Where I’m From (Again)

posted in: Life, Writing 89 comments

Since it’s the end of the year, I’ve been looking through old posts from a couple of years ago to find some favorites. This writing exercise based on a template born of a poem is one I truly love. I’d love for you to try it out, if you haven’t done it before. I didn’t know many of you two years ago, so I’m republishing it (can you tell I am suffering from a block? I’ve been staring at an empty screen for a week).

Where I'm from quote

I am from loud ceiling fans, old fashioned Singer sewing machines and smooth marble floors.

I am from an old tin mining town in a valley of limestone mountains, where spring water runs deep and clear. From quiet neighborhoods of brick homes and orange roofs.

I am from the veins of precious tin ore, that of silvery malleable metal.

I am from late dinners at the table and Sunday morning breakfasts, from Vincent and Jennifer, adopted names from Western culture, and the most popular Chinese surname in the world.

I am from the stubborn, talkative and I am always right.

From is that the best you can do and family is the most important thing in your life.

I am from Sunday School and stories of Jesus, to placing incense on the altar to many gods, that of the water lotus and the fat Buddha.

I am from Ipoh, city of tin, limestone and rubber, by way of the ‘Blue Sea’ province in Guangdong, China. I am from homemade secret marinade fried chicken wings and bowls of white rice.

From the fresh food markets that smell of fish and chickens with my grandmother, crackling sounds of fireworks at Chinese New Year, and weekend swimming in the pool with my siblings and cousins.

I am from old crinkly photo albums of my father’s large family, the house he grew up in and framed black and white photographs of his late parents, one who passed too young and never met his grandchildren, the other who lived a full life and filled her grandchildren with everlasting memories.

I am from the carefree childhood of making homemade jam with my aunt and playing tea party with my little cousins.

I am from the early days of Game and Watch, Atari, card games of Go Fishing and endless board games of Monopoly and Scrabble.

I am from tradition and modernity. I am from conformism and rebelliousness. I am from stubbornness and adaptability. I am from the East and the West.  Just as my children will be.

Where are you from?

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Alison Lee is a former PR and marketing professional turned work-at-home mother. After a 10-year career in various PR agencies, and of the world’s biggest sports brands, Alison traded in product launches and world travel, for sippy cups, diapers, and breastfeeding. Alison's writing has been featured on Mamalode, On Parenting at The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Everyday Family, Scary Mommy, and DrGreene.com. She is one of 35 essayists in the anthology, My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Leaving and Losing Friends. In 2012, she founded Little Love Media, a social media consultancy specializing in blog book tours, and because she doesn’t sleep, is an editor at BonBon Break, an online magazine. Alison lives in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia with her husband and four children (two boys and boy/ girl twins).

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  • December 16, 2013 Chai a cup of life

    Aww nice post. I am also from the East and West (half Chinese Malaysian, half Aussie) once lived in the west, now living in the east!!

    • December 17, 2013 Alison

      International citizen!
      Thanks for stopping by, Amelia.

  • December 16, 2013 Angie Mizzell

    I love this template, too… I love how it shows how universal our stories are, in the midst of vast differences. Especially the line where we write the thing we were always told. “From ‘is that the best you can do?’ and ‘family is the most important thing in your life'” really spoke to me. I searched my archives to find the one I wrote back in 2012: http://angiemizzell.com/blog/2012/08/02/broken-hearts-of-gold
    Angie Mizzell recently wrote…And then, I lost it.My Profile

    • December 17, 2013 Alison

      Angie, I read yours and love it! This is truly one of my favorite things to read – everyone’s is so different, yet the threads are similar. Thank you for sharing it with me.

  • December 16, 2013 Allie

    I had not read this before and I’m loving it! I’ll have to check out the poem you based it on. I love how much reflection you would have to do to write this. Truly beautiful and I love always learning more about what makes you, you!
    Allie recently wrote…How to Stuff Your Whole (Foods) FaceMy Profile

    • December 17, 2013 Alison

      It is a favorite because I loved writing it, and I think it shows in the end result. I’m proud of this piece. Do it, I would love to read yours!

