A Reeling Loss

I suppose I tend to take a hiatus every year around my busy travel season. Usually, it’s because I stop being a productive reader in that time and I’m not sitting down long enough to write. This year, I have a different story, unfortunately.

Two months ago, my dad passed away due to complications from cancer. Sometimes, saying that phrase sounds so bland. Of course, cancer kills people, but if you had seen my dad just two months before he passed, it was like he had made a miracle recovery. He was in great shape, his hair had come back, and besides a lighter appetite, there wasn’t much difference. He would go in for routine chemo, lay low for a day or two, and then get back up. In late August, things just got bad quickly. He spiked a high fever that wouldn’t come down, and after entering the hospital, he was put on assisted breathing within a couple of days, and came in and out of consciousness for a few weeks, until it was obvious that he would not be getting better, and we had to make a decision as a family to let him go and be at peace.

Right after my dad died, I did the only thing I could think to do, which was to return to work. I didn’t have to. My boss gave me open time off, but I wanted something else to focus on. Travel season is busy and solitary. It allows one to escape and focus on one thing at a time, which is all I could manage. I retreated. I numbed, and would only allow myself a few highly emotional moments of grief. While a lot of friends reached out, and I appreciated it, there wasn’t much I could say back to them.  I can’t help feeling like I’m missing a part of myself, like a part of my heart is gone. And for everyone who has felt this loss, and is feeling this loss, I’m so sorry. I know that it hurts, and that it hits you at the most random of times, and that hearing a phrase or seeing something particular can just trigger it for you. For me, I don’t know that I can hear Nat King Cole’s “Unforgettable” without crying ever again. It was his favorite song and one we sang a lot and danced to, often, including at my wedding.

My dad was my champion. He was the best dad a girl could ask for, and I mean that literally, because I think it takes a special kind of man to raise daughters, and he definitely was. He instilled in me my love for reading and my love for learning. He is who I got my talkative nature and people skills from. He loved singing and hearing people sing. And he just loved to call to talk about random things.

In two months, I’ve done a lot: a lot to escape, a lot to reflect, and a lot to grieve. I don’t know if the process is over, but I’m back.

photo by onelove photography

photo by onelove photography

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Three

It’s been three years, and it seems to only get better with time.

This year has been another fun ride, but probably the most fun ride so far. We got our dog, whom we both love so much and has brought so much joy to our lives. We had job changes that have been for the better for both of us. We moved (again) and now can be home and having dinner before the sun sets. I imagine quite a few outdoor meals this summer.

We’re having a low-key celebration because we just returned from a perfect vacation in Maui. I imagine there will be a nicer than normal dinner and a good dessert. Thanks for three, my dear. Cheers for all the years to come!

December Reviews and a Review of December

It seems that I failed to read much at all in the month of December. I only finished two books, but I think the fun I had every weekend in December definitely makes up for it!

image via bn.com

image via bn.com

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

Earth’s rotation has slowed, making days and nights last unpredictably long without any indication of how the day will go. Julia, a pre-teen in San Diego, must deal with the normal angst of middle school, while at the same time, worrying about the progression of days. She must manage her mother’s anxiety, and figure out what her father is up to. The book is sort of science fiction. It reminded me of some of Ray Bradbury’s short stories, speaking of how life goes on oddly after a dramatic change. I’m not an expert, but I do think some of the science was off. I wasn’t completely hooked by the tale, but it was an interesting read. 3/5

last letter

image via bn.com

The Last Letter from your Lover by JoJo Moyes

After loving Me Before You and The Girl You Left Behind, I saw that Moyes had written a book a couple of years ago. I found The Last Letter from your Lover at the library, and I completely fell in love with it. Moyes has a very special way of telling stories, even a story you may have heard before. If you enjoyed the film An Affair to Remember, you will probably enjoy this story about two young lovers whose situations could never perfectly line up for them to be together. Memories lost, lies told, and miscommunication all play into this love story. Once I started, I just couldn’t stop! And those are the best stories, I think. 5/5

In other news, the month of December comes with a bunch of holiday parties and fun times. Here’s a smattering of what we did this month.

