Monday, January 30, 2012

Merry Monday

Hello dearies! It's been probably over a month since I last wrote this installment since there were so many other things happening on Monday, like the day off of work for Christmas, the day off of work for the New Year and although I was working, MLK Jr. Day and Lunar New Year warranted other thoughts.

Now I am finally back to being at work on a regular, old Monday. Cue the trumpets! Wahoooie! It's 100% a Monday at work too. This weekend was fun and fast, as usual. I spent Friday celebrating Laura's birthday in Uptown (it was such a college reunion!), Saturday I attended the boyfran's high school alumni basketball game and we celebrated three years of going steady with a tarte from Chez Arnaud, a dinner at Rudy's Redeye Grill, a viewing of Super 8, and a night out with his friends who were in town. 

Sunday was a day of volunteering (you can read all about it here) and then I went and cuddled with my nephews for a couple of hours. Then, I saw The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and was blown away. You can also read about that movie here. All in all, a good weekend.

This month has been one of the best, with so many activities and what I feel are accomplishments. I planned to run 25 miles this month and am at 22 so far. I wanted to see at least three movies and I've seen 4x that amount. I did really well on my resolution chart in terms of the weekly and monthly goals, and not so well on the daily goals.

This is what I'm looking forward to and what will give me energy today:
1. My coworker comes back tomorrow. I'm trying to finish a lot of her stuff I was filling in for, so this day will be busy, busy.
2. Book club is tomorrow and I'm excited to see everyone. (Not as excited to see all of their tans from their January vacations, snots!)
3. Next weekend one of my favorite comedians (Chris Barnes) is coming to town and I'm definitely going to see him.

The days are long, but the years are short. This one is already flying by! I hope you have a great Monday! 

Friday, January 27, 2012


So I don't think that's a word, but I'm going with it. That is what my life feels like. How in the WORLD is today Friday?! Whhhaaaaaat?! (Well, yesterday was Thursday, and tomorrow is Saturday, so I guess that's how). Even Rebecca Black could answer that. Boy, do I miss her.

Anyway, the past four days have been crazy at work with a coworker gone and much to do before the end of February. But it makes me more productive and more amped up. Seriously, Friday? Tonight is my cutie pie friend Laura's birthday bash. In celebration of her golden birthday, I've decided to revisit the wonderful cake balls from Christmas. This time, in golden birthday form.

One problem. I added too much frosting to the mix and didn't think it was a huge issue. Until I coated, decorated, chilled, cut, and was disappointed by the mushiness of it all. I guess I learned my lesson: don't get overzealous on the frosting. I thought about scrapping the entire thing but after the resources spent on the project, I figure people who are drinking keg beer won't mind semi-mushy cake. Right?

I've also decided to do a short little thingy about my friend's birthdays this year on this blog. I realize I might be digging a hole in case I forget an important birthday or don't happen to post around that time. Please forgive me in advance, I'm trying.
Here is thingy number one.

Happy birthday to Miss Laura!
Laura and I met briefly during freshman year of college at a Halloween party. We didn’t meet again until we had the class “Intimate Relations” together - it’s okay, you can make fun of us. After that, we saw each other here and there, had another class together, and then thought, what the heck? Let’s move in together. Yeah, we took the fast track. And we’ve been besties ever since, sharing crazy nights, lots of gabbing and shopping, and Vietnamese food. Laura and I are now travel buddies on top of that! Happy birthday to my beautiful, optimistic, strong and courageous friend who has more friends than anyone I know. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Birthday, belated.

Hi friends! It's been rather hectic around here so it's taken me a few days to write about my best birthday ever. I've never had a bad birthday. Maybe it's the hype I give it to ensure that my day is great. It might sound self-centered, well, it kind of is, but I think it's important to celebrate birthdays, no matter your age, and so I make it a point to do just that.

It started out a couple of weeks ago, when my coworkers got together to celebrate the January birthdays. They set up an awkward scene of eating cake at 10am break time in the shipping department after a rendition of "Happy Birthday" with the lights off. Nonetheless, I appreciated the gesture 100%.
Then came last Wednesday, where my boyfran and his mother gave me awesome gifts and we watched Moneyball. Love that movie. One of those gifts was a beautiful indoor plant (this is important to have during a dark, MN winter) and the other was a fantastic camera for which to blog with. Oh, and to capture life's moments.

