Dream post


Last night I had a weird dream and it made me wonder. How mature could I be these days socially at school? In this dream I was given a second chance at entering kindergarten, this time with a full understanding of the English language. For those of you who don’t know, I was raised with Chinese and Taiwanese language only, so I remember being very confused in every school I entered even when asked about my name. In fact, in this dream, I was asked to participate in choir as well. I knew this could not be first grade but they gave me a full Manila packet with my name on it and told me where to meet all the other choir students. I was very excited. There was even a little change in the envelope like two dollars and fifty cents. And everyone was rushing to get places. People were all looking to see where to go. It felt like an episode of survivor because everyone was obviously much older than just first grade but having a difficult time finding the rooms they needed to find.

I woke up before I got there. But I found myself curious about how confident a child I might have been if I had had the same chances as others at success with being popular socially. Or would I have worse off?

I have been reading something that says that being joyful and less worrisome lends itself to bring curious. In other words, you attract opportunity by being positive. It helps to stay confident because people can entrust you with more responsibility and see that you are still well through it. Hopefully, it is a genuine confidence and one that can help others as well. Being able to confide in others is a strength because honesty is fundamental to happiness. For every joy we know we have seen sorrow. Honesty and joy is the ability to tell the story with the perspective and Grace that G-d allows us resilient time to live, flow, and move on from it.


If I remember correctly, Taiwanese is one of those languages where there is no past tense, and no future tense, so there is no need to conjugate.  It makes me wonder how much the sense of time and urgency is felt in an island, and how true it is that Asian time or island time is very casual.  In other words, everyone is always late, and now is always both everywhere and all the time with as much presence and pleasure as yesterday.


It’s very opposite the feeling I get from being from New York where being on time is so important and especially calling in sick when you are not going to be in to work or at school.


I mean, my father didn’t even know what day he was born, and he was a twin.  That alone gives you an impression of how little importance that time had back then, particularly birthdays, and how different the culture was or perhaps still is.


Today, which is now two days later from the dream, I had an interesting conversation with a friend about sex, which got me to think that this might also be my philosophy about what a good story is as well.  There are two good reasons for having it: the curiosity of self-discovery or for the mission of pro-creation with both ultimately having everything to do with how well the relationship goes with the other person.  Lately I think the problem of our society is how hard it is to maintain healthy interpersonal boundaries with people especially with all the different hats we all wear and the many different ways we’ve learned to communicate these days with technology, roles, and the many different political situations that very much complicate each path.  I’m hoping that whatever happens in this weird political climate, we learn to find some easier paths to make communication better, simpler, and more helpful especially for those who need help with advocacy.

Facebook and Recovery


My name is Sandra Cheng, and I am a mental health recovery specialist, also known as a peer advocate.

One of the things I’ve learned about myself through this job is that I am still learning.  Every day there is more to know, and I am looking for clues as to how to achieve my goals with a positive attitude and encouragement of myself and others.

One of my latest challenges has been to befriend everyone on Facebook that requests it.  Normally I think of myself as a very private person, and I don’t like to “meet” new people online.  I am not using the site as a dating site, as some might, but I also do not disclose my relationship status online in an effort to remain simply me without a temporary definition of who I want to be.  I am opening myself up to new kinds of online relationships, the kind that provides support without crossing unhealthy interpersonal boundaries.

I hope that you are enjoying my posts, and feel free to reach out to me.  I really am not looking to chat anyone up online, but simply remain in wonder of what each of us has to offer as an online friend.

Thanks for reading!


Empowering Women


I’m not usually one to make political statements but the latest banter about Hilary’s issue with the emails bugs me.  As a woman who has witnessed so much injustice personally regarding fair wages and sexual infidelity, I can’t help but see that people who are criticizing Hilary for her “secrecy” as being completely negligent of the fact that she was the victim of a lot of secrecy from her husband.  With his many sexual escapades, who is to blame for the security issues in our government?

Technological competence is a luxury that elite and usually simply younger people only can afford.  I can barely understand what was wrong with this server issue, and I am someone who was coding in html and working with plenty of different computer systems.  How can I blame just her for this email scandal when I myself wouldn’t know how to do what those people were asking for right now?  This problem was and probably still is systemic, and endemic of a political structure full of discrepancies, especially with regard to sexual, racial, and international politics.

In fact, I bet that Hilary had a right to being an angry, neglected wife who really needed to vent. Who could trust this “security” protocol which was also keeping her husband’s secrets from everyone?  Shouldn’t I write emails as a form of therapy to anyone who would listen?  I can’t imagine how horrible that kind of emotional stress must have felt to each and every one protecting the First Lady and the President.

