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declutter, family, favorite things, travel

Temporary Treasures: Midwest Thrifty Wardrobe Challenge

 I will be traveling to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan soon. It’s time for our annual summer trip to visit my husband’s side of the family. 

Packing for this trip used to be a bit stressful. However, I’ve figured out a different approach that allows for packing light (aside from the kids’ items).

Two summers ago, my husband and I took on the challenge of traveling with just the essentials (underwear, swimwear, footwear), and the outfit that we wore on the first day of travel. Then we purchased all  of the rest of our clothing at St. Vincent’s De Paul and Goodwill. To make it even more fun and interesting, we set a budget of $20 each. 

We did pretty well. I found some fun items that I thought were cute and fit my style. Some were worthy enough to keep and bring back home to California. Other pieces were stored at the in-law’s house for the next summer, and the rest of it was donated back to the thrift stores before leaving town.  

This year I would like to level up the challenge. I plan on sticking to the $20 budget. However, at the end of the trip, I intend on donating all of the items back to the thrift stores before we leave, passing on my temporary treasures to someone else who may enjoy them next. This is also a preventative effort to not add new items to my closet back home.

The fabulous new (and temporary) wardrobe for my Midwest vacation is waiting for me in the thrift shops of Menominee, Michigan, and Marinette, Wisconsin. I’m beyond excited.

I must choose wisely. I have to feel comfortable enough to wear the clothing, but not get too attached. I will let go of my personal style expectations, and perhaps take on a new style for a week or so.

As stated in my previous post, anything is possible within nine or ten days. Photo gallery to follow. Obviously.

Until Then,

Enjoy some photos of the last two rounds of my Midwest Thrift Challenge



balance, family, gratitude

Ten Day Hero

Recently I learned that a lot can happen in the span of nine or ten days. In March, I traveled to the other side of the world. It was a bit of a whirlwind trip, but it taught me that I can take on challenges and gain some life changing perspectives in less than two weeks. 

On Memorial Day, my father died unexpectedly. The initial stage of raw grief went on for over a week until the final formal farewell. It just so happened that his funeral and burial fell on the ninth day after his death. The nine days that led up to it were the toughest days of my life, just waiting to say that final goodbye, ready to transition to the gone but not forgotten state of mind. It was more proof that you can do anything in nine or ten days.

Since then, I’ve been living life nine days at a time. Mentally, it’s a manageable increment. I can set goals and appreciate the good in life. I can do what needs to be done while acknowledging that the new void isn’t going to go away or ever be filled. Living in the now is ideal, but in the current circumstances, looking forward and looking back in nines and tens seems like a good approach at this time. 

Throughout this journey, there’s been one true hero who has helped me power through this new life without dad. 

Mom. 


She has helped me organize and reorganize my thoughts and my things. She’s been there for my kids and my husband, helping us with what we may need day to day. She gives the kids daily doses of spontaneous laughter and silly sessions that only grandma can provide. She’s taught me how to enjoy going to the gym.

Similar to our adventure back in March, she decided to embrace a travel opportunity that was bittersweet. She decided to still go on an Alaskan cruise that she and my dad had booked last year. The decision was a challenging one to make, but she did it. She left home for a bit and saw the sights. She enjoyed the time with other family members, all in the spirit of my dad. Ten days later, she came back, even stronger and more positive than ever.  

Everyday, she shows me and reminds me that I am brave, just like she is, even as we stand at the edge of the deepest type of sorrow, when the tears just flow during those odd spontaneous moments. 

I told her I was proud of her, and I admire her for how strong she is. She responded by saying it’s because of me. I’m not sure if she knows my secret. I’ve just been following her lead.

She’s the true ten day hero.

Grandma returns home after ten days at sea.


declutter

The Discomfort of Home

I was brave today. I went back to my childhood home, all by myself. I returned to the place where my father passed away unexpectedly in his sleep on Memorial Day, 23 days ago. Since that Monday, the meaning of mom and dad’s house has evolved. Daily life has also definitely changed into what supportive friends of mine have referred to as a “new normal”.

Before May 27th, I treasured the routine of seeing him every morning, Monday through Friday, for a small amount of time before work. It was half an hour at most. The ritual would include a morning hug, a check-in, a chuckle or two as we observed my daughter and son playing, a debrief of the latest family events or our favorite TV series, and of course, the hug goodbye along with, “Have a good day”. This was all part of the transition time when I would hand off my toddler son to him and my mom for the day. He would be under their loving care while I was at work. My daughter would also be with them after school twice a week. I was grateful for all of it.

