Two Years, Chopped Hair, Urgent Care, SCBWI, Shelving M3 = Roller Coaster Week

Hi friends,

I have so much to catch you up on. This week has been a stressful roller coaster ride. It started off on a good note. I celebrated my 2 year anniversary with Michael by recreating our first date (it's now become a tradition of ours).



To see how it unfolded last year and how our relationship began, click here.

He surprised me greatly by getting me a guitar and I, him, with a symbolic ring he's always wanted.


I don't have a good singing voice, nor am I skilled in music, but growing up music became a part of my life. I played flute for three years, piano for two, and learned some chords on the guitar by my ex-boyfriend in high school and it stuck through college. I was never really that good though, but I enjoyed putting simple melodies together and writing lyrics, but when I moved to Seattle, I literally gave away all my belongings, including my guitar and put it in the past. So it was very thoughtful that Michael had thought to give me a piece of California, and a creative part of me back.

What a wonderful way to start the week!

But unfortunately, work has been pretty busy, and I found myself pretty stressed with all that I needed to do, not just in my work life, but personal and writing life as well. I was overwhelmed by all the stuff I had to do and the non-progress in M3. It drove me insane. Why couldn't I get this story out as I did M2? Was life really so busy and chaotic that I couldn't handle it all? Would I have to give something up?

This overwhelming feeling festered within me, and I had hoped that maybe the SCBWI conference this weekend would give me some sort of direction in my writing life. As for the work and personal, I would just have to trudge through it. So I rush ordered my business cards and put on my can-do attitude.


But my attitude about work didn't change. I'm the kind of person that likes to get my stuff done so when software issues or last minute changes come my way, it ruffles my feathers a bit. But I had planned it out and I would finish my project by Friday.

On Thursday I had a haircut scheduled during my lunch break. I was long overdue for one, and had planned to keep my length and get my split ends trimmed, but when I sat in the salon chair, that overwhelming feeling came over me again. The reflection in the mirror looked so haggard, so sloppy, so stressed. "Just chop it all off," I told my stylist, not wanting another worry, no how matter infinitesimal it was.

And so she did.


With the weight from my hair off me, I was starting to feel better. More refreshed. I could handle the three facets of my life. Surely I could. I was a new woman now!

And then that night I got sick. A severe allergy attack. I couldn't sleep all night. And come morning, I wasn't any better. I was worse. I called in sick to work. I would not finish my project. That devastated me. Like I said, I pride myself in getting my work done, especially when I made promises to meet certain deadlines. Then I broke out into a fever. I started crying. Whatever this illness was, it didn't seem likely that I would be able to make it out to dinner that night with a friend and to a writer's networking cocktail hour like I had planned. Would I even be well enough to make it to the SCBWI conference the next day?

When Michael got home from work he took me to urgent care. Turns out my severe allergy attack turned into a sinus infection. I'd never had a sinus infection before so this pain was new to me and unbearable. The doctor prescribed me a nasal spray along with some other suggested OTC drugs. I went home, followed the directions, but didn't feel any better. I tossed and turned all night, getting snippets of sleep, and improved enough that I could rally myself and go to the conference.


I'll make another lengthier post about my experience as a first time conference attendee, but long story short, it made me realize that M3 needed to be put on pause. Perhaps I was overthinking it which stunted my progress. Or maybe I had fallen out of love with it after taking too many breaks with traveling and moving. Or maybe, M3 wasn't ready to be written and wasn't fully yet realized. Maybe it's one of those stories that takes years to cook, a story that I'll come back to, adding some spice, adjusting the taste, until I get it just right.

For now, M3 will be shelved, and I'm moving onto my next idea. 

It's been a roller coaster week filled with many ups and downs, twists, and turns. I was never one for roller coasters so I'm kind of glad to be off the ride now. I think it's time to leave the amusement park and get back to the steady humdrum of life.

Have you ever had a roller coaster kind of week? Comment below!

Yours truly,

Michelle


Asia Vacation: Day 4

Chuc Mung Nam Moi! Happy New Year!


February the 19th marked my 4th day in Vietnam! And better yet it was the holiday. The new year is like the biggest holiday in the culture. It's equivalent to the American Thanksgiving. All about family, food, celebration, and hope for the year to come. I was beyond excited since it was my first time ever celebrating in the homeland with the extended family.

