Photo of a group of people Photo of a group of people

It was a wonderful day, filled with beautiful people.

In person, on the phone, via text.

So many beloved people.

I am grateful.

And very tired.

I will have one more meal with beloved friends tomorrow.

After a sleep, and allergy medication for my very swollen foot.

I was almost too tired to write.

That would have been okay, but this is also good.

A moment to reflect, even in my exhaustion.

A moment to hold that even with all the love that surrounds me, there is a part of me that still longs for those who are not here.

I am writing.

Writing is showing up for myself.

I am grateful.

Tenderness, Tension, Community & Connection: Reflections on #NCTE22

Photograph of a stage with a lighthouse and a circle with the words ¡Sueños! Pursuing the Light and the National Council of Teachers of English logo

What does it mean to dream? What does it mean to pursue the light?

This year’s National Council of Teachers of English Annual Convention theme was ¡Sueños! Pursuing the Light. It was the first annual convention held in person since 2019, and it was held in my current hometown of Anaheim, California.

I was on the program 10 times, and had the honor of facilitating a conversation with Dr. Seema Yasmin on her new book What the Fact: Finding the Truth in All the NoiseIn fact, all of the program appearances were an honor: from work related to chairing the NCTE Research Foundation Trustee Board (whose mission is not only to promote research within the organization but also to support the Cultivating New Voices among Scholars of Color program), to presentations with colleagues and friends who are amazing and brilliant educators, to work with my beloved professional home & family: the Asian/Asian American Caucus, to supporting the work of mentoring and networking (a session I had to bow out of, but to which I hope to return). All of it is important work that is close to my heart. All of it is work to support community & commitments that I hold dear. All of it is good.

But all of it together is too much.

On the night before Day 1 of the conference, I began to lose my voice. By the morning of Day 1, it was almost completely gone. I did not feel sick. In fact, I had recovered from a recent cold, tested every day for 3 days to make sure I was not COVID positive, and felt better than I had in awhile. I thought maybe the laryngitis was a result of new allergy medication I took. But whatever the cause, I could not speak like myself.

I also could not fully rest my voice, given the schedule that I had: a board meeting to facilitate on Thursday, two presentations on Friday and a full Saturday schedule including the MainStage presentation, after an 8am session and before the 11am Caucus Open Forum.

In between all these things, I was coordinating an important, time bound project at work (even with my out of office message on). I was also running into people I hadn’t seen in years who I love deeply in the halls between sessions, snapping a quick selfie and moving on because I had to get to the next place.

As I saw people, those who knew me best heard my voice, looked at my face, had seen my name on the program, and said, directly and indirectly, that they were worried about me.

I was not in my body enough to worry about myself.

Finally, as I was leaving the Caucus Open Forum on Saturday at noon, my friends, Jung and Grace, told me that I needed to duck out of my scheduled session to eat and to rest. They knew I had another 3 commitments in the afternoon/ evening and that I would have just kept pushing forward if they didn’t forcibly stop me.

So, I excused myself from the session & was given so much grace by the session organizer, ate some food with Jung & Grace, got a couple of books signed, saw some really lovely and dear friends, then went to rest.

Then I got up and did the rest of the conference like I had done the part before Jung & Grace’s intervention.


My very last session of the conference was with people who I consider family. It was a small session, mostly just the presenters and a few dear friends. So, we chose to forego the typical academic format, and talk truthfully and justice, grief, healing, community, family, rest, resistance, humanity, dehumanizing institutions, and how we live our truth. It was a healing and authentic space where I could breathe.

And yet…

In that session, there was a moment where I began to choke on my own breath. I tried to take a sip of water, but I began to choke on that too. I left the room, sat on the floor outside the door, in the registration hall, and coughed until I was crying. A woman I did not know began to approach me to see if I was okay. I signaled that I was, because physically I knew I could recover myself, but I realized that I also was not. I was not okay. I had fallen back into the trap I know so well. Doing, doing, doing to the point that I was choking on the very things that gave me life. I could not be with the things that I needed to live.




My body knows more than my mind. It was telling me that I am human, that I cannot do all the things. But I refused to listen. I had gone on autopilot.