Then came Friday! Flowers in the morning, a gift, a cake, a birthday song, a balloon, time to myself to clean and exercise, then a fun night at the boyfran's apartment which included the first beer I had in nearly a month. (Trust me, that's a long time). 

Then came Saturday! Spa date in the morning, followed by a shopping extravaganza, then coffee, a date for a manicure with a birthday-twin (well sort of, her birthday is the day after mine), a rush to the movies to see Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close with book club and other friends and to sob aloud. And then...this:

This video was created by my tubular friend, Micah, with the amazing efforts of Carrie, Nancy, Nathan, Mary, Linda, Zeb, Ashley, Jessica, Leigh...well, you can read the credits. It features everyone in my family (even the babies!), a HUGE chunk of my best friends, some of my favorite artists, some of my favorite retailers, and even my yoga instructor! Can you believe it?! I can't. I was in so much shock that I kept exclaiming, screaming, tearing up, etc. the first time I watched it and I hardly remember what was going through my head that first time. Since then, I have watched this video multiple times a day and pretty much know the ins and outs of it. I couldn't believe that I could receive such a thoughtful present that took so much work. I love it. From the bottom of my heart, I love it. Thank you to everyone who contributed to this piece I will cherish forever. 

After the video reveal, we rushed to Barrio in Downtown St. Paul to have my favorite type of food and imbibe on yummy drinks. I certainly felt the aftershocks, but it was well worth it. And it didn't stop there. Sunday, I received even more gifts, and Lunar New Year gifts as well. (Double-whammy!) And today, Katrina took me to dinner and gave me a wonderful gift. And then I got home and saw a package from Davina with the Tiny Book of Tiny Stories that I mentioned here! Tomorrow, the boyfran's parents have a dinner planned for me. Then I think it will all be over and I will revert to the non-birthday portion of the year. Whew.

I received a ridiculous amount of birthday love and I am so grateful. I never expected this to be as amazing as it was and it would never have been this way without all of the seriously cool people I know. Even those facebook friends who I haven't talked to in months. I am still grateful.

Thank you!!!!! Now let me celebrate your birthdays!!!!!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Happy Lunar New Year!

I had the best weekend ever full of family, friends, and many of my favorite things. I always get the Sunday blues when it comes time to shift into the daily grind, but this week, the party continued with Lunar New Year falling on Monday. This holiday is mainly celebrated by Chinese and Vietnamese and since I consider myself both, I can't just refer to it as Chinese New Year or Tết. Hence, Lunar New Year.

Anyway, LNY is a celebration of family and tradition. There are several traditions that go along with the new year like offering food and incense to pay respect to our ancestors, cleaning the house and settling debts before the new year to start it off right and get rid of bad luck, and giving/receiving red envelopes filled with "lucky money," or as they call it in Mandarin Chinese, hóngbāo. There's also the tradition that you aren't supposed to wash your hair on LNY, as it will rinse away your good luck. So yeah, I have bed head and it's extra fancy and nice.

 {Lucky luck}

LNY is a day when I think about what it means to be Chinese or Vietnamese. I consider myself lucky to be both. My paternal grandparents left China for Vietnam out of starvation and my maternal grandfather left China for Vietnam because of maternal grandmother was born in Vietnam after the huge movement of Chinese people to Vietnam. (She's considerably younger than the rest of my grandparents and in turn, my only living blood-related grandparent). All that aside, this is why I am both Chinese and Vietnamese. Then comes the part where my parents left Vietnam (Communism strikes again) for the United States. And that is why I am Chinese-Vietnamese-American. So now you know "what kind of Asian" I am.

My parents speak English, Vietnamese, and a multitude of Chinese dialects. I took a few years of Mandarin Chinese and a semester of Vietnamese in college to start to make up for the fact that I can't speak my "homeland tongue." It's a little bit embarassing and a little bit heart breaking, which is why I need to work on it more this year. (Who wants to get Rosetta Stoned with me??)

To me, being Chinese means that you honor your ancestors and respect your parents and elders. Family is always first. You call every friend of your parents "auntie" or "uncle." You know how to eat with chopsticks. Your stove has been covered with aluminum foil at one point or another and your furniture with clear vinyl. You use the dishwasher as a drying rack. You know the smell of mothballs all too well. You will never let someone pay for the dinner bill without a fight. You eat rice every day. 

