Wednesday, March 30, 2011

My other life


I have a confession to make. I’ve been cheating on my blog. Instead of spending my time writing here, I’ve been doing it elsewhere. BUT in my defense, it really isn’t someone else’s blog. It’s mine. There are so many voices in my head that I figured it’s time I let them out.

Mommy Justine is still a dominant part of me, but that’s not all of me. Since this blog, Here Where I Have Landed, was created as a gift to my daughter (and soon daughters), I will continue to record our journey together as a family here. As for the other facets demanding fair play, you can find them at

It’s a place for me to talk about anything and everything, minus the intimate side of my family life, like my daughter’s potty training or my pregnancy woes (as I write this, Thumper’s rhythmic hiccups are threatening to put me to sleep). For these sordid details, you can continue to visit me here. In fact, please do.

While I hope justinewrites will take off with a life of its own, I also know from experience that it takes a lot of time and effort to build readership. While I may only have a small group of readers here, I’m also a part of a great community as readers turned into friends over time. And as friends, could I please trouble you for your continued support of my new endeavor?

It’s a move I made to strengthen my career as a communications professional so the new site will most likely be an experimentation and a constant work in progress. Not much different than it is here really. Aren’t most parents pretty much making stuff up and learning as they go anyway?

If you have a couple of minutes to spare, please hop on over to my new/other space and check it out. Leave me a comment, and I’ll mow your lawn! (Fine print: Offer valid only if we live within 50 yards of one another). For Twitterbugs, please join me there too as I figure out how to maintain a double identity in the twittersphere. Meanwhile, it’ll be like partying with two Justines. Except one can’t drink and the other, well…we’ll just have to see what she’s like won’t we?

(This is where I shamelessly humbly ask you to follow me):

Site:   Twitter: @justinewrites

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The boxes and the geek


No, it’s not The Invasion of the Cardboard Boxes Part 5. Remember how, back in the early nineties, when you stumbled upon an unfinished site you’d see the ubiquitous animated gif of a man in construction hat on the homepage to let you know you’ve landed on a website that’s a work in progress? Well, the picture above pretty much sums up our place right now. Except we’re not constructing anything. We’re deconstructing. We’re moving in less than two weeks, and the packing has finally begun.

In case you’re wondering, this used to be our dining room. Now it’s the dumping ground for everything we’ve amassed to facilitate our move. Gradually, I rather imagine these boxes would swallow up the rest of the house too. Somewhere in there is also our camera, so forgive the photo quality for now as I rely on my mobile device for the show-and-tell part of the blog. That is, until I lose my phone in this mess.

Anyway, all this is to say that blogging may have to take a backseat for now. Yes, that’s me. A 300-word post to simply say I’ll be busy these couple of weeks. If you know me, you should also know concise is not my style. If short posts are your thing, he’s your guy. Well, he’s My Guy, but you know what I mean.


My ForEvo Guy



I’ve talked about My Guy’s hottie before – the phone, that is, in case you’re wondering why I’m talking about myself like that (ahem). And now, it’s making a second appearance here; at least the enhanced second generation of it is. I’ve already embarrassed myself once by trying to talk tech here, and I think I shall refrain this time.

Instead, I urge you to read My Guy’s really quick rundown on his new love interest (that’s the trouble with geeks, their devotion has such a short life span). I promise you, while it’s gadget speak, it also isn’t very lengthy. He, unlike me, is concise.

Caveat: In order to understand the title of his post, you’d have to really look at the images of the phones above. You will also see why I adore him – anyone who can make tedious tech talk funny, is swoonworthy. At least I think so. And if I’m the only one laughing, that may explain why we’re together.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

She’s here! (No, not that she. The other she of the house)


Well, if it made it to my Facebook status, you know it’s big news. On Tuesday, my mom flew in from Malaysia with her life in two pieces of luggage and a carry-on to come live with us. Our family dynamic shifted a little in that instant. Of course with three generations of women from two different, even opposite, cultures in one household, one could dwell on the generational and cultural gap that could surface on occasion. I have to admit, that does worry me sometimes.

However, rather than focus on the gap, I’ve been concentrating on the bridge – one that leads me, as well as my girls, back to my home country and our cultural roots. There will be challenges, yes, but more than that, it will be a gloriously rich journey as we are reminded daily of this deep connection between the past, the present and the future.

