Always Aubrey: June 2012

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Zucchini Bread... it counts as veggies, right?

June is the season to mooch a zucchini off your friend with a garden.  They grow like weeds, and your pals would love to give you one.  My coworker's garden has run rampant this month, and she gave me a monster zucchini!


And when I get a zucchini, I make zucchini bread.  Because it's a vegetable and I only like to eat vegetables that taste like cake.

My friend JH makes the best zucchini bread (she used to make it for me in college) and so I used her recipe.  YUM!  Check out her recipe below, but if you're making cupcakes like I did, only bake for about 20 minutes.  These didn't last long at work!  :)

Zucchini Bread
(makes two loaves)

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 c. vegetable oil
  • 2 c. zucchini (peeled/chopped) *if it is a large zucchini, scoop out all the seeds!
  • 3 c. flour
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 3 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 c. chopped walnuts (I omit these)
Puree zucchini, then add remaining ingredients (minus flour/nuts), mix well.  In mixing bowl, add flour/nuts.  Pour smooth mixture into two loaf pans.  (Fill halfway.)  Bake at 350 degrees for 40-60 minutes.  (Check with a toothpick; if it comes out clean, you're done!)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

On "Girls"

source
When I first watched HBO's 'Girls', I was annoyed enough to write about it in my Facebook status, something to the effect of "They should call this show Spoiled Hipster White Girls Who Need Jobs and Perspective".  Not verbatim, but those were my sentiments.  I disliked the lack of diversity (as did TONS of other people) and the comparisons to my still-beloved Sex and the City.

Then I watched the second episode, and still didn't like it.  But something about the rawness of the characters intrigued me.

The girls are selfish, naive, and annoyingly overprivileged.  They get to screw up without major consequences, because somebody else is footing the bill.  They are entitled.  They are flawed.  They frustrated the hell out of me.

But then I saw just how real some of it was.  It's not as much of a fantasy world as SATC was; this shows how girls think.  How we fight.  How we can be so selfish that we blame other people for things that are really our fault.

Not to mention, Lena Dunham basically has the closed thing to my body type I've ever seen on TV... small chest and a bit overweight.  The fact that she shows herself in pretty mortifying adult scenes is something that actually made me respect her a bit more.  It just feels honest.

It's not a realistic world... it's not a documentary.  But it's still raw, and kind of interesting.  It's closer to a certain kind of life than is typically shown on TV, and I respect that.

'Girls' isn't my favorite show.  But if I can watch it, I will.  It's growing on me... but I still kind of wish they would get real job and grow up a bit.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Dragon Child on "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother"

After much hesitation, I finally read Amy Chua's controversial book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. This self-described satirical memoir chronicles Chua's decision to raise her children in the "Chinese style" of parenting, which is basically the complete opposite of the popular "attachment parenting"  and laissez-faire parenting permeating in the U.S. these days.  While some praised Chua for speaking about her strict parenting rules and stories, others accused her of being downright abusive... mostly those who had not grown up with nor prescribe the sort of parenting she wrote about.  These days, it seems like parents want to be friends with their kids.  Not so in immigrant households.
source

I hesitated to read this book because of my own upbringing.  As the half-Korean daughter of an American father and immigrant mother, I felt like I had a wonderful childhood; but when I described to friends and coworkers the additional homework given to me after school by my mother (starting in kindergarten) and the numerous tutors who kept me from receiving the dreaded A- (mentioned on Glee as the"Asian F") they act as if I didn't have an idyllic experience at all.

I wouldn't say that my mother was completely like Amy Chua.  I was allowed sleepovers, provided I had finished my homework and extra credit and musical practice.  (She stopped enforcing musical practice after middle school.  I had quit piano to take up clarinet, though I was pretty good at it despite lacking musicality.)  But our family did sometimes refer to Mom as "The Dragon Lady", and my academic career was not easy.  I don't even think I was naturally bright, I just worked at it ALL THE TIME.

I did have my first tutors and after-school lessons in kindergarten and 1st grade.  My mother always felt like I should be ahead of my grade level; she bought me the books "Everything Your 3rd/4th Grader Needs to Know" when I was in 1st grade.  While my fellow 1st graders were just learning to read, I was sent to the kindergarten to read books aloud to the younger kids.  Video games were banned; I played with Brainquest flashcards and Reader Rabbit/Math Blaster.  We did not celebrate anything but 1st place.  I cried in shame for days when I got my first B+, a mid-term grade in 4th grade science.  I was pushed by my math tutor to memorize multiplication tables well before the subject ever came up in school.  I hated my piano lessons and the timed practices.  I took solace in Girl Scouts and sports, my time away from academia.  I quit choir to focus on more "practical" endeavors.  I didn't have close friends until high school; I spent the time reading instead.  I had a t-shirt that said, "Future Harvard Freshman".