Being Vietnamese means that phở is a food group. You put soy sauce or nước mắm on everything. You know a different story about the Vietnam War. You're not afraid of 100 mopeds coming at you. Paris By Night. Seafood buffets. You greet everyone by a combination of their gender, their relation to you, and their age in comparison to your parents. (And you're still confused about how to do this). You have a 55-lb bag of rice in your pantry and no milk in your fridge. You eat fruit for dessert. 

Those are very short (and not totally serious) versions of what being Chinese and Vietnamese means to me. At any rate, I'm glad to have each of those fibers woven through me, in addition to all of my American attributes and practices you're probably very aware of. (Sadly, knowing only one language fluently is one of those...)

{Lunar New Year in Hong Kong, 2008}

I hope this gave you a little peek at something unfamiliar. Happy New Year!

Monday, January 16, 2012

I Too, Have a Dream

I am overwhelmed by the respect I have for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a man who fought so hard for freedom through nonviolence. A man who had the belief and the drive and the heart to lead our country and inspire others to insist on their personal freedom. A man who risked his own life for the good of everyone else. 

For these reasons, I make it a point every year to watch the "I Have a Dream" speech. Not only is Dr. MLK Jr. a powerful orator, but his speech at Lincoln Memorial serves as a sharp reminder of what has been and what can still be. This year, thanks to Jessica, I've added the "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" to this tradition.

I have never personally experienced such severe discrimination and injustice; it pains me to know that people did and still do. I've had my fair share of racist remarks, but never violence and never the absence of freedom.

If you don't recall the injustices from the tumultuous 1960s, here is an excerpt from the "Letter From a Birmingham Jail" that explains why we cannot wait to forge change:

"Perhaps it is easy for those have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, "Wait." But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policement curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of the affluent society; when you suddently find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you explain to your six year old daughter why she can't go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see the ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people, when you have to conduct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: "Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?"; when you take a cross country drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading "white" and "colored"; when your first name becomes "nigger," your middle name becomes "boy" (however old you are) and your las name becomes "John," and your wife and mother are never given the respected title "Mrs."; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of "nobodiness"--then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait."

We have made great strides in this country, but there is no way we are close to being finished.

I have a dream, that one day, everyone will have the right to be married, based on their love for another person, not on their sexual orientation. I have a dream that no one will be driven to suicide by the hatred and ridicule of others. I have a dream that racial profiling and hate crimes will cease to exist. I have a dream, that one day no one will have to worry about whether or not they get to eat. I have a dream that no person will be sexually trafficked and forced to live a dark life against their will. I have a dream that the words rape, school shooting, war and terrorist will be obsolete from our vocabularies. I too, have a dream.

Martin Luther King, Jr. died for what he believed in and thought you weren't living if you weren't willing to die for anything. His son explains that if he was alive today, he would have fought for the rights of women, gay people, immigrants, trade unions and anyone who was oppressed. I have thought, "If I was alive then, I would have marched on Washington with them." But I'm alive today, so I need to do something, or my complacency will be worse than someone who is outright against equality. What are you willing to die for? How will you change the course of our history?

Friday, January 13, 2012

And here we have a Blogosaurus...

Oh boy, oh boy! It's already been a week since I last posted and that seems incredible to me. I was on a blog-heavy-kick for a bit there and now I've lulled myself to a groggy-bloggy-state. This week wasn't even that crazy chock-full of stuff, I guess I just got lost in work and the other blog. 

It's crossed my mind on more than one occasion that I should merge my blogs. I've contemplated it because it can be a bit of work to write for two outlets instead of one. Some of you may read both blogs, in which case, it may seem like I write too much and you don't really want to know what I did last weekend, for the fifth time! Still, I feel like they're too different to fuse and the whole would be less than the sum of parts. 