Speaking of the past, when I was little, my mom, who worked a nine to five job, always called me on the phone as soon as I was expected home from school to make sure I was fine. Being an only child with parents who worked full time, I was a latchkey kid, but my mom found ways to tend to my needs even when she was away. I never had to wonder about my meals or who would pick me up from the tutor. 

Now that I’m older, it’s interesting how the table’s turned. As I was writing a note to my mom about her meals in the fridge and calling her from my work, I thought about what it must have been like for her to care but not really be there, and so she did her best with the little things. And now, those are what I remember the most.

Even though I had an absentee father, my mom more than made up for his slack. She is the main reason I am where I am today, and while I wish I could do more for all that she’s sacrificed and done for me, I know she would never demand more of me than I could give.

However, I didn’t realize just how fortunate I am until my encounter with parents who expect love and respect from their kids because they think it’s their divine right. They don’t understand that these things are not a given and that they have to earn it, even from their children. I may have a few years on my daughter, but I am constantly humbled by how much she teaches me. That I work hard to provide her food, clothes and shelter is something I signed up for the moment I decided to become a parent. They’re certainly not the reason why I deserve her love and respect. That I will have to work on over the years, the same way she does.

Today, I am just grateful to have my mom here with me so I could show her the care that she had shown me. And hopefully someday, if I do right by my own girls, they will do the same for me. Not a very Western philosophy, I know, to hope for your children’s care, but I am from the East. You know what they say, you can take the girl out of the East…


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How has being a parent affected the way you view your own parents? How much of your parenting style is influenced by your own experience in childhood? If you could do one thing for your parents now, what would it be?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

We were kids once too


Once upon a time, before Little Miss, heck, even before My Guy and all the guys before him, I had my paper dolls and cooking sets. I designed, colored and cut these paper clothes for these dolls and lived vicariously through them. If I couldn’t afford to be the most fashionable on the block, they could. When I wasn’t parading my dolls in trendy outfits, I was pretending to be a chef. Now, you’ll see how my play has manifested itself in my passion for cooking. I also like clothes shopping; no big surprise there.

My Guy had his own favorites. Apart from console and video games, he also loved building with his LEGO sets. He still has a few from his childhood days. Ever since Little Miss was born, he has been looking forward to sharing his boyhood favorites with her. She is already pretty savvy with toddler computer games on the iPad, but this past weekend, the moment he’d been waiting for finally arrived. Her first LEGO set.

After witnessing her enthusiasm for building towers with her blocks and even creamer containers at restaurants, My Guy decided it was time. He purchased the zoo set she chose late evening on a Target run and promised her that it would be the first thing they did in the morning together. At bedtime, that was all Little Miss would talk about: “Daddy and I are building a LEGO zoo in the morning!” The anticipation was palpable. And I don’t think it was just her.




The next day, after breakfast, they got down to business. While the first day of spring brought us thunder, lightning and rain outside, it was like Christmas inside our house as My Guy gingerly opened his daughter’s first set of LEGOs. A passion from his past shared with his future. I know the feeling. When Little Miss helps me in the kitchen, beating (sloshing) an egg or mixing (stabbing) batter, I couldn’t be more proud and more delighted.

In these moments, we both see a little of ourselves in her. And I think we secretly hope that, by indulging in our passions, she will take a little of us with her wherever she goes.



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What were your favorite toys/games growing up? What are your passions? If you have kids or hope to someday, what are you excited to share with them? In what other ways do you see yourself in them?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A belated birthday letter to my 2.25-year-old


My dearest Little Miss,

Happy second year! I know, I’m only four months late with this letter but hey, what can I say? A lot has happened. If I had written this when you just turned two, it would have had a completely different tone, so in a way, I’m glad I waited. Because now I wouldn’t have to lie about anything. More on that later.

For now, let’s focus on the upbeat. Like how much you amaze me every day. My favorite part about your turning two is your language explosion. You are not just fun to watch, you are also funny, although I don’t think you mean to be. Once you came up to me and said in an almost whisper, “Mommy, I toot a little. It’s very quiet.” Not sure why, but I was proud of you. How considerate of you to not embarrass me in public like that.