My mother was not abusive, even as the Dragon Lady.  Sure, there were screaming matches.  I do remember her chasing me with a spatula once, yelling that I needed to practice piano.  She was overly and embarrassingly involved, going to the high school to ensure I was placed in all of the most difficult Honors classes, even convincing them to waive prerequisites; I would do the work over the summer under her supervision.  I was forced to participate against my will on the spelling team to improve my SAT English score.  She was angry when I used free elective time to take painting class instead of an additional "academic" class.  I always remember my Dad being the affectionate parent, doling hugs and kisses all the time.  I don't remember it being that way with my Mom; she was an authority figure.

As I got older, I was allowed to be left to my own devices so long as my grades remained straight A's.  If I faltered, my free time was spent in tutoring.

My "American" friends didn't understand it.  They thought it was cruel, that my parents were terribly strict.  They assumed I was miserable.  Only my friends with Asian mothers understood it, and we compared stories regularly.

But I excelled.  Looking back, I don't know how I managed the list of activities I participated in, the difficult course load, varsity athletics, and a part-time job.  I even had a boyfriend, once I was sixteen.  I was always ahead of my grade level in reading, mathematics, even speaking pretty fluent French by the time I graduated.  I got into a top tier university, the most difficult school to gain admittance to the year I applied.  I graduated from that school with honors (despite some horrifying B's and C's on my report card!) and am headed in a great direction with my career.

On my 1st birthday, with a bib displaying my future alma mater.
My sister, on the other hand, did not take to this parenting method whatsoever.  Chua's daughters had a very similar reaction.  I was obedient, academic, driven, and persistent. Younger, Sissy was rebellious, resistant, dramatic, and fought it every step of the way.  In fact, I sometimes feel that my mother was the Dragon Lady with me, and not Sissy; Sissy didn't have to deal with the same pressures that I did, because she fought so violently against them.  It frustrated me that my parents could not stand their ground with her, but would enforce their standards upon me.  I obeyed, however grudgingly.

Unlike Chua, my mother was not Ivy League-educated or raised in America.  Although extremely intelligent (she learned the Cyrillic alphabet for a weeklong trip to Russia), she never got to finish college, mostly because she had me.  The Dragon Lady did not want her children to miss the opportunities that she had.  She never wanted to be our friend; in fact, she endured endless rounds of us screaming how much we hated her.  (Children are cruel.)  But now, as I reflect, I'm so glad I had a caring, involved mother.  She did prepare me for the world... I know what winning feels like, and I know what losing feels like.  I'm not overly sensitive, nor do I feel any sense of entitlement.  I respect my elders, even when I feel they are wrong.  I am realistic and practical.  I am driven.

Once, looking back on all the fights we'd had over schoolwork, I asked my Mom if she still thought her method was the right thing.  She looked at me very matter-of-factly and said, "You went to West Point, didn't you?"

I realized that she endured that torture, being the "mean" parent, because "tough love" was the way she showed how much she cared.  She was willing to sacrifice the "Gilmore Girls" relationship with her daughter in order to help me succeed.  She celebrated our achievements and held us through disappointments.  After over twenty years of patience and pushing, I had proven to her that it was all worth it through my acceptance and matriculation from a top university, which would help me for the rest of my career.

And after over twenty years of dealing with a Dragon Lady, I count her as one of my best friends.

The Dinner A'Fare

I love to cook, but working full time doesn't always leave time for the quality meal I'd like!  I love the idea of freezer meals, but since I'm cooking for one, buying tons of ingredients doesn't result in the variety I'd like.

That's where the Dinner A'Fare comes in... you pay a certain price to assemble freezer meals at their locations, based on a monthly menu.  Since they're the ones buying in bulk, you can leave with a dozen different meals if you want!  Unfortunately, there isn't a location near enough to me for assembling my own meals, so I decided to order some assembled for me from a neighboring area.

I chose to order the half-meals, which serve 2-3 people.  For a dozen meals it cost me $190, which comes to under $16 per meal.  But since I cook for one, and get at least two meals out of each package, so it's really under $8 per meal.  That's not so bad for me!

The meals come in a box with dry ice, and they're very tightly wrapped and labeled with easy to follow prep instructions; I have a small freezer space, and they really didn't take up that much room!  I also liked the variety; from their June menu, I ordered Crispy Barbecue Chip Chicken, Jerk Pork Tenderloin with Pineapple Chutney, Three Cheese Mushroom and Spinach Calzones, Margarita Chicken Kabobs, Pesto Chicken, Bistro Steak with BĂ©arnaise Butter, Maple Mustard Pork Chops, Roasted Red Pepper Steak Kabobs, Lager and Lemon Grilled Chicken, and Bahama-mama Pork Kabobs.  (I ordered doubles of two meals.)  There's a lot of meat-focused dishes, which is good since I like to get some protein!

It's not the cheapest dinner solution, but I feel like I'm eating something better than a processed frozen meal; I can tell these ingredients were fresh upon prep, and I liked my interactions with the people at the company.  Not sure if I'll order from them again (I tend to have an unpredictable eating schedule since I'm still getting my bearings at work) but it was definitely some good food to have ready to cook!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

How to Spend a Summer Saturday

Shelby Bottoms Park
Aaaahhhh, summer!  It's summertime!

