Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Neighbor Next Door

Alan and I live in the corner unit upstairs in the 10-unit apartment building we call home. From our perch, we can see who stands out on their balcony and gauge pretty effectively how many neighbors are home at any given time, depending on the number of cars parked in the claustrophobic "parking lot" in the back of the building.

Two doors down from us live a man and a woman who leave their windows open wide when they cook. On weekends they have bacon. Downstairs there is a family who eats Asian cuisine and who have a red tassel with a Chinese character on it hanging from the ceiling. Then there are the empty units which stand quiet and still, waiting for new people, new couples, new families and confident individuals to come inside and tack pictures and memos up on the refrigerators. For the most part, aside from the sounds of utensils on plates and pleasant chatter over the day's events, everyone is quiet.

Our next door neighbor is one of the extremely quiet ones. We have actually never seen our next door neighbor but somehow figured out that the neighbor is a woman. Alan thinks that she is an entertainer of men, but the more obvious answer is that she is clearly a ghost. Strange noises will come from the other side of the wall, noises that normal people don't make. More than once now, I have woken up to the sound of someone/something in that apartment shredding paper through what sounds like an industrial-grade paper shredder. And who gets up at 7 to think The paper. I must shred it, now? Clearly, something not of this world, something... supernatural.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Change is Good, Except When It's Uncomfortable

I have a hard time with change. Change to me is like eating a bowl of rice with ketchup -- it is not entirely unpleasant, some people even like it, but there is something a bit unsettling about it. When I look back over the trajectory of my life, it probably didn't help that routine was engraved into me from a young age.

My first lesson in shunning variety came in the form of picking out what to wear in elementary school. Either because she thought they looked good on me or because she had a very curious sense of humor, my mom dressed me in her own take of a school uniform -- pink, purple and yellow sweatsuits (and not the swanky Juicy kind either). When I was in the lower grades, she would help me get dressed, pulling up my elasticized waist up and over my sweatshirt, creating a neat, tucked-in look. On days where I felt particularly sassy, I might puff out my sweatshirt a bit after it had been tucked in to lend the look some edge. Some days I would wear an all purple suit, other days I would switch it up with yellow pants and a pink top, but as sure as you could count on someone scraping a knee on the playground, I would be wearing a sweatsuit.

Although I find change hard, that is not to say that I am not good at dealing with it. In fact, on my resume, I will often list adaptability as a notable skill, right alongside my impressive ability to eat copious amounts of snacks. Once I had a boss whom I liked. I didn't know how much I liked her until she told me she was leaving the company, and I surprised even myself by bursting into tears. In an effort to console me, she wanted to know if I had any questions for her. I did have questions, but none that I thought she would understand. She wanted to know if I was worried about the project I was working on and if I'd get to finish it. But I really wanted to know who would keep a tube of expensive French cream on her desk to moisturize her perfectly manicured hands after every trip to the bathroom now? Certainly not her! There would be someone new, someone sloppier undoubtedly, someone who would lead in a cruel, tyrannical way. (Of course this never came to fruition, but it could have). When the new boss came, I adjusted quickly, slipping back into the same mode I had been pre-favorite boss' departure, and life went on.

Recently, I've realized that I might expect a boss to leave now and again, but then there are some things which I had believed should never change. But as I'm learning, aside from peanut allergies and the like, most things will change in some way or form. And it is an uncomfortable thing to have to come to terms with. Which is exactly why I must soon leave Alan for someone who values ritual and consistency above all else, either a highly obsessive compulsive disordered man with excellent oral hygiene and neat fingernails or an OCD grandma who spends every Sunday morning at church and every other free moment laboriously dusting her collection of ceramic pig figurines.

When I say the sweatsuit dress code started young, I really mean it started as soon as I learned to stand on my own two feet. See below. That's me in the middle with Denise and Nat. And notice how I'm the only one with my sweatshirt tucked into my pants as if my pants just might fall down completely without the extra girth of the sweatshirt to hold them up? My mom is such a jokester!

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Today, I was in a meeting at work when the conversation took a turn and all of a sudden we were discussing 20-somethings. This is not the first time this has happened in a meeting, and, come to think of it, I will often hear references to 20-something year olds while going about my daily business. We are notorious, it would seem, for being big drinkers and big slackers. And we are sometimes painted as semi-bad people. Today someone said, "When I think about who I was in my twenties, I want to crawl inside my skin."

As someone who is in her 20s, I could see how something like this might make someone feel uncomfortable, but not me. I took this statement to be an exciting declaration that I could apply to myself one day. It reminds me that now, at this age, decreed on a stone on a hill somewhere, there are indulgences allowed. Like if I want to lay in bed at night and stew and pout in my disappointment for a whole hour, I can do that. Or if I want to make considerable impulse purchases multiple days in a row, I can do that too. I can also spend lots of time soul searching in tea shops with Nathalie while wearing one of my many large, shapeless t-shirts because I am in my 20s and there is still lots to find out about myself.

When I'm older, I will just look back and blame it on being young.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Valentine's Day

You would think that with the beautiful weather this past Sunday, lovers would be out holding hands and running through fields or something sappy and sweet like that, but it turns out that they were all at the mall. I would know. I was there. Nathalie and I were there together, actually, trying to pick out something nice for our friend Sarah.