HP Party

We attended a Harry Potter Party! Complete with Mandrake cupcakes and the Great Hall’s ceiling! I’m sure you can guess who E and I were.

2nd week

We made it to Disneyland, which is always a magical place at the holidays, and I participated in my first Ugly Sweater Party, but Pinterest told me that a tree skirt might win. They were right!

Christmas

I was able to successfully make a Pinterest craft, and the Rein-beers really made my FIL smile. I was also in charge of Christmas games this year, and I found the Tissue Paper Christmas trees and Blind-folded Gift Wrapping to be very easy to put together and fun! The family had a great time, but now the pressure is on for New Year’s Minute to Win It! I had to add in a picture of all the presents under our tree, because we only get to keep them there for a day or two before they go off to other trees. You may also notice that this year, we put our Christmas cards on our tree. It’s a nice way to celebrate all the friends and family we have. And I’m proud to say, we almost filled our tree with cards!

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Happy Holidays from us to you!

And in case you’re wondering, the mustache has been shaven off as one last Christmas gift to me. (Just kidding. not really.)

A Quarter Century, Part 2

Once we got back from Philadelphia, we had one more birthday treat planned: a party! But not just any party, a karaoke party! Cake and drinks with my favorite people busting out in a litany of awesome pop songs and ballads?! I’ll take it!

It’s pretty typical in Filipino culture for every party to have karaoke. My parents and aunts and uncles all have machines, and we often break into song at any family gathering. I wanted to bring a little of that fun to my friends.

This particular place was not your standard karaoke bar where everyone is grouped together and you sing in front of strangers, like in My Best Friend’s Wedding. This place had private party rooms, which I knew would help all of my friends and family feel comfortable enough to get up and SING. And sing we did!

With a little liquid courage:

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And neon lights:

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It wasn’t long before we were all up on our feet creating our own cover versions of hits by Celine Dion, Hanson, *NSYNC, Queen, and Journey. And most everyone got into it! We even had rappers in our group! E surprised everyone and led the whole room in a rousing rendition of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and we Redlands alums just had to jump and belt out to “Don’t Stop Believin’.” My girlfriends from work all jumped into “Total Eclipse of the Heart” and my sisters and I all sand “Dancing Queen.” There were many many songs in between.

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And of course, as every birthday party must, we had a delicious chocolate cake from Porto’s. The whole cake was eaten!

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I’m so glad we threw a party because one of the things that I heard all night was, “I haven’t seen you since the wedding!” It’s very rare to be able to get all your friends and family together like that, and I’m so appreciative to everyone who took the time to come out and celebrate with me, and double points to everyone who sang!

I kept worrying that someone wasn’t having a good time. And at some point, I realized, I just had to take everyone’s word for it. It was awesome. I highly recommend you try to find a private karaoke place if you’re a little nervous about it. It’s definitely a little easier than singing in front of strangers.

Do you have any karaoke “must sings?” Mine are “Alone” by Heart, “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler, and “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” by Whitney Houston.

25 Before 25: Camping in the Desert

I haven’t really fallen off my 25 Before 25 list, but I am starting to wonder if I’ll be able to do all of it by my 25th birthday. Nevertheless, here’s one big thing off my list.

A couple of weeks ago, E, Bestie C, Bestie’s pups and I made our way to Joshua Tree for a one-night camping trip. We had originally intended for a longer stay, but when it came down to sleeping in a bed Friday night or setting up camp in the dark after a loooooong work week, the bed won. We set out early Saturday morning, the same weekend as Coachella Week 1, to find a camp site, and enjoy a short trip to hike, climb big rocks and see the army of entirely weird, but so cool Joshua trees.

