And since we all came from a woman

At home, my Mother has a magnet on the fridge that reads, “All Mothers are Working Mothers.” Growing up, I had a stay at home Mom  whose chief executive position was to raise two children with incredibly different personalities and needs. Two decades into my life, I have always discarded the idea of staying home and raising a family despite how much I have benefited from having so much personal attention and care from a parent. Not once has it crossed my mind that I would not have a career of my own and achieve my own personal goals as a mark of my personal fulfillment and happiness. It seems that ambitious, working women always seem confronted with a crossroads between work life and family life – and that many, stuck in the mold of “perfection,” are caught feeling overwhelmed by the demands of both realms. How do you do both perfectly? You don’t. It’s simply unrealistic within the structures and contemporary society that we live in. Is America going to give me one year of maternity leave like Canada? Is America going to provide daycare services to my children like they do in Sweden so that my husband and I can work without the domestic responsibilities falling to one individual – or the two of us having to make a choice between our careers because childcare is so expensive? Is America going to rethink how it looks at work schedules, work culture, and work days so that I can reach my maximum productivity at work, but still maintain balance in my personal life? Is America going to give my husband paternity leave? Is America going to stop promoting me because I’m pregnant and therefore assumed to be less invested in my career after becoming a Mother?

 I am currently in Atlanta experiencing work life at the UPS Atlanta Headquarters with a Bates alumni. He is kindly housing me in his wonderfully warm home that he built with his wife, who is also a Bates alumni. Together, they live with their two beautiful young boys in this lovely house nestled on an unpaved road in Cobb County. Everyone always talks about southern hospitality, but now I truly understand it after spending a few days with this family. The Mother, a Bates grad from the 90′s is now a stay at home Mother with a packed schedule. She takes her sons to school and is occupied late into the evening with scheduling and transporting them to activities as part of what sociologists call “concerted cultivation.” On top of this, she’s a phenomenal cook and has a great personality. Before coming to Atlanta, both of them read this blog and discovered that I loved bi bim bap, so they made it for me tonight as a special welcome dinner. You can’t imagine how ecstatic I was to see two Georgians with seaweed, bean sprouts and kimchi in their home.

One of the sons who is twelve, had a spelling bee today and placed second. When I retired to my room, I left my door open and heard the conversation that transpired between the Mother and her sons. “I’m so proud of you,” she said. He was crying and said, “I’m sorry I didn’t place first.” To listen to her console her son and to continuously tell him that she was so proud of him for placing second was such a touching moment for me to accidentally stumble upon. To be honest, I think I am incredibly afraid to think about Motherhood partially because I worry about not being able to raise my children to the best of my capacity because I will most likely be working. I can’t even begin to fathom what having children does to your life and marriage – these new little wee beings suddenly become the epicenter of your universe. It’s not that I don’t like children (I do), and I would love to have mini-Phams in my life (oh God, the world better be prepared), but this is a mind and soul you’re molding from the moment the child is born. IT IS A HUGE RESPONSIBILITY NOT TO BE TAKEN LIGHTLY.  The first one is off to Harvard, the second one is off to Yale and the third one will trek back west to Stanford… I kid, I kid. It is rather unfair of me to place these undue burdens upon children who do not exist yet, and my children may not be interested in higher education or school may simply not work for them. These are things that few of us in our 20′s think about when we joke about our future darlings. As I grow older, I find that many of the Asian Mother ambitions are housed within me at a higher level than in my Mother because I grew up in Canada and understand all the structures, administration, and bureaucracy that exists when it comes to succeeding in these systems. My expectations for my unborn children are ridiculously high because I will be their Mother (this is not meant to sound obnoxious). What I mean to convey is since I am someone who has navigated the system, I know more than what my immigrant parents did about western society and its operation while raising me. I had to search for answers on my own, strike out on my own, and find opportunities on my own. When I applied to university, decided on my major, chose to intern at a certain company – it was all on my own accord. It wasn’t that I never desired advice, I did! It was simply that the questions I had, my parents couldn’t answer for me. For my future children, I have always had such grand expectations because they would be starting with everything they could possibly want in life and someone who had lived through the structures that they will go through. I have to remind myself that it’s not that straightforward and that freedom is the most important allotment I can give for self-discovery and self-understanding (arguably two of the key things in life).

People have always dropped micro-aggressions in my life in regards to my future family structure: “I can’t see you with kids. You’re always so busy.” Me: “What? What do you mean?” Person whose opinion was not solicited: “You’re going to be so busy with your job. When are you going to have time for your kids.” It is shit like this that makes working Mothers feel conflicted between having to choose between lifestyles and roles. What do you mean I can’t have kids just because I’m working? Why don’t you ask the millions of Fathers in the work place to choose between their work and their children? Why don’t you ask them if they think they’re doing a sufficient job in the house and with their children. Why don’t you ask them if they feel bad about leaving their children in the morning? Why are you placing this burden on my sex. Why don’t you ask that Barclays investment banker if he’s not going to get married, have kids, and buy a summer house in the Hamptons because his job is so time-consuming that he’s never home for dinner. Why do we as a society (both women and men) feel the need to add guilt onto working Mothers?

