Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Leaving Paradise is Painful

I have so much to catch up on.

Our family was in Maui for about 10 days, really, more like 8-9 days due to travel. It just never seems enough time. I think the ideal time for a trip to Hawaii is closer to two weeks. That would be perfect.

In the meantime, I get to deal with continuing Mac issues (don't get me started). I've found the best way for me to cope is to avoid by being busy, and then hoping I can psych myself up to facing all the frustrating, panic-inducing issues.

While I get back into reality mode, here's a video of our favorite places to stay, eat and play on Maui. You'll want to pop some popcorn. Mahalo!


Friday, March 27, 2015

#DisneySide Villain Valentine Party Lessons

Parenting is an interesting endeavor. Just when you get the hang of it, the little people change things up on you. In my case, they're not quite as little anymore.

We hosted a last-minute #DisneySide Villain Valentine Party at our home the Friday before Valentine's. We had games planned, and activities to do, and then I realized, these kids, ages eight to eleven are at the age where they really don't need me. They are fully independent.

I don't know how to feel about that.

I guess a bit bittersweet.

Wait a second.

Let me just put my feet up.

Ahhhh, that's nice. Wait... did I say bittersweet?

It was a pleasure to have all the food available for them to munch when they wanted, but they did decide to sit down altogether at our dining table. The conversation was so darling, and organic that I didn't stop them, and I didn't want to interrupt them. It was interesting to hear them talk about different dreams they had, and hear them make each other laugh. I was so pleased to watch the little grown ups they were turning into.

I had wanted to have them all paint their nails, villain style, but only a few wanted their nails decorated. Some of them wanted to play with our puppies, others jumped on our tramp, and then some of them watched Annie, the old school version.

The only thing they all did together, other than eat, was our little pin the smile on Mickey.

Watching these kids grow up and seeing how kind they were to each other, made me grateful. I know there are exceptions to this, but by and large I have noticed that children who are respectful, considerate, and kind are raised by parents who model, and reinforce those behaviors at home. As a parent who hosts play dates and parties for my kids, I observe behaviors, and I only want to invite back those kids who I enjoy being around too. Granted, there are some that I invite back because my kids enjoy their company, even when I don't. These are sacrifices we, as parents make. (haha)

It's okay that not every friend of my daughters' are ones that I would like to spend time with too. I am learning that letting go of my girls, after I've taught them the character skills I hope they continue to hone, is a lot easier, and more thrilling than I had anticipated.

Who knew?

I do have to thank my mother for these lessons. She instilled in me the importance of being helpful. She always shared her stories of invitations to her professors homes with her classmates. At the end of a dinner, you could always find my mom, in the kitchen, helping to clean up. My mom told me, if you want to be invited back, you help pick up after yourself, you help the host, to show your gratitude by deed, not just by word. Before we went to anyone's home, she always reminded us to be helpful, and polite. It's the same chat I have with my daughters too. When my daughters notice people they know not doing the polite thing, I simply use those examples as a lesson of what not to do, and ask them how it feels to have someone over who isn't thoughtful, polite and kind. I turn it around and ask them, if you don't like how it felt, would you do the same to someone else? Turns out they get a lesson on villains, and heroes too.


Big Thank you to #DisneySide organizers MomSelect and sponsors for helping us host this party. I was sent a box of materials to help me host this party, and all opinions are my own.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Just Be Yourself #FreshOffTheBoat

You guys, it's Tuesday.


You know what that means.

FRESH OFF THE BOAT – ABC’s “Fresh Off the Boat” stars Forrest Wheeler as Emery, Ian Chen as Evan, Constance Wu as Jessica, Randall Park as Louis and Hudson Yang as Eddie. (ABC/Bob D’Amico)

Yes, a new episode of #FreshOffTheBoat.

Guess what?

I can't wait to watch it with my daughters tonight.

With my daughters and their souvenirs from the Disney/ABC studio store. Big Hero 6 all the way.

