Thursday, December 31, 2009

Skin Deep

This morning I'm headed to the temple to assist as the Young Women do baptisms for the dead.

I always think it's interesting how in the temple, we remove all of our jewelry, labels, colors of dress, quality of dress, to wear simple white. Everyone wears the simple, modest white. In the temple it isn't about how we appear, how society dictates what is acceptable or not. In the temple we focus on what is inside our hearts, minds, souls. Maybe that's why it's a place I find the most peace, other than in my own home.

Recently, on yet another post, on the same blog in the blogosphere about Mormon women and plastic surgery, specifically, elective surgery I made yet another comment. It is actually a comment I'd been planning on posting on my blog as it's own, stand alone post... so here it is, with a few edits:

My take on plastic surgery is in a general sense. As in every situation there are exceptions (health reasons, etc...). I understand that. It’s personal – I get that. At the same time, I do believe there are ideals to be preserved. I believe that elective surgery should be used as an exception, not the rule, not a graduation gift, not a community effort, and certainly not promoted as the norm. That's where I worry... that it is becoming more a norm...than an outlier. I think if we were honest, we'd agree that going under the knife is never the ideal... I think if we could achieve the same results in another manner, we'd wish there was another way.

My views on plastic surgery comes also from the issues I had to deal with as an a lone Asian girl in Bountiful, UT. Let’s face it…in nearly all my Church congregations, still to this day… I’m often the lone Asian girl that sticks out.

As a kid I HATED. I absolutely HATED how different I was. I hated my yellow skin, my slanted eyes, my coarse, thick hair. I had massive self-esteem issues. I was surrounded by beautiful blond, brunette girls with blue eyes, white skin and …they didn’t wear boy hand-me-downs. They all fit in.

When I was in 10th grade I gave a speech touting an imaginary soap that would make you any ethnicity you wanted. Want that blond, white body… bam… shower and you got it. Want a tan, exotic look… just hop in the shower and voila!

Luckily, for me, no such drastic surgery was available. Michael Jackson might disagree with that statement… but for me… it wasn’t. I learned a lot over the years coming to terms with how I looked on the outside…and how I felt on the inside. Those trials, working with who I was, made me strong, and helped me appreciate, and relish who I am.

In fact, in college I could have easily done what so many other Asians did. They purposely segregated themselves by going to the Asian wards. I didn't want to blend in with the crowd. I wanted to be where I was unique. I loved the foreign language ward. I discovered that intelligent, ambitious people from different backgrounds, walks of life and cultures inspired me. I reveled in their unique qualities, as I reveled in my own. I had learned that being unique was something I rather liked at that stage of the game, and still do. I am grateful for the trials, the internal soul-searching that allowed me to finally arrive at a stage of self-acceptance.

I think about my ancestors in China. The breaking, wrapping and confinement of foot binding for all young girls at the ages of 3-6… for a standard of societal, economic beauty is quickly denounced, derided and abhorred by each of us. In those days, in that culture, a girl would either rise economically out of poverty with perfectly tiny, deformed feet, or suffer in squalid poverty for not conforming to society's standards of beauty.

Luckily, in our western society that kind of drastic lifestyle doesn't exist. So … what is the difference between the binding of feet that we instantly, disdainfully, judge (rightly so, in my opinion) as completely, utterly, wrong…and our western sensibilities in regards to slicing, nipping, cauterizing, and stitching? What makes one easily judged wrong, and another judged as anything goes? What of agency? In China, there was agency, to an extent. It was very clear from the get-go what the consequences to that agency was. In today's world, what are those consequences? Are people willing to accept those consequences to their agency, or simply rail against any stigma that may arise from our choices?

I understand there are many issues involved. Not every woman who pursues elective enhancement is insecure (and I am not addressing those)… but the vast majority are. And… I wonder how long that band aid really, truly heals what hurts inside. What of the lessons that need to be learned, the work needed to be done to accept oneself, as opposed to a "quick fix"? If we never learn how to accept, and love that scared little girl inside, how will we truly be happy?

And who is to say what the "perfect body" in the next life is the societal ideal we've come to believe in? Who is to say it's not an ample lap for children to sit and listen to stories in, or arms that embrace with a soft, all encompassing cuddle? Maybe I'm naive, but I still cling to the belief that God doesn't make any junk... I believe that what we believe in terms of perfection, and ideal physical appearance will be blown out of the water when we finally reach our eternal Home. Why do I think that when we reach that point, all that skin deep stuff we're so preoccupied about on a nearly, daily basis, won't even cross our radar when we're happily reunited with those we love most?

ps. Sure, there are things I'd like to change about my own body, but like I had to learn to love my outer, Asian self (now I love standing out) - I am learning to understand, love and appreciate my physical imperfections. I am hoping that I learn that lesson, in this stage of my life.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


There's a lot of thoughts that have been chasing each other around in my head.

