Sunday, May 4, 2014


Sunflower, the blonde lab/greyhound/beautiful dog came into our lives in 2001, at a time when I was gaining a sense of self and high school kids still seemed mature. I had just gone through a breakup, my first “real” one, and I used talk of a new puppy to make conversation with the ex. (Sorry for using you, Sunny). My family had never had a dog before, the extent of our caregiving limited to fish, birds, and I confess, rodents. This was a huge step for us. Shortly after my sister, Linda, rescued Sunny from a shelter in Superior, she moved into a place that didn’t allow pets. So she pawned the little pup off on our family.  We quickly had to learn to bond with the canine world, no matter how much we loathed cleaning up messes, repairing furniture, and buying replacement shoes. She. Ate. Everything! The fancy living room chairs not really even meant for sitting? Eaten. The giant Alpaca pillow that was fuzzy and expensive? Eaten. Several pairs of glammed up dancing shoes belonging to my mom? Eaten. Her heavy-duty plastic kennel? Eaten. All the other things? Eaten.

But as annoyed as we were in the wake of her destructive behavior, we couldn’t help but love the almost-violent thrashing of her tail against the washing machine. Or the slobbery kisses that were supremely gross, yet wonderful at the same time. When I was sad, and in my adolescence and early adulthood, that was A LOT, Sunny would sit by my side and provide a comfort no one else could. This dog loved me and I would love this dog, even when she slept diagonal in the middle of the bed. Sunny wasn’t a cuddler, but her personality would have fooled you into believing otherwise. Her sweet demeanor and giddiness for going on walks and playing in the snow are traits I will miss the most. All you had to say was “You wanna…” and she knew that “go for a walk” were the next words that followed. You would try to spell T-R-E-A-T but Sunny knew what you were up to once you got to the R. And a bath? Fuhhhhgetaboutit.

If you’ve never had a dog you were close to, the pain that accompanies loss might seem insane to you. But it feels like a family member has gone. Someone you loved and cherished for several years is no longer physically present. But the sadness and hollow feeling inside go numb after a while, when it’s no longer feasible to shed tears day in and day out. Then you climb over all those obstacles of grief, those stages that work like clockwork, but in no set pattern. The anger, the guilt, the denial – they fade. And what remains? A beautiful memory of a beautiful dog who never once stopped loving for you for something you did or did not do or for who you were or were not. The love between a dog and a human is unconditional, and it’s true.

Sunflower, you will be sorely missed, but tenderly remembered for all of our days.

*This was first written to be posted after Sunflower passed in December 2013. Then, I was going to post it on her birthday in 2014. I never got around to it, for whatever reason. Since then, another family dog (Spirit) has passed away and is playing with Sunflower in Doggy Heaven. She is also missed, and judging by my timing, the post about Spirit will come in a few months.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Home Video Heartache

On a whim, my boyfriend decides to hook up the VCR and find random VHS to play. Watching home videos is something I've been meaning to do for the past couple of years, and finally, it happens. The people in charge of filming don't know how to keep the camera steady, resulting in a huge viewer headache. The videos are of times when life was a little more innocent and the scars and self-doubt didn't exist, resulting in a huge viewer heartache.

The first scene is of my family sledding. My dad takes each of us down the hill with him, my mom safely tucked behind the camera. My sisters and I all pile into a long, red sled. They urge Mary to join us. Mary refuses and decides to scoot on her butt next to us, instead of jumping on the bandwagon. Later in life, we find that Mary always does her own thing.

The next scene is of Mary's birthday party. I was obviously peeved that it wasn't my own birthday, begrudgingly eating my piece of cake and making faces at the camera. The camera pans across the living room, soaking in faces I don't remember and ones I do. Men have more hair, women have fewer wrinkles, and relationships still exist.

Then we go to Iowa. My mom questions my four-year-old self; asking if I know who we are going to visit, in which state, and finally, why. In a small voice, I say "because Grandpa died." My sister Linda says "Bunga probably doesn't even remember him." And I don't. And that makes me sad. I also don't know that I will get to meet my only other living Grandpa a year later. And that he will take care of me and I will remember him fondly after he dies in 1999.

It's time to pick strawberries. An event so small and yet not at all. My whole family is there. My parents, my sisters, my uncle and aunt, and some others. We examine the fruits. We bring our own red colanders, a word my mom had me mispronouncing for years. I sit on my dad's knee as he tries to bite a strawberry and feed it to me. My aversion to other people's germs starts early; I bat his hand away. I run through the field, my crop top inches up, exposing my bulging belly, and I don't give a damn. The camera focuses on Mary, she bites into a strawberry, enjoys its sweetness, then scrunches her face from the sour taste. Later in life, my dad, my sister, and I all become allergic to strawberries. I also become allergic to crop tops.

Zoom in on a picnic. Now we're in Duluth. We have several minutes of footage capturing our group taking Asian-photos of everything. I've seen all these photos in albums before, but it's better to see the moving pictures. My dad jokes around with his friend Gary, and they both tease my mom. They don't know at the time that Gary dies five years later from a heart attack triggered by a bout of snow shoveling.

The screen turns to fuzzy lines, the buzz so void, yet so full of everything that was. The tape stops. It automatically rewinds so we can relive it again. And we will. Because even though it hurts to, it would hurt so much more not to.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

I Will Write.

