Chasing or Choosing

May 23, 2024 – I’ve used the words synonymously.

STORY 3.

Yes. I’ve posted a photo of the Costco soup dumplings. Am I chasing or choosing… these dumplings? I super good question. I’m not 100% sure if I could differentiate the two ideas apart. There has been many years now living in Prince George when I have pined for good Chinese food, specifically Cantonese food. It’s the first thing I go for (next to seeing, visiting, and sitting beside the ocean) when I return to the Lower Mainland when I am visiting family or friends, attending a conference, or just travelling through. I need a healthy dose of “good” Chinese food. I’m not sure what “good” really means, but food that is familiar to me and absolutely yummy to eat.

It’s much like these dumplings. I scoured the town looking for good Chinese food. I was not looking for the Western Chinese food that normally entailed a combination plate of sweet & sour pork, chicken chow mean, and beef chop suey. I was looking for authentic Chinese food, in particular, food that my mom ate or would order when we go out for a “double duck dinner” or dim sum. I was desperate, not realizing that I took this food for granted when I lived at home or in the Lower Mainland. Chinese food is so accessible and “normal” when I am living in the Lower Mainland. Looking for “good” Chinese food in northern BC was something I was chasing for. I needed it.

I saw these dumplings on Facebook Reels. Some people whom I follow enjoyed these dumplings. They look a lot larger in the photo on the box. When I first saw them at Costco, I thought they were as large as a BBQ pork steamed bun. I stand corrected. As you can see, they are just as large as any other soup dumpling. What’s brilliant about these dumplings is, they are frozen, they come in a plastic bag, and it cooks/steams in the microwave within 2-3 minutes. There is a yummy sauce that comes with the dumplings and I add the chilli oil to make this meal almost perfect. What would make it perfect would be a vinegar dip to go with, but I like the sauce that it comes with.

After my first bite, I was smitten. I could not believe how good these dumplings tasted. I have some other frozen dumplings that I buy from the Superstore (i.e., vegan dumplings) and from the International shop downtown (i.e., pork/shrimp dumplings and sticky rice). Trust me… I spent months looking for viable options in Prince George so that I would not have the need to fly down to Vancouver to binge on Chinese food… even though I still do. There are lots of Chinese food I am unable to get in Prince George. Admittedly, I try to make congee at home and I go for Cantonese Style Chow Mein at the Fortune House from time to time. That’s it. Why does it matter?

Chinese food is the only thing that I have and do that is remotely related to my culture. I don’t speak Cantonese, nor do I do or understand any of the culture, stories, or ways of being. I somewhat understand the red envelope ritual and moon cake near Chinese New Year, and that’s about it. At some level, it almost feels like I am culturally appropriating because I don’t know the stories or origins of these traditions and there is one part of me that wants to know and another part that does not. I am assimilated into the Canadian culture that I have no reason to learn these customs even though I felt lost during family reunions. If anything, the food made me feel close to my mom.

My mom passed away in 2018. Ever since then, my life has taken a tumble in lots of ways. I never realized I close I was to my mom. I spent the last “20-days” of her life with her… taking care of her… and learning more about her. I feel that in this blog series, some of those stories will come out. It will be a good thing if it does. Since she has passed, I’ve wanted to write about a book about her… about me. She kept so many “secrets” from me… us, as siblings (not sure)… and I felt like I was starting to get to know her (as a person) during her last few weeks with us. I miss her a tonne. My mom knew all of us in the family and she was the glue that kept us all together.

That’s why the dumplings are so important. I feel close to my mom… and for some time, finding this food in the place where I now live, felt like a chase. I was so desperate. I needed to fill my self and my soul with something that would nourish and comfort me. My kid would say that all I eat are dumplings. That may be true, but that is a choice. I choose to eat dumplings when I want to feel closer to my mom, to feel comforted. Somehow, the dumpling represents love, joy, and family. Now that I have found these (frozen) dumplings in Prince George, I can make that choice. That said, anytime I’m in Vancouver, I am having Chinese/Asian food as many times as I can and I am often near the ocean. This is who/how I am. It’s part of my identity.

Shoes That Fit

May 21, 2024 – I have more than enough.

STORY 2

What I am realizing is, I am likely going to collect stories or memories as they arise into my psyche on an inspired or provoked basis versus a weekly reflection. I will continue to maintain the standard of committing to a weekly blog, but I do want to take these moments to reflect on memories and feelings (or my interpretation of what had happened). I almost think that this might be more of a psychological exploration, but I feel as of late, that’s what I need to do to figure out who I am and what motivates me. What I am understanding is, what motivates me stems from many of my experiences as a child or young adult. Trauma is embedded in each story. It’s not one or two dramatic events (although I had those too) but rather the ongoingness of traumatic events that no one really noticed, or noticed and did not (or could not) say or do much about it. I’m guilty of that too. I’m sure I’ll unpack that too.