Last Thursday I took a whirlwind trip to Burbank, CA to meet with Nahnatchka Khan, writer and executive producer; Kourtney Kang, co-executive producer and writer; Melvin Mar, executive producer; and Randall Park, the actor who plays Louis Huang.

Randall Park, Melvin Mar, Kourtney Kang, and Nahnatchka Khan with the Certified Fresh award from Rotten Tomatoes. 

If you've read my earlier posts about Fresh Off the Boat, you know that I was very nervous about the show. I had seen commercials in the Fall, and every time one of the commercials came on, I was filled with dread. I was so worried we'd be made fun of, misunderstood, or just stereotyped, yet again. Thankfully, and refreshingly so, not the case on Fresh Off the Boat. Last Thursday, I also met people who are truly good at what they do, and sincere in their work to tell character driven stories, that make people laugh.

It was a treat to be invited with a group of bloggers to preview tonight's episode. After the preview we gathered in round table interviews. It was so interesting to learn about the process, and hear more about how the show came to be.

I so want to be in their girl club. With Co-Executive Producer/Writer Kourtney Kang and Writer/Executive Producer Nahnatchka Khan

When you first meet Nahnatchka Khan, you immediately feel comfortable. She has this unassuming, warm presence, that makes you want to hang out with her for hours, just to laugh with her. Kourtney Kang was so gracious to take the time to meet with us. She is seven months pregnant and darling. Some people just look so adorable with a baby bump. Kourtney is one of those. She's also very warm, and when you pair them together; you have Kourtney's no-nonsense, with Nahnatchka and her laid back style - and you have the embodiment of Jessica and Louis Huang's relationship. Comedic gold.

Oh, hello ladies. Just me and brilliant actor, and consummate gentleman, Randall Park.

Melvin Mar and Randall Park are just two really cool, legit dudes. They're both incredibly smart, sharp and friendly. I was impressed at how chill they were. I posted a picture of Randall and I at the event, and one of my friends made a comment that Randall has happy eyes. It's so true. He's a positive, family man, who truly enjoys what he does. Melvin is a guy who is doing everything. I don't know how he had the time to spend with us, he's so busy producing so many different shows, and it just makes you proud to see fellow Asians rocking the industry with quality work.

Chillin' with Executive Producer, Melvin Mar.

Today I want to share with you some of my favorite parts of our question and answer session.

On that moment when Eddie is called a chink in school:

Nahnatchka: When you do a TV show, you never know how many chances you’re gonna get. We didn't know we were going to be able to do 13 episodes. I knew that I wanted that [chink scene] to be part of the pilot because if we’re going to have one chance, let’s come out swinging. Let’s not water it down. We wanted it to be real. The thing is, when you are a person of color, that’s always a part of your life, whether it’s said or not said. Some days it’s not spoken, but it’s still a part of you. People still react a certain way. [That episode] gave Jessica and Louis a chance to react in a way you don’t think is typical, you don’t expect. They don’t side with the school, they don’t apologize for their son, they’re on his side. To me that’s so powerful.

On how the stories develop in the writer's room:

Kourtney: It started with a memoir and now it’s so much bigger. So many of the stories that resonate the most come from real life experience. Now it’s the writers' real life experiences.  The episode where Eddie rides the bus, and he’s traumatized, that was based on this one writer’s real-life experience. The bus was a war zone, how do you survive the bus? It resonates, because we've all experienced that. Natch’s dad has an amazing hair dryer.

FRESH OFF THE BOAT – “License to Sell” – Jessica puts off taking the exam for her real estate license because she fears she isn’t good enough to compete with Orlando’s top realtor. Eddie looks to Louis for advice on how to win over older girl Nicole (guest star Luna Blaise), but puts his own spin on his dad’s suggestions, on “Fresh Off the Boat,” TUESDAY, MARCH 24 (8:00-8:30 p.m. ET) on the ABC Television Network. (ABC/Michael Ansell) RANDALL PARK

Nahnatchka: He had a sit-down hair dryer. Like a salon. But I didn't know it was weird, until my friends came over for the first time, my white friends. They were like, ‘what’s that?" I was like, "that’s my dad’s hair dryer." He’d sit under the hair dryer with a hair net, and read sports illustrated. It was so loud, like a jet airplane. 

