Friday, December 8, 2017

Mulling over names (again)

Names are weird. They're intensely personal, both to the person being named and to the person using the name.

For example, my name is Emily. And 90% of the people I know use that full name and it's generally what I prefer. Some people like to shorten it to Em, and occasionally I'll allow that. One of my colleagues recently tried it out, and immediately laughed because it felt so unnatural to her. Because for her, it wasn't natural.

Another colleague of mine also goes to my church. He has a different name at church than at work, and it's confusing for me to know the same man in two contexts with two names, and I'll often use the wrong one in the wrong context and have to clarify who I'm talking about.

Then there's the formal names - "Mr. So-and-So", "Mrs. Brown" vs "Emily". My mom has a particular distaste for being called "Ms. Joanna", she's told me. Either be fully formal or not at all, the in between frustrates her. This, I've discovered, is a common opinion among women my mom's age. Not sure if it's a generational thing (i.e. when I hit that age I'll also dislike it) or a cultural thing (i.e. the 2000-2010 era saw a shift towards less formality between kids and adults which is why I don't mind as much).

Then there's family names. My grandmother introduces herself as "Bestemor" to almost everyone now, not just her grandchildren, but it started as a family name for her (it's Scandinavian, for those wondering).

Then there's nicknames totally unrelated to someone's actual name. I find these endearing, but my brother in law does not, and I have to make an active effort to remember this and use the name he prefers.

This whole post stems from the fact that my sister Abigail's new boyfriend calls her "Abby", which I never have, and find odd. She doesn't care, so I don't know why I care so much, but I do and so I started thinking about names and how personal they are.

(PS - I said "again" because initially this post was called "What's in a Name" but my blog ALREADY has a post with that title:, if you want to read what I was thinking about names six years ago. Next year (2018) I will have had this blog for TEN YEARS, so expect some thoughts on that!)

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Happy Birthday, Mama

Today's my mom's 50th birthday.

I only remember making a big deal about Mom's birthday once in my life - 20 years ago, when I was 5 and she was turning 30. We got some cake pans and cake decorations, and Dad had a big plan to bake mom a cake at the neighbors house, and then Abigail and I ruined his secret. We also got some apple scented lotion that my mom ended up not liking, but my dad really liked the scent.

Another year it snowed on Mom's birthday (I was about 10, I guess, based on the kids in the photos from that day). We celebrated Mom's birthday by taking some family snow photos, but that was mostly it.

Usually my Dad got my mom something like pajamas or a bathrobe for her birthday, and occasionally we kids give her cards, but mostly it passes by and we celebrate later with Chinese dimsum closer to Christmas. It's still fun, and it's a big family event, but it's hard to remember it's tied to my Mom's birthday.

It's hard to tell my mom I love her. She's not big on any of the love languages - physical touch isn't really how she operates (most Asian people don't do this one). Gifts of affirmation she appreciates, but I don't know if I've ever seen her use one of the gifts I've given her. Quality time alone with just mom is hard - and even when I call home, she usually passes the phone to dad. Acts of service she appreciates most, but now that I'm in my own home, whenever I try to serve her by doing dishes or something, she tells me to relax and she'll get it later. Words of Affirmation is my primary love language, but I don't use it to communicate with my mom - it's like the physical touch thing, we just don't say it out loud. Not saying this to fault my mom, just explaining why we never made that big a deal about her birthday.

So I'm saying it now. My mom's fantastic. She has the best advice of anyone I've ever met. If I can be half as good of a wife to my husband as my mom is at supporting, encouraging, but also challenging my dad, I'll feel accomplished. If I can raise a child even one ninth as patiently and graciously as my mom has managed to raise nine kids, I'll be doing well. 

When I was a kid and I was mad at my sisters or my dad (which happened a lot), my mom always managed to point me to the gospel. She was always gentle but firm in pointing me towards forgiving the person I was mad at. Always. sometimes it was infuriating because I just wanted to wallow in my anger, and she never let me.

