Monday, August 28, 2017

Six Years Later

Dear Gramma,

Time has passed and you've gone with it. Six years ago this month. It simultaneously seems like a lot and a little, depending on how you look at it. Depending on how much my heart misses you on any given day. Depending on whether or not I'm thinking about you, remembering you, missing you.

The missing- it never ends. It subsides, it lessens. It doesn't linger the way it used to. If I'm not careful, if I'm not on guard, thoughts of you will sneak in and the pain of missing you will roar its ugly head and make its presence known, so loudly and so clearly that I have no choice but to break down in a heap of tears.

But it never ends.

Things have changed.

Like your house. It is now green and white on the outside, blue and gray on the inside. It is calm and quiet. It is bright and light and beautiful, like you.

There are hummingbirds that still visit, but instead of stopping by the feeder that would hang outside the dining room window, they have made a teeny tiny nest on the porch swing. We do not use the swing anymore as we wish not to disturb them. It's more than that, though. You're not there to swing with. That was something reserved to you and grandpa, and now it too isn't the same.

I just got out the old Rummikub set. The legs to one of the boards are still missing. I have been through every inch of your house and still I could not find them. I know how much you loved that game. I wish I had played it with you more often. I try not to think about things like this, all the things I should've done. It is too much to bear, and I know better than to waste wishes on the past.

Mom and I still go for walks around the park. The trees are bigger and everything looks greener, but for me it still remains the park you and I would visit the last few years of your life, when I would take you out in your wheel chair for some fresh air.

Christmas is spent at my house now, but I kept your old Christmas tree. I keep it in the closet, where it's always been. I keep it for the future. I imagine future Christmas' at your house, with hot cocoa on snowy nights, when I have little ones gathered around the tree. I want them to have the same experience I did, all the while knowing it could never be the same because you won't be there.

When I go back and visit, I make tea you would have had with me- and think of you. I hand wash the dishes at the sink you stood at for years- and think of you. I play the CD's I burned for you, I take Samson for a walk around your neighborhood, I stare at your window plant shelves, now void of plants- and think of you.

I pull out the old photo albums I put together for you and look back over the years. I just made a new one with all the photos of my wedding. I am the only one that will most likely ever see it or even know that it's there, but somehow it felt wrong not to make you one. I wish you had been there. I wish you were in the pictures with me, contained within that book. You would have loved the wedding. You would love him. His favorite color is blue, just like yours.

Death is selfish, and I am selfish for wishing it undone.

This is yet another wasted wish.

I miss you.

I will never stop missing you.


Thanks for always posing in pictures like this with me. You are the reason for so many of my happy moments.

Friday, August 25, 2017

The Reflection of Shadows: Broken Never

The Reflection of Shadows
A collection of moments
Broken Never

We are one in the same, you just had more to gain.
I just had more to lose; I must live with this shame.
I must live with the knowledge that your blood seeps with pain.
I must live with the truth that your tongue was a flame.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Monday Mantra: Nothing Satisfies Hate

mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of "creating transformation".

Every Monday I will post a new thought, idea, or focus for the week. When you need a breather from life, when you need a little inspiration, or when you're about to jump over the conference table and strangle your co-worker, remember the mantra.

Monday Mantra: Nothing in the world will satisfy hate. It is designed to want more, more, more...

The unbelievable acts that took place recently in Charlottesville, VA got me thinking: What is the purpose of hate?

We grow up learning that "hate" is a bad word. As children, we're taught not to use it because we don't fully understand the implications of what it means. However, as adults, it appears some of us have forgotten that lesson. Maybe some of us never learned it in the first place.

We direct hate freely, in any and all ways we see fit. We don't just say we hate this or we hate that, we feel it. We let it permeate our beings, make a home in our bones. We let it control, we let it devour. We let it be a weapon in the war against others because, for some of us, it feels good.

What happens is destruction of the soul caused by a single, powerful, all consuming emotion.

This is the purpose of hate.

It's only when we grow out of the feeling of hatred, when we grow with and into love, that we see how childish of a feeling hate really is. How foolish, how lacking. How it demands we worship it, follow it, do its bidding. How we become prisoners of what it wants, what it will always want: more.

Let's play the devil's advocate for a moment. Let's pretend that everyone involved in the acts in Charlottesville eventually get what they want- utopia. A perfect world of only white people who look like them, share the same views they do and, obviously, aren't jews. Then what? Are we to assume this is their happily ever after? That by quenching their thirst for hate they will be satisfied once and for all?

Hitler orchestrated the murder of millions. Do you think he ever felt satisfied? Do you think he ever thought it was enough?


