<![CDATA[Bao Meets Bagel - Blog]]>Sun, 17 Dec 2017 00:04:23 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[ Nine Tips from Ten Years of Marriage   ]]>Tue, 30 Aug 2016 03:14:59 GMThttp://baomeetsbagel.com/5/post/2016/08/-nine-tips-from-ten-years-of-marriage.htmlHere’s a guest blog post from my good friend, Shannon, who writes about parenting and sustainability at We'll Eat You Up, We Love You So:

On the day you get married, people say you have your whole life ahead of you. What they don’t tell you is that life is made up of a series of years, months and days, each with their own rhythm. So even though ten years sounds like a terribly long time on your wedding day, it really doesn't feel that way when it rolls around. Instead, it feels like a collection of the ordinary and extraordinary, the good and the bad, the hard and the easy, with both of you together at the center. At least that's how it felt to me, as my husband and I celebrated our tenth anniversary in June.

In that decade, Chris and I learned a lot about each other and marriage. We've been through hospital stays, international travel, crummy work hours, living in multiple places, graduate school, and having two kids. Here are some things we've picked up along the way:

1. Be each other's biggest cheerleader: Research says that the biggest common element of failed marriages is that the spouses regard each other with contempt. One of the best ways to prevent contempt from developing is to actively encourage each other. All of us have times when we feel like a failure or imposter. Your spouse - the person who knows and loves you more than anyone else - is the best suited to counter those toxic narratives. Even when my neurotic brain doesn't believe him, my husband telling me that I'm beautiful makes me feel better. This is especially important if you decide to have kids; no parent really knows what the hell they are doing at least some of the time. Your spouse saying “you are a good parent” can mean the difference between crippling doubt and grounded confidence.

2. Do activities by yourself: You simply can't go through a marriage attached at the hip. You'll long for independence and be too dependent on the other person for company. Unfortunately, Chris and I have had plenty of practice spending time apart. After a four year long-distance relationship, Chris spent three years of our marriage working nights and weekends in a restaurant. Even if you don't have those extreme circumstances, it's useful to have time apart to cultivate your own interests and relationships. Plus, it's very handy if you have kids. Babysitters are horrifyingly expensive, so we switch off who gets to go out with friends.

3. Make time for conversation: My favorite part of our relationship has always been our conversations. I've always said that he's the person I love to talk to more than anyone else in the world. Good conversation where you make yourself vulnerable is the foundation of a solid relationship. While experts recommend taking "date nights" on a regular basis, what's the most important is carving out some time to be together.

4. Challenge each other in good ways: Chris and I have rather different personalities. I love travel and adventure; he's a homebody. I'm quite ambitious and constantly planning; he lives in the moment. I'm neurotic; he's easy-going. While this difference could cause frustration, we see it as complementary. Because I've encouraged him to push his boundaries, he's lived in a foreign country, obtained a culinary degree, and moved far away from his hometown. Because he's provided an anchor, I've found calm amidst anxiety and was willing to buy a house.

5. Compliment your spouse when they do something that needs to get done but they hate doing: I despise cleaning. So when I make a strong effort to clean, especially something that takes a lot of time, I love when Chris recognizes it. On the flip side, because I get little inherent joy from it, I get annoyed when he doesn't notice. Just a simple, "Thank you. It looks great" goes a long way.

6. Realize that you’re a family, whether or not you have kids: In our baby-centric society, it's easy to believe that a couple isn't a family if they don't have kids. But that's bullshit. Thinking of yourself as a family from the beginning increases your satisfaction for your current relationship, not some future one. Kids expand a family, not make one.

7. Don't be tied to gender roles: My husband is a stay-at-home dad; it's one of the best decisions we've made in our marriage. If he was still working at his restaurant job, he'd make a couple thousand dollars more than day care costs and see his kids a few measly hours a week. Instead, our children get an incredibly dedicated caretaker and an amazing relationship with their dad. We even have our own professionally trained family chef!  All of this wouldn't be possible if we were bound to traditional gender roles. Plus, according to a study in the Journal of Marriage and Family, couples who reported an even split of chores had sex once more a month on average than those where the woman did most of the work.

8. Hug often: Hugging is a wonderful activity. It's non-sexual, but deeply intimate. It's a way to connect and show support when you don't have anything you can say. When we were first dating, Chris and I would squeeze each other tight, like we were holding on for dear life in the dangerous waters of high school. Now as parents of two small children, we've returned to clutching each other to keep from drowning in exhaustion. A hug gives so much and asks for nothing in return.

9. Keep a childlike sense of wonder: My husband and I had people blow bubbles as we left the church as husband and wife. Now, we still love to blow bubbles with our children. Keeping a sense of wonder elevates the everyday. People say that the feeling of "falling in love" fades over time, dampened by routine. But I think it's much easier to maintain that thrill if you can find joy in the small beauties of domestic life with your spouse.

So those are a few lessons learned in a decade of marriage. What have you learned about relationships so far?

Shannon Brescher Shea is a work-outside-the-house mom married to a stay-at-home-dad in the Washington D.C. suburbs who is exploring the process of growing up herself.  The mother of a three year old and a four month old, she writes about learning to be kinder, more sustainable and more adventurous as a parent at We'll Eat You Up, We Love You So, hangs out on Facebook on the blog's page, and tweets @storiteller.