Bestie C's photo

Bestie C’s photo

We miraculously found a camp-site. It was a miracle because April is the perfect time to go to Joshua Tree. And Coachella was that weekend. And all the Joshua trees from Big Bear to the Mojave Desert had bloomed this year, which is very rare. Unfortunately, for us, they were no longer in bloom when we got there, but also, unfortunately for us, most people hadn’t gotten that memo. The short story is always check the little yellow tag when you see an empty site. It doesn’t always mean reserved.

personal photo

personal photo

With camp set up, we were able to relax a little and enjoy the outdoors. We went on a great hike on the Fortynine Palms trail which starts in a place that looks like everywhere else, but after a couple of miles, you end up in an oasis of palm trees. Some dogs were really into hiking. Some couldn’t be bothered.

personal photos

personal photos

After our lovely hike, which had a nice breeze to it, we discovered that a nice breeze on our hike meant gusty, blow-your-tent-over winds back at the camp site. We placed everything heavy in it, since the sand didn’t really keep the stakes down, and went for another little walk to explore the rocks. Unfortunately when we came back, our tent had still been uprooted, and now almost everything was wet from the cooler falling over inside the tent. We came up with some creative solutions for drying sleeping bags.

personal photos

personal photos

Thankfully, the gusty wind and the sun in a clear sky really dried the sleeping bags quickly. I did have to take a break from the wind and sit in the car for an hour or so to get away from the howling wind. The wind negatively affected our dinner, but there’s nothing like a hot dog cooked over the fire as a backup plan. And as is required, we each had a Reese’s peanut butter cup s’more (the best kind of s’more) before turning in for the night. When I woke up the wind was gone and the stars were shining, I could see the worth of sleeping outside. The next morning was gorgeous and we packed up and headed out for a little more rock exploration.

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Notice the Joshua tree in the top left. Isn’t it so cool?

By this time, Bestie C and I were ready for burritos and some ice cream, so we started our journey back. E could have explored all day, though. He is truly an adventurer and explorer. Bestie C is also a great camper. She provided most of our gear and the cute dogs to cuddle with. I would say that camping in the desert was a success and it’s certainly a big to-do off my list! My feelings for camping might be growing, but I think that has mostly to do with the people I’m camping with and less with the camping itself. Thanks, Husband and Bestie for helping me accomplish this goal! There aren’t any two people I’d rather go camping with.

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#WeVerb12: Chronicle

Did you have a perfect day this year? Describe it.

I feel that this is a no-brainer question. My perfect day this year was the day we got married. I know that everyone says that something always goes wrong on your wedding day. But when I look back at the day, I really can’t think of anything going wrong enough to throw me at all. Really. If you don’t know me, you should know that I am a complete planner. I pored over timeline templates, websites, and consulted the photographer and our day-of-coordinator to make sure that everything would go smoothly. 

And it really went so smoothly. It was perfect. And the day was just joyous. We were surrounded by our closest friends and family. We promised ourselves to each other. I felt no stress (a rarity for me), only giddy nervousness. I remember joy. 

And after eating a few bites of a yummy meal, we danced the night away. 

Personal photo; Feel free to caption this below

Personal photo; Feel free to caption this below

It was honestly the perfect day from the morning bagel run to the first look to the “I will”s to the cheesecake dessert.

Perfect.

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#WeVerb12: Give

What was the best gift you gave someone this year?

This year, we had to cut back a little on the gift-giving front, which was difficult for me during the shopping season. I always want to give more, but I knew I had to stick to a tight budget, and get the most bang for my buck that I could.

The presents that we worked hardest on and really cared about giving this year were wedding albums for our parents. They both contributed so much to our weddings, that I wanted them to have a keepsake as well. At first, it seemed a little selfish and even cliché. I wasn’t expecting much reaction. But both sets of parents were really happy with them, and it was fun to walk down the short memory lane with them. My mom even started showing it off to everybody at the party. We chose to make our albums through Adoramapix, who have nice options for square, leather-bound books. I worked very carefully on the layout and E helped me whittle down to the best of the best photos that would give a good glimpse at the day without becoming too long.

Photo books are such a great and personal gift and I will be sure to keep that in mind for future gifts. With Pinterest and other great websites, there is access to many other creative ideas as well. Maybe next year, I can get into that creative spirit a little more.

