Wondering and Wandering in Washington

I’m not sure why this post didn’t go up sooner except for the fact that my heart wandered  and wondered as much as my feet on a recent trip to the Pacific Northwest. Washington romanced me the first time with its lush green stretches, moody weather, and convenient coffee shops at every turn. This time I was able to explore more of downtown and as fun as that was, it was all the other things that made it amazing.

My friend L and I loosely planned this trip. Mostly, we knew we needed to get away a few days, and Washington sounded like a good idea. Although we didn’t have everything written in stone, we knew we were warmly welcome to stay with her medical missionary friend. We were alerted right before that she had taken in a nine year old foster child and that was going to be interesting and a building experience as I had just wrapped up the foster fundraising event I help with every year.

I assumed as a missionary her meager dwelling would be cozy with a capital “C” and that a foster girl in that area and that age would be inquisitive, girly, love the ideas of crafts and games. Instead, I met a missionary who had made the most of what God gave her and had what would be equivalent to a multi-million dollar home in my area. And I met a foster girl who was ashamed of being greeted by us at the school bus stop, who had a very different religion from us, and whose idea of fun was pranking, being sarcastic, and running and playing sports. I also found out this missionary was very charismatic and I was unable to process that. She had several amazing stories about curing people’s illnesses with her medical knowledge as a doctor, but also using the gift of tongues to heal people. Everything was so very foreign to me, as I come from a background that discourages seeking those types of gifts and that feels that speaking in tongues is antiquated and obsolete.

Some things were very very obvious. This missionary friend was a very solid believer. I did not once think her accounts were tall tales. The way that God drew her and her family to Him was totally different than anything I had ever and probably will ever hear. Her family asked several times if I wanted to pray with them to receive the Holy Spirit. They also made it clear that they knew the Holy Spirit indwelled every believer upon being saved, and this was a different acceptance. I prayed for clarity. I prayed for discernment. I prayed to not be swayed by grand anecdotes of how they were able to use their gifts for healing and prophesy. There is still a lot I don’t know how I feel about, but I think it pushed me to really consider why I believe what I do, and consider if I could respectfully see and acknowledge their gifts without judgement/prejudice from what I’ve been taught. I knew *I* wasn’t being prompted to ask for tongues. The fellowship and bible study that happened over the next few days though was so good for my soul. At the bible study, we all ended in prayer. I prayed traditionally while hearing the hum of people speaking aloud in tongues in the background. I did not feel frightened or uncomfortable. There was a lot of peace. I didn’t however, feel a need or desire to pray how they pray.

I won’t say much about the foster child to protect her privacy. It was a situation that sounded very bad, but a relative waited to welcome her states away and she was with our missionary friend in the interim. She was ashamed to be greeted by us because people probably asked who our friend was to her. Our friend referenced herself and us as “Aunties”. The girl quickly warmed up to us but also was still challenging many times with her disrespectful sarcasm and accusations. At one point, she threw a bunch of things on the floor and packed up all her belongings and “rejected” everything she was given by us. We helped her with homework, and homework sometimes took hours due to her reluctance. But all in all, there was a sweet innocent child underneath, just not settled enough in her transitioned housing and who grew up without good parental boundaries. I felt like I got a good idea of what life with a foster child could look like for me one day. She was challenging, but I also loved her so much and wanted to affirm her and help her build character she could take beyond this short time with us.

The day we left, our foster girl was incredibly moody and disagreeable. We met her with a lot of grace. Riding home from lunch, I told her I knew she was bottling up her emotions and that it was okay to share how she was feeling. Her foster auntie told her, “It’s okay to be sad, if you are sad they’re leaving.” Immediately, all her walls shattered and she hugged me tight. She replied, “My best friends are leaving me!” She hugged me tight and then my friend we told her how much we would miss her and what a treat it was to get to know her. She kept repeating how we were so nice. How she had never known anyone so nice to her. My heart was so full and broken for this little girl.

She was given permission to text my friend and I, and she still texts her aunties about her day every once in a while. The transition back to her permanent home did not go well, but she seems to be adjusted now.

