Happy Day, Mom

It’s one of those days — like Father’s Day, birthdays, and Thanksgiving.  A day to slow down, reflect, and appreciate.  And I love living in a nation where we are encouraged with space in our calendars, and even space in our schedules to do just that — pause and be thankful.  Yesterday, our family did just that.

We took the day to celebrate and honor a special person in our lives — our mom (and wife).  For whatever reason (mostly we can blame it on Mom pursuing her law degree) for the past few years we have not been able to celebrate Mother’s Day on the actual calendared date.  Although it feels a little strange and disconnected not to contribute to the throngs of celebrators at various restaurants, it does actually work out to my mom’s benefit.  On the day of my brothers and I do our best to barrage our mother with “Happy Mother’s Day” phone calls, text messages, e-cards, and even sometimes actual cards sent by post or delivered on the doorstep.  Then (and usually) a week later we actual gather as a family and spend some quality time celebrating over brunch and with gifts.  This year was no exception.  We gathered for an informal café breakfast at a sprawling ranch property complete with lake, paddle boats, geese, rock waterfalls, grassy lawns, curtained cabanas, and even ping pong and pool tables.  The atmosphere was so laid-back that we felt invited to wander around the property, take in the sights, and feed the geese with Mom.

What’s even cooler about this whole Mother’s Day event is that we have the one set date to focus our love and attention on a dear individual, but there’s nothing that says we can’t do more of the same on any other day of the year that we so choose.  Lots of room on the calendar for those Mom & Daughter or Mother & Son Days.  So whether you’re a live by the calendar kind of person, or if you prefer a more willy-nilly carefree approach, make sure you take some time to love yo momma.

And in honor of the mother’s out there, I encourage you to check out this year’s Mother’s Day card contest submissions hosted by Paper Source, as well as a couple of my own.

Ingredients:

  • K & Company design paper
  • Clear stamp – squiggly border from Hampton Art “Happy Birthday By the Package” set
  • Recollections metal brad
  • Blue cardstock from Michael’s variety pack

A Wrapper’s Delight

In my messiest (and of course, most creative) days the dining table, coffee table, and even sometimes a tarp on the floor are covered in crafty supplies.  If you’re picturing inks, decorative papers, punches, and rubber and clear stamps you’re right.  But there’s more.  Even before delighting in making handmade sentiments I have been a beader.  So in addition to said supplies, one might also find eye pins, head pins, various pliers, crystal beads, glass beads, precious metal findings, and more.  If I was to define myself as a crafter, I would probably first identity myself by my beading, then my cardmaking, and then my crocheting (although it’s been about a year since I’ve crocheted anything).  Ironically, though, my Etsy shop displays some of my jewelry, while thus far in the blog, I’ve only shared my cards.  In the spirit of sharing some of my latest work and to even things out a bit, I give you “A Wrapper’s Delight”.

One of the areas of beading and jewelry-making that brings me both greatest challenge and greatest joy is wire-wrapping.  It requires more dexterity, more forethought, and patience.  The end result, however, is worth the struggles of trying to form the wire around delicate beads and chains, for it looks so classy, so refined, and very non-amateur.  In my first days of making earrings and trying to form loops at the top of wires in order to connect the bead to the ear wire, I was incredibly daunted.  Try after try to bend the wire into a circular, even loop often resulted in brittle wire, oddly-shaped amoebas, or uneven earrings.  My poor roommate, too.  She’d had some experience with forming these metal curves and could offer tips and words of encouragement, but loop after loop I was in her room, “what d’you think?”  As they say, practice, practice, practice.  After adopting different styles and techniques to more easily accomplish the open loop, I finally reached a point where I could confidently enforce my will on the metal and end up with even, rounded loops.  And then, of course, I needed the next challenge — the wrapped loop.

To learn more about not merely bending wire, but wrapping it, too, I signed up for free community classes at Michaels, pored through wire-wrapping books, and sought wisdom from those more experienced than me.  Again, practice, practice, practice.  I’m at that happy point now, where I can more confidently wrap the wire around the beads, around the chains, etc. to produce these elegant pieces.  There are still thicker wires and more complex designs to be conquered, but I can now say that wrapping wire brings me far more delight and Zen than frustration and sore fingers.