I have decided tonight that I will start numbering these stories or memories. I know that I have written some content before this series or on my other WordPress site with OpenETC. I will look for those over time, but I need to take the opportunity to document these stories or memories to unpack what I’ve experienced and I believe that many of these experiences related to my #ethnicidentity, positionality, and sense of self. These memories may be interrelated while others might be tangental. I am in the process of sense-making. Much of my past as a second-generation Chinese Canadian cis-gendered woman in BC is somewhat unknown to me. I’ve led much of my life striving to be a successful “white male” Canadian and did a horrible job in doing so because I found it confusing, disingenuous. and inauthentic to who I was/am. Maybe in my 50’s I’m permitted to say, “what’s up & why is it happening?

This story today was inspired by a walk with my friend the other day. I had worn runners for the Moosehide Campaign walk downtown and returned to the university replacing my runners with Crocs (which is my shoe of choice despite all of the stories I’ve heard about not be “safe” shoes to wear). That day, I continued the day with my Crocs and leaving my runners in my office overnight and for days to follow. When my friend prompted me via text to go for a walk, I realized that my runners were in my office at the university. I have another pair of runners, but those are meant for the gym (to walk in “circles” on the indoor track). Curiously, I thought I must have another pair of runners in storage. I went to go look Underneath several pairs of winter boots and on pair of gum boots, I found runners. Not just one pair of runners in the bin, but a few pairs. I chose one pair and voilà, the image for this blog post. These runners look almost new. During the walk I was left wondering, why so many pairs of shoes?

I may or may not have mentioned that I am the third child of three. My sister is 4-years older than I am and my brother is my older twin. Positionality in my family has always been a “thing” for me. I would grudge-fully call myself “number three.” My relatives would number themselves off in their families, meaning my aunts and uncles on both sides of my family. That said, they had many siblings within their families, 7 and 9 respectively (I may be corrected in future on these numbers). Anyway, I was 3 of 3. Admittedly, that concept waned on my for decades (aka., half a century to be exact). As a child, I would always get hand-me-down shoes and clothes. I never had “my clothes” per se. I just took clothes I was given, most times. This is not to say that my mom never bought me clothes, but I always remembered my shoes being too small. That’s it. I would ask for a new pair of shoes, but often I had to live with what I had for as long as I could. Interesting… I did not expect to write that last sentence (and I’m flooded with examples). Huh. [I just love writing as thinking.]

How I felt at that time was, my shoes are too small. What I understand now is, my parents were doing the best that they could with what they had. Runners were not cheap and it was best to wear shoes or anything to its fullest capacity before investing in a new pair. As mentioned in my last blog post, my mom was frugal. She had to be to keep food in our mouths and a roof over our heads. I am romanticizing the experience, a bit. I’m guessing, but I feel that I’m not too far of my guess. My mom was so proud of not having any debt, buying and building a house of their own as immigrants to Canada, and giving (always) to those in need when she could. I remember this pride when during her last #20days. I remembered about painting every wooden panel for the new house on 240 Prince Rupert Boulevard and realizing they painted the wrong side and had to do the work all over again. You can sense her frustration at the time while she laughed at the thought. For me, having shoes that don’t fit or shoes in general was a sore point for me, hence my many pairs of shoes.

Reflecting on this story is in some ways messed up. I don’t mean to judge myself, but what I am doing is looking at what has motivated me to buy shoes and examining why I have many pairs of them (not just runners). I can still remember those shoes.

X-Bread

a bag of sliced bread
Childhood memories. Making the most from not much. X-bread was a regular purchase at Safeway.

May 19, 2024 – Shopping with my mom as a child

STORY 1

It is an interesting day to write this blog post. Today is my dad’s birthday. My dad and I are somewhat in contact. Our relationship is somewhat strained or misunderstood. I am starting this blog series not in honour of him. It’s more of a coincidence. In many ways, this blog series might be in spite of him. Not sure how these stories will evolve, but I have decided to document my memories in this blog to record my perceptions of these experiences to sense-make my ethnic identity and experience as a second-generation Chinese Canadian woman. My story is not unique, but my story is unique to me. It’s almost like a 1000-piece puzzle, but I only have about 30-40 pieces. I’m hoping to collect more pieces overtime and return back this blog series as well as other posts to develop an autoethnography and possibly a book about my mom.

