How an adolescent’s brain changes

Put it in a blender, press go! Amazing what happens. The ability to learn, to take in so much new information like

Where our government came from and how to preserve our freedoms

The range of emotions one might experience and how to respond

How to dissect a {fill in the blank} and I mean academically, like a fetal pig or a frog, not like the neighbors cat and then move on the neighbor

But the adolescent brain also can’t assess risk the same way. So it’s like:

Drink alcohol until we pass out: yes!

Vaping to burn our lungs up into our 20s and 30s: yes!

We have primal urges but missed the whole range of emotions lecture, so we’ll go hump something irresponsibly. There’s consent between my dick and my dick, right?

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Chapter 3


“MAPP stands for material, audience, performer, and purpose.”

Excerpt From: Mark Shatz & Mel Helitzer. “Comedy Writing Secrets.” iBooks.

I really like Purpose. What is my purpose, in addition to getting a laugh, of what I’m saying?

7 most embarrassing moments in my life:

  1. Walking into a room thinking the applause was for me, when it was for the person behind me.
  2. My fly open/boogers on my nose/food in my teeth/period blood on my pants.

7 things I do not like about myself; personal faults according to what others have told me (look at my sister’s emails????)

  1. I flee too soon.
  2. I’m not grateful or thankful for others.
  3. I’m horrible at math
  4. That I’m Asian/different.
  5. That I’m a go-getter, motivated, skilled.
  6. The pimple scars on my face.
  7. My deeply held, and possibly unknown to me, shame.

Top three least redeeming characteristics

  1. Overly sensitive and overly emotional
  2. Will say what I’m thinking
  3. Don’t like to clean

3 most noticeable physical features: petite, asian, female

Celebrities who act and look like me, according to friends and family: Lucy Lui; Dharma (of Dharma and Greg);

250 word personal ad based on my less than desirable features

This drives me crazy writing lab: things that make me feel hostility:

Kristin: people who follow you around/stalk you.

Not loading the dishwasher efficiently.

Not sorting laundry before washing.

People who are hypocritical.

People who make excuses for their bs, for their sad life.

People who cut you off but then give you the finger

White people who don’t know they are white.

Upper middle class people who think they are blue collar

People who don’t have integrity

Something to remember, may apply to my poopy diaper story:

“Humor is emotional chaos remembered in tranquility.
—James Thurber

Excerpt From: Mark Shatz & Mel Helitzer. “Comedy Writing Secrets.” iBooks.

Play on Words/Atom Smasher:

Sarcasm: Sargasm: Really funny sex

Hepatitis: (any other letter)

Health Teachers do it….

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Chapter 2

Favorite childhood activity: playing outside.

Funniest childhood memory: Not too many, too many traumas instead. Most tragic childhood memory: death of parents.

Dad, from stories, was funny. Mom, from stories, was sorta funny, but later, angry. I was the comic in the family.

Funniest relative: We were Chinese: no one was funny

Which kids were fun to play with: Misty and Amy in middle school. Lisa in HS.

Present day:

3 funniest movies: 40 yo Virgin; Harold & Kumar; Sandra Bullock chick flicks (physical comedy)

Funniest people I know: Garrett; James; Karyn

Funniest relatives: Chinese. Not funny. Maybe Dr Dave?

What activity is guaranteed to bring me a laugh: Sitting with hubs and talking… prepping food in the kitchen and talking.

I get my humor from both early childhood trauma and funny people today.

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Chapter 1

10 favorite comedians

John Mulaney

Excuse me: I am homeless. I am gay. I have AIDS. I’m new in town.

Surprise: The laundry list of qualities; Superiority: the I am not homeless, gay, have AIDS or that I’m new in town.

I like making fun of myself a lot. I like being made fun of, too. I’ve always enjoyed it. There’s just something really, really funny about someone tearing into me.

Sebastian Maliscalpo

One of my biggest pet peeves is when a guy’s wearing flip-flop sandals, which I don’t understand. Men’s feet are disgusting to begin with, but now they’re on display when I try to go out for a nice steak at a restaurant, and I have to sit there and look at some guy’s hoof? I don’t get it. I don’t understand it.
Read more at:

Surprise: Wearing flip flops; ugly feet at a nice steak dinner; Superiority: I would never wear flip flops to a nice restaurant?

I don’t like long jokes. I like stories rather than setup punchlines.
Read more at:

Russell Brand

“My life is just a series of embarrassing incidents strung together by telling people about those embarrassing incidents.”

Read more at:

“If a product has an advertisement, it means you don’t need it. No-one ever has to say ‘go to sleep’, ‘breathe’, ‘love people’.”

Surprise: that drugs advertise to fix the most basic of things; Superiority: we are, or should be, smarter than drug ads

Read more at:

Subject or Target of jokes I like:

Myself. I like jokes about health. I like how Eliza has real info in her standup, then makes fun of it or has another angle. Like when I teach school. That’s the structure I like. Also because it keeps me focused on my subject and the path it’s taking. Like a curriculum. A Funny Ass Curriculum.

