It’s Complicated

Photo of a card with the words "you are my shero" on the front

It’s Mother’s Day.

It’s my 27th Mother’s Day without my mother.

It’s my 17th Mother’s Day as a mother, my 16th as a biological mother.

7 years ago on this day, I was on the eve of having my youngest child.

Today, there is much joy.

And I am on the edge of tears.

It’s complicated.

Life is complicated.

Motherhood is complicated.

Mothering is complicated.

Relationships with our mothers and our children can be complicated.

There can much joy alongside many tears.

Today, I’m okay, but there may be moments where I’m not, and that’s okay too.

I’m working on making space for it all.

It’s Mother’s Day.

For almost 2/3rd of my life, it has been complicated.

I am grateful for the journey as it is.

And I wish so many things had been different.

I’m working on making space for it all.

(Happy) Mother’s Day.

Living Authentically

Photograph of a woman with a gauzy scarf and her hair blowing in the wind

I have been speaking my truth and living it.

I have been holding space for ease and patience, comfort and calm.

It’s different, but it’s also been transformational.

I am realizing that peace and freedom aren’t what I thought they would be.

At times, they bring amazing joy.

At times, they bring me to tears.

I have been giving myself permission to embrace my humanity in its full scope, to feel all the things, to want unreasonable things.

This is liberating and also heartbreaking.

It requires levels of honesty with myself and others with which I am completely unacquainted. Levels of honesty that are, in fact, antithetical to the way I’ve lived my compartmentalized life for years, in order to survive and advance. Levels of honesty that rebuff compartmentalization as a survival strategy to embrace integration as a strategy to thrive and honor the deepest desires of my heart.

As I stop holding myself to levels of expectations that I don’t have for others, as I learn to embrace the parts of myself that are the most tender and vulnerable, the parts that I have always feared would leave me abandoned and alone, as I make room for the true fullness of my humanity, I am flooded with all the things.

The reality is that my community has always been ready for me to embrace myself.

They have been waiting to be let in.

They have been trying to tell me.

They have seen parts of myself before I see them.

And the parts that they didn’t see coming don’t change who I am fundamentally. They are, in fact, consistent with who I am, and with my very real humanity.

I am fully loved.

I am beautiful and brilliant.

I am emotional and full of contradictions.

I am intimidating and unpredictable.

I am unapologetic and responsible.

I am complicated and simple.

Whoever I am in this moment, I am firmly rooted and grounded in a depth of humanity and love that underlies it all. I am grateful. So deeply grateful.

A Week with My Sister

A week ago today, I met my sister for the very first time.

These are some pictures for our first 24 hours together (with my older brother). You can see, if you look closely in our first picture from the airport how overwhelmed with emotion I am at her arrival, and in the second how joyful I am that she’s here.

I have been waiting my whole life, in a sense, to be a big sister.

But I’ve waiting intensely for the last 3 months to have my sister with me, given the civil unrest happening in her home country of Burma (Myanmar).

It’s amazing how, while I’ve only known my sister for a very short time (even through e-messages), I absolutely adore her. She is funny and full of life. She loves adventure and has a freedom about her spirit that I struggle to find often. She wants to try everything and she has so much joy in her spirit.

We’ve been able to have a lot of really wonderful conversations in the last week. I’ve been introducing her to new food, places, ideas and helping her to get settled and established here.

Adventures at IKEA

She’s helped me to know my dad (corroborating a lot of the stories my brother has told me as I’m the one of us who didn’t really grow up with my father) and about her mom and their life in Yangon. She’s told me about her goals to become an artist/ animator and how these were not dreams that were affirmed and encouraged or really very possible at home for her.

And she’s helped me to realize that I really need to work less (which I knew, but now I’m actually taking steps towards doing) and appreciate my life more.

We’ve explored how life is similar and different here in the states, and things she needs to be aware of to be safe here. Today, we did a joint video call to our dad to wish him a happy Father’s Day. It is the first time in my life that I’ve spoken to my dad on Father’s Day. It was good to see him so happy. It was good to be able to truly feel peace about all of the missed Father’s Day in the past.

I’m so grateful to the community that helped support me as I was waiting for my sister  to arrive. The last week has been life-changing to me in so many ways and it has been a joy to see my sister adjust to our family like she’s always been in our lives. I feel blessed beyond measure and amazed that she’s only been here a week. (See pictures below w/ my little and big)

I am grateful for our shared humanity and love for one another that perhaps is beyond understanding. I am grateful for the perspectives my sister brings to my life. I am grateful for each moment. What a blessing to write this blog on my first week with my younger sister.

