Doing What’s Right

Week 85 – October 31, 2021 – Trick or Treat?

It’s the end of birthday month. Mixed feelings. I enjoyed having my family visit me in Prince George on my birthday weekend. Lots happening since with work, with life. Things are shifting and I am learning. Some of this learning was humbling. Some of it was heartbreaking, bewildering, and clarifying. This journey has been phenomenal to say the least and I am learning what I am ready to learn. It’s Halloween and I’m typing this blog from the airport. I’m flying out for the week for work and I’m my new car “Musubi” (and apartment) with my kid. No stress. Actually, there is no stress. I’m feeling kind of neutral about the trip. I’m not 100% in favour of travel, but this work needs to be done and my kid needs opportunities for adulting. It’s all good.

I’m landing today at the end of this month with a billion things on my plate, but observing and reflecting on what’s important to me. I’ve been reading, listening to blogs, and journalling about where I am and where I would like to go. There is a huge part of me who is unwilling to commit and there’s another part of me not sure about taking action and being the agent of my own change in my pedagogical journey. It takes me sooooooooo long to realize that I am able to do and believe what I have accomplished. Lots to reflect on in terms of my sense of self-efficacy, trust, and ambition. I never thought I would get here and in they way the journey has traveled so far. Much of what I am wrestling with is worthiness, authenticity, and purpose.

Well, here I am. I never felt more like myself in such a long time and I often feel like I am now learning more about me. I don’t say this is a ego-centric way. In fact, I’m often trying to park my ego to really listen to what I value and I am passionate about. Sometimes I need people pointing that out to me, explicitly and implicitly, but in the last few weeks of birthday month I am brought to one of my take-aways from my doctoral classes in leadership about choosing between “doing it right” and “doing what’s right.” You’d think that they would be the same thing, but really, lots depends on intentions. That’s where my internal dilemma or struggle resided. I needed the clarity, drive, and confidence to move forward. I need to feel good about what’s next.

I think I’m here. Just in time… I think. Creating space. Understanding what’s important. And people in your life who remind you of what’s wonderful and not so wonderful. Self-reflection is not possible without the feedback from people and experiences. I can see what I need to do, what I value, and it feels good. I have so much gratitude for this pedagogical journey and I don’t think that I will have it any other way. Life comes to you in many serendipitous ways. I need to be patient, intentional, and wholehearted. This will guide me to next steps. I am so happy to be with my kid. That’s making a huge difference. I love my friends who lift me up, mentors who invest in me, and family who believe in me. I have nothing to fear.

Changing the Lens

Week 84 – Part 2 – October 25, 2021 – Turning Around

It’s taking me all weekend to turnaround. I spent a lot of last week thinking about the graduate course I am teaching. I was so happy how it turned out. We scaffolded and returned back to what we know and wrestled with a few key questions. I created and shared criteria of their final assignment on a single point rubric, but the best part of that class was checking in with them. I was not the only one feeling the way I did. I was looking for some grace and the least I could do was offer the same in return. We had some wholehearted and fulsome conversations that evening. I felt some solace after a really long day. However, on Friday, I woke with some anxiety. I started the day with lots of moaning and sighing, which  I’m sure my kid really enjoyed listening to when I drove her to work that morning. I felt disconnected and disheartened.

It was suppose to be professional development day for K-12, but my day was filled with meetings. I did catch a bit of the opening  keynote address, but moved forward through my day meeting people either online or in person. What was so wonderful, with each person I connected with, the better my day got. Knowingly or not, each person was shedding some light on what was important to me. When I think about my connections on Friday, I feel so lucky that I was able to connect with each person who was informing and fuelling MY WHY. None of these meetings were perceived as a major event, but it was “the little things” from each meeting I was collecting and the people whom I was meeting with filled my heart and spirit in different ways.