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<![CDATA[Spend Less than $2500 and One Week Planning a Fun Wedding -- Tie the Knot on a Cruise]]>Wed, 01 Jun 2016 04:14:43 GMThttp://baomeetsbagel.com/5/post/2016/05/want-to-spend-less-than-2500-andone-weekplanning-a-funwedding-tie-the-knoton-a-cruise.html
The weather is getting warmer, summer is near, and it's peak wedding season.  Many couples have their wedding at a banquet hall.  Others have it outdoors at a park or the beach.  We had our wedding on a cruise ship on July 27, 2015.  We have nothing against a more traditional celebration, but we wanted to find something that was easy to plan, affordable, and where we can have our honeymoon all wrapped up in one package.  For couples who are planning their wedding, here are the pros and cons of tying the knot on a cruise:

Pros

- It saves big money.  After doing research with multiple major cruise lines, we found that they each had wedding packages at a fraction of the cost of a traditional wedding.  As of today, the average cost of a wedding in the U.S. is $32,641.  The total cost of our cruise wedding: $2,295. 

- It saves a lot of time.  Major cruise lines come with a wedding planner who will help you with the logistics so you spend significantly less time figuring out the venue, food, cake, photos, decorations, entertainment, flowers, and music.  It’s a lot easier to get all this done when you have a planner and it’s all already on the boat.  We had to fill out some forms to choose our cake, food, and music.  The most time we spent planning was landing on a final count of the guests and giving them information about the ceremony.  Total time spent planning: 1 week. 
Kayaking in Turks and Caicos for our honeymoon.
- You get a honeymoon and wedding in one.  Why celebrate for only a day that feels like a blur when you and your guests can take your time celebrating and relaxing for several days on the beach and a boat with entertainment, food, and games?  You also get an instant honeymoon and wedding in one with a cruise.  And if you just want to have your honeymoon privately, you have the option of having the wedding at the embarkation port, and then your guests can head home before the cruise sets sail.
- You’ll have amazing photos.  There are professional photographers on the ship who will offer a range of photo packages at a reasonable price.  The photographer will have your photos by the end of the trip, and there are several packages to choose from.  And you’ll get a chance to take photos that are hard to get anywhere else.  For example, we got photos together on the outside deck of the ship with New York City in the backdrop, which is a rare photo op.

Cons

- It’s a speed wedding - a really quick celebration.   For the cruise we went to, the ceremony was 15 minutes, followed by a one hour reception.  By the time we cut the chocolate almond joy cake (which was so delicious) and had a few bites, we had to do the final dance.  If having a one day wedding is a blur, this was a blink.  There were other packages to get a two hour celebration, but in general, a cruise wedding is a much more condensed version of the day long traditional celebration.  It felt a little bit like the Two Minute Date with Ted and Stella from How I Met Your Mother.

- Many of your friends and family won’t be able to attend.  As with any destination wedding, it is difficult to get your friends and family to travel and attend because of either the travel, cost, or time needed.  Most people can attend something for a day, but when you’re asking for several days of their time, there’s a very small chance that someone who is working full time or in school can attend.  If you have always dreamed of having a wedding where every friend or family member attended, then a more traditional wedding is a better choice.  Looking back, I think having more of our closest friends and family would have made the wedding a bit more memorable and fun, but as a compromise, we celebrated with a private reception with our friends when we got back home from the cruise.

- You (and your party) can be cruised out.  Our only regret about the cruise wedding was that we picked a cruise that was too long (9 days, 8 nights).  If we had to do it over, it would be a 4 day cruise, tops.  By day 5, people were starting to get a bit too stir crazy being in a boat, and the food (although delicious) and activities on the ship got repetitive.  There were too many days in sea and not enough days on shore (only 3 days).

In Conclusion

In the end, your wedding venue is a personal decision, and you want to make the choice that you’ll be happy with looking back.  Some people already have the perfect wedding in mind years in advance.  A wedding cruise is a great idea if you’re short on time planning, want to save some money, and are ok with not every family member and friend attending.  And if you go with a cruise wedding, I recommend contacting the ship at least 9 months in advance to get a spot, as many cruises only can do two weddings per day.
Our wedding dance started off slow, and we surprised our guests around the 2 minute mark with a little bit of the Thriller dance (which has a special meaning to us since I met Alena teaching her Thriller) and 'You're the One that I Want' from Grease. 
My brother-in-law, Bill, giving a funny, heartfelt Man of Honor Speech (we didn't have a Maid of Honor).  He starts his speech with: "I have never been married.  Probably a good thing."
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<![CDATA[Dating Myth: You’ll Find Love When You Stop Looking]]>Mon, 30 May 2016 23:18:37 GMThttp://baomeetsbagel.com/5/post/2016/05/dating-myth-youll-find-love-when-you-stop-looking.htmlThis blog is a cross post of a post that I originally wrote for the Urban Dater, published March 22, 2016
“Stop looking and you’ll find the right person.  The right person will come to you.”
“Don’t worry about finding the right partner, it’ll just happen.”

How many of us have heard of this ‘advice’ at some point?  I have and found just the opposite to be true.

In my own love life, I was single during most of college (where there are singles everywhere), and was hoping to meet someone but was not actively looking, and guess what?  Love didn’t come knocking on my door.