One of the biggest trip highlights too, was meeting up with one of my best friends, H, and her friend I’ve heard so much about but didn’t get to meet until this trip. She and her husband’s first date was at Chihuly and it was so sweet to see them reminiscing as they held hands around the museum. I didn’t get much time with my bestie but we definitely got some long hugs in.

I’m still processing everything, but I’m so glad we went on that trip. Our host and now friend was such a loving person and we were truly blessed. So blessed, in fact, that my friend L got a special phone call on our light rail ride one day while there, and was offered a permanent position and great pay increase for a job she had temp’d at for almost a year. With everything that happened, it’s a trip I’ll never forget. My greatest souvenir being a hand written card from a precious little foster girl.

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A Happiest-Place-on-Earth Birthday

Life has been all types of busy and crazy and I haven’t had a chance to properly write an entry in ages. But I had to stop and at least say something, for memory’s sake, because my birthday was a milestone birthday! 30!

The Saturday before my birthday, my family helped me celebrate at a delicious Italian restaurant in town. I had Osso Bucco for the first time ever that I can recall. And real risotto, which is better left in their hands, not mine (per failed attempt!). We then came home to a full tres leches cake, my favorite type of birthday cake ever! It’s extra special because my parents/family haven’t bought me a cake in close to a decade. Without trying to sound petty, I always make sure others have a cake (bought or baked), but that’s not  the case when my birthday comes around. Usually, since there is a birthday dinner, they notify the server that it’s my birthday, I get whatever treat is on the house, and that’s that. So, it was a little gesture that meant so much!

On Sunday, Josh told me to be ready to leave extra early and with the limited questions I was able to ask, I was told to dress comfortably and wear shoes for walking. I had a couple guesses, but none of them panned out. Haha! I thought for almost certain we were going to head out to Hearst Castle again for a second tour through new parts of the home and end the day with our favorite Fish and Chips place out there. But as we got further into Los Angeles I knew that couldn’t be it. Maybe Huntington Library? I had mentioned my desire to daycation there.

Halfway to our destination, he pulls two pieces of paper out of thin air. They contain ten questions with lines below for each letter and one circled for the solved puzzle. He then gave me a sharpie and told me to figure it out. I thought it was so fun and sweet! About 8 questions in, I had a feeling I could solve the puzzle. D-I-S-N-E-Y-L-A-N-D.

He smiled when I figured out and I told him how clever his little puzzle was and he warned me this was an all expenses paid trip. Food, souvenirs, and whatever else were on him today, and he meant it. We got our phone fast pass system down and got to a lot of rides in no time, but I also took a couple times out of the day to just sit on a bench with him and just take it all in. We ended the night with a World of Color package which included dinner at one of the nicer restaurants in California Adventure and prime viewing for the show. For some reason, there were no patrons in the handicap section, so they opened it up to us and couple others and we had a bench all to ourselves right next to the water. World of Color is my favorite part of CA and just as magical as the first time, every time. I couldn’t think of a better way to end the night or my birthday than with him next to me enjoying the show.

I also got some beautiful milestone jewelry to help me remember 30. Josh’s mom got me a gorgeous Brighton piece that will last for years to come, and Heidi gave me this amazing Meraki bracelet that contains beautiful symbolic elements inside from all over the world. 

I feel like my 20’s have lead me to my 30’s, as lame and “duh” as that sounds. My twenties were about breaking free from what I thought were other’s and my personal expectations about myself and discovering who I am and how to be comfortable in the moment but still strive for better in the future. I feel like I’ve come a long way, even though it’s nothing close to how I thought it would be. Still, I’m so thankful for this personal journey and the family and friends who have helped me get to where I’m at. I hope at 40, I can look at my 30’s and see them as “builder” years, building me up to my potential and setting me up for a place in this world and an eventual place to call a home of my own.

Good & Bad News, Obesity, and Plans for Change

After all the imaging – several ultrasounds and an MRI, I know more about how well I am than I do with what is wrong with me. Specifically, I need to recognize and feel blessed that my bones and ligaments are in good shape, and now I know my veins are in great shape too.

