Mid-Autumn, Mooncakes, and Mythology

A belated happy mid-autumn festival!

Zentih Mid-Autumn Festival 2016 GIF | Gfycat

The Mid-Autumn Festival is a time of family gathering. I first understood this when I was young and my mom was away on a business trip during that year’s festival. We still cut our mooncakes with a portion for her set aside and my dad reminded us that the beautiful full moon we were admiring was the very same one that beamed down on her, so we were connected by the moon. In fact, as someone who grew up celebrating all major holidays with my family (new year’s parties with friends still feel foreign to me), 中秋节 (zhōngqiūjié) was the first family holiday I spent away from my home and my family in college. I distinctly remember crying over the mooncakes my parents had lovingly purchased for me to bring back to campus when I visited them, because I had never eaten mooncakes alone before.

Even without a global pandemic still happening, my family has been split across many cities for a few years now, but I still acutely feel the effects of the pandemic on the festive season. I used to think my festive season ran from October (Halloween) through to the beginning of January (New Year’s ending the Christmas season), but upon reflection this year, I’m finding that my personal festive season starts in earnest with the Mid-Autumn Festival and ends with the end of Lunar New Year celebrations. (That’s when we would take down our tree, after all.) So starting the festive season without having seen any of my family (besides my husband) since February? January? When I consider the many people who aren’t even able to get mooncakes to eat alone (and am grateful for efforts to remedy that this year), I am worried about the lows we may reach during the festive season.

BUT.
This post is not about being sad during the holidays. 😅 This post is actually an informational one about the Mid-Autumn Festival, mooncakes, and the mythology surrounding this super important Asian holiday, where I’ll be focusing on Chinese traditions and folklore since I’m of Chinese descent. I decided to put a little informational up here because I got really into my Instagram stories writing about 七夕, aka “Chinese Valentine’s Day”, so I thought I’d spare my Instagram followers and torment my scarce blog readers instead. I’ll also share some new ways I’m celebrating this year in lieu of different circumstances and a highly-challenged comfort zone.

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Unsurprised but Devastated

No real post today because I have been reeling since the Breonna Taylor grand jury verdict was released.

Even though I started making a really concerted effort this week to schedule time to socialize with people and call them and chat, I have cancelled (/postponed) everything to mostly spend my evenings crying on the floor.

It feels hopeless but we can’t believe it is.
We knew the system would let us down but we must believe in a way to move forward, a better way.

Justice for Breonna Taylor.
Black lives matter.

Go easy on your friends and coworkers and family. The news cycle has been so much, and barely anyone has escaped untouched.
Go easy on yourself, too. Show yourself some compassion, it’ll serve you better in the long run.

If you need something pure and wholesome to put a small smile on your face through all this, please enjoy this compilation of ducklings wearing flowers as hats.

My Pandemic Routine & Comfort Levels

Happy autumnal equinox!

seasonal fall GIF

Today marks the first day of (astronomical) fall for the northern hemisphere and we are feeling it in the northeast US. Now that the smoke from the west coast wildfires has mostly cleared, the air is cooler, crisper. We are able to start keeping our windows open during the workday, like we did at the beginning of quarantine.

But it also means that our daylight hours are getting shorter, which we have not really had to experience since before quarantine. We have been taking stock of where New York City stands with coronavirus and trying to determine what level of comfort we have with things like seeing friends, going to reopened gyms, and more.

