Friday, February 16, 2018

Thoughts On Chinese New Year

I was talking to Ryan today about  Chinese New Year, and why it's so important to me, and why I make such a big deal about it every year. Here's some of what I processed with him, to process with you all, blog readers.

We used to go to the lion dance with Popo (my grandma) and uncles. I remember it was terrifying - even though I knew it was men under the costume, the big eyes scared me, and giving the lion money was the bravest thing I ever did as a kid. And then the lion would tear up and orange, and spit it at you! I don't remember how many times we saw that, but it was definitely more than one. And Popo give us lucky money in red envelopes. The week when Chinese new year and valentines day were the same were my favorites as a kid (like this year!). I'd get $2, one for Valentine's Day from Bestemor (my Dad's Danish mom) and one for Chinese New Year from Popo (my Mom's Cantonese mom).

There are a few things that make me feel super Chinese... dim sum, duck and Chinese New Year are the three highlights. (and jok after Thanksgiving). Sometimes other things, like eating tripe and chicken feet and liking desserts with bean paste come up as well, but those are the main three.

In particular, Chinese New Year makes me a little sad. I guess I make a big deal out of Chinese new year because it feels like a way to honor my grandma, a little.

My relationship with my grandma was good - I always knew she loved me because of how she fed me (she was an amazing cook and my Chinese food pales in comparison). She gave me lucky money for my birthday and for Chinese New Year, she always had a treat for me in her purse (candy or fruit), even just how she'd touch my hair showed she loved me, but she didn't speak English very well, and as a kid, I wasn't patient enough to listen carefully, so it wasn't a very deep relationship. So on Chinese New Year I think about how much of her culture and life I don't know about, and I try to make an effort to preserve what little I do remember, like red envelopes, dumplings, and oranges on Chinese New Year. It's important, but also a little sad that I don't know more to remember about her.

I was talking to my sisters Charissa and Isabel about it on the phone yesterday. They don't remember what she did at Chinese New Year at all. They don't know their zodiac signs by heart like I did (but we looked it up and learned that this year, the year of the Dog, is Charissa's zodiac year). I'm trying to preserve it, for myself and my sisters. I hung a red Chinese knot on my front door this morning. Red is supposed to "scare evil spirits away from the house". Ryan and I ate oranges and dumplings and long-life noodles tonight. I had red envelopes for my sisters, and my neighbor's children. I told my co-workers that it's Chinese New Year, to remind them that I come from Chinese roots, and I'm proud of that. I'm proud of being Chinese, and I loved my grandma, so I'm celebrating the Year of the Dog today. Gong Hey Fat Choy!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

5 things I love about Ryan

Dear blog-readers, for Valentine's Day I thought I'd post a sappy list of reasons I love my spouse. He doesn't read my blog so he won't see it, but the rest of you will know. They may not seem especially specific but they are things I value in him.

1) He's a protector
My spouse has this urge to protect people who he thinks are unfairly treated. I call it his "defender" or "white knight" tendency. He will always take the side of a person who is being picked on. This comes up most notably when we're volunteering for church nursery and he has a keen eye for figuring out who the "popular" three year olds are and which ones need a little extra attention, but applies beyond just kids. He's incredibly loyal to people he cares about and defends them above all.

2) He's a committed learner
When Ryan sets his mind to learning about something, he really learns it, and understands it, and works to get better at the things he's learned. He studies even though he's not in school anymore. For example, right now he's studying tax law because he's a volunteer tax preparer for low-income families and he wants to make sure he does it right.

3) He's health-conscious (& sexy!)
I would not workout as much as I do without Ryan. He's committed to taking care of himself through running and other exercise and it's inspiring (though admittedly sometimes annoying) me to be better myself. And of course, being fit makes him pretty easy on the eyes. ;)

4) He knows when to apologize
This sounds weird, but one of the things I love about Ryan is his awareness of his own sin. He's very conscious of it and is quick to apologize for those faults and works to fight against them and be a better husband, and I think that kind of self-recognition is a rare skill. Especially in white men who tend to have big egos.

5) He's funny and fun to be around
Ryan's introverted, so I think many of you reading my blog might not know him all that well. When you do get to know him well, he's really funny - he does a lot of silly voices (another thing that comes up when he plays with kids) and I love that. Sometimes (like today, when I was trying to take a nice photo and he kept doing silly faces) it can be over the top but mostly it's fun.

