Thursday, February 19, 2015

Once Upon A Time in China

image from here




Gong Xi Fa Cai!

Happy Chinese New Year! 


This year we will be ruled over by the Goat, or Sheep, or Ram, or some furry bleating creature. Folks born under this sign are usually peaceful, loving, kind, popular, and trusting. 

For Chinese New Year, instead of a red envelope, I'd like to gift you a book.




Once Upon A Time in China is a series of books from author Jillian Lin, illustrated by Shi Meng. Beginning today, the first day of Chinese New Year 2015 you can download the eBook, The Emperor Who Built The Great Wall for free (regularly $2.99). This offer is good Feb 19-20th, 2015. Visit Amazon to get your free eBook now. Look at that, Lin helped me gift you something for Chinese New Year. It's not a red envelope, or a car, but I already feel a little bit like Oprah.

The Emperor Who Built China is the story of the first emperor of China. He was an intelligent, determined, and ruthless man who was able to unite China, build The Great Wall, and his paranoia around death led to building incredible terra cotta warriors to fight for him in the afterlife.



Yes, these are children’s picture books, but for someone like me that didn’t connect with history in school, I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the building of The Great Wall. I like that Lin didn’t sugar-coat the history. She tells it like it is, but in a way that interests and entertains children. I especially liked the facts she includes, as well as the short quiz as a review in the back of the book. 

The Once Upon A Time in China series would be great for any classroom setting to aid teachers as they educate their students about Chinese culture, and Chinese New Year. As a parent, I’m grateful to have this framework to discuss my own heritage with my children. There aren’t many books like this out in the marketplace, so I’m grateful to have this type of guidance to help my children connect to their ancestors.

Many kids struggle with reading comprehension, so the quiz and review of facts at the end of the book, assist parents, teachers, children as we reinforce memory, and understanding what we read.

Lin has more books coming in the Once Upon a Time in China series. In future releases, look for The Miracle Doctor, The King Without a Throne, The Mountain Man of Words and Music, The Dreamer of Stars, The First and Only Female Emperor, The Greatest Explorer in the World, The Pirate King, and more. Even if you aren’t from Chinese descent, learning about diverse cultures all of us foster a better understanding of each other.



Gong Xi Fa Cai!

To learn more about author Jillian Lin you can find her online on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Goodreads, and Amazon.


Cheers!

ps. I received the eBook free, all opinions and interest in this series of books are all mine. Now you get a free eBook too.





Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Fresh Off The Boat: What is it to be an Asian woman? #AAPIVoices

It's Tuesday.

Do you know what that means?

Yup.

Another episode of Fresh Off The Boat on ABC airing at 8/7C.

Fresh Off The Boat cast, image from TVGuide

Will you watch? Have you been watching? What do you think?

Since the pilot of Fresh Off The Boat I've felt a bit of a cultural revival. I've been consuming all the articles, and the commentary, sometimes with bated breath, often with solidarity and excitement. One of the articles I read last week was an interview in Time magazine, with the actress that plays Jessica Huang, the mother in Fresh Off The Boat, Constance Wu.

The entire article is worth a read. The thoughts and ideas she shares are important to our America, as we work through understanding each other, and how to be respectful of each other, and our cultures.

It has always bothered me when a non-Asian friend, somehow related to an Asian person, or knew an Asian family, automatically assumes that they are now an expert, and know everything about Asian culture. I never knew why it would just make me so uncomfortable. I never spoke up, because I didn't want to be rude, and I just couldn't articulate why it bothered me to such a degree. Wu summed it up for me in her interview, "We shouldn't be a voice for all Asians. We are such a varied group that there's no one show that can be like. 'This is what Asian America looks like!' But we're given that burden because we're so rarely represented. If you see Tina Fey on television, you're not like. 'All white women are like Tina Fey.' Yet people are like. 'Oh. Jessica Huang's not like my mother, but this show is supposed to be about Asians, so shouldn't she be like my mother?'"