Today I found the courage to be sad. Going back to the only house my parents and  I ever knew throughout my entire childhood, and the place where my own children knew as Grandma and Grandpa’s House brought me into strange new depths of sorrow.  My most recent and raw memory of walking through the front door is when I saw my father in the same room where we sat and talked every morning, shockingly lifeless, but peacefully gone. This heartbreaking memory is important for my journey of grieving, but I know it’s also somewhat unproductive.

My actions today however, if I do say so myself, were productive. I was ready to go back. My mom was out of town with my aunt and uncle, so I knew it would be helpful to check on the house, and do a few light chores. I mentally geared up. I took deep breaths and went about life in the new routine.

Months ago, a random stray chicken from the neighborhood found himself in my parents’ front yard and they started feeding him. My dad would have wanted to make sure I gave him some food. So I fed the chicken. It had been waiting for me based on his sporadic and somewhat aggressive clucking and ruffling of feathers. I found odd comfort in this moment. It helped me continue on. It reminded me about how my dad would always find ways to lighten up the mood.

I went inside and powered up the CD player that took me a few minutes to figure out. I played a mixed CD that my dad had burned (compiled) years ago. I blasted the early 2000 jams. I fed the fish and watered the plants in the backyard.

Then, as anticipated, I sat down at the table where my dad and I used to sit, and I cried. My latest strategy for crying is to just take a few deep cleansing breaths, tilt my head back, stare at the ceiling or sky, and just let it out. Amidst the deep sadness, I accessed a feeling that was reminiscent of what I would feel when I sat in that very spot, with him sitting across from me in the mornings. I felt relief. It wasn’t the same kind that I may have felt a month or so ago when he was still here. However, the emotion reminded me that somehow, I can still find peace with any situation, deep, dark, sadness included, as long as I have just a teeny bit of courage.   


How have you mourned the loss of a loved one?       

family, favorite things, thailand, travel

Always Travel with Unicorn Glue

It’s a good feeling when the first “real day” of travel adventure begins during an international vacation. Roughly 24 hours after our arrival in Bangkok, the family was ready for our first outing beyond the resort hotel property lines. Our mission was to locate unicorns.

Unicorn Cafe was our destination. My cousin’s wife Anne spearheaded the endeavor, and I was all for it. We were vacationing with four young ladies ranging in age from 5 months to 8 years. The quest to find a place that had cute, unnaturally colored desserts, sparkly unicorn decor, and toys and gifts galore was a fun tourist goal for us. It was a quest for buried treasure to locate this establishment in the busy city of Bangkok by means of multiple modes of transportation.

We rode the complimentary hotel shuttle boat that took us along the Chao Phraya river to the nearest BTS Skystation. Here, we accessed the city’s rapid transit rail system. The trains were crowded, but very clean, and easy enough to maneuver through.

After we disembarked, we spent about half an hour learning the lay of the land on foot. I was thankful for Anne, the leader of the pack, who kept us motivated and on track with our route. Along the way, we stopped in a McDonald’s for a restroom break and GPS calibration. Then we pushed on and passed by various street vendors, powered through the thick heat and humidity, and walked up and down flights of stairs on pedestrian bridge walkways.

Finally, after walking down a few more narrow alleys as scooters and tuk-tuks zoomed by, we rounded one last corner and arrived. The storefront had department store style glass windows from floor to ceiling that really featured the over the top unicorn theme. It visually welcomed the weary tourist with energizing tones of pink fluff, pastel baby blues, and mixed patterns of plush and pleather. A white unicorn statue was on display by the front door. It was a life-sized version of some toy that I may have owned in the 1980s.

The family took over the Unicorn Cafe for a good hour or so. Desserts were consumed. Toys were purchased. Ice cold water was chugged. The all important photos were taken to document the experience and post online. I definitely discovered a new travel tip. Sometimes unicorns and sugar are the glue that holds families together during international travel. It makes for good photos too.

How do you keep family vacations enjoyable when you travel with extended family?   

Check out Unicorn Cafe on Facebook

gratitude, health and wellness, thailand, travel

A Little Bit of Travel Scents

Ten weeks ago, I was in Thailand. I was taking it all in, pushing myself to live in the moment, but excited about archiving my experiences through writing. To keep the memories alive, I’ve been relying on photos and random rounds of reminiscing with my daughter and my mom.

The one thing that instantly brings me back however, lies at the bottom of a an up-cycled Zipfizz tube. I “borrowed” a small amount of body lotion from the Anantara Riverside Hotel in Bangkok. Every time I flip the cap and take a whiff, the memories flood back. Then I realize how silly I must look, standing in my closet taking a hit of jasmine-scented lotion aroma from a pink plastic tube. My face before and after this ritual is ridiculous, I imagine. I dare not apply any of it on my skin anymore. A very small amount remains in the tube.

