Story of my Life

Dec. 31st

Prompt: Core story. What central story is at the core of you, and how do you share it with the world? (Bonus: Consider your reflections from this month. Look through them to discover a thread you may not have noticed until today.) (Harper Collins Children’s @molly_oneill)

Last post of 2010.

We are the hero of our own story. – Mary McCarthy

This is the simplest way of wrapping my life up into a nutshell. Look at it this way, if I wanted to curl up in a ball and cry over the disappointments 2010 brought, I could. I could drop out of school and let the challenges win.

That’s not my thing.

Believing in the impossible is my thing. Looking each day dead in the eye and saying, “I’m going to get through this, whether you like it or not,” is my thing.

What I’ve learned is that nothing is perfect and nothing is totally in my control. What I can do is look for meaning in the chaos and become a better person.

I’ve been blogging long enough to realize that this has become my theme. I’m working on my 2011 theme, too. Can’t wait to unveil it.

In the meantime, please please please be safe tonight and have fun. And if you’re in a time zone that already rang in the new year, well… here’s to you!

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GIFTS!

Dec. 30th

Prompt: Gift. This month, gifts and gift-giving can seem inescapable. What’s the most memorable gift, tangible or emotional, you received this year? (Waxman Literary Agency @hroot)

What did I get this year?

I don’t know. I’m really stuck on this prompt.

I suppose I got the chance to go back to school, and with that came the opportunity to make new friends and head off in a new direction. That’s a good gift.

And actually, I’ve just been really lucky with the gift of friendship this year. Old friends, new friends– it’s been a whirlwind year, and it’s been full of changes.

So, there you go. Short, to the point, and now it’s time to keep cultivating friendship into the new year.

*high five*

Define Me

Dec. 29th

Prompt: Defining moment. Describe a defining moment or series of events that has affected your life this year. (The Year the Swallows Came Early @KFitzmaurice)

My theme for 2010 was “Believe in the impossible.” Given that, my defining moments began with my travels to Europe and eventually blended into moving to a new city to go to grad school. I’ve said it before, but I was anxious about both traveling alone to Spain, as well as moving away and pursuing graduate studies. 2010 was about not letting myself shy away from challenges.

I remember getting on the plane in April and settling in for the transatlantic flight. I remember being stunned that I was actually doing this. I would have freaked a bit more, but I was Xanax’ed out because I’m not a really great flier. However, I remember feeling proud of myself for following through with the plan. And after I arrived in Madrid, I learned how to get along in a country whose language I did not speak very well, how to navigate a huge city, and how to reach out and network.

Right before going to the airport, thinking, "What am I doing?!"

It was knowing that I could accomplish my trip and do it well also helped me as I left the big city for a rural college town. While grad school has been stressful at times, I’m happy with the program I’ve chosen and the people I’ve met. It’s definitely a journey, and I look forward to the next several terms.

Carrying positive vibes into 2011 will help me adventure more and make the new year wonderful. I have accomplished what I once thought to be impossible– so why stop there?

Achieve

Dec. 28th

Prompt: Achieve. What’s the thing you most want to achieve next year? How do you imagine you’ll feel when you get it? Free? Happy? Complete? Blissful? Write that feeling down. Then, brainstorm 10 things you can do, or 10 new thoughts you can think, in order to experience that feeling today. (The Women’s Seder Sourcebook: Rituals & Readings for Use at the Passover Seder @tarasophia)

I’m debating answering this question either realistically or idealistically. Idealistically, I would like to achieve balance in this next year, balance between my personal life and my academic life. But, balance is something we discuss often in my program, and it is something that is hard to ever achieve.

So, I’m going to be realistic and say that I would like to achieve physical fitness. Too long I have said, “I want a nice stomach!” and then given up. Too long I have said, “I want a hyperextended toe-touch jump,” and then stopped. Too long I have said, “I’m gonna dance more!” And stopped. In 2011, I want to defy the past and actually get in rockin’ shape.

It’s not going to be easy, and I’m probably going to be pretty cranky for awhile as I try and re-work my fitness routines. I’m sure it will be worth it in the end. Hopefully, I’ll feel better, I’ll have more energy, and I won’t be criticizing “problem areas” in the mirror. The good thing is, I already like myself as I am– so any improvement will be positive.

However, I’ll have more respect for myself if I accomplish this goal. That’s important, too.


Joy to My World

Dec. 27th

Prompt: Ordinary joy. Our most profound joy is often experienced during ordinary moments. What was one of your most joyful ordinary moments this year? (The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are @brenebrown)

I had to think about this for awhile because I had plenty of joyful moments this year, but they were often a bit out of the ordinary– at a wedding, somewhere in Germany, airports, etc. Those are not day-to-day events for me. What is fairly ordinary for me, though, is to be around good people and to have some sort of nom-worthy item or reason for gathering.

Two moments stick out in my mine as far as joyful goes: (a) my last day in Madrid at J&J; (b) rooftop BBQ #1 in Cadiz.

J&J was my comfort spot in Madrid, where I could speak in my native language and relax. As I have mentioned before, Brandi and I went there all the time, and we basically became regulars. We met several other regulars, some of whom were incredibly generous people, buying us drinks and sharing pizza with us just because they wanted to. On my last afternoon, I stopped in to say hi, and the place was not very busy. Dave and I shot the wind for awhile, and several other customers showed up. One regular, an older gentleman from Switzerland or something similar (memory fails me), told Dave that I was to pay for nothing. And I didn’t have to that day– a simple yet welcomed going-away present.