When I give control of my body over to my mind, I can run on reserves until I am a literal shell of myself. My voice was silent and then strained. But I would not stop talking.

So, my body made things that should be automatic and reflexive: breathing, drinking, swallowing, into things that had to be intentional. I had to slow down. I had to pay attention. There was no other way.

My dear brother, Shamari K. Reid, reminded me that I, like so many other women of color, have to slow down, have to stop, pause, breathe, rest, or we are enabling our own death. We become complicit alongside the institutions that would kill us. I know this, but when he reminded me, I felt it.

My dear sister, Sakeena Everett, reminded me that so many people want me to live. But that if I am to go, it is my children, my own family, that will not be able to replace me.

They said these things in love, with tenderness but firmness, with conviction and care that called me in, to myself and to community.

It is up to me to listen. It is up to me to live the life I choose, to model what I wish for those I love. They are looking to me. I am looking at myself.

There was much joy at NCTE this year, so many moments of reconnection and community. There was abundance, but I wonder how much richer those interactions could have been if I had allowed myself the space, time, rest, grace that I deserve as a human being. I wonder how much more present I would have been with pause.

There is always tension when one loves, between depth and breadth, between others and self, between fragmentation and wholeness.

I am navigating this tension, imperfectly.

In this tension, I am grateful for the love and tenderness, the grace and understanding of those around me, the strength and reminders that I have much to live for and strength to choose.

I will need help. I truly believe that without community, I would not be. I never want to disappoint anyone. I will need to know that the bond we share is not dependent on doing, but on being. Or perhaps I will need to let go of the energy to maintain so many strong bonds and let go of commitment, but remain always with affection.

It is hard. It is a lot. I do not know. I cannot yet feel the answer.

So, I return to this:

What does it mean to dream? What does it mean to pursue the light?

I do not know yet, but I know it cannot be done without space and the courage to come out of the darkness.


Photograph of a parking lot, with seven police car lined up around the perimeter of the lot

It’s been a long day.

This morning, I was attending a Presbytery meeting at a church about 20 minutes from my home. (For those who are not Presbyterian, a Presbytery is like a local regional governing body of churches in the same area. For educators, it is akin to a school district.) Anyways, we were finishing up a beautiful worship service which centered youth who had recently returned from a retreat and the importance of diversity & love across our differences, when the pastor of the church, who had been scheduled to lead the prayers of the people, came to the front.

She was clearly flustered, but in as calm a voice as possible, apologized and said that we were in a lockdown situation, that there were active shooters (later renamed “armed suspects” for greater accuracy) who had fled from the Big Lots across the street into the church parking lot and were somewhere on the campus of the church or in the adjacent plaza. We were safest remaining in the sanctuary, and we couldn’t leave the building, but otherwise we could carry on. She took a moment to center herself and us and brought us together in prayer.

We were on lockdown for 2.5 hours in the sanctuary. The youth, who had come just for the worship service (which had nearly ended) had to stay through the entire business portion of the day, but we pretty much just carried on with the meeting, in the sanctuary. And then, as the meeting ended, as an alternate plan to get us lunch through the back access road had been devised, the two suspects were taken into custody and we were eventually allowed to leave.

It was strange to me the way it all just continued, business as usual, in what were not usual circumstances. But I suppose this is not so unusual either. It was not my first lockdown. I’ve been locked down in my office on campus. I’ve been locked down in my classroom when I taught middle school more than once. Close family and not-as-close (but not-so-far) friends have been involved in mass shootings.

I am so tired.

I am tired from today and I am tired from this week and the week before, and this year and the years before. I am tired of carrying so much when some around me carry so little and make light of things that will leave me tired for hours, and days, and weeks. I am tired of the reality that caring means carrying, that a capacity to hold space means a responsibility to hold so much.

After we were free to go, I came home and took a nap.

Then I brought my sister paperwork she needs to bring to her mother to take care of our father’s estate. Our father. A year ago on his birthday (which was two days ago, 9/22/21) would be the last time we would talk. In a week, it will be the one year anniversary of his death. He died someone I barely knew, but by all accounts, perhaps I am fortunate in that.

I did not tell my sister about the lockdown. But being on lockdown and my sister returning to see her mother reminded me of a time less than 18 months ago when she too was unable to leave her home, with imminent danger on the streets outside, laying with her mother on the ground, to avoid being seen and shot by the military in their neighborhood.

