Happy Halloween!

I’ve mentioned in a previous blog post that while most people love Halloween I don’t really get the hype and I’m still sorting out my feelings about it.

Well, it’s Halloween again, and while it still isn’t my favorite, in the last few years I’ve had fun and enjoyed myself and I can say that really helps chase away the negative feelings from my youth.

Here are some things I still don’t get:

– Lawns that are decked out more than christmas (they sell halloween lights, what?)
– Dressing little kids as fictional serial killers or having them wear over sexualized costumes
– People paying lots of money to scare themselves silly at haunted mazes/houses
– People with no knowledge on the occult and magic suddenly taking an interest and messing with seances and ouija boards, etc
– Turning off all the lights and pretending not to be home

All that aside, as a Christian, I can either be grinch-y and judge-y of everyone and turn my lights off and refuse to associate myself, or I can look for opportunities to be a light in my community. Keeping my porch light on and passing out candy helps me acquaint myself with some of the families in the neighborhood. It makes that connection and in return, I may be able to bring God glory in that. I can also participate in local trunk or treats at church and give kids a safe alternative to trick or treating where they don’t have to check their candy and fear cruel intentions.

Holiday origins are very complicated, but if you look up other holidays, you might find the pagan origins are just as “interesting” and that we’ve strayed from the practices and traditions of those. So I see Halloween in a very similar way.

The difference with Halloween is that there is a lot of scary and evil themes, but I can’t think of a better night to let your light shine. In fact, I feel like as a kid, I felt some fear associated with halloween and some of the dark themes. But now I know that God doesn’t give us a spirit of fear, and I don’t need to be scared. If and when I have kids, it is very important to me to let my kids know this isn’t a day we fear. There is nothing that can separate us from the love of God, and God has the power and victory over evil.

All that deep stuff aside, I am going to be passing out candy and dressing up in steampunk clothes and watching movies tonight. And it’s going to be fun.

Do you have any associations or good or bad feelings towards Halloween? I suppose if you grew up trick-or-treating and going to parties, my post sounds really odd. I would love to hear some positive childhood stories.

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Concert Vibes: The Dear Hunter & Eisley

It’s been a while since I’ve gone to a concert! I love living near a big music scene where I know most bands I love will hit on their tour.

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LACMA is practically my art home away from home, and I was surprised to find out  how close in proximity the El Rey Theater is to my art stomping grounds. I’ve been to the El Rey before, how did I not know this?!

My friend J is now a nurse at a children’s hospital and since she moved about 2 hours away, this was the first time I really got to hang out with her and catch up on life. She got to explore the La Brea Tar Pit area as she waited for me to navigate through the heavy traffic. We grabbed dinner at a fantastic burger place and chatted away until the concert was about to start. A four minute walk later, and voila!

This was first time seeing The Dear Hunter live and my second time enjoying Eisley. I tried to give J a rundown of the acts and the the story in TDH’s music, and it sounds like a crazy soap opera when you put it in a nutshell. Haha.

The Dear Hunter played a great set: everyone in the crowd cheered as they heard the first few seconds of instrumental and knew another favorite was about to play.

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My new Eisley gear! I was worried the t-shirt wouldn’t fit as they only carried small and large, but it fits like a glove since it’s a unisex slim fit. How gorgeous is that design? I sent my boyfriend this pic and he said, “It’s you!” 😉

Seeing Eisley this time was quite different now that Chauntelle and Stacy have moved on to pursue their own music, but it was magical all the same.

I’m not sure if there were issues with the audio. It seemed like the instruments were a little overpowering and Sherri’s mic wasn’t as loud as it needed to be, but they rocked it. I was ecstatic to hear Golly Sandra and Smarter in their set. Sherri is my band spirit animal. I love her sense of wonder and whimsy and that she also draws and doodles. She proudly brought up her hubby and two daughters and thanked the crowd for letting her be a touring mom who gets to do what she loves. ❤

They announced they’ll be releasing new music and touring LA around February. Guess what I’ll be adding to my birthday list?

Glorifying Obesity?

