everyday life, inspiration

That Uncertain Path

Sometimes the best lessons in patience require impatience. Such went the process of finding and buying our first home. But now, looking back I can’t believe that we’ve almost lived in our first home for a year. All the stress and wondering if we would ever find something….and now this–to pinching ourselves that we own a home…and a dog!

In the midst of the stress and trial and searching and wondering it’s all too easy to be consumed with what-ifs. What if we never find the right home? What if we have to settle for less than what we want? What if we have to renew our apartment lease and lose money? What if the appraisal comes back low? What if the house doesn’t pass inspection?

There’s so much uncertainty in life. Even for something as seemingly small in the scheme of life as buying your first home, it’s fraught with uncertainty. The stress we place on ourselves, the pressure to get what we want or achieve something or find success. It can be extrapolated to every instance in life.

Who are we trying to please? Towards what are we directing our “achievement?” By whose standards am I measuring my success?

This last year has been one of tremendous growth for D and I. Managing a household certainly comes with its challenges-keeping the yard mowed, landscaping, keeping the dog alive, bills, decorating, fixing things. However, we have grown in the area of moving in harmony. We have built upon our knowledge of the other, being able to almost finish sentences and read what the other is thinking.

Best of all, we have done it together. He and I, we chose this house we have now made our home. We painstakingly weeded out many, many paint colors that, quite frankly, all looked the same. We agreed upon a carpet color/style. We toiled at the earth with our dueling lawn mowers and shovels and rakes. We had the help of family-my mother helped paint the laundry room one day with me while D was away, my father came with me to the carpet quote to make sure I wasn’t getting ripped off, D’s mother spent countless hours in our garden and helping us extend our back patio, his uncle helped create our front flower garden.

All the uncertainty of one year ago led to this moment in time. All the stress and agonizing over the multitude of decision that had to be made in a short amount of time brought us to our new home. Now, looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing. That uncertain path led us to this present.

“All the wealth in the world cannot be compared with the happiness of living together happily united.” – Blessed Margaret d’Youville


husbandy, love

Sneaking Into My Heart

I’ve never really been a girly girl. And that’s an understatement. I was involved in sports from the age of 4 when, my mom says, she enrolled me in rec league soccer to use up some of my energy. 10 years of soccer followed. There is something about Saturday mornings that will always remind me of soccer tournaments. The anticipation of the game, the wind against my jersey as I ran down the field, the thrill of harnessing your body’s energy and becoming exhausted.

Fast forward to senior year of high school and all my athletic energy was focused on tennis. I had been playing since sophomore year so I noticed when new people joined the team. Well a week or two into senior year this boy asked me for a ride to the off-campus tennis courts. I obliged, but was very cautious of him. Gradually, I began giving him a ride to the courts almost daily. We liked each other, but didn’t know it (obvs). The Heartbreak Kid had just come out and I love romantic comedies so I couldn’t stop talking about that movie.

One day, this boy and I were the last ones left at the tennis courts after practice and he yells across the court, stuttering, and asked me if I’d like to go see The Heartbreak Kid. Of course I would!

“I heard you’re going on a date with Sunny?” “No, we’re going to the m–. Ohhhh….um.” And that’s when I realized I was going on a date with Sunny.

The way to my heart is through romantic comedies, a little sneakiness, and a lot of gummy worms when the R-rated parts became too much for my 17 year old self. Note: The movie was not at all what I had imagined. And neither was Sunny. He snuck  his way right into my heart and his ring right onto my finger.

[Linking up with Show & Tell]


Lean In

Exuberant. That was the word they used to describe him.

As I sat among hundreds of other people remembering the life of this man, it made me stop and think about how I’m living my life.

He was a professor in the School of Social Work. One word that described him at times was “absent-minded.” He was absent minded in the best of ways. He taught a course on social work groups. In class it was rare if we spent a lot of time reviewing the assigned text. The majority of class was spent in discussion or listening to stories from our professor. The course had a textbook, but all of us students knew that he, our professor, was the true textbook. He had worked in the profession so many years and his clinical wisdom was boundless. He taught us to “lean in” when clients got mad or upset or things got tough. “Lean in” I would hear him say. Of course it wasn’t until I left graduate school and actually began clinical work that I understood what he mean when he said “Lean in.”