Kourtney: [Natch] told us that story, and from that moment we, the writers loved it. For every [episode] we asked, "can Louis get a hair dryer?" We were so excited. There’s something that feels so real; character revealing. To me those are the best moments, when it sort of comes from something real, and then it just builds into something else.

On how Constance Wu kills it each episode with the comedic timing:

Nahnatchka: She has that quality, where the line is funny on the page, and then she says it and it’s three times as funny as you never thought it would be. She’s like the writer’s best friend, she makes you seem better than you are, because she’s so talented. She’s got a comedy timing sense that you can’t teach or guide, it’s inherent. It’s so unexpected.

Kourtney: It’s funny, I was talking to her about it, and she said, when she tries to make Jessica funny, it’s not funny. When she tries to be as true to who Jessica is, that’s when it’s funniest. Because it’s grounded in something that’s real. I think you see that in the performance. It's never how I imagine the line to be, and she’ll say it, and you're like, that’s much more funny; it’s unexpected almost.

On strong women characters:

Nahnatchka: I think Jessica is amazing. I think Louis is fantastic, but Jessica to me, I always love strong women characters. In comedy, I think female characters tend to be beta characters and have to apologize for what they want. We made a thing early on, never to apologize. She’s never going to apologize, even if she does things that are wrong in the pursuit of something. 

Kourtney: I think the second part of that is the Jessica and Louis relationship. I feel like so many times on shows, the guy gets to have all the jokes, and do the fun stuff, and the wife character says, “why’d you do that?” This show is so great, that Natch has done so well, she’s made it where they both mess up, and they both make mistakes, and they both are wrong sometimes. They both have really strong points of view, and sometimes they’re both right. It’s a fair fight. It’s been fun to write [for Jessica and Louis], and they’re both such great actors.

With my lovely lady bloggers and the guys. Tee, TerriAnn, Randall, Melvin, Thien-Kim, and Grace.

On how the show will impact young Asian Americans:

Randall - Growing up I think there’s something really powerful about seeing you represented out there, and being able to identify with a portrayal of you in TV or movies; not only that but having other people see that, outside of your group, they see that and go, “wow they’re just like us in so many ways. They’re different from us too but those differences are cool, not something that we can make fun of. It’s actually like a normal, human part of who they are." 

Melvin - It is a subtle and powerful thing. I remember as a child you have international day, where there’s flags of the country and they draw representations of what that country is, and I remember thinking “I live in America and I’m American," and you see this little picture of a blonde kid for America and you’re just like... You don’t think about it until years later. I’m hoping this show is the beginning of many shows, that help shape that for the next group of Asian American kids. Because America isn’t just blonde-haired people.

Randall - I feel that one show, and one family on TV, or in the movies, is definitely not enough. Then the entire burden of representing everyone falls on one show. But you need that one show to kind of create more shows and more depictions, so hopefully the success of our show will do that.

Shout out to Holli (ctr) for all her hard work, with Thien-Kim (Lt) and I.

On how alike Randall Park is to Louis Huang:

Randall: Out of every character I've played, especially recently, in a weird way this one is the most similar to me. As far as how I’m at home, how I’m with my daughter, and how much I like my family as my priority; and the love that kind of drives [the Huang] family, and my character, that is definitely who I am especially to my family. Coming into work, I love my co-workers, like Louis likes his co-workers.

On what message they want kids to take away from the show:

Randall - Just enjoy the show, don't  think too much about it. Have it be a regular thing in their lives, like this is normal. Kids growing up now, all they know is a black president, and the next president is going to be white, and they’re going to be like, that’s weird. I hope that our show helps usher in that way of thinking for those kids.

Melvin - It’s like a subtle philosophy. In the pilot when Constance says "don’t make waves," don’t be a problem or nuisance, my mom always said that to me. There’s a version of it now, which I hope as it continues, generations learn to speak up a little bit. I’m not saying be a problem, but you know, own a little bit of it.