I guess it all boils down to agency.

Or the misunderstanding of agency.

When I taught early morning seminary (punishment for not going to all four years as a teen I think?) we studied the Old Testament (which I fell in love with and is one of my favorite books of scripture with it's rich symbolism). I remember a lesson where it was focused on agency. The idea was you'd have a kid pick up a stick and as a result of picking up one end of the stick, they'd automatically get the other end as well.

In Young Women we emphasize several values, among them - Choice AND Accountability.

It frustrates me when I hear people shout that in this Church we have AGENCY! And then they forget to mention that as with any decision we make, there are immediate and long-term consequences. Depending on the choices, there are good and bad consequences.

I think some people honestly believe that this agency means that anything goes, regardless of the laws, guidelines, etc... that the Lord has proscribed. Only, that's not so, and sometimes I wonder if that's the adversary's way of fooling us into this false sense of "let it be", "anything goes", "we're all different".

Sometimes those that trumpet this kind of agency, typically only mean it for their point of view. They mean "free agency for me and my way of life" not you.

The fact is ... we are all free to choose our actions, etc, etc, etc
(do you think of Yul Brenner in King and I when you see 'etc' too?)... but we are not free to choose the reaction, the stuff that happens after.

Maybe...when we take into account the "after", we'll pay more attention to the "agency" part.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Feeling like a Cougar

Not just because I went to BYU. (it's where Mormons turn people who aren't into Zombies all we have to do is smile and it's contagious)

Recently I went to my friend Sally's house to drop off some Christmas goodies. I was dressed in jeans and a Pooh & friends hoody sweatshirt... which I bought some 10 or so years ago in the kids section. I was my normal self, sans makeup...and I can't remember if I even showered that day.

I had my oldest AGG in tow... because my girls LOVE my friend Sally as much as I do.

Sally's son was home for Christmas and I briefly met him. Sally saw us out and I mentioned, that I needed to find someone for her cute son. And then she confessed that he had pulled her into the kitchen earlier to ask if I was single. Apparently, he thought I was cute. I am pretty aware of myself and I know I'm quirky looking... I know I'm pretty "normal" ... so it's always shocking when I get rare comments like this.

... that one little, third party comment has sort of given me a lift in my step. Girls are so

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Comfort and Joy

photography by Blue Lily

This year I wanted to do something a little different in addition to a sugar-filled goodie plate.

So I focused on delivering a "meal" that was comfort food to those that have brought us comfort and joy all this year. So I began a process of making creamy tomato soup, mac and cheese and chicken pot pies. And then I made some additional plates of cookies and treats because, I can't not bake at Christmas. I love being in the kitchen. I try to infuse what I create, with love, I hope that little touch of magic makes everything taste comforting.

I'm a fan of gratitude. So I like to show my gratitude, not just with easy platitudes, but with real action. It was fun for me to put the "meals" together. I hope that I was able to show, in a small way how grateful my family and I have been for these friends, nearby, who have supported us, comforted us and brought us joy this past year.

Consider this post a Happy Christmas post to you and yours. AGG who is 5 has coined that phrase "HAPPY CHRISTMAS" for us this season, as well as substituting "Christmas Night!" instead of "good night".

There was a bit of a mad scramble this year, because the girls have never, ever asked Santa for anything before. We had already gotten them stuff from Santa, but at the last moment when they went for pictures with Santa, they sent in some requests.

AGG asked for a Ni Hao Kai-Lan wii game
DD asked for a pink neck-a-lace (she pronounces every syllable)

So... thanks to the Amazon Prime free trial membership (which will be canceled once the period is up) - Santa made it just in time. Phew!

Today I'm grateful for the glorious sun shining, my thoughtful husband, my precocious, excited girls... and the love I know my Savior has for me. When you remove all the stuff surrounding Christmas there's a pocket of peace filled with the knowledge that Christ was born to save us all. I am grateful to know that He came to save me, because I simply can't shoulder the burdens, trials and heartaches of mortality without Him.

When I think of the pain he suffered in Gethsemane... the weight of all of our sorrows, sins, and pain... my heart weeps because I can never ever comprehend what He had to bear. He is the greatest of us all. He, only He, can bring us peace, comfort and eternal joy.

I love my Savior. I love how much He cares for me without any strings attached, without judgment, without asking anything in return. He loves me just as I am, and He loves you, just as you are. He is always there, beckoning us to turn to Him.

Happy Christmas.
May your Eve be filled with childlike WONDER. May your Day be filled with gratitude and

ps. Just a few of our favorites this year.