Left My Heart in Chinatown

San Francisco's Chinatown

San Francisco's Chinatown

I think it may have started with Mrs. Wong’s kitchen, but ever since a young girl I’ve long had a soft spot for Chinese culture.  Whether Mandarin or Cantonese, the languages of China are my absolute favorite to listen to — some enjoy French, others Italian, I love hearing Chinese — perhaps because I understand nearly none of it.  Many of my childhood and teenage friends were from Chinese homes, growing up in the U.S., but preserving their language and culture through Saturday schools, practicing traditions at home, and maintaining a tight-knit and friendly community.  The writings of Amy Tan, Aimee Liu, more recently Lisa See, and others helped to paint greater landscapes of China in my mind.  And the food — don’t even get me started on the food!  Of course in my younger years it was the American typicals of Won-Ton soup, Cashew Chicken, Moo Goo Gai Pan, etc., but I remember discovering my first Steamed Bun in Vancouver, B.C.’s Chinatown and crossing over a new threshold in Chinese cuisine.  While living in Japan I sampled the Chinese flavors Japanese-style, and then spicier versions in India.

During my recent stay in San Francisco, my family and I discovered that our hotel was a mere two blocks away from one of the main gateways into Chinatown — a must visit!  Although my mother repeatedly and incredulously kept asking, “Dim Sum for breakfast?” we just had to.

So, my parents, brother, and I traipsed around through Chinatown, watching it slowly come to life on an early Monday morning, admiring storefronts, taking in the bright colors, capturing many a digital photo, and scouting out for the right (and open) Dim Sum shop (ironically, it was only a month or so earlier that both brothers and I partook of a similar quest in L.A.’s Chinatown).

San Francisco Dim Sum Breakfast
San Francisco Dim Sum Breakfast

After following recommendations and directions of a few local shopkeepers, we found our way to a small hole-in-the-wall Dim Sum shop.  Contrary to popular belief, this shop did not have us seated at round tables with Lazy Susans with Dim Sum-filled carts wheeling around us.  It was more akin to a small pastry shop with many a steaming bamboo basket, each filled with its own delicacy.  It was a lot of describing, pointing, peeking, and recalling from memory to order a varied selection of Dim Sum for the family’s breakfast.

Thankfully, the man who assisted us was incredibly patient, accommodating, and greeted each question with a smile. Once our table was filled with Steamed Shrimp Dumplings, Lotus Leaf-wrapped Chicken, Baked BBQ Pork Buns, Tofu in Black Bean Sauce, Steamed BBQ Pork Buns, Steamed Red Bean Buns, Egg Custards, Thick Noodles, and more we sat down to enjoy our feast.  Complete with Green and Black Teas, a word of thankful prayer, and a quick digital snapshot.  I don’t know if our breakfast was quite what my parents were envisioning upon waking up, but it seemed that we all thoroughly enjoyed our gastronomical adventure through Chinatown.

San Francisco Cable Car Grip Operator

San Francisco Cable Car Grip Operator

Being official San Francisco tourists for the day, we followed our meal with a Powell & Mason cable car ride through the city’s famous hilly and windy streets.  From

Powell & Bush St. down to The Embarcadero, we took in the scenery on the moving National Historic Landmark, crowding in with fellow tourists, watching the grip operators flex their arms, and announcing our passage with the ringing of the bell.  It was a gloriously beautiful May day in the city by the bay.  So San Francisco!

After such a wonderful, but too short adventure, I hear the city again calling my name.  If you, too, have left your heart in San Francisco, or even in Chinatown, look around you, there may be a small pocket of China near you.

San Francisco Cable Car

San Francisco Cable Car

Seaside View: Reservations for One

The ultimate in multitasking — doing the things I normally do and love — reading, writing, listening to audio books, watching movies, even napping, and while doing all these things traveling three hundred miles.  Have I transformed into Superwoman?  No.  I just took an eight-hour trip along the Golden State on the Amtrak.  Riding the rails, one of my favorite ways to travel.