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“Hey, I wanted to let you know that a parent emailed the two of us last night and she’s not happy. But I assured her that everything is fine with the youth group and that you were doing exactly what you know how to do,” he said. The new pastor and her husband had arrived only 10 months before and he and I were asked to run the youth group.

“Please let us know anything we should know about your child, including concerns, as we begin our new youth group year,” the email said. We got a few replies from parents who expressed concerns regarding their anxious children. My co-leader shared with me that the bouncy, boisterous nature of  past groups might not work for some kids who wanted to try again this year. I was inspired and motivated to help these kids feel welcomed and comfortable. I consulted with my high school youth group pastor, who has 20+ years of experience running, and growing exponentially, youth groups in different churches.

“They must feel that all are welcome, Chris, not just the existing kids, or loud or active ones. As the leader, to maintain your group and grow it, all kids should feel comfortable there and willing to invite their friends, because they feel they all would belong.” This is what I set out to do.

“She’s unhappy because her son is unhappy. Apparently he came home upset and his anxiety, his condition, made it worse,” my co-leader said.

“What condition?” I asked. “I only know of the other kids with anxiety about the group. Did she share with us what this condition was about? I should know about that… I should have known about it.”

“She’s telling us about it now. When you asked her kid to help create a safe comfortable environment for the whole group during youth group last night, he didn’t take it well. I told her

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Feeling young, looking younger

“I’m sorry Chris, I hate to have to tell you this, but the client gave me this feedback and I thought I’d pass it onto you,” he said. This was in my early years of teaching and presenting in front of an audience, mostly adults. I have the gift of a young Asian face but I also knew my material like the back of my hand. So his comments were biting. “The audience mentioned that though you knew your topic, you were dressed too young for the crowd.” From then on, I have vacillated between dressing much older and stuffy, in a way that was super uncomfortable for me, and dressing youthful and playful as a much better reflection of who I felt like, in an effort to either gain respect from my audience or give them the proverbial middle finger. 

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Surrender, to my new truth, celebrate my roots

I’m aware of darkness and a void, almost a vacuum, immediately before the light hits my eyes and I’m blinded. I realize I just slid out of a chute of some sort and as my eyes adjust, the overwhelming hum of a busy city street fills my ears and vibrates all around me. The humid warmth of a dirty bustling street hits most of my skin, too much of my skin, I’m not protected anywhere. I look down to see that I’m naked, only half of my important bits covered by thin, ill fitting fabric.

The horror of this moment is quickly taken over by my need to seek protection, clothing, newspapers, anything to cover my body, while rushing away from the laughter and pointing from people on the street who are fully clothed and stopping to look.

The embarrassment is overwhelming and the sounds of the street turn into a dull muffled ringing, much like when you dive underwater: there’s no sound, but there is sound. As I search for something to cover myself up with, a familiar late 70’s/early 80’s beat begins to play through the hum and is coming from my left.

I wake up with a start and turn off my morning alarm clock.

I guess it’s the first day of school.

I’m 46 years old and I’m starting a new career. I wish it were because I wanted to. I wish it were because I had just won the lottery so I no longer had to worry about my daily bills and then could do whatever pleased me, including using the education degree I had earned over 10 years ago. Instead, my business clients had dried up. I was selling something they didn’t want: healing their chronic pain through hard work and personal responsibility. I didn’t have the magic pill and I couldn’t deceive them as if I had. So they left.

I fought against the dissolution of my business until I couldn’t deny it: they weren’t coming back, I couldn’t recover here and my life’s purpose was fading away. I needed to contribute to my family more than I had in the last few years so here I am teaching high school.

I cried almost every day for the first 1-2 months of teaching. I was able to make it home before I did. Some teachers don’t hold it in so long: they burst out into tears in the break room, in their cars, they cry themselves to sleep, if they sleep at all. They grade papers, make lesson plans and try to keep up with student paperwork in lieu of time spent with their spouses and children. I struggled as well. At about 2 months in, I was only crying 2x a week and had committed to bringing work home only during mid-terms, everything else would be done at school during my planning periods. This meant I would excel in curriculum planning, teaching students and responding to their ability to understand the coursework and I would hack absolutely every thing else.

Here I am teaching high school. Kids have changed since I was in high school. Much more savvy, so much more bold. It took me 4-5 weeks to gain their trust and rapport and we’ve covered lesson units that are informational and somewhat rote, like the definition of depression and the biological effects of alcohol. All of this leads to the ultimate high school lesson: Sex Education. Even I was nervous.

“You always have a great way of explaining things making it not too awkward.” “You are a wonderful and great teacher!” “This is actually a useful class.”

It’s midway through the semester and I feel a renewed sense of purpose.

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The World Around Me

{My world sucks}




“Fuck you!” <Slam>

One by one the doors slammed in my face. I think had they all left me all at once I might not have survived. Instead I wept, I fought the feeling of abandonment, I felt alone and scared with open wounds bleeding profusely, as they each rejected me one after another, year after year.

{I’m too much for this world}

“You’re too happy. That’s your problem, you’re too friendly. People here can’t handle that,” he said. My husband of 14 years hugged me tight. “You’re sensitive, honest, intense, and you’re Light and you know your shit. And these people, the assholes, they can’t handle it. They’re threatened by someone like you.”