Bonus (because I couldn't limit to 5) - Ryan makes an effort to be a good listener and not interrupt someone when they're talking. The problem with this is that sometimes he gets frustrated with me for not ever giving him a turn to speak. In my big family, interrupting each other is a given - it's annoying, but a given. This makes it challenging for me to remember to listen to Ryan, but makes him an excellent listener when I need to think through something out loud.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Star Wars is for girls too!

I was at Target today, and I saw this display of cards:

Six "Cards for Kids" for valentine's day. How cute! But then I looked closer, and I noticed something:

The Yoda card was SUPER cute (it says "Be Mine, Will You?" on the inside!) but it's labelled "for a boy" (so is the super man one). That annoyed me a bit. I think Star Wars has made great strides to try to include powerful women (yay, Daisy Ridley!). So maybe we don't need to label the Yoda card as "for a boy" or the wonder woman card "for a girl"? And why is the wonder woman card PINK? Also, the Hello Kitty Card is pink - Hello Kitty is typically wearing a red bow, so why pink-ify her? The really annoying thing was that they DID have cards that weren't labeled by gender:

So why bother to label it at all, if there's the option of just saying "for kids"? Girls can like Star Wars too! Boys who are inspired by wonder woman can grow up believing in truth, justice, and loyalty. These cards weren't just letting kids be kids, they were forcing fandoms by gender.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Don't call me dear, and other general fuming

Today, I had a plumber come to look at a shower leak we've had going on at our house (it's an easy fix problem, phew!). He was really nice, and I'd definitely recommend his services, except that at the end, one thing bugged me. He handed me the invoice for his services and said "Ok, you're all set my dear!" 

Uh, what? We LITERALLY just met. And I'm a grown woman, not a little girl (though, I think if they're not your kid, it's a little presumptive to assume their parents are OK with you using that kind of intimate language). So, unless you're my Dad or my husband, you have no place to call me "your dear"

I'm giving this guy the benefit of the doubt that it was just a slip of the tongue and he didn't mean anything by it, but it's part of a systemic issue that women are "dear" and "sweetie" well past childhood while most guys loose similar terms, like "buddy" after teenage years.

Another story from this week - a former project manager of mine (it was a short-term task that's over now) has recently been featured in an APL wall mural. I congratulated her on it yesterday, and she said "oh yeah, my friends have asked how I got highlighted on that, with the APL founder and other old guys, and I said, you know what, they probably thought old white man, old white man, we need a woman between them, a woman who's maybe an ethnic minority, so they picked me".

She was downplaying it, which was probably some imposter syndrome, but also, she had a point - the mural IS focused on balanced race and gender. Which is fine, but if we're going to represent it on our walls, let's represent it in our halls too! Let's make sure our wall mural represents the reality of our hiring. I love where I work, and I think there are a lot of efforts to promote diversity of thought and diverse teams at APL, but now, the mural bothers me, rather than inspires me, because I feel like it was forcibly designed for graphic appeal, instead of dwelling on the awesomeness of my former manager.

Anyways. both those things were kind of bugging me so I thought I'd come and share my frustrations on my blog a bit. thanks for listening, folks!

Monday, January 22, 2018

Other New Year's Resolution Updates

I told you all how my quit is going, I bought the fabric and started cutting the diamonds - here are a few other updates on other resolutions!

- Modern Mrs Darcy Reading Challenge
I learned that two of my younger sisters also decided to do this challenge, which forced me to pick some books towards my resolution, instead of reading the books in the rut! So, for a book of poetry, a play, or a collection of essays, I'm reading "Wedding Toasts I'll Never Give" by Ada Calhoun, as my collection of essays (thought I might use this as creative nonfiction and read a different collection of essays - we'll see!). For a book recommended by someone with great taste, I read John Scalzi's RedShirts, recommended by Wil Wheaton on his podcast.

- Daily Audio Bible
I have listened to 22 days of the DAB, but not always on the day I'm supposed to be listening to it (usually Sunday's DAB slips into Monday). It's been a lot of fun so far to listen to Genesis and hear the details of stories I know from Sunday School, but haven't read in a while, or to remember that in between the Sunday School stories are other weird things, like Lot's daughters giving up on humanity and laying with their own father, or Tamar, Judah's daughter-in-law, tricking him into doing as he promised by her. Lots of interesting stories in the Bible!

- Start a Podcast 
Well, I finally used my mic and figured out that if I speak a little lower than I normally do, I won't hate my voice as much. And I have a list of podcast episode topics lined up! So hopefully this will be coming to your ears soon. =)

Saturday, January 6, 2018

You Resolved, Now Commit: Learning to Quilt

One way to make sure you stick to things is to "put your money where your mouth is". As seen in my last post, I resolved to make a quilt this year. I have resolved this before and not followed through, so in an effort to follow through, I decided to buy the materials so that the investment of money would help incentive (read: guilt) me into doing it.