Currently one of my most prized possessions.

I tried tracking down the lotion and other bath products through the hotel spa, and I was even willing to pay for an actual bottle of it. However, it cannot be ordered or shipped out of the country. Bummer. Whatever remains is still enough to keep the memories and travel archives going with sights, sounds, and scents.

Until then, how do you keep your travel memories alive?


Below are some snapshots from Anantara Riverside Bangkok. It is located along the Chao Phraya River. It was our “home base” for the start and end of our Thailand travels. Yes, it is a very pleasant smelling hotel. In addition to that, the staff and customer service is superb. The hotel grounds are beautiful and family friendly. The food is delicious, and the pool and amenities are fabulous. The riverboat ferries that dock right from the hotel were fun and convenient for exploring around Bangkok. I would love to go back someday and take my whole family so we can discover even more around the area.


https://www.anantara.com/en/riverside-bangkok

health, health and wellness

Fight or Flight

I am lucky enough to live in an area where you can catch some beautiful sunsets if you happen to be standing in a good spot at the right time. The day was coming to an end, and I was enjoying some time catching up with some teacher friends in the Industrial area of Benicia. We were sitting at a table in a building that was partially indoors. A big warehouse-sized garage door was opened all the way up and it overlooked the parking lot. Every now and then, I would glance outside from where I was sitting, and I would notice the natural lighting change slightly. It had been a beautiful sunny day, but I knew daylight was slowly disappearing as the minutes went on. I also knew that if you walked outside the door and walked to the right, you would see a beautiful view of Benicia, complete with the hills and water off into the distance.

Since I love to take pictures of scenery and landscapes using my phone, I announced to the group that I was going to go take a few photos of the view, since it wasn’t visible from where were at the moment. A friend joined me and we got up to walk across the parking lot to check it out.

With my phone in my hand, and my left foot still planted on the paved parking lot, I took a step with my right foot, slightly landing onto the very edge of a small bush. The next few moments all happened in a flash. I heard some movement from the bush, and then suddenly, I felt a sting on my leg slightly around the back of my knee. I looked down and saw the shape of an animal figure. At first glance, it looked like a dog, but then I realized it was not. It looked grey and white, and a bit small, but it was definitely a wild animal. I couldn’t quite remember what happened next, but the animal was no longer close to me. But my leg felt like it had a stinging ring around it.

My friend asked me something like, “What just happened? Did you just get bitten?… It was a coyote!”

Feeling the sensation of slight burning and throbbing, and just having heard my friend’s statement, I looked down at my leg, and I noticed two very small spots of dark blood showing through my grey jeans. It was then that I realized that yes, an animal just bit me, and I had to take action right away. Other people around me had confirmed that it was a small coyote.

I was rushed home, and then proceeded to take a quick look at my leg. It was still slightly bleeding and I could still feel the sting, but luckily, I was feeling ok, and I was safe.I saw a very small triangular shaped wound on my skin, along with a scratch and bruise. This was definitely considered an urgent situation, so a family member got me to the hospital as soon as I could.

When it was all said and done, I got proper medical care, which included a series of tests, medicine, and shots to make sure I didn’t catch a disease from the animal. The doctors and nurses, as well as my friends and family were shocked and amazed at what had happened. I was told that I was brave and calm. This particular coyote was also apparently feeling brave, and bold. Some people think it was protecting its young. I’m just glad it wasn’t feeling courageous enough to stick around for any longer. Now I know to be super cautious at the edge of any outdoor open spaces, and to be aware of wildlife that may be situated close by any shrubbery. It may be the right time and place for a photo, but the local wild animals may have other plans.   

balance, gratitude, travel

Moving Walkways

In September, we made the purchase. I clicked confirm for round trip tickets for one adult, one senior, and one child from San Francisco to Bangkok and back. Fast forward to mid March, and there we were: three travelers, two carry on roller bags, and one backpack each between the three of us, standing curbside on the passenger unloading zone. My mom, my daughter and I walked through the automatic glass doors of the International Terminal at SFO. I felt strange and hopeful. I felt calm and collected, but I already felt like I had stepped into a time-warp portal that didn’t quite feel real yet. The need for the restroom was real, however. We had already started our preemptive hydration efforts before we left the house, so that was the first order of business.

A few hundred steps later, we checked into the flight, checked our bags, and met up with our other extended family members. My aunt and uncle, cousins, and nieces joined us for step one of the adventure, and they would be with us for the remainder of the trip. The reunion was sweet, and we became a team of 10.