In other words, Asian people are just as individual, varied, and different as the rest of the world. Knowing one, doesn't make anyone an expert. I know. You had to sit down for that. Whew! That was a very shocking revelation for me too. (*insert my facetious face*)

Wu also talks about her character Jessica Huang, "I don't think her foreignness is ever the butt of the joke. She's aware of her difference, yet she doesn't think that's any reason for her to not have a voice. It doesn't elicit shame in her. She doesn't become a shrinking violet. And instead of that being something that Asians should be embarrassed of, I think that's something that we should be proud of - the types of characters who know they don't speak perfect English, who know they have different customs, who don't think that that's any reason for them to not have a voice."

Frankly, my mother is someone who doesn't let her difference silence her in public. She has a thick accent, so I've been told. I honestly can't hear the accent my parents have. My mother has never let her immigrant differences keep her from sales jobs, making friends with every farmer that sets up a stall at the local farmer's market, and she loves to learn Spanish so she can speak with all her friends, and remembers everyone's children's names, and ages. She will proselytize for her faith, when others who are natives of this country are too afraid to. When my mother has an opinion, you'll hear about it. We also joke that when mom prays, God answers.

There's also a couple videos on the page of that Time article, online, which are interviews with Eddie Huang, the producer of the show, chef, and author of the book, Fresh Off the Boat, which the television show is based on. Huang reminds me of one of my brothers. He is who he is, and defies you if you are offended by it. Huang's statements in the video really got me thinking, "It's weird when dominant culture tells you what to be offended by... Just because I'm Asian doesn't mean I can speak about everything in Asian America. I can only speak about things that I know. We need to hold the power to define ourselves. I want us to be viewed as whole people. Not as people who can only do this, or only do that."

After soaking all this in I thought, America needs to see us. See the myriad of Asian women living in her borders. What is it to be an Asian woman? On a germ of this idea, I decided to get in touch with some of my friends from my school days, and women that I know in real life. I wanted to hear from them, see how they like to describe themselves, and how they see who they are. I was surprised, and thrilled at the response. There's a need for those of us who never see faces like our own portrayed in mass media, to be seen, heard, and understood. So today, I share with you some of my sisters who are ready to be visible. Personally, I want to gather them all in a room and run around like the Tasmanian Devil hugging them all. If you know me in real life, that's probably an apt cartoon for me. Good gracious, this cultural period we're experiencing has been a long time coming.

Let's do this thing! 
(in Alphabetical order because that's my own weird quirk, I also like to play tetris with my purchases when I shop at Costco. I get to play three times for every trip, items into the cart, onto the conveyer, and then into my trunk.)


Beverly Freeman
Beverly, mother, user experience researcher, pumpkin eater.



Chris Han Lau 
Chris is a Maternal-fetal Medicine enthusiast, researcher, amateur photographer, tree hugger, travel enthusiast, gourmand, tech junkie, INFJ, and my son’s Mama.




Cindy Le
Cindy, from high school nerd to caring scientist who is also an old school lindy hopper, baker extraordinaire, and winding road enthusiast.


Kim Crivello
Flight attendant, mom of three, wife, world traveler, and classroom volunteer.


Kristina Chen-Watts
Kristina, mother of two, wife, champion barrel racer, director of business operations. 


Mary Park
Mary, industrial-strength mommy, wife, Manhattan fundraiser and publicist.


Sachiko Aldous
Sachiko, founder at Tea Rose Home, designer, seamstress, quilter, jewelry maker, always happy creating.


Sel Richard
Sel, marathon runner, tough mudder, mother, wife, 3rd degree Taekwondo black belt, and kick ass artist, and designer.


Stephanie Hua
Stephanie, food blogger, photographer, trained cook, burner for life.


Yoomi Seo Choe
Yoomi, South Korean born, mother of three kids, wife, professional photographer, enjoys cooking traditional Korean food, and loves to teach nursery-aged children at Church.



A very big thank you to these beautiful, talented, rockin' Asian women for sharing themselves with me, and all of you today. Look for future posts of even more of my sisters, and brothers. If you know of any Asian women or men who'd be interested in being featured here, drop me a line. Let's keep this culture coaster cruising. 