A Mother’s Heart: An Open Letter to My Sister’s Mother

A photo of a stuffed corgi on a sign that says Tsui Tsui, Welcome Sister

Dear Aye,

I know we don’t really speak the same language, but we are both mothers who love our children very much, and I am also a daughter separated from her mother at a young age, so I wanted to write to you because I love you and Tsui and because I hope that my words can help you to worry less, even though you will miss her very much. I am hoping someone will translate this letter for you into Burmese and that you will not lose much of the meaning in the translation.

I wanted to tell you how much I admire your courage and hers. It is a very scary thing to come to a new country from your home at such a young age, to a family that you have never met, to begin life in a very, very different place. It is also a scary thing to let  your daughter go to people who are strangers, connected by marriage and not blood, in the hopes that they will treat her like family, love and protect her, especially when you have been with her during her whole life, for all of her important moments.

I know that this is the best choice for right now, that Tsui would come while you stay near my father, but the best choice does not always mean the easy choice. I want to thank you for trusting us to help Tsui adjust to the United States. I promise to do my best to help her, to be a good big sister to her, to love her as I love my own children, to protect her as best I can, and to teach her what life is like here. We always welcome you. We hope one day you can come to be with her here or that she can come back to you there, in safety. If and when that time comes, I hope you know that we will support and help you too, however we can. You are our family too.

I know what it is to miss someone you love with your whole heart, who is, in many ways, an extension of yourself. I wish we could make this easier, but I don’t think we can make this part better. What we can do is share photos and messages and memories that Tsui will make here, be here for her, until you are together again. We will love her and treat her with care.

I hope we can meet you soon too. Until that time, we are holding you in our hearts.

I am holding you in my heart.

With love,


The Healing Power of Community

Selfie of the author (Asian American woman in a grey t-shirt) with a friend (blond white woman in grey dress) Selfie of the author (Asian American woman in Black t-shirt with #AsianAmAF) and friend (Asian American woman in an off-white sweater)

I have always believed in the power of community.

But this week, I have felt the power of community.

I have reveled in the joy of community, in the connection and healing of community.

I have challenged myself to trust in community.

This week, after what has felt like 16 months of pure isolation, I’ve been out of my house to meet with people three times. (Note: I am still masking and practicing caution, eating in well-ventilated, outdoor spaces, and avoiding large gatherings)

It hasn’t been a year of complete isolation. I’ve been with my family who I love. We’ve gone on take-out foodie adventures and even eaten outdoors at a restaurant. I’ve met 1-2 friends in person before this week. We’ve even had a couple of in-person church services.

But I have not felt the steady stream of connection with people outside of my house in the ways and doses that I have needed until this week.

I am FINALLY feeling like myself again.

Because, of course, I could not find myself until I could find myself in community.

This week, I also started a GoFundMe campaign for my sister’s transition to the US. This was VERY hard for me. While I just recently left my job to transition to my previous institution and a sabbatical, knowing that this would have some financial implications for my family, we are doing so much better than so many others. I am a very careful planner, but we’re also doing okay. I eat some fancy meals and get occasional massages. We are not in dire financial need.

I struggled with whether or not to ask for support from my community, in light of the fact that I haven’t cut out every luxury from my own life, to support my sister. I didn’t want to appear like your donations are funding my family vacation or foodie adventures.

There’s so much internalization of the Asian American ethos of “saving face” that I was raised with that says it’s weak and wrong to take needs or requests for money outside of our family, that we should take care of our own and go with less so that everyone can have enough. And I’m willing to do that.

But, after talking with some friends in my community, I realized that this is not that. Yes, of course, I will sacrifice for my sister. We don’t have an extra room and so she’ll be camped out in our living room for the foreseeable future until she feels ready to have her own place. It will take time, money and energy to help her transition to the states, get medical insurance, bank accounts, strengthen her English, figure out with her what she’d like to do next at the pace that she wants to move, support her trauma recovery and sadness at being away from friends and the family she grew up with.

Asking for transition funds for her is truly asking for transition funds FOR HER from community that loves me and, by extension, wants her to feel welcome in this country which is new to her. To support her in feeling like this is one less thing she has to consider as she comes to this country. I’m supporting that transition and her, but these are tangible ways for people who have been on the journey with us to show their support.

And my community has responded, and their community has responded, in ways far beyond what I could have ever imagined. They trust me (even if GoFundMe doesn’t–insert eye roll here) and want my sister to have the best start she can here. It has reminded me that sometimes community isn’t about waiting until you are in dire need, but allowing people to support and hold you up so that you don’t get into dire need.