My foot and leg specialist examined the MRI and told me that my bones were good; the diffused swelling was probably vascular. The vascular specialist did what most specialists do upon first meeting – they look at the problem area, and prescribe imaging. He said he felt he knew what it was. According to what he saw – reddish discoloration, swelling, etc, I had poor veins that were allowing too much blood to sit in my legs and this could be fixed with non-invasive procedures. I brought up my weight and that my primary doctor thought it could be the culprit and he told me that he could not conclude that my weight affected my leg and caused the issues. I was worried about what poor veins meant at the ripe age of 29.

Then, I got a call a week after imaging, and his answer was totally different. He said my detailed ultrasound showed that my veins were in great health. He assured me I got good genes and at the age of 29, I didn’t need to worry about my veins for a long time. Except, that meant I was ruling something else out and still had no answers. He then told me, go ahead and lose some weight because it could be the combination of a desk job and being obese.

I think those words were as detrimental as if he had told me it was a vein issue. While I am thankful that I have healthy veins, I know that if I needed a procedure done it would be quick and non-invasive. But what he told me? That is the scourge of my existence. The fact that I want to lose weight and haven’t lost much even with effort. It means that I’m finally fat to the point it’s causing extreme stress on my body and I have to do something ASAP. It means that on top of eating better, I need to be stricter and follow a fitness regimen. And I loathe the physical activity part more than watching what I eat.

You see, being fat, more specifically, morbidly obese, and being so most of your life, it’s not a 20 or even 50 pound goal. Every time I hit the gym, I’m working and stressing my body in a mass that is more than half what it ideally should weigh. I’m working on positivity, and on making this journey healthy because the other part of me just wants to use any means necessary. I can’t let that little voice overcome the big voice I’ve created that says I can positively change not desperately change.

I’d like to work out for 45 minutes to an hour at least three times a week, hopefully going up to four.

I’d like to pick 2 days of the week to work on meal planning and keeping on track food-wise. 

I’d like encouraging words, not threats, from people around me. Things like, “I believe in you, let me know how I can support you.” Not things like, “You know, if you don’t lose the weight you’re going to get worse” Or things like, “How come ______?”

Onward.

Things I’m Working on as I Ease into 30

Life moves so quickly with each passing year. It feels crazy to think that 30 quickly approaches. I can’t say I’ve done anything dramatic to prepare, but I feel good about what I’ve prepped for this new decade of life.

1. Letting go of social pressures about fertility and motherhood

I’m starting with a big one. Entering my 30’s means coming to terms that I only have about a decade left to conceive. Did you know a pregnancy at age 35+ is a “geriatric pregnancy”? Ha! So I have 5 years before my womb is a geezer. (Thankfully, this term is being replaced with “advanced maternal age”) I’m letting go by fully acknowledging my desire for motherhood. That sounds counterproductive, but to me, it’s an empowering move to note that I WANT to nurture little ones. Be it from my womb, another woman’s womb through fostering/adoption, or just being an even more invested auntie/mentor and encouraging little ones to feel loved and do their best in this world. Even if I don’t have the chance to be called “Mom” I can nurture. And I will.

2. Start investing in skin care and quality goods

In my twenties I explored a lot of fashion and makeup. My emphasis was on how I wanted to present myself to the world around me. It was about finding what made me feel my best and finding my own style. I feel like I’ve found a great balance between comfort and style that reflects me, and it’s time to settle into a better skin care routine for self care AND the changes my body will make in this decade. A couple gray hairs have magically sprouted, and my undereyes aren’t looking as peppy as they did in my college years. It’s time to reinvest in quality products. It also goes with the Konmari method I’ve tried to implement and with minimizing “stuff” to maximize quality of life.

3. Catch more Zzzz’s

I was not kind to myself in my mid twenties. Between dating and trying to tackle too much, I averaged about 4-5 hours of rest a night. I’ve worked my way up to 6.5, but ideally, I’d like to reach 7-7.5 and at least try for 8 hours twice a week.

4. Tackle weight and eating. Once again.

I’m tired of having to wonder and hear that some health issues may be weight related. I accept that they play a part in my current health issues, so I want to either gain health from losing or identify that it wasn’t a factor if that’s so. I know how to eat right and understand that I should be exercising. Now it’s up to me to put it to practice and really strive for results.

