Christmas Activities

So as a third culture kid, we get this awkward situation of Christmas.

In the US, Christmas is by far the largest holiday, most widely celebrated, most crazily prepared and most money spent on. However, Christmas holds a very different weight in other cultures, well, all other countries, pretty much. In other countries, there is the celebration, there are purchasing and giving of gifts, there are Christmas trees. But there really isn’t the laborious dinners, the month long preparations, the overly festive light decorations, the enormous dollar amounts that are spent to prepare and spend Christmas. Most importantly, there really isn’t such things as “long family traditions” that repeat themselves every year during Christmas.

But in the US, every family has some type of tradition. Either open presents together on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning, or each person opens one at night, and the rest tomorrow, or going to Christmas service together either on the 24th or the 25th. Also, with meals, the Christmas Eve dinner, or the Christmas morning breakfast/brunch, or the Christmas Day dinner, etc etc. And let’s not forget the baking of pies, cookies, bread, cakes…

But when I’m asked about our family traditions, we really didn’t have them. As an asian person, our family gatherings were more around all the asian historical days (calling them holidays sounds a bit demeaning… they’re lunar days that remember certain events or customs. So perhaps calling them customs would be more appropriate.) Anyhow, so for Christmas, we usually are all doing church activities. Growing up, we went to a large church, and the main sanctuary had to be shared. So on the night of the 23rd, there’s always the children’s program and performances, and then the night of the 24th was the youth program, and then on the night of the 25th, its the adult program. Each service can run up to 2 hours, it had skits, performances, live band and MCs to host, sometimes a sermon/sharing/testimony, and always a reception at the end.

So thinking back on my Christmases, I always spent a whole lot of time at church, preparing for the special services, ushering, singing, rehearsing, something. Always something. So honestly, we didn’t have family tradition. Our family spent all our Christmas days (and the before and after days) in church.

Sometimes, when I explain this to people here in the US, they give me a pitiful look, and say, “Oh, well, that’s unfortunate.” But when I think back, it wasn’t unfortunate, if anything, it was fulfilling. It meant so much more. Bringing Christmas cheer to a lot of other people in our community. Our services were opened for everyone and anyone, and usually our church was flooded with people who’s never been to church and/or never heard what the true Christmas story of Jesus. I’m not blasting anyone else’s traditions, because I have been lucky enough to be invited to join various families and their traditions over the years. But I realized, for me, growing up, Christmas wasn’t just about stuffing our faces, tons of family members hanging out with each other, same after every year, exchanging many many gifts, with torn gift wraps and ribbons and bags. I spent a lot of Christmases rehearsing, remembering the Christmas story, comforting the lonely and the broken, spreading the Christmas story. Not the Santa and presents and decoration part, but the Jesus Christ part. Being born, being remembered, and us being saved.

I think I have a Christmas tradition, too. It may not be the big family dinners and mountains of presents. But just the same, they were great memories and precious moments.

Embarrassed to be practicing? But it pays

On Food Network, they have these cake challenges, where you have to make/build a cake in like.. 10 hours, to fit a theme. Like Edible Ornaments, or Ice Age Movie Theme, or Christmas Season, etc.

So in the “Edible Ornaments” episode, this on contestant said that she practiced hard at home, over and over again. And on some days, she would spend 20 hours / day practicing and preparing for this contest (wow, 4 hours of sleep? I’d die…). There were 4 rounds. She was number 1 for every single round. It was amazing. She was so calm and well paced.

I just was really touched by the fact that she was rewarded for her effort. I think nowadays things sometimes are a bit hay-wire.

1. Many people look for the short cut, the detour, the easy way to get to the top or to finish first. Not always the honest way or the dignified way, but people take it anyway. And when they do win (momentarily, because it eventually will catch up to them) they look back at their other honest opponents, and mock them, saying they’re not “witty” or “savvy” or “coy” enough, and even goes further to say “you just don’t have it within you”.

Cut throat means aggressive and hardworking, but when did it mean dishonest?!