Then I took my 7-year old to our normal church service. I did not tell my children about the lockdown. We went to church like it was a normal Saturday. I sang. Those of us in the lockdown didn’t NOT talk about it, but it sits with each of us differently. For me, it is a weight.

I am tired.

My birthday is in 5 days. The anniversary of my father’s death is in a week. My sister’s birthday is in 12 days. I am grateful that my sister will get to spend all of these days rejoined with her mother again.

I miss my mother most around important days for me: my birthday, my children’s birthdays, her birthday, Mother’s Day. So I am carrying that, and the grief is heavy on the days when I “should be” happiest.

I am tired.

I have a life that keeps moving. October is a busy month. I travel twice, give a talk, preside over a conference, lead a department that has two faculty searches happening.

I am tired.

This is perhaps not such a coherent piece of writing. But since there is much I cannot say to those around me, it is what is here for me right now. I covet your thoughts & prayers, your warm embraces (if you are close), your joy, cute animal pics, delicious food recommendations.

I am grateful for the community of you that love me. It is a hard time. I am tired. The days are long. I hold all these things simultaneously. I know that community is stronger than all of the hardest times. But, I am tired, and humbly need to be held up by those of you that care.

Holding on to Beauty, Holding on to Humanity

Photograph of a bouquet of flowers including yellow sunflowers, pink/lavender roses and assorted wildflowers

I’ve been bringing flowers into the office the last few weeks.

It’s my reminder that beauty exists in the present, in the moments in between, in spaces that can sometimes seem empty and cold otherwise.

It is my reminder that the spark of light in me exists even when I am not moving, even when I have spent so much time hiding behind the screen of my computer that the motion detector turns off the lights, and I am forced to wave my hands to signal that I am still here. I am still here. The spark is still here.

I have been thinking a lot about humanity as I’ve transitioned to my new role as Department Chair, and as I prepare my dossier to be evaluated for full professor. I think a lot about the humanity in this blog which has catalogued my academic journey since it began. I think about when and how I make space for myself, to write, to reflect, to grow…and also, about when and how I make space for myself, to pause, to be still, to be human.

Lately, it has been hard to make time for my humanity. The nature of my new position is one of doing, reacting and responding. My days are full with administrative duties that leave little time or energy for the work of my heart and the quiet moments of reflection and deep thought that are the fertile ground for writing. I am good at what I do, and aside from Mondays when commutes are hard and e-mail queues feel impossible to clear, I like it. But I know it’s easy to compartmentalize, to lose my most human self, to become disconnected in the doing instead of present to my being.

In all of this, I remain grateful for beauty, for community, and for growth. This week, I got to talk with multiple friends who could hear I wasn’t there, and instead of turning the lights off on me, they called me into myself. They made space for whatever self was there, present or absent, and also reminded me that my best self was waiting patiently when I was ready. They reminded me that the parts of me that seem so far away (in the past or in the future) are all actually here in this moment, for me to choose, if I can embrace myself, if I can embrace hope, if I can pause to listen. They reminded me that they are here for me, even if and when I can’t be here myself.

There is a lot to hold in these moments, a lot of urgency around me, but in the midst of all of the things, there is still humanity, there is still beauty, there is still community, and I am working to hold onto these things, as a quiet means of resistance and revolution.

Waking Up

Photo of a young Asian American girl (the author) and her mother in metal frame that is an angel with sunflowers all around the photo

Early this morning, I dreamt of my mother.

This doesn’t happen often, and this was a strange dream. My mother was the age she was when she died. She resembled a picture we had blown up for her funeral. She was smiling. She was teaching in a school with mostly Black and Latinx students that had clearly been recently painted, not so different from the school I taught at during my whole middle school career. I saw her there, and then when I came back to see her, she was gone. There was a young man in her place that resembled a friend from the Bay Area, where I used to live. I opened the door and asked where she had gone.

A round-faced boy replied, “That lady? She got really sick and left.”

