8 Months

My non-profit planning meeting just finished, and I had just grabbed a simple bite to eat, and hit the road to my brother’s place.  Almost every weekend there’s been a call asking if I can help with the baby while they gain some sanity. Not because my sweet nephew is an inconvenience, but because my brother’s concussion is still alive and well 8 months after the accident.

My SIL just got Kai fed and napping and placed him in my arms. My brother just got up to get some small tasks done — and boom: one of the most painful migraines he’s experienced in months hits. I sat on their couch rocking the baby ever so slightly to keep him soundly asleep as his father wept at the kitchen table not even 20 feet away.

If you saw my brother, you would usually hear cheer in his voice and the soundness of his intelligence as he engaged in a deep conversation with you despite having a constant headache. You would assume he was fine. Sometimes I even forget for a split second. And then, moments like this occur when you really see the monster rear its ugliness.

My brother called out for my SIL to make some quick food so he could eat and take his medication. His words were trembling and she quickly put something together and stroked his back and spoke gently with assuring words to him. His weeping was only stifled enough to swallow the meager meal in front of him so he could safely take the prescriptions lined in front of him. R counted out the dosage of multiple things and made sure in the fog of emotions and pain N could follow and confirm.

It was like watching the most heart-wrenching play unfold before me and I tried to stay quiet and bat the tears away from my eyes. This has been N and R’s reality for 8 months. This has been little Kai’s reality for 7 months – his entire life so far. It’s been mommy running around trying to clean the house, trying to make enough money to pay the medical bills, trying to do her best choosing to exclusively nurse while taking daddy to multiple appointments each week. It’s daddy trying to keep him entertained while bracing through a war of emotion and constant pain. It’s mommy holding back a break down because her home is a mess and she hasn’t had a moment to compose alone in close to a year.  It’s daddy feeling powerless and trying to fight feelings of depression and inadequacy as a husband and father and fighter.

To be honest, most weekends I feel like I’ve cut myself short because of the 12+ hours I am there when they call. But how could I say no? How could I not do what I can to give them the smallest flicker of stability when this is their reality? This is more important. So I rock the baby ever gently and put off the piles of laundry and whatnot that await me at home for a weekday.

Happy and Fulfilling Times

It’s been a while since I’ve posted and I think in a way it was to actualize the fun things happening right now. Do you remember as a kid not quickly sharing something exciting to keep from jinxing it and to make sure it was still going to happen?

I got a good raise.

A few weeks ago we had reviews at work and I walked out of that meeting with a generous raise. It wasn’t impressive in a moving-up-a-tax-bracket way, but it meant a lot to me. In the meeting my boss praised me for my attitude, commitment to detail, and professionalism. Not only that, be he was excited to do my review first because he was most excited for it. He told me that he wants me to be a vital part of this company and fill bigger shoes with a more managerial role. Essentially, be the marketing director in the making.

Not only that, but I figured out the extra income I’d make with the raise and God specifically answered a request with it. I have a large electronic purchase to make, in the thousands range, and numbers nearly matched. That is a huge praise. I know that after taxes it won’t completely cover the device, but I believe that pre-taxes amount matching is from God.

I am doing a bigger part for the non-profit.

This year I didn’t get to be print chair. I got to be publicity assistant. But I’ve done a lot of stretching and contacting and making connections that I think will benefit our cause in the future. And that, despite some stress and extra time, is super empowering for me. I connected our executive director with the president of a county-wide Autism organization and she said she’d like to partner with us to give foster kids with Autism a bigger voice. I kickstarted a PSA process so that we can spread the news of our event via broadcasting from now on. I reached out to bloggers and advertisers and built up my sense of brave.

I’m helping out my brother and sister-in-law.

It’s been seven months and my brother is still dealing with a lot of pain and the concussion has not improved noticeably. With all the medical bills post accident, my sister-in-law is working hard trying to break even while working, driving my brother to specialists, and exclusively nursing their 6 month old son. It’s been tough to keep it together with the financial and emotional strain coupled with the lack of sleep a baby brings. She is so strong and I admire her so much. My brother is such a trooper too. I don’t know how he is coping with so much pain. On Friday or Saturday I’ve been spending the night and helping with my nephew so my brother can rest and my SIL can do the paperwork side of her job/catch up on housework. I try to get the dishes and other little chores out of the way when my nephew naps to help them out.

It’s a very busy but fulfilling season of life, and I’m filled with gratefulness.

Ignoring Ignorance. Choosing to Love.