I woke up bright and early yesterday to run the Gay 5K in Nashville's Shelby Bottoms Park.  The 5K supports OutCentral, fights bullying, and celebrates diversity.  It was a small race, but I'm happy to report I improved my time by a minute from my last 5K.  Woohoo!  I loved that the park had some nice shade to run in for much of the course, which definitely helped in the Tennessee sun/heat.

After the race, I went home to shower, and took a little time to relax.  My roommate from college, HH, made plans to meet me in Nashville, but in the end picked me up so we could spent the afternoon (and evening, because we talked to much!) at the Opry Mills mall.  We had a late lunch/early dinner at Aquarium, which was awesome for HH's little guy LH (he just turned 2!).  He loved seeing all the fish; it was like eating in an aquarium, though he liked his French fries better than his fish sticks.

We completely lost track of time, since we've been apart for 5 years...  we lived together for 5 out of 8 semesters in college, and it is crazy that it's been so long since we've seen each other.  She's going to be living nearby for a few more months, so we're definitely making plans to get together again in the near future.  Yay!


Saturday, June 23, 2012

My Family Tree @Ancestrydotcom

Remember making a family tree when you were younger?  It went up to your grandparents, maybe your great-grandparents.  People you may have met in your lifetime.
Cousins?  Anne Boleyn (source)

For years, some of the older relatives on my Dad's side of the family have maintained family trees and records.  Having lost both of Dad's parents in the past few years, and spending months scanning all of the old family photos, I decided to hit up Ancestry.com to see what I could find about my roots.  I was able to use a lot of the lineage constructed by my relatives (and try to weed out the dead ends I found) and create lines that dated to before the Middle Ages!  It was pretty incredible to see some old census records and other finds.

Some interesting (possible) relatives to note:
  • 28th Great-Grandmother who was mistress of King Philip I of France, then became Queen Consort as his wife when he imprisoned his other wife for being too fat.
  • 25th Great-Grandfather was King Henry II of England, descendent of the Plantagenet line.  He was apparently pretty ruthless, but he had red hair... just like my Dad.
  • 18th Great-Grandfather who died in the Crusades.
  • Anne Boleyn was my 4th cousin, 14 times removed.  (My 18th great-grandfather married twice, so we are descended from his separate branches.)  And that makes...
  • ...Queen Elizabeth I of England my 5th cousin, 14 times removed.
  • My 5th Great-Grandfather came from Scotland but served in the American Revolution as part of the militia in North Carolina.  Hopefully this means I can trace my lineage to join the Daughters of the American Revolution!
I don't know how accurate these family trees/records are online... I was pretty careful in my connections, but you can't always tell which direction you should go.  There are marriage and birth records, but sometimes there are many names in common.  So when in doubt, I ended the line.

On the Korean side, I'm still working.  I found an actual passenger list from when my Korean grandfather came to the U.S. in the 1950s to attend a course at Fort Still, Oklahoma.  He was part of a group of officers sent over, and he has always been so proud of that trip.   I was able to e-mail him a screenshot of the list, and he loved it.  But beyond that, I don't even know who my great-grandparents are on that side of the family.  I've got a Korean dictionary and a website to get started, but I'm hoping my Mom will help me out a bit to start!

Have you ever looked into your family history?

Friday, June 22, 2012

Can women have it all?

The Atlantic
A controversially-titled article has been making waves, entitled, "Why Women Still Can't Have It All" by Anne-Marie Slaughter, a mother and successful career woman.  And despite the polarizing title, the article is actually a good read for any woman (and undeniably intelligent and honest), whether you stay at home with your children, have a high-priority career, or both.

I'll let you form your own opinion about the piece itself (I disagree that society is the real problem), but the article (and the many rebuttals/commentaries from others) really made me think.

Many times, I've heard people reassuringly say that women can have it all (including a certain astronaut guest speaker at a conference I attended who claimed to be happily married with a perfect family who later stalked her boyfriend's new woman while toting adult diapers), or perhaps just not all at the same time.  But I just don't buy that notion.  I think that if you define "all" as a great partner, loving family with well-adjusted/good kids, successful career, great home, personal satisfaction, without great sacrifice, compromise, and occasional heartache, I'd say you really can't have it all.   But I don't mean that to be a bad thing.

Life is about a series of choices.  There will always be a time (unless you are just insanely lucky and blessed!) that you give up an opportunity.  (Think about it... every time we commit to a relationship, we're giving up the opportunity to be with a billion other people.  Just a visual aid.)  Whether you give up a great job or take a cut financially to spend more time with your kids, give up a relationship to follow an opportunity to a new place, or just have your priorities change in general, it's pretty much guaranteed to happen.  I don't know any woman who hasn't made a sacrifice along the way.  She may not have regrets about it, but it was still a tough choice, a dream lost, a significant emotional event.  It may have been the right choice.  But it was still sacrifice, compromise.

