Tag Archives: women

Closing Career Chapters – Cheers to New Beginnings and Endless Opportunities 

In October 2017, I felt exhausted, both physically and emotionally.  The last three and a half years weighed on my heart and my mind.  My calendar was filled with “good luck on your next chapter” appointments.  Work felt like a succession of good-bye and/or good luck lunches strung together on a ragged piece of twine.  It hurt and it stung every time a friend left the company, regardless of whether they relocated to Texas or left the company altogether.  I lived in a perpetual state of mourning – losing so many friends in my immediate circle, one happy hour or one bon voyage cake at a time – hurt.  And the weight gain that accompanies bon voyages cakes and lunches slowly began to show on my hips.

Because of my role, I spent hours upon hours listening to team members cry as they wrestled with the decision of whether or not to move to Texas.  Some had family considerations to take into account. Would my spouse/partner be able to find a job?  What are the schools like in North Texas?  Others were just shocked with the idea of moving.  How can I go from Kentucky or Ohio into an area with a higher cost of living?  I just finished remodeling my kitchen and bought a snow blower for the winter.  Will I be able to find a barber/hair dresser/church/supermarket to meet my personal needs?  I took on a little bit of everyone’s pain when they vented to me.  It ate away at my heart and soul, one teardrop at a time.

Although I felt exhausted, I knew it was my duty to help the company.  My focus sharpened to support diversity and inclusion, especially from a talent retention and development standpoint, to create a new culture for the company.  I also kept my decision about my relocation a huge secret.  I didn’t want to influence anyone’s personal decision based on what I decided to do.  So I didn’t tell anyone that I had elected to NOT move until the company required a public commitment.  I told my boss and my friends at the very last minute.  Keeping that secret was a struggle and it added to the heavy burden on my shoulders.

In late August, I heard about an open position at a long-standing Southern California company for their Head of Diversity role.  Rather than working with a headhunter or placement agency, I decided to take on the recruiting process alone.  I knew a few people who had strong connections inside the company and the company did good work in the community.  My resume and application made its way to the hiring manager and a recruiter called me right away.  By the end of September, I had a day set to speak with four executives from this company.  The day went well, I felt confident that I would receive a job offer but I still had two more weeks with my current company.

As one of my last tasks for my former company, I spoke at an African American employee resource group event in San Diego County.  It was the day before my last day of employment. Unbeknownst to me, at least two of the attendees worked for the long-standing Southern California company I mentioned earlier.  At the end of my presentation, they both asked what my next career move might be and if I would consider working for their company.  All of that felt fantastic.

When I spoke with the hiring manager, whom I really respected and looked forward to working for, I mentioned that I definitely felt interested in taking the position and I was exhausted.  So exhausted in fact that I needed two months off.   My brain felt tired and out of smart juice.  I needed to spend some time with my family, my loved ones and my dojo to recharge.  That meant that I would not entertain starting a new position until January 2018.  To my surprise, he supported my decision and said that the company wants someone to start right away but they also want the right person in the position so they would wait for me.  We discussed a start date in January 2018 and would check in with each other when the date grew closer.

I felt lighter and a bit happier with the prospect of having time off to close out 2017 and refresh my mind and soul.  Knowing that I would be able to go to a new job with a company that had a strong commitment and strategy for diversity and inclusion allowed me to breathe easily.  Then came the second conversation with the recruiter about little details like compensation and benefits.

When I received a verbal offer, my mood changed from a cheerful Snow White princess to a dark and Evil Queen.  All those good feelings dissipated and I felt insulted by the compensation offer.  In addition, I received information regarding other parts of the package that turned out to me incorrect but did not make me want to even take the time to negotiate.  When I declined the offer the next day, I did not even want to waste my time with asking for more money.  All I said was that the offer that was presented to me was less than my minimum salary requirement.  Why would I want to go to a company that didn’t make me feel valued or appreciated?  Actually, I felt like I didn’t even want to speak to the hiring manager about the situation.  They did offer me more money and a sign-on bonus but it was too little, too late.  The hiring manager felt horrible, especially since the recruiter reports to him.  It may have been a case of miscommunication but when a company is trying to bring in talent, mistakes like this can cost a lot.  We wasted time with the interview process, they willingly waited for almost two months to finalize my offer, and I wound up feeling undervalued while they wound up not filling the position.  Lose-Lose.

By then the year 2017 was almost over.  Most companies did not do much hiring in December.  I didn’t fully engage with the job search firm that my former company had contracted with for all of us who elected not to move to Texas.  My initial meetings with them told me that they had no idea what I did for a living, how could they find me a job?

As I began to explore possible open positions, I grew keenly aware of issues around diversity and inclusion that had begun to populate the headlines in social media, newspapers, and magazines.  Having worked in entertainment heightened my awareness of #metoo and discrimination along lines of gender, age, sexual orientation, race, and other social identities.  And living in the United States as a diversity professional pains me to read headlines from our current President and his administration, particularly when he mocks people with disabilities or makes a racist comment about another country or acts like a sexist misogynistic pig.  My own family members experienced the Las Vegas shooting at the Route 91 concert.  Mass shootings at schools across America continue to plague our nation and our teenagers are leading the charge to call for policy reform and change.  There are so many issues that involve diversity and inclusion.  Actually, I suppose any issue that impacts human beings involves diversity and inclusion.