Today my post is to share an empowering video by Anna. I’ve followed her YouTube channel for a little while now and love that I can see her fashion hauls and picture them on me. She is a different body type than I, but is closer in size than the models for Torrid, etc. Her sunshine-y personality is hard not to love, and she has amazing yoga videos that make me feel able to do anything at my size.

This video is technically a personal response to someone who accused her of glorifying obesity but is also so empowering and shares how I feel:

Movie Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

I was incredibly excited at the announcement of this film and I’m so glad I was able to see it in theaters with one of my best friends.

In a previous blog post, I wrote about the book and how surprisingly fascinating it was. I touched on the fact that it was rather dark in some areas and that the vocabulary [and curse words] made it more suitable for an older teen on up. I’d say the film also fits that recommendation, but more on that later…

The movie opens up with Jake, the protagonist, working at his family’s chain store and how the events of that evening changed his life. His grandfather, Abe, is a stoic soul with a soft spot for his grandson. He shared “tall tales” with Jacob when he was younger and his family believes he is suffering from dementia. When Jake goes to check on him in his home after a whirlwind of a call, he discovers that his grandfather was attacked. Abe, with his last breath, gives a final message full of nonsensical instructions. This riddle is shrouded in more mystery when Jake sees an otherworldly creature momentarily.

Because of the traumatic experience, Jacob is going to therapy and trying to sort out the details of that fateful night and the creature he thinks he saw. He believes that venturing to Cairnholm, the children’s home his grandpa once resided at (and the place of many of his tales) will give him a sense of closure. Instead, he discovers a gateway to the past, literally, and meets the peculiar folk of his grandfather’s stories.

As Jake spends time with the headmistress, Miss Peregrine, and the children, he begins to figure out they are not the only ones gifted with an incredible ability…

Tim Burton did an incredible job portraying an ordinary world with extraordinary people and creatures. The contrast of familiar with peculiar really made the visuals shine. And of course, true to the book and Burton’s genius, there are very morbid and gothic elements as well. The powers are not magical, particularly fanciful, or supernatural, and that is exactly right. Eva Green made a magnificent Miss Peregrine.

I promise not to give any particular information away, but there are some spoilers below. Continue reading if you want me to give more detailed information without revealing specifics.

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If you’ve been pushing yourself to finish the book before enjoying the movie, don’t. In fact, tuck a bookmark in your spot, forget the second half, and go to the movie and enjoy it as it is. Please know that the author of the book, Ransom Riggs, is reportedly very happy with the creative direction and that many of the details you are wrapped up in may not be in the movie. I have to say this is genuinely the first time I regretted reading a book before the movie because I expected so much synchronicity.

My one criticism of the film is that there are weak spots in the storytelling and that the story, despite a two hour exploration, doesn’t give too much room for character development. There are minute but important parts of the film you just won’t fully understand unless you’ve read the book (but don’t, don’t force yourself to finish!) and the limited character development of secondary people may make you assumptive of one’s motives. If you leave the theater wondering why Jake’s parents are so “terrible,” just know that you’ll have several “aha!” moments as you read the book. If you’re wondering how Emma and Jake could really have feelings for each other based on screen time, also know the book covers that in more detail.

Some of the ages and abilities have been swapped, for better or for worse. I wish that Emma’s ability stayed true to the book, as it fits her personality better. I do, however, appreciate that the person with the creepiest gift (in my opinion) is an older child in the film as it would be much darker given a more innocent age.

I’m curious to see how someone who sees the film first, then reads the book reacts. The ending gives just enough room for a future sequel, but ends on a very different note.

There is no sexual content. There are a couple curse words, including an unncessary G-D*mnit. The discretion factor falls primarily on some of the more gothic/darker ideas and danger. I could see a very mature 12 year old enjoying it, but I personally feel this is a age 15 on up feature.

I would give this film 7 out of 10 stars.

Refocus: Willing and Able

I’ve been harsh on my body lately. Despite many efforts to lose weight recently I haven’t [in fact, I’ve put on a few]. Some of it is from negligence, dealing with trials, and being medically advised to not participate in vigorous exercise until a blood clot was ruled out [which it has, praise God]. And then I went to a theme park and didn’t fit the newest rides and again had to work myself into body image homeostasis again.