I think that’s a horrible message to send, about ourselves, and to the younger generation (which seems to be the case), that cutting corners and going through “the backdoor” and smart (i.e. deceptive) scheming will help you get on top and win. We sometimes celebrate people who “win at all cost”. But really? when all integrity and morals are out the door? Do we still celebrate that type of success and “win”? Or maybe we’re just materialistic, and all we see is the result, and not the means. But what about that old saying: “The end doesn’t justify the means” ?

Why don’t we just kill of all the poor and old and weak and dumb? Because then we’ll just have rich and young and strong and smart people running the world? Wouldn’t it be a lot easier!? We’re just trying to “make the world a better place”. Yah, sure. Except… it doesn’t justify murder, doesn’t justify that type of thinking.

So why is okay to cheat and lie your way up? Give up any self respect? To sell your soul and along the way, throw in your friends and family as part of the payment, too?

2. People are now sometimes embarrassed that they worked hard to earn to get where they are. Sounds confusing? Let me use a simple example, testing taking.

In college, or high school, or even standardized testing like SATs or GREs. Have you ever heard “that” guy in your class say something like, “Oh my gosh, I totally didn’t study. Dude, I’m totally going to fail.” And then they end up doing super well? And then you find out that he took a prep course, or studied his butt off that summer?

Or maybe that friend of yours, where you’re taking the same course with, and the night before the exam, he tells you, “Dude, I’m totally going to go out drinking. I don’t need to study. It’ll be so easy.” Except you later find out, that he actually had already studied the day(s) before… And of course, he does quite well. And you, if silly enough to believe him, didn’t study (to be like him, “cuz if I go down, at least he’ll be with me”), and silly you, failed the exam and also the class. Dope. Should of studied, regardless what he told you.

Or in sports, when we talk about an athlete. Do we feel more awe with a person that had never practiced the sport/played the sport ever? So he was a born natural? Or the guy that threw a football ever since he was 3?

So why don’t these people just ‘fess up and say that they studied/practiced. A LOT. ?

a. Are they embarrassed that they care so much? So they’re trying to play it cool? (And somehow, going in unprepared is now defined as “cool” ??)
b. Are they trying to act super smart? Like they can ace every test without studying?
Or does being a natural just seem that much cooler/better?
c. Are they trying to overcompensate, because they need to study/practice more than you, so trying to make up for it?
d. Are they actually just malice (and not your friend…) and trying to throw you off? (I truly hope its not this one…)

WHY the cover up? Why are they embarrassed to be preparing and practicing?

If anything, it does not show weakness or incompetence. Quite the contrary. It shows diligence, good planning, responsibilities, and hopefully, it gets (and should be!) rewarded.

But maybe that’s me fighting for that just and fair world… 😦

Reason why wine has a 300% markup

Because there are phonies.

I used to think that restaurants marked up alcohol (especially wine) due to the demand. While that may still be true, I found out another huge reason why.

I was chatting with my friend who used to serve at this very nice restaurant where bottles can sell from $400 – $1000. He told me even though the cost of the single bottle wasn’t that much (obviously), however, since they only sold by the bottle, once opened, you cannot reseal or resell by glass.

But why would you need to?

Well, thanks to the phonies, who think that they are classy wine connoisseurs, when in reality, they don’t have that good a palate as they think.

So when you’re spending money on a bottle, you can always, taste the wine, and then say something along the lines of “I think this wine has gone bad.” or “Its not right. Give me another one.” And then away with the old bottle, and in comes a new one.

And unfortunately, regardless if you can actually tell or not, the restaurant has to chuck the bottle and reopen a new bottle at your table (that’s why they bring the bottle to your table, cork screw and all, and open it right in front of you, to show its a brand new bottle). So the bottle that just got sent back cannot be resold to anyone. Either it’s down the drain or, more likely, down the chefs’, servers’ and staffs’ bellies.

So whats the problem? The wine was bad! Take it back!

Well, I had friends that were bartenders or servers, and this is what they told me. Sometimes, when people order by the glass, they might send it back, and say it’s not right. The bartender or server will pour them another glass but (shhh!) from the exact same bottle!! And guess what? The customer tastes the new glass of wine (from the same bottle as the previous one) and exclaims. “Ahh, much better.”

Really?! Phonies!