Cheers!


ps. Did you like what you read? If so, please feel empowered to share it via social media. Xie xie!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

You're a Pepsi #AAPIVoices





I was born in Payson, UT. My parents were immigrants from Taipei, Taiwan. They came to the US seeking the American Dream. My mother had attended National Taiwan University(one of the most prestigious universities in Taiwan), and my father had done his mandatory military service in Taiwan. When they both immigrated to the United States, it was a dream for both to be married in the Salt Lake City Temple

Usually that's where the "happily, ever after" credits roll in a movie. Right? 

My father started attending Brigham Young University, often taking two or three times as long to study as his peers because everything was in a new language, he was still mastering. When he asked for help, he was often dismissed and mocked. My mother found a job teaching Chinese to return missionaries. One of my favorite stories about her teaching, was the one where she reprimanded an American-born Chinese boy for not already knowing his mother tongue. It's my favorite story because, my mother's four children all attended Brigham Young University, and we all took Chinese 101, not even the advanced return missionary class, the beginner, beginning class. Thankfully we all aced it. Can you imagine the shame? My mother taught me that education was and always will be the key.

My father had a difficult time. He worked as a janitor while going to school, he found that the very worst jobs were delegated to him. He never complained, he just did it. I can imagine how angry and frustrated he must've felt. Here he was, a new convert, a new immigrant, and those who were supposed to be like brothers and sisters to him treated him as less than. He taught me, at a young age that just because people profess certain beliefs, or identify with a group, it's their actions, that speak louder than their words. He taught me to be observant.






Eventually, my parents moved us to a suburb in UT. Bountiful, it was a lovely place to grow up as a kid. In my elementary school there were three Asian kids. A Japanese boy my age, and my brother. In first grade I was made fun of by some older girls with the chant, "Chinese, Japanese, dirty knees, look at these," and then they threw snow balls, laced with sand. I can still vividly feel the near futility of trying to rinse the sand out of my teeth. 

Then of course there's the lunches I had. My mom had packed me one of my favorite things, lu dan (soy-marinated egg), that stuff is money. I still remember the cries of revulsion from my peers as they saw it. I recall saying in my embarrassed voice, "It's just an egg, it's still an egg, it's just a different color."

Then there were a few times when people were just being so mean I couldn't take it anymore. So I'd start shouting my anger in Mandarin at them. I did this because it was so cathartic as many of them scurried away, terrified that I was cursing them with witchcraft. That memory makes me laugh.

I found myself often running into a bathroom stall, shutting the door and praying. I would pray with all my heart to make the ridicule stop. It was at this very young age, that I discovered faith. I also decided to be strong. These experiences make me pull for the underdog. Like when my little, kindergartner brother was waiting outside my third grade room and one of the boys from my class started picking on my brother by swinging him around by his backpack, while his group of five friends looked on. I still recall the rage that turned me into the girl who threw down her backpack, grabbed the boy off my brother, and then proceeded to swing the bully boy around while his own backpack was on his back. I remember shouting through my furious, gritted teeth, "pick on someone your own size." I learned from my young self, don't screw with me, or ones I love.

I remember in high school, when we finally moved to Cupertino, Calif, or when I had returned home from BYU, and I was having a frank conversation with my father. I told him, "Dad, I don't fit in anywhere. White people look at me and see a Chinese person, with all sorts of expectations and stereotypes. Asian people look at me and see a not-quite Chinese person, filled with disappointment. Who am I?" 

My father paused, looked at me very thoughtfully and said, "You're a Pepsi."

Since we didn't ever drink Coke or Pepsi, I was baffled. Then I was a bit annoyed, I was being serious.

"What? What does that even mean Dad?"

"You know, the new generation."

There you have it. My father, sharing ancient Chinese wisdom, with a tagline. We'd become American.

