Saturday, November 28, 2009

Giddy with glee

This morning, I went to Michael's to take advantage of their last day of 60% of custom frame order. I had framed Troy's PhD diploma as his graduation present, and he wanted to do the same for my graduation present. At the time I framed his diploma, we were still living in Columbia, Missouri, where there was a store called Frame It Right. Loved the store because it offered me a chance to cut some of the framing cost, specifically a large chunk of the labor, by putting together the parts they cut for me, there in the store. It was actually a very therapeutic and enjoyable process. I chose to double mat his diploma, to reflect Mizzou's colors, black and gold.

After my graduation, it wasn't so much his unwillingness to frame my diploma. The reservation came from my end. My Taiwanese background heavily discourages stuff like framing a diploma, because it is interpreted as boasting or bragging of the unwanted sort. I certainly didn't want to make others feel uncomfortable and didn't want to appear to be parading my accomplishments to the disgust of others. In fact, I even skipped my PhD graduation, and that has been a regret ever since. We didn't really have the funds to travel from Texas to Missouri for my graduation. Plus, we had a three month old at the time my graduation took place. But still, being hooded by my dissertation advisor would have been an honor and a recognition of six long years of work that I would have enjoyed.

Once I made a decision on a frame and mats, I felt giddy with glee. Seriously. I had no idea how overjoyed I'd be. It has never been in my personality to be a bragger and to parade my accomplishments for all to see. However, sweeping my hard earned PhD under the rug has been rather painful. Many people have no idea just how many times I wanted to quit the program. I don't know what other graduate disciplines are like, but studying philosophy, especially analytic philosophy, is not walk in the park. I was fortunate to read four to five pages of scholarly primary resources. At some point, doing analytic philosophy seemed more like participating in esoteric mental gymnastics more than anything else. And then there was the dissertation process. Took me two years to finish, and I must say, towards the beginning of the research and writing process, I could not see any light at the end of the tunnel. The tunnel seemed to be an endless maze. But the title of ABD (All but Dissertation) means nothing in the working world; no one will say, "well, you just as well have a PhD." Not only was the writing itself difficult, but towards the end of my dissertation work, I was teaching five classes a semester, with up to 50 students a class. No graders or teaching assistants provided. And, I got pregnant in the last leg of the dissertation writing.

So, I'm not going to run around with my framed diploma (which will hopefully be ready by mid-December) like a brag book, but getting it framed has given the hard work over which I have labored and given birth, some quiet recognition. For that and for my wonderfully supportive husband, I am relieved, excited, full of joy, ecstatic!

A second Thanksgiving meal in two days

Starting Thanksgiving, I was frantic about the Thanksgiving meal I was to prepare yesterday. I cannot settle for an okay job when it comes to cooking. Plus, this was to be my first attempt at providing a complete Thanksgiving meal. Thanksgiving meal FAIL was my concern. A friend I originally met as a international friendship partner, through ISI (International Student Incorporated) was coming for her first Thanksgiving traditional meal.


The bad news is I did not like how the green bean casserole or the mashed potatoes turned out. The green bean casserole was way to watery and failed to have crispy french fried onions on top. The mashed potatoes was a bit too creamy. The good news is the turkey turned out fabulously. It was my first attempt at cooking Thanksgiving turkey, any turkey whatsoever, and it turned out well. Click here to see how I prepared it.

Xieting, who's from China and is here, studying for her undergraduate degree in economics, seemed to take all the food in good stride. She also helped us put our Christmas decorations up. We're ready for Christmas now!

Two final notes. We ARE ready for Christmas. Yesterday morning, I ended up running to Target to buy a roaster (a larger pan I could toss in the oven). I was afraid that after brining the turkey for a day, juices would be overflowing and swimming in the bottom of the oven. While I was there, I saw some of the Black Friday deals and could not resist. I didn't buy anything for myself, but I picked up some Christmas presents for our little girls and one of Troy's nephews.

The other note is that Troy was such a trooper and team player for the events yesterday. While I was the chef, Troy did the lifting, pouring . . . the brining of the turkey by my specification, entertained and took care of our little monkeys while I was busy scurring about in the kitchen, carved the turkey, helped put the leftovers away, assisted in putting up Christmas decor. He certainly rose to the occasion in being a very supportive, helpful, loving husband. I LOVE you, Troy! By the end of the evening, we both collapsed in bed. Before nine.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving blessings

We ended our lovely Thanksgiving day with a bang at Sally's. Sally, the gal, in the middle, was kind and wonderful enough to invite us to invade, I mean, be a part of her family Thanksgiving shin dig. Ashley (the gal on the left), whom we originally knew as Manda's sister lives in Denver and their mom moved here not all that long ago. Manda, Johnny, and Syd, dear, dear friends whom we met during our sentence, I mean our time, in South Texas, now live in L.A. But hang on folks, Ashley's title isn't just Manda's sister and Sally's isn't simply Manda's mom. These are rather lovely individuals I've gotten to know a bit more. More recently, Ashley introduced me to her hair stylist, Kurt, and we went together to have fifteen inches of my hair chopped off.


