Archive for the ‘Awesome’ Category

It’s been a while since I’ve written in this blog. Sorry followers. Life throws curve balls at you when you don’t expect them.

I was never close to my dad, so I was a little surprised how it affected me when he passed away this weekend, despite the fact that we knew he was dying over the last 2 months.

He was not a hands-on or interested father, as were most fathers in his generation and of his culture. He was a traditional Asian dad – he brought home the bacon and he expected to be served and respected by his wife and kids.

I remember as a young child our home was a quiet tiny box when dad came home in the evening. With 7 young children, that was not an easy feat. Only his transistor radio with the horse racing program or the news made much sound in the evening. After our evening meal together, we would do our school work quietly, and mom was at the ready to shush us up along with our grandparents that lived with us. There were 11 people living in a 700 sq. ft. apartment, keeping the noise down was not easy, and there was no doubt who was in control.

All that changed after our immigration to Canada … my mother became independent, learned to drive, got a job and learned enough English to get by; many of the children grew up as “bananas” (white on the inside yellow on the outside), westernized but with some inherited knowledge of some Chinese traditions. That couldn’t have been easy for my dad, who liked control, called the shots, knew it all and enjoyed being “the boss”.

As first generation Canadians, I matured with increasing contradicting feelings towards my own heritage and culture. I don’t know what to pass onto our own children or not, as I can’t explain why we did some of the traditional things and the meanings behind them. All I know is that I inherited the virtues and learned the value and importance of family and duties.

So, regardless what my relationship was with my father, I dug deep and found these AWESOME things to say about my dad as he journeyed forth into another realm of existence. I appreciated:

  • that he was a survivor in the face of adversities, especially during and after WWII;
  • that he was a dutiful and loyal son and brother to his family;
  • his business acumen back in the day when things were done differently; he ran several successful businesses, employed and took care of many of his relatives and friends who needed work;
  • his generosity and largesse towards his friends and colleagues;
  • his foresight to move to Canada to give his family a better life and future;
  • his eventual gratitude for my siblings who bent over backwards to meet his needs and endured his many outbursts and tantrums.

He was my father after all. Rest in peace, dad.



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Perhaps being the youngest, our last daughter, K, pushed our buttons, dipping her toes outside the set boundaries and tested the water the most. As a result, we butted heads a lot, especially the last couple of years. We knew it was only a phase, but still it was difficult to deal with at times. In the heat of the moment, many times being the flawed person that I am, I have said or done things that I regretted. K taught me patience.

About one or two months before she moved out in November, she and I had a huge argument where she gave me opportunities and she even asked if I wanted to kick her out. It was so tempting and easy to rid the stress and chaos of the moment, but I refrained and calmly said instead that I was not kicking her out, that she would always have a loving home here, and she could move out when she was ready to do so. Taking the wind out of that sail was tough, not reacting to her poking and provocation was even tougher. K taught me to look at things from different angles.

She did move out with her boyfriend, they invited us over for dinner once they settled in. We were pleasantly surprised that their small apartment was neat and tidy. They were lovely hosts and we had a wonderful evening together. K showed me that she could handle change when she was ready, and she was capable and confident.

It was hard to let go, especially the baby of the family. K reminded me that true love is to let them go, spread their own wings and make their own lives.

All the children, and their significant others, came home for Christmas. I loved listening to them catching up with one another’s lives. I loved hearing the laughter, where only a few years ago, it was constant bickering. I loved the kibitzing and teasing between them, where it was blaming when they were all living at home. This was the first Christmas where we graduated to become empty-nesters, and the kids grew up to be young adults. They really wanted to be with us and we were enjoying and appreciating each other’s company, connections and conversations. Even the two older silbings commented on how pleasant K was since she has moved out. How AWESOME is that? I feel so blessed.

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I remember the days when the kids were younger, how noisy our home was … from all three kids wanting our attention at the same time to someone being hungry, from siblings fighting for the same toys or favourite things to teenagers having friends over, or everyone raising their voices because no one seemed to understand each other. Our house was never quiet until after everyone went to bed.