In December, I sent applications to two different companies from two very different industries:  entertainment/tech/video games and research/science.  Both posted positions that were brand new to their organizations.  One had no diversity and inclusion strategy developed while the other company had a strong foundation but needed experienced leaders who could both execute and design new plans.  The second company called me before New Year’s Eve to schedule an initial phone screen for January 2, 2018.  I felt good knowing that I would start the year off with a deliberate launch of my search for new employment. Or, the planning the death of FUNemployment.

January 2nd arrived after a rather quiet New Year’s Eve celebration.  My puppy and I took a walk at dusk in Hermosa Beach, before all of the parties began.  We returned home to watch movies and snuggle on the couch.  A quiet night was all I required to say “Adios” to 2017.  On the morning of January 2nd, I had an initial conversation with one of the Directors of Talent Acquisition from the research/science company.  She convinced me that the company’s Mission drove all their business decisions:  Enable customers to make the world healthier, cleaner and safer.  I definitely wanted to speak with others from the organization.  From January 3rd on, the process progressed rapidly.  The next interview was scheduled for less than a week later, via video conference, with the hiring manager.  I hardly had time to reach out to my network to get the scoop on the company’s efforts and the hiring manager’s reputation.  Our conversation started out with his puppy barking in his office, the pup was vying for attention from his human.  I knew that we would definitely have puppy ownership to bond over while we discussed diversity and inclusion philosophies and strategies.  After that conversation, an in-person interview with his boss was scheduled.  The night before my interview, I posted a snippet of a slide that I reviewed as part of my research on the company on social media.  My hula sister reached out to me the next morning on my drive to my interview and said, “Call me asap.”  Turns out she recently took a job with this same company and could not help but gush about how great her experience has been.  That conversation made me even more excited to continue through the interview process.  This interview was with my boss’s boss who had attended UCLA at the same time as me.  He also knew of a fantastic restaurant in Pacific Grove so we talked a bit about food and wine.  We spoke for over an hour and I left feeling confident that the conversation went well.  Soon thereafter had two more video interviews with other leaders from the organization.  The last conversation I had struck the tone of “we would be lucky to have you on the team.”  What a refreshing feeling compared to the last company I considered.

Of course, the director of talent acquisition from the entertainment/tech/video game company scheduled a call with me for the same day as my video interviews.  I felt obligated to speak with him, even though I felt like the other company would be a great fit and a wonderful place to make a difference.  At the end of our call, he said that he had quite a few more phone screens and would probably be back to me in a couple of weeks.  I mentioned that I had spoken with another company and would no doubt be receiving an offer within that timeframe.  He understood and asked that I keep him abreast of my situation.  During that call, a voicemail from the first company popped up.  I felt too tired to check it so I plopped on my bed for a nap.

The next day, I had an email wanting to set up a phone call with the hiring manager from the entertainment company.  So my day started off with good news.  I threw on some warm clothes and sneakers so I could take Kihon for a long walk.  She’s trained to poop once in the morning and once in the evening, if we break that schedule Kihon will poop on her pad but it is always in our bedroom for some reason.  She freely pees on the other pads when necessary but poop is always deposited on the pads left in our bedroom.  Is she trying to tell us something?

On our walk, I took a few snaps of her playing and dialed up the first recruiter I spoke with in January.  I apologized for not returning her call the day before and explained that I felt exhausted from the cold I kept trying to shake.  She understood and simply said, “We just wanted to make you an offer of employment with us.  Everyone felt impressed by your accomplishments and enjoyed speaking with you.  Here is what we want to offer you…”  Not only did the compensation match my expectations but they also offered to make my position remote.  I would not have to commute to the closest office:  90 miles south of me.  Even with carpool stickers and my Hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, that commute would suck eggs.  The formal offer letter arrived via email, as did a request to meet with the hiring manager from the other company.  What a delightful problem to have.  I agreed to speak with the hiring manager, to alleviate any risk of doubt in my mind about accepting an offer from the first company.

It felt like I interviewed the hiring manager from the entertainment/tech/video game company about “why diversity now”?  She stated her case and her vision and noted the support of her senior leaders and peers.  Her big question for me, “What diversity issues should we be addressing?”  I brought up #metoo as a huge diversity issue for women, people of color and people who are LGBT.  I noted the inequities in diversity across both above the line and below the line production teams.  In addition, I stated that people with disabilities have capabilities when it comes to working in tech that are often overlooked because of the hiring manager’s unconscious biases.  And, I briefly mentioned that I had popped onto Reddit to read what the players had to say to each other while they played the companies games as well as what they were saying about each other and the company.  None of my comments brought up specifics about the employee life cycle around recruiting, retaining, and developing talent.  There are just so many opportunities for improvement by leveraging diversity and building a more inclusive work environment for companies who cross the industries of entertainment, technology and video games.  That job would be a huge one.  We said our polite goodbyes and I hung up the phone, excited that this woman wanted to create a new culture at her company but knowing it would have to be without me.

