New Year’s Eve

Today, Chris and I spent the morning reflecting on all of our past New Year’s Eves, and it suddenly occurred to me that I’ve never really gotten very excited about New Year’s at all. I get excited about Thanksgiving and Christmas, but New Year’s always seems so overhyped to me. I guess I am turned off by those events thrown in cities like San Francisco and New York where you fork over some ridiculous three-digit amount of money just to get into the venue, but for some reason, that money will only cover one drink for you, if you are that lucky. I think you can have a great New Year’s celebration and not have to spend so much money. The most important thing is that you are with people who you love who want to have fun, as trite as it is. Fireworks and alcohol are big bonuses, though.

The best New Year’s I’ve ever had was in Sydney last year, where Chris and I waited over 14 hours to see the incredible fireworks over the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House (thank God it was summer where we were – we both got pretty tanned that day despite constant sunblock reapplication). I don’t think any fireworks display could ever compete with Sydney’s – it happens so fast and all around you that you barely have time to process that the fireworks are going off, and then when you are looking one way, you experience an internal conflict where you aren’t sure which way to turn your head – left, right, center, or just turn 180 degrees!

Tonight, we are just going to a small house party in Long Island City that a friend and his dog are throwing. I think as time goes on, I’d prefer quieter New Year’s, and if they aren’t quiet, I’d hope they would be warm like it was last year in Sydney.

I haven’t forgotten about Ed. Bart is coming to Long Island City with us. Happy new year, Ed. Miss you.

“Merry Christmas” thoughts

Christmas has been over for five days now, but I am obviously in withdrawal because I am still thinking about it and lamenting its end. I have one thought that I haven’t shared yet, so I ¬†figured it would be a good idea to post it before the month of December has ended.

Being in the super politically correct land that is New York City, I have rarely been told “merry Christmas!” in a public environment. At work, whether it’s on the phone, in person, or via e-mail, everyone will always write “Happy Holidays!” On office gifts that past vendors have sent me, the same “Happy Holidays!” greeting is on it. Even my own freaking friends, on CHRISTMAS cards they send and give me, write “Happy Holidays!” as the first message after “Dear Yvonne.” When I have said “Merry Christmas” to past colleagues and to friends who I know for a fact celebrate Christmas, they have almost always responded “happy holidays to you, too!” Is this really necessary when you and I both know that you and I celebrate Christmas?

Christmas is a national holiday in the United States of America. You don’t need to be Christian to celebrate Christmas; I believe in God, but I don’t consider myself Christian or label myself with any other religious affiliation, but I love Christmas, and most of the people I know who love and celebrate Christmas are not Christian; a lot of them are Jews! And everyone who actually is really Christian knows that 1) Jesus was not actually born on the 25th of December and 2) Santa Claus, Christmas trees, and Christmas lights and ornaments have absolutely nothing to do with the birth of Jesus. We could all learn a thing or two from Australia, where during the month of December, you see “Merry Christmas” written all over the Town Hall and major street stations, and where you can say “Merry Christmas” freely to anyone and everyone and know that they will happily respond “Merry Christmas” back and not be offended.

The term “happy holidays” is dead to me. I will only say it at work to clients if I absolutely have to, but I am more looking forward to saying “happy new year” when I go back, because for now, at least as far as I know, that doesn’t seem to offend anyone… yet.

A year in review

In three days, 2013 will be over.

This year, I finally crossed the border and entered Canada to see Ben in Toronto and visited the Canadian side of the Niagara Falls. I traveled to Seattle, Portland, St. Louis, Springfield, Hannibal, Charlotte, Charleston, Savannah, Milwaukee, Newport, Providence, and Cleveland. I took a business trip to Los Angeles to do training, went home to San Francisco four times (which has never happened before in a single year), and spent Thanksgiving in Germany and Christmas in Melbourne, with a side trip to New Zealand while in the Southern Hemisphere. I hosted two visiting friends from other states, had Ben and my in-laws stay with us multiple times, and prepared coffee at 5:30am for them most mornings. I hosted an early Thanksgiving dinner at my apartment. I lost between 10-14 pounds after taking up rigorous morning workouts, committed to writing on this blog every day, read one book a month, and started the 1 Second Every Day video project. I left my job of over four years to join a tech company that offers a social media marketing platform, took up Bikram yoga, saw a lot of theater, and jumped off a cliff. I discovered delicious Cambodian food in Cleveland, ate one of the best burgers of my life at B Spot, and achieved my personal culinary goals of making pad thai, appam, and empanadas – all from scratch. I helped reunite my dad with his high school best friend. I lost my beloved Ed this year and wrote and delivered the most painful speech of my life. I got mad at my entire family and decided that I would stop investing as much time in people who were ungrateful to me and the things I have done for them. I decided to start seeing a therapist to deal with my anger. And I made a promise to myself that I have the right to be happy.