I struggled with some of the challenges of not being white. Growing up all I wanted to be was white. If I was white I'd finally blend in, not have to wear those knitted vests that my great aunt lovingly made.  Or make self-deprecating jokes about taking pictures, or physical features, or some other such stereotypical nonsense. I never thought I was attractive because, no one that looked like me was shown as such. In college some guys would only date me because, they had a thing for Asians. It's especially humiliating when a guy like that keeps calling you the wrong name on a first date. It's also laughable when a guy you're dating comes to visit San Francisco with you, and on the Bart looks around, and then with a slight bit of panic in his eyes, tells you, "oh my gosh, I'm the only white guy on here." Welcome to my world. Or when the great uncles of a boy you're dating asks, "what are you?" When you tell them you're Chinese they respond compassionately as they seek to comfort you with, "Oh, that's alright." Or when someone says, you look just like one of the characters in Twilight. And you think, the only Asian is a boy, and he looks nothing like me. Or the many times some morons thought it would be inordinately clever to shout "ching chong" at you as they drive past, or run up to you, just to share their brilliance. I've always quite enjoyed having people make fun of my last name for being the Huang way, and the many multitudes of mispronunciation. These are just tiny snippets.

For my daughters who are half Chinese, half white, my oldest had one teacher decide to call the Asian girls in her class by features rather than names, because it was too hard to tell them apart. Don't get me started.

Then there are times when you share your experiences and a friend discounts it all by saying, "you know, everyone has experiences like that." They miss the point entirely because it's not just about the experiences, it's about the fact that no matter what anyone wants to say to convince themselves that "they don't see race" they do. I see race. I know exactly what race my friends are. I would be remiss if I didn't. Not seeing race renders them inert, invisible, devalued. There's nothing wrong with seeing race. We should see it, see them as people, and then we should treat each other with respect. That's how you see race.





There's been a lot of discussion about the new ABC sitcom Fresh of the Boat. I was scared. I had heard about the show, and I was terrified. Why? Too often we are the easy targets of ridicule. I'd been resigned to just being invisible, and now, now people were going to see us, which also excited me. After watching the first two episodes, I was relieved. I was tickled. I wanted to go hang out with Jessica Huang (which, incidentally is my little sister's name, before marriage). Is it perfect? Nope. Is it a start? Hell, yes. Do we need to see more Asian characters, period? EFF, YES. Lucy Liu, Steven Yuen, Maggie Q, Daniel Dae Kim, John Cho (I'm still mourning Selfie) deserve to associate with more than just a handful of us in meaty, non-stereotypical roles.

All my life I've been taught and told to stay under the radar, don't make waves. The older I get, the more I enjoy surfing. There's not much more I can say, or add to what my beautiful, brilliant Asian brothers and sisters have said. Go read them, and help us open minds, and hearts. 

Yo, let's all be a Pepsi. Now, go bust a move.


For a dad stung by stereotypes, 'Fresh Off the Boat' is a point of pride by Jeff Yang
Fresh off the boat? How about a seat on the bus? by Grace Hwang Lynch

Fresh off the boat, but not on the bus by Mona Concepcion
Rocking the Fresh Off the Boat blogger bus by Thien-Kim Lam
Fresh off the invisible boat and bus by Phyllis Myung

Own Yourself by Kathy Zucker
Why Including #AAPIVoices Makes Good Business Sense by Maria Wen Adcock


Update 2/10/15 - Disney-ABC to reach out to #AAPI moms for #FreshOffTheBoat by Jenn


Cheers!



Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween from the Paper Doll Family

Last Friday was my husband's Halloween party. 

On Thursday night, while falling asleep last week I finally decided on a costume. So Friday morning of last week I ran to get the supplies, before a scheduled lunch date with friends. I had time to sketch out the girls skirts, and my outfit, and start painting mine, before I had to go get the girls from school, and take them straight to ballet. By the time we got home it was close to 5pm and we were supposed to be at the party. Thankfully, the girls had a blast painting their costumes. We didn't get to the party until 7pm.




Dude. We cut it close.




So here are our costumes. If I had more prep time, I could've done so much more... but that's the expressive personality in me. We're the big dreamers.








It's raining for the hours of trick-or-treating tonight. So we are pulling a Gilmore Girl move. (Can you tell I've been binge watching?) We've bought all sorts of junk food, both salty and sweet, and ordered Chinese take-out. We're planning on a Harry Potter marathon, and handing out candy, when we feel like it, if there are any trick-or-treaters. 





What are you wearing and doing tonight?


Happy Halloween!


Cheers!

ps. Here's a peek at last year's costumes... and past Halloween posts.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Give Yourself a Pep Talk

....often

I do it all the time.