{My world had to change}

I closed my consulting business after 3-4 adaptations, growing and changing as I had over 20 years. As I got more confident in my skills, my client base ran away. As I healed my childhood wounds, my friends, or who I thought were my friends, ran away as well.

{to this:}

I teach now, high school. Part of me feels like it’s a step down: working for someone else, molding my day around an institute’s schedule, working in what other people feel is a thankless job of educating a hopeless generation. Perhaps I’ve gotten lucky, but I’ve got great students this year and I’m excited to teach them. Maybe I like teaching my subject, the same thing I was offering in my small business but to adults who wanted nothing to do with it.

{Will this new world know the real me?}

I don’t have a lot of friends at the school yet. I understand high school departments and their teachers are not as collaborative as elementary and middle school teachers. I do have a few, one in particular, who I’m slowly starting to show my true self to: I’m a good person with a wicked sense of humor, I’m sensitive and get my feelings hurt and I know what to teach and how to teach it, and I’m imperfect and I make mistakes. I say sorry when I’m sorry and I don’t apologize when I know it’s not my shit. I can piss you off and I can make you love me. I can be your most empathetic friend and be so incredibly self-involved you want to vomit. I’m me.

{This is my new world}

“Good morning class! After 3 months of time together, we are now onto our most sensitive subject, Sex Ed.” The wave of reactions is real: eye rolls, some giggles, a bit of nervousness and lots of discomfort.

I begin by discussing the purpose of the Sex Ed Unit and progress onto why it’s important that teens need to know this information. I cover anatomy, saying No, human development, healthy relationships, and make our way to assault and violence. Questions are asked confidentially: all students type into an application that records their questions and who asked it, allowing only the teacher to see it. Students must type 1 of 3 comments: their sex ed question, song lyrics (I particularly like boy bands, or seasonally themed songs lyrics) or a comment about the class or a validating statement to me, but they all must type, in order for them to preserve their confidentially.

It’s brilliant: if they have a question they would never raise their hand to ask, they can ask it. If they don’t have a question, they are still typing away in a room full of students typing. If they have something nice to say to me or about the class, they do.

What I’ve learned is that kids have great questions and if I don’t answer them now, they will get false information from an adult without a good answer or from media today: TV, the internet, movies. If they can ask the question in good faith, they deserve a solid, honest answer that is both academic and human.

While teaching this lesson, I learned

{I must be me in this new world, for my new world to thrive}

They need to be happy. They need to be able to relate to others. They need to have confidence in themselves. They need to be empathetic, stand up for themselves and be relentless in saying No. They need to be willing to protect themselves should the other leave them because they won’t give up what is theirs, what is sacred, what is Light.


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My Church of Shame

I walked into the church, uncomfortable and not wanting to make eye contact with anyone, while still needing to be there. I knew they offered childcare on Sundays and I knew I needed a safe place to drop my daughter off for an hour. I needed an hour to myself. I needed the childcare provider at the church to be trustworthy and for my daughter to okay with them. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was deeply drowning in postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety and chronic fatigue. I was sinking. I felt broken and weak.

When Miss Irene welcomed me at the door to the childcare room, smiled, introduced herself to my daughter and gently took her hand into a room of color and toys, my heart slowed down. For the next few weeks, I attended Sunday church sitting quietly in the back of the sanctuary, an hour of stillness to myself. I may or may not have picked up anything the pastor was preaching about and I didn’t care. It was an hour of reprieve. I didn’t talk to anyone after church at the lightly attended coffee hour during the almost deserted summer services. This became our rhythm while my husband worked 60-80 hours a week and I was struggling daily.

By the time the fall season arrived the church was a more busy bustling place and I thought I felt comfortable. At least I felt more comfortable than before, though still under the daily darkness of undiagnosed depression and anxiety. I asked about how I could contribute and was curious about how the church was run. I was almost immediately welcomed onto a church committee that met once a month.

A lot was riding on my time at this church. Despite my busy working husband, it would also appear he was an absent father and spouse. I wanted everyone to know what I good mother and wife I was, even though he was never with me. While I could contribute to the church by volunteering my time and I knew that any monetary contribution was private, I also didn’t have two coins to rub together as we were a one-income family paying legal fees to an attorney to fight for our right to see my husband’s son according to his every-other-weekend visitation schedule while paying child support for the child we hardly ever saw, living in one of the most expensive metropolitan areas in the US during the aftermath of the 2008 recession. Up until this time, I had had an interesting and varied career and I wanted to contribute my talents in the safest place possible, because I was doubting them more than ever: can I parent this child adequately? can I be a good wife? can I do it under the fog of this dark cloud and paralyzing worry after having so many health issues during pregnancy and immediately after? Was I still worthy? Would I one day be able to contribute financially to this family again? And this was a church, right? A place where the broken and downtrodden go to regain their strength, feel compassion from others and be loved again? It didn’t occur to me that it was also a very white, very colonial church with true puritan roots, a space I, a California girl of Chinese descent, might not fit into.

For me, this became the Church of Shame and it would take me years to figure out.

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