  • December 16, 2013 Barbara

    I remember when you did this the first time. Still incredibly moving and poignant
    Barbara recently wrote…Le Printemps…My Profile

    • December 17, 2013 Alison

      Thank you, Barbara!

  • December 16, 2013 Allie

    This is beautiful. I’m so glad you republished it. I am from the North and the South, which is exactly the same dichotomy as East and West, but still interesting:),.
    Allie recently wrote…Guest Post: Another Lunch With JackieMy Profile

    • December 17, 2013 Alison

      North and South of anything, is always SO different!

  • December 16, 2013 Heather

    I love this post! I think I’ll try it out!!

    • December 17, 2013 Alison

      Thank you, Heather, I hope you do!

      • January 8, 2014 Heather

        I did a version of this over Christmas and posted it on my blog today. I think it would actually be a fun thing to do at different periods in life, and definitely fun to look back on! Thanks again for the idea, I shared your post and blog in my post!!

  • December 16, 2013 Nicole

    I’m so glad you decided to dig in your archives and share this with us. I especially love the last section, showing how seeming opposites can come together to create a beautiful balance. I love this idea and might have to steal it from you…yet again!
    Nicole recently wrote…My Christmas To-Do ListMy Profile

    • December 17, 2013 Alison

      Thank you, Nicole!
      It’s not really my idea, I just borrowed it. πŸ™‚ I’d love to read yours!

  • December 16, 2013 Katie

    I love these. I do them during the first week of school in my classes and post them around the room. It’s a great way to get to know each other. It says so much more then “hi. My name is this and my favorite color is blue.” Love it!
    Katie recently wrote…a boring presentMy Profile

    • December 17, 2013 Alison

      Ooh, I LOVE the idea of doing this as an introduction, that’s so clever!

  • December 16, 2013 Kerstin

    Great post, Alison (I had not read it before).
    It’s always good to know where you’re from, makes it so much easier to know where you want to go!
    Kerstin recently wrote…The 12 Days of SicknessMy Profile

    • December 17, 2013 Alison

      That is very true!

  • December 16, 2013 Andrea

    This is so poetic and beautiful. I loved reading about where you are from, and learning a little more about you, too. Wonderful!
    Andrea recently wrote…Old School Blogging, Holiday EditionMy Profile

    • December 17, 2013 Alison

      Thank you, Andrea! Glad you liked it.

  • December 17, 2013 Carolyn Y

    I absolutely LOVED this.
    I too am from Atari and Monopoly and Go Fish. But also from the land of hockey where every Saturday night the TV was tuned in to Hockey Night in Canada. The hockey night theme song is fresh in my mind. Thanks for making me remember a fun time this morning!
    Carolyn Y recently wrote…Two Simple Ornaments for KidsMy Profile

    • December 17, 2013 Alison

      Thank you, Carolyn!
      I do hope you write your version, it’d be a great read!

  • December 17, 2013 Carrie

    This is great…I love it.

    I’ve seen it done a couple of times on other blogs and it’s so interesting to read. I’m going to have to do it. Really makes you think and look back on things.
    Carrie recently wrote…Living with ridiculous insanity has led to running faster than the big dog and getting off the pot.My Profile

    • December 17, 2013 Alison

      YES, do it!
      It really was one of my favorite things to write, ever. And I love reading other people’s versions.

  • December 17, 2013 Emily

    I’ve read poems like this before and they’re always so incredible. I really enjoyed yours. Thank you for sharing it!
    Emily recently wrote…“Representation Matters” – New Guest Post on Disability in KidlitMy Profile

    • December 17, 2013 Alison

      Thank you for reading, Emily!