My second memorable moment was in Cadiz, where E introduced me to a whole bunch of new people, and we literally had a BBQ on a roof in Spain. The weather forecast kept saying it was supposed to rain, but there was no hint of that, as it was sunny the entire day. We ate and drank for quite some time, eventually wandering down to the beach. (Not before stopping to buy a bunch of bulk gummi candy, and someone found a bouncy ball, which we bounced off EVERYTHING in the streets.) It was a good time, in a good place, with an old friend and new friends. Sure, it was a foreign country, but hanging out and creating tons of random, little memories with friends is an ordinary thing for me.

We also got more cheeseburgers at the end of the night– Burger Enkaguti. Yum.

"Finny" demonstrating the deliciousness.

 

Soul Food & Boxing Day

Dec. 26th

Prompt: Soul food. What did you eat this year that you will never forget? What went into your mouth & touched your soul?* (An A-Z Guide to Healing Foods: A Shopper’s Reference @mysticflavor)

*don’t laugh, don’t laugh, don’t laugh

Finally, a post about one of my favorite things on this planet: eating. I experience a lot of my social life and different cultures by partaking in food. All I wanted for Christmas was tons and tons of Filipino food, for example– did I get that? Yes. Was I happy? Oh-so-happy.

One thing I won’t forget while I was abroad was the task to find comfort food. To be completely honest, one thing that stood out were McDonald’s cheeseburgers and fries. Sometimes, you crave something familiar while away from home! But other than that, I was really into croquetas. Delicious little fried balls of corn meal or flour and chopped jamon or chicken, they were simple yet so wonderful. Brandi and I ate croquetas together nearly every day we were together. They’re like the Spanish version of hush puppies– and a bit elusive Stateside. (However, Ocho in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle, WA has a bomb take on croquetas– they put goat cheese in the mix, and it is simply delightful.) I just remember many afternoons spent with Brandi, looking at the menu, and she would look up and say, “Um, do you want croquetas??” The answer was always yes.

Little balls of Heaven.

As a grad student, finding comfort food is important, too. I think I’ve found my place: Cafe Yumm! Yumm Bowls are my go-to comfort food in Corvallis. They’re packed with beans and rice, primarily, topped with vegetables and a delicious sauce– additionally, it doesn’t take long to prep a Yumm Bowl, so I often pop in for lunch. I’m sure I could make something very similar, but it’s nice to not have to cook. I don’t have a particular moment in mind at Cafe Yumm, but I do know it’s been a good place to go and sit quietly while enjoying my quick lunch. An unconventional place of peace, I suppose.

We had my absolute favorite Filipino dish yesterday during Christmas: kare-kare. It’s a ox-tail stew made with peanut sauce, and other than that, I don’t know quite how to describe it. The meat is tender, the vegetables are a perfect consistency, and the peanut sauce (and bagoong) provide a nice sweetish, salty note to the entire dish. It’s not for everyone, but dang, is it ever for me. I’m pretty sure I mumbled, “This is my favorite EVER,” at least 3 or 4 times during dinner yesterday while taking a bite.

Kare-kare, you are too good to me.

A few days earlier, I got to share a nice sushi dinner with two friends. I love sushi, but this night stood out, just because of how fun it was. We had spent all day shopping downtown, and then we had decided we needed sushi. One of my friends said he knew where the best sushi was, so we went there and proceeded to order a whole bunch of different items just because. There was no special occasion, just several friends sharing good food and good laughs.

In conclusion, I love food. It’s my way of connecting with others, whether that is healthy or not (I know what you’re saying, diet experts– don’t make food a social thing, blah blah blah…). It’s a way of experiencing the world around me, and so far, it’s worked out fairly well.

Also, can I just say I’m really happy I don’t work retail anymore on Boxing Day?

 

Christmas Day and a Photo Worth 261 Words

Dec. 25th – Christmas Day

Prompt: Photo – a present to yourself. Sift through all the photos of you from the past year. Choose one that best captures you; either who you are, or who you strive to be. Find the shot of you that is worth a thousand words. Share the image, who shot it, where, and what it best reveals about you. (Expressive Photography: The Shutter Sisters’ Guide to Shooting from the Heart @shuttersisters)

Paris, France – May 2010
Photographer: The Pirate King

Most ladies hope for a romantic kiss photo in front of the Eifel Tower. I hop for a picture in front of the Eifel Tower.

This photo is about me. It’s about the energy and passion I possess in life. It’s about being a little bit quirky and unconventional. It’s about having fun and being my own person. While I did have some romance in Europe, most of my trip was done to prove to myself that, “Hey, I can do this on my own.” I wanted most of my trip to be about adventure, not about how many kissing photos I could get in front of famous landmarks.

That’s not to say I wouldn’t love more of those photos in my life, but it’s good to establish memories that are about myself first. After all, I strive to believe that I’m awesome and complete as an individual.

I’d also like to point out that the photo was influential. After TPK and I took our own jumping photos, several other tourists starting doing the same thing. It was pretty darn fun.
———————-
Christmas Day was a success. Spent most of the morning with just Mom and Dad, opened a few presents, and then it was off to my godmother’s house for a Filipino-style fiesta. There was so much food there. I don’t even know where to begin. I’ll just say it was a good thing I had a small breakfast because I was practically rolling myself out the door. Who can resist kare-kare, Filipino fruit salad, lumpia, “yellow rice,” fresh ceviche, and so forth and so on. Oh, and cheesecake– yum.

I didn’t really ask for anything this Christmas, just family and food. I see nothing wrong with this. I mean, I’m sure I’ll see something wrong with it after I find a bathroom scale, but in the meantime, I’d say it was wonderful.

Oh, and if you got a “Merry Christmas” message from me, you should know that none of them were mass messages. It’s way more fun that way.