When I took his class, he wore a long braided pony tail. Right off the bat, I could tell that there was something different about this guy. This professor told us about Native American culture, he brought his flute in to play for us. Yes, readings from the text were assigned, but they weren’t the focus of the class. His class focused on life. Teaching and preparing social work students to have compassion for the people they would serve one day, going out of ourselves to advocate on behalf of those who aren’t able to advocate for themselves.

How do you grade students in the class of life?

As I sat there in that auditorium during his memorial service I couldn’t help but think of my own life. You see, every picture displayed around the auditorium of this man was unique. Unique in that in every single picture this man exuded the essence of life. I don’t know how else to put it. He was a man who had wrung every last drop out of life. And he was only in his 50s. All the stories told about him had a similar theme–this man loved abundantly. That’s a simple way to say it and maybe and understatement. He loved everyone and spoke directly to each person without distraction.

Maybe he wasn’t focused on the details. His wife said that he often called people by the wrong name. However, he was focused on what truly mattered–making each person he interacted with feel loved and accepted.

Reflecting on my own life, I began to think, “What will people say about me at my memorial service?” Will they say that I loved abundantly? Will they say that I left a mark on them, that I inspired them to do something greater? To be something greater? How do I exude joy and love to others? Like, how is that possible?

Leaving his memorial service, I was inspired. I want to love more deeply, more richly. I want to speak to others with love and acceptance. I want to be true to myself, like my professor was, not afraid to show the quirky side of my self. After all, to accept and love others as they are, we have to first love ourselves as we are.

Lean in. When the fire gets hot, lean in. He taught us that “leaning in” to situations with our clients makes them feel more safe and comforted. Notice how when someone starts to raise their tone or the situation gets heated, you naturally incline your body away from that person.

Lean in to life. Lean in to friends. Lean in to those in need. Lean in and give of yourself. Lean in and love without measure.

culture, love

Teenage love in the time of tennis practice

It all began one summer day during my senior year of high school. He asked me for a ride to the tennis courts because his mom wouldn’t let him drive to school–he had to ride the bus. Since we were both on the tennis team, I didn’t mind giving him a ride to practice as the courts were off campus. I wasn’t sure of this boy who somehow got my number over the summer and called me all the time. He’d ask if I wanted to play tennis and my answer was always the same, “Sorry, but I’m babysitting my cousin out of town.” Which was completely true..but I see how it sounds now. However, I really, truly was out of town babysitting my cousin for the summer.

Fast forward to me giving him rides to tennis practice. i had to stop by my house first and change before practice, but I didn’t really know this boy that well so I showed him to the office and computer while I went to my room, locked the door, and hastily changed for practice. I didn’t know him well enough to guess that he was more interested in watching music videos and funny cat videos than bothering me.

He started noticing that I would leave tennis practice early on Wednesdays and asked me where I went. I told him I went to church and youth group. I don’t ever remember asking him if he wanted to come. I’m pretty sure he asked me if he could come. I was an altar server so he would sit by himself at mass. Looking back that was probably rude of me not to sit with him, but now we’re married so he apparently didn’t think much of it.

One weekend our youth group was having a movie night. I invited this boy and about five minutes into the movie he “stretched” his arm which ended up around my shoulder. I was mildly shocked, especially since we were at a church event so I decided to get us some snacks at that very moment. Awkward teenage love for the win. 

 We kept riding together to tennis practice, getting to know each other as just friends until one day this boy asked, “What would your parents think if you dated someone of another race?” I know that racism doesn’t exist anymore and everything is right in the world..This was a turning point in our relationship because, you see, this boy was Asian–a first generation Laotian American, and I was (and still am) definitely not a first generation American who has red hair and freckles. We live in the South which tends to be slow to accept diversity so his question was a valid one. My answer: my parents would be okay with whoever I date so long as they treat me well and have ambition.

And right there the door of possibility swung wide open.


Tying on blessings {A kon kao perspective on her Lao Wedding}

Alternative titles: One of these kids is not like the other, Hennessy Nights, and Sticky Rice-Sticky Thighs

Reading Noony’s post was the motivation I needed to get on here and spill some words.