  • December 17, 2013 erin margolin

    this part: “I am from tradition and modernity. I am from conformism and rebelliousness. I am from stubbornness and adaptability. I am from the East and the West. Just as my children will be.” SO good. gorgeous writing.

    and yes to ATARI, Monopoly…. and to the most popular Chinese surname in the world.

    i did this exercise a long time ago and read it aloud at either BlogHer or Blissdom one year, in a smaller session one day. i was sooo nervous to do it. but i love it. now i need to dig mine up!



    • December 17, 2013 Alison

      Oh do, I know yours is fabulous!!
      And thank you for your kind words.

  • Oh wauw. Beautiful! I might give it a try… might… Oh and Singer sewing machines? Yeah, I know them well. The kind you had to operate with your foot?
    Tinne from Tantrums and Tomatoes recently wrote…French Butter Cookies.My Profile

    • December 17, 2013 Alison

      Yes, THOSE Singer machines! My mother had one. I was always fascinated by it.

  • December 17, 2013 Kimberly

    I loved this then and I love it now. These exercises are my favorite. I’ve thought of redoing mine to see if the answers have changed any.
    Kimberly recently wrote…Essence of Now: Deep BreathsMy Profile

    • December 17, 2013 Alison

      Yes, it would be fun to write this again, I might try that for next year! (helps with the writer’s block)

  • December 17, 2013 Tenns

    Alison, this is a beautifully written post! I really enjoyed read it. Its nice to learn a little bit more about someone in such a creative way. πŸ™‚
    Tenns recently wrote…True ColorsMy Profile

    • December 17, 2013 Alison

      Thank you so much, I’m glad you liked it.

  • December 17, 2013 Sarah

    This is great! I wasn’t reading your blog two years ago so I really appreciate you sharing it with us. I loved identifying things that we have in common and other things that are so different! I think you’ve inspired me to try writing one of my own.
    Sarah recently wrote…Menu plan, Dec. 15-21 and Christmas Tree Cookies!My Profile

    • December 17, 2013 Alison

      Sarah, I really hope you do! I love reading everyone else’s version of this.

  • December 17, 2013 Tamara

    You call this a block?? This is gorgeousness! I am feeling very humbled with it and I probably won’t write too much of my own, at least not in your comments, but..I can feel one brewing. All about my brady bunch, grieving family, who built a house on top of a mountain.
    Tamara recently wrote…18 Things For 18 Months.My Profile

    • December 17, 2013 Alison

      I would LOVE to read your version of this, Tamara!
      Technically, I recycled this, so I cheated. Still blocked. πŸ™‚

  • December 17, 2013 Rebeccafaith

    I can understand why this is one of your favorite blog posts. This summation of words is the very essence of who you are. Not only is it poetically beautiful and loaded with whimsical memories but it is the mold of who, what, where and how you came to be. Who cares about working through the block when you have timeless throwbacks like these that are forever relevant and captivating.
    Rebeccafaith recently wrote…Santa’s Workshop at the FarmMy Profile

    • December 17, 2013 Alison

      Aw, thank you for your sweet words, Rebecca!

  • December 17, 2013 My Inner Chick

    Did you mention: You are a brilliant writer?

    I don’t think so…

    you. are.

    My Inner Chick recently wrote…1315 DaysMy Profile

    • December 17, 2013 Alison

      Thank you. So very much. xoxo

  • December 17, 2013 Julia

    When I first started blogging I remember people doing this and I thought it was the coolest thing. Maybe I’ll do one this time around. I feel like I learned a lot about you from this : )
    Julia recently wrote…Year in Review – Week 1My Profile

    • December 17, 2013 Alison

      I do hope you do it, Julia! I’d love to read it.

  • December 17, 2013 Lisa

    What a beautiful way to write about your past!
    Lisa recently wrote…Sunday Supper – Easy Appetizer MeatballsMy Profile

    • December 17, 2013 Alison

      Thank you, Lisa!

  • December 17, 2013 Christine

    Oh I love this Alison and I’m so glad that you shared it again. It’s a beautiful glimpse into all the stories that come together and make you you.
    Christine recently wrote…Snowy Morning Run and Still BelievingMy Profile

    • December 17, 2013 Alison

      Thank you, Christine!