The answer will always be no. There is no such thing as satisfaction when it comes to hate. If this utopia existed, if they got exactly what they wanted, they'd eventually find something new to hate. They'd bicker among themselves, they'd find imperfections, and a new kind of enemy would be formed. A new era of problems, of people that are unworthy, of things that are "wrong" and do not belong. No one that allows these kinds of feelings inside of them ever finds satisfaction. They spend their whole lives chasing the next thing that must be destroyed.

Hate is a drug.

It will always want more. More of your time, more of your life, more damage and destruction and you- more of you, until there's nothing left but a miserable shell of a person who wasted their life running after unreachable goals.

Love, on the other hand, will rebuild.

It will nourish, it will soothe, it will open spaces inside of you that you never knew existed. Love will not demand more from you, it will not take- it will give. It will give and give and give, and just when you think there is no room left inside of you, it will find a crack, a crevice, an opening- and then it will give you more.

Love is the only cure for the hate virus. Only with love do we find true satisfaction and fulfillment in life. Everything else will leave you empty, leave you wanting, leave you in need. Everything else is a decoy.

Let us build a world so full of love that hate has no place left to live.

In the meantime - because building a world of love is going to take forever at this point - enjoy this amazing Tina Fey video while sheet caking yourself back to some form of sanity.

Friday, August 18, 2017

The Reflection of Shadows: Something That I Do Not Want

The Reflection of Shadows
A collection of moments
Something That I Do Not Want

All these thoughts, all these things-
Each unfortunate memory.
My mind spinning, twisting, shouting,
Begging for release from doubting.

Such a jumble, such a blur-
A mystery of the unsure.
Every secret kept within
Daring to break through my skin.

Silent thoughts that fill the air,
Closing out the distance shared.
Words unspoken, almost slip
Bursting forth from sealed lips.

Each thick moment, each dark thought
Waiting for my heart to stop,
Hoping I can break the bond
Of something that I do not want.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Monday Mantra: Speak Only If It Improves the Silence

Hi Friends! I'm short on time this week, so I'm bringing back an oldie but a goodie. I believe this is an important reminder we can all benefit from, in one way or another.

mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of "creating transformation".

Every Monday I will post a new thought, idea, or focus for the week. When you need a breather from life, when you need a little inspiration, or when you're about to jump over the conference table and strangle your co-worker, remember the mantra.

Monday Mantra: Speak only if it improves the silence

In keeping with the theme of the post today, I will keep this short and sweet in hopes that it improves the silence in your space while you read it. 

When I was studying yoga we learned the phrase, "Speak only if it improves the silence." It had never occurred to me before to not fill those awkward, silent moments with nothing but more silence, as opposed to empty words. Or to not say something in response to a question or a conversation if I truly had nothing worthwhile to say, rather than speaking just so I could fit in, so I could belong to that conversation.

When you bring awareness front and center in your dialogue, you suddenly realize how much more you can contribute by ensuring what you're adding has value.

Remember that words have power. Think of a time someone told you they loved you. How did you feel? Or a time someone said something cruel to you- how did you feel then? Or even those times when the only response you got back was an, "Uh huh, yeah, OK" because the other person wasn't really listening. How did that make you feel? 

Words- They can make someone's day, ruin it, destroy a life, heal a broken heart, or get lost in the sea of too much chit chat. 

Be mindful of what you're saying. Next time you don't have something that will add value, try speaking in silence. See what the silence can do for you instead. 

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Reflection of Shadows: Six Word Poems

The Reflection of Shadows
A collection of moments
Six Word Poems

Have you considered how much can be said with so few words, when worded just so? That's just one reason why I love Smith Six-Word Memoirs. The idea is to create a story using only six words. It's a nice change of pace and forces you to get creative.

Here are some of my six-word mini poem memoirs from over the years.

Googling flame retardant clothing for descent.

Running in circles is my workout.

I have (nothing) good to say.

Always remember the distance you've gone.

Love you, loved you, always will.

Break free from the broken record.

It's hard to be a person.

You inspire a fire within me.

You were designed to be happy.

I respectfully disagree with your disrespect.

The paradise you seek is within.

Unravel the mystery within your history.

Only fire will set me free.

I don't care that you care.

Do not settle for meager dreams.

We won't mistake kindness for weakness.

Walls embrace me, walls will crumble.

I'm an Olympian at conclusion jumping.

You turned our fire into ashes.

My mom visited, my sanity left.

Nine Inch Nails is my caffeine.

Learn the lesson, pass the test.

Let's give them something to remember.

Relighting old flame with new match.

Your apologies expired at midnight, pumpkin.