 I love and accept my body the best that I can, with a healthy knowledge that aiming for a lower weight is ideal for my health and wellness. 

That’s a hard struggle right there. On one hand, I’m supposed to be content with who I am and on the other hand, I’m supposed to be dissatisfied enough to make changes to who I am. Ideally, I should be able to sort out that intrinsically I am the same person despite weight or appearance, but it’s not quite that easy either.

It’s not the same me when I know I turn down certain activities right now because I feel too fat to join (long hikes, yoga, swimsuit-wearing, bust a dance move)

It’s not the same when I’m constantly fearful of airplane buckles, taking up too much space on a bench, or squeezing through tight rows of tables in a restaurant.

It’s not the same when I edit how I express myself because certain styles hide problem areas better.

In many ways, despite clinging to body positivity, I do feel limited if I’m honest. So, it’s time to reinforce what my body is able to do; right now, at this weight, at this time.

I am loved and able to love (platonically and romantically).

I am powerful. I love the strength I have and plan to work out and keep it. 

I am deserving of respect and dignity. No one can compromise that.

I am able to carry this body and walk and not grow tired. 

I am able to embrace my curves and be fashionable. 

I am able to look in the mirror and smile. 

I am able to try harder at weight loss and fitness. 

I am able to make an impact in the world around me. 

I am able to ground myself when negative body thoughts enter my mind. 

I am able to look back and see progress even if others can’t.

I am able to consider my choices and if they fit my path.

I am willing and able to pursue my goals.

I have and will fall short time to time but it’s time to kick butt again.

Too Fat to Ride

Talk about an amazing extended weekend staycation, and I got to do it with one of my best friends. I got eight hours of sleep multiple nights in a row, several coffee and chit chat trips with H, and we got a theme park and beach day in. It was amazing!

Living near Universal Studios and Disneyland, it’s always fun planning a theme park day especially when new attractions come out. H and a group of mutual friends and I were highly anticipating the brand new Harry Potter World addition in Universal Studios. I had turned down several invites throughout the year because it meant a lot to me that I go with this group of awesome ladies. And I’m glad I waited, because we all experienced the magic together for the first time. Every detail was considered and it really looked like you were transplanted to Hogsmead. That’s why one detail bothered me even more…

I can’t do coasters. The most I can stomach and often lands me with a headache is Space Mountain. Anything beyond that caliber means trouble. That’s why I did my due diligence and looked up the new HP World ride reviews on Yelp and videos on YouTube. As I preview Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, I notice an interesting video in my recommended panel. It had to do with not fitting. The lady in the video sat in a test seat and tried several times to pull the chest holster over and get a green light. It never lit. And my stomach sank as she said she is a size 18/20.

I’m a size 18/20.

I asked about ride intensity on one of my social media accounts, and again, someone commented on the confining seats.

I may be too fat to fit.

Now, instead of worrying about speed and intensity of the ride, I was afraid my 5’5 size 18/20 body would disqualify me from the fun.

I confided with H before the trip my fears before we went. I needed to let her no that no matter the outcome, I didn’t want anyone to feel bad or not ride on my behalf. As we entered the line, a Universal Studios staff member pulled us aside. He didn’t address anyone’s weight. He didn’t single out the overweight people in my party. He merely asked if it was our group’s first time on the ride and if we knew we’d fit comfortably.

Person by person, we tested the ride and the green light lit for our party.

For everyone but me.

I was too fat.

So many thoughts raced through my head and I chased them away before they could fester. Gathering the confidence I had left, I tried to stay positive and offer to hold my friends’ bags and see that as a bright side. Avoiding ride lockers is always a plus. The staff member was kind enough to let me try again and have a friend push down to see. No green light.

