20th Anniversary

I created this watercolor card for husband following a tutorial on YouTube.

Husband and I celebrated our 20th anniversary in Chicago, IL. We spent a couple of days in the city and made sure to have dinner at Giordano’s—the restaurant where we realized we liked each other, and so sat together. We thought we’d found the actual restaurant that we were at, but we learned that about a decade ago, that restaurant was demolished. I believe when we were there back then, there were only about three Giordano’s in the area. This time there were about eight. I can’t remember if the Giordano we first went to was the very first one built, but learning of its demise was a little sad. Nevertheless, it was a nostalgic experience to be in a Giordano’s in Chicago and remember old times.

Here’s a brief story about how we met.

THE MEET BEFORE THE MEET

It was the summer of 2000 and I decided to take a summer class to try to finish college sooner. There was a guy in the class who sat in the front middle row seats. He would always turn around and chat with the girl who sat behind him. I sat in the second seat in the row next to the door so just turning my head to the left, I could see everyone in the class.

I had just had a breakup with a guy I thought was “the one,” so I wasn’t looking for another relationship. I knew no one in the class and just wanted to be done with it.

We had to do a presentation in the class and a sign-up sheet was passed from the other side of the room. When it got to me, the only spaces available were first and second. I wrote my name in the second space knowing I’d have to go first. But to my luck, another student showed up on the day of presentation and went first. It helped my nerves, but still, I went second.

After a few other presentations, the professor called on the student who was always turning to chat with the girl behind him. He called the student’s last name a few times, but no answer. So, he went on to the next student. I remember thinking, “Who misses their presentation? It’s like 80% of our grade.”

***The student who missed his presentation is now my husband. Even though we were in the same class together, neither of us had any interest in each other or knew we existed. Later, husband said that he had also gone through a bad breakup and so he too wasn’t looking to be in a relationship.***

THE MISSED MEETS

It was fall 2000 and I decided that I was going to join the computer club. It would be good for networking and would also look good on my resume and job applications. I contacted the president of the computer club and said I was interested in joining. A few days later, I saw my name as a new member along with a list of others in the welcome email. I was ecstatic. In one of the emails, the president said she was looking for new officers since all the previous officers graduated. I ignored a couple of those emails thinking I’d never qualify as an officer. Every time the president sent a group email, she’d mention that they needed new officers and she’d list the positions that needed to be filled. Webmaster was one of the officer positions that I was interested in, but as mentioned, I didn’t think I’d qualify. More emails went out and the webmaster position was still not filled (the student in the position was finishing up his last semester so needed to hand it over). I decided to apply for it. If I didn’t get it, it was no big deal.

I ended up getting the webmaster position. I found out when the president listed the officers in an email and my name was next to the title. In this email, the president also mentioned that the club was going to a conference in Illinois, hosted by a university there, and if anyone was interested, to reply. I thought only certain special students got to go. I was a newbie and didn’t think it pertained to me, so I ignored it. The next email I got, the president listed all the people going to the conference and my name was on the list. I thought maybe she put me down by accident because I never responded to those emails. I had planned to email her to tell her she had my name on the list by mistake, but a part of me also said, “I’m sure she’ll catch her mistake.”

Turns out, it wasn’t a mistake. All the officers were going to the conference. The club had enough funds from past fundraisers to cover flight, hotel, food, etc., for all the officers—all seven of us. Since I didn’t reply that I didn’t want to go, she kept me on the list.

There were club meetings at least once a week and I’d gone to one or two but not everyone was there all the time, which was typical. I’d always miss at least two or three of the officers when I was there. The president told me that all the officers had met each other already except me, and that she wanted me to meet all of them at the next meeting where she was going to go over the conference itinerary. I made a promise I’d show up but that I couldn’t stay until the end because I worked. She said the officers are usually there early anyway so it wouldn’t be a problem.

I showed up to the meeting and mingled with the president and the webmaster (whom I’d already met and trained with previously). The other officers showed up a few minutes later and we got introduced and acquainted. The president then told me the treasurer was going to be a little late because he had to go make a deposit at the bank. So, I waited as long as I could before I had to leave. I ended up missing the treasurer.

THE MEET

The day we were to fly out to Illinois, I nearly missed the flight. I can’t remember exactly how late I was, but I had already accepted that I was not going to make this trip, so I was probably about half an hour late. I decided to try to make the gate anyway, just in case. To my luck, our flight was delayed by about an hour or so.

As I walked toward the boarding gate, and the group, I saw a few officers I recognized. We greeted each other, and then the president introduced me to the treasurer. While waiting to board, I took a seat across from the treasurer and another officer. They were classmates too, so they were talking to each other. I’d see the treasurer glance at me every so often. It made me nervous. I thought I had a booger hanging from my nose, so I kept rubbing my nose and hiding my face. ***Later, husband told me he kept staring at me because he liked me.***

We stayed in a hotel in Oakbrook Terrace where the university that was hosting the conference was. I got a room to myself which was across the hall from the treasurer and classmate’s room. We were there for about four days and three nights.

