Vegas, Hospice, Freelance, & all the Rest

Last week I spent a few days in Vegas for the first time as an adult. My first Las Vegas memory was was made over a decade ago. My crazy theme-park loving cousin settling to “walk the plank” with his bride on a ship at Treasure Island because marrying at Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland was too many figures.

Fast forward to now, when I’m nearing thirty, and finally hitting it up as a gambling-and-drinks-legal adult. I did zero drinking, and wasted more money gambling than I should have, but the best parts were outside of the casino. I was able to join my boyfriend and his family for a little taste of downtown and Fremont Street. I’m pretty sure my eyes went wide at some of the debauch billboards and marketing but outside of that, it was all fun. In the course of one day, I dined at a Gordon Ramsay restaurant, saw my first Cirque de Soleil show (worth every penny), and ended the night high above the city on The Highroller enjoying the city lights with my love. And yes, it was hot as blazes.

Yesterday at my art lesson my heart sank a little to see a hospice van parked outside my teacher’s home. They delivered a walker to help her get around. Sometimes I get lost in my head and forget that my sweet friend isn’t going to get better. Spending time with someone that’s dying is both severely sobering and the sweetest thing. It means their time is near an end, but they still want to invest some of it with you. The doctor told her recently she is doing better than expected, which is a relief and hard news at the same time. It means more pain, more limitation, but a little longer to get things done. Some days we visit from when I’m off work until 7 pm. I had planned to be there until 6:30 but around 6:10 and after many phone checks, I could tell she was exhausted and it was time to cut the visit short. Sometimes I look back and see genuine smiles and joy, and other times I catch her grimacing with worry. But she has hope again, enough for tomorrow. “Maybe Saint ___ will heal me and I will be a miracle.”

Do you find it hard to answer when someone follows up a ‘how are you’ with ‘what are you up to?’ I feel like a majority of my life is mundane and no one would be interested in what I’d share even if I tried to sound passionate about it. I find myself answering with how my family is doing, or saying not much. I have a freelance job at the moment – my first time consulting, which is very exciting! But not something I’d necessarily share. I can’t believe August is here and that next month my little nephew will turn one. September begins the whirlwind: LOTS of birthdays of people I love, Bible study and my non-profit meetings start back up, and the thrill of holidays and a annual visit from my best friend. I should tell them not a lot is happening but I have many things to look forward to.

 

The Sobering Cost of Rent

If you read almost any money guru book these days, they are still harping on a very outdated rule of thumb that doesn’t really reflect the current housing market. The advice? Keep rent to 30% or less of your income.

If someone made 2k a month, that’s $600. (roughly 24,000/yr, $7,200 rent)
If someone made 3k a month, that’s $900. (roughly 36,000/yr, 10,800 rent)
If someone made 5k a month, that’s $1500. (roughly 60,000/yr, 18,000 rent)
If someone made 9k a month, that’s $2700. (roughly 108,000/yr, 32,400 rent)

In my current area, which is a nice suburban area outside a large metropolitan, in one of the most expensive states to live in, renting a small room is $650-800+. Most larger rooms with a private bathroom will run $900+. A two bedroom apartment is $1800+. Renting a basic home is $2600+. I don’t really know how many people are really able to spend only 30% unless they are shacking up with other friends or both making a nice income.

Here’s an article that breaks down the income necessary to make rent for a 2 bedroom apartment in America’s largest cities. Many people can make the rent by not following the 30% rule or living very frugally. The problem is, many of these places have a formula in place that require you to make 3x the rent per month or make 40x the rent annually. This means that even though one may be able to afford the rent, they may not qualify based on income expectations. For a couple that both works full time? This isn’t as difficult. For a family that has one breadwinner that has a decent job but not a high paying job? That’s problematic.

To live in Southern California, it basically takes two $45,000+ salaries to qualify for anything more than a bedroom. To have a home in Southern California, it basically takes two $50,000+ salaries or four $30,000+ salaries. There’s a reason why owning a home looks like something so far in the distance at this point. How long would it take you based on your annual income and savings plan, to gather 20% down for a half a million plus home? How much can one save for a house when rent is this high?