We completed the non-negotiables as a group. We went through security. Personal items were re-organized, and shoes were put back on. We purchased light snacks in addition to having lunch. Two more family members me us; my cousin and his girlfriend found us as we were finishing up our meal, and it became the ultimate family gathering in the airport. Any travel anxiety, or “hurry up and wait” feelings seemed to fade at a regular rate because we were enjoying each other’s company, especially the kids. My daughter and her 3 younger girl cousins were about to begin their own unforgettable childhood travel memories.

However, our Waiting To Board the Plane Celebration resulted in almost missing the final boarding call.  In this particular part of San Francisco International Airport, the stores, restaurants, and amenities are located at the upper level, (quite comfortable and fun for hanging out), and the actual gates, boarding area, and jet ways are located downstairs. We had a substantial route cut out for us to actually get to our gate.

The young world travelers

Luckily, we hustled down to where we needed to be. Scooping up my four-year-old niece just before setting foot on the down escalator will always be a moment that I’ll be proud of.  It required balance and maneuvering on my part to prevent us from both toppling all the way down to the bottom, backpacks, snacks, and all. The two of us and the rest of our party arrived safely just in time to the entrance of the jet way, and with the turn of events actually in our favor, we found ourselves immediately on the plane. I think we could all safely say that this was an exciting way to start our adventure, and it was even beneficial to be able to board the aircraft ‘right away”. The positive outlook that my family had on particular travel moments during this trip will forever be ranked high in my memory banks. The fun definitely continued, and I’m hoping to continue watching the replay through my writing (and photos the that are on my phone).

Until Then,

What are your most memorable family travel experiences?

balance, gratitude, health and wellness

The Furthest Point Away from FOMO

My mom casually apologized to me after we settled back into our beach view villa for a mid afternoon break from the day’s activities.

“I’m sorry we never really traveled like this before”.

Before meaning perhaps during my childhood, early adulthood, or anytime before this current situation of approaching  40. She had somewhat of an upbeat tone as we both enjoyed fruity cocktails and the feeling of true vacation relaxation, 4 days into our Thailand adventure. It just clicked at some point. International travel is a life changer. It’s amazing and incredibly fun. It is especially fun and life changing when you witness your own young child taking it all in while learning, enjoying, and melting down (only once during the whole trip) every step of the way. I didn’t follow up my mom’s apology by asking why we never traveled like this back in the day, because now as an adult, of course I get it.

Taking a journey to the other side of the world was expensive. Between transportation, accommodations, and in my case, unpaid time off of work, this was definitely a big financial chunk of my year. The fear of the unknown and the fear of missing out took my anxiety levels and emotions on a crazy roller coaster ride. I also left other family members at home for 10 days, including my husband, my toddler son, and my dad. However, in some circumstances, and for this particular opportunity, it was worth it.

The lead up to the trip dates back to almost a year before our departure when my cousin, (my mom’s brother’s daughter, who is like a sister to me), called me and informed me of her destination wedding plans. Thailand. Not just mainland Thailand, but for the big event, a remote island in the gulf of Thailand by the name of Koh Kood (known to the locals as Ko Kut). One of the least populated places in the country. I’m pretty sure that she strategically chose her wedding date and made these plans about  the same time that FOMO officially became a thing and was at the peak of trending on social media.

After a few think alouds and productive conversations with the family members who would be directly affected by the endeavor, (and on that note, SO supportive), we decided to go for it.  My mom, my daughter and I traveled to Thailand for 10 days with the company of our other extended family members, and had the experience of a lifetime. As stated before, it was all worth it. I can’t wait to officially write about the amazing experiences and small moment stories that support this claim.

Thailand is about to takeover the blog for a bit. And for the record mom, no apologies needed. Ever.

On The Tuk Tuk:
The Faces of FOMO no More

Until Then,

Where was your first and/or favorite international travel destination?

balance, favorite things, gratitude, health and wellness, mindful

Morning Routine

During the school year, the first 53 minutes of my morning are filled to the max with a whirlwind of must dos that begin right from the moment I exit the bed.

  • I must make myself look presentable so that everyone who I interact with at work today, including my 26 students take me seriously, but also appreciate the elements of a good outfit of the day.
  • I must make sure my own two children are awake and allow time for that process in itself.
  • I must load up the lunch bags, nuke the veggie bacon, and toast the waffles.
  • I must haul the daily “baggage claim” collection of items out the car, which feels like we are taking a week long road trip to somewhere.
  • Above all, I MUST get the hot coffee into the vessel, then it has to be safely placed in the vehicle with the same care that I give to the children when they get buckled in.