I had many questions in the dream. Why would he call her that lady? (It was said matter-of-factly, without contempt, just as a point of information) Wasn’t she the teacher? I asked about the teacher and he knew who I was talking about. He didn’t correct me, but didn’t say her name. Why didn’t she call me when she got sick? Where did she go? Where was she now? Did she get COVID for the second time? (I remember thinking this in the dream) Should I call the doctor?

Then I woke up.

None of this makes a lot of sense. My mother never taught in the US (only for a few years in Taiwan). She would be in her 80s if she had not died in a car accident over 25 years ago. Yes, she disappeared, in a sense. Car accidents take people away suddenly. Yes, I wondered how she could be there and then not there. She was so real and then she was gone. But aside from that, it didn’t make a lot of sense.

It was a disorienting start to the day, a day that promised to be long.

It was my first big day of being president of the California Council on Teacher Education, a big day because I was hosting and facilitating a hybrid leadership retreat on my campus. A day focused on humanizing leadership because that is who I am.

Today, I planned in our core morning activity (one that asked us who or what we bring into our work that is beyond the professional) to talk about my children. They are safe to talk about. They are my compass points and guiding lights in much of my educational work. But as my mother came to me this morning, I changed my mind and talked about carrying her, carrying the grief of premature loss, remembering the way my world shattered when she left it so suddenly, and how, as a teenager, I rebuilt. Little by little, moment by moment, day by day.

That has been the way I get through many days. I am sad most days, but I smile because I hold sadness alongside gratitude. I am grateful nearly every day, for the community of people that hold me up, for my mother and grandmother’s legacy, for my children who are gifts, not only to me, but to the world. And the gratitude buoys me because the weight of the sadness is a lot. These are not always safe things to talk about in one’s first big day in a leadership role. But who would I be without my mother? And so, of course, she is who I bring.

It is the end of the day. It has been a beautiful day, full of humanity and community, building together, and the reminder in multiple ways, that we carry wisdom from the work done in the past and those who came before me. My mother is speaking to me through those in my community. Do not be foolish, and start again from nothing, when we stand on the shoulders of giants, when there are legacies of wisdom. Respect your elders in a completely different sense that honors their contributions and keeps them alive.

I am sad ending today, and I am grateful.

I carry the sadness and the gratitude carries me.

I am both/and.

It is not easy.

Little by little, moment by moment, day by day, I am building from the legacies of those that came before me.

Little by little, moment by moment, day by day, I am rebuilding upon a strong foundation of my foremothers’ dreams and all they poured into me.

Little by little, moment by moment, day by day, I am carrying and being carried by my full humanity. I am learning to embrace it, to be with it, to sit quietly at the end of the day with a warm cup of tea and write about it.

I am learning to breathe and be, in the brokenness and the wholeness of my humanity.

Legacies and Layers of Love

Photo of a card with a vase of flowers and a polaroid picture of two Asian American women standing in front of a door

The gifts of femtoring

I am still carrying a lot.

It’s been one of the hardest Mays on record (which is saying something since I didn’t even run a half marathon or birth a child this May). For the last two weeks, I’ve woken up on Monday & Tuesday convinced that it’s the start of a weekend and disappointed that, in fact, I’m only at the start of a full work day. We’re only a little more than halfway through this seemingly endless month.

In spite of this, there have been beautiful bright spots, and today, I want to take a moment to give thanks, and to remind myself that there are legacies beyond loss. There are ways to transform what we didn’t have, but most needed, into contributions to others.

This semester has been a particularly affirming femtoring (mentoring) season.

Dear friend and colleague, Erika, who I have known and walked alongside since I was a Graduate Student Instructor and she was an undergraduate, was offered multiple tenure track positions, a dream of hers that we’ve been working towards collectively for the last 3 years. She has worked so hard to write, publish, think through her important work, develop her teaching while raising her little boy and being a devoted mother, wife, and daughter.

Dear Grace, pictured above, completed her Masters thesis for which I was a lead adviser, alongside an incredible team of women who all deeply love her. In the card pictured above, she called our meeting a turning point. We fought for her to be able to complete a thesis project; we navigated multiple challenges in finding a third member (and a committee chair when I left the program for a year) of her thesis committee; we held space for her during a deep personal loss. She graduated yesterday having been awarded Outstanding Graduate Student in Research, Scholarly & Creative Activities from the university and Outstanding thesis by our college. In a few days, she will cross a good part of the country to start her academic journey towards her PhD. I couldn’t be prouder of her.