I’m a lover of all things culture and being married to a first generation Laotian-American makes me a participant observer for life. And I’m not complaining. Through the six years we’ve been together I’ve been to several Lao New Year’s celebrations, more Lao parties, one Lao funeral, and my own Lao wedding.  Sometimes I forget that my husband and I are from different cultures, but it’s at events like these that I definitely remember that he’s Lao and I’m not. My family would never order a whole roasted pig for a celebration, never grind anything using a mortar and pestle, never hack a coconut properly with a cleaver, never eat fish sauce, never eat tripe (I should include that my family is not adventurous at all in the culinary department), and never ever never eat baby duck eggs. Also, my family would never be able to sit for hours at a time the way Laotians do at the temple. Not possible.

Over the years I’ve come to respect, love, and cherish this culture that my husband comes from.  He wasn’t born in Laos, but his family preserves Lao culture as best it can in the diaspora. While spiritually the temple might not hold the most meaning for my husband, we both love to go to the temple for Lao New Year and be immersed in Lao culture if only for a few hours. Some of my favorite things about Lao culture: the nop, a slight bow with hands folded (Noony, correct me on anything), utmost respect for elders, taking shoes of by the door, communal meals/food on the table all the time, sense of duty to maintain tradition, and last but not least, mangoes with sweet sticky rice.

One of the best experiences of Lao culture was my own Lao wedding and because I found some pictures of our Lao wedding ceremony I’ll take this opportunity to post them before I forget. Let me just say the Lao wedding ceremony involved a week-long preparation by many many family members which involved cooking literally non-stop, cleaning up my in-law’s house and backyard to host the wedding and gathering supplies for the wedding. It was so humbling the way everyone pitched in to prepare for the wedding. The night before the wedding we had a party and some Hennessy shots. Lots of dancing, eating, and drinking. The morning of the ceremony, which was supposed to start at 10:30am, I woke up early and got ready for a good hair pulling/tender-headed session with the lady who does Lao wedding hair. My eyes were watering the entire time. I guess she isn’t used to Lao brides of the red-haired variety so she only had fake black hair to use. Once I had my scalp pulled in every direction imaginable and had my make-up done, there were at least 5 women helping me into the sinh/ Lao skirt, putting the belt on, jewelry on, and safety-pinning everywhere.

After I was ready we processed out the front door and around to the backyard. Normally the groom processes to the bride’s family home, but since I was at Daniel’s family home I processed with a large posse. On-lookers may have thought there was a CIA sting going on. At the backdoor, two Lao elder-women held up a belt where my Mother-in-Law “bartered” for me to be able to enter the home. Then, Daniel and I sat down and the ceremony was underway. It involved eating rice and boiled egg out of a stranger’s hand (oh, the things we do for love), chanting, and finally having guests file by one-by-one and tie white string around our wrists while giving us blessings and well-wishes for a happy marriage. Some of the best wishes I got were advice from elders. I love this tradition and think it’s way better than signing your name in a card–instead the guests speak their wishes to the bride and groom. There was so much food…so. much. And it was 90% homemade. Like I said, so endearing and humbling that our family and friends came together to make our Lao wedding possible. Guests stayed basically all day. There was karaoke, dancing, eating, drinking, and lounging around. I am so thankful and happy that Daniel and I got to experience this part of Lao culture and share these memories with the ones we love.

Procession to back door

Procession to back door

"Bartering" at the door

“Bartering” at the door

Ceremonial photo-op

Ceremonial photo-op

Eating from a stranger's hand

Eating from a stranger’s hand

So. much. food.

So. much. food.

Speech time

Speech time

Moving the ceremonial flowers/candles to our room

Moving the ceremonial flowers/candles to our room

Tying on blessings

Tying on blessings

More delicious food

More delicious food

Shots! Shots! Shots, shots, shots, shots!

Shots! Shots! Shots, shots, shots, shots!

A wedding fawn

A wedding fawn


Le Honeymoon

Although Daniel and I got married last year, we just took our honeymoon this year for our first wedding anniversary.  Like the Jamericans we are, we visited Ochos Rios, Jamaica for 5 glorious nights.  Because we had many family members who came from out of town to our wedding we didn’t just want to jet off the next day for our honeymoon. And even thought we definitely aren’t the richest people in the world (probably not even Bill Gates is by now) we knew that if we didn’t take our honeymoon now, we probably never would. 