  • December 17, 2013 Cheryl

    Oh, I love this! Hubby & I may have to complete this template to put in our scrapbook. Thanks for reposting for those of us who weren’t around to read it the first time. πŸ™‚
    Cheryl recently wrote…Paw prints on my heartMy Profile

    • December 18, 2013 Alison

      That’s a great idea, including this into your scrapbook!

  • December 17, 2013 Tracie

    I love this template. I did it a couple of years ago, too, and it really helped me to think through some memories and put things in perspective.

    In yours I can really feel the push and pull in your life as you find yourself exactly where you sit now, fully you. Beautiful. I’m glad you shared this again. I think I missed it the first time around.
    Tracie recently wrote…My Cartwheel Is Worse Than YoursMy Profile

    • December 18, 2013 Alison

      Yes! Writing this really did make me nostalgic, and it put a really pretty filter onto my childhood memories – and I love that.

  • December 17, 2013 Kim

    I love this, Alison – this exercise and, through it, learning more about you.
    I could picture the roofs and the market and am now wondering about the secret homemade marinaded fried chicken wings. Also, we played a lot of the same games growing up. πŸ™‚
    Kim recently wrote…Old School Blogging: Holiday EditionMy Profile

    • December 18, 2013 Alison

      It was my mother’s recipe, she had a ‘secret’ ingredient πŸ™‚

  • December 17, 2013 Lady Jennie

    I remember this, but I am so glad to read it again in all its vividness. Now I *really* feel nostalgic! πŸ™‚
    Lady Jennie recently wrote…Foie Gras PopsMy Profile

    • December 18, 2013 Alison

      Hee! You’re welcome? πŸ™‚

  • December 18, 2013 Rebecca

    How fun!!! This is such an interesting idea!!! I love it!

    • December 18, 2013 Alison

      Thanks Rebecca, it was a fun post to write!

  • December 18, 2013 Alexandra

    I love reading these from people. You tempt me to do one, but i know it’d come out smart ass. I can’t help it. You’ve done a lovely, sentient, job here. I feel the peace of roots deep, and tangible, an anchor.

    • December 18, 2013 Alison

      You won’t come off as smart ass – you’ll come off as beautiful and wonderful because that IS who you are. I do hope you’ll write one of these soon. xo

  • December 18, 2013 Jen

    This is awesome, I can’t wait to try this…I’ve never tried something like this before and I can’t wait to see what mine is like.


    Jen recently wrote…Pomegranate & Pistachio Chocolate FudgeMy Profile

    • December 18, 2013 Alison

      Do try it, Jen!

  • December 18, 2013 Living Serenely

    This is a lovely way of reading about your background. I can relate to much of it as well.
    Living Serenely recently wrote…Have a Merry ChristmasMy Profile

    • December 18, 2013 Alison

      Thank you so much!

  • December 18, 2013 Greta

    I remember this poem prompt that circulated, and I absolutely love this glimpse into your history and childhood. LOVE.

    • December 18, 2013 Alison

      Thank you, sweets!

  • December 18, 2013 Rebeccafaith

    Your blog is a giant source of inspiration for me when I am suffering from typing five words and delete, delete, delete. And though I realize you are suffering through your own block, it would be great if you would update so that I could work through mine, lol. Just sayin’! I’ll dig through your archives for now.
    Rebeccafaith recently wrote…Santa’s Workshop at the FarmMy Profile

    • December 20, 2013 Alison

      I’m getting through the block! Mainly by reading other bloggers’ inspirational words πŸ™‚

  • December 19, 2013 Elaine A.