Dauntless Daughter, age 3
color: purple
movie: Kung-fu Panda
tv show: Ni Hao Kai Lan
fruit: strawberries and mangoes
vegetable: mushrooms and tomatoes
drink: peppermint shakes
candy: candy canes and chocolate
food: mac and cheese
game: disney princess wii
book: The Polar Express
song: Fireflies, by Owl City
character from Rudolph (1964): Rudolph
thing to do with AGG: jump on the tramp and play spiders (pretend to be a spider in the trampoline web)
thing to do with Mommy: jump on the tramp and bake snicker-doodles
thing to do with Daddy: jump on the tramp and play spiders

Avant Garde Gal, age 5
color: pink
movie: Aladdin
tv show: Ni Hao Kai Lan and Olivia
fruit: strawberries... all fruit
vegetable: salad
drink: water
candy: skittles, red hots, candy canes
snack: popcorn
game: disney princess wii
book: Winnie the Pooh
song: We three kings
character from Rudolph (1964): Santa
thing to do with DD: play, dance moves, running around with the basket
thing to do with Mommy: read
thing to do with Daddy: play spider games (pretend to be a spider in the trampoline web)

Queen Scarlett, age 32
color: burgundy...and anything bright, deep and bold
movie: the painted veil (2006 directed by John Curran)
tv show: Dollhouse, Fringe, LOST, The Office, Friends reruns
fruit: Lichee, Mangos, Blueberries
vegetable: broccolini, green beans, mushrooms, onions, shallots, tomatoes, peppers, etc etc... all of them!
drink: water
candy: european chocolate
snack: leftovers
game: bejewelled, zingo
book: Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt, The Last Chinese Chef by Nicole Mones
song: anything the girls sing, and Say Hey (I love you) by Michael Franti & Spearhead
character from Rudolph (1964): misfit toys
thing to do with DD: bake, cook, play silly games, giggle, dance
thing to do with AGG: read, do homework, find answers to questions, giggle, dance
thing to do with Phantom: cuddle, massages, back-scratching

Phantom, age 35
color: green
movie: No Country for Old Men
tv show: San Jose Sharks Hockey
fruit: Mango
vegetable: artichoke
drink: Blood Orange Italian Soda
candy: mini-charleston chews
snack: chips
game: Company of Heroes
book: Martina the Beautiful Cockroach by Carmen Agra Deedy
song: “Hooray, the day, is coming to Hooray” (repeats) lyric by AGG
character from Rudolph (1964): Mr. Heat-meiser
thing to do with DD: cuddle
thing to do with AGG: cuddle
thing to do with QS: cuddle and *censored*

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

12 Days of Christmas Books part III

Tomorrow night we'll read Christmas Tapestry, (thanks to friend suggestions via Facebook) by Patricia Polacco - it's a new addition to the Christmas library. We'll also tell the Christmas story, the one about Christ's birth, Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and the wise men. We'll also be having a family slumber party, recreating the polar express train/cocoa party...and opening up some new pajamas. And the girls will be looking for Elfie Star... their Elf on the Shelf that my fabulous friend Sally gave the girls this year. It's been fun finding where Elfie Star (named by the girls) appears each morning.

I hope you've enjoyed seeing what we've been reading over the 12 days of Christmas books. If you have any suggestions we should add-in for next year, I'd love it. (please leave a comment to share)

12. Mr. Finnegan's Giving Chest, by Dan Farr

This book is a "Christmas spirit" story. I think we were given this book, not sure I would've actually purchased this on my own. It comes with a CD read by Dick Van Dyke. We've listened to the CD before, but I like to read it to my girls. It's fun imagining hearing his voice in my head as I read.

11. On the Night You Were Born, by Nancy Tillman

I added this into our Christmas book rotation because we celebrate the birth of Christ. I figured it was appropriate to also highlight their births. That their birth was significant for me. I just like the way Tillman's writing sounds when I read it aloud.

10. The Tale of the Three Trees retold by Angela Elwell Hunt, illustrations by Tim Jonke

I love this folktale. Ours is a board book given to us when the girls were much younger.

9. Stranger in the Woods by Carl R. Sams II & Jean Stoick

It's fun doing different voices for the various animals. I also love the photography illustrating the story.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

12 Days of Christmas Books part II

8. The Polar Express, written and illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg

A classic. I think next year I'm going to try to remember to get tickets to our local Polar Express adventure. I love the book so much more than I do the movie. I feel the same way about the Grinch - I prefer the book Whos...not the movie Whos.

7. Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost, Illustrated by Susan Jeffers

I have always loved the somber, stillness of this poem. The vast white of snow everywhere fits perfectly. The illustrations are lovely. The girls like to find the forest animals.