Finally, in my EDSE 457 course, sweet and brilliant Joey wrote me a beautiful thank you card that she handed to me at our last session. What a gift to hold space for this lovely future educator in office hours, to help her see herself, and to make space for her family’s Vietnamese refugee histories and stories of resilience within curriculum, stories that she didn’t have access to in her own history courses. In her thank you card at the end of the semester, she said, “As an Asian American woman, I feel an indescribable sense of pride in seeing you be so successful in what you do and claiming space in such an important role at a university.” More importantly, she thanked me for giving her space to feel all the emotions, to be seen and understood.

These women are my heart. They are my community and my reminders that layers and legacies of love are healing.

I am far from perfect. I hold many emotions in and let many more out. I am carrying a lot.

But transforming legacies of loss and isolation, in whatever degree I can, into legacies of love and contribution, are my most powerful form of resistance.

We continue to move forward in community and solidarity.

What Does It Mean to Be Seen?

A photograph of flowers including white lilies

When I was a little girl, I learned that if I wanted to be loved, I should be small.

I should try to quiet my naturally loud voice, particularly my loud laugh.

I should work harder than everyone else because only through determination would I be able to prove myself, and even then, I might still not be seen.

I learned that I was not worthy for who I was but for what I did, how close to perfect I could be.

I learned I shouldn’t cry, that showing emotions, humanity, and vulnerability, particularly in relation to who I was and what I was struggling with made me weak and would leave me alone.

Instead, I should temper the strong feelings that rose up within me and I should swallow my tears, living in fear that someday “they” might find the real me and see that I didn’t deserve any of the respect afforded me.

I have spent the last several years trying to unlearn all of these things.

To reclaim my voice.

To stand proudly and know my heart.

To not perform for love or be afraid to lose love, but to trust in the strength of community, even when I make mistakes, unintentionally hurt someone I love or fail at something I so deeply want (because I still do, so often).

I have spent the last several years trying to honor the little girl who lost her way because she wanted more than anything to be loved, because she thought she had to earn love, and to earn love, she had to be what everyone else wanted her to be.

I have been trying to find that little girl and all the younger versions of me that had dreams, and the present version of me that has begun to dare to dream again, and I have been trying to listen to them, listen to us, listen to myself, to my quiet voice and my loud voice, to my sorrowful cries and my belly laughs.

I have begun to tell all the parts of me that there is a place for them.

I am trying to be honest.

I am working to reclaim my humanity.

The last 5 days, I’ve been at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, a space that, for many years, made me feel invisible, so much less than so many others, a space that was not mine because I was not enough.

But it was not that space this year.

Instead, it was a space of authenticity and of humanity. It was a space where I brought my loud voice. Where I heard the cadence and rhythms of my true heart speak boldly and with confidence.

It was a space of community and communities. Of people I have loved for so long, and people I had never met in person who I love just the same, and people I don’t even know, but who know me.

It was a space where I didn’t know everything, I wasn’t the fanciest, biggest fish, but I was enough just as I was, in my ripple of the pond.

It was a space where people saw me. Where people have seen my words. Where they told me my name is being spoken in places that I may not ever be.

It was a space filled with love and possibility. Of grace and generosity. Of working and walking towards justice, even when I stumbled. It was a space where I knew I could stumble because I would be picked up if I fell.

I cannot fully express what it means to be seen after feeling invisible for so long.

I cannot fully express what it means to be acknowledged for the work of my heart.

I cannot fully express what it means to help create community, to share community, to support community.

But it is community which is embracing that little girl who felt so small, so unseen, so unworthy for so long. It is community that is healing her through their love. It is community calling her home.

Reflection – 2021

Photograph of Pink Flowering Grass

What does it mean to begin anew? To transform?

A quick google search and the Oxford languages dictionary defines the verb transform as to “make a thorough or dramatic change in the form, appearance, or character of.”

This has been 2021.

New beginnings, transformation, reckoning, confrontation, integration, movement, grief, loss, rebirth, rediscovery, beauty, acceptance.

All of the things, often for much of the time.

And also a sense of nothing, all at once, and suddenly.