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Happy autumnal equinox 🍁 Changing things up a little for equinox this year with a selfie I just took in the sunniest corner of my apartment instead of a nature photo for 2 reasons: 1) I wanted to share what it looks like when I go outside with a mask. Right now, this happens once a week, so I haven't seen the need to buy cute, reusable masks yet, since I venture outside so rarely. Wearing a mask is still one of the number one things we should be doing to curb the spread of coronavirus. 2) My extreme resistance to posting selfies stems from a deep fear of my own vanity. I don't even consider selfies vain but I know mine feel rooted in it. I'm really vain and I work actively to suppress that part of myself, among others. I am coming around to the idea that maybe I should try to reduce my vanity rather than just stifle it, since my social media makes clear I'm not actually less vain… I originally was going to make it my monthly challenge this month, to take a selfie every day, but I chickened out when the month suddenly started. But one thought I've had all year is that I should not be so apologetic for who I am, even for the parts of me that I want to change. So here's my face, partially at least. If you're still here, how are you getting ready for the colder months? We haven't spent much of quarantine with fewer daylight hours than nighttime hours, and with both schools reopening and indoor dining resuming next week , I'm really nervous. I also don't know how to mentally prepare not to see my family for peak festive, family gathering season, from Mid-Autumn Festival through to Lunar New Year…

A post shared by Starr ⭐ (@sipofstarrshine) on

Schools are set to reopen and indoor dining is set to resume next week in New York. If the city isn’t bracing for another wave of cases, we certainly are here in my household. In fact, we are trying to prepare by making sure we have supplies that we may need, since we were only just able to get through the first wave.

Here’s where we stand right now and what we’re thinking about as the cold months set in:

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The Privilege of Learning History That Isn’t Your Own

L’shana tovah!
Today is Rosh Hashanah, the celebration of the Jewish new year.

Rosh Hashanah Apples And Honey GIF by Lawrence Family JCC

My Jewish friends often get a kick out of me — a Chinese-American, and more key here, non-Jewish person — keeping up with major Jewish holidays. But I grew up in a school district where Jewish holidays were school holidays, due to what I’m assuming was a large Jewish population in my town. I still remember moving to a different school district and expressing surprise at having school on Yom Kippur, a high holiday!

Recently, The Guardian published findings from a study that found a startling amount of ignorance about the Holocaust among Americans:

  • Nearly 2/3 don’t know 6 million Jewish people were killed during the Holocaust
  • More than 10% believe Jewish people caused the Holocaust
  • Almost 25% think the Holocaust is a myth or exaggerated or weren’t sure
  • 1/8 said they hadn’t heard of, or didn’t think they had heard of, the Holocaust

These findings have been shocking, to say the least, to learn about one of the darkest legacies of modern human history. There are still Holocaust survivors among us.

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Work From Home Strategies (6 months late)

I kind of hate working from home.

There are a variety of reasons why working from home has never been ideal for me: I’m an extrovert who thrives better in social environments, the external (if imagined) accountability of people around me keeps me too guilty to slack off, my home environment is full of tempting distractions like tidying and organization.

In simplest terms, being at home puts me in a home mindset, and personally, going to a physically different location for work helps immensely with putting me in a working headspace. Ever since I started working full time, I keep work and home very separate, very rarely touching work after leaving the office.

So the last 6 months have been, admittedly, a huge challenge. If you’re like me, they may have been a challenge for you, too. I have long understood that trying to be work-productive in the space I strictly reserve for my home-headspace is really difficult. But I’ve had to do the best that I can, given what I understand about myself. It’s been 6 months, so here’s hoping that we have learned a little bit about how we work from home, even if it’s just what doesn’t work well for us.

My personal strategy boils down to 3 main things:

  1. Getting in the work mindset
  2. Staying in the work mindset
  3. Leaving the work mindset

It seems straightforward but it’s hard, especially because I really don’t want to be in the work mindset at all when I’m in the comfort and safety of my home. I don’t hate my job at all but I don’t want it in my home. The hardest step of my strategy is step 2: saying in the work mindset. (I sometimes struggle to get properly or quickly settled into my work mindset even when I go into an office so the struggles I have at home are not new, and I shut myself off from work so strictly ordinarily that it comes more easily for me to do so at home.)

man in white sweater sitting on chair using Microsoft Surface Laptop 3
Photo by Charles Etoroma

Note: Alice Goldfuss has written a really great guide to working from home during this pandemic, and she wrote it at a more helpful time at the beginning of the shutdown. Honestly, I recommend reading that before reading on here, but if you want to know more about what works for me, personally:

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