Bridal shower gifts

In the last few days, I’ve been getting emails and text messages from friends, asking me what I want for my bridal shower. The truth is that I’ve never been in a situation of my own making (as in, a voluntary birthday party that either my family or I have thrown) where I would implicitly be asking for gifts and then have to open them up in front of everyone. As my mom used to say to me when I was growing up and would ask why all my friends had big birthday parties I could occasionally attend but I did not, we supposedly didn’t have enough money for that (now I know that it’s not true, but whatever — now we know it was just cheapness and lack of desire to organize). The one birthday party I ever really had was a surprise thrown for me by one of my best friends today, organized at the Olive Garden (then, it was nice, but now clearly as my tastes have changed, it would be funny). Now that my bridal shower is coming up this Saturday, I realize I again need to be in a room full of people who want me to open my gifts and get googly eyed with gratitude. I know I should be grateful; I’m lucky that I even have friends who would be willing to travel for me and be a part of my wedding festivities, and I’m also lucky I have family who are alive and healthy and can celebrate. But I am awkward with the idea of asking for gifts, so I have been giving non-answers.

One friend asked me if I wanted an object or cash or a gift card. Another friend straight up said, I know I’d personally prefer cash, so guess what? You are getting cash! And then a third friend said, I know you like to bake and cook, so can you go around your kitchen and see what you don’t have or would consider a “nice-to-have”? And I’m not being rude when I’m asking you to do this, am I? She is so cute and practical.

I’m really excited about the weekend. I’ve never had a weekend where it was a celebration all about me, and I feel all at once happy, excited, awkward, and emotional about it. It seems so self-indulgent, but I don’t care anymore as long as everyone is happy and has fun. I still can’t believe I managed to get 15 women in my life in the same room in the same city at the same time. Not everyone I’d like to be there will be there, unfortunately, but I guess that’s the way life is. You have to take what you can get and enjoy it for what it is…. Because soon, those amazing moments will be over and replaced with new and different events. For the ones who couldn’t make it, it’s really their loss and not mine. And I feel the same way for those who won’t be attending our wedding.


The last time I had to stay overnight at an airport, I was in college, trying to get a connecting flight from Atlanta back to San Francisco on the way home for Christmas. I was flying stand-by on Delta with my uncle’s buddy pass, and because I was a non-revenue flier, they would not pay for me to stay at a hotel overnight. And because I was not only cheap but also on a student budget, I just laid my clothes on some seats at the airport and slept on the uncomfortable chairs overnight. I asked the security guy to watch over me. And he nicely did.

This time, our connecting flight to Chicago from Minneapolis was four hours delayed, resulting in us not making it to Chicago in time to board any New York-bound flight. So they put us in the nearby Crowne Plaza for the night and gave us each a $12 dinner voucher and a $7 breakfast voucher for our inconveniences.

You’d think I would be grateful, but I was more annoyed than anything. All of these delays were just because they were trying to fly us in an old plane where it took four hours to fix the air conditioning. When I was in college, I would have been really grateful to get a free hotel stay at a Crowne Plaza. I guess this just shows how priorities change and maybe even how much more impatient I have become.

Minnesota State Fair

Today was state fair day, and it was absolutely ridiculous — everything you could think of in America’s largest state fair was there: endless amusement park rides, games, and arcades; cotton candy and multicolored sweets everywhere; live music and entertainment; the sale of everything from actual trailers (from the extremely basic to the borderline luxurious, but is a “luxury trailer” an oxymoron?) to tall and loud lawn mowers; and of course, the most amusing element to me: all things possible you can think of that are “fried,” “on a stick,” and everything that encompasses both of those lovely terms. The usual culprits were there that people always joke about, things like fried oreos, fried candy bars on a stick (we found out that is the single item that the most caloric food sold at the fair – who would have thought that would be above any of the fried meat items?), and fried Twinkie. But there were even some items I hadn’t even imagined and were even representative of the increasing diversity of the fair attendees: fried baklava, fried alligator on a stick, fried fruit on a stick (I wonder if that was also gluten free?), chocolate covered nut roll on a stick, and fried cheesecake on a stick.

The state fair was really educational — there were a number of exhibit halls where you get to learn about everything from the different local trees grown in the area and what their bark is used for, local honeys and how bees make them, and all the things that make Minnesota unique, such as it being the state with the most active “hybriding” system of creating some of the country’s most popular apples; the honeycrisp apple, which is my absolute favorite apple, is a hybrid of the “people” and “keepsake” apples and was patented in 1988 and released to the public in 1991. Unfortunately for me, it has a short season in September, and so it’s the only time of the year you ever see them at farmers’ markets and grocery stores. To me, it’s the best combination of sweetness, tartness, and crisp and crunchiness. No other apple really compares.