I took Friday night off… and apparently Saturday too. I need time to rest and reflect. I had much to think about. I wanted to be by the water on Saturday and went for a walk with a friend. It was so nice to walk along the river. I can appreciate the fall colours and the movement of the river. I needed to feel connected to the water again. It’s not quite the ocean, but this water speaks a different dialect in the Central Interior and it’s just gorgeous. I really enjoyed my time being outside and connecting with others. I need the cognitive sparing with others to share or sense-make what is.

I also started reading a book. The author was recommended to me and I downloaded all 3 books from I started reading one book and could not put it down. The contents of the book resonated with me, for good and for bad, and helped guide my thinking, my lens, and my approach to reconsider my mindset on what is. It was almost truth telling, personally and  professionally. What was being offered made sense to me and helped me to refocus on MY WHY and take action accordingly. I  feel good. I spent Sunday with my kid, and today observing Teacher Candidates in a neighbouring community. I am aligned to my why and doors are opening for me to see and walk through. I can see my next steps and they come from a good place.

Bag of Miss Vickie’s

Week 84 – Part 1 – October 20, 2021 – What brings you joy?

Oh my gosh… Foreboding joy… a finding in Brené Brown’s research. Call me a data point. There is no denying that I do this… and I get caught up on the SHOULD’S and what I perceive what I think I SHOULD be doing based on what I think everyone else is doing. Then, I’m not authentic to self. I fear failure. I’m scared of being judged or hurt. All I want to do is HIDE and lay low. You could say that this is the 20-ton shield protecting me from any pain. How can you experience joy when you are too busy numbing your feelings, pretending to be someone else, and not living your best life?

This week has been extraordinary so far. I misstepped in a conversation and unintentionally triggered someone. I felt sick after I got some pushback and sat in that discomfort for most of that day. In another situation, I submitted a paper for publication and received feedback a couple of weeks ago requiring revisions and a second review. I was admittedly avoiding that work and they sent me another email with deadlines and decisions. I did not want to respond. Finally, I’m writing this blog instead of writing something else that’s due tomorrow (with full intentions of writing it after this blog post) because there is a part of me to scared or unwilling to like what I am doing because I fear failure and rejection. Voilà. I’m approaching a hat trick.

What I have learned, given the first two scenarios is… nothing major happens, meaning I was not struck by lightning, I’m alive, and I can move forward. Second, it’s all in my head. I’m not saying that me offending a colleague and having to make major revisions to a paper are not real. That happened. But my perceived level of angst is in my head. I replied back to the journal editor with a commitment and they replied with much enthusiasm back. I apologized for my thoughtless misuse of words and I received grace and forgiveness in return. It reminds me when I dinged a rental car a couple of years ago and I thought of the worst. Instead, I returned the car, signed some forms, and paid a bill for repairs. That’s it. There was no judgement.

As a friend would say to me, “it’s just feedback. The most powerful part of this is what you do with that feedback.” I could not agree more. I could wallow in the angst and fear, foreboding joy, and never be seen. Or, I could just do something about it. In the big picture, what I am doing is “not risky” even though (in my head) I think it is. I started this week with a new attitude and perspective and in return, I got a few lessons to reflect on and learn from. First, I need to give myself some grace. I have a tonne to accomplish and limited time. It’s OK to sleep (although, maybe not tonight to write that paper). It’s OK to eat (and make stuff at home). It’s ok to set boundaries and prioritize  (based on timelines and importance). That’s all I can do… and find the joy.

Second, I have to be OK with what I like and find important (and not try to be anyone else or please other people). I have to be authentic to who I am to thrive (and not burnout). I love being with my kid. I love being a mom. I love being with my students. I love learning with my students. I love my mom and the lessons she’s taught me and continues to teach me. I love STATS and data analysis. I am learning more about my ethnic identity and heritage. EDI is important to me. Participating in system change is important to me. Enhancing student learning experiences are important to me. Leadership, advocacy, and governance are important to me. I love meeting and connecting with people who share a common vision. I love Miss Vickie’s chips.