Anyhoo, we had quite the feast and company for Thanksgiving. Troy and I had the laborious task of bringing rolls. Laborious, indeed. Everyone else was put to work, and we had scrumptious turkey, tasty filling, yummy mashed potatoes, delightful corn pudding, two kinds of rich and tempting pies, and boring (I can say this, since we brought this item) rolls.
Syd with Mike, Ashley's boyfriend, whom Isabella, in her younger age, confused with a bear. A snugly, friendly bear, of course.

Syd with her mommy. What a striking pair, don't you think?

Mike and Ashley obviously adore Syd. Why wouldn't anyone? I cannot believe Syd is three months younger than Victoria. Syd's definitely not a teeny tiny little munchkin.

Family portrait? I actually love this shot. Took probably at least a dozen. Syd seemed to find running and moving more interesting than staring at a stationary, uninteresting camera.

Well that

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving family date time

This morning, after we all had breakfast, we headed out for some family date time. I felt so blessed and thankful. On other, usual week days, we're often trying to scoot Troy out the door, so he can get work done at his office and at school.

Troy and I had iced coffee beverages (my regular drink - Grande Iced Americano, with very light ice, no water, White Mocha syrup, and 2% milk) on me, while the girls had complementary water and a banana we had brought with us.


Well, a friend and barista, Phil, attempted a family photograph for us, but it looks like the girls had other ideas.

Then we were off to the playground at Denver Seminary's apartments.

The girls had a hoot there. Not only was there a playground, there were assorted push toys and miscellaneous toys for them to check out. Isabella loves playing with the wood chips at the playground, and Victoria also enjoyed the rocks by the playground.


Isabella saw a bunch of kid bicycles and thought she was in a candy store, calling each of them hers. Poor thing, those are way to big for her at this point. As we were about to leave, I spotted this one. She wanted to continue riding it. . .

Had tried on a few occasions, like at the playground, to take a picture of the girls together, to no avail. Victoria kept finding other things to do and examine and Isabella wouldn't look at the camera. When we got home, we put new outfits on the girls. And I gave the attempt one last effort, and viola! Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

15 inches, GONE

First of all, Ashley rocks, for recommending Kurt (hair stylist), accompanying me, and documenting the process. The last time I successfully grew out my hair for a donation to Locks of Love was shortly after I got married, over 7 years ago. Since then, I've wanted to donate again but haven't had the patience to wait until my hair was the requisite length for donation. This time, I waited 2 years and 2 months to have my hair cut - putting up with knots easily forming in my hair, having to tilt my head downwards before sitting back in a chair, getting my hair caught in the straps of my book bag, all that fun stuff. End result? A total of FIFTEEN inches of hair will be going to Locks of Love.

Folks, that is a lot of hair, for me anyways. Sheez. I hadn't realized just how long it had gotten; the longest part is well past my bra strap.

Interesting. The last time I donated my hair, my hair stylist didn't divide my hair like this. Just ponytailed it and chopped it off. Loved Robert, by the way; miss him terribly as my hair stylist. I appreciate the methodical way with which Kurt cut off my locks; ensured more uniformity in length.

Somehow I had thought my locks would fit into this little snack bag. Whoops. Welp, here it is, past the point of no return. The hair is gone. Much more is the locks of my hair than what remains on my head. A bit scary, perhaps?

People who were aware that I was about to get my hair cut for donation have been asking whether I'm ready for the dramatic change in length of hair. Wow, the hair change; I was just in shock, devastated.

Actually, not really. I would only be devastated and upset if someone were to make me look like a boy or give me a hair cut that is not true to who I am. So far? We're doing alright.


I believe this is the first time my hair has gotten blow dried since it was last cut. I haven't got the time or desire to spend time frying my hair. Plus, I like whatever natural waves come from letting it air dry. Supposed to be better for the hair anyways.


That's it folks. Kurt took this shot for Ashley and me, after my hair was completely done. What do you think?

Another snow house, please


The most recent snow wasn't quite as big as the relatively recent snow blizzard we experienced. But it was enough for Troy to spend many hardworking hours to construct a snow house for the girls. They definitely enjoyed playing in it and around it, especially Isabella.

