declutter, family, favorite things

The Great Grandma Collection

My grandma on my Dad’s side lived in San Francisco during my early childhood. For many years, she was a hairdresser at Emporium Capwell who enjoyed recreational shopping trips that were powered by a generous employee discount. She was a saver and a  shopper and a collector of many things. I loved visiting her house in the city because it was a unique and visually interesting experience. She lived on the second floor flat of a 3 unit building on Duboce Street. It was filled with an eclectic and colorful archive of items that she proudly displayed. I distinctly remember a large piece of wall art that had two blue peacocks adorned in rhinestones standing face to face in front of some ornate building. It was funky and fuzzy and very fun to stare at. In the living room she had mannequin heads that wore wigs of various styles. I assumed that they served as references to her in-home haircut and styling appointments. No table was left without a cloth or doily, many of which were of the crochet and bright-colored nature. She had other things stacked and organized according to systems that only she could understand. 

When I was about 11 years old, a little while after she officially retired from Emporium, she moved out of the city and moved in with my parents and me. She became an official member of suburbia. I was excited to welcome her into our home. She was warm, funny, and kind. I learned more about her quirky collecting nature and witnessed how she managed her belongings within a living space that was definitely more limiting than her place in San Francisco. She scaled back, but she still utilized various types of containers to store her many beloved treasures. She took the city bus around Vallejo so that she could bargain-hunt while everyone else in the house was at school or work. She tucked things away into the compact spaces in her little bedroom (formerly my childhood bedroom), and catalogued scraps of paper mementos into envelopes and perfume boxes.      

An envelope that was packed away. Glad she saved them for another day.

Grandma was also a social butterfly in her close knit circle of friends within the Filipino community. She regularly attended many gatherings and events and I loved seeing her get dressed up for dances and celebrations. She owned traditional formal Filipino dresses, ternos with high butterfly sleeves, and Maria Clara gowns with beautiful coordinating skirts and shawls. She also had other endless outfit options for whatever the specific occasion called for, whether it was a big outdoor picnic luncheon at a park, or a formal holiday party fundraiser event. 

The costume jewelry and accessories that went with all of her looks were truly something special too. She owned hundreds of necklaces and earrings. Bracelets and watches were endless. A couple years after Grandma passed away, my husband and I held a garage sale and we sold a good amount of her accessories (after I hand-picked and held on to my favorites). Yet, I’m STILL currently discovering MORE hidden collections today in and around my childhood home. 

Uncovering the Great Grandma Collection has recharged my motivation and goals of buying less fast fashion or mass-produced clothing and accessories. It’s much more interesting to imagine the stories behind someone’s previously loved items. It’s also fun to know that I can sustain the life of that object for at least a little while longer and add another bit of history to it. If I could meet Grandma again, our shopping philosophies and ideas of home decor and organization wouldn’t match up. But I’m glad that I can enjoy the outcomes of some of her past shopping trips (at the most thrifty price; $Free.99). I’m thankful and honored that I can unlock a new layer of excitement for some of the items that sparked her interest and self-expression decades ago.

She was quirky. She was chic. She wanted to archive the small moments and big milestones of her life, so she labeled the envelopes of her mementos with short descriptions that were scrawled in grandma cursive. What better way to learn even more about her and honor her by incorporating some grandma flair into my own life, and document it the way that she would have wanted to? Thank you for shopping and saving, Grandma. Your style and your stories will come back again, and they will live beyond the collection of envelopes, bags, and containers that I love to rediscover.

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.