Randall - Everything about the show, regardless of your race, it really emphasizes just be yourself. Because every character is different, every character is unapologetic, every character comes from a place of love, and I think that’s a good message for the kids, just be yourself.

Just be yourself.

Above my computer I have this quote a good friend gave to me. It says, "Do not wish to be anything but what you are. But be that perfectly."

I love the powerful message of this show. Be you. Don't apologize for where you came from, who you are, be you. Just you. You are enough. To quote Mark Darcy in Bridget Jone's Diary, "I like you very much. Just as you are."

Yo, now bust a move.

FRESH OFF THE BOAT – “License to Sell” – Jessica puts off taking the exam for her real estate license because she fears she isn’t good enough to compete with Orlando’s top realtor. Eddie looks to Louis for advice on how to win over older girl Nicole (guest star Luna Blaise), but puts his own spin on his dad’s suggestions, on “Fresh Off the Boat,” TUESDAY, MARCH 24 (8/7c) on the ABC Television Network. (ABC/Michael Ansell) CONSTANCE WU

If you couldn't tell, I had a blast. Thank you to ABC/Disney for inviting me. It was lovely.
Fresh Off the Boat airs on Tuesday nights 8/7c on ABC. ABC paid for my round trip flight transportation to Burbank. You can follow Fresh Off The Boat on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. All opinions are my own.

Read more coverage of our Fresh Off the Boat experience from my peeps:


ps. There's so much more Nahnatchka, Kourtney, Melvin and Randall shared with us. Stay tuned. I may just reveal more in future posts.

Sharing is caring. If you liked what you read today, feel free to share the post. Xie xie!
While you're at it, you can also follow me on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Asian Americans Look Forward With Hope #AAPIVoices

Last night I made tacos for dinner, and today I have corned beef in the slow cooker. This is what I love about America, our diversity. I'm married to a man whose family came from across the pond, and served a mission in Cebu, Philippines. He still speaks Cebuano and a bit of Tagolog fluently. In high school he took German, and can get by with what he remembers. My family hails from China and Taiwan. I lived in the Spanish and Chinese houses at the BYU Foreign Language Student Residence in college.

Our family loves to travel to different countries, and taste the food and culture. There is so much to learn and so much to gain from our willingness to open ourselves to the world around us. As parents, we feel it is our job to raise responsible, caring, thoughtful children, who can help to make the world a better place.

I like to imagine that the issues we face with race in our society is all ancient history, except that it isn't. Just last week I was returning home from a walk. I noticed a neighbor on my street about to get into her car. As I got closer I noticed she was watching me, and sort of waiting for me to get closer. So I smiled and waved a hello. She got out of her car to greet me. I learned that she had been in the US just one year. She and her 13 year old son had moved to our neighborhood from China. Her husband, a doctor, was still in China, since if he moved here, he would lose all his credentials. She in her broken English, and me with my broken Mandarin were able to communicate, and patiently struggle through anything we both couldn't articulate. I asked her how her son was doing with the transition, and what she told me broke my heart.

Her son, who was a great student in China, was hating school. In China he was involved with sports teams, friends, and craved learning. Here, in our comfortable, middle class neighborhood he was bullied by the kids in the school because he was an immigrant, struggling with the language and adjusting to the customs. His mother graciously told me that she was grateful a counselor from the school stepped up to help her son, and things were getting better. Then she said, in such a forgiving manner, "this happened because the people here (mostly white) aren't accustomed to people like us."


Just, wow.

I would like to state, vehemently, as "hosts" who live in this great country - we have a responsibility to not only be patient, helpful, and kind to those that immigrate here, but we have a parental duty to teach our children to do the same. Otherwise we are no better than thugs.

We are all human beings in this world. Loving our neighbors should be something we practice. With these posts, I hope that by seeing our faces, learning our stories, we can have a society where we are accepted, and loved, just as we are. I hope stories about kids bullying another kid for being different, stop. I hope they become some ridiculous, weird thing our ancestors used to hear about, because to even contemplate acting like that is ludicrous.