I had a Michael's coupon from buying my little sister a birthday gift, so today I went to their store, I found this book of simple quilt patterns (that specifically states that it is designed to help you use a craft store prepared 12 pack of fabrics) and flipped through it. I wanted a book rather than a Pinterest design because 1) I can't lose it online accidentally and 2) it's been reviewed by an editor (I've had many Pinterest fails over the years and didn't want to invest a lot of money into a Pinterest fail quilt).

I landed on the orange pattern above (called 12 Carrots) with the diamond shaped blocks. I love argyle fabric and this had a vaguely argyle feel. My sister Bethany's favorite color is orange, so I have the goal of finishing this quilt to give to her when she  graduates college next May (technically, I'm supposed to finish by December to meet my New Year's resolution, but I decided that if I just get the top done by December, and do bating next spring, I'll count it).

I am not a quilter now (I just read a lot about it - looking at you, Elm Creek Quilt book series!) so I had to get all the fabrics as well. I'm told that eventually, every quilter gets a huge fabric stash, and I guess I'm starting one, because finding orange squares that I liked was kind of hard! I ultimately bought two 12-packs of fabric, pulled out the ones with orange tones, and then got additional single orange pieces to get the 12 I needed for this project (the photo makes some of them look kind of brown due to my carpet - they're not, I promise!). Then I sorted the rest of the mixed fabrics by color for potential future quilt projects, if this goes OK and I want to try another one from the pattern book. Boxes were 50% off, so I got a trunk-like box with script printed on it to store all of my new stuff.

So, I'm now officially committed to Operation Learn To Quilt. I'll keep you all updated as it progresses throughout the year.

PS - this post was heavily inspired by my friend Natalie over at
She is way more coordinated with her sewing and general crafting than I am, and also a much more regular blogger, so if you liked this post, follow her regularly for more of this - because it's unlikely you'll get it from me. :)

Monday, January 1, 2018

My 2018 Resolutions

It's time for the annual New Year's Resolutions post! And this year, being 2018, marks the TENTH year of my telling you all about my goals to better myself in the upcoming year (see the first resolutions post, made at the end of 2008, right here:

I have always been a list maker and a very goal-oriented person, so new year's resolutions are fun for me, and not the drag they are for everyone else.

1) Make a Twin Bed sized Quilt
Very much inspired by a woman at my church, I have resolved to use the old sewing machine I have in my basement and make a quilt by the end of this year. Just one! Hopefully I can pull it off, I have 12 months to learn and do it!

2) Be a Better Neighbor (specifically by knowing the name of everyone on my street)
This one is inspired by the fact that Ryan and I have joined a group of local Christians to pray for where we live, and I want to actually know the names of the people we're praying for. My neighborhood is actually pretty social, but I am not so this is a stretch for me.

3) Do a sprint distance triathlon (Swim 750 meters, Bike 20 KM, run 5 km)
I can already do the bike and run portions (separately though, not on the same day!) but I'm a terrible swimmer, so I need to practice swimming and get fit enough to do them all in one day.

4) Sheryl Sandberg's journal challenge
Sheryl Sandberg's resolution last year was to write 3 moments of joy every day, and I loved it so I've resolved to do it myself.

5) The Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge
I love to read but tend to get stuck in a rut with the kinds of books I read. Challenges like this one pull me out of the rut.

6) Make pasta from scratch
Not a new resolution, but one that I'm hoping to try again this year!

7) Daily Audio Bible
I have time at work to listen to podcasts while programming, and so I'm going to try the daily audio bible app in addition to the podcasts, since my Dad uses it regularly. I'm hoping an app keeps me more accountable.

8) Use my 3D printer to make my own custom designed item
Ryan got me a 3D printer for Christmas, and I'm super excited. I'm resolving to make my own object and print it (not just print designs from the internet)

9) Start a podcast
I've had an idea for a long time to start a podcast and I even have a fancy mic for it, so I just need to get over hating the sound of my own voice recorded and start doing it! By the end of 2018, I want at least the first episode recorded, edited and released.

10) Clean Our Garage/Organize the Storage Areas
Ryan and I have a large house (for two people, at least) that can get messy and disorganized. We just recently started using the basement space. Now I want us to use the garage regularly, and that means I need to keep it neat! So my goal is to organize and clean the garage and other storage spaces so that we can use our house to it's maximum potential.