Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Thoughts on being an Asian American woman writer

This is excerpted from the Women's Work as Artists and Writers blog, where you can read essays from many other women.

Great grandma Wong, my mother Nancy Wong Chin-Lee, and the author

1934, Baltimore, MD

 

Someone was knocking on the door. 

 

Then seven years old, Nancy was folding clean diapers for her mother, but her father grabbed her arm and shoved her into the closet. Her father warned,“Get in there and be quiet!” 

 

He then calmly proceeded to open the front door and chat with the local truant officer. The officer’s eyes narrowed as he said, “We heard you have a school-age child? She should be attending school. That’s the law.” Nancy’s father invited the officer to look around the house. Only small children were playing in the backyard, all too young to go to school.

 

While Nancy should have been going to school, she was held back so she could help take care of her younger siblings. She was not allowed to attend school until her brother, a year and a half younger, was old enough to go to school. By that time, it would be useful to have her walk with him as her parents cared about educating him, but not her.

 

Nancy was my mother, a talented visual artist and a wonderful storyteller. 


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Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Hindsight is 2020


Top 10 things we learned in 2020*

*adapted from the AARP Bulletin

10. Our trust in one another is frayed, but it can be slowly restored.

If something sounds wrong, then verify the facts in multiple places. I got 3 scam phone calls from the Social "Secruity" office in one day alone. I was stunned by the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 but tearfully celebrated the inauguration of Biden and Harris later that month. Pre-pandemic I attended anti-Trump rallies and wrote letters to promote voting for votefwd.org.

9. Save for a rainy day.

Having a good cash savings fund took the stress off the near constrant threat of layoffs. In 2020 and 2019, I regretfully had to lay off a staff member. If possible, have an emergency fund of one full year of expenses.

8. Work, school, and social life can be anywhere.

With technology, I worked from home completely, Josh schooled from home, and we Zoomed with family, friends, church, and others. As a kid I loved the Jetsons and it's now true (well, except for flying saucers.)

7. Take care of yourself.

Whether you're a paramedic or parent of young kids, the stress has been enormous. Take care of yourself with meditation, exercise, diet, good sleep and sharing time (even remote) with friends.

6. The pandemic made us use technology and there's no going back.

We already did a lot online but for the first time, I ordered groceries on the computer. And finally more organizations trusted us to work from home.

5. Age is just a number.

If you're over 65 and healthy, you're more likely to survive COVID. If you're under 65 and have "underlying conditions," you may be in trouble if you catch it.

4. We can thrive without vacations and flying around the world.

Yeah, we're bummed that our vacation to Hawaii for an East-West conference (I'm an alum) and to visit Peter's extended family was cancelled. But we lowered our carbon footprint.

3. Race matters. And so does sex.

I always knew that race mattered, but I'm grateful that the conversation has expanded. One day I'll write a blog on why my last name is Chin-Lee and why my mother went to primary school at such a late age.

2. Family, blood and chosen, matters more than we knew.

Thank you to Peter, Vanessa, and Joshua. You all helped me keep my sanity.

1. There but for the grace of God go I.

Pray like hell! 😂 As I write this, I'm anxious about an upcoming biopsy for a lump seen on my annual mammogram. Sure, I'm grateful for my health, but I take it for granted as well as my education, financial security, and heterosexual, cisgender privilege.

Be more than an ally. Be an accomplice for those oppressed by poverty, war, sickness, race, gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation.

* * *

Over here in Half Moon Bay, CA, we’re doing as well as can be expected. I know we’re among the lucky ones with our ability to work and study from home.

Before the pandemic, I enjoyed a trip to exotic Pasadena, CA, where I met up with my jetsetting daughter Vanessa Pan (in LA for work). As an experiment, I took Megabus (cheap and fast) with no regrets. A trip to Los Angeles without a car? Yep. We used the subway and when needed took Lyft or Uber. Our favorite activity was visiting the Huntington Gardens and Museums.


Post pandemic, my former 4-day at home job became a 5-day at home job. My team was global so Zoom was already our best friend and now we commiserated over the restrictions and swapped stories on who got COVID and how. Many of my colleagues suffered with it as well as neighbors. Peter’s still sanitizing our groceries though I tend to think that’s overkill. When in public, we mask up and sometimes goggle up to protect the eyes. I’ve shared this blog on Facebook on how to avoid the risks of getting COVID.


You may have noticed I write about work in the past tense. On Feb. 5, 2021, I retired from Oracle as a senior manager of information development (tech pubs) with 4 different Zoom goodbyes. My generous coworkers sent a big chocolate cake to my home as well as party decorations and a large gift certificate to my favorite bookstore, reachandteach.com.


It was hard saying bye to all my warm, funny and gifted coworkers, but not too hard to give up 7 am PST meetings! I also got to leave with a bang as I lead a hackathon team (the Blind Moles) during my last few months. Our project won the People’s Choice award within Oracle. I must say it was a brilliant idea (blind or non-biased recruiting), which I hope Oracle will implement internally and which it’s offering as a feature of its Oracle Recruiting Cloud product. See the video we created with advice from resident video expert, Joshua.


My children’s book, Women and the Right to Vote, part of Scholastic’s True Book series came out in Sept 2020, right in time to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment. If you have any ideas on groups I could speak to, let me know.



Joshua graduated from high school last year and is studying online at Foothill College as a first year student in computer science. Peter doesn’t miss driving him to the campus, but Josh misses the in-person interaction. In his spare time, Josh flies drones, does animation, and posts his original videos to YouTube.  If you want his channel, text him at 650.815.8793. He’s even making a steady income from it. He’s also coding his own video game and has regular Virtual Reality (VR) chats with friends in Japan.These gen Zs!






Vanessa has been busy fixing up her new flat in Guadalajara, MX and working for maxablespace.com. She’s even installed a climbing wall in her home! She’s thinking of becoming a business or life coach, but in the meantime she manages Maxable’s partners as well as some staff members. And she still enjoys composing and singing.


Pre-pandemic, Peter was driving Josh to school and taking PE classes. At home now, he’s developed a keen eye on the stock market, and his abilities have helped us grow our investments and help me retire early. It’s hard to believe I can retire after 39 years (but hey, who’s counting?).Doing those catch up investments in the 401K, IRA, and Roth IRA helped as well as the market’s banner year in 2020.


We finally got our solar panels up and running as well as a backup battery. I’m almost wishing for a blackout so we can test the battery. We had a short blackout during the infamous California wildfires in August. The CZU lightning blaze came within 18 miles of our house, enough to get us packing our bags (though we never had to evacuate). We're sorry that so many suffered. 



We're saddened by the sudden death of my brother-in-law Alan More (husband of Diane Ching), who passed away last year from cancer. And we're thankful for his being in our lives.


We look forward to getting our COVID vaccines and hearing from you.


Cyndi and family