I was born in America to a Taiwanese mother and a Caucasian father. I grew up with three other “halfie” friends, their mothers also immigrants (former classmates of my mom’s) and their fathers white men from this country, just like mine. Three boys and me, only two of them brothers, but all of us family in those days.
To me, this was the norm. Mixed race families, with mixed race kids. Even my other best friends were girls with brown hair and brown eyes, so I kind of assumed they were halfies too. Or rather, I didn’t really question what they were — didn’t see them as being different than me — because it didn’t matter.
It wasn’t until years later that I realized a family like mine wasn’t necessarily the norm. That mixed race marriages were not only uncommon in this country until the late 20th century, but also illegal in most states until the Supreme Court invalidated those laws.
That landmark case, Loving vs. Virginia, was decided on June 12, 1967. So today I’m celebrating 46 years of my family being allowed to exist — and hoping for a future full of more loving marriages, between whatever races, genders, backgrounds, and beliefs there may be.
Note: I was inspired to write this post after hearing about this adorable Cheerios ad, and the unfortunate backlash against it.
As a child, I loved seed packets. The interesting names, like calendula and alyssum. The colorful illustrations. The promise held within. Each packet contained tiny kernels of life, just sleeping, waiting for me to wake them up. It sounded like magic.
I remember going into a greenhouse one afternoon with my mother when I was 7 or 8. We had recently moved to a new house, and I had staked out a small plot in the “backyard” for a garden. (The previous owner was a single man who wanted nothing to do with yard work, so he had bricked over almost all of the property.) When we got home, I ran to the backyard with a trowel and a watering can and my precious seed packets in hand. Falling to my knees, I dug a neat grid of holes, dropped the “baby plants” in, covered them with soil, and watered the ground liberally, lovingly.
I watered again the next day. And the next. And the next. After a week, my mom asked how they were doing. I pouted and said that I couldn’t see anything yet. She assured me that this was normal and encouraged me to keep going. If I watered those seeds with patience and diligence, then they would surely grow.
So I tried, I really did. But after another few days, it became more fun to imagine the garden than to actually take care of it. I pictured the sprouts turning into stems, turning into buds, turning into soft bright petals. I pictured gorgeous arrangements of my very own flowers, and dinners made with vegetables I had grown. I thought about how proud my parents would be, about the compliments I would receive from friends.
But because I spent more time imagining and less time watering, the dirt never yielded anything more than a sickly shoot or two, and eventually I gave up on my garden.
Another thing I loved as a child was sponge animals — the kind that come in little plastic pills that dissolve when you submerge them in water. Heck, even as an adult, I love the instant gratification of watching something morph before my eyes. Red pill into pterodactyl. Yellow pill into octopus. Green pill into elephant. Blue pill into dragon.
Unfortunately, writing is not like sponge animals. Writing is a garden. And water is not a one-time magical transformation, but rather an unending discipline. Progress will not be seen in a matter of minutes, but rather over the course of weeks, months, and years.
I never have managed to grow flowers or vegetables, but I believe in the words that I have planted. After years of watering, they are sprouting through the earth. They are reaching for the sun. Some may seem sickly, but others are strong, and I will water them all until they can grow no more. Then, when they are fully blossomed and fragrant, I will snip a few to share, snip a few for myself, and snip the rest to graft. This garden will make the next one stronger. So on and so forth, till the end of time.
Meanwhile, my sponge animals will sit in the back of a bathroom drawer. Colorful and fun at first, they will turn flimsy and dry. Yes, they change quickly, but they become obsolete just as fast. They are a kind of fun that doesn’t last.
Don’t get me wrong: There is a special place in my heart for the whimsy of sponge animals, and for the eager child that I once was. But for my life’s work, I choose a garden — and the purposeful, unwavering grownup that I can become.
A few nights ago, I went to see Star Trek Into Darkness. As I tweeted the other night:
My thoughts can be further articulated by this well-written, thoughtful review at Wired. (Warning: There are MAJOR SPOILERS for both new and old Trek films!) While I agree with almost everything in that review, good and bad, I want to be clear: Overall I really enjoyed the movie, despite its imperfections.