Having a child is a life-altering event.  I don't think any woman can understand that until they actually have one; it has the power to completely change the path of your life.  So when a friend of mine told me that a sexist coworker claimed she just "couldn't think the same way as she did before she had a baby", I cringed, but then I agreed with him.  How could you think the exact same way, when you have this fragile, little life to protect?  You're responsible for more than yourself.  But that doesn't mean you can't maintain a career along with it.  That doesn't mean you can't have everything you want... it just means that you may have to adjust your priorities and goals, give up some things, and work a little bit harder to maintain them.  Nobody you admire or look up to ever got there without effort and trials, I guarantee it.  Well, unless you love the Kardashians.

A few other rebuttals/opinion pieces on the article worth a read:
"Dear Anne-Marie Slaughter, I Have It All" by Lindsay Cross, The Grindstone
"If Women Can't Have It All, Neither Can Men" by Bryce Covert, Forbes
"Talking About Why Women Can’t Have It All", by KJ Dell'Antonia, NY Times
"Fine, Women Can't Have It All. Isn't That Called Compromise?" by Lauren Sandler, Slate
"'Why Women Still Can't Have It All:' What's Wrong With Sticking a Baby in a Briefcase?" by Victoria Bekiempis, Village Voice

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Father's Day and Funnel Cakes

When life gives you lemons, have some LEMONADE!
This post is much belated (work has been crazy in the best way!) but I had to talk about my weekend in Indiana.

It feels so good to finally be within a reasonable driving distance of my parents.  I just like knowing they're not too far away...  I drove home on Friday after work, in time to spend the evening with my Mom.  We talked about my new job, watched some TV, and waited for Dad to get home from poker night.  It was just so nice to get HUGS!  I can't believe I've spent the last decade so far from them, and now I might have a chance to see them once a month or so.  SUCH HAPPINESS TO EXPRESS!

Saturday, I promised Dad that I would volunteer with him and the local Lions Club, trying to start a new club in Loogootee, Indiana.  We went to their Summerfest to give out balloons to kids and offer free vision screenings.  It was a super hot day, but I really enjoyed myself.  We caught the tail end of the local parade, which reminded me of the 4th of July parade in Linton that we used to go to.  (Think trucks and small-town beauty queens throwing Tootsie Rolls to the crowds in lawn chairs.)  I even got to have some funnel cake.

"Parade"



AMERICA!

Volunteer
When we got home, we went to Taste of India as a family (I was shocked Dad suggested it!) and then I met up with friends at The Rail (they had an AMAZING peach cocktail special) and Scholar's Inn.  I always feel lucky that I can still find friends who are home when I visit... even though some of my favorites are planning to move soon!  I'm just glad they continue to put up with me (and my incessant talking) after all these years... it's been 10 years since high school, and they haven't managed to shake me off yet.  I'm so thankful to have them in my life, even though we don't see each other often enough.

On Sunday, Father's Day, I was Dad's sous-chef for our traditional pancake breakfast.  Every Sunday that I was home growing up, we all had pancakes, scrambled eggs, smokey links, and orange juice.  Always with Bisquick!  I'm happy to say this is how we spent the morning.  Then I packed my bags (including the Spam musubi that Mom made for me!) and headed back to Tennessee.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

@SertaMattresses #iComfort Insight

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When I moved, I decided to splurge on a new mattress.  I probably spend a third of my life sleeping (I'm a 10pm-6am kind of gal!) so I felt it was important to invest in a good bed.  On my old (cheap) pillow top mattress, I'd been tossing and turning for a while.  I was taking melatonin to help me become drowsy enough to fall asleep.  But I was waking up exhausted no matter how long I slept; my quality of sleep was severely lacking.

I polled my friends on Facebook for advice, and I got a ton of recommendations.  Many steered me towards the Tempurpedic and SleepNumber mattresses, but after reading reviews I just wasn't convinced to spend that amount of money.  I did a lot of research into Serta's iComfort line, and when I went to a store to test out mattresses, the employee told me that it's really taking off in sales.  (The store also sold Tempurpedic mattresses.)

I chose the Serta iComfort Insight, which is on the lower end of the spectrum for iComfort.  It's listed as a firm mattress, and it's smaller than their others, but it has the same warranty and guarantee.  I tested it in-store, and it felt pretty good at the time.

Fast forward to now, after nearly three weeks with the Serta iComfort Insight.  At first, I'll admit I thought it felt a little it too firm compared to what I was used to... but then I fell asleep and woke up feeling completely rested.  In fact, every night I've slept on my Insight, I've awoken feeling wide awake and refreshed.  I even had my Mom test it out overnight; I liked that I couldn't feel her move while she slept (another benefit of memory foam), and she felt like she rested better on it than her mattress at home.  I've completely stopped taking melatonin to fall asleep.  I simply don't need it anymore!  I'm so happy I made the switch, because I feel like the morning energy makes me more inclined to work out, start the day off right at work, and have an overall better day.