Did you really taste a difference? Probably not. It was the same thing! You just were acting like your palate could tell. But, no. You’re just ordinary.

Its not as bad when they get by-the-glass. But when they go for the bottle, and pull this phony attitude trick thing, bham! The restaurant eats the cost. There goes another perfectly good bottle. All because some schmuck thought he had a good palate and was “trying” to show it, and thought he could taste the difference. But alas, $50 cost of that bottle down the drain. And who pays? All patrons of that restaurant who want that bottle. $150 please. Pay up. Even the non-fussy ones who just want to drink that darn fine wine, and guess what? We can keep the first bottle, it’s fine. Thank you. Sheeeesh….

I hate jewelry commercials on tv

It usually is playing on tv. But during holiday season, it is bombarding every single tv station.

That Jared Jewelers commercial? Or that Littman Jewelers commercial of the 2 lovers skating? Or fun little mom and dad commercials from Kay “Every kiss begins with Kay”? (I know you’re humming that line as you read that.)

Now, it’s 100 times more frequent on every channel.

As sweet as it is, it drives me nuts!!

1. Its super awkward when you and a boyfriend are watching tv or a movie, and that commercial comes on. Its like, umm, yah, ehh, ok. As the girl, we may be thinking “Is he getting me jewelry this holiday?” or “Um, I hope he doesn’t think I’m wanting jewelry (or a ring!) for Christmas… I’m not ready, ehh, weird…” or “Is he feeling awkward? Gosh, I hope he doesn’t feel awkward!”
And then the guy might be thinking “Stupid sappy commercials, always pressuring guys to buy jewelry. Must be an ad designed by women, or at least to get women.” or “Um, I hope she’s not thinking that I’m gonna get her jewelry… cuz I’m not.” or “Dang it! Did she want jewelry?! I totally bought the wrong thing. But I’m not ready for the jewelry step yet…” or “…. ” nothing, sometimes guys minds are blank… and they totally just missed that commercial, and you were the only one frettin’.

2. As a girl, I can honestly say, “I DON’T ALWAYS WANT JEWELRY!!!” But those stupid commercials make it look like we want them, always, and we thrive on them, and we feed off of it. NOT TRUE!

3. Okay, we didn’t want it before, but now… you just made us want it! WTH? Now the commercial makes us have false expectations and false hopes of getting jewelry. But I’m a cool girlfriend. I don’t need jewelry, and quite honestly, jewelry is kinda a uncreative gift idea. Stupid commercials! Stupid holiday gift propaganda!!

4. Why does it always have to portray a guy getting a girl jewelry? I live in the 21st century. If I really want something, I can go and get it myself. Especially if it’s jewelry and something that I’m picky about (not talking about the ring, but earrings and necklaces and bracelets, etc.) Jewelry gift story. I make money, I can pay for it, I can pick it. I don’t have to wait for a guy to buy things for me. Girls that make their boyfriends pay for their shopping.
What about a daughter or a son buying their mother jewelry? or friends giving each other gifts for graduation or weddings or some special occasion? Why does jewelry stores only market to guy giving a girl??

5. There are so many other very thoughtful and romantic gifts (more thoughtful than just jewelry). Some which are even more expensive and pricey than jewelry! (Jewelry is such an easy out. You can get it at any mall and for any price range.) For example, a vacation trip? or a car? (yes, that’s probably one awesome gift from a spouse!!) or spa treatment? (much more practical and thoughtful) or… my personal 2 favorites: something that you always wanted, but never really had the time or money to get it/find it; and something that you never expected, but they noticed it (somehow in conversation/nonverbal cues or just has awesome observational skills) and got the perfect thing you wanted/needed.             PS. and it WASN’T jewelry… get the message??

What to give your boyfriend’s parents for Christmas?!

Its hard enough finding a gift for you boyfriend for Christmas. But try buying a gift for his parents!!

I’m spending Christmas eve and Christmas Day with his family (since my family is overseas). So as many suggest, if I bring over a bottle of wine, its more of a hostess gift, something that I give on Christmas Eve, when the whole extended family is there.

But what about come Christmas Day? When people are exchanging gifts? I already know the mother is buying me something. I need to find her something!!

