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Earlier this month, Ke Huy Quan (AKA Data from The Goonies, AKA Short Round from Indiana Jones) won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role in Everything Everywhere All At Once. This was monumental because it was his first acting gig since childhood. He quit acting due to being an Asian male and the lack of roles available to him. He thought his career was over. My kids are half-Japanese, and I think about this deeply. The idea that your art, your creative gift, is not wanted or desired because you aren’t the “right” ethnicity. I think of my Japanese husband who used to tell me that white women said they couldn’t date a “Jap.” Sometimes—often, even— life gives you roadblocks that are not your fault. Five years ago Quan watched Crazy Rich Asians do well in theaters, and he began to wonder if there was a possibility of finding a role for someone like himself. A spring of hope. I’ve listened to his interviews about getting back into the game. When he auditioned for Everything Everywhere All At Once, months went by with radio silence. He had no idea if he got the role, but as weeks passed, it seemed less likely. He wanted the role so badly. Finally it happened, after over 30 years of thinking his dream would never happen again. But he didn’t just get a role. Quan became a first-time Oscar winning actor at 51-years-old for his comeback movie. 

I watched Quan’s various acceptance speeches as the accolades began rolling in. The hugs with Harrison Ford and Steven Spielberg. His poignant words about coming over on a boat and achieving the American Dream, and the shoutout to his 84-year-old mom who was watching the awards show at home. I felt inspired. If Ke can make his dreams happen, we all can, right? Regardless of barriers. Despite age. Against all odds. Even in his 50s, he’s out there reinventing and creating. He’s doing the thing. 

I’ve been in a rut this month. Maybe it’s the constant rain, or the neverending deluge of kid activities and personal and professional obligations that have me feeling perpetually spread thin. It’s too much for a one-woman act. People ask, “How do you do it?” My usual answer is, “No choice.”

But I guess that’s not entirely true. I could make other choices, like quit everything and live under a rock. (I kid, I kid…kind of). The thing is, I’m stubbornly committed to living my life as close as possible to that vision I had before becoming a widowed single mom. Something worse than losing your husband and the life you knew is to settle for a mediocre consolation prize. I want to give my children the life I planned for them, the best I can possibly offer, and for myself I want to continue pursuing the goals and dreams that have always existed inside of me. In many ways, these dreams have only grown wilder, bolder, hungrier. 

It’s hard, though. I’m often feeling tired, not good enough, and I suffer from a plaguing sense that I’m not moving fast enough, working hard enough, or getting far enough. Every once in a while the stress catches up with me and it throws me into a spiral of hopelessness. Then I have to dig my way out. 

Now more than ever I’m worried about things like stress and anxiety, and how it will slowly kill me. Or quickly kill me. I think about my husband’s aortic aneurysm like it’s something that might be contagious, and that I too will succumb to something terrible at a young age. Bad luck feels like a communicable disease. I recently bought honey lavender stress tea and have big plans to meditate and do yoga, which of course I haven’t started yet, because TIME! But on the other hand, if I continue doing nothing about it, what am I going to think on my deathbed? That killing myself with stress and anxiety was worth it? I think not. 

I can’t remember the last time I’ve had a day off from mothering. The first and last trip I went on to relax since becoming a mother was in 2019. I had a few work trips sprinkled in there. Otherwise, I’m always on duty. Sometimes well-meaning divorced parents will try to commiserate with me and tell me that they know what it’s like being a single parent. Do you know what it’s like being the only caregiver 24/7, forever? An only parent. Not the “my husband is out of town this week” variety, but the kind with an emphasis on “forever.” No phone calls. 

It’s hard f-ing work that has me on the verge of a nervous breakdown sometimes, especially when I encounter an emotionally stunted person who will sometimes make insensitive remarks to me that minimizes my load. Last week, someone told me I didn’t deserve to get a particular schedule at work next year, one that would have helped me stay aligned to my kids’ schedules. The harsh reality is that 99.9% of people do not care about your problems, even the ones you didn’t create. That’s because they are bogged down in their own problems. Fair enough. But I didn’t sign up for my husband to drop dead. I swear I did everything I was supposed to do and have always worked hard, and even still, these were the cards I got dealt. I guess it makes it hurt even more when people act like this is easy for me. So this me spiraling, stressed, distracted, impatient. 

