23 February 2010

Princesses and tiaras and heels, oh my

I am sitting here writing out princess birthday party invitations. Okay, at the moment, I'm actually writing this post. But before this, I was writing out the "What", "When" and "Where" info on pink, tiara-shaped, sparkly invites. For my kid's third birthday.

And I found myself wondering, "How did we get here?"

I am creative by nature, as well as by trade. And I try not to discourage my daughter's interest in anything. No matter what it is.

She has a collection of bug stuffed animals. Bugs.

She says goodbye to the bathroom and her toothbrush every morning by saying, "Have a good day, guys!"

And she sleeps with the cast of "Cars".

Up until recently, she abhorred pink and all that goes with it. Which I secretly enjoyed.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not completely against the Disney Princess racket. I've read the stories and know that each princess started out in life with some pretty hard knocks. And that each princess persevered and succeeded (in getting the man).

I know there are lessons to be learned in these stories that are decked out like tiered, fluffy cakes.

But still...princesses? Really?

So one day, not so long ago, my daughter was playing with her cousin (let's call her "D") and suddenly, my world was forever changed.

D is a girly-girl through and through. She wears tiaras to the mall. She lounges about her house in tutus and leotards. And pink is not just her signature color—it seems to be her only color.

On our way home on that fateful day, my daughter turned to me and said, "I want to be a princess."

Come again?

"I want to be a princess!"


And so it began.

It started out slowly. Creeping into our apartment and into our lives.

She was a princess for Halloween. (But she was also wearing Puma sneakers, so I don't really count that.)

Then my mom gave her a tutu. Thanks, Mom.

When she discovered "Angelina Ballerina", it was done. The conversion was complete. She was a girly-girl.

And I'm okay with this. Really, I am. Just a bit surprised.

Because she's never seen a single Disney movie. Not one.

And yet she knows every single Disney princess by sight and by name and what each one wears.

How did we get here?

Does Disney tap into our phone lines, sneak secret recordings into our rooms that play while we sleep? Because I know that the information didn't come from me. I only knew of two Disney princesses and wasn't aware they were being merchandised as the "Disney Princesses" in the first place. (Disney really is brilliant, I must say.)

So when she picked out her invitations, I gave her a choice between cupcake invites (she LOVES cupcakes—she's my daughter, after all) and the princess tiara invites. She looked them over carefully, weighing her options, thinking of her target, licking her lollipop. Then she pointed. At the princess invitations.

I said, "But look! It's a cupcake!"

It was no use.

And here I sit. Filling in the "What", "Where" and "When" info on pink, tiara-shaped, sparkly invites.

What I'm struggling with is that I just assumed she'd be a lot more like me. I never really played with dolls. Never had a Barbie. Had a Baby Alive that I disliked because it peed on everything.

I climbed trees, I skinned my knees, I was outside for months at a time.

No, I wasn't Huck Finn. But I wasn't that far off.

And my little girl. My little girly-girl...is far off. Up to this point, she was my twin in appearances and even attitude. But two roads diverged.

And I'll have to come to terms with that.

She is still like me in many ways: she's got a strong personality, she's stubborn, she's hilarious (even at age almost-3).

But she is not me—and that is good. More than good. A relief, actually.

So maybe I should be happy about that, that she's not like me. That maybe there's hope for her somewhere in this pink world.

And maybe my little girly-girl will decide to paint it a different color.

17 February 2010

My name is __________, and I am a hoarder

I keep everything.

And I mean everything.

From letters to dog calendars to clothes I haven't worn in years but have convinced myself I will fit into again one day.

I keep everything.

Currently, we're renting. Waiting to move into our "forever home". (Read: Where we'll live until I decide I don't like how the shower drain is situated, at which time we'll be on our way again.)

And because we're renting, we've downsized a bit.

Quite a lot, actually.

We used to live in a three-bedroom, two-floor condo. About 2000 square feet of space.

We now live in a two-bedroom, single-floor apartment.

About 50 square feet of space.