My sisters and I all woke up and got dressed in traditional Vietnamese dresses and met the rest of the family at my grandpa's house. My mother had rented a van for the day to take us to the temple, the village where she grew up, and then onto Hue.


The main temple in Da Nang sits alongside the water facing the city. With the temple and neck bending monuments, it's a very beautiful and serene place to be--but not on the holiday. It was buzzing with people. We quickly went around saying prayers before going crazy with photos.











After that it was off to my mom's home village Vinh Hien. We had gone there too during my first trip, but going again, with fresh eyes it really struck a chord within me. This little town is based off one little dirt road with little houses pressed against each other. There are no streetlamps, no gutters. Just yellow sand and dirt, with the exception of green rice paddies in the distance.





We passed by my mother's old house, the school she had gone too, and houses where she remembered her friends. It was a very different upbringing than the opportunity she had given us in the states. As a sign of respect, my mother paid visits to relatives and friends, and those that had passed by going to their gravesites.


It was hard not to imagine my mom as a young girl just like the little kids I had seen the day before. Odds stacked against her. Living in conditions we hadn't. No power, no electricity, no creature comforts. It makes me respect her even more.


Our final and last stop was Hue to see the imperial palace. It was huge. Bigger than I remembered my first time around. Here there were a lot of tourists from many different places as well as locals. The city was bustling with people.







 






 


Michael and I walked side by side holding hands and it was the first time that we got more than the occasional glances. People were staring and it made me uncomfortable. It wasn't like it was rude stares or anything, more like curiosity. I could only imagine what they thought: mail order bride. Ha! I brushed it off and made the most of it. When we got back to the Van, I knocked out, and before I knew it we were back in Da Nang at my grandpa's house for dinner.

[[photo credit: all amazing and clear photos were taken by Michael. All the fuzzy ones were from yours truly on my iphone :P]]

24th Birthday Thank You's, Hommage, and the Purple Balloons

A very big thank you to everyone who sent me kind birthday wishes via mailed cards, e-mail, text, phone calls, social media, blog comments, and in person throughout this past week. It meant the world to me and made my day brighter! So bright, it stopped the endless rain streak that was plaguing the Seattle area. Hello sun!

If you know me well, you know I have this aversion to getting older. I obsess about time and I like the idea about being young forever. Peter Pan syndrome for sure. Of course, everyone likes to remind me that I am still young, even at 24. And if yesterday was any hint at what the rest of my 24th year would be like, then I guess it isn't so bad.

 
Of course, like a responsible grown up, I went to work and was surprised to find my cube decorated with purple balloons and cards waiting for me to open. Another co-worker was also kind enough to take me out for coffee. These small acts of kindness and well wishes made work a little bit fun for once ;)


After work I grabbed my balloons and cards in a cheery spirit and went down to the parking garage. I placed all my birthday souvenirs into the back seat, and drove towards Seattle. Lo and behold the sun was freaking shining! This is a very big deal because it's been nonstop grey and raining, and I distinctly remember the bad weather on my Birthday last year. So thinking the Birthday gods were in my favor, I had this brilliant idea to open my sun roof.

The balloons went crazy from the suction. Leaping from the backseat to the front, reaching for escape, they blocked my field of vision just as I was going downhill during traffic hour. I flipped out, reaching for them, hoping to reign them in so I could shut this stupid sun roof. I managed to get my hands on two of them but the third busted free from the car taking my birthday cards with it. Shaken, I drove the rest of the way to Seattle with one hand on the wheel, and the other restraining the balloons. Once I got to my first stop light, I grabbed a pen from my purse and popped the rest of the balloons.

After that, I was pretty bummed. I have a thing for cards and I wanted to add them to my keepsake box, and I really wanted to show my cat the balloons (he's never seen one and I thought it would be a good brain stimulus for him). All was not lost though. At least I would definitely remember this day as the Birthday where I almost crashed from purple balloons. When I recounted this story to Michael, he shook his head, a hint of a smile on his lips, and said, "Only this kind of stuff would happen to you. Now you know, balloons should go in the trunk."

Ha! Like I'd ever put myself in a balloon situation again!