During the pandemic, I started a blog post series called #pandemicreflections. I made a commitment 4-years ago to write a weekly blog reflection during the pandemic. Under lock down, writing a weekly blog was something to do but also something to entertain myself. I thought that the pandemic would have ended in a month or two. I did not anticipate the pandemic to last one or two years. That said, I remained committed to that blog series and I opened up a second WordPress site because I was gradually losing access to this site. I wrote a lot about that too. Serendipity happens… and I’ve regained access to my website again. After the announcement declaring the end of the pandemic, I’ve meandered a bit in terms of what this blog (and my other blog) would be about. I continue to appreciate writing in a public way, but lately lacked a purpose. Today marks the beginning of the #ethnicidentity series.

I hated buying X-bread. (inside voice)

Going to Safeway was one of the places we went to grocery shop when I was a kid. If it was not Safeway, it was Overwaitea. People loved my twin brother. I remember going to the bakery section and folks behind the counter would always recognize my brother. He was a super cute kid… and folds loved him. I always remember folks giving my brother free doughnuts. I’m sure I got something too, but I just remembered that he would randomly receive things from strangers like was a superstar. Another thing I remembered, clearly, was my mom intentionally going to a basket in the bakery section where there were piles of bread. She was very specific about going to this basket and choosing a particular loaf of bread. I had no idea what she was looking for, but what I did notice was the “X” written by black felt pen over the small orange price tag, the square sticker, on the bag. The experience was pretty consistent. There was always an X on the bag. I realize as an adult that the X represented day-old bread. My mom bought stale bread. I never understood this as a child, but my mom was frugal. Our family had no money. We were immigrants.

Just edited above from “they” to “we.”

I am not an immigrant, but I was born into an immigrant family. I know that there are stories about how they immigrated and how they struggled to make ends meet. I plan to find those stories to get a better sense of how my parents (and sister) immigrated into Canada, moved to Prince Rupert, and did what they could to remain debt free, build a home, and put food on the table. Admittedly, I have much to unpack and understand. What I am reflecting on is X-bread. I’m not a huge fan of bread or sandwiches, in general. I often think that my hate for X-bread might be part of this reason why. I remember my dad making himself breakfast before he went to work, like a daily ritual. And, this bread was always toasted. Of course it was toasted. It was stale bread. He did not seem to mind the bread or having toast. He almost seemed appreciative to have this bread/toast and to participate in his morning ritual. Toast with peanut butter and honey seemed like the toast toppings of choice. He would make toast with a hot cup of Red Rose tea with milk and sugar. I remember him sipping on this tea at the dining room table with a plate of toast, two-pieces.

The image above is a bag of bread that I bought the other day from Cobbs. I make an effort not to by day-old bread and find the “most freshest” bread I can find. Going to Cobbs and getting a loaf of sour dough bread that’s cut right before my eyes is very poshy for me, but also something I feel like I deserve. Eating this bread feels special to me. I loved making a grilled cheese sandwich from this bread. It’s chewy, hot, and tasty. Having this grilled cheese sandwich this morning was so satisfying. I’m still not a fan of bread, nor do I like sandwiches generally, but a grilled cheese made from Cobbs bread felt fancy to me (even though I’m using expired margarine and cheese found in the fridge). We don’t realize that how much of our childhood experiences can impact how we perceive and do things. Just from writing this blog post, I am brought to many memories relating to food, my childhood, and the idea of poverty or working class. My parents worked very hard. My dad worked at the pulp mill. My mom worked in the canneries, food industry, and pulp mill cafeteria. And yes, she made sandwiches for a living (in most of her jobs). Coincidence? I’m guessing it’s not.

What messages or rules do we make for ourselves?

I will say, I have a greater appreciation for my parents the more I learn about my childhood and where I have come from. I am a product of an immigrant family who gave everything they had to ensure their children have a better life. I can attest, my siblings and I have very good lives and who we are today was 100% on our parents. I’m not sure why I have a greater appreciation for my mom than my dad. I’m sure that will be unraveled in future blog posts in this series. There are other posts I have written that will relate to this blog post series, but this post is the first post done with intentionality to document some of my memories. I anticipate that a structure will evolve over time with each post. I can see elements of the memory, my current behaviour, and how it made/makes me feel. The other connections relate to my experience as a second-generation Chinese Canadian to sense-making my ethnic identity and how it impacts my identity as an educator, researcher, and learner.

Mother’s Day 2024

May 14, 2024 – A late weekly blog post… and it’s ok.

I just flew back to Prince George on Saturday, May 11, 2024 at 7pm. I was away for almost 3-weeks with trips to Kelowna, Vancouver, and Banff. All three destinations were back to back. Some trips were for work or I had work embedded during the non-work oriented trips. Although I was away, I continued to work. Now that I have returned, time is just flying by such that my weekly blog submission for this week is somewhat late. There are no negative consequences for a late submission. The weekly blogs are for my benefit and reflection. I like the time to pause and take a moment to reflect on the week and wonder what the learning I have endured during that week that is worthy of sharing and unpacking within my blog. I am currently maintaining two blogs, this one and one with OpenETC. Although both are work-oriented, I am not separate from my work, so much of my personal thoughts are threaded throughout both blog site so that I can take an intentional moment to write, think, and reflect. As I am attempting to catch up on my late blog, I am reminded of the good feelings of contributing to my blog, thus the intrinsic motivation to continue.