On the other hand, when I started actively looking and making an effort to talk to more women post-college, I got more dates.  As I continued to date more, I improved my own life and got smarter about choosing the right person, and the quality of girls got better.  Through it all, I had to consistently take a chance, step out of my comfort zone, fail a bunch of times, learn from my mistakes, and try it all again – a little wiser and stronger each time.

When I was 27, many of my close friends were in relationships, and I decided it was time to focus seriously on finding a long term relationship.  After four years of dating where I dated 89 different girls and had 10 relationships, I found that I was finally getting closer to meeting the right person when:

- I made it a priority to go out and socialize several times a week and organize get togethers.

- I was efficiently and wisely looking, meaning that I would quickly filter out girls who weren’t looking for the same type of relationship, and didn’t have common values and interests, and move onto girls who were a match.

- I put myself in situations where I was doing something that made me happy (like running, teaching dance, or attending events where I was learning something or experiencing a new adventure), and where there were potential singles as well, so it was a win in that it was a worthwhile event even if I didn’t meet anyone.

- I asked out and dated a lot of different girls, had many failures and break ups, and learned more about what I really needed in a partner, what I definitely didn’t want, and what I could compromise – because it made me recognize, appreciate, and hold on to the right person when she did come along.

- I had my life together (my health was good, my career was going well, I had a friend or two around as wingmen, my family was taken care of), which made me more confident about my future and grateful for what I had, as well as less concerned about rejections.

When You Should Stop Looking (Temporarily)

There are times when you should take a break from dating, and those times are if:

• You’re looking desperately
• After a bad breakup
• If you have no idea what type of relationship you want, or
• If you need to take care of other life priorities (your health, your family, your job prospects, etc.).

Love doesn’t fall on your lap. The odds are rare to find someone single with the same interests and values, who doesn’t have any dealbreakers, who is attractive and thinks the same of you, and is interested in dating now. It is likely that one major thing will not be compatible, so if you’re single and want to be in a healthy, happy long-term relationship, know that it takes time and a lot of trial and error to find someone who is right for you.

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<![CDATA[Liebster Award]]>Thu, 19 May 2016 03:23:59 GMThttp://baomeetsbagel.com/5/post/2016/05/-liebster-award.html
I want to thank my friend Shannon, who blogs on parenting and outdoor living at We'll Eat You Up, We Love You So, for nominating Bao Meets Bagel for a Liebster Award!  The award is given to bloggers (that are typically newer or small-scale) by bloggers to recognize and promote each other’s writing. 

Here are the rules for the Liebster Award:

• Thank the blog that nominated you in a post on your blog.
• Answer the questions asked by the blog that nominated you.
• Nominate 5-11 other new bloggers.
• Create 11 new questions for the nominees to answer.
• Notify all nominees via social media.


I must admit, I don’t follow many new or small-scale bloggers, so I'm opting out of the chain, but I will share a blog that I like at the bottom of this post.

Here are my answers to Shannon's questions:

1. What is your favorite topic to write about? (This may or may not be what you write about most often.)

My favorite topic to write about is the main topic of Bao Meets Bagel: dating and relationships.  It’s a universal and timeless topic.  I enjoy writing about each milestone – from the first conversation to the baby shower.  I’ve had quite a journey finding the love of my life, Alena, and growing in our relationship, and I want to share my experience to help others.  

2. What are your highest goals and aspirations as a writer?

My highest goal and aspiration as a writer is to make an impact with my writing.  My hope for Bao Meets Bagel is that it can serve as a tiny ripple of hope in guiding someone to a good relationship.  I also want to show through the blog something that mainstream media and Hollywood doesn’t show often - an Asian American guy in a romantic relationship.  It’s my own small contribution to defying the silly stereotype of Asians being seen as just smart but never in the romance department.  

At this time, I would like to finish putting all that I know and experienced on dating and relationships in Bao Meets Bagel, and spread the word as much as possible about the blog. There will be a day when I’ve done all that I could with it, and when that day comes, if it has helped, inspired, or entertained anyone, then I would have achieved my goal.

3. Do your family members read your writing? If so, what do they think of it?

Yes, my mother-in-law reads it!  She loves it.  Of course, my wife Alena enjoys it since she’s a main part of the story and contributes to the ideation.  My brother Anthony, niece Sara, and others in my family also read it.

4. What is your best travel story?

My best travel story is when I flew to Barcelona, Spain for one night with some friends while I was studying abroad in London to see one of my favorite bands, Queen, perform in concert.  It was an adventure from beginning to end. 

I was 20 years old.  Fate had it that the semester I studied abroad, Queen and Paul Rodgers decided to go on tour together. My friend Jeremy won the tickets off Ebay and we flew to Barcelona from London early in the morning.  Soon after getting out of the plane, things started falling apart.  I was hustled out of most of my Euros from some people in the street.  Feeling terrible, and without much money left except to buy some Sangria, Jeremy and I ended up walking for what seemed like hours to the Olympic stadium, tired and hungry. Queen showed up late, and we waited for 5 long hours, baking in the sun before they opened the doors.  Thankfully there was a random Asian Freddie Mercury impersonator there that warmed up the crowd for hours.  Finally, we got in the stadium, and since we had standing room tickets only, we rushed to the front, standing only a few feet from where guitar god Brian May was playing.  Queen played for almost 3 hours for what was the most amazing concert I’ve ever been to.  I sung along with tears of joy towards the end - the only concert where I teared up.  We ended up making it back to the hostel for about an hour of sleep.  We woke up early and downed a large pitcher of Sangria for breakfast with the only money we had left before leaving for the flight back to London. 