When we were first flying into Montego Bay it was apparent that Jamaica is a lush, foresty, mountainous country. I guess in my head I pictured it more hot and sandy. Once in customs I thought I had lost a very important document and would be stuck in Jamaica forever. My face turned super red and then the lady at customs told me even if I had lost it they could give me another one….Needless panic, one of my best traits. The transfer from Montego Bay to Ochos Rios was quite the cultural experience simply because I haven’t left the country in 3 years. There were goats everywhere along the side of the highway ( I use “highway” loosely here).  Probably about 2/3 of the buildings and houses we saw were unfinished (we were later told by a tour guide that this is due to 25% interest rates on loans). Once at the hotel we discovered that the couple who got off the bus at the last stop mistook our luggage for theirs. Luckily we got our luggage later that night.  Also, it was about 7:45pm by the time we arrived at our hotel and we still wanted to walk by the ocean.  The sun set very early in Jamaica so it was dark on the beach.  We were walking along when out of nowhere we heard, “Hey! Wanna buy some smokes?” I grabbed Daniel’s arm and told him we should swiftly get the H outta there. A security guard overheard what was going on and told us that the locals are separated from the resort’s private beach by a fence and not to worry–that guy was just a local trying to sell some “smokes.” Pretty sure that means Maria Juana.

The second day/first full day was our first anniversary.  We spent it by the beach, swam in the ocean, and enjoyed the swim-um bar. The beach was very clean-very little seaweed, no jellyfish, and the water was warm. It was about 88 degrees each day and cloudy.  The staff was friendly and eager to talk with the tourists. They also had a fancy chocolate cake dessert with “Happy Anniversary” written in chocolate waiting in our room.  Probably the fanciest gift we’ll ever get for our anniversary, Gracias Jamaica.

The second day we did a tour to Kingston, the capital city. The tour included a stop at Juicy Patti-a Jamaican fast food joint that serves fried tortilla-like pockets of “beef” (again, used loosely). The “beef” was seasoned pretty good and we didn’t get sick so I’d say it was a win.  We also toured Bob Marley’s home where he wrote “Three Little Birds.” Did you know that Bob Marley was the victim of an assassination attempt? I did not.  But now I’ve seen the bullet holes.. it really happened, ya’ll. I’m a Bob Marley fan and reggae fan in general so I thoroughly enjoyed the tour, minus the fit as many people as we can in Bob’s house part. We also ate d-lish-us ice cream at Devon House. Other than that I wouldn’t recommend spending your money on the Kingston Tour.

The third day we sat out by the ocean, but this time I had a brilliant idea. Let’s forgo the lounge chairs in the shade and get tanned! I have red hair and freckles and Scottish/Swedish blood and not the tanning gene.  What a great idea. We got totally burned, but only on our front side. It is now 3 weeks later and my shins are peeling. That’s how I roll…or peel. We ate dinner at Moonstone Italian that night and it was pretty good.

The fourth and final day there we hiked up a waterfall- Dunn’s Falls. If I would have known that you hike UP the WATERFALL instead of next to it like people who want to live, I never would have signed us up…and paid to do it. Alas, we lived and didn’t chip a tooth so I guess it was fun, minus the pebbles in my chacos every other step. After that, and because we hadn’t had enough thrill for the day we rode the Mystic Mountain bobsled (look it up!) and ziplined through the forest. We loved ziplining. It was much better than hiking up a waterfall. But, then again, isn’t anything better than hiking up a waterfall? On the way home our bus driver obliged our request to stop at Scotchy’s, a local smokehouse that sells wonderfully amazing jerk chicken. We ordered half a chicken and 2 festivals (like a cornbread stick) and ate with our hands on the balcony of our room admiring the beautiful view of the mountain.  It was one of my favorites.

We also played tennis with the resort tennis pro and got lessons 2 days.  The Jamaican humidity is much worse than the humidity in the Southern state where we live. I could barely hold the racquet I was sweating so bad. Still worth it.

Overall, Daniel and I made memories to last a lifetime. We relived our wedding day and reminisced about the best day of our lives.  Hopefully, we can make it a tradition to wake up on our anniversary in a new destination every year. Oh, and it’s not a stereotype–Jamaicans really do say “Ya, mon” to everything.








9 Months of Marriage

As I write this post, it’s been almost 9 months since Daniel and I got married. That seems so crazy because we still find it weird to call each other husband and wife, but alas–we love marriage! So I want to try to put into words all the emotions of the infamous “wedding week.”