5. Dream/seek/pursue the friendships and connections I want

Remember this post I wrote on friendships not usually lasting seven year’s time? I’m really feeling this currently. I’ve got a few solid friendships that have been steady and true and have resisted the test of time. However, I’ve noticed a few friends I clung to fiercely in my 20’s were loyalties that really provided me no merit or were quite superficial even though we enjoyed each other’s company. I also felt quite lonely the past 5 years with most all of my closest friends moving away. I understand now that I need more than a socializing partner in crime. I need people who are driven. I need people who are supportive. I need people who encourage and can mentor me in my faith. And I need to also be that person to others. More substance. More investment. More meaningful relationships.

6. Get rid of “just” and limit my “sorry” in the business communication

As a feminist, I believe in equal standing with my male counterparts. It is my duty to present myself as so. In the past I’ve used phrases like “I just wanted to” that lighten my voice and representation of self among my male peers. It’s important to me to be more deliberate in speech and have better command of my presence in a meeting/email and speak with confidence in my skills. Because I am more deliberate, I want to also save my apologies for instances that truly require them – not as a preface or for good measure. I’m still working on rephrasing but I mindfully ask myself if something really warrants an apology or if I can actually single out a miscommunication/issue – which is the better way of handling it anyway.

Before: “Sorry for the confusion.” Now: “It seems like there was a misunderstanding. Let’s discuss X and resolve it.”

 7. Truly seek out to be less of a church attender and more of a part of a church family

Leaving the home church of my youth was hard and making new connections has been harder. I really need to work on building relationships with people. I miss the smaller church feel of knowing everyone but I love the opportunities and teaching here.

8. Find balance in family time and pursuing my goals and self identity.

I don’t think this is hard for everyone but this is really hard for me. My immediate family is close knit and we are there for each other. Period. But, they often ask a lot of me, or I take on too much and forget my needs and to have time for myself and my goals. I’ve got to remember it’s not all on me and that it’s okay to say no when I need to.

9. Asking “What’s Next?” in my career, relationship, etc.

This is also a hard one for me. Yes, I should embrace what I have now, but yes, I should constantly strive towards better and best. I’m not settling, I’m seeking out, setting up, and carrying out plans for my future.

10. Initiate hard conversations. Be direct. Take calculated risks. 

I’m an internalizer. I’ve always been one. When someone hurts me or withholds information, I take it as a personal offense but hardly address it unless I need to. But, a sign of maturity is dissolving assumptions and miscommunications, and I need to practice that. Recently, I noticed that a very close friend and I hadn’t been speaking. She lives many states away and was also a bit MIA on the social media scene, didn’t send me a Christmas card like she had every year before, etc. So I internalized and wondered if she was “ghosting me” (ugh, I know, I hate that term too) and wanted to slowly get rid of me by losing all interaction. Our brains take us to awful places when we allow them to assume. I confronted her respectfully and she admitted there was a lot going on and it had nothing to do with our friendship but all to do with life situations, and that was so refreshing and amazing because now I’m able to get an instant answer and offer her my support in her efforts.

I also know that when I’m intimidated by something, I tend to want to avoid it. Again, that’s not how adulting works. So, I have to be ready to ask the questions I need to and take the risks I need to, with as much research as I can beforehand.

Here we go! Less than a month! Thirty, I’m ready!

Annual Spending Recap and 2018 Forecast

I printed out my 2016 and 2017 spending summary from the credit card I primarily use and did some research on my spending habits. Some things surprised me and other things didn’t.

TL;DR: I spent more and saved more.

I spent more. There were some big ticket items that help account for this. I got four brand new tires, had a costly auto service, and bought a new overpriced (but much needed!) laptop. I also decided with minimizing that investing in things is worthwhile so even if I haven’t consumed more items in total, I am purchasing better quality items for makeup and skincare. I’m using a $50 moisturizer now. Who am I. Oh yeah, a nearly 30 year old who needs to care a little more about aging than before. 😉 I do see some frivolous spending in the first half when I was Lularoe crazy though. I also got hung up on curated styles and other people’s capsule wardrobes and got a few basics that didn’t work for me. That won’t be happening this year. One other thing I noted was that in previous years, I was decorating my apartment and buying a lot of second hand items from sale sites that required exact change and cash only. Since I worked on finalizing my room in 2017, I did much less impulse shopping and didn’t withdraw quick cash for spending so I could track better.