To explain myself a bit:

I started this blog because I love to write things down. I've journaled since forever ago, I make lists about lists, I wrote for the Youth In Government newspaper, for my high school newspaper and was the Key Club publicist (meaning I created newsletters and the organization's scrapbook) when I was in Senior High. (Come to think of it, I was also on the yearbook staff for many years, which explains my love for photo collages...) [Overachiever, ugh]

I decided to start my other blog for a few reasons. I love to piece things together. (See paragraph above). At first, I thought I would start with outfits which I learned late in life were not "owfits." I love dressing up and expressing creativity in what I wear. Since I don't find a ton of time to photograph said outfits, I find other things that relate that I love. Writing about it all helps me expand my style horizons and hopefully inspire someone, somewhere, to do the same. Besides that, I always found myself emailing and texting my friends with songs and bands they had to hear. And when I was on the receiving end of that "Omigoshyouwon'tbelieveyourears" kind of message, I was more than happy to have found something new. Concerts are my lifeblood. I've been to over 100 and you might think I'm crazy, and I am. Crazy in love. Harharhar. But seriously, my life would be much less fulfilling without music. (And live shows are usually amazing!)

So for now, I gotta keep 'em separated. Here I would like to continue to write about crafting, tv shows and movies, being social, expressing gratitude and finding little bits of happy in everything. I also want to take on heftier issues like living and dying, helping people in need, why we do the things we do, racism and intolerance and all of those things that could be considered sort of dark, depending on your vantage point.

So I guess this post is the answer to the question in my head, "why do you spend all that time blogging?" I'm just documenting my journey of self-creation. I believe that we're never finished creating ourselves. Our lives are this enormous, ever-changing canvas that we keep adding strokes or splashes or buckets of paint to. Each of these blogs and posts and moments in time? The colors on my palette. 

And now, the weekend...

Friday, January 6, 2012

What my weekend will probably consist of:

One: Portlandia. If you haven't seen this show yet, then Netflix, now. I'd like to thank the brother-in-law and the boyfriend for getting me hooked. The second season premiers tonight on IFC. If you have seen it, then you better drop your plans and get to your television set. And you probably have that song stuck in your head like I do, "The dream of the 90s is alive in Portland..." Prepare to be amused and disturbed and laugh your pants off.

Two: Ryan Gosling. I recently watched Crazy, Stupid, Love. and liked it. And then I saw something about needing to watch Blue Valentine. So here is this:

That's all. Have a great weekend you crazy kids!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

I Was Dreaming of a White Christmas

Blink. The holidays are gone and as a result, I am Jennifer McMopester. This year was much different than before, as I spent the holiday up North with my boyfran’s family instead of my own. There were a few issues with this: not being with my family on a holiday I’ve never spent away from them, not being there for the baby nephew’s first Christmas, and not being in my own house for the holiday. But the family was divided this year and the boyfran’s family had big plans for up North and so kindly invited me, so I took the leap and agreed. It was one of the most magical Christmases ever because it felt oh-so-Minnesotan and I got to do so many fun things!

{The hunchback of Rush City}

Last Thursday, most of the group was already up North but I had a nice dinner with my family before the boyfran and I went to a little Ugly Christmas Sweater shindig at Bulldog St. Paul. It was pretty fun and afterwards I headed home to stay up until 3am packing. Three hours later, the boyfran and I were out the door and on the road to watch the beautiful sunset. We only made one stop in Rush City, to see the largest walleye in the world, of course. Paul Bunyan was the brave fisherman on this one. (So dorky!)

We were warmly welcomed at our beachfront property in Lutsen, MN on Friday morning. I had never seen waves crashing into a shoreline blanketed in snow before. Soon after, I got a massage at the WatersMeet Spa, took a trip to boyfran’s brother’s cozy cabin in Grand Marais, then headed out to the community center for ice skating and hockey. 

The boys raced and played tag, while I honed my stopping and backwards skating skills. I may have ran my head straight into a hockey net at one point, but all was cured with a Peppermint Patty at a local bar with an awesome bartender, Whiskey Dick. Seriously, his name was Dick Winzer, kind of like Windsor. Like Whiskey. Get it? We ended the night with dinner and Cribbage and all was well in the world.

On Saturday, we trucked out to Caribou Lake and hauled our stuff on the boyfran’s three-wheeler. We played catch, I learned to punt, and we drank ice cold beer to keep us warm. Hmm? Yeah. I even got enough courage to hang onto the back of the three-wheeler while being towed on a snowboard. I tumbled down three times, but those falls were worth the fun. The scenery on the lake was intensely beautiful. Woodsy cabins dotted the shoreline and tall pines and bare birches skirted the entire perimeter. It was the most beautiful football field I have ever played on! Every once in a while, I’d stop, take a breath, and stare at the shoreline in disbelief of its beauty. 

