Friday, November 17, 2017

It Wasn't Just Another Day

It was just another day. I got up and knew I needed to be in the kitchen to fix breakfast for my family.

It was just another day, rushing for school drop-off, a quick trip to the post office and then drive back home for my daily date with the treadmill.

It was just another day, bathroom cleaning day, which meant scrubbing toilets, sinks, shower stalls and tubs. It's not fun, I wish I could take a day off, but everyone else shows up for work so why shouldn't I?

It really almost felt like 'just another day' if not for the bouquet of red roses sitting on the kitchen island, with presents thoughtfully wrapped, a card, a note and an origami crane masterfully created by my son.

It really almost felt like 'just another day' if not for the early international and local calls and messages from my parents, siblings, cousins, nephews, nieces, and  friends. 

A birthday could be just another day but why keep it that way? I celebrated mine early this week and though the mundane still occupied much of that day, having the special things peppered all throughout set it apart. It's not about expensive gifts and treats for me. It's the knowledge that I am seen and loved by those who are dear to my heart. It's to have certainty that no matter the chaos in my universe, I can still find my center because I am loved not for what I can accomplish, but for simply being me.

To know you are loved back by those you love, that your existence there really anything else that could weigh more? 

Having awareness of how blessed your life is, in spite of its imperfections, makes any day not just another day. 

Friday, November 10, 2017

Strange (but spot on) Life Lessons from Stranger Things

*The post below does not contain any spoilers. Please be mindful as well if you are leaving a comment.*

Original Image via Wikimedia Commons

My family is a huge fan of the Netflix series Stranger Things. We came late to the party and only started binge-watching last month but all three of us are hooked. I think the creators are brilliant for attracting at least two generations: mine (who's about the same age as the main characters in the '80s) and the youth now who can also somewhat relate to the young actors. Both generations are able to enjoy and the element of nostalgia makes watching the show doubly addictive. Netflix is actually upfront about the fact that the show pays homage to a lot of the '80s sci-fi classics a lot of us grew up with and love. 

Apart from excitement from the story line, it's worth noting that there are a few remarkable life lessons we can all latch on to. The beauty of it is that these are lessons presented simply that our young children can understand, and also ones that can further be elaborated on so that our kids can learn more deeply about relationships. In a way, I think the show can be a soft start, a friend to hold their hand, prior to the real rude awakening, if you will. After all, nothing is as simple as they seem, especially with life lessons!

Here's my take on the Stranger Things truth nuggets:


In one episode, this concept was explained in simple terms by saying it means  both parties settle for 'half-happy'. 'Com' does mean 'together' so I guess one can look at it as being half-happy / half-unhappy together. I honestly thought that was brilliant! Then this got me thinking about how as grown-ups we always say relationships are all about compromise. And no relationship is immune to this reality, from mere acquaintances to our most intimate, truly significant ties. This then implies that in all of our relationships, we are in a state of 'half-happiness'. I'm not saying we are unhappy or perpetually unfulfilled. I think along the way we learn to adjust our expectations depending on how much we value a relationship, and realize that an acceptable supply of 'half-happiness' makes us happy overall and keeps us afloat. What I'm saying though is that anyone who says they are 100%, completely happy, ALL THE TIME, is lying. And if they are, then they're not your friend because....

Friends don't lie

Any fan of the show knows the weight of this line. It's a pact made among the young main characters that solidifies their friendship. It's really one of the core definitions used on the show to explain what a friendship means and what it alludes to, more than anything, is the element of trust; that to be a true friend is to learn to trust and be trustworthy in return. However, maturity has also taught us that trust is earned. You don't earn nor give it away so quickly and fully to anyone you've just met. It takes time. In reality, when you first develop friendships, you do need to trust a little...and then some more, until you can trust fully depending on how much you have given and taken, to and from each other. You don't give away all your truths in one go. But withholding some things doesn't necessarily mean you are lying. You are still being honest and being a friend even though you are rationing your truths. It's true that friends don't lie. Just know that it also takes time and effort to be fully taken at your word. 


"...Promise!" This is an oft-repeated line between Eleven and the other characters. As a viewer, young or old, every time you hear this word uttered on the show, you know that there's a crucial subtext: It's that though one's intentions are pure, when you say 'Promise', you are really only hoping for the best. It's more an expression of intent than a guarantee that things will turn out as planned. When you're young and brimming with naivete, your view of reality is still narrow, lacking in understanding that there are variables no one person can possibly control all the time and there there is such a thing as unintended consequence. However, it's this quality of youth that makes the show's characters endearing and have us all coming back for more episode after episode. 

So there you have it, my 'adult' and somewhat cynical elaborations on some of my favorite Stranger Things words of wisdom. I hope they made sense whether you're a viewer of the show or not. It's the most I could do without giving away too many details. You just have to take my word for it that the show is good and worth your time. I promise! 