Our friendship with Sarah runs way back and it runs deep, the way that most friendships do when you can bond over $1 burritos during lunch and drive in small red cars together listening to Blink-182. All throughout high school, we would plan. We even planned how we were going to ask Sarah's crush to the junior prom. I say "we" because Nathalie and I were written into the script. After catching her crush's attention, we planned to quickly hide behind her and become master ventriloquists. She would pretend to speak, while we, hidden behind her, would take on her voice and make pleasant conversation with him, eventually asking him out for her. He would never be the wiser. We were slick, we were, a well-oiled machine. Funny how in all those years we never really talked about getting married or grown up stuff like that, but here we are 9 years later. And now Sarah is about to tie the knot!

Sarah's Bridal Shower Cake

The future Mrs. Boonsirichai

Nat and adorable baby Gia

Then when I got home later that night, I found this lovey hand-picked bouquet waiting for me on my dresser. (Hand picked flowers! How thoughtful! How cute! How very old school!) I melt at sappy stuff.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

A Saturday in February

This morning, from nearly 700 miles away, my mom woke up, waited a few hours, then called to give me a wake up call at 10. My grandparents were celebrating Chinese New Year's at their house, and because it just wouldn't be right if we didn't celebrate new year's 3 times a year (in January, in February and then in April for Cambodian New Year's), Alan and I dragged ourselves out of bed and over to their house.

The hosts--grandma and grandpa
The spread-- all the goodies we ate

The married people: D&J

Afterward, Alan and I took advantage of the sun and went on a hike. And it so completely kicked our butts that we came home and haven't moved a muscle since.

There were all these really cool bridges everywhere.

And views, way up high.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

In Between Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum There Is That Thing

This morning, in the beginning, we were hopeful. The sun was out and its delicate rays draped about the room. It would for sure be a skirt day.

In the bathroom, I began the routine that begins every morning -- the brushing of teeth, the application of face lotion, then concealer, then powder and then the dealing with of hair. Alan's phone rang. It was the hospital. From what I could gather in between arranging this hair over that, it seemed that Alan was being scheduled for a colonoscopy THE colonoscopy that would signal the beginning of the end, the one that would trigger the series of tests that would tell us if he had beat it down, if the cancer was gone, if we could put all the ugliness of the past year in a box, tape it up and stow it away in the back of the closet on a shelf high above us.

I could hear him on the phone, reminding the nurse on the other end about the thing with his intestines. Will that matter? he wanted to know. What thing? she asked because she did not know, had not read his charts right and had no clue about the thing with his intestines. But of course he knew, could not wait to unknow and so he explained to her the thing with his intestines, the detachment of them. Oh, that! she exclaimed, and as she held her warm coffee mug in her hands with the phone pressed between her ear and shoulder, she considered saying that they dealt with those all the time, those being the easiest to deal with in said procedures, but decided against it and said that she would have to consult the doctor and hung up. Alan looked at the phone in his hand, doubtful. I couldn't imagine a whole team of medical professionals not considering the thing with his intestines before calling him to tell him 'The end is near!" and "Rejoice!" so I believed them and told him "Yay! This is the beginning of the end!"

I slid on my skirt and before I left, he said "I'm excited."

Now, the lesson here is to never become too excited and hopeful anytime a medical professional calls you with news, at least if they are from Valley Medical. Later in the day, Alan told me that the nurse had called him back. She had consulted the doctor and they had new news, the news being that they would have to call him back. The exchange between the nurse and the doctor went something like this:

Nurse: Doctor, we forgot to consider the thing with the patient's intestines.
Doctor: What thing?
Nurse: The thing! The thing!
Doctor: Oh, right, yes, that thing.
Nurse: He wants to know if that will delay things.
Doctor: (rubs her chin, wipes off crumbs from breakfast) Tell him we'll have to call him back.

Which is where we are at now, somewhere in between Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum who are eating donuts and having lots of good laughs in their warm, comfortable, if not well-stocked, break room.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Until I Get That Tropical Island

It could be worse. We could be stuck in the middle of a terrible snow storm. But instead, in California, we enjoy nothing but the best of brisk weather. Sometimes we will be so bold as to call it "freezing outside" and then get in our cars and crank the heat up to full blast. I consider all this as I sip my 2nd cup of decaf in the morning, but still I wish summer would hurry up and get here.

Bilbo & Alan - Summer '08 (because looking back, that summer was a really good one)

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Curiosity Shoppe, Sue and Roy, Oh Boy!

This weekend, my wonderful friends Sue and Roy came for a visit. Irene and I took Friday off, and together we had a ridiculously delicious 3-day weekend. When we weren't eating (and there was a lot of eating), we were walking around exploring and remembering what it felt like to be 18.

I picked up this framed swatch of screen-printed vintage wallpaper at this quirky store called The Curiosity Shoppe.

I also loved this little art project kit -- I think it'd make a delightful, funky-sort of Valentine.

The lovely Irene and Sue


Roy got me this awesome set of "Blog Posts" sticky notes.

These will make writing inspirational notes to myself so much more fun.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Cake Wrecks

Once when I was about 8 or 9, my brother got the most awesome cake for his birthday. It was a cheeseburger cake 9 inches of frosting deep and with about an inch of cake on the inside. The cake was dry, or maybe it was moist. It didn't much matter because it had all the other right kinds of cake qualities important to a 9 year old. It had a sesame seed bun, a flourish of lettuce and a gently melted slice of American cheese atop a beefy patty. I'll always remember that cake. And I have a distinct feeling the recipients of these Cake Wrecks won't forget theirs either. (How I only just now discovered Cake Wrecks is beyond me, but Alan and I spent a good five minutes tonight laughing at these).

This one was described as a "frankenpoo butterfly with fuzzy monster wings."

How to make Al feel special:

Beauty and the Feces

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