My only problem with having Hilary as the President would be having Bill as the First Gentleman.   I am very uncomfortable with that.  It feels like a position that should go to the man of her choosing.  I suppose if she forgave him, there must be something worth looking at there.  I’ll have to follow their ideas more closely before I vote for anyone.  But as someone in the field of recovery and healing from addictions, I think it’s my responsibility to give people a second chance.  People do change.  Perhaps this role as First Gentleman would heal something in us as well, because we’ve all been lied to before, and we’ve all had to forgive.  Maybe it’s time to see things change by giving Hilary a chance to allow him to help her.





Pot poet


I’m outgrowing this pot

My feet are aching

My roots have no more space

I feel my spine curling under

As I push upward, I fall out

The cups are too small

My skull fractures

My brain wrinkles

Tiny, tight, innumerable folds

One day we realize

Fun as it was

The sand, too hot

Was the only music 

So we dance

Awaiting the next wave

Blowing us out

Like a gunshot

Into a more comfortable pot

NAMI In our Own Voice Presenter


My name is Sandra Cheng, I work as a peer specialist at Didi Hirsch, and I love cheese.  My Taiwanese parents chose to come out to America for the love of cheese. My boyfriend hates cheese that smells like feet.

I had my first physical relationship when I was about thirty-five.  He was the person who encouraged me to volunteer for Didi Hirsch.  I helped people with the computers making resumes at the Employment services team. Sara, Khaki, Gary, Angela, Lanette, Herman. I was promoted by Michelle McBurnie and NAMI Urban LA after being a Jumpstart intern in 2009. It’s been my privilege to help my peers find their passions. I lead support groups, and I am still learning from everyone here.


Dark Days:  I grew up in New Jersey, and I was uncomfortably shy as a teenager. When my environment changed, and we moved away from my new friends in high school, I decided to make as little contact as possible with pretty much every one.  I had stopped talking to people including my family. I sat in front of the television with my cartoons Gummy bears.  I loved sleeping and dreaming of flying. My love for lucid dreaming kept me going through some of my darkest days.

I was admitted to the psychiatric hospital twice when I couldn’t stop crying. The first time, I was put into a straight jacket.  They were very polite about it, saying that everyone who comes here gets one, and they chose a pretty flower pattern jacket for me. I still hear voices when I’m stressed out, and at my worst I isolate. My first diagnosis was schizophrenia disorganized type. Abut two years later another diagnostic tested me with schizo-affective disorder. The labels don’t bother me. I am comfortable with being different. Words are just there to help people learn more about each other.

Acceptance:  My work is important to me, but it has been a difficult path. I have learned to not take things personally. I accept that I hear voices and I am mindful about my own emotional health. I used to say I don’t care and tried to ignore my feelings.  That used to be my way of trying to stay positive. I looked for reasons not to trust.

My family has supported my decision to continue taking medications, in spite of some early disagreements about it.  I am lucky that they have been financially supportive of me through some of my hardest times. As a peer, my work is subsidized. The government helps me with maintaining my job. I can continue to work while receiving occupational and financial support with both disability (SSDI) and SSI.
Treatment:  The mind is a magical thing. It needs a lot of care.  My work allows me to learn how to recover and stay well. I create a supportive social environment by sharing ideas and linking people to healthy lifestyles working with the community.

I came out to Los Angeles in 2002 to pursue a career in animation, to draw cartoons.   I link myself to my community, I engage myself in mental health services, and I set healthy boundaries with friends, family, and peers.  People help me communicate what I usually struggle with.

I am the website manager for the LACCC, where peers work for DMH and share information about conferences, trainings, and other events. I am a facilitator for the Wildflowers’ Movement. We often use Dr. Weiss’s Healing the Mind and Spirit cards to share spiritual inspiration.

I chose stand up comedy and belly dance to help myself physically overcome shyness, gain intellectual and emotional confidence, and be better potty trained by focusing on my core.

I am a speaker for NAMI’s In our own Voice presentation. This is why I’ve been saying random words like “Dark Days,” “acceptance”, and “treatment”.

I make quilts with the wizened women of Quilts from the Heart. I foster hamsters for kids and the young at heart. I helped the National Asian American Peer support group speaking with their panel at the Alternatives conference.  I sing with temple Akiba, now a synagogue,  and the cal Phil where we will be performing at Disney hallike twice this summer. In August I will be at the Santa Barbara triathlon, as part of a coed sprint swim 500 yards, bike 6 miles, and run, 2 miles with my boyfriend, Ed. That’s why it’s coed.