In a way it was hard. I wasn’t the only overweight person in the group, but I’m most definitely the heaviest. My taller and more apple-shaped friend fit just fine, and my shorter curvy all over friend did too. I can’t tell if my really thick thighs or Size 40 E chest was the culprit behind the red light. But either way, I didn’t fit. The guy apologized and said for the inconvenience he would give us a password to the front of the line. Which was awesome! I’m so glad we skipped an hour-long line. In no way was I singled out and I was so thankful. And I was happy the test seat was discreetly placed, and available so I wasn’t shamed as I hopped in an actual ride seat. One of the gals offered to stay behind with me and I wouldn’t have it. I thought it was so sweet, but I knew it would make me feel guilty and frustrated to have someone else miss on the fun because of me.

I sat in the child-switch area with all the bags and time flew by. I kept my mind occupied on the movie clips they had a tv screen. I stayed positive. We searched out the other HP world attraction and there was another test seat. This would just had a little seat bar. I thought, pretty much knew, I’d fit. I’m fat, but my butt fit it fair and square, but as I pulled the bar to my belly, it was my knees that hit.

Everyone else fit but me.

This is where it got difficult. I was prepared to not fit the first ride, but both?! What gives?! I tried to stay positive but this time, it was a full on war in my head. I was going to miss both the rides I’ve anticipated for half a year because I was too fat. Not only was I fat, I was shaped in a way that didn’t help me for either ride.

I want to disclaim that I’ve never felt entitled to anything or any accommodations because of my weight. I’m over 250 pounds and I know 250 is kind of where places draw the line. But at the same time, I felt like Universal Studios Hollywood did not care about my worth. I was too fat, too small of a percentage, for them to give two shakes about. And that made me feel awful. I fit ALL THEIR OTHER RIDES, I don’t require a seat belt extender in an airplane seat, but I couldn’t fit their new rides. How come their larger riders weren’t considered in the grand scheme of things? Why did I fit all their other rides and not these? Obviously the test seats alluded that many other riders would be facing my reality too.

I also felt it personally. I felt like I finally hit that “fat” where I am truly handicapped from certain activities. I can bend, I can walk long distances, I can carry myself with dignity, I can run miles at the gym, but I couldn’t fit these damn rides. Lots of ultimatums raced in my head.

“I have a season pass, I’ll starve myself until I fit.”

“I’ll use this shameful moment to GUILT myself until I’m smaller.”

“Look at my random health issue and this now. It means I need to do something EXTREME before it’s too late.”

These are horrible thoughts, and I’m ashamed to admit them, but they did reside in my head for the first half of the day.

I’m that fat. The kind that now holds me back. And that hurt. And it made me upset that even if I dropped a ton of weight, my boyfriend and other overweight friends would have to go through what I felt. That made me really angry.

We went on the tram ride, I got to excitedly share my favorite ride, Transformers, with our group, and I happily walked ahead of the group many times without needing my inhaler or huffing and puffing. Even with my edema, I gliding down stairs and walking fast.

I wasn’t a handicap, I am able-bodied! I tried to remind myself of how well my body was carrying me throughout the day. We were there until nightfall and I never ran out of breath or asked to take a break because I was tired. I might of failed a couple rides, but as a whole I was doing okay.

In the end, I was grateful for the caring and considerate group of friends who supported me and that I got to spend the whole day with. The fat factor will always sting, but I have to remind myself I am still able-bodied and valued, even if a couple theme park attractions disagree.

One Month Celebrations

Sorry guys, this is a long post. If you want to know more about the origins of a One Month party, read the first few five paragraphs. If not, feel free to skip down.

Many Asian cultures celebrate a newborn’s one month milestone. Full moon, Full month, One Month, Red Egg and Ginger – it has many names. Traditionally, it was more often for baby boys, but I’m happy to see several one month parties for baby girls these days. It’s interesting how ancient and modern have melded in places like Singapore where the parties are a nod to tradition but with a very western flare. In the United States it’s more common to see a baby shower happen before the mom-to-be delivers her baby. The thought behind it is to “shower” her in gifts beforehand so she is prepared when the baby arrives and needs are met. However, many parts of the world tend to wait until the child is born to celebrate. This is for several reasons, but also practically for the consideration of infant mortality and loss.

The full month or welcome baby celebration is held afterward to ensure baby is here and healthy and the friends and family can celebrate with both mom/parents and the baby all at once. IT IS the equivalent of a baby shower, and often are larger ordeal with grandiose food and sometimes ceremonies. And instead of diaper cakes and stroller group gifts, you often see jewelry and money gifts.