For dinner, Michael spoiled me by taking me to my favorite Seattle restaurant, Hommage, formerly known as The Book Bindery. I've mentioned it numerous times on my blog, but without photos. This post, however, be prepared to drool from my delicious meal! No, but really. This place is amazing. French Nouveau cuisine made by Chef Nico Borzee, it never ceases to amaze me how inventive these classic dishes can be. Beautifully prepared, engaging all the senses, it's like a glimpse into foodie heaven.

We started with the Chataigne, a chestnut soup with a foie gras custard, and burnt onion oil, served in this cute jar. It was really neat because the components were layered, and you could feel the cool layer of the custard and the warm chestnut soup puree. The burnt onion oil was also a really unique touch.


Next was the Trompette de la Mort, black trumpet mushrooms, goat cheese panna cotta, with a mushroom jus. What a savory, creamy, and decadent bite it was. I could eat bowls and bowls of this stuff.


The Carrotte, carrots braised in hay, rabbit jus, and bethmale goat milk cheese was just as good. With such different components that harmonized in such a surprising way, ordinary carrots became extraordinary.

For our mains, we shared the Saumon, cold-smoked kind salmon, with a 35-minute poached egg on a vodka crème fraiche, and the stuffed quail on a thinly sliced gratin. Words cannot describe how delicious they were. They left me speechless.



Everything went well with the bottle of French Pinot Noir. It was such a memorable meal.


To finish we had the tres leches for dessert and cheered with some brut rose. 24 never felt so fabulous!


So thank you to everyone! Just all your birthday wishes leading up to the day and throughout made me feel so loved and the gifts were just absolutely thoughtful. I am truly blessed and count my lucky stars for the fortunate life I have. It's made me realize that birthday's aren't about getting older or wiser, it's about celebrating another year of life. Not everyone is so fortunate to reach a certain age or grow up healthy and happy, so I am truly thankful for another year and for everyone that's come into my life. My encounters with you all have made me who I am and have shaped the life I live today.


My thanks and well wishes to you all <3

Guest post, promotion, and splurges. Not a bad way to end twenty-three.

A great big, giant, thank you to Michelle Athy at 'The Sunflower's Scribbles' for giving me the opportunity to guest post on her blog! If you haven't read it yet, you can find out how I got into writing here.

In other good news that happened yesterday, I got a promotion and raise at work! There's nothing like doing a good job and being rewarded for it. And yes, this finally means I can take this 'entry level' label off me. As a reward to myself, I went on a trip to the bookstore in search of a good read and found these two, that were highly recommended to me.


As of late I've been rereading books on my kindle (hence no new book reviews!), so I'll try and start up again with these two. And what are books without a beverage to go with it? As another splurge I got ceremonial grade matcha and set from PANATEA. How do you like your tea? Straight up or latte form? I'll take both!


And as a way to top off the day, Michael and I had drinks to cheers my awesome day. This is definitely not a bad way to end my last few days being 23.

Asia Vacation 2015: Day 3

Onto Day 3. Wednesday, February 11th, was an interesting one. We were off to another ceremony (there are a lot of those around the holiday!), but this time we were visiting my grandfather on my father's side. I'm not sure what I expected, having been there before, but it was eye opening.


The first time we went over in 2009, it was just my grandfather, his son (my uncle) and daughter (my aunt). This time around, there were these little kids there! Not related to me whatsoever, they took to my sisters and I quickly. Or perhaps it was our cameras they took to since they just loved taking pictures.




Either way, we were enamored by them. But it only took some time and eavesdropping on the conversation from the adults to pick out the unfortunate upbringing of these little bundles of happiness.


There was this six-year-old girl, bright as the sun with such an enigmatic smile. It's hard to think that she had an abusive father. She and her mother left him, but those type of memories are something you can't ever run away from.


Then there was this little guy. Only three, he was quiet, shy, and polite, but loved to hold hands. And yet his father didn't want him. Rather he left him and his mother and took up a new wife and child. Replacing them like broken dishes.

Even my own aunt, had a disabled full grown son. He couldn't walk. Couldn't speak. Spending his days at home. He would never see the rest of his country. He would never see any other part of the world. He wouldn't even get to see a movie in a theater.

It's difficult after learning their stories not to notice the difficult cards life had dealt them. Tiny, skinny, with scabby feet, they didn't come from a wealthy family, but a hardworking one. And yet, a hardworking one may not be able to provide them with the opportunities to build a better future.