My decision all came down to what I felt in my piko (gut) and my personal connection to the company’s mission.  My last job felt like an ideal situation, a CEO as champion, supported by executives and leaders who genuinely “get it.”  And the employees backed up our work through volunteerism, charitable donations, taking on assignments outside of their job description, and pushing on us to keep charging ahead.  This new company is poised to accelerate their progress exponentially.  Their CEO supports the work on a personal and professional level.  His commitment shines through authentically.  I feel confident that our department will make a difference and push the company’s mission forward:  “We enable our customers to make the world healthier, cleaner, and safer.”  My next chapter will be focused on that mission.  Not a bad gig at all.

Proud of my Daughter 

Motherhood Dare Challenge Accepted!I was challenged to post a picture that makes me happy/proud to be a mom (yes just one photo collage.)

This young lady has the highest quotient of emotional intelligence of anyone I have ever encountered. Kanoe’s spirit and energy is like poorly bottled sunshine. Her heart is as big as her smile. And learning disabilities have not stopped her from wanting to go to college. That makes me proud. 

She’s grown up so quickly and still hangs on to that incredible spirit of adventure and fun. We all spend so much time laughing and smiling that my cheeks ache at the end of the day sometimes.  

My daughter keeps me young and she loves that she’s got a nerd for a mom. I know people question why I work so hard sometimes but this smiling face is the reason why. I work my ass off to pay for my house so she could have a stable childhood, even though she was raised by a single mom.

I want her to understand that anything is possible if you have discipline, respect and the will to work hard. And, as women, we need to be able to stand on our own and support ourselves and our sisters around us. My daughter makes me very proud, she’s a gift in my life. 

When did I Become a Mentor?

My summer has been full of travel and activities:  my first karate tournament in 18 years, outrigger races, hula shows, business travel, Las Vegas, family crises, podcasting, San Diego Comic Con, Walker Stalker Fan Fest, my day job, and most importantly, being a mom.  This blog has been extremely neglected but I have a lot of fodder to turn into postings, I promise.  I will work on talking about SDCC/Walker Stalker Fan Fest and my new lipstick addiction to Urban Decay’s Revolution line very soon.

One thing I didn’t expect to do much of this summer is coaching and mentoring.  But last week, I attended the Multicultural Women’s National Conference in New York City.  This year marked lucky number 13 for the event.  I have attended at least eight, maybe nine of these 13 years.  This conference is a special experience for me, especially as a woman of color in corporate America.  It is rare that I step into a room filled with leaders who are women, much less a hotel ballroom of 500 leaders who are mostly women of color.  I don’t need to play “CTA” (Count the Asians, a thing I do when I am in a public space that is not very ethnically diverse) at this event.

One new benefit for attendees that the organizers added came in the form of taking free, professional headshots of each of us.  Three artists from Bobbi Brown provided mini touch-ups to participants and professional photographers spent a few minutes with each of us before snapping a few different poses.  Some women had never had a professional photograph taken and were delighted with the prospect.  Others don’t use make-up and just wanted to have a professional give them a more polished look for the day.  And a few of the attendees wanted to use this headshot for their LinkedIn profile.  (I wondered if any would add it to their Tinder or match.com profiles?)  Either way, my headshot showed me 1) I need a haircut and 2) Doing three panels outdoors at Walker Stalker Fan Fest in San Diego gave my face a much darker tan than I usually have.  Because of those two reasons, my new headshot will not be posted on LinkedIn and I do not have Tinder account.

This year’s theme for the conference was “Mindset Matters:  Igniting Potential.  Driving Excellence.”  The agenda read as fairly standard:  keynote speakers, small group workshops and lots of opportunities for networking.  As an introvert, I find early morning networking an exhausting prospect and a huge drain on my energy when I attend a typical business conference.  However, this gathering serves as one of the highlights for my professional year in terms of giving and receiving energy.  In fact, I have made friends at this conference from all over the country because it is a safe environment for women of color to talk about being women of color.  Also, my daughter has attended this event with me, sitting in on keynote addresses and small group discussions.  She has heard some of the struggles that women of color experience in the workplace, I only hope that my daughter realizes how that impacts her growth and development as she enters the workforce.

My role at the conference has expanded from passive attendee to serving as a small group facilitator for same race and cross race conversations.  This year, I was assigned one of these six provocative topics:  Empowerment – Exposure – Impact – Learning – Resilience – and Trust.  Randomly, I received Empowerment, a topic I wanted to really chew on before facilitating small group discussions.

In the same race group, we brought up how being Asian, particularly an Asian woman, impacts “Empowerment” in the workplace.  I felt frustrated to hear the same data from participants that I have heard for years:  “My manager thinks I am young and inexperienced, despite the fact that I have 15 years of tenure and an MBA.”  “My parents taught me to work harder than anyone else and keep my head down because hard work will be rewarded.”  “No one considers me for key positions in the Sales department.”  “I don’t have a mentor.”  “I am waiting for my promotion.”  “Taking an assignment in another department is a big risk, especially if I am already a subject matter expert in my current role.”  “I am the only Asian woman in management.”  How can all of that cultural mud serve our Empowerment as Asian women?  It seeps into our mindset and dries like a weight on our collective shoulders.  Some stereotypes and cultural qualities may serve us well in our careers, “We are always striving for perfection because getting an ‘A-‘ was never good enough for our parents.”  “Asians are thought of as quiet and disciplined.”  So many of us played the piano or violin as children and practiced for hours every day.  That is discipline and research shows that music helps children develop strong math skills, another stereotype about Asian.