So, as you can imagine, we "got rid" of a lot of stuff.

This stuff is currently waiting for us in a storage space, where we're paying monthly for it to live.

And what we've learned in the past few months of living here, in our closet, is that we don't need all that stuff.

We're living every day without my high school yearbooks. And my old business cards. And the bike I bought and rode four times (but it has white wall tires and coaster brakes!).

My husband keeps gently suggesting we go through said storage space and get rid of most of the stuff. For real.

But how can I get rid of the napkin that my daughter first doodled on, in the restaurant I can't remember, and on a day I can't recall?

He is a cruel, cruel man to want to do this to me. I should have seen his selfish, egotistical tendencies years ago.

But I can kind of see his point.

We're essentially renting an apartment for all this stuff. We're paying monthly for it to sit in a heated box that might actually be bigger than our apartment.

I know we need to get rid of most of it. I need to go through it all. See what I need and what I don't.

It'll take months.

I'll read every letter.

I'll try on every t-shirt.

I'll examine every single plate, cup and spoon.

But it has to be done.

Because otherwise, we'll be saving all this stuff...for what?

For our daughter?

What will she do with my leather pants? (shut up)

But somehow, I just can't let it go.

I'm sure my therapist would tell me it's because I was a latchkey kid and I've never felt I belonged and I'm a middle child.

She might be right.

But I think, despite what I portray to the outside world, I just might...

...have feelings.

I am nostalgic.

I miss things.

Like high school.

And college.

And going on weeks-long roadtrips.

And all that stuff, those boxes and bags and suitcases piled on top of each other about two miles from here?

Those are my memories of the things I desperately miss.

I know I have kept those memories.

And I know that the baseball cap that I picked up at Wall Drug is not ever going to sit atop my head again.

But when I see that hat, I always think, "That was such a great trip."

And I just can't let it go.

This ugly, worn out cap...

...is somehow holding me hostage.

I need to break free.

I know I can't go home again.

But I can go back to my storage space, can't I?

A time is coming when I'll have to face that wall of boxes.

My 10'x10'x8' scrapbook.

And I'll have to remind myself that just because the physical evidence is gone, doesn't mean I won't remember.

I don't know if I can do it.

But I guess I'd rather send my daughter to college than pay rent for these boxes for the rest of my life.

I'll get there.

One day I'll be the kind of person that travels light.

(But comes back with extra baggage.)

08 February 2010

I'm done

No, not with blogging. You wish. Oh, I'm just getting started.

No, I'm done–as in finished–with something quite different.

As I posted before, I'm in the ad industry. The glorious, exciting, martini-lunch world of advertising. Lucky me.

We get to be creative. We get to go to exotic places. We're constantly striving for a better solution, a better way to communicate your need for a useless product.

However, there are some problems in this idyllic world.
We don't get to be creative.
We don't get to go to exotic places.
And we're not constantly striving for a better solution.

What we are doing is competing. Constantly.

Trying to one-up each other, and get in good with the higher ups.

We just recently finished a huge project (although how "finished" it is is anyone's guess). And I got to work with my friends. Some pretty close friends, considering how much time we spend together.

And we turned on each other like in "Lord of the Flies".

I listened to such backstabbing remarks and cuts to others' work, that even I, the queen of criticism and judgement, was made a bit uneasy.

Why are we like this? Why are we willing to rip open our sometimes-friends, for the sake of a tv spot which will be changed and tweaked and watered down and re-written until it is unrecognizable?

Why do some feel this is ok?

I must admit I'm guilty of this to a small extent. Okay, to a big extent.

But on a normal level.

In a "Ugh, he was so annoying in that meeting. And did you see his hair?" kind of way.

But I don't say one thing about one person and then blatantly LIE to that person's face.

That's high school stuff and I want no part of it.

Obviously, a lot of this comes from insecurity. Because to create in any sense, you kind of have to lay yourself on the line, put yourself out there. Say, "Here's what I came up with and this is who I am." That's pretty intimidating.

