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.

Race Day, Debriefing, and Vacay

The days leading up to the event and shortly after were a blur. After spending a whole year with a team planning up a one day event, I can only imagine the race day as something along the lines of a wedding day. After months and months of laying everything out, the actual day is overwhelming and wonderful and a lot.

This is my second year on the planning team but the first I’ve made it to the event (thanks, stomach flu) so it was amazing to see it all in person. I helped with publicity so my task was done before event day so I had the chance to be a volunteer and enjoy the event as an attendee after that. My mom volunteered with me to be race course monitors during the actual race. I cheered the 10k crowd on as they ran and was pleasantly surprised at how kind runners are. Many thanked me for volunteering or took time to say Hi to me or Thanks. There were so many people, and I can only hope that through runners, attendees, and everyone else present that we raised a lot of awareness and funds for foster kids in my county. We had a pinwheel garden that had over 1,000 pin wheels in it representing every child in the foster system. It was probably the biggest visual impact we had and new this year.

One of the sweetest surprises of the day was a phone call from my boyfriend. I was a major grump after trying to find parking again post course monitoring and practically yelled at him for asking me if I wanted a starbucks. I scratched my head at that thought since he doesn’t live that far away but it was totally out of his way to get me coffee (but Lord knows I needed it). It turns out, he was super sneaky and signed up for the race and walked/ran it without my knowledge! I was greeted by a java chip light and his smiling face with a race medal around his neck. ❤

This weekend we did our debriefing where we discuss how to make next year even better. It was from 8am-5pm and really did take that long to go over all the bits and pieces. A lot of the team was there and we really have bonded over this event. Our hearts our unified in benefitting foster kids and the rest is history. I will never take a non-profit event for granted after knowing personally how much has to happen behind the scenes.

I’m glad our 2017 planning year is officially done until 2018 planning starts back up in August. That means being able to sleep in again on Saturdays which I could use. Ahhh.

I’ve taken one vacation day this year so far and I realized next month is a halfway marker for the year. I was definitely feeling a little work and home life (renter) burn-out and it happened to work out that one of my best friends and I worked out an 4 day lake getaway. I’m looking forward to some R&R and best friend time with one of my favorite people in the world. 🙂

Words that Sting and Mall Therapy

There are few things that can sting my heart so badly but attack my mental capacity or pressure me about wedding plans and unfortunately you have me in a bad spot.

My practice of marking things to spam has helped me greatly but admittedly, I am still shaking off these words.

You see, my parents had a family friend stay with them and in the course of us interacting while they were here, she spoke few things to me and the few that she did were obsessed with me being married.

I was there the night she and her son arrived. She found a moment and called me to sit down at the table and asked me, “So do you have any good news?”

I may not always pick up on social cues but I definitely knew where this question was directed. However, not wanting to cause a scene and having something exciting to share, I proceeded. “Yes actually! I got a raise and title promotion at work! I’m now the media director at my company.”

Her response? A scoff and half-hearted muttered “Oh.” And that was the end of that. No more questions, no more conversation.

The next evening I was hanging out with them again and my brother, his wife, and baby were also there. We were sitting on the floor watching Kai crawl [a new and still cutely awkward crawl!] around.  She asks me, “When is the big day?” Half shocked, half speechless, I asked her what big day. She told me, “Oh you know.” I told her flat out I didn’t. That’s when instead of dropping it, she decided to respond with. “Look at your brother. He’s already married and has a baby.”

Ouch. Instead of taking my chance to stop the convo, you end it with comparing my achievements (or lack thereof in her book) to my brother’s.

It hurts because everywhere I turn people are ASKING me that question. And while I know many of them are just genuinely curious, it’s really hard on my emotions. And when I keep it short they always ask me if my boyfriend has sat down with me and discussed it and how far we’ve worked on getting to that point. That part is complicated. Would I like to be married soonish? Uh…why do you think it hurts so much? But is that even practical right now? Not even. And even though I have no hard or jealous feelings towards my brother and his little family, the fact that he has one has made it OPEN SEASON for people who know my family. It’s like Nate is A, therefore I am B.