It's definitely something that hits close to home. As a child with a single immigrant parent, I knew it wasn't an easy task to make ends meet. Yet in a country of opportunity, there's always the chance to rise above. But in a country devastated by war, with the majority of families low income, the odds for them are stacked even higher.

These are things we already know, but not something we encounter on a everyday basis. So when you come across kids like these, you can't help but feel for them. You want to help, but sometimes help can only go so far.

It's encounters like these that really humble a person. I found myself that night counting my lucky stars that I was blessed with a loving family and a courageous mother who conquered land and sea to a place where we could grow to our full potential. Though we were not rich, we were rich in love, and memories.


That night at my grandpa's house on my mom's side, I took comfort that though I wasn't fortunate to see our extended family on a daily basis, I would take these few days to heart. It's in the limited time you have with people and even the day-to-day menial things that really are the best. Like roasting clams on the sidewalk and eating skewered shrimp. The small snippets in time where you are completely yourself and bare, enjoying the moment.



Asia Vacation 2015: Day 2

The 2009 Da Nang was quiet, small, and neighborhoody to 18 year-old me. The 2015 Da Nang, however, is bustling with growing towers, touristy resorts, and wait a minute... an amusement park? Oh my, how much the city has grown over the years!

The amusement park isn't technically in the city, but about a 25 minute drive up the mountains. Upon arrival it seemed small, but let me tell you, it was huge! So huge we didn't even see the whole thing that day.

After buying tickets in town, we drove up to this resort where a cable car was stationed that would take us up to Ba Na Hills. The cable car ride was long, and I'm glad it was because there was so many beautiful sights to see and take in despite the overcast!




When we got to the first landing we immediately went to the temples. With the cloudy fog it was like stepping into some sort of huge film set. Really neat views that kind of made it all surreal. Over and over, I kept thinking in my head, am I really in Vietnam?





After the temples, we headed to the large gardens and I was struck by how much it reminded me of my time in Paris. Paris was where I was used to seeing such gardens, not here! But I guess I shouldn't be surprised since there's already so much influence from the French colonization.





After the gardens we took a another short cable car up higher in the mountains to the amusement park. You could not miss the European influence here!







After walking around and checking out the place, we ducked in doors and rode rides and played our hearts out! If you're ever in the area, I recommend making this a stop. You could just walk for hours and hours here. Even farther up the mountain there were more sites to see, but we were uber tired and called it a day. We headed back to my grandpa's for dinner then to our hotel and called it a night.


Asia Vacation 2015: Day 1

My Asia trip came and went! I still can't believe it's over. I'm still suffering from vacation hangover.

[[To recap, this was a family vacation to visit my relatives in Da Nang, Vietnam for ten days. Afterwards, my two sisters, Michael, and I spent 4 days in Seoul, South Korea instead of dealing with the originally planned 12-hour layover.]]


For our first day in Da Nang, my grandfather (on my mom's side) hosted a ceremony (an offering to the ancestors), which really turns out to be a huge feast for those alive. With everyone all in one place, it was a good place to start reconnecting with family I hadn't seen since our first trip in 2009. If you didn't know, my mom is the oldest out of nine kids! Only 2 out of the 9 kids are in the U.S., so you can bet the family gathering was a big one!


Going into it, I was really nervous. With so many people, it was daunting trying to remember everyone's name. Not to mention, I also brought Michael with me. What would they think of me dating a white American instead of a Vietnamese American? Of course my mom approves, but how often did my relatives in Vietnam interact with foreigners? Then of course, I was so embarrassed about my language skills. Vietnamese is a difficult language for me to speak considering I grew up in the U.S., where I hardly ever interact with people in Vietnamese.


One thing I should have known, was how welcoming my big family was and all the worrying was for naught. They greeted us with open arms, and though it was difficult for Michael and I to fluently communicate, I realized genuine communication comes from within: whether it's the look in someone's eyes, a smile on the lips, or the position of one's body.


And did I mention the food was amazing? I mean check out that spread!


After the big feast, a few of us went to the beach. Soft sand, blue waters, and the sun. Just as I remembered it. One thing I didn't remember? How salty the water was! Good thing I only like to walk in water and not swim.


To end the night, we had a big celebration for my sister's 28th birthday!