But being a woman and Asian in corporate America can feel like starting out with two strikes against you when striving to be in the C-suite.  Fortune reported in February 2014 that just over 4 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs at that time were minorities, (African-Americans, Asians, and/or Latin-Americans. And there were 24 women CEOs in the Fortune 500 — representing 4.8 percent of companies — as of June 2014.

We then shifted the conversation to address how to empower ourselves and others.  Some women talked about “Dress older than you are.”  “Find a mentor.”  “Network more.”  “Take a job in another part of the business as a stretch assignment.”  “Ask for more pay.”  What I noticed very clearly was that most of these are strategies that white men do automatically.  They don’t feel stigma from tooting their own horn.  They don’t feel shame from asking for a promotion.  They also don’t feel like they are at all different from their CEO or COO so aspirations of sitting in the C-suite do feel unreasonable.

One of my participants asked, “Is Empowerment given or taken?”  That question drew out different responses based on the participants’ company, tenure and experience.  The more senior the attendee was, the highly the likelihood was that she would mention the importance of a mentor and/sponsor.  Being in power means having influence and no one walks in the door of a company with influence unless he or she has the ear of the C-suite.  I feel like we ended in a good place where participants shared their challenges as Asian women in the workplace and learned one or two tips on how to overcome those challenges to Empower themselves.  One to two tips in 90 minutes felt like a good use of our time, in my opinion.

When I got back to the office, I had received a few emails from participants.  A lot of feedback talked about my energy, which I gleaned from the willingness of the participants to contribute.  It felt like a symbiotic relationship to me.  “It was great meeting you at the conference!  I sincerely loved your energy during the breakout session and would like to get some of your thoughts on other things I am going through.”  This woman set up a lunch meeting for some one on one time.  We shall see if our chat leads to any huge professional breakthroughs for her, I think I offered some perspective as a mentor.  Wikipedia defines mentorship as “a personal developmental relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps to guide a less experienced or less knowledgeable person. The mentor may be older or younger, but have a certain area of expertise.”

In a strange twist of events, one thing we did agree on was for me to help her create a Match.com profile.  She is also a single mom and wants to jump back into the dating world.  Although I have a lot of experience as a single working mom, I do not have a lot of successful experience with on-line dating.  I hope providing her a bit of empowerment in starting to date leads to some happiness in her personal life.  However, I do not plan to make it a habit or a goal to mentor women in how to date.

My Guest Host Appearance @thebecauseshow @baldmove 

 “The Because Show” is an affiliate podcast on BaldMove.com. I started as a listener, contributed silly ideas/voicemails and look at me now, Mama, I’m a guest host today!

We talk about Mad Men, restraining orders and vibrators. Super fun topics  for adult audiences only! 

Take a listen and please leave a five star iTunes review, if you love it as much as I do. 


Mentoring & Sponsorship @WMConferences

Last week, I spent time at Working Mother Media’s annual “Multicultural Women’s National Conference.” This event has provided me more personal development than any other conference that I have attended. I’ve even made a couple of new friends because of my participation and that is an extra special bonus. Imagine being in a room with 500 ambitious, driven, and successful women. The invitation to this conference is especially targeted towards women of color and Working Mother takes this opportunity to create a safe and honest dialogue about what is really going on with women in the workplace.

This year’s theme was powerful: “Vision and Impact: Charting What’s Next.” A brief website description read: “Together through collaborative conversation and vision planning we can launch real progress and ignite action in our careers and in our lives – thus positively impacting the future for the advancement of multicultural women in the workplace.

Our vision, values and goals shape the way we work, along with the expectations we have for our careers, and our lives. Knowing what we want – and being able to articulate that – is vital to live lives and build careers that have impact.”

Given the circumstances that my company has thrust upon the employees, it seems more than fitting. What is next in my career and my life? This conference presented me with time and space to evaluate my current professional career path. I set out very deliberate intentions to consider all the possibilities ahead of me, in the back of my mind. Externally, I agreed to play the role of a “Thought Leader” in the same race and cross race discussion groups.

Participants were asked to choose two topics related to a professional area that they needed to strengthen. My role became “facilitator” and I helped the guide a discussion to explore how the participants approach this area, how the power of their belief system shapes and influences that behavior, impacting career decisions and possibly impeding advancement.

We used a technique loosely based on Open Space Technology. No formal structured agenda existed in the beginning, each group had a topic area and began the conversation from there. The desired outcomes were simple: to raise issues that were most important to the participants in the group, engage everyone in the discussion, and share the findings in the cross-race discussions on the same topic. The six topics were based on six critical components for the career advancement of women:


What I want to share came out of my same race conversation circle on the topic of Mentoring and Sponsorship.

We were given a few questions to begin our discussion:
Do you have a personal board of directors? A mentor? If so, what is the value add? If not, what are the barriers to enablement? Do you believe someone in your organization is your sponsor—someone who is telling others about your value to the organization?