Who wears the pants in this family? She does, she does.


Clearly, Isabella's the one who's wearing the pants in the family, on her head. For the entire day today, she insisted on wear her pants on her head and not her legs, even if it inhibited her ability to see. I was very adamant about the pants coming off the head for the trip down and back up the stairs.

This little girl has quite a mind of her own these days, from the particular bed-time music she wants to listen to to what she eats for meals. While wanting to encourage exercise of autonomy, especially at her age period, where exploration and execution of autonomy is crucial to her development, she does not get to "order" whatever menu items she desires. She's got to learn to eat a variety of things. So, for eating some jambalaya, I rewarded her with some pasta afterwards. Not a bad deal for either of us, I think.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Whatever happened to the traditional ole seesaws on the playgrounds?

Two people were so great at helping me fulfill a huge passion of mine - acting - last night. Melody, a friend I know from Denver Seminary, knows that I love the stage - both seeing shows (especially musicals) and being in them. She had been keeping a lookout for something we could do or see together, and she ran across a murder mystery game happening at her church last night and invited me. Troy blessed me by encouraging me to go, even though Melody lives in Greeley, a decent hour and a half away from here. Since the murder mystery took place in the night, I stayed overnight at Melody's. Troy agreed to meet Melody and me half way, so I didn't have to drive on my own. Navigating in the dark and driving as directionally challenged as I am already had me anxious, and the blinding snow would have turned my insides outward. So, thanks to Melody and Troy, I had a fabulous time participating in the drama.

The setting for the drama was at a spa the night before a wedding was to take place. About 15-20 participants interacted, including: the bride, the groom, the maid of honor and other bridesmaids, the best man, parents of the bride and groom, a few other wedding guests, some neighbors of the parents, a godparent. . . We spent the first forty minutes to an hour trying to find out more about each other (each other's character, that is) and determining who our allies were (which could be difficult, considering people could be purposely deceptive). Then the person in charge of the shin dig passed out specific information for each character. On the handout was: secrets about the character, secrets the character knows, and things the character are supposed to do. At different junctures, all the characters blindly drew cards that included various options - like murder (giving the card bearer the opportunity to kill someone else), immunity (providing the card bearer safety from being killed), the right to take money from others, nothing, etc. Not only was it our job to avoid being killed, but we had to try and figure out the murderers. The dress code for the drama was supposed to be bathrobes and slippers (since we were supposed to be at a spa).

Melody and I had arrived over half an hour late. What would have normally been an hour and a half hour drive took well over two hours, due to rush hour traffic and the heavy snow heading out of Denver. I hadn't done my homework and memorized who all the characters were, so I spent a minimal of half an hour with my nose in the pamphlet briefly introducing everyone.

Once I got a hang of things, though I was able to get more into character. I played a dude, a disgustingly sleezy dude, who wanted to take over a company a couple owned (and I was planning to do this in a despicable manner, but involving myself in the lives of the owner's children - the bride and groom). In other words, I played both the bride and groom as part of a scheme to get a hold of the company. But, I guess my character had some human qualities, too. The best man actually became my best bud (which, I guess, means I actually cared about him) and I have fallen for the bride (which was not part of the original plan). I didn't get murdered, I didn't figure out the killers (two murders took place when the game ended), and I wasn't given any opportunities to murder anyone. Had loads of fun participating in the drama.

In other news, my absences from the kiddos (and my laziness to pump) means I went over SIXTEEN HOURS without nursing or pumping. Dude, that is no small feat. I have not stopped functioning as a milk truck in delivery mode for that long a period of time for as long as Victoria's been in this world (17 and a half months). Unless I was dealing with engorgement issues, I did NOT want to pump; I hate, hate, hate pumping. After I had had some sleep last night and morning hit, I had to be super careful about thinking about the girls, because that could excite the milk truck into delivery mode.

The girls seemed fine with their daddy (and my thoughtful husband), but when they saw me, the excitement on their faces melted my heart. Once we got home, Victoria clung for dear life to the milk truck (that's me, folks) for quite awhile.

Can you see how the little girls would totally melt my heart?! Not too long after the blizzard blew through here for two continuous days, we went to a park. Not even half a week after the blizzard, it was warm enough to wear short sleeves (I don't know about shorts). Took these pictures with just a teeny tiny bit of the blizzard snow remaining.


On a totally insignificant note, anyone remember the old seesaws, where both sides were part of one plank of wood, and both sides battle to see who gets suspended high in the air. This version takes all the fun out of that sort struggle.

The girls still seem to get a big kick out of it. Troy put pressure on the thing and help bounce them up and down.