Stories like this, are why ABC's Fresh Off The Boat, and the book by Eddie Huang, of the same title, are relevant, and important to our society's conversations. We can't ignore it, or it continues. Change comes through honesty, and a willingness to sincerely work through the issues. Take the time to read Sharline Chiang's article, Reclaiming 5 Ugly Letters.

For my Asian American brothers and sisters, my hope is that our children live in a world where they are empowered to be whatever they choose to be. I hope that my daughters grow up confident, proud of their heritage, knowing that it's not what they look like that determines what they can or can't do, how they're treated, and that when they look in the mirror they see the beauty we all see. It is still hard for me to believe my sweet friends and family who tell me that they think I'm beautiful. Sometimes I believe it, but there's always that voice in the back of my mind that says, "no, you're not white enough."

Today I'm introducing you to another group of brilliant, interesting women and men. Some are new friends, others are friends I've admired from afar, and some are old friends from my school days. Some share what they hope for, for our Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. I'm grateful for each and every one of them. My life is better for people who I can learn from, and look up to.

Without further adieu, check it!
(alphabetical order, of course)

Dean Yuan 

Husband, dad, follower of Jesus, and all-around tinkerer.

Jim Lin 

PR professional, wanna-be tournament bass angler, and dad blogger who has given up counting the kids, animals and stray neighbors in his house. To the outside world, Jim's blog is a repository of lighthearted parenting adventures; to Jim, it is a roadmap that helps him piece together where he's been the past few days, when he suddenly wakes up drooling and disoriented at the office. 

"My hope for my fellow Asian American bloggers is that our experiences and the stories we weave from them can at once be seen as unique to our context, but also carry a universally relevant impact that speaks to anyone with a connected device and time to kill." 

Follow Jim on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

Joz Wang

Joz does a little too much for her own good: writer, connector, 8Asians cult leader.  

"My vision for starting V3con intersects closely with my hope for AAPIs, that our collective Vision, Visibility, and Voice are amplified and heard."  

You can follow Joz on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Junko Sasaki

Animal lover, stroke survivor, foodie and a constant dreamer.

"My hopes for AAPI's, include more exposure in media. Less stereotypes. Not all of us are submissive math geeks or manicurists! And speak up!”

Junko would like you to learn more about Moyamoya Disease.  "I was diagnosed with this four years ago and had brain surgery. It's apparently super rare, but common in Asians. There is no cure for it, but the small group that I've continued to share support with are trying to raise awareness."

Kathy Zucker

Mom of 3. Startup founder. Fencer. Dove model. International social media Shorty Awards winner. Real Time Academy Judge.

"Optics matter. Right now, Asians are portrayed in the media in limited roles. Doctors. Computer geeks. These images influence popular perception of what Asians can do.

We teach our kids to be anything they want to be. An astronaut. An archer. A Broadway star. I dream of a day when there is a clear path for AAPI children – and young people of every color – to follow to reach their goals."

You can follow Kathy on Twitter

Mark Wang

Engineer, inventor, father, husband, traveller.

“As the best of both worlds (East and West), I hope that more AAPIs get out of their comfort zone, and embrace traveling, working, and living overseas. The three years I spent in China were among the most rewarding of my life.”

You can follow Mark on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Mira Park

New Jersey native, mom of three, hyperlocal blogger, entertainment junkie, cook/foodie, woman of faith.

You can follow Mira at Playground Talk.

Sheila Bernus Dowd 

Entrepreneur, social media fan girl and currently leads global social media at Go Daddy.  In 2013 Sheila beat breast cancer, and cashed in her savings to take her family of four on a year-long adventure around the world. They lived to tell the tale of sketchy cab rides, eating off of asian food carts and living out of a backpack. 

"My hopes of for AAPI peeps… to be loud and proud of the beautiful, complicated and nuanced AAPI community. I’d love to see more of us  share our stories, cheer each other on and be less judgmental." 