Finally, to experience joy is to be vulnerable. To be vulnerable, you have to be seen. This is where I pause for a moment. I was brought to this blog post because I was asked a few questions about “what brings me joy?” I said, being with my kid, watching “Somebody Feed Phil,” and eating Miss Vickie’s Original Recipe Chips. All three are TRUE. Love them all and how they make me feel. But this week I made a commitment to be myself. That’s it. I created boundaries around myself that have been forming over time during the pandemic and I think that I’m in a good place to see where these boundaries lie. Dang. I deleted a whole bunch of YouTube videos of me from the Winter Term because I could not stand “having myself out there.” Some regret, but now I need to get into the reading, writing, research world. It’s time. No fear.

Finding My People

Week 83 – Part 2 – October 18, 2021 – It’s ok to be myself.

What a whirlwind of a day. I was grieving all weekend after learning about a friend, colleague, and mentor passing. I gasped when I received the text. I had no idea and her passing was somewhat sudden. She hired me to teach secondary math and science. She opened doors for me and always believed in me. She knew my potential, while I continue to  learn more about it. I just saw her this summer. She’s always been in my life since 1994. I will miss her smile, her giggle, and encouraging words. Her passing forced me to reflect (even more). I am committed to meet the potential that she saw in me, much like another mentor who passed away in the middle of my doctoral work and like my former supervisor whom I continue to work with. As much as  they encourage me, they also take a clear step back to wait and allow me to take that first step for myself. I’ve always hesitated. Call it fear. Call it uncertainty. What I do know is, I have to be myself. I have to stand in my truth. It’s ok to be me.

Today, I was committed to starting on a positive step and focus on work. The goal was to be productive but also be my authentic self.  Unfortunately… or  fortunately… I misstepped and got push back. It hit me hard and I was apologetic, shocked, and stepped right back. I was struck by fear in the worst way, but what I realized is, that’s ok. I’m ok. Whatever happening in my life or what people perceive do not define who I am. The only person I need to belong to is myself. I sat in uneasiness and discomfort throughout the day. I had a couple of meetings and multiple emails to engage in, but in the end my truth came out and a moment of forgiveness which I accepted with grace and compassion. Nothing is perfect, I work with some incredible people, and I am committed to making clear boundaries that benefit myself and others. Although I wanted to cry today, I am so grateful to have friends in my life who can lift me up.

Now to this brilliant picture. I end my day with an incredible group of people… my people. We gathered together to solve a problem, but we were able to connect and socialize in a truthful, kind, and joyful way. We all have different roles in education, which in turn makes our group stronger because we have a learning community based on trust and respect. I can be myself. Here I am… eating a prawn… leftovers from my kid’s dinner that she got from work. They were so delicious (2 prawns) and I was mildly distracted. At that very time, my friend was trying to get my attention but I was too busy eating (on mute, of course). They were also teasing me throughout the meeting about me sharing my “real background.” No thank you. I loved living in my VIRTUAL loft in the middle of metro Vancouver. My real life is living in a one-room apartment with my kid in Northern BC. Live a little, I’d say. All in all, we were able to have fun, solve problems, and connect in a personal way. For this, I am grateful.

I Needed This

Week 83 – Part 1 – October 13, 2021 – Reminded of my WHY

Wow. I will admit,  I’ve been in a cognitive slump. I have no other words to describe how I’ve been feeling recently (during the pandemic), but I am wondering if I was experiencing an implementation dip (Fullan, 2008)… in my life. I’m undergoing a system change, metaphorically speaking and I was approaching a low moment today. It was almost like I was approaching the bottom of the dip. Tonight was a turning point and felt that I had to write about it. A couple of my students responded to a last minute email, carved out the time in their evening during a very busy time in their program, and presented their learning experiences to other students and faculty who are new to the program. THEY WERE AMAZING. I was so heartened with what they had to say. It was like watching the transformed perform. My fire was stoked again.