I am a generally happy person. Sure things will annoy, aggravate, or drive me crazy from time-to-time, each and every day, but my underlying foundation is happiness and gratitude.

I really believe that one of the reasons why, are my internal pep talks.

Do you do it too?

 Sometimes baking in an apron just makes me feel peace.




Simple things run through my mind all day...

  • Yes, kids are in their classes on time!
  • I have made lunch every day of this school year, they haven't had a single school lunch - go me!
  • I feel energized running to and from my car, and it's faster.
  • Today, I did four loads of laundry. I will fold them tomorrow. 
  • I spent hours helping the kids with homework, and I made dinner, I can't wait for some quiet TV time.
  • This skirt I had from before kids is fitting loosely, yahoo!
  • I learned a new thing today listening to NPR. So cool.
  • I helped ---- today, and it felt awesome.
  • Look at me making beds and taking names.
  • I can't wait for the girls to see what I did, when they get home. 
  • I cleaned the bathroom today.
  • etc...


Simple stuff. All day long I talk to myself. I pump myself up. If I walk past a mirror on my way to the bathroom, I say in my head, "looking good today." The constant positive reinforcement, and focus on the good, totally lifts my spirit, and feeds my soul. When I focus on things that I am grateful for, that I've done, or am doing, it's like I'm storing up all this good stuff, so that I forget about the nit-picky, negative things.

I've always believed that if we want to be successful in life, we surround ourselves with people, ideas, images, and things that enrich us, inspire us, and encourage us to be better. Things that drag us down, or fuel negative, corrosive attitudes and behavior need to be discarded.

Same with our minds, we need to fill our minds with encouragement. We are our harshest critics. Yes, that irritating critic in my head likes to escape out of my maze of happy and say mean things to me too, but I just knock it back with more cheers for the little, simple things I do each day.

I'm grateful for my body. When I walk upstairs I often think "wow, I'm so lucky that my body can move so easily. My knees still work!" When my body hits the 4pm wall, I think, "dang girl, you do this all day, every day without any caffeine, that's awesome." When I collapse into bed in the evening, I think "Whoo hoo, you really went to town on your day and conquered."

I work hard not to think about how if I could lose just three more inches off my waist I'd be back to my waist size in college. It's difficult, but the gratitude talk I give myself helps to keep it at bay. I work hard to not crawl into my bed in the afternoon because I'm exhausted, and instead focus on how I do all the things for my kids, and people without any stimulants. I work hard not to think about the other half of my "to-do" lists I haven't finished at night, so that I can relax and revel in all the things I did do.


I love this bracelet Made With Code by Google and Shapeways.


Key here is not comparing myself to others. Comparison is a rotten, scoundrel who likes to steal happiness. I have no time for those ridiculous antics. None. Also, I hate inefficiency, and comparison, jealousy, envy are utterly worthless. I set my own standards, my own goals, my own little happy things. I don't worry about other people's standards, those standards are theirs, and we each deserve to choose our own path. So, if you're going to pep talk yourself - don't worry about what other people do, it's none of our business. We are too busy living our own life and coaching ourselves, yo!

When it comes down to it, our minds are incredibly powerful. We choose how we use that power. We can reprogram the way we look at the world ourselves. Simple pep talks, that constant internal dialogue can help us to be happy, grateful people. Our brains are CRAZY, powerful. We are in charge. So take the reigns and giddy up. 

Then again, don't take my word for it, try it yourself.


Cheers!



Monday, September 22, 2014

Say What?

Is this thing on?

I know I haven't written in what seems like ages, and it's not like I haven't intentions to, it's just the stuff of life has kept me from sitting still enough to type away.

If you follow me on Instagram, you'll know I'm always moving.

A few weeks ago I finally got my hair colored again. The white hairs were nearing two-inches long and it was time. I love hair color because it allows me to do something different, and have fun. I don't particularly like blending in with the crowd, I like to walk my own way. So, this bit of color is always my chance to break the mold.



Saul from Hoshall's, has been coloring my hair since forever it seems, or maybe 8 years. 


At my oldest daughter's soccer practice that night my little one was busy blowing bubbles, and finding ways to amuse herself. Both my girls love the colors and are always begging me to let them color their hair. I may let them, as a reward for hard work at school once the report cards come home. We'll see.

