Helen, Glenview, USA

Sometimes I get so caught up in my own little middle-class world that I forget how amazing and diverse life is. Let’s face it. Here in suburban Chicagoland, I tend to hang out with people like myself. Usually with a couple of kids in tow and a minivan parked in the driveway, who watch TV in the evenings for fun. Life seemed like an endless procession of playdates, child sleep issues, bills and trips to Target. It seems a long time since I started a conversation without saying, “How old are your kids?” It seems a long time since I could imagine a life different than the one I’m living.

So what Thirty Voices has given me is a reminder that life doesn’t look or feel the same for everyone, yet we all have commonalities that bring us together. It’s been a very long time since I was part of a community of women who were all so overtly interesting and creative. It has also been a chance for me to reconnect with the interesting parts of me, before I was “mom” and that’s all. I’ve really enjoyed reading everyone’s stories and sharing in them. It feels like I’ve gotten to know a whole new group of friends, and I’m grateful to you all.


Helen, 35, Glenview, Illinois, USA


Using my own TARDIS to go back in time, here’s what I would tell my younger self:

1. Don’t take life so seriously. Skip a class once in a while–it really won’t matter that much in the future. Live a little. Make waves.

2. No matter what your parents tell you and what other Chinese kids your age excel at, you suck at math and science. Take some humanities courses; you will find solace and inspiration in art and literature. Ultimately, you’ll find the creative arts much more rewarding.

3. You really aren’t as noble as you think you are. Get off your high horse and stop being a hater. Stop taking pride in your unselfishness and just do it because it feels right–not because you think you deserve more.

4. You really won’t become a Republican when you’re older and more cynical, no matter what your father says.

5. Your culture is a beautiful thing. Don’t reject it–learn about it and enjoy it. And keep up with those Chinese lessons.

6. Change piano teachers. Now. Suzuki is just one of many methods to teach music, and it’s not for you. Find a different teacher and you might actually learn to enjoy playing music. You might learn to sightread. You certainly won’t give your mom and your teacher an ultimatum and quit. Someday you’ll be glad you developed an appreciation for classical music.

7. Don’t be a fashion victim. Find your own style. Guess jeans with zippers on the leg are not for everyone. Especially if they’re green pastel ones, and you’re not quite five feet tall.

8. Youth really is wasted on the young. You have no perspective at all. There’s so much drama, so much angst and fear and pain–and yet it doesn’t matter one iota. One day, you’ll understand this. I know this is the worst kind of advice, and exactly the type my younger self would never listen to–but it happens to be true.

Helen, 34, Glenview, USA 

1. I read A-Team fan fiction on a regular basis.

2. I don’t really mind ketchup, but I’ll eat my fries with anything other condiment first–mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, salad dressing, gravy, pizza grease–it doesn’t matter.

3. I have a black thumb. I have no trouble keeping babies and animals alive and healthy, but give me a plant and it will be dead within days. I did manage to keep an aloe vera plant alive for awhile. I’m in the process of killing the five plants in my house right now. (I tend to panic that I haven’t fed the plants in days, then overwater.)

This post started out as a list of favorite things, but it has somehow morphed because I started to dwell on the deaths of some favorite animals lately. I guess it was what’s on my mind this morning.


This is a picture of my bird, Vince, a cockatiel. He was with me for 11 years, and I had him put to sleep on January 2, after he was diagnosed with cancer. (more…)

This will be a strange winter for me. I’m not sure I’m ready for all the changes. Of course, they’re my choices, but that doesn’t make them that much easier to bear.

For the last two and a half years, since my son was born, I’ve been a stay-at-home mom. Suddenly I’m going back to work. It’s only part-time, but it does require shifting my mindset, my schedule and my life. (more…)


I’m thankful for my son, two and a half years old now, who lights up my life. I’m thankful that I can give him everything he needs and many things that he wants. I’m thankful that he’ll have opportunities, and that he has a family who loves him.

(By the way, this is his very first picture, taken just an hour or two after he was born.)

Helen, 34, Glenview, USA

In my family, holidays always meant that we were going to be spending the night in Kansas City–an hour’s drive from home. It meant mah jongg for my parents. For me and my sister, it meant party time: meeting up with a group of kids I only knew through mah jongg, spending long days at the mall, camping out indoors on sleeping bags, staying up late, watching TV and playing games with pretty much free rein until 2 a.m.

My parents were part of a mah jongg circle which would meet at various homes on weekends and school holidays whenever possible. Sometimes it felt like we did this three weekends a month. I remember doing it when I was six years old; I remember actually being told to put off my homework so that I could go when I was a rebellious 14. “The parents,” as we kids collectively called them, would convene anywhere from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and play for at least 12 hours straight. We might spend the entire day at the mall together, get picked up, and run wild until we dropped from exhaustion. Our parents were unable to control us because they were all in the game, which usually took place in the basement. We’d take a break, of course, for dinner. For Thanksgiving and Christmas this meant a huge spread with turkey and some traditional American items, along with fish, rice, won tons and numerous Chinese-style dishes. Or maybe takeout on more common occasions. It was a buffet, because there were usually at least 20-30 people in the house and some of them wanted to get back to playing mah jongg. Then, anywhere from 2 to 8 a.m., the parents would finally break up their gathering and take their groggy children home. (more…)

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