All that to say, still sore and wounded, I turned to my favorite pastime for therapy – shopping. I went straight to the mall after work, partly to make a return, and mostly to get lost in the noise.

The Laura of two years ago would have scavenged the racks looking for every deal in existence. The Laura of two years ago would have tried on anything relatively in her size and bought half of it. But I’m not her, and that surprised me in a very nice way. I had a mental list of shops I wanted to go to and once I got to the mall I didn’t feel the need to go into most of them. I mostly browsed and breathed in the bustle and the diverse languages and sounds and smells [because PTL I can smell right now!]. I got the most satisfaction going into Sephora and sniffing all the perfumes I hadn’t been able to before. I bought one shirt, one necklace, and ate a comforting bowl of poke salad and my heart was content in that.

To-do Lists and Chicken Soup

Lists help me stay sane. I haven’t always been this way – in fact, I remember my friend Amber tell me she liked to write down lists that sticking in my head in college. It’s therapeutic to me now it’s the little bit of hand writing I get in this digital world and I’m able to transfer any anxiety of any task to the paper once it’s on there. It helps me be more thorough and make the most of my time.

One of the beautiful things I am seeing is that menial tasks are showing up less as I minimize more. Things that required daily attention only need weekly attention now, in some cases. This is a result of less stuff to clean/put away and working on methods to get things done more efficiently but also choosing not to create new projects I cannot devote time to (the last one being the hardest for this scatterbrained multitasker.)

I would love to get to a point of optimizing my life where I could be a good and hospitable person and not worry about my room and surroundings being a train wreck. I recognize this is both a physical stuff thing and an attitude change. I want to be able to embrace rather than fight the hotel my home can be sometimes and focus on the people not the stuff around that makes it uncomfortable to have them there. As much as I kick and scream at the relatives and friends and just how much traffic we get at the house, there is a sweetness to knowing our home is well loved and people feel at home here.

One of the sweetest examples of hospitality I’ve seen lately is through a lady in our non profit planning group. She primarily helps with silent auction items. Since we live pretty close to each other and she isn’t always able to make the Saturday morning meetings, I’ve been offering to pick up/drop off items and take them to the meet. We live about 20-25 minutes away from the meeting spot, and she has school aged kids in sports and other activities on the weekend. I let her know it would never be a problem for me to drop by because it’s a lot easier for me to hop in my car than wrangle some kids with different schedules and homework and she laughed. 😉 We don’t speak much outside of drop off/pick up. I text her that I’m there and she always comes out and spends a few minutes talking to me. Not about the event, but actually about my day and whatnot. And she always asks me if I’ve had dinner yet and lets me know she made plenty. And if I say no (I always say no) she always asks me if I’m sure.

She hardly knows me, only needs to know my name and number, and yet she goes out of her way to make sure I’m not hungry, because there’s chicken soup inside her home. Her home, where her kids and life is. Where she got a 5 minute warning that I was on my way and probably didn’t spend that 5 minutes scrambling to clear the place just in case I said yes. What a heart check for me.

People over things. Never the other way around.

A Late Bloomer, A Once Dormant Seed

Do I know myself? 

The obvious answer is, “Who could know you better?”

As easy and sufficient as a yes could be, the truthful answer is, “I’m still getting there.”

I am a late bloomer in the sense that I have only spent a handful of years searching, discovering and asserting things that makes me essentially Laura.

As a person pleaser, it has taken me YEARS to be open, honest, and consider MY feelings being of equal importance. The idea of taking and giving is hard for me. I have a hard time opening up but I want to speak up when needed and know it’s okay. I have the right to voice my opinions. I have the right to communicate my feelings even if they won’t be well received. It always shocks me when I do speak up how much I audibly needed to hear it.

As a goody two shoe growing up in a highly conservative and religious environment, I held back so much of myself trying to fit a mold. I love Jesus. I also love secular music, fantasy and supernatural movies, all types of art, and don’t always see things as black and white. And others don’t fit the mold so well either, but I didn’t honestly know that because we, myself included, were so bent on seeming perfect. I hid all the parts of me I thought were weird or that others wouldn’t like. The truth is despite scoffing at legalism, it was a cloud that hung low and was always on my mind. Shaking off that fog has been GREAT for my faith. I want to be real with people.