Do you have a broad range and influential level of mentors and sponsors?
In what ways are you – or are you not – sponsorable?

Goal 1: Ensure race is part of the conversation—how does this group uniquely experience the topic at hand?

Goal 2: Encourage timely and actionable focus—is this something they’re dealing with right now and can impact in the near-term?

Goal 3: Avoid redundancy—seek to build on others’ thoughts, in the same conversation and from the session prior.

Goal 4: Go beneath the surface—use probing questions to uncover the “why”, “who” and “how” of the experience.

As always, I elected to start our dialogue with brief introductions: name, company and why they selected this topic. I find that this helps the participants hear their own voice in the room and therefore, “warm them up” to participate more fully. As an Introvert, I know this tiny step helps me. If I had more time, I would have asked each participant to share one thing they are excited about this summer. Having people talk about something they are excited about helps to elevate their levels of engagement. Adults really enjoy talking about themselves. Little touches like using an adult’s first name when addressing a question to them or following up a comment they made does wonders for an individual’s enthusiasm. This isn’t an ego thing, it is a human thing. Also, I’ve found that the higher one moves up in the organization, the less “human” their interactions become. People seem to lose their minds when speaking to high ranking executives and don’t give them honest and candid feedback for fear of harming one’s career progression. Also, people don’t treat high ranking executives the same way they would treat a person who doesn’t sit in the corner office. This is a ridiculous way to function in corporate America. The world is shrinking and communication needs to be transparent. We do not have time for politicking anymore. Work needs to get done through authentic and meaningful dialogue. Everyone adds value to the workplace -regardless of title, age, race, level of education, sexual orientation, gender and any other aspect of being a human being that people use to divide us into groups. Just keep it real and cut out the bullshit, people. We will all get a lot more accomplished.

Back to my Thought Leader same race discussion group…

We, as a group, decided to define “mentoring” and “sponsorship” before we went any further, I offered two very brief definitions: Mentoring is talking TO someone about career development and that someone is NOT in your direct reporting chain of command. Anyone can find a mentor or a mentor. Sponsorship is when someone is talking ABOUT you when you are not in the room. This usually happens during talent review or when leaders work to identify participants for stretch assignments. Sponsorship is usually earned through showing consistently strong performance and building a reputation for delivering solid business results. Interestingly enough, participants in both of my small groups said that they had never had a problem with finding mentors. However, only a handful of them knew whether they had a sponsor or not. In my mind, that is data worth exploring further. Why don’t Asian women know if they have sponsors? Or do they not have sponsors? Is there a cultural component to this? Is it because across corporate America, most of the key decision makers are still straight, white men? These are things to consider in the future.

The same race groups who were discussing Mentoring and Sponsorship had five key points to share with the cross race groups. This is what the Asian women wanted the other groups to realize about us, as a collective group. I own these findings, as an Asian American woman.

1. We are usually the only woman, the only Asian, and the youngest looking person in the room. Because we look younger, we need to build credibility early in the meeting to establish that we are NOT the junior person on the team. Many of the women reported wearing glasses or very professional attire to look older. And everyone said it was critical to note their tenure with their company so we aren’t ignored or overlooked in the workplace.

2. Being Asian may get in the way of our own self-promotion. Bragging or at least talking about our achievements is very counter cultural to Asians. However, this skill is a critical one when finding a sponsor.

3. As we move up in our careers, it becomes more difficult to find mentors and sponsors who are key decision makers. In numbers, most organizations have less women and less women of color and even less Asian women at the top.

4. In order to be promoted, we must build cross-functional skills. It seems that we Asians are very skilled at being individual contributors and are not usually tapped on the shoulder for key assignments in the sexy departments like marketing and sales. Most of us received messages from our well-intended parents that hard work pays off and the nail that stands up gets hammered down. Well, in corporate America, one needs to learn how to stretch outside one’s comfort zone, take risks and stand out. We must be intentional in asking for coaching and career development.

5. Different Asian cultures have varying levels of comfort with speaking out. We enjoyed a lively discussion about how Indian women seem to have a lot less challenges in asking for coaching and feedback. Many of the participants were not U.S.-born and that adds a layer of complexity to the discussion. The long and the short of it was, not all Asians are alike. One size does not fit all.

The discussions did not bring any new revelations to my mind about being Asian in corporate America and trying to find a mentor or sponsor. The value I gleaned from this conversation was just in being surrounded by people like me. We all shared very openly and freely, things that came easy to us in the workplace and a few things that are barriers to our success. I feel like my course is still uncharted in terms of what’s next but I do feel like I own my responsibility to continue to help other women be successful.

The War Rages On… My Face

Today is Day Four after my IPL Photofacial. My face still has Oreo cookie patches all over my cheeks but it is starting to clear up. I also went back to work after being off for a week to spend Spring Break with my teen-aged daughter. Here is what my skin looked like this morning, I don’t think I look as scary as I did on Saturday.