In today’s blog post, I want to write about Mother’s Day. My kid picked me up from the airport on Saturday and we went out for dinner soon after. I had the option of choosing the restaurant. I was leaning towards an Asian-oriented restaurant. When I was in Vancouver, I spent very intentional time going to places where I could get Cantonese food or Chinese food. If it was not Chinese food, then I would go to places that offered Thai food, Mexican food, or other food genres I cannot get in Prince George. Going to places, in particular Chinese food places like THE BOSS in Metrotown, reminds me of my mother, heritage, and childhood memories that are comforted by the tastes of certain food. The environment also plays a role as well as the people who inhabit these places. I loved going to T&T and Saint Germain’s Bakery in Metrotown to get egg tarts, BBQ pork buns, lo bok go, and rice rolls. More Chinese food memories and favourites of mine. I think I ate about 6 egg tarts when I was in Vancouver. I could not help myself. They were so delicious. The egg tarts were not my pastry go-to’s when I lived in the Lower Mainland, but now living in a place where egg tarts are not abundant, I had to have them. And thankfully, I enjoyed them too.

In the end, I chose to go to the Fortune House in Prince George for dinner with my kid. After a few days in Banff and having only North American food for each meal, I was pining for Chinese food once again. We had (as you can see in the first photo) Seafood chow mein Cantonese style along with chicken & cream corn soup and salt & pepper prawns. Each dish hit the spot and brought me back to the good memories I was trying to achieve when I was in Vancouver. These dishes also reminded me of the Chinese food I used to get with my family when we lived in Prince Rupert and we went to Galaxy Gardens Restaurant for family dinners and special occasions. Looking back, it almost seems like several lifetimes ago, but I do hold on to the good times we had together as a family in places like the Fortune House (or any other Chinese Restaurant in Burnaby and Vancouver). I have very fond memories of my mom too. Eating out was her way of expressing her love to us. And yes, I miss her very much.

My mom was the backbone of our family – the nucleus. She kept us together and, in her own way, took care of us that was personalized. I did not realize this until she passed away in 2018. Life for me and our family have not been the same since. At times, it feels very fragmented and often I feel disconnected from my dad. I am grateful for my siblings who both live in the Lower Mainland who look after my dad (in some ways) and stay connected with me. Again, it’s not the same without my mom, but I am still connected with my siblings and I’m grateful for that. We are so different from one another but we are able to see and honour each other in ways that is nourishing and entertaining. Returning back to Prince George the day before Mother’s Day was bittersweet. One the one hand, I am very thankful to come home and sleep in my own bed, be with my kid, and get back to a regular routine (like eating at home). On the other hand, I returned to my place that needed some TLC and a bit of spring cleaning. So, Mother’s Day was spent housecleaning. Not exactly how I wanted to spend my Sunday, but it was an opportunity to get organized.

Cleaning took most of the day and I was grateful to have time to myself to feel more grounded in place and recalibrate my way of being to be more situated and intentional for my work and play. I even moved some furniture in my room so that my desk faces the window. I was so inspired when I was in Banff in my hotel room where the desk faced the window of which perfectly framed a gorgeous mountain view. When the desk was faced towards nature, I was way more productive. Seemed counterintuitive when I should be outside and enjoying the landscape. Anyway, I wanted the same feelings in my home (and hopefully my office at work) to have my desk facing the outdoors to feel motivated to write in a free and comprehensive way, like I am doing right now. I am so tempted to move my laptop to the living room, but no… right here, at my desk, looking out at the trees and the sky makes me feel whole, enlightened, and free. It’s good to be back home and I am taking the time to get settled and enjoy this term with my writing and research. I need to maximize my time but also notice what I need to do to ensure my success and happiness while doing so.

I love where I am. This feeling is not focused necessarily on place, location, or position, but rather a mindset, way of being, and gratitude. I will always miss my mom. And, I love being a mom. Lately, I’ve been opening a door that looks into my heritage and past to regain an understanding of who I am and how I have perceived and navigated through this world. The image below is my #OneWord2024 and a hot bowl of homemade chicken congee. I made that soup on Mother’s Day in my mom’s slow cooker. It’s not exactly how she made it, but it is reminiscent of how she made something out of nothing. She had to learn now to cook in Canada and made a living doing so. It’s hard to believe that she was able to work so hard for our family. adapted to a new way of being in Canada, and made the most of her life (even though she did share with me during her last 20-days that she did not live out her golden years… she was 80). She was proud of what she accomplished in Canada, like being debt free, building a home, and supporting others in need. She was amazing!!! I hope that I can live up to her standards and stamina. I am super proud of her. Happy Mother’s Day.