6. One Snowy Night, by M. Christina Butler, Illustrated by Tina McNaughton

He's just a cute little hedgehog. The girls have loved this one for a while now...and it reminds me when they were so little they'd love the texture of the hat.

5. When Jesus Was Born in Bethlehem, paintings by Joseph Brickey

We enjoy the beautiful artwork. When the girls were younger I'd just talk about the paintings we would look at. Now that they're older I can read more of the text and talk to them about the events that occurred all those years ago.

4. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer by Robert L. May, Illustrated by David Wentzel

Love the illustrations in this book. Santa does seem all jolly and he fills up a room with that bowl full of jelly.

Monday, December 14, 2009

12 Days of Christmas Books

A couple years ago my friend Carrie mentioned her tradition of wrapping up Christmas books they had, and adding a few each year, for the 12 days of Christmas. I loved this idea, so we've been doing it ever since.

As there are only two kids in our family, we let one pick out the wrapped book from under the tree, and then the other one gets to open the book. Then we trade off night-after-night. It makes reading time before bed, during Christmas, extra-special. I don't put any markings on the wrapping paper, so I never know what book will pop up next.

Seeing as I've wrapped up the books...and can't remember what I wrapped up. I'll be sharing the titles, bit-by-bit. In addition, I'm soliciting your Christmas book titles that you love reading to your kids...because, I can never have too many books.

...I love to read to my girls. I love how they cuddle up close to me, I love how focused on the story they are. I love reading with meaning, inflection, voices...and pauses. I hope one day to be the library story-time lady.

Without further adieu, HAPPY 3rd day of Christmas Book Reading.

3. The Spirit of Christmas by Nancy Tillman

I love the illustrations in this book. I love the prose. I love the meaning of Christmas...and that in the end... well... I won't spoil it for you. Go get it!

2. The Night Before Christmas: The Anniversary Edition by Clement C. Moore, illustrated by Christian Birmingham

I have always loved the rhythm of this story. The anniversary edition illustrations are simply gorgeous. I'm really glad I have this in my collection.

1. Drummer Boy by Loren Long

I love that Loren Long both wrote and illustrated this book. The illustrations are beautiful and the story is precious. My girls love the rhythm of the drum...and it adds depth to the story.

ps. I'm a fan of hardcover books when it comes to special Christmas ones.
WHAT Christmas books are you reading to your kids??? Please share!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


This is the old school bus, and little people I used to play with as a child.

Now my girls are playing with this Fisher Price toy.

They're using it to skateboard...

Avant Garde Gal and Dauntless Daughter...

Just the other day AGG took one of my thank you note card packs and wrapped it up in wrapping paper. She then wrote "To Mommy, Love Santa". She then explained that it was a gift from Santa - not her. Is this her subconscious telling her the "truth" about Santa? Or is this her little genius intuition? Whatever it is... she's a treasure.

Lately DD has been saying "but it takes too long!" when we ask her to finish eating her food. She says it takes too long when she feeds herself. She's been getting me to feed her... because she knows I'm a pushover when it comes to my kids. In fact today, when she wanted me to stand next to her while she washed her hands after using the bathroom, she fluttered her arms like a butterfly and smiled as she said, "that makes you smile momma." Yes, yes it does...and it instantly makes me less frustrated or irritated too...and she knows it.

I adore my smart cookies.

Monday, December 7, 2009

It's beginning to LOOK a lot like...


No joke... in Nor. Calif.
I love living here because usually the snow doesn't come to me... I get the choice of going to the snow. This morning... the snow decided to make itself at home. girls are thrilled it did.

AGG quotes this morning: "It's a special day!!!" "It looks like sugar! Is sugar cold? Look! It looks like there's sugar on my house."

"Do you make snow out of coconut?" She's quoting a tv show.

When DD woke up she looked out the front windows all excited and said, "That's not a lot of snow!" So we took her to the back windows and she said "wow, that's a lot of snow! Is Santa coming?"

After we'd finished our snow activities outside she asked, "Can I go out and taste the snow now, please?"

...secretly... I had a blast too.

The girls are pretending the snowman is their brother.

Then it was time to go in and watch Elf, have hot cocoa with fresh whipping cream, cinnamon pancakes, and bacon... mmm.

This is what has been keeping us in the Christmas spirit pre-snow.

Pink Sugar Cookies

Advent calendar village

One-of-a-kind Calendars

Words of the season


Tiny nativities

(ps. DD already broke Joseph's has been glue-gunned on - Joseph...first casualty of Christmas)

Olive wood, 9-year-old Nativity from Jerusalem

Enacting the nativity