Sobering.

Legalism/Unity – A Free Verse

Legalism says we’re different.
Too different.

Legalism says here’s a piece of chalk:
Now draw a line. 

Legalism is the air-
Used in inflating egos.

Legalism says don’t question.
Just nod.

Legalism says
only show them your good side.

Legalism says
you’ll never be good enough.

Unity says we have differences
but also God. 

Unity says see my ugly;
see our ugly.

Unity says admonish
in love.

Unity says let’s discuss
and work this out together.

Unity says gather for
‘Iron sharpens Iron’.

Unity says
But with God all things are possible.

“Let’s Rename It.”

I clocked out of work on Monday, sat in my car, and checked my phone for voicemails and text messages. My art teacher has cancelled most of our planned meetings since her cancer diagnosis but today, I was notification free. My gut feeling wasn’t positive, but I drove over to her place anyway.

I was greeted at the door by my winded and pale friend. She grasped the door firmly and it took all her energy to just speak. “It changes from one moment to the next. I was doing better earlier,” she explained. From there I was beckoned into the kitchen where she placed a cracker-sized piece of sourdough topped with cheese, salami, and tomato in my hand. She leaned over the kitchen counter and tried to forcefully eat hers. “I’m trying. I’m really trying [to care for myself].” I watched her take a half-hearted bite while tears trickled down the corner of her eyes. She was exhausted. She felt defeated.

I forcefully swallowed the salami cheese lump in my throat and hugged her gingerly. I had tears too. “I’m sorry you are going through this,” I whispered. I walked back to my spot and finished my snack for her sake.

“I’m trying to pray fairly,” I told her. “I pray with faith for God to fully heal you if that’s His will, but I also pray that if it’s your time He gives you strength and lessens the pain.”

She nods and then apologizes for crying and I tell her it is perfectly fine to cry.

Her photoshop lessons are on pause indefinitely. Since she is now technically in hospice, we work on end-of-life planning. She helps me with painting and I help her gather pictures for her memorial montage. It’s just as heavy and grim as it sounds in theory, paired with her sharing sweet memories from certain snapshots.

We began with a new desktop folder. “What would you like to name it?” I dare not name it myself.

“Last.” She says firmly.

I type in her request with a heavy heart. We open up her pictures folder and go through each folder, one by one. I wouldn’t say this was a miracle, because I was CTRL+Z’ing some of the accidental shortcuts I made, but we had the folder name disappear twice when it shouldn’t have. Either her archaic laptop was freaking out, or I was subconsciously undo-ing more than once. The important part is that I wasn’t trying and truly didn’t understand why the folder name kept changing if I had so many images in there already and it wasn’t undo-ing THAT.

“Look. It disappeared again!” I searched her desktop for the Last folder and found it hiding out as “new folder 4”. “Perhaps last is not the right name for it. We need something more hopeful.”

She tightens her jaw. “Let’s rename it.” She takes a moment as her voice quivers: “Hope.” She apologizes again for crying. “Maybe it’s not my time yet.” We both remain quiet in the intensity of the moment. She pulls out a tissue and wipes her eyes. “You know, this is the first time I’m crying for me.”

Even though the buggy little four-letter folder may have been a glitch or oversight on my part, it truly was a miracle for her. It strengthened her and gave her hope for that day. And I know in that way, it was from God. It was a sign she isn’t defeated yet.

The Great Case Purge!

Toss all the CD/DVD Cases! 
X-All-The-Y

I used to be on the other side of this fence. How could someone ditch the case?! As a staunch lover of non-digital books and music (although I can appreciate digital!) however, I am rather inundated with media in bulky cheap plastic shells. I realized in this day and age with the churn rate of music and movies, that quality of packaging has gone to the crapper. My dvd cases lack the quality and heft they once did. The cheaply printed inserts lack a sheen and I can detect PIXELS from low resolution. This is probably because I peruse the $4/$8/$10/$12 section when I can which is probably so mass media they don’t give a bleep. I can appreciate the cover art and CD inserts but not so much the quality control these days.  Plus those flimsy eco paper cases? Barf. Hate them.