5. What is your favorite piece of writing OR what piece was the hardest to write?

Hmmm…it’s hard for me to pick one favorite piece of writing but one of my favorites is a 'Letter from a Birmingham Jail' from Martin Luther King, Jr.  Articulate and persuasive, and still relevant today.
 
6. What is your favorite movie and do you believe it’s the best movie you’ve ever seen? (It may not be!)


My favorite movie is Rocky, not because it’s the best movie ever made, but because of the impact it had on my life.  Rocky was about an underdog fighter who against the odds goes the distance and finds love and self-respect, and the movie (or one of its sequels) always seemed to motivate and speak to me (like a good song or artist), whenever I find myself in a challenging situation.

7. What is the scariest thing you’ve ever voluntarily done?

Tandem skydiving for the first (and only) time with an instructor who barely spoke English, after eating ice cream and bunch of fries.  I was the last one off the plane, and waiting nervously while the plane was playing the Gotye song "Somebody that I Used to Know."  After the 40 second freefall, the instructor was trying to tell me that we're preparing for landing but I couldn't hear him from his thick accent and the wind.  I then felt my top two straps get loose, and suddenly I dropped like 6 inches from the original harness.  That was scary, especially since we were 1000 feet up still.  :)  But as we got closer to land, I understood that it was part of the landing.

8. Who is the biggest celebrity you have ever met?

Hillary Clinton.  At Costco.  Alena and I met her at Costco, where she was signing books. We waited for a few hours in line outside, and I spent a good amount of time thinking of what to say to her.  When we finally got to meet her, I was star struck and I don't know why or how I blurted this out, but I said: “Hello, I’m John and I work for the Department of Energy and this is Alena.”  She was very attentive though and a good listener, and said back, “Oh, great to meet you, John and Alena, and thank you for your service.” And then we were ushered on.  It was a blur.

9. What is your favorite children’s book?

I don’t have a favorite, but I like these classics: books by Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein.  Also, my mother in law bought Liam a book called Chu’s Day, which is a cute story that I'm sure I'll be reading a million times.

10. Where is your favorite place to have lived?

I’ll always love where I was born and raised, Brooklyn, NY, but I also love living in DC.  London is a close second if I had to live anywhere overseas.

11. What was the best part of your day yesterday?

The best part of my day was spending time with Alena and Liam at the park – and trying out that running stroller for the first time.  Stroller runs are tough!  Liam was having a blast, and I’m sure he felt like he was in an amusement park ride when going up and down hills.

And my recommended blog is:
Babaganosh by Kate


Many thanks again to Shannon!
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<![CDATA[11 Reasons Why It’s Awesome to Have a Baby]]>Wed, 06 Apr 2016 03:24:49 GMThttp://baomeetsbagel.com/5/post/2016/04/-12-reasons-why-its-awesome-to-have-a-baby.htmlSleepless nights?  Wiping poop every two hours?  Non stop crying?  Bah - those temporary challenges pale in comparison to the awesome things about having a baby.  Here's a list of 11:

1.  Free hugs.  Babies need some TLC.  And after a stressful day at work, so do you.  A warm, cuddly hug from your own baby, with his head and arms resting peacefully on you, is a win-win.
2.  “I made you, (insert baby’s name here)!”  It’s a pretty awesome thing to have your own little person.  You have someone who you can influence and leave your life lessons with, and see grow into an adult.  I can’t wait to sing Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody with my son Liam, run up the Rocky steps with him, take him to sporting events, and teach him how to dance some moves.  He or she is your own living breathing mark in the world.  And when you have a good kid, it’s something to be proud of.

3.  The spontaneous expressions.  It’s always fun to see how babies react to things and their many different cute expressions.
4.  Boundless creativity and imagination await.  As babies grow up and learn new ideas, they come up with witty thoughts and naturally think and say stuff out of the box.  Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it’s wise.  At the least, it’s free entertainment.  At its best, it makes you think more creatively yourself.  For example, our friends Drew and Katherine have a daughter, Brielle, who spontaneously said at one point, “the metro is my frenemy.”  So true, wise little one.

5.  You can dress your baby in whatever you want.  Baby’s aren’t particular about the latest fashion trends, and are far from the age where they demand only name brand stuff.  Dress your baby in a onesie saying ‘I have the coolest mom’?  Go for it!  Dress your little one in a wizard costume?  Go crazy!  Here's a picture of Liam in his boxing glove mitts, dreaming of being the heavyweight champ.
6.  You get to experience the things that you never remembered.  Having a baby, you get to see the first few years of life that you never remembered yourself.  Now you get to see how you learned your first words, how you learned how to walk, how certain foods taste like for the first time, etc.

7.  You get a membership to Club Baby.  You’re in good company if you have kids.  Whether it’s to commiserate or to celebrate, there will be parents around at work, in the neighborhood, and communities online.  Since having Liam, I found myself meeting and talking with more people who are happy to share their kid stories.

8.  It can make you a better person.  Parenthood definitely tests your patience.  It definitely tests your endurance and will.  You have to love, care for, and protect an innocent, fragile little person, and if you handle it well and work as a team with your partner/family, it can bring out your best. 