Also, in talking with Andy about it on the drive home, I found myself remembering the many ways in which Star Trek touched my childhood.
My “sister” Alex started everything by introducing me to Star Trek: The Next Generation. I used to squirm with excitement each week as 7 PM approached on the day of a new episode. I sat on the edge of the coffee table because it put me closest to the TV, closest to the action. I hummed along with the opening credits.
My affection quickly spilled over the allotted time slot and into my daily play. I turned cardboard boxes into navigation consoles, tire pressure gauges into hyposprays, and the fireplace into a warp core. I pretended to explore new planets, stun hostile aliens with my phaser, and of course go on dates with certain charming crew members.
My first “serious” stories were fanfiction for The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager. (With occasional JAG crossovers, hehe.) I created original characters and sent them on missions with the beloved regulars — learning about pacing and conflict through trial and error, as well as practicing grammar and flow.
On a subconscious level, I think Star Trek also taught me to value science, teamwork, peace, and integrity. When I realized “Trekkie” was basically synonymous with “nerd,” I learned to wear that label with pride. And honestly, when I think about an ideal future for our world, a lot of it is based on Gene Roddenberry’s visions and predictions.
It’s amazing to me how one man’s stories grew into such a vast empire, and how those stories have impacted so many lives and minds, including mine. Amazing, humbling, and inspiring. This is what good writing can do.
After getting engaged, getting sick, and then hosting friends for a few days, I am back with a vengeance. And by vengeance, I mean “poem.” And by “poem,” I mean thing that I wrote after reading and loving and being inspired by an actual poem, written by Barbara Ras. (Big thanks to my friend Rose for sharing it on her blog.)
You Can’t Have It All
But you can have the wood behind your house and its hidden multitudes
of birds, rabbits, and deer. You can have the rise and fall of a dog’s warm, furry chest
beneath your palm, as you sit on the couch trying to work.
You can have the hum of the refrigerator and the cyclic rumble and whine
of the washing machine, the noises of home, which remind you
there will always be a familiar place to come back to. And when it is August,
you can have heat and abundantly so. You can have hope
though it will often be bittersweet, like the chunks of dark chocolate
that you nibble on throughout the day, sugar melting on your tongue,
until you realize hope isn’t the same as conviction.
You can have the softness of your soulmate’s cheek,
pressed against your lips. You can have the garden of imagination,
creeping upward into the sunlight, less than wild,
but more than the seeds that others plant
and never water.
You can reach for your mother’s heritage, sometimes,
and brush it with your fingertips. You can pray to the god you don’t believe in
when you worry about those you love. You can’t fix everything,
but you can find the best parts of yourself in the worst of times
and polish them brighter than silver. And you can be grateful
for tank tops, the cool air on your bare arms, too little, too much, grateful
for TV shows that make you laugh and cry, for books
that take you to another world, and for deeper adventures,
for airplanes, for trains. You can have the dream,
the dream of Greece, the ruins of Greece and you walking among history.
You can have your grandmother listening to you play piano,
in a Christmas memory, you can have waves and chalkboards, the fogging
of windows, and oil sizzling like radio static as it jumps from the skillet.
You can’t expect success to float down to you like a leaf
but here is your friend to teach you how to keep swimming,
how to fight your fear of drowning, onward,
until it doesn’t matter how far or fast you go, only that you continue,
and here are bluebonnets, bunk beds, photos developing in a slow fade
under dim red lights. And when adulthood isn’t what you expected,
you can summon the memory of fairy wings tied to the costume
of your childhood, the M&M Blizzards and chili cheese fries
that you ate with your parents every time you went to the sailboat.
There is the wind you still hear on the roof, like a friend,
it will always sing, you can’t have it all,
but there is this.