Our house has been quiet for some time already in the last few months, but now we are officially empty-nesters. As of this week, our youngest has moved out. With no kids at home, the TV is no longer on very often, no video games are being played, no friends gathering for a pool game or movie night. The house feels too big and we are “rattling around” inside. This quiet takes some getting used to.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it is AWESOME that the kids move out and be on their own. Like her two older siblings, I know our youngest will mature quickly when she learns the cost of living, the consequences of not washing dishes, doing her laundry or paying her bills – this kind of learning outside the classroom and outside the home is a necessity. THIS is the real game of Life, one that I have dreaded, worried sick and welcomed all at the same time, many times. I really had to learn to let go and trust that they will make it on their own. While it gets better and easier with each child, the worrying remains.

Even when the kids bring home their laundry baskets full of dirty clothes or ask if they could take something from our pantry, I love their home coming. I love their chit-chatting, sharing their stories of recent ups and downs or cooking a meal together. I love listening to their laughter and kibbitzing with each other and with us. This is what I call the family noise – it’s so AWESOME to be able to enjoy the noise in harmony, in peace with the knowledge that they see us as someone they can share things with or reach out to for our view points and opinions. It is a joy to see them grow up. I am missing the family noise – this is going to be a new journey of adjusting to being a twosome again.

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Another Thanksgiving weekend has come and gone. Despite all the trials and tribulations with our youngest in recent months, I feel blessed and grateful to have my family around. All the kids were home for Thanksgiving dinner. The kids played games with my husband while I cooked, there were wonderful laughter and conversations, and of course, lots of turkey and great food. Our chef to be daughter made delicious pecan pies for dessert.

My own family (of origin) is growing leaps and bounds with 2 new babies added to the family this year. All counted, there are now 29 of us just on my side of the family, not including boyfriends and girlfriends. Even my 90 year old dad is mellowing … he noticed all the hard work people have put into the big family Thanksgiving and expressed appreciation. Well, better late than never, I suppose. I only wish he had done that when my mom was still alive.

In a way, I feel sad that most families today are getting smaller and smaller. I love the big group gatherings, sharing the warmth and closeness of being in a big family. I love hearing the kids yakking away, telling their stories and sharing their life experiences.

Regardless, it was an AWESOME Thanksgiving weekend. I’m giving thanks and I’m at the receiving end as well. There is nothing better than having my family close by and everyone feeling appreciated. It’s AWESOME to be giving and receiving thanks.

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Recently, I spent 2 full weeks visiting and doing some volunteer work with Free the Children / Me to We in Ecuador. I had the pleasure and honor to meet and work with a number of outstanding leaders, they may not consider themselves leaders or pioneers, but they are to me.

In the Amazon village of Bella Vista Baja next to the Napo River, I along with 26 others helped to build a school. This community in the Amazon is in its first year working with Free the Children to build a school to serve Bella Vista and the neighbouring communities. The leaders we met here were:

  • Robert, our project coordinator and field guide. He was an energizing bunny … when we all stopped to take a drink of water or rest our arms, he continued to work in various capacities, showing us what to do, repairing the brokenĀ  foundation forms, cheering us on or being the translator between us and the villagers. He has intimate knowledge of the rainforest … he demonstrated this amply during our night hike. He proudly shared his culture with us through his cooking demo (in the dark by the fire) … the majority of our team tasted the delicacy valued by his people, the grub. Most of us tried the grub, cooked; only 3 brave souls tried it raw and alive. We were honored to visit his village, Mondana, and met some of the folks who proudly showed us their woven products.
  • Ellie, our facility manager at the Minga Lodge, who took great care of us with her smiles and grace.

The term “minga” means that if something needs doing, the whole village comes together to help. I love this concept.

After 7-8 hours on the bus up and over the Andes mountains, as high as 14000 ft in elevation, we arrived and stayed at a lodge near Alausi (near Riobamba). Our work was in the village of San Miguel, which has been working with Free the Children for 5-6 years. Our group helped to build classrooms # 9 and 10. The villagers were very grateful that we, the foreigners, cared enough to come and help them.

