🙂

giant pile of crab legs and chilled shrimp at chinese buffet

I made sure to get crab and shrimp!

At Panda’s, his parents and brother were there with him to meet us. My cousin had met his family before and we’d both met each others’ parents, but the parents had not met each other. Back when Panda was graduating with his Master’s degree, my parents had hoped to attend but were ultimately unable to. Little did I know that would be the very day we got engaged! Too bad my parents weren’t there for that. Since then, this was the first time we got a chance to all gather. We sat in the living room and the adults chatted about a variety of things, including their histories and us kids. After nearly an hour, we did a tour of the house and headed off to dinner.

large tub of hot and sour soup with a ton of mushrooms

The hot & sour soup was a mushroom-lovers dream! NOM

Throughout the night, the parents seemed to have plenty to talk about. They got along quite well and had many common threads, including the immigrant experience, being engineers, and of course being Chinese. I got a chance to catch up with Panda’s brother, who is working down in San Diego now. We had all sorts of filling food and stayed for nearly 3 hours! It went so much better than I could have hoped for and I think we all had a great time. Now his parents aren’t some mysterious phantoms that my parents need to imagine and both sides have a sense of what the other family is like. I think the way I describe his family doesn’t do them justice, so my parents had a skewed view of what they might be like. Now they can see for themselves and it was encouraging that we all enjoyed each others’ company. We are very different, yet share enough culturally and experience-wise that it’s wonderful.

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