I purged the films and music I figured I’d never want to watch/listen to again or disliked and put the rest into the cases I bought off amazon. Now the towering pile is clear and the rest live in a black zippered case. Here’s a link if you want one.


Confession: I didn’t ditch all my cases. I’m a designer after all. I adore GOOD packaging. The nicest ones and favorites have survived the fate of being stripped. I kept about 25% of my DVDs in their cases and about 20% of my CDs. It’s all about balance. I only purged about 10% of my media because I’m pretty selective even though I have a good sized collection. I don’t buy DVDs often because I seldom rewatch things. And music I don’t care for I pass on.

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I also kept a majority of the CD inserts because I do appreciate the design and effort that goes into them and I am horrible at remembering lyrics. 😉 The CDs live above their companion inserts.

The DVDs live in a separate case and because I don’t own too many movies, I moved a lot of the family DVDs and mine into the DVD case and made the living room less cluttered for all.

I’m really happy I took the dive. It was time. This is probably one of the biggest change of hearts I’ve had since minimizing because for so many years I didn’t want to be a media case person.

One of the most helpful lessons I’ve learned from minimizing and following some minimalists is processing packaging. Some packaging is functional. Some packaging is necessary. But a lot of it? Once an item is bought it loses its appeal. Boxes and cases take up a lot of space. It’s better to remove most items and some dry food from its original packaging and either put it into something that organizes it or makes it easier to store. In this situation, the cases I ordered save me from visual clutter and don’t take away from the experience of what it is.

I’d highly recommend this project to everyone. Also because this gives me more space for books. And books are never clutter. 😉

His First Word is “Banana”

At least, that’s what his mom and dad claim. I have yet to hear this mythical first word despite my constant coaxing. He is now fluent in the ‘Mama’ and ‘Dada’ department, and babbles ‘banana’ on Tuesdays when Mama works at the birth center and Dada takes him to a nearby Trader Joes for a weekly banana treat. Some of his outbursts are also uncanny for ‘Yeah!’

Kai is now a little over 9 months, and I look at this little dude and think of how much he’s grown. He is both spirited and inquisitive and flips sides at the drop of a pin. In the grocery store, he’ll be all smiles and wave like crazy to everyone around him and then pause all emotion to examine the face of a particular person. He often folds his hand into a loose fist, with his pointer finger stuck out and posed on the corner of his mouth making that “hmm” pose. It’s the cutest thing.

Every month Kai grows and reaches new milestones is also a bittersweet moment of reflection for my brother, who still suffers from a concussion due to an auto accident that happened exactly one month before my nephew was born. I think of how hard it must be to mark his son’s new advancements and his limitations on the same day each month. It gets hard to answer those around me who are praying for my brother with the exact news months later: “There are slight improvements but he’s about the same.”

Kai adores his daddy. They spend almost every waking minute of their day together. It’s definitely harder for my brother to try to get all his mental exercises done and have time to rest with a baby on his hands, but at the same time, despite the constant migraine, he’s also blessed with being at home and bonding with his son during Kai’s first year of life. I think of the what-if: if he didn’t have the accident he would be working full time or be in grad school and working part time. My SIL has worked really hard to keep them afloat with her midwifery while being a good mom and wife. She’s really shown me how resilient she is. I’m hoping and praying that in the next few months, Kai and Daddy can both work on big milestones together – Kai in development and N in healing. Secretly, I’m hoping for a birthday miracle in September.

Shedding light or fanning flames? Why 13 Reasons Why and To the Bone don’t sit well with me.

Netflix garnered quite a bit of attention by picking up a series based on a book that deals with teenage suicide and high school pressures. They are back on the radar for the upcoming addition: To the Bone. I watched all of 13 Reasons Why and sat back and wondered about what resonated with me. I felt full of emotions that didn’t necessarily make me more aware, but impacted my well being because I left feeling very uneasy and negative. I watched the preview for To the Bone and also felt this kind of empty pit. Do these types of series shed light on an issue and offer aid to those who are seeking solace, or do they fan the flames of people on the edge? Is it opening a discussion with parents or inviting unhealthy triggers into viewer’s lives?