    I am so glad you reposted this. It’s so wonderful. I love that you say you are from the East and West. So cool. I need to go back and read mine like this… I did one too. A reminder at this time of year, as to where we are from is GOOD. xo

    • December 20, 2013 Alison

      It is a good time to read this again! I might try the prompt again, see what comes out πŸ™‚

  • December 19, 2013 Amber Day Hicks

    this is absolutely fabulous! I love this idea! Your post was brilliant! XO. ~A~
    Amber Day Hicks recently wrote…Part V- 120605My Profile

    • December 20, 2013 Alison

      Thank you, Amber!

  • December 19, 2013 MomWithaDot

    Nope, didn’t know you two years ago and Yes, totally loved reading this. Thank you for re-posting.
    MomWithaDot recently wrote…How many Christians in your Christmas?My Profile

    • December 20, 2013 Alison

      Glad you liked it!

  • December 19, 2013 JDaniel4's Mom

    What amazing things and memories have formed who you are! How wonderful to have made homemade jam with someone you love.
    JDaniel4’s Mom recently wrote…Christmas Themed God’s Eye for MomMy Profile

    • December 20, 2013 Alison

      It absolutely is one of my favorite childhood memories.

  • December 19, 2013 Kimberly

    Oh friend, I have so much catching up to do. Can you tell that I have writers block too? Holiday baking takes up too much space in my belly…I mean head.
    I think this is so eloquent. I love the way how you wrote about you in such a poetic way. I love you.
    PS. I always check the box because I am amazing πŸ™‚
    Kimberly recently wrote…Wrecking The WallsMy Profile

    • December 20, 2013 Alison

      I miss baking. Since my clean eating plan started 6 weeks ago, I’ve barely baked. Maybe that is why I’m blocked?

      Miss you too. Love you more. xo

  • December 20, 2013 Jennifer

    I always, always love these types of post when I read them. They are full of such heart and heritage.
    Jennifer recently wrote…Old School Blogging – The Christmas EditionMy Profile

    • December 20, 2013 Alison

      That’s how I feel when I read other people’s Where I’m From posts too!

  • December 21, 2013 AwesomelyOZ

    I think you said it nicely so no need for me to try to say where I’m from. Yours is poetic and ish! I’m from where NYC and Dominican Republic meet and tangos with Spanglish & ASL then has brunch with psychotic, irrational, and stubbornness. I am my fathers’ daughter and every bit shows. My son is the same. The world is not ready. Three, best I can do. Have a great one Alison! -Iva
    AwesomelyOZ recently wrote…Happy Holidays to all & to all a Goodnight (Until 2014)My Profile

    • December 21, 2013 Alison

      Iva, I think if you did write your version of Where I’m From, it’d be amazing.
      Have a good weekend!

  • December 23, 2013 Amanda Jillian

    I’m still living in the very house I grew up in.
    Amanda Jillian recently wrote…Feet {50/365}My Profile

    • December 24, 2013 Alison

      That’s kind of awesome!

  • December 27, 2013 Charlotte

    I loved reading this about you and learning a bit about your history. Beautiful, Alison. I hope this finds you well and enjoying the holiday season. Glad, too, you are taking a bit of a bloggy break–we all need it every now and then and you work hard throughout the year πŸ™‚ Also, can’t wait to hear this news you’ll reveal in the New Year!

    Charlotte recently wrote…My wish for you this holiday seasonMy Profile

    • December 27, 2013 Alison

      I’m loving my break!
      Wishing you lots of love this season! xo

  • December 31, 2013 Kristin Shaw

    Alison, I loved this so much. I’m trying to catch up on your (awesome) posts and this one caught my eye. I’m so glad I made time to read it, because it was perfect! And now I feel like I know you better, which is a treat.
    Kristin Shaw recently wrote…This is forty-threeMy Profile

    • January 1, 2014 Alison

      I’m so glad you read this piece, Kristin, since it is one of my absolute favorites. And thank you!

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Alison Profile PictureI'm Alison. Writer, a mother of four (two boys and boy/ girl twins), social media enthusiast and book lover. A believer in the power of chocolate and hugs. Chugging coffee as I type. Want to know more?

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