I spent more on vacations this year but I didn’t even do a long distance/extended trip. I learned that multiple small trips end up costing more and you don’t feel as fulfilled/restful after weekend type trips. The time with friends was more than worth it though. Ideally, with an increase in vacay time this year, I’d like to do a longer restful trip and a shorter fun and full frills trip.

I saved more money. My savings account grew more this year than last year although there’s generous room for improvement. Even though I spent more on my credit card, I isolated it to one card and didn’t use my debit card hardly ever, or petty cash. So yes, technically I spent more on my primary credit card, but that’s because it’s the sole card I use and therefore track better.

I spent less on merchandise. Some of my simplifying and minimizing has paid off. I didn’t set a foot into a mall this holiday season to shop for gifts and deals. I haven’t impulse-bought clothes in large amounts. I don’t search out trinkets. I don’t blind buy makeup and skincare like I used to.

I spent more in medical/health/wellness. This was a struggle for me. I’ve been AWFUL at taking care of myself because I hate that this category is so costly…but as my brother lovingly reminded me…it’s better to go in for a routine oil change and not let things slide where it starts to affect other things and becomes costly to fix. I met my deductible in November for the first time in years. I figure if I might need expensive procedures done I might as well meet it earlier in the year and plan on saving for it and above it.

I spent significantly more on dining out. This really surprised me. I couldn’t figure out what made this category inflate so much. I don’t usually get fast food. I bring my lunch 95% of the time. Then it hit me. All those weekends I went over and helped my brother and watched the baby? I almost always bought lunch for the three of us, and sometimes needed a coffee or dinner for me on the way home. My boyfriend and I also take turns paying or go dutch for the most part, so when I do spend, it’s for more sit down type places. I don’t expect or rely on him to pay, although I full appreciate it when he does. We’re not really fast food people when we go out to eat. I usually made food Monday and every other Wednesday, the days we hang out, but I also have art with my friend in hospice on Mondays and between the emotions there and it being dinner time by the time we meet, we’ve gone out more. Aha. It’s adding up.

2018 Financial Forecast:

  • Make monthly financial goals
  • Itemize monthly spending so I can budget better since months fluctuate
  • Be more active and mindful reviewing my retirement and investments
  • Set a specific amount aside towards a new car fund (Goal: Downpayment in 2 yrs)
  • Rework some income into nontaxable savings. An FSA health account. Putting a higher percentage into retirement. Doing more research on investing.
  • Work on being less trigger happy on Amazon. Especially cheap e-books!
  • Allow myself to eat out more -IF- I can fit it to my food plan and it saves me enough in groceries/specialty food and stress. Sometimes time and stress of cooking factor into it.
  • Research big ticket items I’ll need to save for in the next 5, 10 years, and tuck away some for weddings – either for attending and gifting or maybe down the road my own! My cousin is engaged and the wedding is cross country.  Eurpope. Adoption. Possible home ownership…even if it’s a mobile home/tiny house.

Bye, 2017. Hello 2018.

2017 was an uncertain beast with a few highs and lots of lows. Bye. Glad you’re gone.

The year gave us trouble from the very start until the very end. My aunt, the matriarch of my mom’s side, fell ill and the cold the lingered much longer than anticipated. Given that she is mid seventies, lives alone, and is hours away, my mom and I decided to visit a couple days to brighten her spirits and care for her any way we could. We left Friday and had a great time with her. She was definitely getting better, but hadn’t ever dealt with so much congestion. On Sunday, New Years Eve, we packed up and drove back to town.

On the way home, we got a call that my brother was feeling some pain near his belly button. We thought it might be something gallbladder related. He said he’d go to urgent care and get it sorted. Urgent care told him go to the ER, so they ended up there. He asked if my mom and I could come down and bring food for my SIL and nephew since the wait was long. I just drove 5.5 hours. We got into town around 4:45, grabbed gas and food, and quickly ate and made food to bring to them.