Monday, August 7, 2017

All Around The World: Honeymooning in Thailand and Hong Kong

Krabi, Thailand

Traveling to Krabi has taught me something important: There are beaches, and then there are beaches. Ones that are formed within volcanic mountains, covered in awe inspiring greenness that take your breath away. Like this:
Hong Island
For our honeymoon, we stayed at the uber luxurious Phulay Bay, also knows as the resort that was rented out for the movie The Hangover Part II. This area of Thailand is incredibly popular in the film industry, so trust me when I say you've seen a lot of these beaches in a slew of Hollywood movies throughout the years.

Phulay Bay Hotel Overview

The grounds are 54 acres with 54 rooms, which means you rarely see other human beings. You know how pools are usually crowded and you run out of lounge chairs? Not here. Phulay Bay (pronounced poo-lay, in case you're curious) has a ginormous pool and, with the low amount of occupants, that means you never run out of anything. I think, at the max, I was sharing it with *gasp* four whole people.

You have plenty of options on-site. There's a temple to check out, a huge gym, a super cute boutique, walking trails galore, a spa, and several restaurants. The resort offers excursion options, some of which are included in the prices, such as a daily trip to Hong Island. The resort, in and of itself, is breathtaking. Absolutely every single inch of it is gorgeous. As are the rooms.

While we were there we stayed in three different villas; it's a long story. Let's just say customer service is top of the line here, people. In one of the villas (which was crazy amazing as it was) there was an electrical problem (that we didn't really care about at all) and they took it upon themselves to move us to their most luxurious room. We're talking The Villa of all Villas.

I can't leave out the beds! It's hard to put into words the luxuriousness that is the Phulay Bay beds, but it's basically like sleeping on giant clouds right from heaven. And I do mean giant. One bed could easily fit ten people, no joke.

On top of that, we had our very own 24/7 butler, Tanya, who was basically there to get us whatever we wanted, when we wanted it, not to mention being our personal chauffeur. Tanya was super sweet and super thoughtful. Ryan got sick one night so we cancelled our dinner plans, and out of the blue Tanya shows up with a hot tea remedy to help him feel better. We could not have asked for a nicer person. We declined a lot of things, like the chauffeuring, but it was nice to know she was there for us.

This is the bathtub of each and every one of my bathtub loving dreams.
The temple.
Making our daily trek to breakfast.
The on-site seafood restaurant.
Beach views everywhere.
Views upon views.


Gluten Free Dining at Phulay Bay

Now, for the good stuff. When I travel I don't expect a ton of gluten free options outside of the normal things, like veggies and fruit and meat. Here, almost everything was an option. Breakfast is by far the most magnificent meal of the day. The buffet has endless options and is gigantic. Every day there are new smoothie flavors (shout out to the coconut one, my personal favorite) and - get ready - there's a dedicated gluten free pastry section! Guys...guys...they have mini croissants that are to die for. If I could find a way to get those babies shipped to my house, I would do that on the regular. No joke.

But that's not all...

*sounds of trumpets blaring and angels singing*

...the pastry chef made me gluten free surprises every day. Breakfast quickly became the most important part our day, and I say "our" because this amazing chef would basically make the two of us enough food for a family of four. We would do our damnedest to eat it because he was A) so excited to be making all these GF goodies and B) had put so much thought and time into it, we really didn't want to let him down. I had pancakes, pastries, and waffles galore. On top of that, he'd make it a point to heat up my mini-croissants (and any and all other GF pastries he had) every morning. I love him, obviously.

This man went above and beyond, and if I had any say, he would be making a gazillion dollars because he has earned it. I don't know what his secret is to making everything taste amazing, but the food I ate was hands down some of the most delicious gluten free baked goods I've ever had. Seriously, you guys. I'm trying to figure out how I can get back there on a regular basis just for breakfast.

New smoothie flavor every day.

The gluten free breakfast section. Just some of the options you get.

Things to Do

Located about 20 minutes away is Krabi Town. Here you will find really cute shops with awesome unique goodies to take back home. You can also check out all the different tour options to and from the plethora of beaches in this area.

As mentioned above, at the resort they offer daily trips to Hong Island. While other resorts use this island too, it is still far less crowded than almost any other beach option you have. While Hollywood movies have done great things for the economy, they have made visiting the many gorgeous islands somewhat tricky. And yes, I say this knowing I'm a tourist.

The pristine beaches from the movies are no longer so pristine. If my research serves me correctly, Thailand officials have started shutting down islands to everyone except locals because of how badly the islands are getting destroyed. This is why I really appreciated Hong Island. It's a limited amount of people, for a limited amount of time, which helps keep it clean and usable.

One of the things we opted to do was go kayaking through the volcanic canyons and into the mangrove forest. We went at low tide, possibly the lowest it can go, so we had quite the adventure. Our guide was pretty excited to take us down any and all paths he could find that were normally blocked off with water. We got stuck on the ocean floor, went deep into the mangrove forest, and got to hang out with some very acrobatic monkeys. It was perfect.