Reflecting on 13 Reasons Why, I remember feeling so upset that even though a mother and daughter team helped direct it (Selena Gomez and her Mom), and the characters had concerned parents, none of the characters were portrayed as close to their parents. They made out parents to be mindless, unaware, and unnecessarily concerned but unwilling to be more available. They made the high school kids to be in secure families but secretive and so open range that they could walk out on their parents and get caught with drugs at school and still just get an apathetic grumble from mom. To me, this just showed teens not to open up to their parents and to hole up their feelings. The parents seemed to fail them. The school counselor and teachers seemed to fail them. Reliable adult resources were failures, according to 13 Reasons Why. Now that I’m in my late twenties and a decade has passed since my teens, and I have worked with youth in ministry, my heart hurts to see depictions where adults fail the youth and where the youth don’t trust the people placed in their lives to help them. I want to scream, “we were in your shoes too! We understand, please open up to us!”

To the Bone looks like a heartwarming tale from the preview, but I also know that beyond some hints at lightheartedness, there is nothing to romanticize about an eating disorder (ED). It truly bothers me that they chose an actress with an ED past to play the main character and undergo weight loss and method acting that could have caused her to go into relapse. It’s obvious that makeup magic plays a role in making Lily Collins look gaunt and unhealthy, but let me also include a portion from an interview she did with Elle magazine:

“They hired a nutritionist, and we did it in the most healthy way possible. I had a lot of people…to be accountable for how I was doing it, and I had check-ups all the time. I thought it was necessary for me to portray the character in the best way that I knew I could, and also to pay homage to what she was going through. There was never any pressure put on me to reach a current weight or limit. I felt like I had to limit myself in a way as well. I felt like I had to get into that mindset and recognize some of the feelings that I once had felt and that Ellen was feeling.

The gaining of it back was probably a little harder, because it’s just a strange twist on what I went through when I was younger—which was about losing, not about gaining. The idea that after this movie I had to get back to proper health, it wasn’t as easy. You know, eating a bunch of burgers and milkshakes and all that—I don’t really eat meat anyway—it had to be done in a healthy way, and it’s not good to go from nothing to a lot, because your body doesn’t know how to handle it. It took a little while longer than I think most people would have expected it to, but it was a process that needed to happen and it was a very personal experience. But I came out of it extremely proud of the work we had done.”

Source: http://www.elle.com/…/lily-collins-to-the-bone-netflix…/

She felt she had to pay homage. She felt like she had to go back to that mindset. *shudder* WARNING WARNING WARNING. That is SO UNHEALTHY. For her to then say gaining it back was hard, I feel that also sheds light on the fact that even with her controlled environment, that process was difficult on her body.

I have friends and acquaintances who have struggled with ED. It is not heartwarming to hear someone is near organ failure or that they can’t ever have children because their body is permanently changed. It is not funny to see someone you felt so close to distance themselves to hide their condition. It isn’t beautiful to see someone who was so strong and full of energy be a ghost of their former self. It isn’t something you gather around a tv and observe and try to make light of. When you offer a happy ending? Sometimes it makes a fantasy of something with an often harsh reality. How many girls will think, wow, I can get myself to that point, and then a doctor/institution will save me? How many people will feel they can jump ship and get a red and white life preserver thrown at them? I just can’t help but feel very uneasy…

Are these shows shedding light or fanning flames?

What I Wish I Could Say to Those Who Wonder Why I’m Living at Home…

You’re in your late twenties and you live at home with your parents. What is the first thing people assume?

They assume you’re in debt, are a bum, or are mooching.

Others will do more than assume. They’ll reply, “Oh, that’s good. You can save money and pay off debt.”

Let me be clear:

– I graduated without student loans. The only debt I carry is a nominal credit card charge or two I pay off at the end of the month.