When you first meet my little one, you're likely to find her a bit shy. She's more amiable, and always needs time to adjust and get to know others. Once you get to know her, she's a little ball of sass, and I love it.

M: Mom, I love your hair.

QS: Thanks, I like it too.

M: When they colored all your white hair, did they smooth out your wrinkles too?!

Of course, she asked her rhetorical question with that mischievous smirk in her eyes.  Her mind is quite quick witted. It made me laugh. I love to laugh.

Because they wanted to have a girl sleepover, we decided we fit better sleeping sideways on the bed.


Moments like these, make me rejoice to be a mother.

Cheers!

ps. Who knows when I'll post again, this week we have two birthdays, a combined birthday party, four soccer practices, two performing group practices, voice lessons, ballet, two soccer games, and I host activity days at my home for 8-9 year old girls. 

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

On Blood Clots, Moments, and Just in Cases

I don't really want to write this.

I'm a bit a superstitious.

I'm actually feeling sheepish for admitting my silly feelings towards believing in the universe's signs... but sometimes, I wonder.

I developed a subclavian deep vein thrombosis blood clot on the night before my family and I were to fly home from Hawaii. It was April 13th. I spent that afternoon reading on a lounger by the pool while my devoted husband took my girls snorkeling on the beach at the Fairmont Orchid.



It was maybe only an hour or two until my husband returned to the pool with the girls, and I noticed that my entire left arm, shoulder, arms, fingers were swollen to a ridiculous amount. My first thought was, "have I eaten too many cookies and creme macadamia nuts?" I mean, a bag and a half on my own is already insane, but could that be it? I took some Benadryl that evening. I had a weird thought in my head of a possible blood clot. Only person I knew with one,  was before I had kids, she was pregnant and had her arm wrapped up.

The following morning, with no relief, or change, I called the hotel doctor who told me that I was not to get on the plane, but head straight to the ER.

The ER in Waimea, HI

That's how they found my blood clot. There's an entire saga at the ER, a kind bishop who came to help my husband give me a priesthood blessing, and a place to spend the night. There's also a story about how ridiculous our insurance is about resisting giving patients drugs they deem too expensive. There's also the story about my vascular surgeon quitting the practice and my husband putting his foot down to get me a surgeon and a date to take care of this stupid clot.

I'll share those with you - when I recover.

I go into the hospital tomorrow.



In the moments since discovering this blood clot, mortality feels a bit more delicate. I used to think I really enjoyed the tiny moments, but in the days since this clot, I feel my eyes linger longer on my husband's face as he entertains my daughters. I feel my heart swell longer as my daughters smile, giggle and snuggle into me. The sun shines warmer on my skin, and the breezes seem to caress me more gently.

I'm either getting towards, or at the age where some doctors look much younger than I am. It's this stage where, while I still feel young and energetic, pretty serious medical stuff starts happening to people I know and love. It's new, and unsettling.

I saw the tail end of Billy Crystal's 700 Sundays. He does a bit in it where he talks about the cards he's been dealt in his life. Father died when he was 10, has his mother his whole life, achieves his dream of a comedian, has a wonderful wife, and great kids and grandkids... it touched me. We are all dealt different cards in this life. Sometimes the first cards we see aren't ideal, sometimes they are. Sometimes the cards we get last aren't great, but sometimes they make the first few seem unimportant. We never know how long we have here. We can make the best of the time we do have.

Today I took a drive to run errands. I wanted to make sure my girls had some yummy lunches while I was out having surgery. My friend Kirsten is taking my girls tonight, and taking them to and from school tomorrow. I'm very grateful. As I was driving on this gorgeous, sunny day, I could of easily taken my thoughts and gone dark, and moody, but I didn't want to be gloomy, I wanted to be sunshiny. So, even though my arm is aching, I did something I normally would do on glorious sun-shining days, minus the clot. I dropped the windows, opened the sun roof and turned up my tunes, and I sang at the top of my lungs. It always makes me happy. I put my playlist on shuffle and I heard in succession, Wake Me Up by Avicii, Demons by Imagine Dragons, Trouble No More by Mindy Gledhill, Happy by Pharrell Williams and I Want To Hold Your Hand by The Beatles. Not a bad way to go if you ask me.