Friday, November 3, 2017

Lifestyle Vlogs I Love to Hate

I love YouTube. It's a reliable and extremely entertaining and informative social media network. I turn to it for so many needs several times a week that they should probably bill me. (Please don't get any evil ideas, YouTube. I really only love you 'cos you're free.)

I use it for instructional videos, music, movie trailers, recipes, beauty tips, and of course, the mind-numbing yet visually enticing lifestyle vlogs. There's something soothing about watching people just go about their days, either traveling or just hanging in their houses to clean, organize, and decorate. What can I say? It satiates my voyeuristic tendencies. Plus, of course who doesn't like looking at charming homes and their farmhouse interiors, right? 

But there have been a handful who have successfully lured me into clicking on their videos, only for me to get annoyed in the end. And I'm mostly annoyed because they were either unrealistic or they heighten my sense of inadequacy. Yes, I know, I media is supposed to do that. But I'm especially sensitive to this on YouTube because I primarily go there for videos that would make me feel more normal, if not, better about my life. If I just wanted to feel inadequate, I'd just go to Pinterest and Facebook. 

Below are the types of vlogs I hate and I'll tell you why...

Fridge and freezer organization videos where the fridge has uniform-sized containers for teeny-tiny amounts of food 

I mean, of course your fridge looks good and spacious! There's hardly any food in there! I'm just going to be real. We're Asian and love to cook and eat. I can't fit all my condiments in one small basket in the fridge. While most people probably just have ketchup, mustard and mayo, we have soy sauce (and three or more different types), chili sauce, sesame oil, wasabi, shrimp paste, some pickled vegetable of some sort and other exotic stuff. 

We're also not traditionally big salad eaters so no thanks to those cutesy mason jar salad kits that have become an annoying trend this past year. And why must everything be contained in mason jars anyway? 

As for leftovers kept in small stackable glass containers that are Pinterest-worthy, no I'm afraid that won't work for us either. We're fond of cooking too much to feed a lot of people that sometimes we just refrigerate entire pots of dishes. I've recently gotten better at cooking less and storing in smaller containers but I don't always succeed. And when I'm super lazy, I also just stick the rice cooker pan in there instead of storing our leftover cooked rice in smaller bowls. So yeah, my fridge is clearly not YouTube material and these hyperorganized vloggers who, by the way, only have all organic stuff in their fridges and freezers, make me roll my eyes until my head hurts.

Speed-Cleaning / Cleaning Motivation / Clean-With-Me videos that insist cleaning your entire home is a quick and easy task if you just do it regularly

I clean regularly. I've even bought into the idea peddled by these cleaning experts that I need to assign each day of my week to a certain zone in my house so I'm never overwhelmed. But when you keep telling me that I can clean my entire house in a little over an hour, you just make me want to press the B.S. button. I've even watched a few vloggers say that cleaning the bathrooms should not take more than 20 minutes. Well, I cleaned our 2.5 baths and it took me more than one hour. It wasn't even deep cleaning. I cleaned my kitchen and that alone took me close to two hours. Did I misunderstand 'kitchen cleaning' when I opted to clear my sink of dirty dishes, wipe all my counters and the table, clean my stove and microwave, wipe down the fronts of my kitchen cabinets, and sweep, then mop the floor? You tell me. 

What cracked me up (and grossed me out) was watching one vlogger clean her entire house with only one rag! She was dusting everywhere with the same rag. I almost threw up in my mouth when I watched her use that rag to wipe around the toilet bowl, and then she moved to wipe down her bathroom sinks AND counter top. Eeewwww....I guess one must do what one needs to do for speed cleaning on camera!

'Easy and Quick Kid-Friendly Meals'

I don't know what some of these YouTube vloggers are thinking but when I see 'kid-friendly' I don't expect to be taught how to serve quinoa, brown rice, or goat cheese to my picky eater. My kid eats white rice and is smart enough to detect when it's been replaced with brown, quinoa, or mushy cauliflower. He doesn't even like regular, mild American cheese so how am I supposed to give him brie, blue, or goat cheese? In an ideal world, my child will eat all the micronutrients this world has to offer through kale, salmon, eggs, berries and other hip grains Whole Foods has to offer. But in this world, his palate leaves much to be desired and I have to send thank you notes to some of these vloggers for driving me in the throes of depression for pinpointing how I'm a sucky parent. 

Travel vlogs that give you 'travel hacks' so you arrive fresh and relaxed at your destination

...then as soon as you start watching, you realize these jerks are travelling first class! 

How about you guys fly only Economy for 24+ hours from the east coast of the United States to somewhere in Asia? Let's see what hacks you can give me that I don't already know to keep one sane and relaxed until touchdown. 

I still love YouTube and will keep watching. But next time I see these annoying vlogs, I can't promise I won't be leaving a comment. Don't worry, I'll keep it short and sweet...and all organic!