Part of the ancient/traditional process of the one month practice is to isolate the mom and baby for a whole month at home as they bond and heal from the birth process; meaning neither of them step out of the house and the mom is cared for by family members. During this time, people outside of the household are not supposed to visit or have contact with the baby. There are some outdated practices that aren’t always followed these days such as not showering the entire duration, drinking broth concoctions, and keeping yourself super warm/sweating/steaming. In older times, with the limited access to medicine and medical care, some of these ideals with the isolation were to ensure that the mom replenished herself and the baby did not get sick from the public and visitors.

It is beautiful to think that elderly family members like moms, aunties, and grandmothers make themselves available to encourage and care for the new mom almost around the clock. That’s something I love about this part of my culture. Family is always there for you; you are never expected to feel helpless or go through something alone. At the end of the month, the period of isolation is lifted and celebrated with a one month party.

I can assure you my SIL did none of these things although my nephew has been a delightful handful and in that sense they haven’t left the house much. He began cluster feeding very early and they worked hard to help him get to his birth weight as it took him a little longer to do so. No one really got to hold him or visit since they were working on getting him to eat and sleep on a schedule.

Little Kai’s one month celebration this weekend is more to honor the tradition and celebrate a new generation of family. We will not be following the hair and nail cutting ceremony [actually, you are to shave the babe’s head in Chinese tradition] or the pomelo leaf bath the day of the party. My dad also won’t be picking out the baby’s Chinese/Khmer name as the paternal grandfather. But, I’m hoping my mom might have one to suggest for fun. It is very important during the One Month Celebration to show filial piety in the form of offering food and incense to deceased ancestors and announcing the arrival of a new family member. This is buddhist practice, and we want to be careful as we are Christians but still give respect to our deceased family. Instead, we are not burning incense and offering anything as a food sacrifice, but we do plan remember my grandma and in her honor, mention her and how it would have been beautiful to have her meet Kai. We hope that we aren’t blurring the lines too much but at the end of the day, God knows our hearts.

A lot of the fun comes in the form of decorations and food. We will have lots of red around the home as it symbolically is a happy and lucky color for us. My parents ordered a whole roast pig that costs probably the equivalent of a smaller Louis Vuitton handbag. That’s the centerpiece of the feast. There’s also noodle dishes as the longs strands stand for longevity. I’m going to boil and dye some red eggs which are full month essential food item. Eggs represent fertility, birth, and new life. Usually the guests walk away with a little package of eggs and red peanut cakes as the “goodies.” An even number of eggs and pointed cakes are given for a boy, and an odd number and flat cakes are given for a girl. Since we spent a small fortune on the pig, I suggested almond kisses instead of peanut cakes. Both are pointed and contain nuts.

I’m so glad we can carry on this tradition and that friends and family from far away get to meet Kai. My SIL’s grandfather, who is very ripe in age, is traveling all the way from North Carolina that weekend, my uncle and family from a neighboring state, and one of my dearest friend will be here from a few states away. He is truly a delight and one of the cutest babies around, although that statement is rather biased. 😉

Test Results are In!

All the results are back.

I do not have a blood clot. 
I do not have liver and kidney issues. 
My ticker is doing just fine. 

This has been a very expensive process, but so worth the peace of mind! I was really stretched in my faith, and I needed that. Learning to lean on God and trust His will is hard. I don’t even want to dare say that I wholly leaned and trusted the whole time. But I got so much closer. I’m humbled, and mindful of how hard it was; on how much I have yet to grow in the area of trust.

I think the height of my surrender was last week, trying to get a last minute appointment to figure out the test results, and crying in the car and giving it all up to him. At that moment, I knew I could handle whatever was happening, big or small. I actually found it easier to trust God with my health, and harder to find that big faith in paying for all the extra expenses of the medical fees coupled with an upcoming car fix. I’m ashamed to admit that, but want to be real. Did God handle it all and help me figure out how to handle it all? Of course.