At the same time, these are only thoughts that I have in my 20′s. Who knows, when I’m 39, I may think differently and you may find me at home. I doubt it, but at the same time – I have a great respect for stay at home Mothers and the unquantifiable work that they do in raising a generation.

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The Perks of Keeping a Blog

I know that it has been incredibly long since I have last written on this blog. I used to be so much more devoted to churning out content on a reliable timeline when I was in high school. These days, I find that I like to keep my thoughts in my head or in my Moleskine rather than to have them circulate as bytes roaming in the non-physical world of the Internet.

I started this blog for myself, and to this day – I still think that I write on here for myself. I never have an intended audience in mind. However, I am definitely less openly candid, probably because with age we all become more wary and cautious about what we say and who we share things with – especially when it is on the Internet. There’s a nostalgic beauty in being young, naive, and uncalculating. I am happy that I had a medium to express myself through during my teenage years, but now that I’m older I will probably start writing about myself less and less. I may write about my thoughts on certain issues and stances on particular events, but I would rather refocus the attention away from myself as an individual. Nevertheless, this blog was an archive of the many years of my teenage life. I was able to document unbridled optimism, travels, young ambition, and my loves and passions. I scroll back to see that my love of interior design, beautiful spaces, and colors have dated back to many years past. I realize that in the short time of my existence, I have been able to feel and love so deeply. I know I have experienced the great privilege of traveling and seeing things in the flesh. Most of all, when I look back into the archives of my blog, I have a renewed sense of faith in the process through which one grows. There are parts of me that remain the same. There are ambitions that have remained steadfast. There are values that will never be swayed. At the same time, there are priorities that have changed and people that have come and gone. Reading what seventeen year-old Michelle penned is somewhat inspirational at moments. To know that at seventeen, I had been able to have vision and passion is  a great source of joy and happiness. To know that my mind was teeming with honesty and uncensored candor amuses me. The older we become, the more we protect our innermost thoughts and their meanings.

Most of all, throughout all of this – I have been able to look back and hear from myself how different people and places have impacted my life story and character. Now that I’m almost 20, it is a new decade for me.

I’ll be pursuing more of my interests in art, lifestyle and design at my new blog: http://heelsandthesoul.com which is currently under the works.

I look forward to entering a new decade.

Bis,
MP

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Recipes: Bi Bim Bap Creations

When I was living in Vancouver, my ultimate food addiction was Pad Thai at Kerrisdale’s Baan Wasana. Now that I reflect upon it, my closest friends and I must have generated some good business as loyal patrons. I am fairly sure that they knew my order by heart after all those years: Prawn Pad Thai with extra broccoli and a healthy side of chili peppers and ground peanuts. Everyone would always rag on me because they were all coerced into Thai food almost every single time we went out to eat. My Mother also chided me for my lack of ‘food creativity’ because “out of all the original things on the menu, why would you want to eat pad thai all the time?” It was something about the way the chili marinated spicily on my tongue, the slight tang of limes and a certain flavor that has only been central to pad thai at Baan Wasana. When Bates first made pad thai, I was incredibly excited to see one of my favorite dishes at college but after my first bite, I realized that the dish was irreconcilably different.

Part of what I miss about the urban sprawl is the ability to eat a favorite dish that complements your particular palate. I even miss the dingy 24-hour pho joints that I would frequent past midnight. It was always such an amusing moment each time before we had pho. We would all sit and contemplate: “Was it worth it to drive all the way down to Kingsway and eat Pho Hoa at 2 AM in the morning?” My best friends would often do a quick takeout and then bring the steaming Styrofoam bowls of broth and noodles into my home and sip quietly because everyone was asleep.

Recently, I have become enamored with bi bim bap which is a classic Korean dish featuring a stone bowl full of steaming rice and a combination of hot and cold toppings (seaweed, beef, steamed carrots, a Sunny side up egg etc.), and a red, spicy paste. Literally translated, it means “mixed rice.”

Image

Photo via philadelphiagrubstreet.com

 

Here are some bi bim bap recipes from the New York Times:

Bibimbap With Tuna, Sweet Potato, Broccoli Rabe or Kale, and Lettuce: Tuna steaks, sliced thinly after cooking, are a vehicle for a traditional Korean marinade.

Bibimbap With Tofu, Cucumbers, Spinach, Shiitakes and Carrots: This cross-cultural dish borrows from Japanese tradition for the tofu marinade.

Bibimbap With Clams, Kale, Daikon and Carrots: The clams’ briny broth seasons the rice in this light and flavorful dish.