First of all – my ultrasound results for my legs came back negative for a circulation issue. That’s a big praise report! I still have no idea what is causing my issues but I think it NOT being blood clot or circulation related is a definite positive.

With some of the health issues of late, I’ve gotten constant reminders, not from doctors but my mom, to lose weight. She loves to chime in with “maybe your problems would go away if you just lost X pounds.” (Yes, there is some potential truth to that) She also drives me batty because she’s one of those people who watches infomercials and thinks it or what Dr. Oz has to say will be magical for me. “I’ll buy you this 30 day fix.” “Dr. Oz says to lose weight you should…”

Most recently I showed her passport photos I got done. My hair was down but placed behind my shoulders. The camera angle was rather unflattering because it was angled slightly up instead of straight on. I showed it to her to let her know I was proactively working on getting my passport ready but her first response was, “Did they tell you to put your hair back like that? It’s better in front of your face.” Without being direct, she hinted that my moon-shaped face looked slimmer and more flattering with hair covering the sides and elongating.

My aunt who lives in town was over a while back and I was a little more done up that usual in a dress and wearing makeup for church. Before she left she grabbed my face and told me how beautiful it was. She said if I could lose weight I’d have a beautiful body to go with it. She tried to encourage me with her double sided words, assuring me that some people have a nice body but can’t change their face, but I had the face and my body can change.

I’m still surprised I made it through teen-hood and my early twenties without an eating disorder. I don’t mean that flippantly. I’m serious. My family and extended family have been my worst offenders throughout my life. I still remember the holiday I locked myself in my bedroom after my uncle offered to give me $1/lb that I lost. I thought “wow, I cost less than steak per pound. My total worth is about $220.”

Why am I bringing this up? Because I could be very bitter and hate these family members for their words. Instead, I choose to forgive their ignorance and ignore their implications. I am more comfortable with who I am than ever although I do wish to lose weight. And their hurtful comments are now easy to shake off because I know I don’t need to process their unfiltered nonsense.

I wrote about sending comments to spam here. It’s been a life changing way of dealing with negativity and unsolicited comments. I can be conscious of my present state and plan of action without letting the thoughts of others invade my feelings.

I’m changing for me. No one else.

Double Whammy: When good times and bad times share the same date.

This Sunday was Josh and my dating anniversary. It was also my Uncle Norman’s birthday. His first one since he passed last year. Of course it doesn’t mean anything to him anymore in heaven, but to his family and friends that are still here? I miss him and know my aunt is going through a rough patch right now as she is coping. Yesterday was pouring rain and she didn’t even make it to church. She was home alone on a gloomy weather day, mourning her husband. That got me as I empathized with her. Josh took me to a yummy restaurant for dinner that evening and ended the night with a surprise movie date where it was just us, a big screen, and a pint of ice cream to share between the two of us. There were feelings of great sadness and great happiness yesterday.

Last year on my birthday I had one of the hardest birthdays I’ve ever had to face. Josh had just surprised me and taken me out to lunch on my lunch break and dropped me back at work. The phone rang about 30 minutes later and my brother informed me if I wanted to say goodbye to my uncle I better go to the hospital now. I cried so much throughout that day. And I was there, emotionally distraught, until the wee hours of the next morning when my Uncle drew his last gasping breath. I am wholeheartedly thankful for that opportunity. To bond even deeper with my cousins and aunt and my family as we drew strength from each other to make it through this very hard goodbye. To let my Uncle know, however lucid he was, that all of us were there. But I know without a doubt that my birthday this year will be hard to celebrate. It’s also marks my last year of being in my 20’s. And it’s a sad reminder that I have no close local friends to celebrate it with. My closest friends are scattered hours or days drives away from me.

I probably sound like I’m throwing myself a big pity party, but really, I am just a deeply emotional person conflicted by the happiness and sadness of life contrasted by loss.

NYR’s and PR’s

NYRs = New Year Resolutions
PRs= Personal Record

I had a wonderful Christmas and New Year! I’m feeling refreshed and ready to make the most of 2017. I’m also humbled and feel like my selfish desire to hide out for a week was wrong. I truly enjoyed the company of the relatives that came for Christmas and the relatives I saw in Arizona during my week off.

I ate horribly this holiday season. I didn’t really follow any guidelines for food or exercise and I sweet-ed myself out. All that to say when I was in AZ with my cousins and they were obsessing talking about logging calories into myfitnesspal, going to the gym religiously, and breaking all types of weight-lifting PRs, it made me feel super crummy. Some of the crummy I deserved to feel because I was making poor choices. But a lot of the crummy felt like shame, incompetence, and worthlessness — and I’m not okay with that.