A lot has happened this year, and a lot of pain will continue on. But the only choice I really have now is to continue moving forward with my life despite the tragedies I’ve experienced and the pain I endure. Every day is hard in its own way, and there are moments during the day that hurt more than others. I know I’ve been very fortunate in ways that Ed never was, and so for him, I will keep going. I will try to be happy for his sake and his memory. And Bart will keep me company along the way.

Dream baby

During this trip, I met the baby that most parents dream of. This baby is sociable, runs up to anyone and everyone to play, and eats “exotic” foods that most babies either reject, or their parents are just too scared to expose them to. I love Frankie.

Frankie is about 16 months old and eats pretty much everything his parents eat – pita, olives, feta cheese, tzatziki, hummus, brownies, fruit cake. To our knowledge, he hasn’t rejected any food to which he’s been introduced. During a grocery trip at the supermarket, while out of his mother’s sight for just a second, he ran up to a display of cherries, stole one, and popped it into his mouth. He devoured the cherry, pit and all, and tried to go back wanting more. Now, he just eats whole cherries with pits. While that would normally be the nightmare of most parents due to the potential choking hazards, Frankie giggles on and eats more.

I hope one day that my future children can eat everything the way Frankie does. And maybe if I feel good, I will even introduce ketchup to them (but it better not have any high fructose corn syrup in it).

 

Marriage and children

Because I’ve spent a lot of this trip around Chris’s friends children, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about becoming a parent and what kind of parent I will be. And since my mom has been quite morbid in the last year, she hasn’t been shy about reminding me that every day, I am getting older (gee, I completely forgot this), and she wants to see her grandchildren sometime soon and wants to be around when they come. I guess that’s what parents are for – brutal honesty even when you don’t want to face it. I suppose that when she talks about wanting grandchildren, she also is implying that I would have to be married before those children would be born, but I don’t really see that happening anytime soon.

Marriage and children seem like a very distant future to me even though I am going to turn 28 soon. Most women of my mother’s time had already born all of their children by my age, so I can see why my mother feels that I am of ripe child-bearing age and condition. Seeing all of these young people interact with their babies, feed them, and change diapers feels so foreign to me. Some women get really excited and think, “Yay, one day I will be a new mommy!” Right now, I am thinking, “Thank God that is not me.”

Maybe part of the reason I’m not really looking “forward” to it is because I know Ed won’t be around to see me get married or bear children. The people who tend to be happiest in your life when these “milestones” are hit are usually your parents and siblings. My one sibling is gone forever. If I have kids, they will never know their Uncle Ed in the flesh, and they will only hear stories about him from me. I don’t really trust anyone else sharing stories about him.

And then I am reminded by the regret of someone I know whose dad died from cancer. She said that if there is one regret she has in life, it’s that her dad couldn’t be there to walk her down the aisle the day she got married. If the most important people of your life aren’t around to see you married, then I think, why would I even have a wedding?

Boxing Day

Boxing Day is an official day off here in Australia. Americans don’t know what it is; I never knew what it was until Chris told me. I personally think it’s a weak excuse for another federal holiday, but I’m never going to complain about an extra day off from work..

Boxing Day is a happy day at the Jacob house because it’s another day to feast on great food prepared by the family and another day to continue the games and madness that occurred on Christmas just the day before. In some way, though, it’s a sad day because it is a reminder that Christmas has ended, which means that the peak of happiness and highness is over, and soon it will be time to go home, back to reality and back to work. The days for Loaded Questions and Balderdash are now numbered.

Three weeks seems like a long time to spend for the Christmas season in the Southern hemisphere, but it always tends to fly by so quickly. I almost want it to last longer, but then I think that would be bad because it’s like I am stalling regular life from happening.

Once Christmas ends, it’s also time for me to start thinking about what I want to do for the new year – what my goals will be for work and life, where I want to travel to, what books I want to read, what new activities I want to invest time in. 2013 was exhausting, frustrating, and dramatic, yet at the same time, it was also extremely productive in many ways. This year, my family and I lost my Ed and our family friend Bob, my best friend from college was diagnosed with cancer, I left my miserable job to start a new one, and I experienced a lot of personal growing pains with different people in my life. I’m not sure what will happen in 2014, but here’s to hoping that it will bring fulfilling experiences that will help make me a better, more well-rounded, and happier person. Life is too short to waste a minute of it.