Hong Island.
And more Hong Island.
Kayaking adventures.
Getting lost in the mangroves on purpose.
Here's some more shots of the gorgeous Krabi area. Can you say holy sunset, because damn!

Bangkok, Thailand

While we didn't go to Bangkok on this trip, we were there last year for a quick stop and, clearly, it has some awesomeness to offer. We stayed right next to the very popular Khao San Road where you can literally find anything and everything you will ever need, including at least a dozen tattoo parlors. You know, in case you want a face tattoo.

I highly recommend grabbing yourself a coconut ice cream from one of the street vendors. They come in the shell of a coconut with peanuts sprinkled on top!

There's a lot of shopping damage to be done, so pace yourselves. I snagged some seriously awesome tank tops for a whopping $2 each. Super comfy and with a variety of cool designs.

There are temples galore to see all over Bangkok. Wat Pho has a rather impressive giant reclining golden Buddha that's worth a trip.

From a food perspective, dining GF wasn't really a challenge because of the huge variety of restaurants in the area. Anything with rice and meat and you're good to go!

One thing I would highly recommend is going to check out Ancient Siam; a huge park decked out to resemble all of Thailand. It's about an hour from the city, but it is so worth it. We rented bikes and spent the day taking in all the sights as we peddled around the massive park.

Hong Kong

We had a two day stop over in Hong Kong, which was just the right amount of time for what we wanted to do while visiting this awesome city. We stayed at the Ritz Carlton, the world's tallest hotel. Ooo-ahh, right? The views were pretty spectacular and the hotel staff was very welcoming, as you can see.

Gluten Free Dining

We treated ourselves to a fancy dinner at Tin Lung Heen, a Michelin starred Cantonese restaurant located within our hotel. Gluten free dining was not a problem in the slightest and - bonus - they send you home with cute little boxes of their house green tea.

We also did a special afternoon tea tasting at Tosca (also within the hotel). This was, hands down, one of my all time most awesome tea tasting/eating/wow-ing moments. I contribute a lot of that to the fact that they easily accommodated my gluten allergy for all the treats by creating this amazing custom tasting for us. Tasting really isn't even the right word. There was a boat load of food. It was more of a tea feast, if we're keeping it real.

NoodleMi is a great inexpensive choice while you're out around town. The menu is uber GF freindly and I got to have egg rolls, you guys. That never happens! Grassroots Pantry is a suuuuuuper healthy restaurant you can check out, too.

Tea tasting at Tosca.
Grassroots Pantry

Things to Do

Hong Kong reminds me of New York City, but with even more luxury shopping everywhere you turn and a metro system that drops you off right smack in the middle of any of the dozens of malls. What I'm saying is, if you love to shop Hong Kong is your place. That being said, I had a hard time finding stores that I didn't have back home, but I luckily stumbled upon K-11; the coolest mall in all of Hong Kong (if you ask me.) K-11 is comprised of several floors, each with a theme. For instance, the bottom floor is called "Dress Up Island" as most stores have beauty products and fashion accessories. There are also some incredibly awesome/weird/funky chairs that you should check out on this floor in particular. We spent a lot of time twirling around in these babies.

The Peak is pretty cool to check out for views, plus shopping and this very cool 3D photo room, where you can take fun pictures like this:

The Symphony of Lights show at Victoria Harbour was nice, but I must admit it wasn't that spectacular. If you're only there for a couple of days and are trying to figure out what to do, don't worry if you skip this.

Getting around is easy with the metro. Sheung Wan Station is a solid stop with a lot to check out, such as Hollywood Road. There are quite a few stores and places to eat, plus some awesome graffiti.

Views from The Peak.
Symphony of Lights show at Victoria Harbour. 
Views from the Ritz Carlton. 

Travel Tip: This was definitely a trip we splurged on, but it was still affordable because of our memberships. Always, always, always have memberships with hotels and airlines and - most importantly - be loyal to those programs. Learn them, understand them. Membership at one place means you get to use the benefits of their affiliates, for instance, the Oneworld alliance program. The points and miles add up to huge rewards. Our flights were free and we got to experience some of the best room options available simply because of our membership status with the hotel line. Traveling a lot adds up! 

Check out my Society6 page for these photos, plus more!

Friday, August 4, 2017

The Reflection of Shadows: Promises

The Reflection of Shadows
A collection of moments

When the days are long,
When the nights pass by,
When we don't agree,
Don't see eye to eye,
When sorrow comes,
And the good times lapse-

You and I remain.
Our love will last.