They have all worked hard and I can’t discredit their efforts. I’m PROUD of them. I will say that they started out as healthy individuals of ideal weight and physical ability when they started so they didn’t have weight or health issues and were able to hit the ground running. Trying to compare myself with them isn’t fair. We have different goals even though we’re both working on our health.

We went out for a hike one of the days there and I needed to prove to my own self that I was capable. As we hiked (it was an easy trail, btw) I kept the lead most of the way up and down. Some of them weren’t wearing proper shoes or clothes, and I was in snug jeans, so none of us had ideal attire, but I pushed myself to keep ahead. It didn’t matter if they were casually hiking and I was putting in 110%, it mattered to me that I was able to keep up and feel good about what I was able to do. That hike dissolved a lot of the mucky feelings I was having and set my mind straight for 2017.

Here are my 2017 resolutions:

1. A healthy body, mind, and spirit. First and foremost.

Learning to rest/de-stress myself physically and mentally because I’m HORRIBLE at it. And leaning on Jesus. Also working on this body of mine, one day at a time, with new focus.

2. Working on patience instead frenzy, kindness instead of aggravation, and helpfulness instead of frustration. Especially with family members.

3. Minimizing belongings and unnecessary thoughts/feelings that cloud my outlook, rob my time, and prevent me from seeing my potential. Dwelling on/owning what truly brings me joy.

4. Being better friend. Finding new local friends organically.

5. Giving myself a heck of a lot more grace than I did in 2016. But also push myself harder with healthy motivators.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Holiday Focus

This holiday season has been rough for me. Mostly because I am trying so hard to keep it centered on Christ and I feel like I’m failing. There’s been bouts of sadness, bickering, you name it – and it makes it hard to feel the true joy that is at the heart of Christmas.

I wonder if trying harder this year makes me more conscientious that I could do better. I don’t feel like it’s a trial or that I need to “blame Satan” for interfering. No, this is just because I’m an imperfect person in a busy secular world and interactions with others and distractions get in my way.

I hope my effort despite recent failures pleases God. I’m not trying to guilt myself or fit a certain mode of worship, I’m just trying to take the steps I can, because that’s the right thing to do.

One of the hardest parts with my living situation right now is that we have a guest room and it is constantly occupied. This weekend relatives are staying to go to a Sweet 16. Then, next weekend, one of my cousins and her family will be here for Christmas. And then, immediately after, my family is caravan-ing to a neighboring state for a big birthday party.

That precious week of vacation time I saved for the week of Christmas? Now gone to hosting people and traveling out of town. Is it wasted? No. But is it what I wanted? No.

I wanted a week of low key relaxing, wrapping up the Christmas season in the comfort of my home and preparing for the new year by taking care of personal things. Now I’ll be hosting people, driving 7-8 hours out one way and then back, and returning to work in the new year exhausted instead of rested.

Is it selfish to just want some darn peace and quiet? Is it cruel to not appreciate seeing relatives and getting to spend more time with them? I don’t know. I’m just running on empty.

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. 😉

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.

His Name is Kai

I received a very happy call yesterday from my brother with the announcement of his son’s name! They have decided to name him Kai. He explained that picking a global name with many origins in different cultures was perfect as Kai has a rich and mixed heritage of Asian, European, and some Native American descent. Kai means ocean or sea. Coupled with his middle name [which means help], his namesake is “an ocean of God’s help.”

I didn’t put this together before, but he also told me that Kai was born exactly one month after the bad car accident, one that is still causing him trouble from his brain injury. He said in that period of time he really saw God’s help and help from others as they prepared for the little guy’s birth. I later told him that phonetically, it sounded very similar to the Khmer word for “month” which is also a beautiful testament to how something beautiful can happen despite hard circumstances with time and patience.

People thought N+R were so strange to go the “traditional route” and wait to find out the sex of the baby at birth. They were further flummoxed by the fact they hadn’t picked a name on his birth date. It’s interesting to think that the first thing we possess isn’t material and is given by others; that’s quite humbling. A name carries so much meaning, whether it is after a friend, relative, or icon or was picked for the meaning or because it felt meant to be.

Something else that is quite sentimental to me is that since N+R are currently renting the old family home, baby Kai’s room was my old nursery. And so another generation of our family plants their roots in that home. ❤