When my mom had her wisdom teeth extracted, I flipped out, and my mom, even though she was getting over mouth surgery, read out loud to me to calm me down. When my sister Charissa was born, I got into a funk about things, and my mom sent me a note she wrote on a paper towel from the hospital via Dad mail to get me back into the right head space (a faded ink note that's still taped into my old journal). I always knew my mom loved me, and when I needed it, she showed it more than other times. 

So I hope that today, on her birthday, my mom knows that it goes back to her. That I love her, and respect her, and hope I can be more like her as I continue to grow up. Happy Birthday, Mama.

Monday, September 11, 2017

My "Mundane" Life in Maryland

Hi everyone - my friend Nancy is in the Peace Corps ( and she recently posted about her "mundane life", and said she'd be interested in her friend's stateside attempts at blogging about their life. So, Nancy, here is that blog post about my mundane life for you, going over just my last week.

Also, Happy Patriot’s Day? I have mixed feelings about the reaction to Sept. 11th every year. I understand wanting to memorialize it but it also seems that some of the memorials have become trite, and many of the people I've heard wanting to memorialize it are kids hoping for another day off of school, which seems disrespectful. In general, shouldn't we try to move on together as a country? I think remembering 9/11 with fear causes a fear of incoming refugees, and so I don't know how to truly feel for the families of the victims without promoting that feeling of fear (which we don't want). Anyways. Here's my week.

Last week was the kickoff for the all-girls robotics team I help coach. We had a parent meeting Wednesday night, and most of the parents were late because they were at Back-To-School nights. Whoops, I guess I should have thought more about scheduling. On Saturday the game was announced at a statewide kickoff. "The Game", for those not involved with FTC, is the challenge robots must complete this season. Video here:

Friday night Bojack Horseman season 4 was release on Netflix, and Ryan and I watched the first three episodes (we have since finished the season). Friday night we like to just veg out together.

Saturday night, my Dad and I went to a play, "The Christians", Baltimore Centerstage was giving out free tickets to opening weekend, which I learned about from the APL Drama Club. It was about a pastor of a mega-church who announces the church is debt-free, then preaches that he doesn’t believe in hell, and the various reactions from members of the congregation (an elder, his associate pastor, a choir member and his wife). It was cool and I think it wasn’t anti-Christian or overly “bible-banging”, just a legitimate look at some of the motivations of various characters and how they might react. The program had interviews with the author, where he said he started in seminary but then felt too much pressure from trying to interpret texts and learning the Bible is never really straightforward. That pressure of interpretation caused him to leave seminary and that comes up a lot in the play. I’d recommend it.

This summer I've been participating in the Innovation Challenge, a summer project for early career staff to show their skill/ability to solve problems. They announce the challenge in May, and teams have three months to work on it, then present their solution to APL program managers. Thursday was our team's final presentation, and I think it went OK. We had a more memorable demo than any of the other teams, because we let the judges be involved. One of the teams (out of six) is announced the winner. I don’t especially care about winning, but my one team mate really wants to win, and winners are announced this coming Wednesday.

Upcoming this next week socially I have a meeting with the program coordinator for HowGirlsCode, a non-profit creating classes for elementary school girls in programming skills. Why am I meeting with her? because I am officially on the HGC board as of August 1st! I'm excited to be doing STEM outreach to girls. I also have a happy hour with other Innovation Challenge participants to wrap up the program, and my group at work is having a picnic to celebrate the end of summer, so lots of work networking opportunities. Got to practice being more social with my co-workers, so this is a good experience for me. On Friday they have a church family board game night.

At work, I have a meeting for a new project kicking off, a C++ study group meeting, and a guest lecturer coming in to talk about robotics ethics, in addition to all my regular software developer tickets (a common term for software development requests is a "ticket" assigned to you to work on). I like my job but most people don't want to take the time to understand what I do. if you're interested, let me know. =)