I even learned that the U.S. has a designated “honey princess” every year. I guess based on that name, it’s a bit sexist and can only be filled by a woman. But her role is to travel around the country, educating the masses at schools and state fairs about honey, how it is made, how to cook and eat it, and of course, its health benefits. We watched the 2015 American honey princess today make a quick Greek yogurt/peanut butter/honey dip for apples.

The overall focus on education and the push for local, public Minnesota schools was very clear, as well. It was definitely a fried food and education filled day that brought out the true American in me.


Today, Chris and I are headed to another state as we attempt to see every state in the country, and this time, it’s Minnesota. It’s the 37th state I’ve visited, and I think Chris is around the same number, plus or minus one or two. Off the top of my head, I have visited Arkansas and he hasn’t; he has visited New Mexico and Indiana, and I have not. For those who haven’t done much Minnesota research, the things that people generally know about it is that it is the home of the Mall of America, generally is a swing state, and has the largest and most popular state fair in the country. We’re visiting during the state fair time, so of course, we are planning to go there tomorrow to indulge in the Americana life of fried food and all things on a stick, as well as seeing live animals, which Chris just cannot wait for (actually, he hates animals unless they are on his plate). Also on my list are representative foods of the area, including Scandinavian, Vietnamese, Hmong, and “local” new American places such as Piccolo.

Based on what we have read so far, the culture of Minneapolis and St. Paul feel a lot like that of Milwaukee in Wisconsin. There’s a big culture of locavore eating as well as microbreweries and micro distilleries. The very first sake brewery in the United States called Moto-i opened right here in Minneapolis and has been an active brew pub since 2008. After visiting Gekkeikan in Kyoto during our Japan visit and being exposed to a number of different types of sake, we’re still in Japan withdrawal and hope to get exposed to other types of sake during this visit. People grow maple trees and sell maple syrup that is local to Minnesota here, and also similar to Wisconsin, they have their own cheese culture here that is just less well known than Wisconsin’s. I love visiting places where local food is highly valued and there’s a culture of supporting other local foods and businesses.

A message for a message seven years later

Facebook has its pluses and minuses. However you’d like to categorize it, being able to message people in your Facebook “network” can be a plus or a minus. Yesterday, it felt like a big plus. Seven years ago, a former high school classmate experienced the death of her father. She was clearly stricken with grief by it, and posted the eulogy she wrote for him as a note on Facebook. I saw it in my feed that day in 2008, which was the year we both graduated from college, and I felt so awful when I read it. I could feel myself tearing up, my face getting hot while reading through it, wondering how terrible and alone she must have felt while delivering that speech at her father’s funeral. I knew I had to say something to her, even if we were never officially friends in real life. So I sent her a Facebook message, expressing my condolences, and I told her that I really believed her father was watching over her life now in another form, and that in another form, he’d always be with her.

Yesterday, after I uploaded my Facebook/Instagram post about Bart representing Ed on Ed’s birthday, this same person reached out to me to say how moved she was by my post. She said that because Facebook stores all old messages, my message to her all those years ago immediately came up when she started typing in my name to message me, and she remembered how happy and grateful she felt that I’d reached out to her all those years ago. Honestly, if she had never messaged me today, I never would have remembered ever reaching out to her and writing this message. This was part of her message to me yesterday:

“I saw the photo you posted for your brother’s birthday and I wanted to tell you I’m very sorry for your loss and that you’ve been so strong. I think it’s wonderful that you bring Bart with you wherever you go. It’s really beautiful and I’m sitting here with a couple tears in my eyes looking at your Instagram photos with Bart everywhere with you around the world. Ed is so lucky to have you as a sister, because he can still see the world through you. I think you already know without me saying this that it’s totally fine to cry, even after years have passed – because I still cried this year on my dad’s birthday, too! No one will forget. Thanks for sharing with us all.”

Facebook forces us to remember the thoughtful messages that others have written us, which I guess is sort of a nice thing. It also allows us to reach out and be supportive to others who may not be close to us, but sort of still know us, because sometimes when you least expect it, you can get support from those you never really thought cared at all. That’s pretty amazing sometimes.