My only complaint?  The store I purchased from didn't have one of those cute little sheep plushies to give me.  Ha!  :)

If you do get a memory foam mattress, it's important to get a new "box spring" for it... that means a completely flat platform, essentially.  The mattress needs that kind of support.  Also, since memory foam mattresses could grow mold if excessive moisture seeps in, a mattress protector is something I'd recommend too.  I actually have a mattress protector and (at Mom's insistence) a padded mattress pad.  That way my mattress is safe from sweat, water, etc.

P.S.  Memory foam mattresses are very heavy.  If you ever move them (i.e. a UHaul), you need to keep them FLAT, not turned on one side.  This is advice from my professional movers, who were happy I waited to receive my new mattress until after I moved. :)

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Litter Genie (for my fellow cat owners!)

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One of my concerns with moving from a house to an apartment was finding a good place to put Cally's litterbox and disposing of her, um, stinkies.  The dumpster just isn't that close to my apartment.

While browsing my local Target, I spotted the Litter Genie, and its refills, sitting on a shelf.  I remember my friends telling me how much their loved their Diaper Genies, and figured this little contraption could actually help me a lot.  Playtex makes both products.

The refills are basically a continuous plastic bag that sits in the Genie itself.  You tie off the bottom, then deposit the stinkies into the genie.  When you pull the inner shelf, it cuts off the "open" litter bag from the top dumping portion, so you don't smell anything!  Once the genie is full, you tie it off and take the sealed bag to the dumpster.  This it perfect for a small apartment/space, so you don't have to make dumpster trips every time you scoop!

I know it's a random thing to blog post about, but when you're a pet owner you always look for solutions to the everyday problems.  Now if only they'd invent something for stinky cat breath, locating hidden barf, and excessive shedding!  :)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Summertime is Swimming Time! (#OldNavySwim #spon @OldNavy)



This post is underwritten by Old Navy. Whether you're looking for a tankini, bikini, or a one piece, Old Navy has you confidently covered at a great price.

Old Navy

The weather is warming up here in Tennessee!  After so many sweltering summers in Georgia, I am more than excited to have a gorgeous swimming pool accessible to me at my new apartment complex.  Not only that, but my new friend SW spends almost every weekend at one of the many nearby lakes, where pontoon boats are popular during the warmer months.

When I'm swimsuit shopping, I lean towards retro styles, with ruffles, gathers, and a vintage aesthetic.  And any readers of my blog will know I'm a huge Old Navy fan!  I've really loved the one-piece swimsuits Old Navy has to offer this year, especially since they all cost under $45.  (Similar suits would be twice the price elsewhere!)

Swimsuit season isn't always a girl's best friend.  That's why I'm a fan of Old Navy's Control Max series.  These gorgeous suits will help you really vamp it up, because you won't be self-conscious about hiding your tummy or other "problem" areas.  Your curves will be highlighted in the best way!

But it's not just about the suit.  You can't walk to the pool in just swimwear!  While I used to throw on an oversized T-shirt, it's so much more chic to rock a coverup.  You can choose a glam maxi, or a cute jersey minidress.


Old Navy
Old Navy
You also need some flip-flops, which Old Navy is famous for!  But they don't just sell their original solid classics; you can get embellished pairs, side-print designs, and a variety of patterns, even wedges.  I'm liking this bronze pair with rhinestones.
Top off the outfit with some cute shades (giant ones are my signature!) and a cute printed beach towel in a waterproof tote... and you're ready to hit the pool (or beach!  or lake!) in style.  And the best part?  None of these Old Navy items cost more than $45.  That's something I can stand behind.  :)

What will you be wearing in this warmer weather?

Old Navy










Thank you again to Old Navy for sponsoring my post. I was compensated for this post as a member of Clever Girls Collective, but the content is all my own.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

My Closet

(I've had a couple of people on Facebook ask to see photos of the new apartment... but my closet is the only "room" I felt ready to share thus far!)

I've always dreamed about having one of those room-sized closets with custom wooden shelving and special lighting and a chandelier...  Basically like the ones on MTV's Cribs.

But in the meantime, I am loving my main walk-in closet in the master suite of my apartment.  And yes, I said main walk-in... because there are two.  While the rest of my apartment is still coming together in terms of decorations, I finally got my closet the way I wanted it to be!  With a lot of help from my Mom, I can now proudly "shop" my own wardrobe for shoes, purses, accessories, and, of course, CLOTHES.


Arranging by color also tells me when to stop buying a certain color and start buying more of another!

I was going to buy shelves for my shoes, but my sister and Mom convinced me a hanging organizer would give me more space.  I think that they were right; I have space on the floor and higher shelf for boots, and the cubbies were good for my flats, sandals, and heels.

There are more shoes by the front door, but you get the idea...

I arranged most of my tops by color, which is different from what I've done before; usually, I do it by sleeves/thickness.  Organizing by color helps me put an outfit together and accessorize easily.  My bottoms and dresses are organized by season/level of formality/length.  So basically I pick something from tops or bottoms and then build around that!