I didn’t summarize my 2013 and I didn’t post about my vision for 2014. I didn’t write for months. I didn’t think I had time to sit and ponder existence anymore; or figure out ways to be better. I was just dealing with the junkyard of my mind, trying to figure out what went where and how to sort it all out. Since I last wrote in October 2013, (and just before that was April!) you can imagine what I did – I went to concerts, I celebrated several peoples’ birthdays, I worked, I played, I ran a few 5k races, I spent time with family, I lost a beloved pet, I went to London for 10 days, I got overwhelmed by the holidays, I froze my ass off in the polar vortex, I celebrated my 27th birthday, I enrolled in an online calligraphy course, I contemplated grad school and technical school, I drank a shitton of coffee, I lost weight, I gained it back, I lost it again, I gained it again. I did all the normal things that I normally do, but I didn’t write. And not writing, for me, becomes toxic to my being – it spoils my brain and corrodes my sanity. I kept telling myself “Write.” “Just take a few minutes and get your thoughts out.” And then the other part of me said “Go out with your friends. Clean your house. Do anything but waste time and sit and wonder.” And then an external voice of a friend said “Write.”

So. Now. I. Write.

(Dear readers, if there are any of you left, please hold me accountable...for my own sake). Here’s to 2014 and getting back to the words on a page I so dearly need.)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Up All Night

I'm doing that thing again. You know, the one where I intend to go to sleep early so I can rise early and have a fresh, productive day, but instead find my finger pads violently crushing the keyboard so I can transpose thoughts into words.

It's late and it's been six months since I last posted here. I almost thought I was done writing about what she knew was true - I guess there are more truths to be had though. I wanted to come back with a bang - with something profound, deep, beautiful, moving, funny, entrancing. Instead, it's just me. It's just my night owl self who worked out too late to let the energy subside before bedtime. Me, the one who doesn't actually institute bedtime at all. What happens, happens.

I haven't sat down to actively reflect and write in quite some time. I've been busy on my other blog going to shows and writing about them, wearing clothes and taking pictures of them. So I've been reflecting on events and occurrences instead of the things that literally keep me up at night - love, the future, death, travel, literature, health, goals.

I've also been doing this really cool thing at night - playing geography games on my iPad. I can recognize most countries by territorial outline or flag, look at a picture of a landmark and place it on a world map...I can even say all of the states in alphabetical order while pointing to them on a map. This is what I spend my time on. And then I think about traveling to all of those places and how there is so much world, so little time. I just remind myself I'll get there one day.

That is all. Time to play a game until I fall asleep to dream about something inexplicably odd, like having a business meeting in my old Woodbury house while I fold laundry and watch TV. Or Bruce Willis hijacking my car only to total it for fun.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Five Years Time

Disclaimer: this was meant to be posted in mid-January, the 5-year mark of my departure from everything I knew.

Second disclaimer: Photos are not actually anywhere in HK, but were taken on travels during my time abroad.

The day was cold and biting, the night before bittersweet and tear-stained. I regretfully left the side of my sister and brother-in-law to pass through the cold, metal gateway to an escape from my life.

I had a difficult year behind me, the self I had known disintegrated before becoming viable again. I needed an escape: new scenery, new people, new adventures. A naive, 20-year-old with waning confidence and a nervous demeanor, I boarded an airplane with two acquaintances who would eventually grow to be my best friends. 

To get through the 14-hour flight, we started conversations and played games. David and I poured over the pages of his puzzle book, competing to find differences between two seemingly identical photos. After bouts of being entertained, bored, anxious, excited, restless, sleepy and sad, we finally touched down on the foreign land we were to call home for the next five months. Hello, Hong Kong.

David, Jeff and I made the mistake of not learning the name of our university in Chinese. We scrambled for any address, logo, document we could find that would bear any sort of clue to where we needed to be. Weary and drained, we finally were able to communicate our needs and were promptly packed into the boxy red taxi en route to Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

I had been in the city before, but had little memory of just how massive and daunting it was. The millions of people sardined into high-rises were a spectacle; the rolling hills, surrounding water and striking cityscape all juxtaposed to form one, beautiful, chaotic reality.

4am is no time to get lost in translation, much less check into your residence with hefty eyelids. I managed to forget the sequence of communications, but in the end, we barrelled up to the 2nd and 4th floors to our respective rooms. I dropped off my suitcase, then descended to see Jeff and David again. We woke Jeff's roommate, Jake, and he stayed coherent enough to make introductions and chat. I love to look back on the first time I met someone - the impressions, reservations, excitement all eventually trade themselves in for familiarity, memories, inside jokes and a deep connection. 
Angkor, Cambodia

After tiring ourselves out once again, our sleep-deprived bodies stumbled to bed. Not expecting the historical cold front in a tropical land, I had little with which to sleep. I snuggled with my travel pillow, a towel and a hoodie the first lonely night and eagerly awaited a feeling of rest and a looming trip to Ikea with the boys.

Fast-forward to five years later, and I'm sitting in my bed in Minnesota, longingly remembering all of the shopping trips, dim sum and sushi dates, ditching class, practicing yoga in Times Square, bottle service, Engrish, Ebeneezer's, and trips to Shenzhen, Macau, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, Xi'An and Beijing. What has stuck with me the most is the confidence I gained from living on my own in a foreign country and the amazing, driven, intricate people I have met.

Studying abroad was one of the best decisions I have ever made, and I strongly encourage it for anyone who has the opportunity. If I could go back, I'd do it again and again. 

Sapa, Vietnam
Here's to you: Jeff, David, Rahul, Jake, Sebastian, Michael, Arne, Kevin, Jeremy, Eva, Jocelyn, Davina, Kristen, Frances, Juliet, Alex, Dan, Jennifer, Laura, Lisa and the whole lot. 

I miss you and am so glad to have met you!