Coping Skills:
   I am grateful for my famity putting up with my bologna.  I am happy to be in a loving relationship with Ed. I am committed to making life both enjoyable and healthy.  Coping with voices for me is getting why I feel like this and not how or what.  I slow down, take risks, and have fun.
Successes, Hopes, and Dreams:  I have a Master’s degree in Fine Arts, and I manage a small website company. As a peer advocate, I lead groups such as WHAM. It involves the 8 dimensions of wellness (F, O, Em, I, Sp, P, & En) and IMPACT goals for improvement and positive, calling healthy habits.  I lead excerise, cooking, and creative expressions. No matter what group, I see each person, hear them out, and understand who they are.

I see people become mindful, people who share words that help others in groups. I help people find jobs and become supports to the community, learn resilience in difficult situations. I know how humbling it can be to get here and how difficult it is to ask for help. This is what makes this job important to me. The best part of this job is the culture. We care.


I am using the Plan to Achieve Self-Support, an incentive from the SSA to make my financial and educational goals attainable. I want to be more independent, and for me that means eventually making enough money on my own without relying on SSI and SSDI.

I dream of eventually moving to Paris, France.  My boyfriend has rekindled in me a love for the arts and French culture where I will eat all the cheese.

My sister Emily


I’ve been hearing about people being angry about the President of the Asian Coalition being someone who is not receiving services from DMH at this time. For me, this is part of our epidemic as an Asian American. Because we are often over-achievers, and many of us want to bother as few people as possible with our own problems, we tend not to seek services unless there has been a terrible crisis. I don’t feel the anger others do about this primarily because I see our culture, the mental health piece in Asian American politics as being one that we all need to come to terms with in our own ways. As long as our leaders are people who can be accepting of all the different ways we cope with trauma, I don’t see a problem with allowing someone who is not currently being supported by DMH as being part of DMH. It is a tricky issue, though, I understand as most groups tend to want their leaders especially to have experience with the field in a way that no one can surpass.

I am grounded by the fact that my recovery is ever-changing, and I want to emphasize the fact that we don’t all need any one particular path in this field. Leadership after all is its own reward, and if we can see our leaders as part of a larger community, there shouldn’t be a problem with having someone who doesn’t have the preconceived notions of what a leader should look like. I just worry that we are all a little prejudiced by our own personal experiences to not be able to accept the paths others choose. The big question is, does the President of the Asian Coalition for Mental Health consumers have to be a current mental health consumer, if each of us understands that recovery might mean that we don’t necessarily need that at all moments after a diagnosis?

The Queen sized bed


Hey, we built a bed which I reworked from Somethingisdone.com which contains a king size set of instructions.

I thought it would be fun to add some details here about the highlights of what I learned in this process.

First of all, Google sketch up is pretty cool and easy to learn with some very intuitive  and practical ways to visualize for woodworking.  BedFrame_SomethingIsDone_queen18 BedFrame_SomethingIsDone_queen20 We ultimately decided against the collapsible version which would make it less stable.  I’ve included a bit of wall in one of these sketchups to show whether or not it would be possible to move this frame into or out of this narrow and tiny hallway dividing the bedroom from the bathroom from the common room.

Second, nail guns seem a little too fussy for a small project. You need a min of 1000 nails to make it worthwhile and this project was barely 250 nails worth.  Had there been no mistakes it would have been about 100 nails or screws.IMG_0409 IMG_0411 There were a lot of interesting tools we used to make this work, including a dremel to help sand up the rough edges, an adjustable right angle ruler, and the mini jig kit that “Something is Done” recommends from Amazon.  I don’t think we used the kit more than ten times, but it was fun and interesting to use. It also helped secure the center spine with the crossbars where normally we may not have been able to line it up without a lot of fuss.  We made the mistake of buying 9.5″ x 1.5″ planks for the outer frame, rather than the 7.5″ ones in the original plans.  That meant some more cuts, which was easy work with a dozuki bear saw which cuts on both the up and down pull directions.  All the other cuts were made by someone at home depot, which luckily were free after a long wait for assistance.

Third, it is tricky to line up all these measurements perfectly. I had to let go and allow there to be spaces and gaps in awkward places. I feel very secure in the bed, but the sheer weight and size of the thing makes it feel unwieldy. I’d also recommend that if you do it yourself, allot a week of rest to recoup from all the back pain after completing it.  You will need at least two people to share the tasks here to get the job moving quickly.  We were able to finish this within two weekends after having drawn up the plans the month prior.IMG_0424 IMG_0414

If I had to do this again, I’d say it might be worth buying a hardwood mostly because this soft pine had a tendency to be slightly warped, which makes a difficult job.  When you have a nice hardwood, the project would probably feel more like a very nice piece of furniture rather than the cheap and quick job it really was.  It might double or triple the budget, but ultimately, you would have a piece you would tell stories about to your kids.