One evening, the group decided to take the train to Chicago to have dinner at Giordano’s. When we arrived at the restaurant, the waiter took us down some stairs and into a corner booth. It was a bit dark (as we both remembered it) and old looking. The food was good, but what I remembered most was sitting next to the treasurer who made an effort to sit next to me in the booth.

***

A couple of months into our dating and as I was cleaning my apartment bedroom, I came across a research paper I had written from a class I took the summer before. I had gotten a B on the paper because I forgot to underline a title or something. I showed the paper to my now boyfriend and said, “I wrote this for a class I took last summer. We had to research the topic, write the paper, and then present it to the class.”

He took the paper from me and stared at it, thinking. Then said, “I remember taking this class. I believe it was the same summer. I recognize the professor’s name. We must have been in the same class.” He started to laugh.

I said, “Did you happen to miss the presentation for this paper?”

He said, “Yeah. I hated that class and avoided it as much as I could.”

“Did you sit in the middle row and kept turning around to talk to that cute girl behind you?”

“I think so…”

[You all know how that conversation ended….LOL]

The weird thing about all this is that I ended up working for the university that hosted that conference, but not in the way you would think. After the boyfriend and I got married and had our first daughter, I was looking for part-time work and found a position in the paper for a receptionist for a graduate school. I applied and got the position. I later learned that the university that hosted the conference bought out the graduate school just before I had started, which meant I’d be working for that university.

The universe works in mysterious ways.  

Vacation Photos Continued: Hotel and Japanese Tea Garden

Above is a view of the coast when we drove down to Big Sur. We pretty much ended up in the town/camping grounds of Big Sur and didn’t get much of the rocky coast so we returned to San Fran.

We stayed at the Hyatt Regency. It was an excellent hotel. The kids loved everything about it.

View out the window of our room. We could see the Bay Bridge, which was a nice surprise.

Same view during the night.

View out the window of our floor’s hallway.

We also saw the Mozilla Firefox building as we drove to one of our destinations. I thought it was way cool because I use Firefox as my browser.

On the day we returned home, we had some time in the morning so we went to check out the Japanese Tea Garden. It was beautiful! We ate at the deli inside the garden. The Matcha cheesecake and Jasmine tea were delicious! It was the perfect ending to our trip.

Golden Gate Bridge and Beach Photos

The family weekend vacation to San Francisco was a lot of fun. We only went for the weekend, but it was enough. We ate at a pho restaurant, hot pot place, a pizza place, and In-and-Out Burger. We drove down the coast to Big Sur and spent a few minutes at Montara Beach just soaking our feet in the Pacific Ocean water. The kids (teenagers now, of course) got a little soaked when the waves came in a little further than expected. There was another beach along the way where we heard, later that evening on the news, a surfer was bitten by a baby shark. We almost considered going to that beach but it was closed when we passed it (due to the incident as we learned later) on our way to Montara. The weather during our stay was cloudy, but the sun did show up for a few hours.

Butterfly Pavilion Nine Years Later

My youngest is starting high school this fall, can you believe it? Life can feel so surreal sometimes. It isn’t just the passing of time but the way people change, the way the world has changed, and the way the world is changing. We think we know it all, but at the end of the day, we really don’t know very much. After raising my oldest, who is five years older than my youngest, you’d think I’d have a handle on parenting a teenager, but I feel like I’m back at square one. The complexities of being a teenager is way beyond any science or studies out there. It’s a storm that, as a parent, I have no idea of the outcome. We can only parent the way we know, and most of the time it’s from our own understanding of our own childhood and how we saw our parents. We either want to parent just like them or completely opposite of them, but either way, sometimes, it feels like someone else holds the rein to our children’s destiny.

As a “graduation” from 8th grade gift, my youngest wanted to go to the Butterfly Pavilion. She loves nature and butterflies and remembered her first time going there when she turned five and wanted to go there again. So, we took her. She enjoyed it a lot more than when she was five.

Photos from the Butterfly Pavilion:

Digital Layout: Evergreen

Last week daughter was on fall break from school and husband took some time off work so we decided to take a little car ride up to Evergreen to walk around the lake. We’ve been to the lake a few times (our family Christmas photo was taken there last year) but never walked around it. This was our first time. It was really nice. I had no idea it was a man-made lake with a dam. Always thought it was natural.

A Moment Like This

Class of 2020 will forever be one of the craziest graduation year of the century. This morning was my daughter’s graduation ceremony and I’m still going through the feels. I literally have unshed tears lingering in my eyes all day. From the moment they sang The Star-Spangled Banner until now, my eyes have been wet.

I am happy that the school went ahead with a ceremony. It was very limited to only two guests and everyone was expected to sit six feet apart in the stands. Graduates were seated six feet apart as well on the field.