The girls played with what remained of the blizzard's snow. As I type this snow pours out from the sky and has been since early evening. Blankets of snow are already covering the lawns, roads, trees, bushes, roofs, etc. Can't distinguish the grass from the road now. Still suppose to snow off and on all tomorrow.

I actually don't mind the snow. In fact I find it quite beautiful and striking. Except when I have to navigate in it after it has gotten icy. I'm suppose to take an international friendship partner grocery shopping after church tomorrow, and I'm not sure I'm up to slipping and sliding on the roads to do that.

Welp, that's all folks for tonight. Got to get ready for bed.

It's a girl in a dress; it's Dorothy; it's Isabella!

After Halloween had passed, I scoured various stores for sale Halloween costumes the girls might be able to wear next year. I found a Dorothy costume for Isabella and a Tinkerbell costume for Victoria. I wanted to see how the costumes fit on the girls now, so I put them on the girls. Victoria was not at all thrilled with her costume; she kept tugging at the wings and I think the tulle was bothersome to her, even though she was wearing her regular clothes (a long sleeve shirt and long pants) underneath. Isabella's reaction was totally different. She would not take the dress off, even for bedtime. Any insistence to take the dress off resulted in SCREAMS that could be heard down the street. The result? She wore the dress and the garments underneath it for four continuous days. Somehow Troy was able to convince her to take it off and take a bath. Guess I'm not returning those costumes, even though they fit just right now (which probably means they won't fit for Halloween next year). Oh well, now they have dress up and pretend clothes.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Shocked that she remembered

This past Sunday (and Saturday, for that matter), I took the girls out, mostly grocery shopping, while Troy was doing catch up work at his office. After the Sunday run, Isabella, Victoria, and I dropped by Lynette's. Her apartment building is almost next to the one we lived in up until July. I needed to borrow a tape recorder, to record an interview of a person feigning a disorder (diagnosable via the DSM) for my Psychopathology & Diagnosis class the next morning. Lynette, her usual awesomeness, had some hot spaghetti meat sauce with pasta, to take home for dinner, thinking I might be exhausted from running with the girls. Anyways, while we were there, in the parking lot in front of her building, Isabella asked whether we could go to our other home. Oh, darling Isabella. I wasn't aware she'd remember, after over three months of not being in that area, that we lived in that area previously. She was pretty adamant about it, too. Other people live there now, and that is not our home. Thankfully she didn't continue to pursue that.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Anger issues and confusion

I've got to keep this short, as I have a client at the top of the hour. I said in my previous two posts that I usually do not like to disclose very personal information. I didn't add the exception, that sometimes I include stuff that may be beneficial to others. I'm not sure whether what I am about to say qualifies as the latter, but I'm throwing it out there anyways.

This morning, I was very frustrated and angry. No particular cause or reason. Just raw anger. Dude, I need a vacation SO BADLY. And? I'd love to take some sort of get away with my husband, just my husband, that resembles something like our honeymoon. We have way too much piled on our plates with no rest in site for YEARS TO COME.

Five hours later, and that anger is gone. Had a wonderful visit with Ashley. Can't wait for us to have some girl time before Thanksgiving; no men allowed and no girls under 10 years old allowed. But then, I was overwhelmed with what a client and a friend told me (two different people). Can't go into any details on either account. Someone who is so young, only 23, shouldn't have to suffer from PTSD (not war related), without some sort of real help. . . Must stop talking now, must stop.

Life doesn't have to be THAT complicated, sad, and frustrating, does it? But it is. That's just it. I'm trying to figure out my role in all this - how I'm supposed to be the good Lord's representative in all this, without belittling or minimizing the true and undeniable struggles people face.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Whether I should continue authoring blog posts

I'm going through a phase where I am contemplating taking a more permanent break from authoring or writing blog posts for 2 main reasons:

1. I wonder whether anyone really is interested in what I have to say. I haven't been "saying" much in a long time, because A LOT has been going on in my life, but not the sort of stuff I'm ready to advertise to the whole world. Perhaps everyone's really only interested in seeing our cutie little princesses. If that's the case, I could just focus on sharing images via snapfish or some other photo sharing service.

2. I have really been missing personal interactions with people, and I don't want the internet (whether blogs, facebook, or twitter) to replace any hope for that.

None of this is to say I'd stop reading other people's blogs or checking other people's status updates. I guess I'm only checking to see what kind of impact my disclosure has on people. I'm including a survey that I'd love for you guys to fill. Lurkers, this is a good time to de-lurk, because what you have to say could significantly influence my decision.

Find the survey here.