– I work a decent full time job that pays the bills. I DON’T live with my parents for free. I do pay less rent than renting a room elsewhere, but not by much.

– I have lived on my own for a few years and am capable of doing so again at the drop of a hat. Money would be a little tighter, but I would be just fine.

Here’s why I really live at home:

– I was able to increase the value of their home by moving back. I paid for them to hire a contractor to build a functional closet in the den and therefore the home has 4 official bedrooms instead of three bedrooms and a den. It’s not going to drastically increase the value, but if they choose to sell it down the road, that closet is something I can leave behind as a thank you for letting me stay here a couple more years. 

– Due to certain circumstances, my parents could use my rent as another rental is currently not making them money. My rent money provides some passive income. They used to make passive income on a rental home but that is not an option right now and my rent isn’t as much as they made on renting out a home, but it’s a good fraction of it (~25% vs nothing).

– I am silently there to help them transition into retirement. My aunt who moved away for work still owns a part of the home will be moving back soon and the house is filled with too much stuff from when we were living there as a family of four. It’s time to reduce their “stuff” and make room for my aunt’s things again. We are slowly clearing the garage, redecorating, and making things more functional for senior life.

– I was in a transitional part of my life where I wasn’t sure if I was going to have a career at my current workplace or have to search for other job options. I didn’t have the stability to sign a contract for a year somewhere or risk going into debt if something fell through at a new job and it took more interviews and searching.

– My old roommate moved states away and I do not have anyone that I trust and is reliable with a similar income to rent a house/apartment with. Good credit scores, annual income, and knowing they won’t back out is important when renting with someone else. I will only rent with another female and would not feel comfortable renting a room from a house with men.

– Renting a room from someone is complicated. More complicated than just renting from your own family and having complete house privileges. This is a big one. And I have a great relationship with my parents. They did want me to come home. In Asian culture, unmarried children are encouraged to be home rather than spend too much on renting.

– It does save me money. I have to be honest and say I do save $100-200/month renting from my parents vs renting a room elsewhere. And that does add up. It would be foolish of me to rent a studio apartment with how high rent is in my area. I’d be looking at $1200-1700 on a studio/single bedroom which is not a smart move financially.

– I don’t do well being alone. I am a pretty private person and an introvert but without reliable human interaction I am not in a good place with mental health. Being alone causes my anxiety to worsen and encourages feelings of depression. I need to be surrounded by people I like and love.

It’s frustrating because people don’t “get it” and I am not going to waste my breath explaining all of this to them. People think millennial and living at home and don’t even care to hear my side of the story.

To keep it short and sweet, I usually reply with a “Well, it works for all of us.” 

Does anyone else identify with anything I’ve written above? Please share below.

As the Hourglass Gets Low the Sand Becomes More Precious

I went over to my painting instructor’s home with my painting in hand and a small bag of groceries she requested now that she can’t drive. It was mostly catholic candles and fruit.

She sat me down at her table and offered me a bowl of warm soup. Her kids may be grown but she extends her Italian Mom hospitality to me. As she speaks, she keeps telling me, “Eat, Eat!”

I know that with the cancer and her collapsed lung she tires more quickly so I obey her and ladle another spoonful into my mouth.

“I just know in my heart I’m not going to make it this time.”

A lump formed in my throat as I forcefully made myself swallow that mouthful of chicken noodle soup.

My spirit sunk as I searched for words and knew there were none to offer. Just this weekend, I ran across a powerful quote: “Learn to give support, not advice.” This time support was listening. I knew it wasn’t time to conjure up some false encouragement or tell her she could fight it. But I wanted to. So badly. She was entrusting me with her deepest feelings; ones she couldn’t even express to her children.

I wanted to remind her how strong she has been in life – how she raised three kids as a single parent and at one point juggled three jobs to make ends meet. I wanted to blurt out how she defied cancer last time with only a 5% chance of survival. But I also saw the tired in her eyes and knew this life and pain had caused her to grow weary and weak. She knows heaven is on the other side and isn’t scared to talk about death and dying.