Bibimbap With Chicken, Broccoli Rabe, Mushrooms and Turnip: This dish focuses on hearty grains and assertive vegetables, so one chicken breast is all it takes to feed a family.

Bibimbap With Beef, Winter Squash, Spinach and Cucumber: Beef is the most typical meat served with bibimbap. It’s marinated and quickly seared in a hot wok or frying pan.

While my favorite version of bi bim bap is the classic Korean version without deviation, if you’re feeling something else – give these a try!

I think I have also reconciled that if I had the opportunity in my 20′s to travel around Asia and produce a TV or video segment of me EATING and REVIEWING FOOD, I would be positively happy.

Bis,
MP

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The Michelle’s.

All throughout my childhood, I always wished that my parents had christened me with a more original name. There was always at least one Michelle in my class year and it was not uncommon to be meeting Michelle’s left and right.

For some reason unbeknownst to me, Vietnamese parents who immigrated to America and Canada love naming their daughters Michelle. So it wasn’t only at school that I would constantly bump into another Michelle, at any Vietnamese social event, there was sure to be another Michelle in the crowd. It is not an uncommon event to attend a Vietnamese party full of karaoke and potluck style food where so and so has a daughter named Michelle. Michelle Nguyen, Michelle Truong, Michelle Le. We’re everywhere! Even the famous Vietnamese faces share the same name: The notable Vietnamese-American make-up guru and Youtube entrepeneur is named Michelle Phan. If anyone Vietnamese knows the answer to why Vietnamese parents dig the name, drop a comment and let me know!

How did the name become so popular in western society? Jezebel launched a map today of the most popular names for girls over the past six decades. After 1965, the name Michelle surged dramatically. Deducing popular culture, I think this has to do with Paul McCartney’s and John Lennon’s release of the song “Michelle” in 1965. In 1967, “Michelle” won the Beatles a Grammy and 1968 and 1969 saw high peaks of babies named Michelle. Correlation? I think so.

ImageImageBis,

Michelle

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Room for Relaxation

It’s fall break here at Bates, and the autumn rain has started to pour yet again. Rain has followed me all my life, from Vancouver to Maine. This January, when I study in London, the rain will trail my path once more. Perhaps I ought to seriously consider moving to San Francisco one day, where a damp fog will loom over me instead. I find my geographic locations ironic because I have always had such a love for the sun, but I found myself in Maine, a state notorious for its long battle with winter.

All is well so far! I just got notice from TedTalks that the application I put forward for TedxBatesCollege got approved. Now it is just a matter of arranging a timeline for things to go under way.

I have also started picking up some sewing projects to learn first-hand how clothes are made. If I am ever to be a consultant in retail post-university, consider opening a large-scale retail company or work my way up to C-suite management at a renowned brand, I figure that the best way to know the craft is by doing the craft. I bought some beautiful cotton fabrics from Makower UK and Jessica Smith who is based in Seattle. Both patterns are drawn on quiet shades of pink. I think I’ll make a bag, a dress, and a shirt from my stash. I’ll be sure to upload some photos of the lovely fabrics. I’m happy to start working with my hands again – it’s been so long since I’ve done anything arts and crafty that I think my fingers and eyes are craving the color and the creative process behind it all.

I’m also starting up a HerCampus.com chapter which should be very exciting. I’m excited to start writing again for external publications. It’s been awhile, and I’ve been so busy that I haven’t had as much time to dedicate towards putting my thoughts onto paper.

Since it’s fall break, I only thought it fitting to feature some rooms for relaxation:

colors70s-chillroom

Room from the 70′s

Scarlet Spa

Scarlet Spa

Hanging plans dangling from the ceiling - the view must be phenomenal at night due to the sky lights. You could probably see the stars vividly.

Hanging plans dangling from the ceiling – the view must be phenomenal at night due to the natural sky lights. I’d take a gander and say that you could  see the stars vividly through the glass.

I've always wanted silk tents at my wedding. For the time being, a cozy tent with warm lights will do.

I’ve always wanted silk tents at my wedding. For the time being, a cozy tent with warm lights will do.

You know it's a comfortable space when your cat is lounging about like royalty. The red paint is extremely bold, but not overly powerful. I'm not sure I would choose the same colors, I'd choose  something more soft.

You know it’s a comfortable space when your cat is lounging about like royalty. The red paint is extremely bold, but not overly powerful. I’m not sure I would choose the same colors, I’d choose something more soft.

 

The ocean and pillows? All you need is a book and some sunblock = relaxation.

The ocean and pillows? All you need is a book and some sunblock = relaxation.

 

Bis,
Michelle

 

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Vulnerability

“Crying does not indicate that you are weak. Since birth, it has always been a sign that you are alive.”

- Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

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princessandthepea

Bis,
M

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