Even though I couldn’t understand what was being said, I felt the thankfulness, emotions and tears shared by one of the male elders of the village. One of the leaders in this village was Maria, she helped to form and maintain local girls clubs and women’s groups … the females traditionally did not go or stay in school because of their expected roles in the households (doing the work in the fields, taking care of the home and children). The girls clubs and women’s groups helped these girls and women to find their voices, to learn to express their interests and thoughts, to be heard, to stand up and be counted despite opposing challenges typically by the males. Many only spoke Kichua, the indigenous language, and not Spanish in this remote village.

The girls and women found and learned ways to earn additional income (through their weaving and knitting) so that they could become more independent and contribute to their own welfare. It was simply amazing to hear their stories through our translator, to celebrate with them how far they have come with their accomplishments. The girls were extremely shy; they didn’t know how to respond to our compliments and encouragement.

This trip was very different than the Kenya experience, but no less amazing and profound.

One of the most AWESOME aspects of this trip was that I was able to share this experience with my husband and son. What a gift!

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All my life, people tell me I look like my mom. More than once or twice, I was told I looked exactly like her. Now as an adult, I’d have to admit I do look like her. My face, my body shape, some of my expressions, and a few other mannerism do look like her.

When I was younger, I didn’t like it when people commented how much I looked like my mother. I wonder how many youths like to be told they look like their parent. In my youth, I used to think … I wanted to look cool and fashionable, not like my mother; I wanted to have my own identity, not like my mother; I wanted to know more about the world, not like my mother; I wanted to be learned, scholarly and educated, not like my mother; I wanted to have a tall and slim figure, not like my mother; I wanted to be softer and well spoken, not like my mother; I wanted to travel the world, not like my mother …. You get the picture.

The reality is that I do look like my mother. I have her stocky and short stature, her unshapely and peasant legs and feet, her sense of thriftiness and much more. I stopped resenting our look alikes many years ago (I’m not sure when this happened, but I’m guessing around the time when we started our own family) and I started appreciating some of her common sense and implicit teaching, despite her lack of formal education.

Like my mom, I value the importance of my family, friends and connections; I appreciate loyalty and commitment; I have and am not afraid of sharing my voice and opinion; I love trying new things and adventures; I am not a wasteful person; I enjoy socializing with people; I appreciate what I have no matter how little; I am versatile and can roll with the punches; I am a survivor in tough and difficult times; I have so many more common characteristics as my mom.

On this Mother’s Day, I remember my mother and all her AWESOMENESS that I hope I have, that I hope our children will one day come to appreciate and may be even inherit. Thanks mom, you gave me more than your looks, and I don’t mind looking like you at all; I also hope that, wherever you are in heaven, you know your children appreciate you.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the AWESOME moms!

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Sometimes life throws you fast balls that you can’t catch, and sometimes it throws several fast balls at the same time.

First, we had a roof leak during one weekend, when it was just pouring rain of course. No one worked on the weekend, and no one wanted to climb up on our roof because its pitch is too steep and slippery in the rain. We got that fixed after shelling out several hundred dollars.

Then, I got rear ended in a car accident. At first, I didn’t think the damage was that significant, but the guy hit my car hard enough to have twisted the frame, so it was totalled. We are now having to better coordinate our schedules to share the available vehicles amongst all the family members.

Third, my husband lost his job. It is not a good thing when one is near retirement age, very specialized in his field, and not prepared to start from the bottom. All this happened because the parent company in China decided to close down the North America operations, but didn’t want to pay severances to the staff so they decided to declare bankruptcy instead. It is a long story, but I see this as an unethical practice. I cannot understand how a company can treat its own people like this.

On top of all of this, my dad went into the hospital due to a seizure, cause still unknown. He’s been there for 1.5 weeks now, but then again he is 90.

It almost felt like a “test my mettle” month. I am trying hard to focus on the AWESOME aspects of things …

— no one got hurt in the car accident

— the insurance company paid us a reasonable amount for the car

— the roof is fixed, the wall will eventually be replaced and I get to put on a fresh layer of paint in the bathroom

— I get to have lunch with hubby almost everyday

— Maybe my husband can use this new opportunity to establish himself as a consultant

— My dad will be discharged later this week

— It’s a sunny and lovely day outside

I know that this too shall pass, and I’m appreciating whatever AWESOMENESS I can find.

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