I also like having my jewelry in the closet now, because I can hold up different necklaces and earrings next to outfits I'm considering.  I even have shelves that just seemed destined to display my handbag collection.

I really love my new closet.  It is a part of my everyday routine, and it's so much easier to get dressed for work every day with everything put together now.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Mudita

source
I've heard of schadenfreude for years... pleasure derived from the misfortune of others.  Whether you attribute circumstances to karma (i.e. he had it coming) or something else, I've never felt good about believing someone deserved misfortune.  I may feel vindicated for a little while, but it's a completely superficial pleasure, often overtaken later by guilty and sympathy for that person.

Life throws you difficult situations; we'll all have ups and downs.  You just have to hope that you'll have a 'winning' record, right?  You have to stay positive and look on the bright side of everything, not getting bogged down by the worries and things you can't control.

I was reading O Magazine (as I've done every month for years), and in the July 2012 issue there is an article entitled "When Envy Strikes"... but it was only a small blurb towards the end of the article that really caught my attention.

The author mentioned mudita, a concept and idea I've never heard of before.  In Buddhism, mudita literally means joy, but it is specifically a sympathetic joy, a joy you feel from delighting in another's well-being, rather than begrudging it.

This idea just blew my mind.  How many times have you heard someone plead, "Can't you just be happy for me?"  Well, why can't we?  If we can learn to feel joy for others when something good happens, they can be there to add to our joy when good comes our way too.  And wouldn't everyone be happier if the triumphs of others made them feeling like they were part of that win?

I'm in a happy place in my life right now, and I would love to think that everyone in my life is legitimately happy for me too.  But it's harder to be happy for others when you aren't in a happy place yourself.  So I am challenging myself, and you, to find a little mudita in your life.  There's happiness out there for you to take, and make your own... and in turn, you'll be a better friend in both good times and bad.  :)

Monday, June 11, 2012

Weekend in Music City

This weekend was a HUGE for Nashville, hosting the annual four-day CMA Fest.  (CMA, for non-country fans, stands for Country Music Awards.)  All of country royalty is out and about, singing huge concerts every day and night.  There are tons of booths and people all celebrating their love of music.

It was also my first weekend on my own in Tennessee.  Saturday, I ran in the Hell or High Water 5K, which benefits those still rebuilding after the devastating floods in 2010.  They run it in different locations each year, in the areas most affected by the floods.  It's about resilience, and I really enjoyed it!  I am way out of shape, but I met my time goal, and started working on my Before I'm 30 list again.  I was 6th in my age group, which isn't too shabby considering I'm still in the younger range!

Sunday, my coworker SW invited me downtown to walk around CMA Fest, even though we weren't going to the bigger evening concerts.  It was really cool to walk around downtown to see all the booths, eat lunch at Honky Tonk Central, and see Darryl Worley on the river giving a free concert.  SW also showed me some of Nashville's less touristy neighborhoods with great character, including 12South, Music Row, and The Gulch.  I'm so glad to have a new friend in the area to show me the ropes!  What a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.  :)


Sunday, June 10, 2012

Snow White & the Huntsman

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I haven't been as much of a movie-goer as I used to be (though I did go see The Avengers), but I really liked Snow White and the Huntsman.

I don't like Disney's Snow White movie, despite choosing to dress as the princess for my half marathon.  She's a weakling, a sing-songy damsel in distress.  This isn't that Snow White.

Even though the title mentions the Huntsman, this movie is really about the women.  The deep, awesome character of Ravenna (played by Charlize Theron) is just intense.  It's possibly one of her best roles ever, and I hope she's recognized for it.  Kristen Stewart also impressed me as Snow White.  I guess I always felt she played the same person in her other movies, but here she really stood out in confidence.  (I never caught her biting that lip once!)

I really liked how they wove the Grimm Brothers story into the film, but also how they made Snow White into a badass princess.  There is magic, there are dwarves, and there's a poisoned apple.  But she's not going to give up; she's a survivor.  And even though there are people coming to her rescue, this Snow White only wants them as backup.  She knows it's her destiny, and she can put on armor and fight like the rest.

I didn't feel like this was the best movie of the summer.  But I was really entertained, and the film was just so excellently executed.  The detail in the cinematography was stunning, and the battles scenes were convincing.  I had fun, and that's what matters to me when I choose to see a movie in the theaters vs. on Netflix DVD.

On another note, has anyone else ever gone to see a movie on their own?  It's something I've been comfortable doing since I was a teenager; I even used to go see Broadway shows by myself in college.  While I do like having people to go with, a lack thereof never stop me from seeing doing I wanted to do.  But I've met people who say they're afraid to go alone!  If that's you, just do it.  There's nothing to fear.