9.  Babies make the world stop for a while.  I just finished paternity leave, and spent more quality time with my parents in the last two weeks than I have in the last year.  Babies give many new parents a break from work and a chance to bond with their family and friends.
10.  Babies give hope.  So far, Liam has been a kicker.  He loves kicking.  Perhaps he’s a future soccer star or karate kid?  He also loves pooping.  Perhaps a lucrative career in waste management? :-) Babies have talents and skills yet to be discovered, and there’s a hope of something possibly special about this one.

11.  That little smile.  The best feeling is to catch that little smile. 
A final word to fellow, tired new parents: The sleepness nights, diapers, and crying will eventually end.  But so will these fun, cute times.  Enjoy these moments while you can.
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<![CDATA[The Proposal: At Our First Date Spot]]>Wed, 16 Mar 2016 04:15:09 GMThttp://baomeetsbagel.com/5/post/2016/03/-the-proposal-at-our-first-date-spot.html
There are a few milestones that mark the journey of a couple - the first time meeting, the first date, the wedding (although it's a blur), their baby being born, and of course, the proposal.  I found the one with Alena, and I was ready to pop the question.  Having seen enough proposals in movies and TV shows, and hearing from my married friends that the proposal is one of the things that their spouses remember forever, I knew that I had to hit it out of the park.  No pressure. :-)

The Plan

Some people propose with beautiful scenery in the background.  Some people propose spontaneously at home.  As we were getting closer to our two year anniversary, I decided to propose on the day of our two year anniversary (October 25, 2014) at our first date spot at Banana Café and Lounge A week before the proposal, I gave the Manager at Banana Cafe a heads up that I would be proposing there and asked him when would be a good, quiet time on a Saturday.  He said to come around 5:30pm. 

She Almost Saw the Ring Before the Proposal

I hid the ring in my wardrobe, and it so happens that the day of the proposal, Alena was cleaning it out.  She was a second away from reaching in the drawer where the ring was hidden.  Luckily I caught her, rushed over, and quickly said, "Let me take care of that for you!!"

The Unexpected Bachelorette Party

Alena and I went for dinner at Banana Café around 5;30, and before paying for the check, I took a ‘bathroom break’ to check the upstairs lounge where I was planning to propose.  It turned out there was a huge bachelorette party going on at the same time with at least 30 girls, and the place was really loud.  I was thinking, there goes the quiet, romantic proposal!  I talked with the bartender about filming the proposal and ended up telling the group of girls that I was planning to propose.  When I went to get Alena and brought her up, the lounge surprisingly got really quiet.  We sat at a table, and Alena went to the restroom.  I then gave the camera to the bartender to film the proposal, and when I got down on one knee, the place suddenly erupted like a One Direction concert with the girls screaming, “Say yes!  Say yes!”  It was wild!

When we went home that night, I made an album on Facebook with this description:
“Exactly two years ago today, Alena Vauter and I went on an amazing first date at Banana Cafe and Piano Bar. Tonight, I took Alena back there to celebrate our two year anniversary and this time, I popped the question. I made a photobook for her with pictures from our first year dating, and the last page simply said, 'Marry Me.' And this wonderful woman said yes :-)”

Takeaways for the Proposer

- It’s always appreciated and memorable when you do something personal.  We talked about that first date and how good Banana Café was many times in our first two years together, and Banana Café is a very special place to us. 

- Just go with the flow, even if it doesn’t go exactly as planned.  I definitely didn’t expect a large, rowdy bachelorette party to be there during my proposal, but instead of the party being too loud, they ended up making the proposal more memorable and exciting.

- Propose only if you are confident that you'll get a yes.  Doing a grand romantic public proposal when the relationship is shaky and getting a yes happens in the movies.  It rarely happens in real life.  If you have serious doubts about it, I wouldn't go out and get a ring that cost $$$.  
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<![CDATA[How to Know When You’ve Found the One]]>Sun, 13 Mar 2016 19:29:31 GMThttp://baomeetsbagel.com/5/post/2016/03/-how-do-you-know-when-youve-found-the-one.html
After dating Alena for almost two years, and living with her for a year, we got to know each other in all seasons.  After a while – like most couples – we were thinking about our future together.  I was thinking about whether she was the one to marry.  For couples who are considering a long-term commitment, here are some ways to tell if you’ve found the one:

- He or she has all the qualities that you must have in a partner, and their negative qualities are ones you can live with.  Nobody’s perfect.  Everyone has good qualities and some flaws.  Think through what you must have in a partner, and what you’re flexible with.  If you and your partner are a match with the important things that make a relationship work – such as lifestyle, values, and long term goals – then that person is likely a keeper.  With Alena, it took me years to find someone who is attractive, healthy, open minded, loyal, generous, and looking for a relationship and family, and I knew it would be difficult for me to find someone like her again.  She is a bit messier than me, but I can live with it because her great qualities far outweigh that minor issue.

- You can be yourself around him/her.  If you’re constantly walking on eggshells and have to be someone you’re not around your partner, you should think twice about whether you should stay in the relationship.  Even if you have differences, a good partner respects and accepts who you are, and doesn’t try to control or criticize you for being you. With Alena, she likes the real me, with all my goofy jokes and flaws.  She's not as extroverted as I am, but has never said that I couldn’t hang out with my friends.  And knowing that she enjoys art and fitness, I’ve never stopped her from doing the things she loves.  People rarely change – they are who they are – so if you’re not comfortable with their true self or can’t be yourself with them, it’s time to move on.