Why do I love train rides so much?  A number of reasons.  It’s smooth like a jet with recliner-like legroom and the views of an IMAX screen.  When the last-minute airfares jump around and become out of reach, the consistent and dependable prices of the train are much more appealing.  And bonus — there are many out of the ordinary glimpses to be seen:  blossoming strawberries, deer running in a field, domestic fish-farmers, parasailors skimming the currents of air, wildflowers sprinkling color along sides of roads, mischievous boys in obscure parts of town, dog-walkers, and goats roaming the hillside.

During this most current journey I also discovered that Amtrak has stepped up its offerings for the long-distance rides.  For those who want more than the reminisces of old: the clickety clack of moving along the tracks, the experience of eating in diner cars, sleeping in sleeper cars, and meeting new people through community seating, there are a number of additional offerings to enjoy.  While onboard the Coast Starlight the staff and crew members advertised such programs as movies in the Screening Car, a Rails & Trails guided presentation, announcements of upcoming and spectacular views, and on-board wine tasting.

For my journey I chose to finish my latest Book Club read, read up on some programming tips, and enjoy my brown-bag lunch with a seaside view — reservations for one.

A Little Scattered

You may have noticed I haven’t posted in a little over a week.  Yikes!  In and of itself, not a big deal.  The reasons: they’re good.  Grand Canyon Trip with Mom & Uncle.  Amtrak trip along the Golden State for Uncle’s 60th Surprise Birthday (more on that in another post).  Settling back into the routine at home.  Honestly, I feel like I have blog back-up; I have at least 4 posts “in the works” on my to-do list.  So many things experienced, so many things to write about, and always — not enough time!

Here I am on Monday afternoon, in desperate need of a shower after an awesome gym workout (yup visiting the gym now), nearing the lunchtime hunger hour, and although seeing that I have now crossed five items off my to-do list, there is still much to be done, and if I’m realistic I won’t get to all of it, and if I’m honest, it’s not all “what she loves”.  Isn’t that life, though?

Three of the items thus far completed were battling over monthly service fees with the bank; informing a cell phone company that although they have emailed me my account pin, my new phone number, and lots of goodies about my new account — I have no relationship with them; and lastly, sending an email regarding an online order that the items I received, I did not order, and the items I did order, I did not receive.  Monday!

So what’s on for the rest of the day?  Well, being the beginning of a new week, always job sites to scour again, resumés to rework, cover letters to create, and applications to submit.  After that, perhaps I can get to the fun, creative stuff that really fuels my tank.  But here’s the thing — I am too greedy.  I want to spend some time in Bible Study (our topic this round “Running Nowhere in Every Direction” — apropos — even for the unemployed), read some of my Book Club book, make a card, list some of my latest jewelry creations on Etsy, play with a new Telugu-learning software program, work more behind the scenes of my blog, and write, write, write.  Am I crazy?  I can’t even get to all the things I love even with no child and no job.  I miss working, but I am seriously loving this transitional time, and while reading the works of William Bridges, am learning how to make the most of this transition, but when will I ever learn that my desires and ambitions far outstretch what can be peacefully accomplished in a day, or when will God give me those 36-hour days?

So, here I sit, with just a couple hours before needing to think about “what’s for dinner”, contemplating my list, and wondering what I will get to do today, and what will have to be for tomorrow.  Even with “all the time in the world” on my hands, I’m wanting so badly to do all these projects which bring me so much contentment and peace, and feeling a little scattered and a little overwhelmed.  Do you ever feel like this?  What do you do about it?

A Grand Road Trip

Driving into a land of 75 mile per hour speed limits, motorcyclists with a “no helmet” option, and signs posted outside of restaurants and shops informing patrons of just when they can or can not bear their firearm…subtle changes like this remind me of the beauty and the strangeness that it can be to enter another culture, even if that means merely crossing the state line that is 276 miles away from home.  Two words that can fill my mind and soul with such sun-warmed memories of contentment like no other words can…road trip.