P.S.  Did anyone else notice that Snow White's dress the in the beginning kind of resembled her Disney-fied dress?  The sleeves!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

All the Single Ladies

This isn't me.
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Recently, two articles I read in Glamour and Marie Claire really caught my attention.  Both of them talked about the growing number of women choosing to remain single... only 20% of 18-to-29-year-olds are married.  Compared to the days when being single at age 30 earned you the label of spinster, that's significant.  More and more young people are starting to believe marriage is an outdated institution.  Others are declaring a cultural war on marriage, saying that single moms and unmarried heathens will destroy society as we know it.

No matter which side you're on, it's hard to understand another person's perspective until you've been in their shoes.  A lot of our generation have observed parental divorce (or visibly unhappy marriages), in much larger numbers than our grandparents' generation.  These experiences have changed our outlook on what it means to be committed, happy, and legally bound in relationships.  Some millennials choose singledom because they don't feel the need to marry; it isn't necessary for their self-sufficiency or even happiness.  Others love it, and raise traditional, happy families.  Different strokes for different folks.

But what I do love is that the value of a woman is no longer tied to her being only a wife (unless you're Rush Limbaugh or Rick Santorum).  She can have a career or be a stay-at-home mom.  She can be married, single, divorced, or just complicated.  She can choose her identity, even if she chooses her main identity to be that of a devoted spouse.  There will be some scrutiny either way, but if she sticks to her guns, let the rest of them eat cake.

I don't know if I'll ever get married again.  Never say never.  But if I don't, it won't make me sad.  It won't make me feel inadequate.  I have a full life!  I love being devoted to my career, family, friends, and interests.  I plan to be a mother someday regardless of marital status (possibly via adoption).  I'd like to be committed to a partner who views me as an equal, a decision-maker in the relationship.  I seek a partner whom I consider to be my equal, who challenges me, who supports me, who doesn't feel threatened by me.  I will never change my name again.  I will never settle.  I want to maintain my own finances.  I do not want to be subservient or dependent.  I'm willing to make sacrifices, because those are sometimes necessary in a relationship, but not to extreme extents concerning my career and happiness.  (This sounds like the eHarmony profile from hell, huh?)

I'm 27, and it's hard for people to understand that I'm happy to be in a committed, monogamous relationship with my boyfriend Duke, with no plans for marriage whatsoever.  He fits everything I seek in a partner at this point.  We're realistic.  Many people think I need to settle down before I shrivel up or something, like I'm wasting my time.  "30" is just around the corner, and someone told me that 99% of my eggs will be dead and gone soon.  But that doesn't bug me.  I like where I am, and I know where I want to be.  I don't want to divorce again, so I like that I'm not legally bound.  I feel free to love, free to have choices, free to learn who I really am after years of doing what was expected of me.

I guess to sum it all up, I like to be free.  Whoever you want to be, just own it.  Okay?

Articles:
Marie Claire, June 2012, "Love and the Single Girl: The Single Girl Revolution"
Glamour, May 2012, "After All of the Celebrity Divorces, Do You Still Have Faith in Marriage?"

P.S.  I was talking to a single-in-her-30s friend the other day, and she told me she wouldn't trade her current age to be younger again for anything... "I eat girls like that for breakfast!"  Like one of my favorite scenes in Fried Green Tomatoes, "Face it girls, I'm older and I have more insurance."  Life lessons come with time.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

New Job :)

Image(s): FreeDigitalPhotos.net
I'm really, really enjoying my new life here in Tennessee.  I can't even begin to describe it.

I love my new apartment.  The decor is starting to come together, with some sort of consistency.  It's the perfect size for me, a great complex with convenient amenities, and an unbeatable location close to work, shopping, downtown Franklin, and not too far from Nashville.  Plus, my old feline buddy Cally is here now.  :)

I love this town.  There's plenty to do in the area, more restaurants than I could ever visit, better shopping than I'm used to, and just so many options.  Tonight I met my friend VB for dinner at BrickTop's; I think we'll be having post-dinner meals together fairly frequently!  :)

As for the job?  I love working in consumer goods.  My job is within the marketing & sales realm, and it couldn't be a better fit for me.  I just hope I do it well!!!  While it was an adjustment having to decide what to wear to work every day, it's been so exciting just to show up.  The day just flies by, in the best way.  Since everything is so new, it's like drinking from a fire hose... but I feel like a real career woman for the first time in my life.  It's learning a new language, but every time I get it right, I feel so good.  And I can't say enough good things about the people I work with; I've even met a few alumni from my college that are looking out for me, on top of the great team I'm assigned to.

I really see an opportunity to grow as a professional as a person where I am right now.

Obviously, since I care so much about my career, you won't be seeing much of it here on the blog... in fact, unless we're Facebook/LinkedIn friends (i.e. real-life friends) you won't even know where I work, even if you follow me on Twitter and Instagram.  I just think it's better that way.

P.S.  If I had to depict how I feel right now, this would be it:


Sunday, June 3, 2012

Dotson's Restaurant

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I love breakfast food.  So when Mom & Dad wanted to catch a hearty meal before they headed home, I took them to a local place that my friend VB introduced to me over a year ago: Dotson's Restaurant.