Because I was going back to work today, I took extra time to blow dry and style my hair. One thing I will admit is that I have pretty hair. It’s jet black and very naturally shiny. People ask me what kind of products I use in my hair so I have to tell them that I just wash it with normal shampoo and let it air dry. I don’t usually take much time styling it because I’m a very low maintenance kind of woman in the morning. I’d rather spend an extra 15 minutes cooking a hot breakfast for my daughter, sleeping, or checking my Facebook page in bed than styling my hair. Of course, I was going to be in the office with patchy skin today so I blew my hair out and put on red lipstick. That’s usually a dead give away that I’m tired or feeling a little down, red lipstick is like camouflage to hide behind. Here is a selfie from my car this morning:


Today, my calendar was filled with conference calls and meetings. The sides of my cheeks are marked with Oreo cookie splotches. That made me very self-conscious as I walked around campus.

When I’m paddling, the areas that absorb the most sun exposure are the sides of my cheeks. Despite wearing a hat and heavy duty sunscreen, my cheeks have suffered the most exposure over the years. What makes it worse, when I’m at outrigger canoe practice, quite often my face is splashed with salt water from the ocean. No doubt my sunscreen is washed away, leaving my skin vulnerable to the sun’s damaging rays. This exposure is exponentially multiplied by the sun reflecting off the ocean.

I realized this fact when we were paddling out towards the eight minute pole at practice tonight. As per usual for a Spring evening, the ocean was choppy and temperamental. It felt as if our canoe was paddling through a washing machine. It was definitely not gentle cycle. Our ama popped up from time to time, threatening to throw us out and make the canoe huli (flip over). Between the rookie in front of me splashing water on me and the rough ocean conditions, I found my face doused with salt water for almost 90 minutes straight. My cheeks stung from the salt water, extra sensitive skin was just another side effect of the IPL Photofacial.

I do NOT recommend going out on the open ocean immediately after having an IPL Photofacial treatment.

This morning is Day Five and the Oreo cookie patches or coffee grounds are starting to flake off.




I felt like I looked horrible when I woke up. Thankfully, after I washed my face, my skin looked much better. What I noticed was that the skin beneath the Oreo cookie patches looks pink and new. But that also means I have small pink splotches on my cheeks. Hopefully those will blend back in to match the rest of my skin. What I am seeing in my forehead and the un-Oreo cookie patched part of my face is really glowing and healthy looking skin, thank goodness. It looks as bright as it does after I have had a spa facial plus a good night’s sleep.

Once I was out of the shower, I applied my make-up for work. The Oreo cookie patches were harder to cover today. The dead skin wanted to flake off of my face but I didn’t want to go to work without trying to cover it up. This is what I looked like before I left the house:




Wednesday morning aka Day Six.
The Oreo cookie patches are almost gone and I didn’t have to wear foundation or red lip camouflage today. Instead, I used a tinted moisturizer and one of my favorite NARS lip colors called, “Club Mix”. I discovered it when I was out to lunch with a colleague one day. Her lip color was a shimmery plum and it was just gorgeous to me. The color is from the Velvet Gloss Lip Pencil so it is a chubby glossy pencil and all kinds I gorgeous. Here are my before and after from rolling out of bed to walking into the office:



No vanity here, can you tell?





Now, I’m curious to see how my skin is going to look on Saturday, which will be one full week after my IPL Photofacial treatment. My thoughts regarding doing it again are doubtful. The money I spent could have gone into my Gino Vacation Fund for our Italy trip.  Also, the recovery time is longer than I had expected. However, the experience was not as traumatic to my face compared to when I did a Vi Peel. That is a very intense chemical peel that essentially made my entire face fall off in sheets.  I looked like a Walker who had been cooking inside of an abandoned vehicle in the hot Georgia sun.

Anyway, at the end of my workday, I noticed that my skin was peeling and very dry.  Ugh.  This is frustrating.  I lost the Oreo cookie splotches but gained pink patches and flaky skin.  This IPL Photofacial recovery time is no joke.

These last six days have given me an opportunity to figure out why I’m spending so much time and money to fight this war against aging.   A realization came to me that it may be about control.  Or trying to hang on to my looks as a way of controlling the aging process.  It isn’t logical.  I know can’t stop time but our society is geared towards valuing youth.

Pick up or download women’s magazines on health or beauty and there will be articles helping you to “Look Younger Longer” or to advising you to eat “Foods That Fight Aging”.  The message isn’t subtle, it says that looking young kicks ass on aging. I recently saw a quiz that helped the reader answer, “How Old Do You Look?” with younger scores being more highly valued.  These articles and quizzes were located just below a headline that read, “Beat The Clock.” Time keeps slipping through the hour glass of aging for us as we scramble to keep the sand from filling up.

I stated in part one of this blog that I feel 28.  That’s not entirely true. My body feels strong and healthy.  And luckily, my hobbies include dancing hula, paddling outrigger canoes, half marathons and Okinawan Shorin Ryu so I stay active.  I will admit that I love my red wine and wine tasting is also an interest of mine but I’ve been limiting my alcoholic intake lately.  If I open a bottle of wine at home, I always have two glasses when I drink, I tend to want to nosh on something yummy.  Red wine and Trader Joe’s Sea Salt & Turbinado Sugar Dark Chocolate Almonds are a killer combination. You get chocolate with a sprinkle of salt and a kiss of sugar. Mmm, it can bring out the best notes from some of my favorite wines. Other times I enjoy red wine with a spicy Gouda from Whole Foods Market. The cheese needs a cracker or other carb to sit on before I devour it. I think I am as addicted to the crunching sound as I am to the yummy snacks. My point is, if I drink wine, I tend to snack and if I snack while I drink, I may over snack. That is not good for my waistline or my skin. But I digress.