Afterwards was the same drill: Cribbage, drinks, laughter. Only this time, we got to open presents! In my family I had never opened presents before Christmas morning so this was a treeeeeeeeeeat. Boyfriend Zeb and I got each other snow shoes – I can’t wait to bust those out! (Snow, darn it!)

On Christmas morning, we had a yummy breakfast prepared by boyfran’s mama. We had a small photo sesh for the other blog, then geared up to go sledding. When we arrived at Lutsen Resort to pick up some sleds, boyfran’s brother Luke decided to take us on a mini hike. The hike was breathtaking and a little bit scary, as we scaled steep inclines covered in slippery snow. Again, the green conifers against the snow were so strikingly beautiful I was practically gaping at every new view. We saw otter tracks along the water too! So cuuuute! 

After our hike, we drove over to the golf course and found a hill to slide down. The hill itself wasn’t all that intimidating, but a river disguised by a bed of snow awaited us at the bottom. Once we got to the bottom of the hill, we quickly had to roll off before plunging into the depths of the river. We had a Christmas dinner at the lodge and slothily made our way home for more Cribbage, Sequence, and Reggae music.

On Monday, we found our water pressure had officially died and instead of enjoying a slow morning with yummy breakfast, we bolted out of the place like something that bolts out of a place fast. 

We made our way slowly back to the cities, stopping at Beaver Bay for the giant Adirondack chairs, Split Rock Lighthouse for a view of the lake, and Duluth for a meal at Fitger’s Brewhouse and some shopping. I have a new quest to go see all of the odd statues and such in Minnesota, and everywhere.

I know this post is ridiculously long, but it’s basically a journal, so deal with it! Trips in confined quarters inevitably make you closer to the people you share them with. I feel closer to the boyfran’s family, if that was even possible, and I am happier for it. Sure, they are a quirky, sometimes gross (three boys, c’mon) bunch, but they’re pretty awesome and extremely welcoming. They got it from their mama!

So now I have all these amazing memories, items checked off of my winter to-do list, and a slew of photos I can’t even begin to sift through. It’s great to recognize the beauty in life, but when you take photos of each of those moments, well, you have hundreds of photos. Oh well, better than none! Okay, now back to our regularly-scheduled programming.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Resolve to do something better.

Happy 2012! The New Year seems to always go hand-in-hand with resolutions and new beginnings. I like Gretchen Rubin's Happiness Project idea of always having resolutions. Ever since I read her book for book club last summer, I have had a Resolutions Chart. This chart is something I kept up every day at first, then my dedication waned and waxed and waned. It's hard to keep resolutions every day, but it's sure worth a try.

I had daily, weekly, monthly, and annual resolutions. The daily ones included drinking 8 glasses of water a day and taking my contacts out by 10pm. The weekly and monthly resolutions included hanging out with each group of people I like to hang out with (yes, I had a spreadsheet for hanging out with friends), exercising five times per week, spending time with JUST the boyfran and not in a big group, reading a book every month, scrapbooking, etc.

This year will be more of the same, with a few minor adjustments. My broad resolutions go a little something like this:

Easier said than done. I will be one of those people who is always drinking water.

You know, this is the toughest battle for me. There's just so much to do in awake life. But no sleep makes for a very tired and probably less productive awake life.

Hahahaha. No, but really.

I had a goal of running 300 miles this year but made it just short of 200. This year I will stick to my goals and be healthy for the sake of being healthy. Oh, and my stinky sister convinced me to sign up for the Minneapolis Half Marathon in June 2012, so there's that.

I want to put intention in my thoughts, words, and actions. 

There is always, always room for improvement and growth and education. I am continuously learning at work, in my social groups, and even on this little blog. It's amazing what having a passion for something can do to how much you know about it.

My life is so full of things and thoughts and tasks and events. I need to break it down and breathe.

In 2011, I achieved my goal of donating money or time every month. This year I plan to do more of the same, with a little more focus on the volunteering portion of it.

Driving up North makes me wonder why I don't do more exploring in my own state. I'm always dreaming of globe trotting, but I want to state trot as well! 

This has been surprisingly easy for me in 2011. If you know my past, you know that this was not always the case. For some reason, I rarely find time to be discontent. Maybe that reason is you. Maybe that reason is me. Maybe that reason is my quest for happiness.

All in all, this is what I want to do: Be great every day. 

Happy New Year everyone, make it a good one!