I was abruptly reminded of MY WHY. I was so proud of them, but I was more in awe to see who they have become with 7 more weeks of practicum to go. They are going to be phenomenal. Then, I thought about a couple of other students who were unable to make it tonight but were willing to share their work; and then, I thought of a couple other students who I’ve been emailing. My reflections continued from one student to another and MY WHY was so clear to me. Honestly, it never changed. This is what Simon Sinek would say. I would agree with him. I have caught myself sometimes thinking about my teaching and feeling like how I was… in the FLOW… when I taught secondary mathematics. I felt the same way teaching in teacher education or teaching courses in education. It feels great when you are in flow. I felt that again.

I’ve been so preoccupied by becoming someone who I am not. As a result, I start self-doubting myself, second guessing my actions, and worried about what others think. The truth is, I was becoming more misaligned to who I am and what I want to achieve. It’s so weird, because this is the same advice I gave a student recently. I need to listen to my own advice and focus on MY WHY again. Tonight was a beautiful reminder of MY WHY and I am grateful to my students everyday who remind me of what’s important. I felt this way when I taught secondary mathematics and feel this way again in teacher education. Listening and recognizing these familiar feelings and acknowledging what’s important to me and why are grounding and humbling. I often wonder what if… but find myself saying thank goodness that didn’t happen instead.

My gratitude extends to my students… always. I feel that I am on the upswing and inspired by my students. I learn so much from them about my practice, my identity, and my sense of self-efficacy. I love the connections I make with students, but I also have to remember to stay true to myself. The support, care, and respect we share are reciprocated. I don’t have to be like other teachers (or researchers). I’m not here to impress anyone but myself. This is authenticity and true belonging. It’s taken me a long time to learn this. I often wonder about life’s lessons and figuring out the connections between different events or experiences and the lessons I need to learn. Tonight, it was returning to MY WHY. My hope and faith are restored. My love for students and their learning experiences are immense and will always fuel my fire.

Thank you to my students. I know that sounded a little possessive and I apologize to those who may be offended by that term “my students.” You are students who I’ve taught in the past, present, and future. You make me a better person. I am always humbled and honoured to be a part of your learning journey, because I know you are an integral and instrumental part of my pedagogical journey. For that, I am grateful.

Choose Happy

Week 82 – October 10, 2021 – Thanksgiving Weekend

On Friday, October 8th, my kid and I went out for dinner to end the week. She had the day off and I just love the idea of someone else making me dinner. I gave her a few options to choose from and she wanted to go somewhere “Asian.” It’s an interesting phenomenon that we are both experiencing. We really want Chinese food. Living in the Lower Mainland and having access to Asian food was so easy. In the north, we spend a lot of our time looking for Asian food possibilities. Frozen or fresh. We found a Japanese and Vietnamese restaurants in town that we are happy with. We also found a local “Chinese Restaurant” (finally… yay) and that’s where we went.

My kid is pescatarian, which makes find Asian food and Asian places to eat challenging. My kid has a dish, chow mein Cantonese style, that she really likes and this one comes with seafood. It is definitely a win and it’s close to where we live. Of course with all Canadian-Chinese food restaurants, we end our meal with a fortune cookie. My kid chose the cookie that read “good health and long life,” which is something I always hope for. I actually thought she chose the wrong fortune cookie. Then I opened mine and it said, “No one is happy who  does not think himself so.”  Damn. I had no idea what it meant. I read it a few times and my kid went to Google.

She found this link: From the blog, it restates the statement as a question: “From whom do you need permission in order to feel good about yourself?” And yes, the blog post answers the question by saying: “If you don’t give yourself that permission, no one else, and nothing else, can possibly hope to be able to do it for you.” Well, that consumed my Saturday, October 9th (aka. one week after my birthday) wrestling with this idea: CHOOSE HAPPY. How do I give myself permission to be happy? Hmm… so profound, yet so aligned to the journey that I’m on. What does it mean to be happy? What makes me happy? Apparently, the yummy Chinese food dinner is not enough.