I’ve only diversified, traveled, and encouraged my own thinking since about 23. My bubble growing up was pretty tiny. I’m naturally introverted and have always been a family girl and homebody. I grew up with both parents working and they never made it a big deal to set up play dates or whatnot. My brother actively sought out friends and hangouts, but I was quiet and internalized my loneliness. How could they know I wanted more if I never said anything? I kind of settled. I was group bullied by girls in my 4th grade class and physically abused by a guy in public school that threatened to kill me if I ratted him out and in hindsight, should have had some counseling. I was removed from public school and homeschooled, which was a great opportunity, but I also carried a bitterness and apathy from those experiences. People betrayed, people hurt me, people weren’t worth investing it. So I shut almost everyone out. It took some unwavering friends and leaning on my faith to get me out of that pit. I had to figure out that others were also hurting and that I couldn’t show Jesus’ love with that attitude. I had to invest in people even if it was hard.

As a teen and young adult, I never really said yes to socializing events/self-building opportunities. I also wasted too much time using what opportunities I had going to malls with people instead of really talking deeply with them and rooting our relationships. It wasn’t until the latter half of my college career that I was in an area that wasn’t predominantly white. I enriched myself in different cultures by getting to know students of other nationalities and through college classes. I realized there was so much more. As my friends moved away, I slowly started taking solo flights and losing the anxiety of being alone in a new space. At 25, I moved out and liberated myself with the idea of being self-sufficient. I finally found a new home church around 26 and a church body that was what I needed. At the end of 27, I realized stuff and clutter was dragging me down and now I am more mindful of who I am and what I need physically and mentally.

– I’ve grown to love myself and take me as I am. With mindfulness and the body positivity movement and embracing feminism, I am more aware and accepting of myself. Yes, I am fat – I’m not longer scared of that word or what it means. It doesn’t hold power over everything else I am, and I have a lot more than pounds to offer. I’ve realized that even though I don’t feel able, I have so much potential and it is worth it to try and take risks.

There are some people in their late teens/early twenties that I look at and think, “Wow, I wish I was that self-aware at their age.” But I know I’m not the only late bloomer. There are many of us, and rather than looking at years wasted or not given their full potential, we should celebrate that our petals have opened, and we have so much more to see and to be.

Yes, I was dormant: I was a seed waiting for the right conditions to sprout. And I have sprouted. And I am growing.

A Local Friend

One of my heart cries the last few years has been for a local friend.

I want to say that carefully…because I do have solid friends around me, but they are either a lengthy drive away, or are super close in proximity but more of an acquaintance. I don’t want to hurt anyone but the absolute truth is, I don’t have someone I’d consider a very close friend in town.

There is something special about having a local someone who will be there for you at the drop of a pin, who makes you a priority, and who is good for the soul. Someone you also want to invest in and love on and encourage. A person to grab coffee with. To wind down with. To remind you to reach for your dreams or be honest enough to say hard things to you when you’re wrong…

I can’t remember how many times I’ve asked for this kind of friend in my prayers. Someone who is fun and has big dreams so we can feed off each other’s inspirations and help each other out. Someone who loves the Lord too so I can get some much needed spiritual encouragement as well. A person who isn’t afraid of the good and bad sides and takes me as me.

And I think God has given me that friend.

We’ve only spent a little bit of time together but I see us really connecting. She is very different than me – loud, energetic, quickly ready to take anything on, and animated. I am gentle, relaxed, somewhat hesitant but headstrong, and quiet. I’m not used to having a buddy whose voice echoes throughout the whole restaurant when we’re chatting over lunch. I’m not sure how to handle her umpteenth offer for us to spar at the local martial arts studio. I don’t say this negatively, but I’m also not used to someone as dramatic. Conversely she must also be practicing patience with me as I open up very slowly and like to think before I do.

I love that she is always up for adventure and trying new things. That is something we both love. I also adore that while we might not agree on everything doctrinally, we both are believers. She has a big heart and is involved in missions and charity projects. We are also similar in wanting to help and spread kindness. So I think the parts where we are different are good for me. And I hope I can also be good for her.

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.