I promise not to go on about the engagement forever, but a few people have asked about the scrapbook Andy made of his other proposal ideas, so here are a handful of my favorites.
Andy and I don’t have a song, but we do have a movie. And that movie, of all things, is Mulan. Because as soon as I found out that he hadn’t watched it, I borrowed my roommate’s copy and marched over to Andy’s dorm room. (I was a sophomore, he a junior.) It was the perfect excuse to spend an evening together, and after a couple hours of sitting next to each other on his futon, buzzing with electricity anytime our knees or elbows bumped, we finally confessed our feelings for one another.
For the Mulan Proposal Plan, Andy was thinking of taking me to a movie theater, ostensibly to see something else (i.e., something current), but the surprise would be an empty theater showing Mulan for just the two of us, followed by his proposal at the end. A super sweet idea, but Andy was worried that the suspense and excitement would fizzle out over the course of the movie.
Like the Mulan plan, this one hinges on our shared history. New House 5 is where we met — the top floor of my freshman dorm, for which Andy was my RA. And then he was RA again the year after — for a different set of kids, but I visited him a lot. And then I was the RA on that floor for the next 2 years. So many of our fondest memories, both together and independent, are rooted in New House 5. It was and forever will be a home in our hearts.
Getting engaged there would definitely have been meaningful and wonderful, but since everyone we know has graduated by now, I’m not sure he could have taken me back without arousing suspicion.
The seeds of Andy’s final proposal plan are probably first visible in May of 2010, with the Art in the Window scheme. This concept hinged on the fact that whenever we travel, we buy a piece of art as our souvenir. (Andy loves stuff, but I do not, so this is our compromise. No snow globes or keychains for me, thanks!) His idea was to lure me into a specific art gallery, and then after I expressed fondness for whichever item, the owner would say that he had other similar, better offerings in the back.
In the back room, the owner would show me through a series of paintings or sculptures — each created by one of my family or friends — which together would tell a story. Andy would unveil the final masterpiece himself: his proposal, in art form.
The logistics of this would probably have been a nightmare, but I’m glad that the core concepts — meaningful creations, friend involvement, sneakery — made it into the final proposal.
I think this might be the coolest, but also the riskiest, of Andy’s scrapped ideas. First, he would have had to sneak the ring with us to Ecuador without my seeing. Then, he would have had to plant the ring in a secluded snorkeling area. Finally, he would have had to propose underwater (!!).
While I adore the idea, the reality is that we were housed in a room smaller than some SUVs. He wore swim trunks most of the time. The currents were strong, and the wildlife were unpredictable. Either I would have seen the ring, or else a sea lion would have stolen it.
Plus, this was the trip where I discovered I was allergic to the sun. I would not have been happy to be proposed to when I looked half lizard, all bumpy and itchy and red.
And of course, the one that finally planned out. When Andy made this page for the scrapbook, he didn’t have all the details ironed out — namely, how he would present the book to me — he just knew that this is the one he wanted to go with.
It wasn’t the most elaborate or exotic of his ideas, but it was so thoughtful. So well-executed. So… me.
The scrapbook holds about a dozen other proposal plans — planting a tree together, watching a meteor shower, serenading me on-stage with Keith Urban — but the ones above were my favorite.
A rather unassuming looking book, but now one of my most beloved in the world. Along with THE STORY SO FAR, of course.
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My Web Serial / Ebook
Beautiful and confident Sophie Lin, goody-goody aspiring writer Claudia Bradford, and boy-crazy scientist MJ Alexander are ready to tackle work, love, and life after college -- or so they think.
As their relationships go sour, their careers sputter, and a few too many ethical dilemmas arise, the girls turn to the one thing they can always count on: each other. But even that will be put to the test...
Welcome to New House 5. It’s not just the top floor of a brand new dorm. For 56 freshmen, it’s home. A place where friends are made and doors are always open. A place where hearts are broken and tears are shed.
Watch as these students try to overcome their flaws and fears to create a bond so special that nothing can pull them apart. Not even themselves.