Last night, I went over to my friend’s place for Thanksgiving dinner. She went above and beyond and exceeded my expectations 10-fold. I was expecting mashed potatoes, salmon, and a veggie. She made salmon for my kid, her friend made ham, and she made turkey with all the fixings… and pumpkin pie. Honestly, I would have been completely satisfied with instant ramen and good company. The food was phenomenal and I am grateful to be part of this Thanksgiving experience. Today, I am making vegetarian chilli. That’s it. Canned beans, veggies, and chilli power in a crockpot and that it. Wait for 4-hours and voila. Dinner. Nothing fancy. It’s just food.

Today, October 10th, I am left thinking and reflecting. Last night, I realized at dinner that the three of us (kid excluded) had a lot in common. We were all educators. We are living independently in apartments. And, we left our partners because they were not faithful. Ironically, the men kept the houses and the women got independence. What the BLEEP. I left teaching because of misogynistic behaviours and now leaving my marriage. I am left to wonder about the misogynistic, male-dominant world I live in. It’s sick and I struggle with CHOOSE HAPPY. I want to give myself the permission to be happy, but I don’t want to give up my power, money, or sense of self in doing so. Giving up my house, my place, and my career to have peace of mind seemed like the only way out. What did I really give up and what have I gained? I am left to wonder.

It is World Mental Health Day and Thanksgiving weekend. What an interesting time to reflect and consider what makes me happy. What I am realizing is, this series of PANDEMIC REFLECTIONS is not ending at Week 82. What started off with professional reflections, much have led to some personal ones. That said, all of my reflections are interrelated and what I believe is, reflection is important and the writing process provides me with a way to think things through. I choose to make my thoughts transparent because I have nothing to hide, but with hopes of helping someone else who reads my blog. I am definitely engaged in investigating my identity and understanding myself in a deeper and more meaningful way. I love that I am living with my kid. I love to teach. And, I love all those who stand beside me to lift me up.

Much gratitude. #pandemicreflections #thanksgiving

Birthday Weekend – Year in Review

End of Week 81 – October 3, 2021 – Filled with gratitude

Damn. Birthday month started really well. I am so happy that my twin bro, sister, and dad came up to visit me (and my kid) in Prince George to celebrate our birthday. We had an excellent weekend together. We ate, played golf, and walked along the river at Cottonwood Park  (see photo above). I feel so lucky to have them in my life and grateful that they all gave Prince George the “thumbs up”  (see photo below). My twin bro is already planning his next trip up to Prince George. Super fun. He’s a fan and I am so grateful that my family is happy for me and my kid. That is the best gift of all. I am the youngest of three, even though I am a twin. They take care of me and have my best interest in mind. Who can ask for anything more? Oh ya… my kid is the best.

I’ve been thinking about the year in review. I almost want to do a decade in review… a decade of midlife unravelling, but super grateful for the pedagogical journey I have taken so far to get to where I am today. I left teaching in public schools when I turned 40, and now I am absolutely in love with teaching in teacher education at the end of 50. It’s a beautiful return to my practice, but also an incredible return to myself. What more can I say? I feel like I am living the dream. I have good friends, I live with my kid, and I get to be myself. This “path now taken” is absolute freedom and I cannot wait for this chapter of my life to unfold. I am so grateful to return back to campus, live in Prince George with my kid (who is thriving), and work with people who inspire and support me. It’s been wonderful to teach classes in person and Teacher Candidates transitioned well into practicum. I can’t wait to see them teaching in K-12 schools.

To conclude this trip around the sun, I want to make a Top 10 List of “what the?”

  1. On the Sunshine Coast for 16-months to be with my kid during COVID.
  2. Pivot like nobody’s business and teach remotely for 16-months.
  3. Edu-walking almost every weekday during lunch with my edu-buddy.
  4. Saying goodbye to the Sunshine Coast and my house/home of 27-years.
  5. Drive a U-Haul truck to move my stuff and my kid’s stuff up north.
  6. My dog, Sally, passed away before moving away from the Sunshine Coast.
  7. Moving to Prince George, living with my kid, and being her mom full-time.
  8. Hitting a buck in the dar and we both survived, but bought a new car.
  9. Finding a passion for EDI work, statistics, and identity development.
  10. Working on research and being mentored by amazing, caring people.