And you have to stay relevant. Always.

And to stay relevant, you have to be kind of hip. And most of the people who are hip are pretty young.

And this is a really young industry.

As in, 35 is old.

That's why one guy I work with actually lies about how old he is. Really. He's in his early 50s and he claims to be mid-30s (Well, that was last summer. I believe he aged himself this fall and is now claiming to be early 40s). This is how desperate people are to belong in this world.

And it's never really bothered me that much.

Call me callous, but the goings-on in our industry never made me bat an eye.

But now I'm feeling some Catholic guilt.

Maybe it's because I have a kid and I'm trying to model nice behavior for her.

Maybe it's because I'm getting older and I'm just sick to death of the whole thing.

Maybe it's because I'm looking at these people I've known for years and really seeing them for who they are.

Because if you can call someone a friend and then act like the antagonist in some poorly-lit soap opera...that's not something I want a part of anymore.

But my options are limited.

I have a degree in creative writing and I work in advertising. Not really a springboard for much.

I googled "Life After Advertising" and found lots of useful info.

Like the guy who just couldn't take it anymore and so went out and bought a vineyard. Or the guy that realized his real love was pottery and quit it all to become a potter full time. And don't forget the woman who realized she had an "eye for color" and started her own successful fashion line.

Now why didn't I think of that?

I think the key to living in this world I've chosen is probably just to try and find what I do like. What makes it bearable.

And honestly, the creating of good work is addictive. The energy you get when you feel like you're onto something, the feeling you get when you solve a problem...that's why we're all here. I get that adrenaline high when I'm working on something good. We all do.

I think that's doable: looking for the good in a sea of bad. And really, sometimes it's worth it. Sometimes I think to myself, "I love what I do."

I'll try to ignore that these times are getting fewer and farther between. And I'll try and find what I used to love about my job. I'll actively seek it. I'll roam the halls, look under desks, look in closets. I'll find that passion.

And then I'll jump as soon as I find something better.

02 February 2010

On being Asian...

The jig is up. I'm Asian. You probably hadn't guessed that, but yes, I'm guilty.

I. Am. Asian.

And with this descriptor comes all sorts of stereotypes, some true, some not so true.

I did take piano lessons. For eleven years.

And violin. For four.

I had a bowl cut. As did my sister.

We had rice with every meal. Even if it was spaghetti.

My parents are professionals who pushed us academically and even sent us to academically-focused summer camps.

We had a chalkboard in our playroom where our father taught us math.

We were grounded for getting Bs.

And my mom makes the best Filipino food around. Hands down.

My favorite part of being Asian (or Pacific Islander, if you must get technical) is when I'm confronted by an idiot who can't tell "what I am" and often broaches the subject with a sensitive, "What are you?"

After Chinese and Japanese, most run out of countries and just stare at me, stumped.


Yes. Filipino.


Those are my favorite times. Oh, and when people get me confused with someone who is also Asian, but looks nothing like me. But I totally understand that. It's hard to keep you white people straight too.

I also love poking fun at the Asian culture. I've been known to state that "Asian chicken salad" is simply "chicken salad" to us. It makes some uncomfortable, but those who know me well know I'm just trying to make people uncomfortable.

Why am I posting about this? Because tonight I read another blog called "The Banana Diaries" and it was hilarious. This guy's Korean (not Chinese or Japanese as one might guess). And he's blogging about growing up Korean. And going to Church camp. And being "Fresh off the Boat". It's pretty funny, well-written stuff.

So I thought to myself, "I know a little something about being Asian. I can write about that."

And here we are.

I remember growing up, wanting to be just like Elizabeth Corrigan.

Blonde hair. Blue eyes.

Blonde-haired, blue-eyed family.

Golden retriever (who had red hair and brown eyes).

I wanted nothing more than to fit in. To be the same as "them".

I remember trying to open my eyes really wide when getting my picture taken.

Because. Well, you know.

I have slanty eyes.

I remember disliking that my skin was darker.