As I write this, Thumper will be here in two-ish months. When we told you about the baby in the belly, you asked for a sister, and voila! Your wish was granted. See? Aren’t we great parents? I see the way your eyes twinkle at the sight of babies, and it warms my heart. It’s no surprise that you gravitate towards baby dolls, even the creepy one with the droopy eyelid in Toy Story 3 (why that particular one when most kids go for Woody, Buzz or even Jessie, is beyond me), and the delicate care you give them tell me that you’ll be a great big sister. You talk about her like she’s already a part of the family, like when you unearthed an old pacifier we kept in your dresser and said: “This is for Baby Thumper when she cries.” Indeed.


A sibling may be a big change, but I think you’ll do just fine because while many kids balk at change, you welcome it. We are moving in less than a month, and you are just as eager yourself: “Mommy, let’s go to the new house!” I suspect you will have no issues adjusting to your new environment. Just like you did with your first day at daycare 1, then daycare 2 and finally preschool. Not to mention your milestones. You’ve always been ready way before we were (and are) as parents. You’ve led the weaning process and requested the big-girl bed and preschool. Now you’re nudging us to potty-train you (even when we’re not quite there ourselves). We are constantly trying to catch up to you, which sometimes makes me want to yell, slow down kid, what’s the hurry?!

Your resilience has often showed me that I’ve been more worried than I needed to be. You’ve proven to me over and over again that my fears were (and continue to be) unfounded because adapting and thriving seem to be your nature. You even like going to the doctor’s and getting your haircut! We’ve been so lucky with you. I can only hope you’ll continue to exhibit the same enthusiasm for the dentist someday.

That reminds me: At the beginning of this letter, I said I have some explaining to do. A few months ago, things weren’t looking so good for us as a family. Tremendous pressure and stress, as well as unresolved issues from our own past, drove your daddy and I emotionally apart from each other and from this family.  

On a particularly tough day, about two months ago, the day that turned everything around, you found us both in an intense conversation and me crying. Though I could see you were rattled, you still managed to grab me a tissue, climbed onto my lap and gently cupped my face with your dimpled little hands and said, “It’s OK mommy, it’s OK.”  And that brought us to our knees. We knew then that other than this family, nothing else mattered. That you deserved the childhood neither of us had but desperately wanted. That yes, it will be OK. And it is.

Because of you, we continued to hold on, worked hard and made things right again. In the end, we found our way back home. You didn’t realize it then but when you looked into my eyes and touched my face and said those words, you saved me. You saved us.

And now we are the happiest we have ever been, so thank you. Truly. Thank you.

As you continue to grow into this extraordinary human being I have no doubt you will someday become, if you’re anything like your daddy (which I think you are) you will push yourself to be strong, to be remarkable, to be amazing. But you know what, my sweet girl? You already are.

I love you, and I am so honored to be your mother.



Sunday, March 13, 2011

24 hours


We celebrated a milestone anniversary last week – there were surprise flowers and cards at the office, a special mid-work lunch date on the day of the event, and it culminated in a weekend staycation at a new luxury hotel downtown.  While our daughter flourished in the able hands of our dear friend and her favorite “Uncle” Jason, we made our way to the hotel on Saturday and didn’t leave the building again until 24 hours later. Sure, we didn’t go very far as it was only a 20-minute drive from home, but when we checked in to the hotel, it felt like we checked out of our lives for a bit, and that made us feel like we were a world away. 


We promised ourselves a day without errands, work and commitments other than the one we had with each other. Instead, we indulged in a couples’ massage in a room that oozed romance  - champagne (I only had two sips, I swear), candles, an infinity jacuzzi tub (I got in for a few minutes with my belly mostly afloat so the baby would be comfortable) and a rain shower built for two. Needless to say, we – ahem – took advantage of the ambiance. Ahem.

Even though the romance part was nice, I think we were most excited about sleeping in. Little Miss chirps into the monitor at 7:30 every day, even on weekends, so being awakened to the sound of room service knocking at our door at 10am is pretty sweet for a change. Granted, I was already awake – my own circadian rhythm (and the annoying need to pee) wouldn’t allow me to sleep past 8am – but at least I could just lay in bed and snuggle up next to my sleeping partner rather than having to drag my groggy self out of bed to the sounds of needs and wants. 