- You become a better version of yourself.  When I was single, I felt complete as a person.  I led a healthy lifestyle, dressed well, was smart about finances, and had a solid career.  I was happy and didn’t need a partner to complete me, but being with Alena, I was a better version of myself than I would have been on my own.  With Alena, I ate healthier, drank less (it was great to find someone who didn’t drink much either), dressed better, and spent less money ($7,000/year less to be exact at bars and restaurants since we were cooking more at home).  With a family on our minds, I was more motivated than ever to advance in my career and land a promotion. If you’re in a relationship where you’re feeling disrespected, less confident, and less secure, it’s time to get out, because good partners build each other up, and don’t tear each other down. 

Takeaway

- Take your time.  All new couples should take the time to get to know their partner.  Most people are typically in their best behavior when you meet them for the first time and in the first few dates, but eventually their true side comes out.  All the quirky, “cute” habits from the first few dates (like being clumsy, messy, goofy, etc.) will either become traits that you grow to love, come to accept, or get annoyed with.  All couples are different, but we recommend that couples should be together for at least one year to see each other in all seasons and moods, each other’s best and worst behavior, and how they treat other people, especially your close friends and family.
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<![CDATA[The 10 Craziest Dates I’ve Had]]>Sun, 06 Mar 2016 00:41:36 GMThttp://baomeetsbagel.com/5/post/2016/03/-the-10-craziest-dates-ive-had.htmlBefore meeting Alena, I had my fair share of dates.  Many were fun, awesome, and led to good relationships.  And some…were bizarre.  Below are the ten craziest dates that I’ve had:

1.  The Wedding Ring
How we met: At a friend’s Ugly Sweater holiday party.  Just for fun, my wingman and close friend Eric (who looks nothing like me) and I told all the girls there that were stepbrothers.  Eric knew how to play the part since he actually had a stepbrother.  We improvised a story about how our parents met when we were in soccer practice.  There were two girls there that were fascinated with our story, and we ended going on a double date together.  

The date:  It was awkward, but awesome.  My ‘stepbrother’ Eric and I took the girls for sushi at KAZ Sushi Bistro.  In the middle of dinner, we broke the news that we actually weren’t stepbrothers, just good friends, and suddenly, there was an awkward silence, followed by nervous laughter.  Eric’s date was in the middle of a bite of sushi when we broke the news, and she couldn’t finish chewing it for at least two minutes after we told them.  We thought the date was going to be over soon, but it turns out that they didn’t care.  We ended up making out with them at the indie bar, Science Club, later that night.  Eric didn’t want the night to end, and actually said "I don't want this night to end" to his date (Tip: this line never works, gents. I’ve tried it.).  The bizarre thing was not so much the date, but what happened the next day.  My date was completely enamored.  She texted me 30 times and kept talking about her sister’s wedding rings and was hinting at the wedding ring she wanted - after the first date. It was all flattering but a bit too intense, and I had to let her down gently.
2. The ‘So Innocent I felt Guilty’ Girl
How we met: eHarmony
The date:  It was Spring.  We met up at the Smithsonian Castle, checked out the Cherry Blossoms at the Tidal Basin, and then went to the famous rooftop bar at the W hotel.  It was a great plan for a first date, but it turned out that the girl was just too innocent.  She worked at the Franciscan monastery.  I was the first person she ever had a date with, held hands with, and kissed.  She was 23.  She was a very nice girl, but we just had too many differences.  She didn’t like gay people and was a huge supporter of Rick Santorum.  I thought she was kidding.  I just couldn’t date her again. 
 
Right after I dated the world’s most innocent girl….I dated…


3. The Red Flag
How we met: A house party

The date: She ran marathons and did charitable work, so I thought that there would be potential.  After a few dates, she crossed off almost all the items in my dealbreaker list.  She smoked and drank often, ate fast food and McDonalds almost daily, slept with another guy while we were dating and told me about it, and had wild moodswings.  We went out for a weekday happy hour and she ordered 9 glasses of wine, costing $70.  I gave it a couple of months, thinking that perhaps things would change, but after I ran up the limit of my credit card, they didn’t.  Tip: You can’t change people. Take them as they are or move on.

4. The Free Meal
How we met: Speed dating
The date:  We decided to meet for coffee at 4pm at popular brunch spot, Founding Farmers, in DC.  I thought 3pm was a good time to meet to avoid a long awkward meal at a first date – most people have had lunch by 3pm, and it’s well before dinner.  It turns out that the second we sat down, she told me that she didn’t eat all day, and she ended up ordering 2 appetizers, one entrée, one dessert, 3 mimosas and a bloody mary.  I was shocked.  I ordered a cup of tea.  The total bill: $75.  She did not offer to pay.  After the date was over, she rushed out of there and hopped into a cab, never to be seen again.  That was the first and last time I was on a date with someone who was in it just for the meal.

5. The Furniture Snob
How we met: Speed dating
The date: We went on a few dates that went well, and eventually she visited my apartment.  A few days after she visited, she broke things off because she said that she didn’t like my furniture.  At the time, I was barely into my mid-20s.  All I could afford was IKEA furniture and a few hand me downs.