Christmas is here

Christmas is here, and so is my fuzzball’s 32nd birthday. Today was a day filled with food, laughter, loudness, photos, games, and happiness. Today was probably one of the most enjoyable Christmases I have ever had. Even when I thought of Ed today, I felt happy and hopeful. He isn’t with me anymore, but I still felt him all day long.

It’s the first Christmas he hasn’t been around for, the first Christmas I didn’t pick out a gift for him, the only Christmas when I didn’t speak with him at all – not even a phone call. It felt strange to call my parents on Christmas day, San Francisco time, and not ask to speak with him or hear his voice. I guess I will need to get used to it.

Every Christmas, I will think of him and all the thoughtful, beautiful gifts he gave me. I will remember us waking up in the same room, wishing each other merry Christmas, and exchanging gifts and unwrapping them together. I will think of and play with the Christmas ornaments he picked out for me, even when he knew we didn’t have a real Christmas tree to put them on at home. I will remember him playing Mariah Carey’s Merry Christmas album, in particular “Jesus Born on this Day,” which he would occasionally set on Repeat. My brother is a child of God. He now resides in the House of the Lord, forever. And one day, I will see him again.

Merry Christmas, Ed. I love you.

Moodiness

This is by far the moodiest Christmas season I’ve ever had. My mood has gone from very high and happy while in New Zealand to depressed and sobbing on Christmas Eve. I’m still not sure if it is linked to Ed leaving me this year or if it’s just because I can’t get over how dysfunctional my wider family is, especially when compared with Chris’s.

I’ve found myself really missing my parents, especially when I’ve spoken with them over the phone the last several days. Even though my mom doesn’t celebrate Christmas anymore ever since she converted to being a Jehovah’s Witness, the last Christmas and this year, I can tell just by the sound of her voice that she’s very sad that I am not physically there for her. Pre-2012, I had been home for Christmas every year except 2008, so she still isn’t used to my being away at that time of the year.

Home isn’t the happiest place for me, but it’s still home. I love my parents and miss them. I love Ed and am still grappling with the fact that I will never see him again. Even though I am not home for Christmas and would not expect to see him at home, it still feels as though he is missing.

Why am I so moody, Ed?

Christmas cooking

This year for the Jacob family Christmas extravaganza, I am planning to make pumpkin pie, pumpkin panna cotta, jaffa cookies using my favorite chocolate chip cookie dough base, and Chilean-style empanadas. We just finished grocery shopping for all the ingredients, but of course, since Australians are not super familiar with the idea of canned pumpkin, we brought canned organic Trader Joe’s pumpkin into the country, as well as masa harina. These empanadas are going to be the most time consuming and laborious, and of course, the dough for them will not be light. I can already see Chris’s mother cringing at the amount of real butter we bought for them. No margarine use here.

Christmas is the one time of year historically (okay, so this is only the second Christmas) when Chris and I have cooked together in the same kitchen at the same time. One day, it will be nice when we have our own little ones in our kitchen pitching in to help cook and prep Christmas dinner every year together. My little Bart figurine can be in the background while we all cook to “Jingle Bell Rock.”

Gift giving

Once upon a time, making a Christmas list was a fun thing to do. When I was between the ages of 5 and 8, my parents would tell me to write a letter to Santa explaining to him that I had been a good girl that year, and then let him know what I wanted for Christmas. That was fun while it lasted…at least, until I realized Santa was fake, but because I wanted the gifts, I continued to pretend that “Santa” existed until my mother decided I was too old to believe in Santa anymore. So those lists came to an end.

Then when I started making friends in high school, someone suddenly decided it was fine for all of us to make Christmas “wish” lists. I never really thought this was a great idea because I don’t particularly like people telling me to buy things for them, but because I figured it was practical (and since I am Asian, I am by definition practical), I went along with it.

Christmas is about giving, sharing, togetherness, Christmas trees and decorations, bright sparkling lights, great food, and for those who are religious, Jesus’s birth (even if his real birth date actually is not the 25th of December, but that is another story for another time). If I have to participate in wish lists, it’s like it sucks out the fun and imagination of choosing a gift for someone I am supposed to love. And if you have someone you don’t like shopping for because they annoy you in some way, then why are you choosing to give that person a gift anyway? Practicality is one thing, but I don’t think that in itself should be the only reason that goes into choosing a gift for a loved one. Imagination and creativity should come through in the gifts we give, which then translate into love.

Ed would have been so pissed if I were to ever give him a list or tell him what to get me. He thinks it’s a sign of being childish and a bit greedy and ungrateful for what you have. My wise Ed.