I never thought my life would be this way, but here I am. I have nothing but gratitude. I look forward to this year. I know there will be major changes for me, but I also hope that doors will open when others close. I will keep my head down, belong to self, and continue pursuing MY WHY (without regret). My why has never changed. Hello 51.

My Name and My Identity

Week  81 – September 30, 2021  – Truth and Reconciliation

Today is a day for reflection, the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. I was grateful to engage in the Talking Circle hosted by UNBC on Zoom. I listened to local Indigenous scholars and  community members sharing their culture and language with all those attending the event. It was beautiful to listen to Elder Audrey share her cause of bringing an Indigenous child back to their home and community… and why. I am struck by the economy of  residential schools and the power of matriarchs. I was inspired and humbled. I am so grateful to be amongst people who are committed to sharing the truth so that we can being our journey of reconciliation. What I can do is to learn, read, and listen. I need to continue to understand and unlearn the values and practices of colonization and find ways to indigenize my pedagogy and way of being. I will continue to stand beside and make space for Indigenous Peoples to ensure their voices are heard, listened to, and understood… and take action.

I feel hopeful when I see and listen to Indigenous leaders and influencers who share their vision for the future. I am  inspired by their clarity and determination. I am learning from them as Indigenous People in Canada are focused on rediscovering and restoring their culture, protocol, and language. As a second-generation Chinese Canadian, I can empathize with the disconnection of assimilation under the guise of multiculturalism, but cannot empathize with the genocide of my people and culture for the sole purpose of exploiting natural resources, the economy, and ownership of land. I was thinking it’s like somebody coming in and taking your aunty or cousin and owning them or  exploiting them for their resources. Who does that? Indigenous People have a relationship to the land and natural world. It’s a community that extend beyond the person. Think about how much is taken from the land and not restored or replaced. The whole idea of climate change must be devastating. I can’t.

As I wrestle with my identity and ethnic identity, I admire how Indigenous Peoples were able to find the stories, songs, and traditions and revitalizing the joy and meaningful experiences to reignite and reinforce who they are. Just like many generations of Indigenous Peoples, I have no language and culture. I love how they are going back to the land and elders to learn what needs to be learned to move forward. The resilience and persistence to recover and maintain their culture in addition to heal from the experiences, loss, and trauma incurred from Residential Schools  and limitations of the Indian Act is admirable and humbling. I can only learn from Indigenous Peoples, but also stand beside them to help in any way to support and understand our collective journey together seeking truth and reconciliation.

Lately, I’ve been wrestling with my identity and was asked what name would I like to use for a presentation and soon to be publication. i started life as “Alice Christine Ho” with Alice as my legal first name and Christine as my given name. Confusing and annoying at the same time for lots of reasons for many years of my life and I hated my last name Ho because it was not a “Canadian” name. It was Chinese. I just didn’t identify as Chinese…  as Alice… or Christine. I could not stand my name. To top it off, my sister’s first name is “Allison” and my twin brother’s middle name is “Christopher.” I did not feel like I had a name of my own that I liked. Admittedly, my name has been the ultimate identity killer… and to realize as a midlife adult that I was colonized by my parents to  be a “good Canadian” kills me (a little bit more). Who the hell am I?

As a young adult, I found some agency and called myself “Chris Ho.”  Yes…  I wrote a blog about it, Rebrand as Chris Ho. I was thinking in another pandemic reflection about my name AGAIN.  My name is always on my mind. I hate when organizations ask for my name… I always say, “I don’t know.” After I married, I made a huge effort to call myself “Christine Younghusband” even though I made my legal documents and graduate degrees to read “Alice  Christine Ho Younghusband.” Ultimately, I was undecided. Now in  my new independent life as an academic, I need a name that I publish with. Honestly, it took a life of its own a few years ago at SFU and started as “Christine Younghusband,” but I spent some time at UNBC rebranding as “Christine Ho Younghusband.” Now, I’m asked what name do I want to use for a publication.