No joke, the ER was packed. There was maybe *A* spare chair and we were warned to wear masks as people were quite ill inside. We gave my SIL food, grabbed my nephew, and spent most of the night in the hospital waiting area entertaining a 15 month old. After an hour, we became “those people.” Kai was not about that sitting still life and we figured it was better he was ambulatory rather than vocally shrieking so we chased him around, let him climb the chairs, and carried him around. Around 10:50, my brother and SIL finally appeared. He didn’t have gallbladder issues: he had a hernia from the appendix removal he had years ago! Grrrrreeeat. On the bright side, his gallbladder was good and no emergency surgery was needed. On the bad side, they told him no heavy lifting including his son, and that surgery still might be on the table. Since he still has a concussion, that comes with risks. So, we wait and pray in the meantime.

My mom and I got home in time to watch the ball drop and I sipped a smidgen of wine and excitedly welcomed 2018. Phew. I can only hope for brighter days for me and my family.

My resolution this year is three small but powerful phrases borrowed from Athena International:

“Live Authentically.
Learn Constantly.
Advocate Fiercely.”

Live Authentically: Being free to be me. Owning messes, admitting flaws, embracing my good qualities and areas of growth. Not allowing other’s opinions to pollute my outlook of self and self worth. Understanding that my voice resonates and has the power to do good or harm and it is worth speaking up when there is injustice or I am not represented correctly.

Learn Constantly: Wanting to know more and desiring new experiences so that I can improve my outlook, myself, and how I see the world around me. Enlightening my thoughts so that I can be more knowledgeable, wise, well rounded, and ask more questions and generate more curiosity. Being open, not ignorant or cautious, while understanding my intrinsic values and morals.

Advocate Fiercely: Continue contributing my efforts towards awareness and funds raising for foster youth in my area. Be respectful but vocal of what is important to me and be a voice for the helpless. Be more knowledgeable in how politics impact daily life not just for me, but for my fellow people. Dispel negativity, help shed light where I can, and lift others up so they can also be fierce and empowered.

Trips, Fires, Holiday Spirit

Where do I begin this whirlwind of post-Thanksgiving happenings until now? Now being days before Christmas, house a mess, fall decor still around, and not a tree in sight?

My parents decided to take a trip to Asia to visit my mom’s relatives and visit Thailand as well. Days, maybe a literal day before their actual flight, there was so much political unrest in my mom’s birth country that they had to call all the relatives and airlines and let them know they could not go for their safety. This meant cancelling tickets, finding new tickets just to Thailand, cutting losses, and replanning in a couple day’s time.

So my parents exit the country, and my brother and his family enter the home for the extended weekend. Him. His wife. His toddler son. Their two dogs. We are gung-ho to clear out the darn garage for my parents as a blessing and “gift” for their return. They stay Friday through Sunday to help make that happen. On Sunday, to celebrate a clean-er garage and friendship, we had a small gathering with some close friends, soup, s’mores, and a nice fire pit. My lungs were already abused from the dust in the garage but I figured one day of a little campfire smoke wouldn’t hurt. (That became laughable. There is still smoke in the air today and my asthma flare ups remind me of it.)

Sunday night went long and so my brother and his family crashed there another night. At dinner out Monday evening, we found out a fire had broken out near my brother’s home. By the time we got back from dining, it was dangerously close to the point of possible evacuation. With their two dogs and a small suitcase already here, they braved the fire around them to collect documents, my SIL’s midwifery supplies, and a few more necessities.

Tomorrow marks a month that my brother and family has lived here. The fire has spanned over three weeks and is still only at 60% containment. It was one of many fires, and at one point, my town was sort of surrounded and also in danger of evacuation due to high winds. There were nights we hardly slept not knowing if we’d have to escape in a minute’s notice and wondering which relatives could house the four of us and the three dogs between us. Teething toddler, tired parents, worried aunt, and the homeowners out of the country all the way in Asia.

I remember packing some things for my parents and putting a carry-on suitcase together for me of belongings and thinking through the what-ifs. So much of the house’s items became so worthless in those moments. I had albums, medications, dog food, and necessities. That was enough.

Now that my parents are back, there are six of us and three dogs. My nephew is constantly getting “No!”-d at as he runs destructively through a not-baby-proofed home. I just acquired part of a baby gate to section off the oven and possibly a tree. He has no sense of schedule anymore and no safe room to play in. Dishes are piled as twice as many of us are there and in this month’s time my parent’s brought home a cold and my SIL brought home a stomach bug. It has not been easy. On any of us.