After breakfast, we stayed in bed for the next…oh, 4 hours or so as we distracted ourselves with each other, the TV (a rerun of T2 – Judgment Day? Don’t mind if we do!) and individual tech devices that occasionally found our laps with a mindless game of something or other. The spa may have felt indulgent yesterday, but truly the luxury part was the lounging around in our robes (or without) and in bed for the better part of the day. Neither of us remembered the last time we did this.

When we got home to our excited little girl, we settled quickly back to our routine, but having had that break, even if it was just for a day, I welcomed the exquisite domestic bliss into my arms. It afforded me a burst of energy that got the laundry, dishes and grocery-shopping done, three lunches prepared for the week and even homemade lemonade to accompany ourselves as we sat at our respective desks at the end of the evening to complete what we had to postpone during our carefree mini getaway. By most Sunday evenings, I was usually mush but not this day. It was more like, move over Nigella, the new domestic goddess is here!

As for my daughter, she was awake an hour earlier than usual (sorry Uncle Jason!), but other than that, she reportedly did well. There was no separation anxiety, although that was never our concern, but when we were home, there were plenty of cuddles from our otherwise active daughter who normally prefers to dart around the house rather than to stay put for a dose or two of affection. A nice change. For all of us.

A staycation success. It’s amazing what 24 hours can do.


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Have you ever had a staycation? If staycation isn’t your thing, what do you do to escape domestic blissdom?What’s your favorite part about leaving home with just your partner? What’s your favorite part about coming home?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

It’s a slumber party!

Except it’s not happening here. Hop on over to meet my newest neighbor, Rudri, from Being Rudri to read my post on sleep. Or rather, not sleeping. Well, there’s more, but I guess you’ll just have to click over to find out.

I’m so honored to be Rudri’s guest as I’ve long admired her remarkable insights and talent. I hope you will explore her site while you’re there. It’s a place where the words haunt you long after you leave it.


And lastly, thank you Amy of The Never-True Tales for creating this wonderful blog-hopping series that open our eyes to new and exciting bloggers out there! Hope to meet more of them in the neighborhood soon.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Top 10 reasons why being pregnant is…


I’m a week away from the seventh month of my pregnancy and the waddle is beginning to take full possession of my usual harried gait. While that doesn’t sound so thrilling, I think I’m enjoying being pregnant. Since I’m an avid list maker (though not necessarily list follower or completer), thought I’d put together my top 10 reasons why being pregnant is awesome. You know, for those of us who need a little reminder why being inconvenienced for about nine months is da shit:

1. More ego fluffing. Random people stop me and tell me how cute I look with my belly; for an attention whore like me, that makes me happy. Incidentally, the bigger my belly gets, the more compliments I receive. I could either delude myself into thinking that I am hot stuff or that people (mostly women, of course) understand the beating your self-esteem gets once the waddle sets in and you no longer feel confident about your appearance because of the amount of spandex you’ve been wearing so they generously overcompensate for your sake. Because some people are nice like that. (Thank you!)

2. Sucking my gut in can suck it. Beauty magazines often cite you can instantly look 10 pounds thinner just by sucking in your belly! Except, well, that’s moot now. With the inevitable 30 pounds in my future, who am I trying to kid, really? And so I let it hang. And it. feels. great.

3. People are generally kinder to me. It seems like folks are more likely to hold the door for me, offer to carry my groceries or to let me have the right of way these days due to my condition. But mind you, this only happens when I’m pregnant pregnant - like looking like I’m smuggling a watermelon pregnant.  And when someone is actually paying attention to the fact. Case in point: The Chicago el is still full of riders who prefer to avert their eyes from other passengers to avoid awkward moments like seeming like a jerk for not giving up their seat for those of us who need it more than they do. Apparently, being clueless is less of a crime than being inconsiderate.

4. Built-in portion control. Before the pregnancy, I had issues with judging just how much I should eat. I never really know my perfect portion size, so when in doubt, I go for broke. Then I curse myself for overeating. Now with a little being taking up more space and moving in where my stomach used to be, I find it impossible to overindulge without feeling like I will explode at any moment. Probably a good thing since eating for two really is a giant misperception. The little bean only requires an additional 300 calories a day, not the 3,000 like some hope think.