Dear Ed,

Happy birthday – today you turn 36. The reason I am not that excited about this is a) you aren’t here anymore, so what does this really mean, and b) I’m in a moment where I kind of hate the world. I had some successful client meetings the last few days here in Atlanta, yet I still feel dissatisfied. I woke up on your birthday morning crying, thinking how upset I am that you are dead. I wrote an Instagram post telling my Facebook and Instagram world the meaning of Bart and how he represents you and how I want you to travel the globe with me. It feels so empty. All of that feels empty. People are commenting and saying what a great sister I am. Was I really that great, Ed? You know what I would prefer? If no one complimented me and told me I was a great sister while you were dead, and if you were actually alive and healthy and well and happy. I guess that is too much to ask for. Sometimes life really sucks. But you already knew that, right, and that’s why you decided to peace out. God, that makes me mad.

I don’t know why, but this year has been much harder for me to deal with than last year in terms of not having you. When the anniversary of your passing came and your birthday last year, I actually kind of had it together, and I wasn’t crying or anything. I felt like it, but I didn’t. This year, it’s really different. I feel like everything is triggering me to think of you and tear up, wishing you could have had a tiny piece of the privilege and happiness I’ve been able to have, and wishing that you could be on this earth with me again. There’s too much you didn’t get to experience, Ed. It makes me so upset when I think about it. I never got a chance to fully express myself to you, and I don’t know if I will ever really get over it. Sometimes, I just feel so lonely, like no one understands or cares enough. This donor drive is driving me crazy. I don’t want to take it personally when people don’t respond or donate, but I can’t help it. I almost feel like it’s an affront to you and what you mean to me. I just want you to be back, and it’s so hard some days. Everyone who can’t empathize in the slightest, I want them all to fuck off and go to hell and perhaps get hit by a truck. That sounds terrible, doesn’t it? You’d get so mad at me if I said that in your living presence.

I miss you. It goes without saying, but sometimes, it just needs to be said. As human beings, we don’t say how we feel enough, which isn’t right because of how short life is. I wish I could have told you more, but now, all I have left is my occasional prayer to God, this blog, and my Instagram/Facebook posts speaking to you. I miss you. I love you. I have nothing else left to say now, but I hope you are well where you are and think of me occasionally, lovingly. I really wish my brother were here with me today.





Tonight, I hosted a client dinner for a party of 15 here in Atlanta, with two of my colleagues who traveled down from New York for the meetings we will be having these two days. And for the first time ever, I almost burst into tears in the presence of my clients while hearing one of their stories. Thank God I was able to maintain my composure.

One of the new employees hired on the analytics team at my client’s company sat next to me at dinner, and we were getting to know each other and each others’ life stories. He is quite an eclectic man: he came out to his parents at age 15, got kicked out of his Christianity cultish parents’ house, finished high school while living with extended relatives in a better neighborhood in Fort Worth, then joined the army for six years. He’s always had an affinity for numbers and for analytics and visual representations of everything, which is ultimately what brought him to my client. But the story he shared with me, which if I remember correctly, was from his experience after he left the army and was working for the government, touched me to a degree I have never felt before in my life.

He told me about how he was doing forensics work, and a body of a John Doe was brought in who was killed in combat. For days, they waited for family members, friends, anyone to claim him, yet no one did. What are they going to do? He thought. Because he had served in the army, the government ultimately paid for this man’s funeral, but when the funeral was scheduled, no one came… except my client and his then colleagues. The few of them came to the service, and were amazed that no one had showed up — not a single person. And this man still had no identity. He just couldn’t believe it, my client said. How could not a single person in the entire world not recognize or claim to know this man.. or not even show up to his funeral? He felt so hurt, to think that a human being could die and not have a single soul care or show up to his funeral on this earth.

He went back to the office and started looking over John Doe’s charts, and he thought, I want to memorialize this guy, this John Doe. How can I do this? How can I do something small in my own life to remember this man that no one else wants to remember? I want him to know that someone did remember him, and that someone will be me. He thought for a while, and remembered he’d always wanted to get a tattoo on his body, something that was large and all over his arm and maybe even spreading out to his back, something that was meaningful. And so he decided to take this man’s DNA sequence and have the entire thing tattooed on him, from his left forearm all the way up his shoulder, and down the middle of his back. He already had part of his arm revealed with his short-sleeved shirt, and so he showed me part of the DNA sequence and the detailing.