2021 has been a year that has tested my boundaries, personally and professionally, helped me to see what I want and don’t want in my life, helped me to move forward for myself and towards myself in ways that would not have been possible otherwise.

It is the year I feared losing my sister, but instead found her, and with her, such incredible light, joy, and resilience. It is a year we lost our father and I lost my uncle, but even in this, a year in which we became closer as a family, as grief and discovery remind us what we carry forth from our ancestors and what we strive to transform.

It is a year I feared losing myself, and instead reached out, found community, went back to therapy, rediscovered a capacity for love that I thought had long departed, took a sabbatical, used my voice powerfully, stood on wobbly legs, co-authored the book of my professional heart, wrote the YA novel of my personal heart. I even said no a few times.

In reflecting on 2021, I also look forward to 2022, knowing that it will be full because life is full. I call forth grace, ease and simplicity as I enter this year. I commit to working towards pausing, towards presence, and towards asking myself, “Are you listening to your heart?” as much as I reflexively listen to my mind. In 2022, I seek to make space for the abundance around me, and to love whole-heartedly, beginning with myself and extending throughout my communities.

What does it mean to begin anew? To transform?

I am on a journey to constantly rediscover the answers to these questions.

Wishing you blessings at the close of 2021 and as we enter 2022 together and apart. My love to you.


photograph of a wave breaking with a backdrop of sunset

This wave of grief hit me hard.

It was expectedly unexpected or unexpectedly expected because grief and I are old acquaintances.

November is never easy.

November is the month of my mother’s birthday and my oldest daughters’ birthdays. It is a month focused often on gratitude, and rarely on grief, loss and complicated family dynamics that mean that sometimes, despite the deepest love in the world, relationships can change suddenly and irreparably through death, estrangement, and loss of self.

On Monday, which was also the 32nd birthday(s) of my twin daughters, I found out that a former middle school student was killed tragically in a car accident. He is the second student I’ve lost in the last 6 months, the second young man of color, the second beautiful human being whose family I remember fondly, whom I loved deeply.

Things happen so quickly, in the blink of an eye.

I could see the tidal wave of grief approaching. At first, I swam away from it as quickly as I could, opting to bury myself in the many things I do to distract myself from grief’s undertow, but I knew the wave would catch up to me, that it would take me under and that all there would be to do is to make space for it, to relax into it, and to hope for it to pass, leaving me with some breath to continue this life I’m living on land.

Today all day, I still felt caught in the undertow. At moments it was hard to breathe. I found myself tearing up at random and not so random times. I felt broken and like I would never come up for air. I felt all the grief at once and then some of the grief, and now less of the grief.

I know grief. It comes in waves. This was a big wave.

I am back on shore at the moment. As always, my community reaches out with love to pull me back to shore. They don’t worry about being sucked into the undertow with me. Some of them are already there. But there are enough of those who love me that are firmly rooted and holding out lifelines, holding space, reminding me that there will be a moment where I can wade in the water again, reminding me that I have gone on before and I can go on again, but also reminding me to take my time back to shore.

They will be waiting.

Being Sourced by Community

Rows of books in a used book store

Growing up, I was told that asking for help was a sign of weakness.

I am still told that today by some.

Some say it aloud and directly, “Why are you asking for help? Are you so poor? Why are you taking away from those who really have need?”

Others say it implicitly through glances that say, “You should be ashamed of yourself.”

But there is no shame in allowing others to contribute.

Much of my greatest joy in life comes from contributing to those I love.

Whether it is through gifts of time, talents, or treasures, I am blessed by sharing my blessings with others.

Recently, I’ve realized the power of letting others also contribute to those I love and to me as well.

Whether my sister’s transition fund or my son’s school book room, tweets and texts in which I share my vulnerability, or support when I’m trying to do something that I’ve never done before and know I don’t know how to do, being sourced by community has been life changing.

I have always sought to belong.

Belonging has often felt elusive.

But in allowing others to contribute to me, I am growing stronger, and so is a sense of enduring belonging, of greater contribution.

I am speaking back to the voices that seek to silence me, distance me, and tell me that I must do everything on my own.

It is beautiful, beyond what I could dream, to be embraced, held and supported by a community that sees you.