She went on to explain that chemo was not an option right now because it is so potent and hard on the system and that at this point, she was only pursuing radiation to ease the horrible pain.

We moved into the painting room and I saw a little spark of energy as she helped me figure out how to blend my acrylic paints correctly with my cheapie brushes. I saw that smile and pride in her work and how happy art made her. I fought my sunken feelings and concentrated on what she instructed.

The phone rang a handful of times during our lesson. Her son, worried, asked her to spend the night. Her doctor, the one who helped her beat cancer four years ago, called to express his sincerest sadness in finding out she had cancer again.

When she came back from the calls, she helped me figure out the next part of my portrait and then went on to tell me this and that about what she would like me to help with if her time came to a close. She wanted me to help her children with the picture slideshow. She wanted me to make sure her paintings and her stories for each one were rightly recorded. I nodded and shook off the sadness best as I could but my face couldn’t hide it. When she noticed she asked me not to cry and of course those words opened the flood gates. I tried to compose myself as quickly as I could as I knew my sadness pained her.

Over the course of this year, her right arm has grown weaker. She had no idea what was causing the intense pain and her doctors didn’t figure out it was cancer until last month. Now she has cancer in multiple spots in her bones and is fighting a collapsed lung. I’ve never paid her a penny to take lessons. We had a special agreement that I’d give her Photoshop lessons in exchange for painting lessons. The last several months with that weakened arm, my “lessons” have mostly been visits where she tries to make me feel like I am instructing her even though she isn’t able to do much.

I know in my heart we’ve formed a sweet friendship and she mostly pretends to still trade lessons for my sake. She wants to see me further my painting abilities and at this point doesn’t really expect much of a trade. She isn’t even instructing at her two jobs anymore, yet she has invited me to continue our lesson time even though she is very weak.

I think of all the other things she could be doing with these two hours once a week, knowing she could possibly only have until the end of this year, and I realize how special this gift is. She is gifting me something very precious: some of her remaining time. I will always be grateful for these moments.

Privacy, Growth, and New Blog Directions

I’ve been thinking about Quarter Lifer Musings and what my plans are for it. And I’m unapologetically honest and open here, with the intentions of keeping this blog raw and wholly me. I realize that my space doesn’t offer a steady stream of regular subjects as I write what’s on my heart and what is happening in my life, but I also think it’s time to stop nesting in shareable non-personal content. This blog is organic and I’ve noticed that any kind of “series” just doesn’t fit. As social media beckons us to put on a show, to give people what they want, and to have the best posed pictures and edited content, this blog is still my intention to defy the call to put on a mask. This truly is an open and safe space.

I don’t link to this blog on my social media accounts because I like having a sense of anonymity here, although I do enjoy a visit from friends and the occasional re-blog. It’s also a reason I rarely share lifestyle pictures and don’t include pictures of myself. I don’t necessarily want people reading up on my life whilst looking for advent calendar DIYs, plus size hacks, or minimalism. Or feeling really confused that my blog is 85% journaling. I think it’s best that I take recipes/dieting/health and give it new life as a separate blog and do the same for creative projects. Those are areas I do want to facilitate more traffic in and can leave personal details out of. I would like to see growth and more interaction in there and would like to share to my media pages.

Quarter Lifer Musings is an open book and I hope to garner conversation, but it’s also somewhat an unlocked private diary.  I wouldn’t stash my sketches and diet and exercise notes in a diary, and likewise, those subjects on this blog has come to a close.

You’ll still see me mention creative musings and the constant battle of the bulge and keeping active, but you won’t see me posting in great detail about it here.

What is nestled quite safely here is my thoughts on religion, social justice, feminism, Christianity, being a plus size lady, living intentionally, minimizing, being in a creative field, and all the wonderful and confusing bits and pieces of life in my 20-30’s.

Thank you for being a part of this space with me and I hope you’ll continue to visit despite the changes. I’ll have more information on the creative blog and health/diet/exercise blog as they come to fruition.