Less than half the students walked at the ceremony, but it was still a pretty big group. When I graduated high school in the mid-90’s, my class was around 300 students. There were just a little more than 300 at today’s ceremony.

In April, the school decided to cancel the graduation ceremony due to COVID, which totally makes sense. In late May, we threw a small graduation party for daughter at our house just to be able to celebrate her achievement. We separated the guests (mostly family) about an hour apart for safety reasons. It worked out pretty well. We thought we were done and were ready to move on.

The school deciding whether to have a ceremony or not was a whole lot of confusion. At first, they decided it wasn’t going to happen. Then, they said possibly. Then, they said they would. When the decision was made to have one, we couldn’t decide if we wanted to go to it. Initially, we decided we wouldn’t be going because it was too dangerous. Then, when daughter went with her friend to pick up her friend’s walk packet, she decided then that she also wanted to go and picked up her packet as well. So, then we decided we’d go. The last minute decision put stress on husband because he had to ask for time off from work and because it was last minute, sometimes he’s not able to get time off. Daughter really wanted her dad to attend because he helped her a ton through all the ups and downs and homework throughout her four years. She said she’d be really sad if he couldn’t go. Luckily, he was.

The ceremony was organized exceptionally well. I was impressed. However, there was a somber-melancholy feel about the whole event with a light dusting of excitement and hopeful joy. It was a really strange mix of emotions.

Aside from all that, I couldn’t help but to be reminded that my 18-year-old was done with high school and will be starting university this fall. High school was a roller coaster for her and her dad and I. Yet somehow she turned out okay, and for me, that’s good enough. I’m not sure what the next few years will bring, but I hope it won’t be as crazy.

Gardening

I purchased a garden plot earlier in the year in a community garden near my parent’s home to grow some of my favorite vegetables. Now, I’m no gardener so Mom is taking care of it for me. She loves gardening and asked me to buy a plot so she could tend to it. She’s been with this community for awhile now. I’ve been to her garden a couple of times and really liked the place, but since I’ve purchased the plot, I’ve only gone to visit once.

I should go more often.

I asked Mom to plant cucumbers, some melons, Thai peppers, and corn.

Daughter and husband looking real happy. We were on our way to my sister’s housewarming so they didn’t have a choice but to come to the garden.

My cute parents. They are so passionate about gardening. There is no way they can eat all the stuff they grow so at the end of the season, when everything’s ripe, they will donate and sell to the community and relatives.

Mom picked a lot of zucchini’s for me. I’ve already frozen some (the Hmong way) and will be grilling some today to have with grilled salmon.

Community goats. I believe they are used for milk. The man who’s in charge of the garden and the goats said there were three goats but someone stole one of them.

Mom likes to feed the goats the zucchini leaves. I helped throw the leaves over the fence and those leaves have these pokey hairs that prick painfully. I don’t know how my parents can touch those things!

Snow and Breakfast

Happy first day of spring!

This morning, youngest daughter and I took husband to the airport. He is one of the ones who has to work during this crazy time. It’s hard to relax knowing he’s out there and could possibly get sick even though he is taking precautions.

Someone posted on Facebook this game: “For those working from home, tell me something about your kids, but refer to them as your co-workers, your spouse as your CEO, and your pet as your secretary.” Here’s what I wrote:

One co-worker refuses to come to the office. However, she says she’s helping another co-worker with his workload and thinks it’s going to take all year and then some. The other co-worker is in her office, but playing games and chatting on discord. The secretary is sleeping on the job and the CEO is out of town for a week.

Just a little something to ease the mind.

It was sprinkling rain on the drive to and from the airport. The visibility was on the bad side so I missed my exit and ended up taking the long way home…or “the scenic route” as I told daughter. When we reached home it was snowing. It looks pretty bad out there as I type. Made daughter scrambled eggs and myself French toast.

Took a photo of daughter while she was eating. I’ve been watching tutorials by Ali Edwards on capturing every day small moments. When my kids were younger, I did this quite often. Then, they got busy, and I got busy, and forgot how important it was to capture small things once in awhile.

Times like these often help me reflect. I guess it’s just a reminder to slow down and pay attention.

Birthday Girl 2

Last week was pretty crazy with all the news about the Corona Virus. The kids are out of school for two weeks. This week is their spring break but they’re off next week as well. I’m kind of curious as to what the plans are after that. Anyway, hope everyone is staying healthy and being kind to each other.

Birthday girl 2 is my youngest. Her birthday was two days after birthday girl 1. A couple weeks before her birthday, in her rebelliousness, she got a pixie cut. No, she’s not really a rebel, but likes to think she is. She knows she’s very different and it’s her way of saying, “I don’t care what anyone thinks of me, I’m going to be me.”

I don’t often post photos of her or her activities. Swim isn’t a pretty sport and there’s really nothing to share. It’s all about speed. I did however, scrapbook some of her swim photos from one of the meets. The pages were done quickly so they’re not pretty or anything, but they do allow her form to show. The photos were taken by a professional.