6. The Awkward Biter
How we met: eHarmony
The date: We met at the National Portrait Gallery and then I took her to a fancy chocolate restaurant in DC called Co Co Sala.  The conversation was a bit awkward from the start.  At the museum, when people were talking quietly out of respect, she kept talking very loudly about how much she wanted to marry someone rich so she could stop working and how much she hated religious people.  When we got to Co Co Sala, and I went in for a kiss, she went for a strong bite on my lip, causing it to bleed.  Worst kisser ever.  Needless to say, the date ended quickly after that.    


7. The Value-Add Girl
How we met: Speed dating
The date:  We went for coffee at Starbucks.  Off the bat, she told me sternly that she was a business operations consultant and is only interested in having dates that add value to her life.  I felt like I was in a meeting to discuss project management principles.  She didn’t smile at all.  Very un-sexy.  One and done.

8. The Narcissist
How we met
: At a meetup at Ultrabar DC

The date: My date was recovering from a bad breakup where she was dumped right before the wedding, and she was very anti-men when I met her.  She felt like other guys didn’t pay attention to her in the past, so she dominated the conversation.  She talked about herself, her career, her grad degree applications, her love of tarot cards and reiki, and her running all the time.  She barely asked me anything.  She was constantly fishing for compliments, and was way too self-centered.

9. The Runaway
How we met: At the Smithsonian American History museum.  We exchanged contact info but didn’t go out on a date until years later.
The date: She invited me to go for dim sum at Oriental East in Silver Spring, MD.  During the date, she was telling me how unhappy she was in DC (while I really loved it) and she was trying to move to Chicago as soon as possible.  Did she seriously expect me to just pack my bags and leave the city after a date? 


10. The Exhibitionist
How we met: Speed dating

The date: We went for Jazz in the Smithsonian Sculpture Garden, followed by drinks at Bar Louie. I asked her what she enjoys doing outside of work, and she tells me that “I enjoy being an exhibitionist and going to my BDSM club.  My ex-boyfriends would drive me to the highway. We would park on the side of the road, and I would get a thrill posing naked for pictures.”  I found it at first very intriguing, but as the date progressed, the mood was quickly killed when she freaked out when she couldn’t remember where she parked her car.  We walked around for two long hours looking for her car, and after we found it, she drove off.

Honorable Mention

11. The Cheater
How we met:
a few different girls I’ve met through speed dating, meetup, and eHarmony

The date: The dates I had with these girls weren’t bizarre.  It was the ending.  After one or two dates, I found out later that the girl I dated was still with their guy, had a recent fight, and are now getting back together with their guy.   


Final thoughts...
Everyone comes across a crazy date if they date long enough.  It’s part of the game.  And even though it can be a disaster at the moment, not everything is a loss.  It’s the disasters that make you recognize, appreciate, and hold onto the good one’s when they come along.  Six months after The Red Flag, I met my wife Alena at Ultrabar, and everything worked out.  Looking back now, we get a good laugh when we think of these dates.
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<![CDATA[Our Experience as an Interracial Asian Male, White Female Couple]]>Thu, 03 Mar 2016 04:56:36 GMThttp://baomeetsbagel.com/5/post/2016/03/-our-experience-as-an-interracial-asian-male-white-female-couple.html
There are many blogs out there written by interracial couples that focus on the challenges of a culture clash in their family, or one person in the relationship adjusting to customs and the language of living in a new country.

For anyone reading this thinking that this blog will be about the cultural challenges that Alena and I face as an interracial couple: I’m sorry to disappoint you. :-)

This blog is and always will be an honest representation of our relationship, and the truth is, we fortunately haven’t had many challenges.  Of course, our generally positive situation is just a sample of one, and I’m sure other interracial couples have different experiences, depending on what kind of racial pairing they are, where they live, whether there is a language barrier, and whether they are immigrants or are 2nd or 3rd generation.  

In sharing our experience, and showing that it’s been mostly positive, we hope that it encourages singles to expand their dating circles and look to date and be in a relationship with someone based on who they are, and not reject someone based on their race.  The friends that we hang out with and people we know are open minded with dating interracially, but I'm still surprised when I read about how prevalent discrimination is by race when it comes to online dating. 

Our Background as an Interracial Couple

Alena grew up in a small town in Northeast Pennsylvania, and her family is originally from Slovenia, a Central European country with only two million people.  But she also lived in Asia for a year and appreciates Asian culture.   My family is originally from China, a country with over a billion people, and I was born and raised in the diverse city of Brooklyn, NY, where I made friends with people from all backgrounds.

We haven't had a language issue, as we both grew up speaking fluent English.  We haven't had a culture clash, as both of our families have been in the U.S. for over four decades.  We both grew up in American culture and appreciate each other’s ethnic background.  We’re an American couple who share many values and interests outside of race.  Fortunately, Alena and I have had overwhelmingly positive experiences and only a few negative experiences as an interracial couple.