You can follow Sheila on Facebook and Twitter.

Thien-Kim Lam

Writer and blogger Thien-Kim believes life too short to live without her family, her coffee, delicious food, books and bubble baths.

"I want my fellow AAPIs to be able to be their authentic selves and to be able to celebrate their heritage without feeling judged or isolated."

You can follow Thien-Kim on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Timothy Dahl

Lifelong DIY enthusiast and is currently fixated on home automation and the Internet of Things (IoT). Timothy's the founder of the home improvement site, Charles & Hudson, and the Webby-nominated DIY site, Built by Kids.

"Entrepreneurship is the best way for AAPI to take control of their own destiny and I encourage them to take the leap."

You can follow Timothy on Instagram and Twitter.

I feel enriched whenever I have the good fortune to meet, interact with, and learn from good people. I'm so grateful for the women and men who shared their time, voices, faces, and hopes with you today. If you know of any other women and men who you think would be interesting to learn more about, please drop me a line.

Sharing is caring. If you liked what you read today, feel free to share the post. Xie xie!
While you're at it, you can also follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.


Monday, March 16, 2015

Crocker Art Museum #Sacramento

Teardrop, multi-color on white #3 by Mineo Mizuno (stoneware) 

I wanted to let the docents know, I'd be happy to take this one home.

I've lived in the Sacramento area since 2003. I only just discovered the lovely Crocker Art Museum last week, on a field trip with my oldest daughter.


I know!

If I think too hard about how many years, months, days, hours, minutes, and seconds I could've spent in that time visiting the Crocker Art Museum, I might just go a little bit insane.

I love it there.

Violet, Yellow, and Green by Martha Alf (oil on canvas)

This past June our family visited NYC as a family, for the first time, and I dreamt about living there, and semi-living at The Met while my daughters were in school. Such a lovely dream. So, it's a bit of a thrill to find the Crocker Art Museum. It's like having a small wing in The Met, here in the Sacramento area.

If you haven't visited, don't wait 12 years to discover it. Do it now.

In 1868, Judge Edwin B. Crocker purchased the property and buildings on the corner of Third and O Streets in Sacramento. In 1885 the Crocker Art Museum was the first public art museum in the Western United States. The collection is varied and expansive.

Market Scene, Sansome Street, San Francisco by William Hahn (oil on Canvas)

Our guide told us that the family made their money during the railroad days, and that Crocker took his daughters to Europe for a two-year tour, to collect pieces of art. The museum architecture is a mix of old world Italian architecture and modern sensibilities. It is truly, a pleasure to visit.

Indians hunting deer by Henry Cleenewerck (oil on canvas)

While you're there you should also hit up Estelle's Patisserie, you will thank me.

Right now the Crocker Art Museum is hosting the Toulouse-Lautrec and La Vie Moderne: Paris 1880-1910 through April 26, 2015. My daughters and I are excited about this, as we learned about Lautrec last year through the Meet The Masters program. We're also keeping our fingers and toes crossed, as we have Paris on our list of places we hope to visit.

High Hoofers by William Chambers (oil on canvas)

I love art, I love how it can change your perspective, elicit emotion, and wonder. I may not be one of those exceptional artists, but I am an ardent appreciator. I like to think artists need people like us.

The Crocker Art Museum is open Tues-Sun 10 am - 5 pm, Thurs 10 am - 9 pm, closed on Mondays. The third Sunday of each month is a "Pay What You Wish" day, or free day. Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for children ages 7-17, ages 6 and under are free. For more information, check out their website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

20,000 Turquoise Curves (ceramic) by Bean Finneran

The Crocker Art Museum also has a lovely Crocker Cafe by Supper Club. When I worked at the BYU Museum of Art while I attended university, the museum cafe had the best food. It's no different here. Your mind and your mouth will be happy.

Widescreen (oil + acrylic on canvas, stretched over wood) by Daniel Duke

If you go with kids, you can skip across the street and enjoy the large grassy lawn before, or after your visit to the museum.


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.


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?


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. 


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