5. A moratorium on dishwashing duties. Maybe? Pretty please? A protruding belly also means it’s harder for me to do the dishes. No, really, hear me out! My sink is at the same height as the furthest point of my belly and with each growing inch, my pots and pans have become rather unwieldy. I’m hoping this means I get to skip this arduous task altogether, although sadly, in our “equal partnership” household, pregnancy is no Get Out of Jail Free card. Ugh. Equal schmequal. What happened to chivalry? Oh right, that’s back when men don’t lift a finger even when their wives are in labor, let alone merely seven months pregnant. 

6. Horizontal stripes are my friends. Fashion faux pas be damned. When your resemblance is more hippo, less human, you stop caring about what stripes does to your body. Believe me, at this point, the stripes are the distraction I need to draw the attention from one cupcake too many (due to my self-destructive urge to fervently believe in the eating for two myth).

7. TBD

8. TBD

9. TBD

10. TBD

Fine, so this list needs work. I’m at the beginning of my third trimester, hoping to fast forward these last few months because I can’t wait to meet the new addition to our family. Even Little Miss sometimes looks at my belly with longing and asks, “Where’s Baby Thumper?” (We’ve picked a name). And by that she means where is she already, why isn’t she here yet? To that I respond, “She’ll be here in May,” only to be met with a confused, “What’s May?”

Right. She’s two. With the surprisingly big-kid-like conversations we share, especially preschool gossip like who was in the timeout chair and who pooped in the potty that day, sometimes I forget. She just recently grasped the concept of yesterday, today and tomorrow - “Yay, we’re going to the restaurant tomorrow!” Yup, she’s definitely mine alright, although I can’t imagine it’s the food that gets her eyes twinkling. Who knows, maybe that will come someday too.

Together with her sister, Little Miss will no doubt have a few surprises in store for me. For now, I’ll just have to wait and see. In the meantime, I’ll distract myself by making more lists. Or I could at least try to complete this one.

Maybe you can help?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


It is never too late to be what you might have been.
- George Eliot

This was the view I saw almost every day (well, when I was awake for it anyway, which was most work days) when I lived in the first apartment of my own. I loved being right next to the lake, and now I can experience this all over again, except this time, it’s with my family.

After a long and frustrating search, we finally found the perfect place for us to grow into. With my mom and new baby joining us in the near future, the five of us (plus our three pets) will nestle in comfortably and still have room enough to not kill each other – that’s key, I think. In case you read my last post and are wondering, yes, we would still be close to our favorite takeout places and grocery stores as we added a mere five minutes to the journey. So truly, we have lucked out.

And the bonus? The one thing that wasn’t included in our laundry list of criteria? Lakeside living. Lake Michigan nonetheless with its beaches, waves and all. I’m not a beach girl, mind you – no sunbathing and frolicking in the water for me, thank you – but I do love the calming effect of the water, and the vast, expansive sky looming above the horizon in colors that often steal the words and breath from my mouth.

This new place is perfect for us in many ways. The past few months have been really hard on us, and I don’t mean just the holiday and pregnancy stress. There were life decisions and turmoil My Guy and I had to endure that sometimes drove us apart, but eventually, and thankfully, that also brought us together – closer than ever. But to get here, we had to really dig deep into our souls to find that which threw us into the maelstrom that left us both battered in the process.

That was the time I also realized that the past really had its enormous pincers on me, all the way from my childhood. As Regina Brett says in her Life Lessons that changed our lives when I stumbled upon it a month ago, “Make peace with your past so it won’t screw up your present.” I knew that if I didn’t deal with the issues that have plagued me my entire life, I would always be fighting my demons. And the people around me.

35 years later, I can finally say I won. The shadow continues to lurk behind me, but I know I’m strong enough now to never succumb to its darkness again. This process changed me. Who would have thought that I could still do that at this age? But I did. And because of that, I am a believer that we are never too old to change. And so here I am in my new-old skin and really enjoying the way it fits me. This is the new me. The better me. And consequently, here we are, a better us. Suddenly, I feel like evangelizing the power of change. That anyone, at anytime, can make it happen as long as you’re dedicated. I am proof of that.

My Guy too struggled with the shadows from his past so we can both be here together. In the light. Now, more than ever before, if feels right. So, so right. This new home will essentially be a new chapter for us. How perfect and poetic to be right on the lake, to be given the chance again to watch the sun rise with the day, to remind us every day of new beginnings. New hope. New life.



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Do you believe in second chances? Do you believe that people can truly change? Do you believe in happily ever after? What else do you believe in that you think everyone should too?