I am still (un)learning that community care isn’t selfish. I am still learning to trust that people are choosing to donate or share or give because they love me or us, not because they have expectations or are waiting to judge my every move. I am still learning that it is okay to live fully and give wholeheartedly and receive sometimes.

It is healing in ways that have been so desperately needed.

So I just truly want to say thank you for helping me heal and for helping me see and feel the power of community and for being so incredibly generous, not just in donations, but also in words, acts and prayers for me during this time.

I am so grateful.


Photograph of the author's son and daughter feeding ducks by a pond

I have always wished for a “happily ever after” ending that wraps up neatly in a bow, like a fairy tale or most American screenplays.

If sheer will and effort were enough for such a life, I imagine that I would have found a way there.

However, my real life is much more complex.

It is a series of “both/and”s.

This weekend was filled with joy. I worked hard to center joy and find it in the places I know best: writing, cooking, being with family, resting, running, good food, independent bookstores, celebrating the accomplishments of others, reading, taking warm baths, being as kind to myself as possible.

It was a great weekend.

AND, I am still struggling with sadness, grief, and a profound sense of loneliness, as a chapter of my life comes to an end. It is ending by my choice, the right choice at this time and space for my life, my health and my family.

AND it is still hard to leave — colleagues I have come to love, students who have made a profound impact on me, work where I made a significant difference.

I am grateful for so many blessings in my life, more than I can list, and for a community that deeply loves me.

And, I am exhausted and still default to doing all the things on my own.

I am always focused on a larger goal, working towards a transformative future.

And sometimes, I can only take things moment by moment.

I deeply love my family and friends.

And I need time that is fully my own sometimes to make space for that love.

I can want and need help.

And I can not know how you can support me.

I can really be fine.

And still have moments of sadness, and still have moments where I want more.

All these things can coexist.

And they do because I exist.

Still striving for better balance, and giving myself grace for when I stumble.



A picture of mountains with a sky layered in colors: purple, orange, yellow and blue

To be surrounded by love and to be able to take it in

To have your words and work make a profound difference in the lives of others

To have community that stands with and for you when you can’t stand for yourself

To have (chosen) family that reminds you that putting on your oxygen mask first is not selfish, it is an act of self-preservation that does indeed serve others

To laugh freely and loudly without a care of who hears

To smile so much it hurts

To love with the depth of your heart and soul

To live after spending so many moments wanting to die

To move towards freedom and liberation

To struggle righteously alongside those that deeply feel the struggle

To honor humanity

To see those you love thriving and growing surrounded by the love of others

To savor all that you take in, from drink and food to moments and sights

To pause

To breathe

To embrace life’s uncertainties

To know that if you fall, community will catch you

To be in community

To feel love

To feel joy

To feel beauty

You are my greatest blessings.

Finding Family, Fragility and Strength

Photo of three bunches of flowers in front of two gravestones Photo of blogger and her mother in front of flamingos when blogger was a child Photo of a girl smiling next to a unicorn jewelry box

I am ending this Mother’s Day weekend like my last post began, with reflection & amidst another wave of grief, one which is strong, but which I find easier to withstand.

Almost all the things I hoped for this Mother’s Day weekend happened as planned.

My sister made it safely out of Yangon, and is in the same city as her mother for Mother’s Day. She is in quarantine, but they will see one another soon, and she is safe. So they didn’t get to be together for Mother’s Day, but she is safely near her mother, and I am so grateful.

I visited the gravesite of my mother, grandmother and aunt.

I celebrated my daughter’s 6th birthday.

I rested, ate delicious food, woke up this morning sobbing, looked through boxes of photos, found so many pictures of my younger self and my mother and grandmother, laughed with my family, and gave myself space when I needed to.

I honored my full humanity.

I loved well and was present to so much love, from so many people, in a myriad of ways. My community has me even when it’s hard, and stands for and with me when I struggle to stand for better in my own life. I am so deeply grateful for the people in my life.

I am so deeply grateful to be so loved.

And I am still so deeply sad.

I suppose that I have learned over the last 26 years that, if I am honest, I will always end Mother’s Day with a heaviness in my heart.

I was loved so well and so completely by my mother and by my maternal grandmother that I still feel their absence every single year, even though I have lived the large majority of my years now without them.

And there is a hole in my heart that I speak of less often, being estranged from one of my own children and far from another.

And there is pain from having invited others to mother me and having had them turn away from me, in times of my greatest need.

And there are echoes of this abandonment, of my unworthiness and not being enough everywhere.

I have realized that humanity is not a zero sum game.

It is hard.

Even with so much love around me.

It is so hard.

But I am making space.

And holding space.