Through it all, it’s been hard to sit down and meditate on the true meaning of the season, but we are living it out just a little. A husband, wife, and child displaced from their town seeking shelter. That’s just a tidbit of the Christmas story but in it all I’ve seen love, hope, and strength.

I’m grateful neither one of our homes burned down. I’m grateful we got to be there for one another. I’ll be grateful when we both go back to our “normal.”

My priority tonight is get that Christmas tree up. I think we could all use a little cheer. Who knows how much longer they’ll be living with us as they work to clear up the smoke damage, but I’m thankful for family all the same.

Friendcation, Imaging, and the Little Green Monster

I haven’t updated in a while because life has definitely picked up. October was very full with Inktober (ink art each day following an official prompt) and one of my best friends in the whole world making her annual trip out here. I think I’ve finally recovered from the stress of planning my nephew’s birthday part too – a whole month and a half later!

This friendcation, H and I explored some local museums, saw Regina Spektor in concert, and got to spend time with some mutual friends. We even visited the humdrum smelly pits (La Brea Tar Pits) and went to the museum with the good dino stuff (LA Natural History Museum). 😉

The foster organization I support has started up meetings for the 2018 fundraising event and this year I’m stepping up from publicity assistant to publicity chair. *gulp*

The Saturday before Halloween, I was woken up from a cat nap by my brother’s phone call. “Laura, go check our cousin page! S is engaged!” Bewildered and half asleep, I popped on our private cousin hub and saw pictures of my beautiful cousin beaming with an engagement ring on her finger and in the arms of her fiance on the lake. Another picture was a cleverly carved pumpkin that said “Marry Me?” And the third, their dog baby in a very cute fall coat. I was overjoyed. But also, totally sunk into an explainable pit of jealousy. I’m pretty ashamed to admit that and didn’t think it would be so hard on me but I spent the rest of the weekend in pity and jealousy land not able to shake off the fact in the span of a week I had found out two dear people were engaged. And you know, pretty much 3/4 of my friends are now married and on to having kids. I think as thirty is just around the corner is affects me more. And with my brother married and now a cousin engaged, I just hope Thanksgiving isn’t awkward and people can just put all their attention on celebrating my cousin and not asking me when, why, and why not. Now that I’ve had some time and still have time until turkey day, I think I have finally shook off that little green pest and can love on and congratulate my cousin with a full and happy heart. I love her so much and think she and her fiance are perfect together.

After going nowhere with my primary and ruling out some basics, I finally took the time to meet with a specialist about my foot and swelling issues. I had x-rays done, have an MRI scheduled, and a note to visit a vascular surgeon if the MRI doesn’t show what’s wrong.

Basically, this foot and ankle specialist sat with me and told me she believes what I have is systemic. There’s a small percentage it’s pathological, meaning disease, etc. There’s a large percentage this is systemic and from a vascular issue – which is usually tied to something being off or failing with the heart, kidney, lung, or other organ. My primary wrote down that she suspected it was just from obesity, but the fact there could be more involved is pretty frightening. Since nothing is known, there is some fear in the unknown. But I know that at least if I’m proactive I can work to try to find answers. If it’s fixable, I’ll work to fix it. If it’s not fixable, I’ll work to stop damage and make the most of my condition. I’m hoping it’s nothing too serious, but I also know this is a big wakeup call. I need to make my health and wellness a bigger priority and not focus so much on helping others and taxing myself with unnecessary stress or neglectful habits.

In this season of gratitude, I am working to count my blessings and see God’s goodness even in the hard things.

Watching “First They Killed My Father” with Survivors of the Cambodian Genocide

First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung holds a large piece of my heart. As a teen, in an attempt to find my mom’s lost sister, I scoured the internet searching for hope. Hope did not come in the form of finding my aunt (there is no closure with the unknown – did she survive or did she pass?) but it did come by finding an author with my mom’s maiden name and her memoir. I read the book and realized my mom and her family were not alone. This book opened my mind to genocide worldwide and how important it is to preserve their stories and not let them fade over time. I never saw my relatives the same afterward. Their loving smiling faces once endured something so horrific that nearly a quarter of their population was wiped out. From my mom’s family alone, the Khmer Rouge stole the life of my grandfather and one uncle, and the fate of one aunt is unknown.