Reconnection Feels Good

May 4, 2024 – Doing what fills my cup

We are now well into the spring/summer term and I am using this non-teaching term (for me) to do what it takes to do what makes me happy, but also move forward with my research and other work that would contribute to my research program but also add to my self-knowledge. Returning to Burnaby, BC is not exactly returning home. I was born and raised in Prince Rupert, BC, schooled in Vancouver, BC, and lived in Sechelt, BC for about 25-years. I’ve spent the last 5+ years living in Prince George, BC. It was like starting all over again, metaphorically and literally. Returning to the Lower Mainland is as close to returning to home. My parents lived in Burnaby for about 20-years after moving from Prince Rupert and living in China for a short period of time before retirement. My mom passed away in 2018 and I moved to Prince George later that year. A tonne changed since 2018, so returning back to Vancouver gives me an opportunity to return to some happy memories, like with food, people, and places, I regain a better sense of myself and purpose. My cup is filling and I am happy.

My first priority when I come to the Lower Mainland is to each Chinese food (or any Asian food) that I cannot get in Prince George. Food is my singular gateway to connect to my culture but also my mom. Although the restaurant in the mall is no longer there (i.e., the place where we had dim sum and “double-duck” dinner), I am able to go to other restaurants and places to reignite those memories, feelings, and connections. When I first arrived to Vancouver, it was raining. It felt great!! I miss the rain. It does not rain much in Prince George… and I was wearing my Crocs. Seemed serendipitous. I went to my sister’s place downtown and we went to an udon restaurant near her place. It was like Chipotle, but udon style. And so the Asian food mantra begins. It was delicious and satisfying. Then we went to the Vancouver Art Gallery. There, I was very interested in the weaving exhibit. We even bumped into my kid that day. She was en route back home. The first day concluded with me going to and dropping off my stuff at my brother’s place and going to the Neptune Restaurant for fish congee and deep fried bread; nothing better on a rainy day. PS. My kid got the same meal in Richmond.

I’ve had Thai food (i.e., tofu pad Thai, chicken green curry on rice, and beef pad see yew), Mexican food (i.e., tacos from Gringos), fish and chips in Horseshoe Bay, fried chicken from Jollybee, and yes… Chinese food (i.e., congee, lo bok go, pork dumplings, shrimp dumplings, taro root dumpling, beef rice rolls, BBQ pork buns, curry beef pastries, and egg tarts). It’s been a whirlwind of food. I’ve also loved getting boba drinks, affagatto, and brown sugar shaken oat espressos. I have no regrets. I wanted to return back to my roots and to some really good food. Although it’s been super wonderful to stay at my brother’s place during my time in Vancouver, I’ve been spending my time like a tourist (and local, kind of) to enjoy place. I loved meeting up with many friends who live in the Lower Mainland, to connect with my sister (and her husband and my nephew dog Stanley), and see my mom at her resting place. In lots of ways, Burnaby is my home. I love being near the ocean and I enjoyed visiting places like the Chinese Canadian Museum and Chinatown Storytelling Centre.

I continue to move forward with my research program and part of it is looking into the history of Chinese immigrants in Canada. Alarming and yet, not surprising. I love working remotely and learning more about my ethnic identity through place and people. I have a couple more days left here and I intend to make the most of it. I have a few meetings online. At my workplace, we continue to have meetings on Zoom, which makes working remotely possible. Which each day, I am feeling confident and excited about my research program and I am willing to do what it takes to explore ideas such as my ethnic identity as a second-generation Chinese Canadian woman, non-mathematics subject specialists in BC schools, and identity development of teacher candidates and educators through portfolio and climate change education. I can see the connection with these three topics and I am encouraged that I can proceed in the academy to explore these ideas further to add to the body of knowledge, but also to learn more about myself, my purpose, and my identity.

Switch to Happy

May 1, 2024 – Hello to a New Month

On Monday, April 29th, I went to the Justin Timberlake – The Forget Yesterday World Tour concert in Vancouver with my sister. It was the BEST-SHOW-EVER. The creativity, innovation, and collaboration was astounding. And, this was the first show of the world tour. They practiced and rehearsed in Vancouver for the last month. I have no words. If that was the first show, it can only get better. I say that, but honestly, that show was close to perfection. The setlist for the show was outstanding. It was a beautiful combination between the new and old, as well as creative liberty on familiar favourites. I was dancing most of the time. I could not help myself. I also enjoyed the DJ Andrew Hypes. He got the rhythm started. From Stage A walking to Stage B then back to Stage A and the floating stage, the TFYWT was joyful and transformative.