I am learning that honesty allows my chosen family to see what I often can’t and step in on my behalf when I can’t.

I am learning that in my fragility is also my strength.

In my hurt, in my heart, is also my hope.

It is hard.

I wish I could write away my sadness.

But I can only make space.

And hold space.

I can only mother myself, and trust those who choose me to support me in this journey.

It is so hard.

But I also know I am not alone in the struggle with this day, and in solidarity, there is also strength. In shared fragility, we become stronger. In our hurt, in our hearts, is also hope.

Tomorrow will not be Mother’s Day.

But I will still carry my humanity.

And I will still honor it, because it is the only way I can truly find a way beyond survival.

Because Writing Heals

Photograph of the corner of a table with a person's hands poised to write in a journal

I keep saying this, but thank you all for loving me.

Every day, in this season of abundant grief, stress, and exhaustion, I come back to two things: writing and the love of my community.

Every day, in these past few days, someone will text or dm or e-mail or leave a comment on a tweet or post, to remind me that I am not alone.

Every day, those in my innermost circle are reminding me to care for myself, to drink, to eat, to rest, to move things off my calendar, to honor my humanity.

Every little thing helps.

Yesterday was SUPER hard. I was in a lot of physical pain induced by the stress of the situations of which I cannot speak. Today has been incredibly stressful as well as I am waiting for updates that have not appeared.

There have been meetings I could not cancel, but I have brought my humanity to them, and it has opened up space to lead in spite of my suffering.

There have been meeting I have been able to cancel, but which I wouldn’t have without pinky promises and the insistence of those who love me.

And I have found solace in sleep which my body has needed so desperately to heal.

I wish I could give you more concrete ways to help because I know that so many want to do more than they feel like they are doing.

Those may come another day, but not today.

Today, there is exhaustion, and gratitude, and the need for you to continue to take just a moment to remember me and my family in your thoughts, prayers and words.

Today, there is a wish that you might take opportunities to show grace to those around you and to contribute to those in your community.

Today, there is respite in writing, in knowing that I did not do all the things, but doing any of the things is enough.

Every little thing helps.

Someday, I may meet you, and in that moment, even if I do not recognize you, I hope that you will know that you’ve made a difference for me profoundly in this moment.

Someday, if we already know one another, we will see one another again, and in that moment, even if there are not words to express it, I hope you will feel my gratitude that you held me up during this time.

Someday, things will be different, hopefully better, and I will be able to find more than solace and respite, but peace and joy.

Thank you for loving me. Thank you for standing with me (and my family) in this moment. Until we reach that better time.

Silence, Stories, Stress and Solitude

Photograph of a person holding their finger to their lips

“Leave the pity and the blame
For the ones who do not speak
You write the words to get respect and compassion
And for posterity
You write the words and make believe
There is truth in the space between”

Tracy Chapman, Telling Stories

There are many spaces in between what I can and can’t say about all that is currently happening in my life and around me.

For the safety of those I love, I choose silence at this time.

But silence is exhausting when healing is found in writing and community.

What I can say is that I am a doer, a thinker, a humanitarian, and a person of faith.

Everything around me is challenging all of those identities.

The stress of things I can’t control are taking a toll on my body, making me pause.

This stress is taking a toll on my sleep, making it hard to think.

All that is going on is showing me the darkest sides of systems, structures, societies and power, making it hard to hold tightly to the humanity of those embedded in these institutions and those that thirst for power without the consideration of others.

But also, this time is reminding me about the beauty of humanity in so many ways, and the very, very tender humanity of individuals who have caused me much pain in the past. I am holding it all. But it is hard.

That which is causing my stress is making my faith all the more challenging and simultaneously all the more important.

I am so grateful to those reaching out. If I don’t respond, please know that your love is seen and felt and acknowledged in the best way I have the strength to do in any given moment. Because of the situation, I cannot safely post my truth publicly at this time, and responding individually and privately can be overwhelming.

I am so grateful to all those asking how they can help. The situation is incredibly complicated and materially, we are making it at this time. I have my reasons for holding back on asking for particular forms of support so I ask for your trust. I’m also so very bad at knowing what I need personally so thank you for those who are just taking things from me.

For those that are praying for me, sending good thoughts, encouraging me to rest, it may not seem like you are doing so much, but you are holding me up.

I am grateful to be seen and held in this time, by those closest to me. I am so grateful for your love.

I hope there will be more to be hopeful about soon.

But until then, thank you for loving me still, in the midst of my exhaustion. When I cannot say more. Until I can speak.

I am writing the words to make believe that there is truth in the space between, where I am residing tonight.