tangled yarn....many lessons

tangled yarn….many lessons

I’ve spent more than a few days unraveling a tangled ball of yarn. My kids said the yarn looked like a bowl of spaghetti or worms. Yum, you can decide the choice of image.

In all seriousness, close friends and family would say that this would be a challenging task for me. I fully admit one of my failings is impatience. It’s not for nothing my husband teases me about wanting things now, along with a foot stomp for good measure.

Faced with a tangled mess, my chattering mind cussed loudly. Of course I didn’t have the time to unravel knots, so, for the first hour there wasn’t any room in my thoughts to get down to the task. It seemed not only messy and unsightly but insurmountable to the point I’d almost lobbed the whole thing into the trash can. But then I got to thinking, this problem was exactly the sort of thing that had important life lessons and a pertinent exercise in patience for me.

The first lesson was not giving up immediately when confronted with the surface problem. Acknowledging the truth of the problem (my impatience) was my first realization. When dealing with difficult tasks, I’ve always encouraged my kids to try their best and, to this end, we’ve created a family motto: Cheungs never give up! How could I then in all conscience give up at the first hurdle? I didn’t give up and the task proved a gift at the moment when I needed to hear the messages.

I had to dive in and break the task up into small steps, some so minute they seemed insignificant, but each inch of detangled yarn meant I gained a foothold on the problem. I had an expectation the task would take a short time; this was my impatience talking and wasn’t quite the reality. Oftentimes, when we’ve been plugging away without success, we may reach a juncture where we want to give up. On several occasions, I wanted to hurl the blasted thing at the wall in disgust (and, yes, there was much cussing under my breath!)

I became obsessed with the tangles and my singular focus gave way to negativity. I had to walk away, acknowledged I’d done my best for the day and picked it up on another day with a fresh perspective. Over the many days, I lessened my impatience and expectations, and, somehow, the untangling of the yarn reached a critical point where it literally started to unravel and fall into place.

The perfectionist in me was terribly upset when I got towards the end and the yarn was so twisted I had to cut it. Indeed, I had to cut it several times.  This yarn was like my life–though I wanted smooth and straight, I got imperfect and knotted. As most of us would do, I joined the ends together to continue and to make it work. And what if the yarn had been beyond repair? I would have had to buy another ball of yarn, despite the expense and inconvenience, in order to finish my project, and put it down to experience.

I’m glad I had some light bulb moments with the yarn because my family is dealing with the aftermath of terminal illness and death of a loved one. I apply the lessons of the yarn to the grieving process, especially for my kids, who are confronted by death for the first time. It’s messy and has many layers, and we have to deal with it bit by bit.

Next time your problem looks like a bowl of tangled spaghetti, worms or a ball of yarn know you have choices; you can unravel it, throw it away or cut it and use whatever you can. There isn’t a right or wrong choice, only yours.

Susan Shifay CheungSusan Shifay Cheung has turned her hand to many forms of writing in her various roles, over the years, as corporate trainer, management consultant, journalist and writer. You can contact her at y2s2cheung@yahoo.com.


ShifaybdayRecently, I saw a funny cartoon entitled “The Seven Dwarves of Menopause” and they were duly named: Itchy, Bitchy, Sweaty, Sleepy, Bloated, Forgetful and Psycho!

Having experienced all these states, I’m either approaching early menopause, or it’s some deep seated anxiety about my birthday! This birthday I can’t say I’m in my early anything anymore. I think the old-fashioned, polite phrase would be to describe me as a woman of indeterminate age.

Okay, you can call me vain, but when the young man in the grocery store called me “Miss” instead of the usual “Ma’am,” I beamed at him. I think I really scared him! My children have learned that the revelation of age is Mommy’s prerogative. That Mommy being born in the 20th Century is not the same as when dinosaurs walked the earth!

Here’s my two seconds of moan time. Please indulge me because it is my birthday. My body is grappling with gravity and I wish I could plug myself into a power source to have one-tenth of my children’s energy. Be gone fatigue. Oh, dearest body, remember when you were a bendy pretzel, instead of peanut brittle? Okay, you can stop the moan clock now. No more moaning. Bendy pretzel is my ohm in yoga and my fabulous, older yoga teacher is my role model, along with the two 79 year olds in my yoga class, who could kick my butt in the bendy pretzel department. Ladies, you are truly my inspiration.

It’s truth time. I set out to teach my kids that life is the glass half-full variety, which means to embrace life and enjoy the present. I can’t in all conscience then be half-empty in my own approach.

My birthday wow is to welcome today and every day. And, instead of fear, I embrace and enjoy the wonders of my age and all the wisdom and experience it brings. As my children look forward to getting older, I need to remember that feeling of joy, too. Fully embracing the moment means I’m alive and living; each birthday is a celebration of my print on this earth.

So, if I don’t want to drink sour lemonade on my birthday, I need to embrace my lemon cheesecake moment instead. I chose lemon cheesecake!