I didn't have a curl to my hair to save my life. My mother tried and tried to perm it and it would be curly. For about a week. Poor mom.

But all in all, I wanted to melt in and not be noticed.

Now...I'm a little different.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not one that stands out, by any means. I don't wear outlandish clothes and dye my hair orange in order to buck the trend.

I'm actually kind of mainstream now, but not out of a desire to conform. Well, I guess that's a part of everyone's motivation to some extent.

But now, I'm more comfortable in my own skin.

I love being Asian. Because it's part of me. It's who I am so much so, that it's not even something that stands out to me anymore. It's not something that's top of mind anymore.

And I love that my daughter looks kind of Asian (my husband is as white and Wonder Bread as "they" come).

And I love that she'll grow up knowing the customs, calling my parents "Lolo" and "Lola", and maybe even learning to cook my mom's amazing recipes.

And I especially love that I'm raising a strong, half-Asian woman. Who, one day when she's asked, "Are you Oriental?" she can calmly look at the person and say, "Why, yes. I am a rug."

City livin'

Here's what I've been struggling with lately:
We have an almost three year old.
We live in the city.
We have no yard.

And we've decided to stay.

Most of the time I'm fine with it. You know, we'll be raising this tough, streetsmart, take-no-bullshit kid. She doesn't notice when the el streaks by. She barely glances up when police cars with sirens blazing go by. She doesn't even seem to notice the crap and litter all over the sidewalks and streets. And I love that. She's a city kid...so far.

But then I think of how I was raised. In a beautiful suburb with a big backyard, kids throughout the neighborhood, being able to ride my bike anywhere, walk to school with my friends. There were trees and grass and Capture the Flag tournaments. And quiet.

Sounds kind of creepy, but that's how I grew up.

And yes, it was a different time–things definitely seemed safer back then. I could take off on my bike at 9am on a summer morning and come home by dinner, without my parents batting an eye (although that may be another issue entirely). It seemed like there was more freedom there than there is in a city.

So herein lies the problem. I can raise an urban, sophisticated, cultured, we-order-chinese-takeout-at-4am, aware-in-more-ways-than-the-average-suburban-kid kid.

OR I can raise a suburban kid, who can take two steps out our back door to a manicured yard (I told you my husband was nice) and the smell of homemade pie baking in [someone else's] oven.

Don't get me wrong. This decision is made. We're all signed up, about to move into a new construction condo (don't even get me started on raising her in a condo). But I still sometimes wonder: Are we doing the right thing? Shouldn't we consider moving just five itty bitty miles west to a great suburb with great schools? As set as this decision is in stone, I'm still torn.

At times, I can see it. I can see my kid going to her little urban school with her little urban friends. Then going to the little urban park and coming home to her mom's takeout dinner.

But then there are other times...wow, that whole house and yard and block party thing is appealing, too.

I know whatever decision we make is the right one for our family. Blah blah blah.

But still...when it's your kid and you have to decide what her life is going to be right now...that's a big burden. And I'm a lazy person.

But I think we're doing the right thing.

At least I do right now.

01 February 2010

Welcome to me

My first blog. Wow. And I'm not quite sure what I want to say, or even who might read this.

Let's see. A little bit about me. I'm a neurotic mother of a two year old daughter, teetering on the brink of being three. She's the love of my life (usually) and is the most creative, hilarious, kind person I know. She must get that from her dad, my husband. He's the kind of person that makes my friends say, "How is he married to YOU?" Seriously. He's that nice.

We have a dog that I love, but annoys me, now that I have my kid. She's a sweet shepherd mix (aren't they all?) who's mostly quiet, but can bark and scare the shit out of you when she's in the mood.

My job? My job...I'm in advertising. Let's leave it at that...for now. My husband is as well. Our daughter is exhibiting signs of creativity, which is scaring the crap out of me. What if she ends up like me?? Scary thought.

Well, that's all for now. It's my first stab at blogging and I'm exhausted. Gotta go to bed. Goodnight, my one follower, dear hubby.