Because of my nephew’s first birthday party, we had relatives staying with us this weekend. On Saturday, my mom and dad, my mom’s eldest sister, my mom’s only surviving brother and his wife (who also went through this) and my two cousins and I gathered around the tv in the living room and watched the film adaptation together. There was something deeply bonding by having them watch with me and gravitas of four survivors in my living room was heavy on my heart. Their experiences added to everything I saw and felt from the screen. It brought up questions I hadn’t asked before [“Did they also specifically say it was the Americans attacking when they knocked on your door?”] and memories I had heard before [“They gave us a watery rice soup that was all liquid. One time I counted out the grains of rice and it amounted to 17 pieces.”]

Tears rolled down our cheeks as we silently took in the difficult scenes. About halfway through, my uncle got up to use the restroom and never returned back to the couch. One of my cousins checked on him and found out he was sleeping in the guest room. Without trying to assume too much, I can only guess that the main character in the film hit him harder than his sisters because of age. As the youngest of the family, he was about the same age as Loung when the country fell, and seeing a child that young brought back a flood of memories and innocence lost. My mom and eldest aunt were both college graduates but he was only a child.

“Your uncle was drafted by them, just like Loung. Young brilliant minds were wanted to be able to brainwash.”

The next day at my nephew’s party, nearly half the guests over 40 were survivors of the Cambodian Genocide too, and between the celebrating and fun, I paused and took that to heart. I know so many strong incredible people who have rebuilt their lives here in the United States, each one with a deeply personal and moving story of their own.

Rejection as an Adult

I’ve been conditioned to being rejected since I was a child. That doesn’t surprise me, but it does surprise me how much it still hurts as an adult.

When I was in third grade, we had a morning log we had to write in. It was either a prompt from the teacher or what we felt like writing on. One morning, feeling particularly lonesome and jaded, I confessed that I had no friends to play with at school. At first recess, my name was called along with a few classmates to stay to talk to her. She explained that I didn’t have anyone to play with during recess and it would be great if they could include me. That lunch and second recess I was over the moon to have my own little posse to play tag with and chit chat with to while we nibbled on our sandwiches at lunch. The next day they were there for recess only. By the end of that week, they weren’t anywhere to find. That’s when 8 or 9 year old me realized forced relationships didn’t work and friendship for pity didn’t last either.

As an introvert and person dealing with social anxiety, it takes a lot of mental output and energy to invest in someone new and try to make that connection. When I realize they are faking it or trying to rush out of a conversation, or are so bored with me that they jet after grabbing dinner with me (not even waiting for me to put my meal in a to-go box for pete’s sake!), I know they’ve rejected me or don’t find me interesting.

It’s okay. It’s going to happen. I understand this. Just like because a guy asks you out you don’t have to accept, if you don’t sense any platonic chemistry in building a relationship, that’s acceptable too. But platonic rejection hurts.

When it’s hard already to make friends and keep relationships, rejection just makes me feel like I’m less human – like I’m less capable of socializing and of less worth. Then, the next time I try really hard, there’s a mental grey cloud looming over me and in fight or flight, I sometimes pick to avoid any hurt and hide/decline.

I don’t understand the politics of socializing – at work, at church, with friends of friends, and so it probably makes it worse. When my coworker says he had a blast and I say that was a fun experience, we are both relating excitement in our own ways, but of course, the environment favors the ecstatic feelings of my coworker and questions if my very level-toned answer even has integrity behind it.

As a kid, I was more desperate and a people pleaser, but now, I don’t feel like kissing up. I can exude what they expect of me but that would be lying to who I am. I feel like “fake it til you make it” is a very toxic idiom when it comes to building relationships. So I just kind of sit in social limbo. “Oh yeah, Laura right?”

On the other hand? Through the searing reminders of my social awkwardness and reserved nature, through the rejection and want to fit in better? I know that I have some wonderful friends who have been very forgiving and gracious of my not-always-chipper or exciting self, and I appreciate and love them so much for never rejecting this Eeyore.