I will admit to singing Happy with tears coursing down my cheeks. That song for me says who I am.
"Here come bad news talking this and that, yeah, Well, give me all you got, and don't hold it back, yeah,Well, I should probably warn you I'll be just fine, yeah,No offense to you, don't waste your time... here's why..."



After school my girls asked if we could go for ice cream. We have four different flavors in our freezer, but we don't have the bubblegum kids love so much. So, since it is the day before my procedure, I'm likely to agree to anything. Plus, Baskin Robbins' Pralines 'n Cream is the best flavor of all time. It's been my favorite since childhood... and my loyalty has never wavered. In fact, I expect it to be served at my funeral party. When it is my time, I expect it to be a dance party, I want Happy playing, and I want there to be joy. That's all.

During this trying time, I've felt my heart full to brimming with gratitude. I didn't realize I had so many people who were rooting for me. That has been so delightfully surprising, and humbling.

To my dear friends and family, thank you. You mean the world to me.

To my parents, I forgive you, and hope you'll forgive me. To my brother Chris, I miss you. To my brother Tim, I'm so grateful for the chance we have to be buddies. To my sweet sister, Jessica, the best sister a girl could have, you better tell me if you're not getting up for seminary... and make sure you remind me of this later.


Trunk Bay, St. John, US Virgin Islands


To my husband, Ry, thanks for taking a chance on me, teaching me empathy, compassion, and showing me what patience, and love look like. You've changed me for the better, and I'm yours. To my Kalea, you are my joyful babe, and my thoughtful girl, you are a bright light in this world and I am eternally grateful to be your mother. You have taught me how to be a mother, and what fun it is. To my Melia, you are my darling cuddle bug, my mischievous sweetie pie, you bring laughter to my life, and I am so lucky to have you as my daughter-friend. I love that you always smell my scent, like you're hoarding it away in your memory. You are strong and that makes me so proud. I am so grateful God gave me two stunningly brilliant girls to learn from and to gently guide. I hope you'll forgive me for my grumpy days, and mistakes, and know that you two are my most precious, most important gifts in all this world, and in all eternity. Motherhood is the best role ever.

Hawaii


Well folks, this post is getting a bit long now. If you couldn't tell, I'm a bit nervous. Hey, I'm covering my bases, I'm preparing for just in cases, and I'll be off memorizing these simple moments.

Cheers!

ps. Hey girls, guess what?


I love you!

pps. If you want to stay updated on my progress, I'll likely share over Instagram (QueenScarlett), Facebook, or Twitter (@QueenScarlett). Prayers, good thoughts and happy vibes appreciated.


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Oral Interpretation

The last nine weeks have led to this day.

This afternoon I will join 19 fourth and fifth graders from our elementary gathering with students from all over the area in the 36th annual Festival of Oral Interpretation for grades 4-8. These young kids have chosen to participate in a group during their short lunch period each week to select, memorize, and emote their selection.

I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to volunteer as their coach. 

Last year my oldest daughter's teacher told me that my daughter needed to preform. She said the school had some sort of group, she wasn't sure what, but the kids memorized something and went to a festival where they were judged. She told me I had to find out what that was and have my daughter join.

So, I decided I would find out what it was and I would volunteer my heart out.





You guys. 

I can't even begin to tell you how much I loved giving myself over to these kids.

I did speech and debate in high school. My favorite out of Lincoln-Douglas, Oxford debates, and solitary speeches was the Oratory category. I loved it. Of course at university I was a broadcast journalism major. I dig speaking and interacting with audiences. There's something about writing your own words, expressing them, and capturing the audience as you pour out your soul.

We had 21 kids to start with. Two dropped out. Not all the kids are naturally outgoing. Most of them were nervous, unsure, and had never attempted anything like this before. It was fun showing them how by just using your voice, your eyes, your body language, the audience can be mesmerized.

I'm extremely proud of these kids. They chose to walk outside of their comfort zone to do something most adults are too terrified to do. They've worked hard, they've been teachable, and they will rock the socks off those judges today. 