Susan Shifay CheungSusan Shifay Cheung has turned her hand to many forms of writing in her various roles, over the years, as corporate trainer, management consultant, journalist and writer. You can contact her at y2s2cheung@yahoo.com.


backpacks The kids are back in school, although I still can’t get my head around the fact that school starts in August here.

I behaved just like that daddy clown fish in the “First Day of School” scene from Disney-Pixar’s “Finding Nemo.” I think I was more excited and even more nervous than my two children. While I was flitting around trying to remember stuff, they took the first morning in their stride, getting up without my dragging them out of bed, donning their new clothes and backpacks, and even enduring, with much patience, my quest to take the “perfect” first day photograph.

As I was getting ready to walk my kids to their bus stop, it struck me how the first day of school is rather like a family reunion. I would hazard a guess that most people have gone to a family reunion of sorts at some point in their lives, so you know that a reunion is very much a ritual with history and group culture that people look forward to (and, maybe, dread, too!)

The first day of school is a ritual from the laying out of clothes the night before to entering your new classroom where you see the kids you know and look forward to seeing (like a favorite cousin), those you tolerate (like an eccentric uncle) and the unknown or new kids (like a new fiancé, who’s meeting your extended family for the first time).

Gauging what your family reunion will be like can be seen in the context of the new school year. Before you anticipate the class photo (family photo) next spring, be prepared for a whole lot of fun, plus a whole lot of learning; a whole lot of eating and a few outings; growth as a person and as a group, and, no doubt, some arguments, butting of heads and miscommunication in between.

Have a great year everyone!

Susan Shifay CheungSusan Shifay Cheung has turned her hand to many forms of writing in her various roles, over the years, as corporate trainer, management consultant, journalist and writer. You can contact her at y2s2cheung@yahoo.com.


I surrender

I surrender

I’ve often felt a bit awkward about the July 4th holiday. You’ll understand my ambivalence when I say I was born and raised in England of Chinese parents, who immigrated to the United Kingdom from Hong Kong in the early 1960s. Love, marriage and a sense of adventure brought me to a new life in the United States. Having lived here for well over a decade, I still make a joke of the fact that I’m originally from the country of the losing side!

Joking aside, moving to a new place is a complex process and I can testify that it takes longer than the average of two years that the books say it takes to feel like you belong. It’s taken me nearly as long as the years I’ve lived here to feel and call the US my home.

I equate myself to being a pioneer here, just as my parents were in England. I’ve lived and learned new cultural norms, just as they did and, everyday, I feel the enormous weight of raising my children without extended family support, just as my parents did.

There are many practical considerations to making a new place feel like home. Oftentimes, you have to start from scratch with your networks, from finding doctors to babysitters, and there’s nothing more challenging than having difficult access to all that’s familiar.

But, underlying all the practical details are the emotional realities, like missing family and the loss of your previous worldview. It’s not for nothing that, sometimes, I gravitate to people who understand my love of Marmite, real fish and chips with malt vinegar, and authentic Cadbury’s chocolate!

With the birth of my two children, I understood why my parents instilled in me the mantra: “To know who you are, you need to know where you come from.” Knowing this, you then have a choice of what and where you call home.

Through my example, it’s my hope that my American-born children will carry forward a strong sense of their Chinese heritage and values (the respect for family and hard work, and love of good food), along with an open-minded attitude, and my British sense of humor. Ultimately, I want them to know they have my love, support and guidance, whatever they face on their life’s journey and wherever they chose to call home.

So where is home? I’m a citizen of the world, who chooses to make her home and raise her children in Franklin, TN.

Happy Independence Day!

Susan Shifay CheungSusan Shifay Cheung has turned her hand to many forms of writing in her various roles, over the years, as corporate trainer, management consultant, journalist and writer. You can contact her at y2s2cheung@yahoo.com.


I Will Love Cooking...again soon:)

I Will Love Cooking…again soon:)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So I was perusing some of the Mommy blogs (there’s only about 5 million) and came across “Weekend Table” written by a mommy, lawyer, and self-proclaimed amateur cook from Connecticut. She loves to entertain in her free time and shares her recipes on her blog. The recipes are diverse-from main dishes to sides to desserts, etc. There’s even a gluten-free section of recipes.

I realized recently that I only have a handful of “go-to” favorites in my repertoire of personal creations and one of those is “mac-mac” (yea, I still say mac-mac rather than macaroni & cheese and my child is 8-I need to stop). I really need to broaden my culinary horizons and enjoy real homemade cooking again. I’m going to try one new recipe a week. Luckily our daughter will eat a big variety of foods so hopefully we will find some new fun recipes that she’ll love and that we can even make together.  Here’s a link to Weekend Table and a recipe I plan to try this week:)

Tomato and Basil Frittata on Weekend Table Blog

What are your favorite recipes or recipe blogs?