A year in reflection

We moved to Colorado a little over a year ago, and I'll not pretend that the transition's been easy and enjoyable at all times. Anything but that. We relocated half way across the country when I was only two months post-partum (with child #2), further verifying a change in career - from one that directly used my PhD (acquired with much blood, sweat, and tears) and resulted in a paycheck directly deposited into our checking account once a month to one that involved me to perform multiple full time jobs simultaneously (cook, house keeper, accountant, child care service, laundering service, dishwashing service) with no monthly direct deposits and often with no reprieve. As if those changes aren't enough of a challenge, God's been taking me to task this entire time, with difficult and painful things that will ultimately move me towards deeper and long-term, profound spiritual and character growth. That the results will be worth the trials and tribulations does not make the adventures things I eagerly anticipate; certainly doesn't make me twirl and smile with glee. Just some of the good resulting from all this include: little things like getting back to who I really am and big things like spiritual and character growth. Before my days of studying philosophy, I was much more right brained - drawing, taking photographs, writing poetry. I wrote a lot of poetry when I was in middle school and high school, but that sort of creativity was strongly discouraged in my philosophical studies and ended up dying and fading into nonexistence. These days, I'm writing poetry again. Also, thanks in large part to my husband and his encouragement, I plan on getting back into one of the huge passions in my life - acting. Given our tight and limited time available, being in shows is unrealistic, given the time commitment necessary for rehearsals and shows. In the meantime, I'll work on practicing singing and acting regularly. Closing with this: I really appreciate you all for being interested in my posts as well as making the effort to make more personal communication with me. It's through the more personal interactions that I learn more about your happenings and I am able and more willing to reveal more of my present struggles, journeys, and adventures.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

A weekend of rest, a weekend of non-rest, and a weekend of I know not what

Time for an update, I figured. Three weekends ago, I took a little overnight trip, without the girls. The last time I went anywhere without a tot in tow was long before Victoria's time, when Isabella was still a wee thing. Perhaps Isabella was 3 months old. Long overdue. My spiritual mentor (Carrol), two other gals she's mentoring, and I headed to Breckenridge for spiritual formation and much needed r&r. I've heard of Breckenridge but have never ventured there the year we've been living here. Look at the lovely lake of shining waters (yes, I am paying tribute to L. M. Montgomery's "Anne of Green Gables").

The little overnight trip was magical. The calm, gorgeous waters and hike in the area was just the beginning to drinking in the wonders of life, at a slower pace. Funny, on the walk, I couldn't help but notice things in which the girls might take interest. Isabella & Victoria would love all the twigs and dirt, and there were even little stumps they would try as chairs or stools.


We stayed in a darling little condo - equipped with a fireplace, three bathrooms (for the four of us), and a human-made beaver-looking dam of a view. Seriously, the view was nice and hearing the water running was calming.

To add to the magic? There was a lamp near our condo that looked, to me, like one in the Chronicles of Narnia.
Sunday, before we bid farewell to Breckenridge, we had lunch at Bubba Gump - the place that opened because of the movie "Forrest Gump."

The following weekend, starting Thurs., October 22, Troy left for a philosophy conference in Durango. To keep all of us sane, I took the girls out everyday. Saturday, the day Troy was coming home, I asked Isabella what she was interested in doing. One activity was, eating snacks at Starbucks. That we did.


The girls both have to sit in grown up chairs, like everyone else; the stroller simply won't do. Interesting, a number of people have asked whether the girls are twins. Seriously? Isabella is clearly bigger than Victoria. Just because they're dressed in similar clothing, that makes them twins, I guess. The excuse that they look exactly the same in physical features, I do not buy; thanks for trying though.

After their snack, I took them to a playground at Denver Seminary's apartments.

Both of the girls were very, very busy checking out all the toys and vehicles on the playground.

Too busy they were, to chat with each other. Too much ground to cover in too little time.

This weekend. Well, sorry, I don't have any Halloween costume pictures to show. Perhaps I can get some post-event pictures later. In the meantime, you guys heard about the snow blizzard we got right? Between Wednesday and Thursday, we got almost TWO FEET of snow. Typical Colorado, unpredictable and constantly changing weather, by today, we had weather in the 50s. But, Friday the snow still very much covered the ground, and whilst I was gone - seeing a client and studying, Troy built the girls an igloo, that's right - a SNOW HOUSE.


If you look carefully, Isabella's still in the snow house. Why Victoria's momentarily upset, I have no idea. Am delighted and tickled pink Troy would spend the better part of an hour constructing that thing. I would be freezing making a snow person, but to take all that time to construct that - what a dad.