The continuous action of opening and closing doors, drawers, containers, and bags puts me in a bit of a tizzy. I also have to factor in the additional flights up and down the stairs well after shoes have been put on for those forgotten items that are either game-changers for the day or completely unnecessary. The scarf that I went back up to get which ended up making me overheat and literally start sweating during Writer’s Workshop probably wasn’t worth the extra minutes.

My brain is already working overtime well before 6:50 a.m. That is the target goal time in which the kids and I bid my husband farewell and get into the car to drive 10 miles in the opposite direction to drop off my two-year-old son to my mom and dad’s house for the day.

Upon arrival to my childhood home, both of my kids in tow, the morning mental reset begins. I get to breathe for a bit, about 15-20 minutes to be exact. Mom and Dad’s house is familiar and comforting. I enjoy the sights and sounds and reminders of my upbringing. The kids get to play together for a few minutes. I get to sit and chat with my parents and catch up on breaking news regarding family or other topics. I sit and sip my beloved coffee. Sometimes I find treasures that are perfect for a Throwback Thursday or Flashback Friday post.

I cherish this window of time each morning despite the angst and grumpiness that may have occurred an hour or so before. I’m truly grateful for my parents taking on the full time job of watching my little one, (again for a second time), but also for the blessing of a few moments to just enjoy the company, the moment, the Now.

The morning rush inevitably starts up again, when I usher my daughter out the door so we can head back toward school. We say our goodbyes and hit the road. Even though the angst of the day starts creeping back, I feel good knowing that my favorite morning must do always helps me to recallibrate the stress to gratitude ratios of the daily grind. I have a lot to pack, plan, and do every morning, but I have a lot more to be happy about and to be thankful for.

Until then,

What are your favorite or least favorite parts of your morning routine?

Thanks for reading!

Jenn


favorite things

The Keep Pile: Winter Things

I decided to see what all the buzz is about lately regarding Marie Kondo and her tidy KonMari Method of organizing. I admit, this influencer influenced me a bit. I folded some of my clothes into neat little rectangles that stand up beautifully in dresser drawers. I also rotated some of my food containers so that they are now resting on one side, file folder style in the kitchen drawer. The Kool-Aid was successfully sipped. Oddly satisfying feelings were achieved.  

I’m still trying to live by the words of my favorite ironic piece of junk wall decor, “The best things in life are not things”. It’s definitely what I believe in, but I’m just kind of distracted at the moment.

So instead of going on another donation and trash pile rampage, chucking things at breakneck speed, I reflected upon some personal belongings in my life that currently “Spark Joy”, as Marie Kondo proudly promotes in KonMari. Material possessions and happiness. I’m still not sure about the connection. Nevertheless, I do currently own a few favorite things that I plan on keeping for a while. I have no affiliation with any of these brands or companies, and receive no benefits or payment from posting information about them. I wouldn’t even know how to go about doing so, and apparently I missed the train on that one.


favorites

Against Me! Hoodie It is a souvenir from the best punk rock show that my husband and I ever attended. It represents amazing music, a crazy date night on the evening before Back To School Night, and the hero of it all, Laura Jane Grace. I’ve owned a lot of random band merch over the years, but this one is the keeper. It fits perfectly, and I have goals of wearing it until I’m an old lady.

Lululemon leggings They were on sale years ago, so I purchased two pairs. They have lasted me at least 4 years, ever since I started taking barre classes. They are durable, hug all the right places, and they still have a lot of mileage left. At the risk of being basic or bougie, I invested in a pair (or two) of  Lulus. I don’t regret it.

Hydro Flask Coffee Tumbler It keeps my coffee or tea boiling hot. The liquid stays so hot that I’m always scared to take a sip during the first half hour or so out of fear of burning my tongue and lips, and it does end up happening sometimes. It’s all part of the morning wake-up routine. The beverage stays warm well into the late afternoon/evening hours.

Burton DryRide Snowboard Jacket This is my FAVORITE JACKET of all time. Again, I happened upon this item on a sale rack. Thank you, Any Mountain! It keeps me warm and dry. I love the print pattern of punctuation, and it’s a great inner layer for snowboard days. It’s a the perfect jacket for school, especially on rainy days.

Ride Hellcat 2017 Snowboard My snowboarding life started when I was about 21. When I turned 36, I decided it was time to upgrade my gear because I had been riding on the same gear since 2001. I have thoroughly enjoyed the rides on this current upgraded setup. Amazing feelings of joy and happy place thoughts live on this board, even when it’s out of commission during the off-season.

Although I appreciate the functionality of these items and some of the memories attached to them, I could probably continue living a great life without them. They’ll stay in the keep pile a bit longer.


Until then,

What kinds of items end up in your keep pile?

Thanks for reading!