I could feel my eyes watering when he shared this story with me. “I don’t think it’s a big deal,” he said to me, smiling and laughing. “This is the sort of thing that people in my circles do all the time! But as I meet more and more people, I’m realizing that maybe it’s not really ‘normal’ after all. But I figured – if no one else will remember him, I can, right?”

This man’s humanity really touched me. I had to try really hard to fight back tears as he told me this. Who in the world would do something like this — remember a guy he had absolutely no connection with in life, feel sorry for him because no one came to his funeral to “claim” him, and then decide to “remember” him by tattooing his entire DNA sequence on his physical body? He didn’t want this stranger to be forgotten, so he’s literally stamped him on his body, which it will be on forever. I told him that I found his actions incredibly endearing and admirable to a level I’ve probably never heard of before.

It’s almost always a common nightmare people cite — who will come to my funeral when I die? How will I be remembered, if at all? This John Doe will be remembered by my client forever.


Hotel room surprise

I checked into my hotel room tonight at the W Midtown Atlanta to find a surprise on the vanity counter waiting for me. It was a bottle of California chardonnay in an ice-filled silver bucket, and a small plate of delicately arranged petit fours. With it came a hand-written note by the W concierge, thanking me for my 10th stay at a Starwood Hotels property, and congratulating me for reaching this “milestone” and hoping I will enjoy my loyalty perks.

I was pretty shocked when I saw these gifts waiting for me, and even more shocked when I read through the hand-written note. But then, I honestly started feeling a little guilty for my privilege. I’ve never stayed at a Starwood property unless it’s been for work, with one exception for the time I was in Philadelphia for a pleasure trip, and I happened to get a good deal at a Sheraton through Hotwire. Starwood hotels are pretty terrible value, and the hotels are almost always very expensive. I mean, for $250/night, you don’t even automatically get Q-Tips and cotton balls in your vanity kit; in fact, you get no vanity kit and have to request it.

And then I thought about my brother, and how he’s only stayed at nice hotels on the evenings of two of his cousin’s weddings, when he got a free hotel room all to himself. Those were the only nights of his life he ever to got to enjoy a spiffy hotel room. I only wish Ed got to enjoy even a fraction of the privilege I have had in my short life.

Afternoon dessert

Today, my good friend’s sister met me in the West Village for to catch up over dessert. She lives with her sister, my friend, her brother, and their parents in Little Rock. They’re the only people I know who live in Little Rock… and actually enjoy it.

She told me that since my friend got treated for cancer and now that it’s gone, she’s actually become even more of a recluse. She doesn’t really spend time with any friends at all unless they are her sister’s, and she’s become more clingy to their mother. We’re 29 years old. This is definitely not a good sign. She tries to avoid all driving despite the fact that she lives in an area that necessitates a car. Little Rock is not anything like New York City with public transit.

I always thought that after some life-altering experience, whether it’s a death of someone very close to you, or getting treated and getting over a life-threatening disease, we’d be forced to make major changes in our lives and outlooks, and hopefully for the better. Sadly, for my friend, whether she wanted to share it with me or not, she hasn’t.


Last night, I dreamt I was at my parents’ house, sitting on the couch with Ed next to me. My parents are sitting on the opposite couch, and one of my best friends is also in the room. Suddenly, my former (verbally abusive) boyfriend from my college years walks in, and he plops himself on the couch next to me. I’m wondering, who the hell invited him here?

And as I’m thinking this, my mom starts discussing the will that she and my dad have finalized. She says that they’ve decided to evenly split everything between Ed and me, but with Ed’s portion, I have control over how he chooses to use the money and inheritance left to him. The reason for this is because of Ed’s mental illness. He’s not fit to make decisions on his own and needs my assistance. Ed gets really angry and starts yelling at them, saying that he’s an adult; he should be allowed to make his own decisions, and that he will be responsible enough to decide for himself. My dad interjects and starts calling him stupid and all kinds of other criticisms. I yell at them to stop criticizing Ed, and that this topic is really inappropriate in front of people outside of our family. My friend and the ex are oblivious. It’s as though they don’t even realize that there is an argument happening right in front of them. No one is listening to me. Our parents continue to attack and put down Ed and ignore my pleas to stop. I get so heated that I stand up and kick both of my parents in the head one by one, and they both stop yelling and fall to the floor and hit their heads.

Even though I was scared in my dream that I could have killed both of them by kicking them in the heads, it actually felt like such a relief to take out some aggression on them. There have been too many times to count where I have yelled and defended my brother to no avail, but none that would have made such an impact as physical violence like this.