I had stated that I feel 28 years old, which is true as far as my body goes.  But my heart and my brain are a wise 43 almost 44 years old.  I finally understand what it means to feel romantic love.  Let me correct that, I finally understand what it means to feel mad, passionate, sappy, romantic love with a man who values my nerdiness as much as my intelligence and my 28 year old feeling body.  It took me a while to find him but he is definitely worth the wait.  And my 40-something year old brain realizes how short life really is.  I don’t worry about having stuff to keep up with the Joneses.  I’m not sure who the Joneses even are but I know that reference is appropriate.  And I stopped sweating the small stuff.  Financially, I am doing ok.  My mortgage and bills are paid on time and I know I can’t spend like a maniac.  But I also don’t feel like I need to shop for things to fill a void in my life.  The things that are most important to me aren’t things.  They don’t cost anything other than my time and attention.  My daughter makes me see the world with fresh eyes and she rescued me from being dragged down into a dungeon of despair and distrust.  I experienced more pain before I turned 25 than most people can imagine. Becoming a mother showed me how love heals everything.  And I already had incredible parents and siblings and family that I like to hang out with as much as I love them.  Some people don’t like their family members but I adore mine.  My house isn’t impeccably decorated nor do I have the latest flat screen TV and appliances but it is warm and welcoming.  Just ask my amazing friends.  Some of them are my age and older, some of them are in their 20s and 30s.  I bet some of them have tried Botox and photofacials, not that it matters to me.  Sometimes I am afraid of looking older and that fear drove me to try an IPL Photofacial.  I thought I was fighting a war against aging but I realized I was trying to defy the laws of nature and control it.  Instead of desperately holding on to my youth and spending hundreds of dollars to control the aging process, I think I am going to let go and live life all in.  I may have another treatment to hide the 11s between my eyebrows, if I start looking upset again.  But I haven’t enjoyed feeling like I need to hide my Oreo cookie patches on my face.  Living life all in, laughing loudly every day, and loving the people who mean the most to me is how I will win this war against aging, all while wearing 30+SPF sunscreen.




Fight Like a Girl


Fight Like a Girl

My guess is that every person who reads this has lost at least one loved one to cancer.  And there are so many types out there:  breast, colon, skin, bone, cervical, brain… name an organ or a body part and someone you know has probably died from that type of cancer.  This disease doesn’t discriminate based on socio-economic status, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, military status, or even age.  People with money die from cancer.  People without money die from cancer.  But it seems like the people with the brightest spirits and most positive attitudes find themselves fighting cancer.  And to that I say, “Fuck Cancer”.

My dear friend, Tina, had leukemia when we were in elementary school.  She was the youngest child of Chinese immigrants, I don’t even remember if her parents spoke English, and she was nothing but a tiny bundle of sweetness and smarts.  Tina wore a colorful hat in kindergarten and first grade.  She would run around on the playground with us, playing foursquare and tether ball, always a step or two behind because she was weak from her disease.  I never had to check to see if she was following our group because I could hear her giggle catch up to us about 10 seconds before she did.  Tina had a quiet spirit, a loud laugh, and her smile was so authentic and honest.  Despite her illness, she was just another kid at school.  I remember there was a very windy day on the blacktop, my hair was whipping around in my face and my favorite navy skirt was flapping in the wind.  I silently thanked my mom for making me wear shorts underneath it.  Unfortunately, Tina’s hat flew off on the playground that afternoon.  She grabbed her head with her hands, hung her head in shame, and stopped.  It was as if her feet froze in place and she was torn between running after her hat or hiding her bald head from all of us.  I don’t remember which little boy brought her the hat, I just remember Tina sobbing as the teacher on recess duty wrapped her up in a big embrace and helped her place her hat back on her head.  She wasn’t completely bald, it was as if she had long strands and random patches of hair.  Some of the crueler kids laughed and pointed.  I wanted to go kick all of their asses.  I was a total tomboy back then and felt a responsibility to protect all the other Asian immigrant kids.  I don’t know why but I definitely kicked a few boys in the nuts for making fun of my friends who didn’t speak English or had cancer.

A few years later, my mom sat me down in the family room to “talk” to me.  It felt scary, like a big cloud hung over our plush brown couch.  My family never held family meetings or sat in the family room other than to watch TV together.  I looked up at my mom and her eyes were puffy and she looked miserable.  She looked at her slippers, and the coffee table and finally she looked into my eyes and said, “Your Grandma Connie has cancer.  It is terminal.”  I didn’t know what that word meant, “terminal,” so I asked her and my mom snapped, “It means she is going to die!” and she stormed toward her bedroom.  As the eldest girl, my mom was very close to Grandma.  And one of the rules in our household was always, “family comes first.”  Whatever behaviors you exhibit reflect on your family, not just you as an individual.   So to say we were close as a family unit is an understatement.  My mom was truly devastated by the news that my Grandma was dying from cancer.  We all were.