Watching this concert was much like “the perfect curling shot.” I was reminded of an interview with Justin Timberlake years ago saying that people say that he makes it looks easy, but he says that its hard work and practice that makes it look easy. My sister and I saw Justin Timberlake 6-years ago. It was a thank you present from my brother after my mom passed away for all of the hard work and care we took to take care of my mom during her last days. Back then, the concert was a needed boost to the heart and spirit. We loved the concert then… and now. For me, it was very timely to see him again. I needed another boost, such that after experiencing the TFYWT and the love shared with us, and it being reciprocated, made me feel hopeful, joyful, and happy again. It’s been awhile since I felt this way and I can’t stop the feeling. LOL.

Well, what I am doing is, listening to his music. I feel that I can get my happy back again. I am also obsessed with my #OneWord2024 of HAPPY. It’s a shift from the one-words I’ve chose in past. This word is focused on the present (i.e., forget yesterday). I am also learning that I am using this words as a litmus or criteria to self-assess whether or not I am happy. Being happy becomes a principle I can follow to make decisions, listen to myself, and determine if I’m on the right track or not. By doing this, I can align to my integrity, be authentic, and engage in life wholeheartedly. This mindset or way of being might be a reflection of my age (even though I feel like I’m 27) or it might be me learning more about developing that “perfect curling shot” in my life. It takes hard work and practice… and a lot of intentionality and deliberate action.

The aim is not happiness, but rather be happy. Admittedly, this course of action is a huge shift in my mindset. You have no idea how HAPPY I am to be here… right now. I am smiling from the inside. This knowing helps with setting boundaries that don’t have to be harsh or hurtful to keep people away or to protect myself, but rather they are  kind and compassionate for myself and others. Switching to happy guides how I will live, love, be, and work. Just be happy. The goal, much like the “perfect curling shot” is to be consistent. Every step won’t be perfect every time, nor do I expect it to be. But I can strive to be consistent and hone this skill through practice and hard work. Over time, HAPPY will appear easy, when really my actions are intentional and deliberate. And BTW, my newest and most favourite JT song right now is SELFISH.

Connecting to Self

April 29, 2024 – Making Sense of Place

On my journey of self-discovery, I am learning that a sense of place is part of our identity and need for belonging. Place can take on different meanings. It could be a town or city, a community, a home, etc. Where do you have a sense of place? Where do you feel like you belong? I think about Brené Brown’s “belonging to self” which I am learning how to and do not dispute her research. What is provoking my curiosity is figuring out where I belong. I look at some colleagues and they were born in raised in the same community where they work, live, and play as an adult. Belonging and place are so obvious (to me) when I observe these folks. They have a connection to the land, the people, and history of the place. It mesmerizes me and a bit envious.

This week, I am in the Lower Mainland before I head out to Banff for the Outdoor Learning Conference. I am presenting in Banff with a colleague and I am spending much of the spring/summer term going to conferences and developing my research program. Part of my research program is exploring AUTOETHNOGRAPHY as a research method, but also a self-study, a community-based action research project, and program evaluation of the courses I teach. I will also be continuing the work with Climate Education in Teacher Education and revising three manuscripts to submit (or resubmit) to a journal. Moreover, I’m looking into developing a micro-credential course in mathematics education and local Indigenous culture, which relates to my dissertation. Saying this out loud reminds me of the immense work ahead of me.

My time in the Lower Mainland was intended to be a respite for me to reflect on my practice, engage in some writing and research, and to reconnect myself to place. I just came back from Kelowna, BC from a couple of recent trips and Calgary, AB from a conference. I am paying attention to place in terms of h0w the place makes me feel, the people within that place, and understanding my sense of belonging. I needed to step away for a moment to gain some clarity. I took this last semester to heal by slowing down. I almost burned out at the beginning of the year and resting takes a lot of time and intentionality. I am also recognizing that I am a person of trauma and being cognizant of trauma responses are critical for me to understand and dismantle.

Even writing this blog post, I am waffling a bit in terms of what I want to writing and what I am actually writing. It’s a struggle. I find my trauma responses isolating and shameful. If anything, I need to pause, breathe deeply, and find moments of joy. Mental health issues are on the rise and aspects like job security, finances, and health conflate the feelings of stress, duress, and anxiety. I appreciate the blog as a means to reflect and to self-assess how I am doing. Coming to the Lower Mainland is an opportunity to ground myself into place. As mentioned, I’m staying at my brother’s place, I am visiting my sister, and I visited my mom (at her resting place). I tried to connect up with my dad, but that lends itself to another story (not one I am telling).