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#WeVerb12: Reminisce

What distant memory/time did you find yourself longing for in 2012?

I was lucky to grow up with lots of cousins and extended family around. My sister and I grew up with two cousins who really became sisters to us. Every day was spent with A and K. My little sister would even have a hard time leaving every night and often stayed over with A. We went to school together, we let our imaginations run wild together, we sang together, and we certainly fought a lot. When we got a little older, A moved to Riverside and K moved to Seattle. It was so hard being apart from each other, but we’ve tried to make it a priority to see each other at least twice a year. 

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One of the best parts of having a wedding is getting to reunite with family and friends from all over. And having your best girls as your bridesmaids offers plenty of opportunity for reunions. 

Reenacting the above photo at my bachelorette weekend

Reenacting the above photo at my bachelorette weekend

Getting to see everyone so often really made me miss those times when it was only a ten minute drive to be together and when the complications of our lives were limited to fighting over our celebrity boyfriends in *NSYNC (JC Forever!!!). I can’t wait for us all to be together again.

#WeVerb12: Thank

Write that thank you note that you’ve been meaning to send this year… or would like to send next year…

Today’s my mom’s birthday, and it’s not only today, but every day, that I want to thank my parents. I’ve never doubted for a second that my parents live for giving. It’s always about me, my sister, their siblings, nieces, nephews, friends, etc. I literally have to be careful about complimenting my mother’s clothes because she will offer to give them to me!

So, thank you, Mommy and Daddy, for working so hard for us. Thank you for welcoming E and his family into ours. Thank you for teaching me to enjoy family and to give wholeheartedly. It truly does feel better to give than to receive. Thank you for reading to me, and always letting me read when I wanted to, even if that meant there were books everywhere. Thank you for my sister and teaching me how to love and care for someone else. Thank you for teaching me the definition of passion. And thank you for giving me a fair amount of independence growing up. I know how to walk on my own, but I also know when I need you. Thank you for teaching me that even when times are difficult, you get up and move on, instead of giving up.

Thank you for putting so much effort into our Bengali wedding. And thank you for inviting everyone to be with us for those two weeks. It was special for me to see how much you mean to everyone in our family and our community. Thank you for giving me heritages and languages to be proud of. Thank you for accepting that I am different than what you expected me to be.

And thank you for always being my love and support system. I don’t know that I’ll ever get to thank you enough. And Happy Birthday, Mommy. I love you both, always.

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#WeVerb12: Fellowship

What community has engaged you most this year and what did you get out of your participation?

My family and friends mean a lot to me. I try to make sure that I make lots of time for family outings and chatting with friends each month. And when planning  a wedding, I realized that it would involve our family and friends, but I didn’t realize just how excited they would be for us. I didn’t realize how touched I would be by their presence and happiness at both of our nuptial events. Especially, the Bengali wedding. Because I spent so much time working on the traditional Christian wedding, I wasn’t as focused or excited at the prospect of the Bengali wedding until late in the process.

But when the week of the Bengali wedding hit, and my family started arriving from all corners of the world, I realized how important this event was, not just for E and me, but for them also. It was so overwhelming that when presented with all of our wedding gifts, from my aunts in Bangladesh, I burst into tears. My family can be very frustrating when it comes to events and obligation, but there was no doubt that they truly wanted to be at our wedding. When I was looking at the Bengali wedding as a low-key party, to them, it was the main event. And I think I felt it most when we were getting ready for the party. My photographer likened the ladies to little birds who would swoop in to adjust this and pin that whenever something moved out of place, which was often.

When I came away from the event, I was so glad that we had done it. I was so glad to have so many family members together, having a good time. I realized that when my older cousins got married, we traveled to them, and when my sister and younger cousins get married, we will all travel to be together again. I look forward to these events. They are full and happy reunions, and only happen every few years. I truly cherish them. And I am so glad that I was able to share how great my family is with my friends and Erik’s family. I have shown everyone where I come from and they understand a little bit more about me. And I wasn’t expecting any of that, but I am so thankful for it.

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personal photo

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All of our people together; image by Coco McKown Photography

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