My mother, a very spontaneous traveler and day-tripper, was yearning for a little getaway to celebrate the infamous and highly academic spring break.  Through an everyday conversation with my uncle, my mother discovered that he’d never seen the Grand Canyon.  She also remembered that although I’ve climbed Mt. Fuji, have glided over the marine life of the Great Barrier Reef, and have island-hopped around Tahiti, I’ve never seen one of the greatest natural beauties in my own backyard.  Bam!  It hit her – this could be the spring break trip she was longing for – perfect road trip material: 8-hour car trip, a wonder to behold, and reasonably priced accommodations.  She was all set, within a matter of two days she made the necessary calls, checking in with lodging options, confirming serious interest on behalf of my uncle and myself, and was set to run off on a moment’s notice…until she remembered the appointment she’d set up for that pesky pain in her foot.  One doctor visit later and it turns out my mom has a minor, but definitely bothersome fracture in her foot.  Her hopes were crushed.  Disappointed that it didn’t work out for Spring Break, my mother was still determined to make the trip happen.  Just three to four weeks after her doctor visit and armed with a very attractive “boot” to protect her foot, we set out on our adventure.

To say that the Grand Canyon is awe-inspiring or even magnificent is a complete understatement.  Each step we took, I admired the changing landscape, marveled at the striations in color and rock, and tried to capture what I felt swelling inside with the lens of my camera.  I did my best, but even after two days and 249 pictures (and that’s after weeding out duplicates) I failed miserably.

Grand Canyon vista from Hopi Point

Grand Canyon vista from Hopi Point

Aside from the view, I thoroughly enjoyed being able to gain a “Glimpse into Geology” through a Ranger program, arrange my own self-guided tour via cell phone,

and hop on the free shuttle to travel from one end of the South Rim to the farthest stop West.  We were reminded of the three types of rock: sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic.  We learned about the four conditions that in their divine happening together resulted in the majesty that is the Grand Canyon – deposition, uplifting, down-cutting (of the Colorado River’s waters), and erosion – easily remembered by the pneumonic D-U-D-E!  But what made the Grand Canyon getaway for me truly memorable was the gathering of so many from all over the world – Sweden, India, South Korea, Germany, Japan, France, Portugal, Brazil, all over!  Listening to the many languages, seeing products with unfamiliar labels and brands, appreciating subtle differences in greetings, love it!  Add to that the inclusion of so many accessible and fascinating resources – Ranger-lead hikes and programs, free shuttles with incredibly friendly drivers, and the preservation and sharing of such great history.

Sign for mobile Ranger audio tour

Sign for mobile Ranger audio tour

How cool to learn (again – sure I learned it before in school) that when Franklin Delano Roosevelt stepped into his challenging seat as President in 1932 he chose to stimulate the economy, occupy many unwillingly idle young men, and work to conserve our nation’s natural resources by developing the CCC, otherwise known as the Civilian Conservation Corps.  How interesting to discover that the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is actually about 1,000 feet higher than the South Rim.  Really?  Mules go through a training program of a year before they can carry folks down into the canyon (I hope so!) – wow!  We learned so much.  But more than that, we had great fun.  Car games like listing musical artists and bands from A to Z, then to actors, producers, and directors, stumped to come up with any performers to fit the “Z” – aside from the Zappa family, of course.  Wondering about such earth-shaking quandaries as “what’s the difference between salami and pepperoni?”  And delving into the far corners of our memories, trying to remember just what were those yummy chocolate and peanut-buttery wafery cookies that came two to pack in foil-wrapped paper?  No, we didn’t debate the pressing issues of our time, we didn’t solve the world’s problems, we didn’t even come up with a proposal for world peace, but what we did was step out of time for a couple of days, enjoy one of God’s many gifts, and rest in the company of family.  Good times.  Good trip.  Wish you were there.

Even if you weren’t there, if you know what is the difference between salami or pepperoni, or even a raven and a crow, for that matter, OR if you remember what those yummy chocolate and peanut-buttery-wafery snacks were –- do share – and you’ll be well on your way to your own road trip discoveries.