I can only create the path for myself. That’s it. One step at a time… with patience, kindness, and compassion… connecting to self and believing in myself are essential to my success and next steps. The fun part of it is, I am integrating this learning into my research program. I feel invigorated and excited. I don’t know what I will learn, but I am learning nonetheless. For this, I am happy. I share this image of my first dinner in Vancouver. I went to Neptune Noodle House in Burnaby to have a hot bowl of fish congee and a side plate of deep fried bread. It’s not really a dinner meal. Congee is more likely a breakfast or brunch meal. This soup was delicious and everything that I wanted it to be… hot, tasty, and comforting. It was filled with memories and food is my only gateway to my culture. I enjoyed people watching and the place was packed.

Being in this restaurant on a rainy day having a big bowl of congee felt like home. I can’t bring my mom back, nor can I be a part of the “double duck” dinners we used to have at the Chinese restaurant at the mall. I remember that my mom used to make congee at home when we lived in Prince Rupert. I loved these meals. They were so special to me. Now that the “cloud of trauma” is lifting, I look back at past experiences to see the joy and love that surrounded them. I miss my mom and know that her intentions were always good (even though I did not understand some of them). Food helps me to reconnect to my heritage, to my mom, and to myself. This meal was a grounding moment for me and anticipate having more Chinese food in the future.

Stepping Into Work

April 21, 2024 – Reorganizing and Renavigating

Grades are submitted. My marking is done. The term has ended. I can breathe… for a moment. I do have a portfolios to review and a project to complete, but I’ll start that next week. It’s nice to take a moment to pause before I jump into the next term. I can see the workload mounting, much of it self-induced, but I’m not complaining. It’s my non-teaching term; my first one (for the most part) after 5-years at the university. As grateful as I am for this time, having 4 courses to teach in both the fall and winter terms was challenging too. Nonetheless, I can’t wait to shift geers and “work.” It’s my time to be intentional with my writing, research agenda, and academic conferences.

The other day, I had a conversation with a colleague. It was good to reconnect and catch up. In that conversation, I mentioned my current work situation and my friend asked me if I was ok it. This was a good question. Honestly, I am ok with it. It took me 5-years to figure out how the system worked, how I was positioned and perceived in my department, and what I need to do to succeed in higher education. If anything, the workplace was a culture shift along with moving to a new city and experiencing many life changes over the last 5-years. There was little empathy for what was happening behind the scenes. For many years, I felt unsettled, unclear, and uncertain. I had to shift my mindset and figure out who I am and what’s important to me.

It took some time and the dust has settled. Major life events have come and gone. I am happy. I understand my research agenda and I am very excited to embark on that path of learning. I love teaching and I am so grateful to continue to teach in addition to learn from the students and practice. I am much kinder and compassionate to myself. And, I know my value. Knowing all of this, I am able to create boundaries, know what to say and when, and connect with folks who are in my wheelhouse. I have no one to impress. I suppose that this is one of the reasons why I sought programs like graduate studies to enrol in. I was never satisfied. I wrote about taking more coursework in my last blog post. This week, I am having second thoughts.

To be honest, there will be a day I might consider enrolling in the graduate certificate program for ethnomathematics at the University of Hawaii for the purpose of pure JOY and happiness. The place and program are so aligned to who I am and what I would love to study. Other than this program, I don’t need a second masters or doctorate degree. Just the other day, I was doing some math with respect to my age and I want to spend my time in ways that bring my joy. That’s it. I’m not disputing whether there are going to be up or down days. That’s a given. What I am saying is, how do I want to spend the last 10-years (or so) of my career? This thought-provoking question was also posed to me by another colleague. It’s something to consider.

After 5-years, I am finally ready to work. Yes, I have always been working, but I always had “schooling” looming in the back of my mind. I often wonder about medical doctors or dentists who took many years of schooling to understand their craft, now are just working. Like teachers and academics, I’d expect them to engage in professional development, but in terms of schooling, most are done. They are working and getting better at their craft from their work. In fact, most people do that… I mean, work. Seems reasonable. I just could never comprehend the transition from formal education to just work (even though I’ve been doing it for many years). It’s a commitment to make that transition. I think I’m finally there. I am READY.

Admittedly, this is a new feeling for me. I feel liberated, empowered, and yes… joyful.

Furthering My Studies

April 14, 2024 – Developing an Expertise & Finding My Joy

Gosh. I looked for this photo on Facebook. I have a memory of this day and it turned out that it was a photo that was posted by one of my former Math 12/Calculus 12 students. I didn’t even read (or remember) the comments that were attached to this photo and others. It seemed like the conversations that I would have with others students I’ve taught (i.e., in teacher education and graduate studies). I was reminded that this is the kind of relationship that I would like to have with my students (e.g., relational, relatable, and fun-loving), but I was also reminded how I never stopped to “smell the flowers.” I could never appreciate or accept a compliment. I always strived to do more. I’m not sure what that mindset was about, but it has landed me where I am today. Right now, I am focused on slowing down and noticing… and appreciating.