Here are some suggestions: (and included are my rebuttals…)

1. Wine
(Yes, I realize its a good choice. And I will bring a bottle as a gift. She likes white wines. But I’ll be giving that to her Christmas Eve, beginning of the Christmas dinner. But what about Christmas Day?)

2. Gift Cards
(Apparently, the boyfriend thinks gift cards are impersonal and lame. So I have to assume that applies to his parents as well.)

3. DVD
(I could get them a Christmas movie. I know they love Christmas DVDs. But how will I know their taste? There are a ton of horrible movies out there!)

4. Coffee / Tea Basket
(She doesn’t drink coffee, but loves her tea. However, she sticks to her Lipton, and is never quite that interested when I introduce her to exotic teas. STEAP tea, anyone? When it costs $6 for 2 ounces of tea… I need to make sure she’ll like it.)

5. Some Calcium Replenishment?
(I know she currently has a calcium deficiency issue, but is gifting someone that too … weird? Overly medical? And overly practical?)

6. Cheese basket
(Once again, this is quite a personal preference…)

7. Nail set
(We always talk about how French manicures always chip and how annoying it is. I told her about these kits where you can fix the tips yourself at home. She says she has shaky hands, and her eyes are going bad…)

8. Homemade Cookies
(Too bad I didn’t think ahead. The one type of cookies I love and bake, I already brought over a tub of them last week for Sunday dinner…)

9. Bath /  Lotion Set
(Sounds super cute and safe. I even have a Victoria Secret coupon for this. However, does it seem to… impersonal? and typical?)

This doesn’t look quite promising. HOPELESS! Maybe I’ll do a mix and match basket? With tea, lotion, cookies, and nail tip fixer?!

Someone once told me to give people what they want, not what they need. But seriously… aren’t we to think practical here too? I don’t want to have my gift re-gifted or shoved in a closet/shelf for 5 years.

I find strength in my work

Some people are like birds that can’t be cooped up. They need to fly free every once in awhile. Some people are big dreamers, and sometimes they need to daydream up a storm and let themselves go. Then after, they return, rejuvenated and refreshed. Ready to tackle their work.

But for me, I thrive in my work. I feel empowered and alive. I feel independent and capable. It feels like the only place I am in control. All my meetings, all my appointments, conferences, lectures, talks, teachings. All these things I can manage and control, and most importantly, I can decide when to deliver and HOW to deliver. Everything can happen in my way and at my time.

Now on relationships. I’m dead.

There are no appointments, no planner, no scheduling. I can’t predict, I can’t control, I can’t even resolve it sometimes. I feel scared because of all the parameters and dozens of degrees of freedom.

I’m not like a bird, where I need to fly freely. Well, I need to be free. Free to do my work and my schedules and my socials and my parties. But I don’t understand the people who just need to be free-spirited and free of schedules and work.

I thrive in my work. I feel great. I feel refreshed after a good, productive day of work. I feel energized, because I feel that I just accomplished something, that I just moved something forward, that I just changed the world, even if it’s on a microscopic scale. It still means the world to me.

“I don’t wait for a man”

That’s what my friend said to me today. “There’s two things I won’t do. I won’t wait in lines for clubs and I won’t wait for a man.”

At the first moment, I looked at her with admiration thinking, wow, she’s so confident and strong!

But then, I rethink her statement, and I’m not so sure if I still think it’s confidence and strength anymore.

Of course we won’t wait for a guy that’s a loser and constantly disappoints us or abuses us or mistreats us. But what about being patient for a man? Because you want to give it a chance?

Maybe we say these big statements about “not ever waiting for man” because we’re scared? We scared that:
1. If we really wait for them, what if they end up turning us down? Then the rejection will hurt so bad. Better drop them first before we get dropped.
2. By waiting, that will show we’re desperate, and that he’s good enough to wait for, and we’re so desperate that we need to wait.
3. By waiting, we’ll commit and invest more, and that gives the guy more control over our mood and more ability to hurt us.

So perhaps, underneath this seemingly strong and confident statement is actually insecurity and fear. Not at all the glamorous forefront that we put up.