Me?

Man. There's something intoxicating about working with kids, and all their potential, and watching that grow, and shine. I think this is one of many reasons I prefer kids to most adults. Kids are eager to learn, willing to change, and open and honest with the world. They're not afraid to be vulnerable, yet. Having the chance to be amongst these kids reminds me always to revel in each new day.

My darling daughter memorized one of our favorite picture books, Big Sister, Little Sister by Leuyen Pham. This is a video I recorded of her last night. Watching this makes me smile each time, my daughter is a natural.



Do you volunteer too? What do you love about it? I also teach, in both my girls' classes art of the masters, help out each week. I am grateful for the chance to be there, to get to know the kids, and to serve.

Cheers!


UPDATE:
Here's the video from the Oral Interpretation Festival. We find out the points tomorrow!






Thursday, March 20, 2014

Happy

Today's the International Day of Happiness.

I love choosing happiness.

A couple years ago when I was at evo '12 I met the lovely Lucrecer. She had a theme song, and encouraged me to find mine. It took two years, and thanks to Pharrell, I have my theme song.





For those of you that know me, you know that I do believe that happiness is a truth. If you see me having spasms while I'm driving my bright orange Kia around the neighborhood, relax, it's just me dancing in the driver's seat to Happy.

Music gives me that little oomph to get happy. Sure, I could worry about how I appear to others dancing, and grooving, but I choose not to, I choose how to celebrate my happiness, and I work to teach my girls the same.

Just this past Wednesday I was at the gym. My friend Cory who teaches the class asked to use Happy off my iPhone for the last song we'd workout to. The happy lady running up and down the stairs clapping her hands to the song, yours truly. Hey, when you feel it, you gotta let it out.

Why do you choose to be happy? 
How do you focus on the good?

Cheers!



Monday, March 17, 2014

Keep Shining

Yes, you should sit down.

I'm back.

Sort of.

No, I'm back.

I think.

I needed a break.

I've been blogging about my family, my thoughts, my opinions since 2005. I think I've suffered some fatigue. I know that I needed this time. I'm grateful. I've focused my energy into doing more at home; more meals, more fun, more quality time, more quiet. I've spent more time at school, volunteering and watching the kids grow and shine.

I believe that we all need to take time to regroup, and remember the reasons we do things, and why we started in the first place. I hope you'll stick around, and if you're a new reader, welcome! Let's chill.

Today I wanted to share some thoughts that have been marinating in my mind since I last visited my blog. My girls are very aware and very sensitive when it comes to equal treatment. It's comical. My husband and I do our very best to make sure they each get as much fairness as we can muster, and then when it's impossible, we explain, that's life.

When we compliment one on some achievement or good behavior, the other one immediately gets upset, or sad, or frustrated, as if our compliment to one, somehow diminishes the other.

I see this same behavior in our lives, both on and off-line. It saddens me.

My love language is definitely service and time. So I show my love, and my appreciation by doing things for my family and those that help me, and serve my family in some way, or form. I may bake, cook, create or do something with my time and abilities to show my gratitude. I like to take pictures and share what I've done, mostly so I don't forget, because I always forget, and also, to share ideas with friends. I love learning from other people. I love sharing good ideas so that we all benefit. So whenever I see someone else do something above and beyond, or creative, I get excited.

However, I've noticed that some folks have attitudes where they take it as an insult, as if someone doing something great somehow diminishes their standing, when it has nothing to do with them at all. It makes me sad. We shouldn't tear people down, or mock them, or take it personally when someone does something lovely, or succeeds. Instead we should be genuinely happy for them, or excited to learn from them.

Perhaps, if our reaction is so negative to the positive in the world, we need to take a step back and have a little internal check-up to find out why we're so upset with the lovely.

In this life there are limitless opportunities to learn. I know that life is exciting to me for all the things I have yet to learn. If we look at the world with curious desire, we are always eager to learn, and grateful for those around us that can teach us.

Sometimes those that are unhappy, insecure, or upset that someone else has done something lovely, can diminish the light of those lovely, happy people. I would ask that we share more joy, and encouragement with each other, and together we can all keep shining.

Cheers!