Look at this photo… it’s from January 21, 2008. Aside from being a photo taken almost 2-decades ago and I’m teaching high school mathematics, not much has changed. I see my Mac products (e.g., iMac and iPod), I am wearing Lululemon pants nest to my Lulu bag, and I have a cup of coffee on my desk. My walls are cluttered with images of and from students a well as some art created by my kid. I think she was 4-years old at the time. I have shelves and shelves of books. There is some level of order with my level of disorder. And this phot was taken by a former student (and posted by my former student). I really enjoyed looking for this image, thinking about what brings me joy, and reading the comments that complemented them. They made me smile and laugh. I think about this moment in time and… I was happy. Life was good.

I’ve been thinking lately about building my expertise and what do I love. One thing that I do notice is my love for teaching math. I would not say that I am a math expertise of math subject specialist, but I’ve had a healthy career in math education and I loved teaching my numeracy class in addition to attending any professional development sessions in math education. I do have find joy in this area, but not as an expert, but more as a learner and facilitator. There is nothing I am more passionate about, that is, for math efficacy. How does one develop this sense of self-efficacy in math, as a learner and educator. Understanding this has been the underpinning and inspiration of my dissertation and maybe this is my catalyst to return to that work.

My kid mentioned to me that she would be ok with me pursuing another PhD, but in math education. Her comment and generosity brought me so much joy. Now that I am learning more about myself and what brings me joy, pursuing further studies has been very attractive to me. I was looking at an online MEd program, a PhD in person program, or a certificate program abroad. The cost will be about the same for each program, but what is clear to me is, this is what I love to do. I have so much to learn and I need to navigate my next steps that are more focused and aligned to what I love and brings me joy. I know that I can do this work and I what I need to do is to delve back into my doctoral research in conjunction with my autoethnography. They will work together and I am excited for the spring/summer term to explore this further.

Coaching and Presenting

April 9, 2024 – A Reflection of What Brings Me Joy

A slight delay of this weekly blog post. I started writing it last week on Friday, but now we are well into the new week. There is no better time than the present. I felt like that I had completed this blog post, but my mindset and thinking were contributed to my OpenETC portfolio in “The Tables Have Turned.” Last weekend, I was in Calgary, AB at the University of Calgary at the Werklund School of Education to present and attend the REVITALIZATION of WestCAST (Western Canadian Association for Student Teaching). I had a very good time attending and learning at the conference, presenting the work of “Climate Education in Teacher Education in Northern British Columbia,” and working with four teacher candidates (TCs) from the UNBC Teacher Education Program with their presentation, etc. The teacher candidates presented on “Grounded Connections” which focused on wellness, learning on and with the land, and BC’s Curriculum. The TCs were phenomenal and I am super proud of them.

The TCs were well prepared. The presentation was inspired from coursework but they created something that was really important to them. My role: the Curling Coach. I suggested what resources to consider, how ideas could flow together, and provided ongoing formative feedback. They had a hypothesis about wellbeing and being on the land, and I suggested that they test this hypothesis during their first teaching practicum. They engaged in a LESSON STUDY and each TC was able to incorporate the lesson into their practicum with the students they were working with. They pretty much engaged almost every grade level from K-7 (with exception to Grade 4) based on their practicum placements and situations. One TC facilitated the lesson as closely to the intended lesson, another TC implemented the lesson with buddies, whereas another TC had to adapt the lesson and kept it oral, and the fourth TC managed to fit the lesson with time permitting. What a beautiful demonstration of being adaptive and reflexive with one’s practice. I loved coaching this curling team and they killed it.

Another thing I have realized from this conference is the joy I find from presenting and networking. I think that is the life of an extrovert. I spent some time to prep the presentation and I had to read some key texts early in the presentation, but I was so wowed by the teacher candidate from another university who presented before me. They presented on Climate Action. It was an inquiry project. They interviewed teachers and looked at the literature. As a result, they created a set of lesson plans from BC’s Curriculum that focused on Climate Action. She had research experience and I was so awestruck by their work because it was representative of what the climate education research project I’m working on with my colleagues are looking for. It was a beautiful and serendipitous connection. As a result, I could not help myself but to keep referring to that TC’s work. Because the first presenter was a “no show,” we had some extra time to present and receive questions. I really enjoyed the conversation and I made new connections with those present in the room.

In hindsight, I think the strongest part of my dissertation was my oral defence. This is not to say I am an expert presenter, but what I am saying is, I really enjoy presenting and making connections with others. I loved working with the teacher candidates (aka. the curling team) and appreciated how our conversations was an ongoing dialogue and negotiation of how the presentation would go. I can only dream of that kind of relationship. It was respectful, relational, and reciprocated. Feeling grateful.