The Positives Being from Different Ethnic Backgrounds

Here are some of the positives:  

• The food!  We’ve introduced each other to new favorite foods.  Alena had dim sum for the first time with me, and loves it.  Alena introduced me to Potica, a nut roll from Slovenia, and I love it.  Our family get togethers come with a mix of homemade ethnic dishes from both of our families, and it makes for a delicious meal. 
• A chance to break stereotypes.  As a rare combo of being an Asian male, White female (AMWF) couple and sharing a blog like this, we feel like we’re playing our very small part in breaking stereotypes of Asian guys not being good romantic partners or Caucasian girls not being interested in Asian guys.  Every time we go somewhere or meet new people together, we make it a little less uncommon to see AMWF couples.

• Children who have a chance to learn a second language at home.  Kids of any background can learn a second language, but if one or both parents speak a second language, there is an opportunity for the kid to grow up bilingual and get practice speaking at home.  I grew up speaking Chinese at home with my mom, and I’ll try to continue teaching our son Chinese as well.

The Only Negative We’ve Encountered Being from Different Ethnic Backgrounds

• Stares on occasion in the street.  On a rare occasion, there would be some people that would give us a surprised look on the street or do a double take – perhaps because it is uncommon to see an Asian male, White female pairing,  If that’s the case, let them stare and get use to it.

Fortunately, these reactions don't happen often in our daily lives, as we live in the Washington, DC metro area, an area where interracial couples generally have had positive experiences.  We also felt very comfortable in our travels to major American cities like New York City, San Francisco, Miami, and Philadelphia.  The only city in our travels that we didn’t feel as comfortable was in Athens, Greece, where we got stares from a good number of people who saw us in the street –and even encountered some crazy guy in passing yelling at me in Greek – but it’s likely due to the fact that there were barely any interracial couples in Athens, and we just stood out amongst the crowd.
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<![CDATA[After the Third Date and Beyond]]>Sun, 28 Feb 2016 03:03:41 GMThttp://baomeetsbagel.com/5/post/2016/02/after-the-third-date-and-beyond.htmlAfter our third date, Alena and I continued seeing each other once or twice a week for a few months.  She lived in Maryland and I was in DC, so there were times that I stayed over her place, and she stayed over mine.  Alena, living on a teacher’s salary, lived in a dangerous, dicey area in Suitland, Maryland.  I would normally not visit that area late at night but when you’re in love, you take chances and do stuff that you normally don’t do.  We went food shopping together at the Pentagon City Costco in Virginia, and that always took up half the day since it was an exhausting three State shopping trip driving the food back to DC and Maryland.  When it got rainy and then snowy hauling all that food around, it was definitely an early test of our patience with each other. :-)

We went on a lot of different dates in the beginning, and after about the tenth date around the second month, we decided to make it official – like Facebook official.  Some of the most memorable dates we had early on were:
Dates from left to right: Madame Tussauds Wax Museum in Washington, DC, Dinner at Gordon Ramsay's Maze in New York City, Attending a taping of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, National Portrait Gallery, Maroon 5 concert, First Trip together at Atlantic City during holiday break

Over the years, we also had a lot of fun, awesome get togethers with our family and friends:
Photos from left to right: Group mustache photo at Ocean City, John's 30th birthday at Banana Café, Dim Sum in NYC with parents, Japanese dinner at Tsunami Sushi, 2014 Halloween Party, masquerade ball, Medieval Times, Puerto Rico vacation, golf at Top Golf

Going from Dating Casually to Being in a Relationship

- Take one date at a time.  In the first few months of dating, it’s tempting to jump right into a relationship, but the best thing you can do is live in the moment and have a great time with the person you’re with.  Sooner or later, you’ll find out more about the person’s day to day lifestyle and what makes them tick.  And you’ll find out more about what you both love and want long term.  It’ll become clear to you both whether you should continue on being exclusive or call it quits. 

- It’s best to go on different dates and see that person in different contexts.  Anyone can seem attractive and interesting when you first meet them.  Most people don’t want to look bad in front of a stranger and is on their best behavior.  The important thing is to see how they react in all contexts – at home, at the grocery store, on a trip, when their exhausted or stressed, etc.  For me, there was no single epiphany that made me realize that Alena was someone I should commit to.  It was a series of hints and signs from our different dates that all gradually formed a picture that was clear – she had everything I was looking for, and nothing that was a real dealbreaker.

See if your date gets along with your close friends.  After several dates, when the time is right, have a group hangout with your date and close friends.  See if your date gets along with them.  Your trusted friends will tell you the truth on whether you two are good together.  And if you're invited to hang out with his or her friends, see if you get along with them.  It's not a perfect litmus test, but friends don't let friends date douchebags.

- Let’s talk about sex.  Every couple is different with sex.  Some couples have sex more often in the beginning and then it levels off to a regular amount.  Some couples decide to wait for months or if they’re really conservative, until marriage.  Some couples have sex frequently and keep that going.  My take on sex is that it can enhance a relationship or make it more complicated.  If a couple is finding out with each date that they have a lot in common, and are a match for each other, the sex only makes the relationship better.  If the couple finds out gradually that they are not a match, but are hooking up a lot, that makes it a bit more complicated to break up.  That’s why I’ve advocated in earlier blogs to not hook up too soon.  If things are going well, it’s good to flirt and make out in the first few dates and keep it romantic, but it’s best that both people have a good idea that there’s potential for something real before going all the way.  Also, for the ladies, if you wait a little bit it’s a way to test the guy’s patience to see if he’s really in it for you or for the sex.  Of course, none of this matters if both people are just looking for a fling.   
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