I was so desperate for an answer, I asked a couple friends, put out a Twitter poll, texted my family, and asked my PLN in a DM. The poll leaned on “Christine Ho Younghusband,” my family said “Christine Ho,” and my friends said use “Dr. Christine Younghusband” professionally and something else personally (like Christine Smith or Allison Crocs). Love the humour of my friends. What resonated with me more was what some people said on Twitter…  “What name resonates with you the most?” “What name feels authentic to you?” “What name best represents who you are today?” All very good questions that brought me to a place of deep reflection. Ultimately, I am every permutation of “Alice Christine Ho Younghusband” which my PLN noted the “achy” initials. Tell me about it!!! In the end, I am all of these names.

As I struggle with my name, “Dummy Bad Boy” was on the CBC. Damn. All Indigenous Children were “named.” What a huge disconnection from one’s identity in addition to being separate from land, family, and community. I can’t even imagine. My name issues and sense of identity reflects only a fraction of what Indigenous Peoples in Canada experienced. If anything, I can empathize. And because I do, in ways of my name, cultural erasure, and colonization, I am committed to the TRC Calls to Action and finding ways to decolonize, indigenize, and create space to advocate, support, and lift Indigenous Peoples on our journey towards truth and reconciliation.

My Last Week as 50

Week 80 – September 26, 2021 – The Real Weekly Blog Post

Ok…  I cheated with my last post by posting twice mid-week to catch up and get ahead on my weekly blog post. Full confession. It’s time to reflect. What I realized is, the weekly pace of blog posting fits my rhythm of reflection and I want to honour this time. When I don’t, I should make note of the busyness of the now and take a pause. Here I am. I’ve tried daily blogs and blogging based on moments of inspiration. Blogging weekly seems like a reasonable balance between the two methodologies.

I never realized the importance of pausing, prioritizing, and play. Today was a good day. I cannot  emphasize how good I feel today. First, I am carving out the time to blog. Then, I was interrupted several times today with work, visiting with friends, walking in the sun, edu-chatting on Twitter, and taking a bath. All good things. It was a balance between being productive and being mindful and present. Now, I can see what I have to do next. What didn’t make sense before, now does. I have clarity.

Gosh. This is my last week of being 50. Yes. I’m declaring it. I’m living the second half of my life (for the last 10-years… LOL) and life is unravelling. That’s what Brene Brown calls it. It’s not a midlife crisis, but an unravelling. I could not agree more. From 40 to 50 has been a journey that I could not have predicted. The last year in particular was incredibly stressful and extraordinary (in not so good ways), and I engaged in many life experiences that I’m not sure I would like to do ever again (i.e., drive a U-Haul).

I will do a year in review next week on my birthday. My twin brother, my sister, and dad are coming up to Prince George this weekend to celebrate 51. We’re going to the Keg. That’s the big plan and possibly pitch & putt (weather pending). I think that I have learned not to take myself too seriously, I love my kid to bits, and I’m competent. I am also figuring out my research program and making time to get things done. I saw a vision of myself the other day while in the FLOW. I need to remember that feeling.

If anything, I am learning more about myself. I am learning more about my ethnic identity and how to stand on my 2-feet. And, I’m learning how to speak my truth (and not betray myself). Belonging, trust, and vulnerability are tough ones for me, but in the end it’s about belonging to and trusting myself. When I do, I can be vulnerable to take-risks, connect, and be creative. I’m not sure what the last few days of being 50 will bring. I’m hoping for some joyful moments, connection, and restful nights.

Food and Culture – Ode to My Mom

A photo of my mom and my kid.

Have you ever had spaghetti made with ketchup? This was my mom’s interpretation of spaghetti when I was a kid. A “Canadian meal” meant ham, mashed potatoes, and peas. Most times we had stir fry and rice. My mom stretched every dollar. She bought X-bread (aka. day old bread) so that my dad could have toast and tea in the morning and chicken legs (i.e., the cheapest cut of meat) to make “vi-guy” (Vi = the first two letters of the name she gave herself when she came to Canada, after Vivien Leigh; and Guy = my lame language lacking ears and tongue saying “chicken” in Chinese). It was my favourite meal. She hated turkey. It was one of the first meals that she made when she came to Canada. My mom did what others were doing during Thanksgiving. She made turkey, but she hated how it tasted, it was dry, and there was so much of it. Yet, turkey dinner is one of my favourites.