It's been open for over 60 years, and it's simple, delicious, home cooking.  Country style!  Their foot-tall pies (the meringue is incredible!) are gorgeous, but I really love it for its breakfast.  We all had omelets, plus some delicious sides.  The prices are great, and it's open 7 days a week.  It may not look like much, but you're sure to leave happy.

Don't forget to look at your menu's cover!  Most of them are autographed by country stars, movie stars, and other famous folks who've passed through.

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Dotson's on Urbanspoon

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Carnton Plantation

The family's smokehouse
My parents came down to Franklin to visit before I start my new job.  Dad's a big Civil War buff, so we made sure to spend a few hours at the Carnton Plantation, a gorgeous estate that once hosted hundreds of injured Confederate soldiers as a field hospital.

The story of the place, and its McGavock family, is just remarkable.  There's so much soul to the place... and even on a beautiful day like we had, an eerie ambience.  There are still blood stains in the wood floors, which were covered in carpet during the Battle of Franklin.  Those five hours were the bloodiest of the Civil War, with almost 10,000 casualties.  Most of those occurred within the first hour.  No wonder the Carnton Plantation is known as the most haunted building in Tennessee.


Mom and Dad in the back of the house

I can't imagine what it was like to see a battle happen from your front porch, and what it was like for the McGavock family to see the wounded and dying come into their house.  Six Confederate Generals died as a result of that single battle.  It was pretty fascinating to tour the house, and the grounds.

The Confederate cemetery at the plantation is almost a moving sight.  While I feel the values of the Union better match my own, I can't forget that these were brothers and fathers and friends fighting one another, all Americans.  They believed in something, and they died for their cause, some very young.  To know that there are almost 1500 soldiers buried there is unreal.


The Carnton Plantation came highly recommended as a sight to see in Franklin, and it did not disappoint.  I'm pretty sure it was the highlight of the trip for Dad!  What a fascinating way to spend a gorgeous morning in Tennessee.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Los Angeles

Park's BBQ
To me, Los Angeles has always meant family. Sure, over the years I've been a tourist (Disney, Knott's, Hollywood, studio tours...), but now it is all about Koreatown. We got in to LA in time for dinner. Our uncle picked us up, and we met our cousins and grandparents for some Korean food at Halabuji's favorite food court. (I call my grandparents Halabuji and Halmoni,, Anglo spellings of the Korean words for Grandpa and Grandma.). My grandparents also insisted on taking us to a grocery store and buying us Korean treats; I chose Pepero! Sissy and I also stopped at a coffee shop, Korea's answer to Starbucks called Tom n Toms, before calling it a night. What a whirlwind of a day! (And I did a scratch my sister's car in LA, which was mortifying... subsequently I avoided and dreaded driving for the rest of the trip. Sigh.)



Halmoni cooking my favorite kalbi!
The next day, we visited the Melrose Farmers Market to see our friend AA, who is selling this amazing kombucha called Better Booch. It is unlike any kombucha I have had, all because of its freshness. I also splurged on some phenomenal raw honey from Isabell's Honey Farm. (Sissy says I bought it because the guy was hot... but it was really amazing honey!) I finished up with some gourmet tomato basil and garlic pastas from Pappardelle's.

Rumer Willis
Our uncle KH picked us up for lunch at Park's BBQ (featured in this month's Delta Sky magazine!) and took us on a driving tour of LA, ending with a walk around the Mexican market on Olvera Street.

After that, Sissy and I spent the afternoon with our grandparents at their apartment, watching Korean game shows and napping. It was nice just to spend time with them; I only see them every other year or so.

We had my favorite Korean BBQ for dinner, but this time it was made by my Halmoni. :) What is better than a grandmother's cooking?

Afterwards, we met up with a couple of high school friends who are now LA transplants, and headed to a very cool bar, Harvard & Stone. The cocktails were just superb (A+ for mixology!) and we even had a pseudo-celebrity sighting... Shane West from the movie A Walk to Remember, and Rumer Willis (daughter of Bruce/Demi) who was actually singing with the band. She was very pretty in person (tiny waist!) and had an interesting sound. Kind of soulful.

My uncle took me to a great diner breakfast at The Original Pantry Cafe. It is an LA landmark open since the 1920s, where Humphrey Bogart, John Wayne, Marilyn Monroe, and even mobsters would frequent for some awesome breakfast platters. Then Sissy and I stopped by Santa Monica for a quick shop (H&M!) and met her college buddy for lunch at Kokomo Cafe.


Then it was time for the long drive back to Phoenix... but fortunately traffic wasn't too bad!  We made it back before sunset, and relaxed in front of the TV.  On my last night, Sissy took me to dinner at Prado, at the Montelucia Resort.  The Nonna's Spaghetti was to DIE for... so fresh and delicious.  Yum.

I had such a good time visiting my sister.  I was definitely sad to leave her.  But I'll get to see her in Tennessee at the end of this month!

View from Prado of Camelback Mountain

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