I was taking summer classes so my wedding week was mostly just Thursday, Friday, and then the wedding Saturday. Thursday I skipped class (I felt if any situation called for it-this would be it) and my mom and I situated the flowers and other minor details. Thursday evening my father in law and Daniel’s cousin came in from Oregon. We went to eat pho with them and spend time as we hadn’t seen them in 3 years!
Friday was chaotic, crazy, humbling, and magical all at the same time. My parents took off from work, Daniel’s parents took off from work, my friend’s, family friends and relatives all helped set up the reception hall and church. It was truly a “village” affair and it was so humbling to see so many friends and family giving their time to help us prepare for our wedding.

Later that day was the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner. There was a wreck that clogged up the main road to the church. For this reason almost everyone was late to the rehearsal. I was so nervous and shaking during the entire rehearsal. I could not believe that the day I had waited 4 years for ( I knew I wanted to marry Daniel early on!) was TOMORROW! Also the reality of “til death do us part” was sinking in-it took a while! For the rehearsal dinner we ate at a famous local Southern food restaurant called AQ Chicken. Then we went back to the hotel where Daniel’s family was staying because his grandma, aunts, uncles, and cousin had come in from Texas and Connecticut. So thoughtful! Once we met them his grandma (whom I had never met) immediately began measuring me with her measuring tape (boobs, hips, butt–you name it, she measured it!) for the Lao wedding dress I would wear two months later at our Lao wedding. Needless to say we got to know each other pretty well!

Saturday morning one of my bridesmaid’s mothers had a brunch for me, my mom, grandma, aunts, bridesmaids, and friends. It was overcast and rainy that morning, but barely drizzly. I remember hoping that the sun would come out! We enjoyed having brunch and mimosas together celebrating the beautiful wedding day. After I headed to the salon with one of my bridesmaids. I had one of my hair dresser friends do my hair at her salon. We had done a run-through the week before, so I wasn’t too worried. My mom met me at the salon later and took me to her house. All I remember there is that I was so nervous I couldn’t eat anything after brunch and that her tv wasn’t working so I had nothing to occupy my mind. The nerves were just ruminating. After what felt like hours we went to my apartment and I grabbed a few last minute items and we headed to the church. Once at the church I knew that this was not a dream– this really was my wedding day. All my bridesmaids were already there doing hair and make up. After getting my make up done by Allyson, my bridesmaid, I got into my dress with the help of my mom. Then Daniel and I did first-look photos where we cried like babies. Better than crying like babies in the church where everyone could see. We took some more photos with our wedding party. It was so windy that day, but the sun finally came out and it was a beautiful day.

After getting back to the bride’s room my bridesmaids and I just tried to soak in the moment and joke around. I’m so happy I had my best friends close for that special time. Then my favorite priest ever- who was celebrating our wedding Mass- came in and prayed with us. Moments later my bridesmaids left to process into the church and I was left alone. I couldn’t believe I was about to walk down the aisle and marry my best friend and partner in crime. My dad came in and got all teary-eyed. Once we were approaching the aisle everything was like a daze. I was weak from not being able to eat and my dad said he kept feeling me leaning on him. The whole time I was walking down the aisle I just kept staring at Jesus on the Cross and praying for Daniel and I as we embarked on this journey of marriage. Once my arm was joined with Daniel’s I was no longer nervous. Fr. John had asked us to give him a list of the 3 things we loved most about the other. I said 1) his beautiful brown eyes and spiky black hair 2) that he beats me in tennis sometimes and that I beat him in tennis sometimes 3) just the person he is- his caring nature. I’ll have to get Daniel’s later! We both cried as we exchanged vows just realizing how much we really love each other. We had so much fun dancing at our reception with great friends and family. We felt so loved and humbled. My aunt made the wedding cake and the groom’s cake (salmon roe w wasabi and ginger). They were delicious and looked amazing. At the end of the reception we had a limo to take us and our bridal party home. We wanted to stop at Mcdonalds but the line was too long. Daniel and I were exhausted by the time we got I our room at James at the Mill. We couldn’t believe we were finally married. All the weeks of preparation and stress of planning a wedding was over and we were finally beginning our journey together. The next day we played tennis with his cousins and ate dinner with his dad followed by ice cream at Braums. Those were the longest, but most rich 3 days ever. I still can’t believe we’re married sometimes. 9 months has gone by so fast!