My parents immigrated to Canada in the late 60’s and moved to Prince Rupert, BC where I was born and raised. My mom had no idea what it meant to be Canadian, but did the best she could to raise my twin brother and I as “good Canadians” as well as my older sister. She was born in Hong Kong. My dad was an engineer, but was underemployed at the pulp mill as a technician. Every year my parents were worried that the mill would shut down and my dad would get laid off. Money was tight and my mom worked two jobs to make ends meet. She worked in the cannery during the day and the pulp mill cafeteria at night. We pretty much raised ourselves as my parents worked to keep a roof over our head and food on the table.

I’m guessing that being Canadian was a big deal for my parents. Although there was a local Chinese Association and community in Prince Rupert, I am a product of Canadian policy. I have no idea how to speak Cantonese and I don’t know anything about my heritage or Chinese culture. I spent much of my life “blending in.” I never perceived myself as Chinese. I just thought I was Canadian. I never recognized that I was Chinese until I went to university in the Lower Mainland and I was surrounded by many Asian people. I felt uncomfortable by so many Asian people in my classes and their desire to sit near or around me. I didn’t get it.

After I finished university, my parents moved to the Lower Mainland. For them, living in a condominium felt more like home to them. It reminded them of Hong Kong and they had access to authentic Chinese food and restaurants. My mom did not have to make it anymore. I loved meeting up with my parents to go out for dim sum or “double duck dinner,” that is two Peking ducks and many other yummy dishes. I always relied on my mom to make the order. I never questioned. She was so excited to look at the menu and negotiate with the server or restaurant manager to get the best dishes on the table. I had no idea what she was saying, but appreciated the food on the table. She managed to get everyone’s favourite dish on the lazy Susan. Food brought us together. I wished I knew what and how she ordered.

My mom passed away a few years ago in my 40’s. Damn. She was a strong woman. She was dying of cancer in the liver and lived with the pain for many years before being diagnosed at emergency. My mom opted for MAID (Medical Assistance in Dying) over palliative care. It was an easy decision for her, but a tough one for the rest of us. Since entering the hospital, she lived for 20-days. I had the pleasure and joy of taking care of her. My brother and sister had to work, and my dad was preoccupied with the condo-strata and getting the elevator fixed. My mom was rooting for my dad and wanted the elevator fixed too. She laid in bed at the hospital for days, blind, and begging to go home. When she decided to move forward with MAID, she found solace. She was at peace and we were managing her pain. And to her delight, she wanted to host one more Chinese dinner to say goodbye.

Double ducks, of course, and all of her favourite food. She made the order on the phone from the hospital bed. My dad, sister, brother and I listened to her as we gathered around her bed. She was so excited. She knew every dish she ordered from her favourite restaurant without looking at the menu. We had dinner at the condominium with family and friends. That is one of my favourite memories of my mom. She laughed and giggled. It was joyful.

Since my mom’s passing, I moved north to Prince George to be a professor at the university. She would have been proud of me. I spent most of my life trying to “fit in” and being a “good Canadian.” I never thought I was Chinese. I hated how I look and I got frustrated by racist remarks. You don’t know who I am. You are judging me based on how I look. After 18-months of the pandemic, my daughter moved in with me into my one-bedroom apartment. I sleep in the dining room, now my bedroom. I’m starting a new life. There was some permanence to this final move and all of a sudden I wanted Chinese food. I could not find anything authentic. Thank goodness for Google and Facebook. I found one place that sells “ethnic food” and a few items at the Superstore. I never thought it mattered, to feel connected to my Chinese heritage or cultural identity, until I did not have it anymore.

I miss my mom.