But then the fog dissipates and I get out of my funk. So far it’s always been this way, thank goodness. I get energized by something or someone, or sometimes a windfall of time blows my way and I can screw my head back on. Sometimes it is a change of scenery. I pull it together and claim that this has all made me stronger and better, and it’s mostly true. The other part is hardened arteries. 

For my birthday last month, one of my friends gave me a bracelet that says “create.” We have been friends since we were 15 and 16, and I wonder if that’s how she knew the word that would resonate the most with me. Create. To me, this is closely related to “I am responsible.” Making lemonade. Choosing how to respond. Deciding how to show up. Going for the things that we want. I wear the bracelet, reminding myself to keep swimming, even through the mush piles of life, to create the life I want and not get stuck with something that doesn’t make me proud. I use “create” to remind myself to write. To exercise and create the health and body I want. And when I’m at my wit’s end because the kids won’t go to bed at night (and they make every morning a nightmare getting out of the house on time), I remind myself to continue to create. To create the household I need and want. To be a better parent and mentor to these young people.

Everything we do in life all go back to “create.” Create or don’t create. It’s your choice. 

I recently listened to I’m Glad My Mom is Dead on Audible. I haven’t been through what the author has experienced, but her story is inspiring because it is one of healing and reinvention. I highly recommend it. She is busy creating the life she wants, even though she has had many dark chapters and went through a lot of crap she didn’t choose. These are the stories I want to hear. The ones where life didn’t go as planned, but the person chose a new path of fulfillment and is living on their terms for a healthier, happier version of themselves. 

Recently I took my oldest son to the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, CA. We were fortunate to go to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida earlier this year. He has a deep interest in becoming an engineer and has talked for years about wanting to work for NASA. He keeps a Lego replica of the Saturn V that he built in our living room, and he has loved watching Mark Rober videos for years. I’m trying to give him opportunities to visualize his possibilities, so I take him on these tours and buy JPL hoodies and help him imagine. I thought the Jet Propulsion Lab was amazing. It was a 2.5 hour tour loaded with information even for non-science types like me. If you think about it, the work they are doing—the creation they do— is often speculative, plowing forward into the unknown, hoping to better the human condition in ways most can not conceptualize. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it exceeds all expectations. Sometimes funding is cut. There are no guarantees. Currently JPL is in the middle of making an orbiter called Europa Clipper that will travel 16 miles away from the surface of one of Jupiter’s moons, Europa. This moon is covered in ice, and they think there might be an ocean beneath it. Where there is water, there might be life, so the theory goes. It will take them another year to finish building it, and then four more years to reach Europa. I have no idea where I’ll be in five years. I do the math, and it occurs to me that Ethan will be in college. What will he be creating? What will I be creating? What am I creating today that will materialize into something five years from now?

It makes me think that the word “create” is really about the small moments in each day. It’s not busting out the statue of David in an instant (Michelangelo actually spent three years on it!), but it’s the habits, mindset, tiny action steps, ideas, environment, investment, focus, collaboration, vision, purpose, persistence, blood, sweat, and tears that go toward a forward-thinking objective. It is not instant gratification. It is not having all of the answers or a formula or recipe to fast track you there. To create is a wholehearted belief that you can make this world a better place, sometimes in as small of a way as getting your kids to have more structure in your home, and sometimes discovering something groundbreaking in outer space. Nothing is too small or too big when you are creating. 

And this is what inspires me to do my best, to strive beyond my limits, to keep going when it all feels out of control. It is also what urges me to drink honey lavender tea and to start a meditation practice, so I have more time to keep creating and dreaming. There is still so much potential to explore.


  1. I love this!!! Your stories ALWAYS seem to resonate with me and my life at the precise time I’m going through what you’re blogging about. I look forward to always reading your posts. I walk away feeling less alone and I take away something each time. Thank you for sharing your story and experiences.

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  2. I really love your reading your emails. Life can suck & be so unfair . It’s okay to not to be on your A game all the time. Who could 🤷‍♀️     You sound like an amazing woman who needs a little break to “recharge “. Make it a priority to get one.    I have been in cancer treatment since last June.  I needed a break so badly. After radiation I told my team I need a break because I was going to break! They are all waiting for me with more chemo when I return ( went to Florida for a month). It’s much easier for me to get away. I’m a retired 64 yr. old. But I tell you. This get away did more good for me than any cancer treatment can do.   Take care of yourself for your children’s sake. Make it work! Get away for a weekend. Best wishes, Karen Sent from my T-Mobile 4G LTE Device

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