During one of our hospital visits, Grandma said to me, “Hoy, Jen-nee-pear, (she had an adorable Filipina accent) I have black blood.”  That simple statement FREAKED ME OUT.  How was her blood black?  Why was it black?  Could they fix it?  Could I catch it?  Why wasn’t anyone doing anything about it?  My head was spinning and I felt scared and sick but Grandma sat there, smiling in her tissue-thin hospital gown, her eyes as bright as always.  She didn’t mean that her blood had become black in color, Grandma asked who had donated her most recent blood transfusion.  The nurse replied that the donation came from a nice African American woman.  See, my Grandma had black blood now.  That experience always sticks with me and I am sure that it why I try to donate blood to the Red Cross at least twice a year.  I am a universal donor, O Positive, and with all the recent disasters and emergencies happening around the world, the Red Cross is in desperate need of O Positive blood.  Trust me, they call me incessantly every eight weeks to get me down to the office.

My Grandma passed away peacefully at home.  She was sitting in her own bed, surrounded by relatives and friends.  A nurse was with us in the room, cooing soothing words that Connie was getting ready to pass on and that we should all prepare ourselves.  I remember staring wide-eyed at my aunties and cousins, trying to figure out what to do.  We were just waiting for Grandma to die and I felt tear welling in my eyes and my throat.  The nurse finally said that she was gone and when I looked at Grandma, her jaw was opening and closing so she couldn’t be dead.  Unfortunately, the nurse said that was an automatic muscular reaction and that Connie was indeed gone.

I’ve lost grandparents, uncles, friends, acquaintences and co-workers to cancer.  There is no clear cause as to why some people get cancer.  The American Cancer Website has very clear and easy to understand informaiton to learn more about this group of diseases lumped under the term, cancer.  They write the following:

“Cancer is such a common disease that it is no surprise that many families have at least a few members who have had cancer. Sometimes, certain types of cancer seem to run in some families. This can be caused by a number of factors. It can be because family members have certain risk factors in common, such as smoking, which can cause many types of cancer. It can also be due in part to some other factors, like obesity, that tend to run in families and influence cancer risk.

But in some cases the cancer is caused by an abnormal gene that is being passed along from generation to generation. Although this is often referred to as inherited cancer, what is inherited is the abnormal gene that can lead to cancer, not the cancer itself. Only about 5% to 10% of all cancers are inherited – resulting directly from gene defects (called mutations) inherited from a parent. “

And then there is that very specific, breast cancer, which has prompted me to write this week.  Two very strong women, who are both rays of sunshine to everyone they touch, are in various stages of chemotherapy in their fight against breast cancer.  They are both very open with their experience on Facebook so that friends and family can understand and support.  One woman, I will call her Smiley, hosted head-shaving party before she started chemo and her daughter joined her in shaving her own hair off.  The party became a celebration of life and way to show solidarity with Smiley.  She is documenting chemotherapy treatments in photos and I marvel at her brave attitude.  But Smiley is a service woman in the US military.  She is no stranger to hard work, discipline and fighting.

My other friend, Sunshine, has been a survivor for the last several years.  She was quite young when her diagnosis was discovered, in her 30s, and endured treatments like a champion.  Sunshine also knows how to fight, as a Muay Thai kickboxer.  Her fighting spirit has served her well as she battles this disease.  And recently, the doctors discovered a mass that needs to be treated with chemotherapy.  Before the treatment started, Sunshine cut off her long tresses and raised money to harvest eggs for her future baby.  Preserving a future for fertility and procreation is not something I had ever heard about before Sunshine.  Of course I donated money and tried to spread the word about her cause.  I know my sister also made a donation, for which I am grateful.  The harvest was successful, Sunshine has a half dozen eggs.

And then I received one more piece of shitty breast cancer news about yet another dear friend.  This time she is my hula sister.  Hula sisters have a unique bond.  To be a cohesive group, ready to perform or compete, hula sisters have to sweat, work, sing, laugh, cry and sweat some more together, following the kauna of a hula mele and choreography of a kumu hula.  If you’re lucky, you also get to drink and disco disco and enjoy the world together.   But hula sisters feel me on this one.  It isn’t enough to take a class together, there is a special connection that forms with hula sisters.  That connection is for life.

I say all that because one of my hula sisters, who is a cervical cancer survivor, was diagnosed with a breast cancer tumor this week.  She will need surgery and all the treatment that surrounds surgery.  It felt like a punch to the gut to hear the news and I wanted to burst into tears as I read the email on my iPhone last night.  We are all praying for everyone fighting the fight.  And I’ve discovered there is this Breast Cancer Culture.  More than raising awareness of the disease or funds for research, Breast Cancer Culture is about women being strong and feminine and brave.  The color pink is associated with breast cancer to ensure that women continue to feel like women through their treatment and therapy.  Treatment may mean a mastectomy and losing one’s hair.  Therapy may mean dropping weight but not being able to exercise.  There is a spirit and a flair to “fight like a girl” against this terrible disease, breast cancer.  I know my friends are fighting like the mother who is also a soldier, a Muay Thai martial artist and hula dancer that they are.  All of those identities are a part of being a woman.


Every morning at 9am PST, we are sending a prayer mob/ho’oponopono out to my hula sister!