As Thanksgiving approaches, we remember to give thanks and find gratitude and I know this small trial is actually something I’m thankful for. I’m glad that I was able to go through this to grow my faith in the Lord. Is the issue gone? No. But I don’t have to worry about a horrible underlying cause.

I hope despite some of the excessive worry and financial freaking out, I was able to bring God glory in this. I am so grateful that no matter how the results could have come back, my God is there for me.

Lots of Happy in the Crazy

First of all, the ultrasound results are back and I DO NOT have a blood clot! Thank God! That in itself is worthy of a happy dance. I’m still experiencing swelling and waiting on blood test results, so I’m not in the clear, but I’m thankful to know it’s not DVT. Now I can get back to my gym routine (can I call it that yet if it’s still becoming a habit?) and check out all the new stuff at Universal Studios when my bestie H is in town.

Speaking of which, my best friend flies in this coming Thursday. I am so excited! It’s an almost annual trip and one of the highlights of my year. In past trips we’ve planned daycations and whatnot but this year is a little more relaxed. I’m looking forward to Coffee Bean trips, perhaps some beach time, and lots of catching up in person.

Last night my brother sent the cutest Kai pic ever from his newborn photoshoot and announced that he is finally up to birth weight and even a little heavier. It’s been a long few weeks for my SIL with cluster feeding and all that jazz. To help Kai with his weight gain, no one’s been allowed to hold him so he can sync with scents to Mom and Dad and work on hunger cues. The extended family has been waiting anxiously to get to hold the little guy and fingers crossed that happens soon.

Another silver lining that makes me incredibly happy is the new Amazon Prime Reading! Now I can view magazines and many popular books for free. Prime is the best thing ever. 2-day free shipping. Previewing music when new albums are released. No longer standing in the post office to pay $17 to flat ship gifts. I’m loving it. And now books.

Some of the madness includes waiting impatiently for blood test results, getting the house in order for a one month celebration in the span of a week, and selling a bunch of my furniture before said party happens. I’m so thankful for the happy parts that help tame the crazy. Life is a compilation of highs and lows but I’m so happy to be alive.

But If Not, He is Still Good

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So there’s a lot happening right now.
It’s a grab bag of happy and not-so-happy things.

I’ve been dealing with edema on one side of my leg for nearly a month. The crazy thing is this could point to really crazy things like kidney/heart issues or a blood clot. Or it could be nothing. I’m taking it seriously and spent last week and today getting some tests done to rule out things like deep vein thrombosis.

Friday afternoon, I somewhat grudgingly coughed up a couple hundred dollars to get an ultrasound done of my leg. I couldn’t see the screen or understand what the beeps and sounds meant as the medical staff moved their wand all around my leg. In that moment I felt a bit helpless and scared. I closed my eyes and prayed and tried to acknowledge to God I knew he was in control and if there was something there (like a blood clot) that it was His will for me and I’d accept that. More like I prayed that several times until my mind and heart were at the same place.

Today I woke up extra early to get a blood panel drawn to help rule other things out. I was there an hour before work started. Did I get done in time to clock in at start time? Nope. One hour and a half. That’s how long it took to get my blood drawn. And with a baby needle.

But I emailed HR from the waiting room and told them my situation and they said do not worry. Just like when a simple doctor visit last week turned into needing more time off for imaging. They have been so understanding. God is helping me in the details.

My brother is still suffering from his brain injury.
My newborn nephew is still needing to gain weight to get back to his birth weight.
My SIL is dealing with healing from birth, a newborn, and a husband with a brain injury.
And who knows what my health issue is.

One of my old church acquaintance’s husband is dealing with cancer right now. He went to the doctor to discuss migraines and found out it was much more than a migraine and is now in treatment for cancer. They have a friend who made bracelets to help raise some money and remind people to pray for him and the family. On it is stamped, “But if not He is still good.” It is not a direct phrase from scripture but is a coined rephrasing from a passage in Daniel.

Last night I picked up that bracelet I bought and meditated on the words and also prayed for them. Do I believe those words? I’m learning to. I’m learning to say despite circumstances, I can see He is still good. That His plans may not make sense to me. But I can trust and acknowledge His goodness even in hard times. Even in the if nots.