Sunday, November 16, 2014

Halfway There: Pregnancy at 20 Weeks

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swelling belly selfie at 16 weeks. 

if the next 20 weeks of pregnancy are anything like the last 20 weeks, i’ll be very happy. and now that i’ve put this on the interwebs, i’ll surely wake up with 20 hemorrhoids tomorrow or have a hellish labor or a lousy sleeper or low milk supply or one of the myriad other maternal disasters i’ve been reading about far too much on the internet. (note to self: step away from the internet.)

but really, aside from the recent difficulty i’ve begun experiencing when i try to pop up from a seated position, it’s been lovely being pregnant so far. not that i’d want to remain pregnant for years, but i’m glad i can experience the one thing, aside from menstruation and lower pay for the same work, that is inherent to my gender. it makes me feel incredibly feminine even as it strips me of sex appeal.

but pregnant women can be sexy, you say because you’re supposed to say this. nope, sorry. these things are mutually exclusive. right now, my body is for baby cooking, not flirtation or sexiness. that will return later (hopefully) when i’m not saddled with a gigantic belly that makes the missionary position uncomfortable.

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selfie in office bathroom at 17 weeks. 

the best thing about being pregnant is almost the same as the worst thing about being pregnant: the bodily changes. i’ve always had skin issues such as eczema and other allergy-induced rashes before, but pregnancy has kicked them into overdrive, causing intense itchiness that’s only reduced by staying slathered in lotion. there’s also the breast growth, which i know excites most women, but makes my already endowed self and already compromised back ache with discomfort.

the good parts include that whole sustaining life thing, which is pretty damn cool despite it being the most mundane thing on the planet. procreation is a drive in every species experienced by most females so it’s hardly some rare “miracle,” but when it’s happening to you, especially for the first time, it feels like a fucking miracle.

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this cream and pants with elastic waistbands are my new best friends. 

easily the most awesome thing about being pregnant, echoed by every formerly pregnant woman i know, is feeling the baby move. i was told it would feel like popcorn popping or a butterfly fluttering inside of me, sensations i never have nor will actually experience so i wasn’t sure what to look for. but when i did feel that telltale pressure from within that felt distinct from gas, it seemed more like a goldfish out of water flopping around furiously while it gasps for air (not that i know what that feels like either).

since that first movement, identified relatively early in the 16th week, he’s been thrashing around steadily, making me suspect i will have a very active baby on my hands in about four months. (please, lord, make him a good sleeper). considering that he was conceived during the world cup, an interest in soccer may be inevitable, which means i’ll be turned into a {shudder} soccer mom.

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maternity shopping is a slippery slope toward sweat pants and a minivan. 

reading about motherhood has been confusing, to put it mildly. there are so many different philosophies and products out there, all of which are touted as The Only Way to Go, that it’s shocking anyone born before 2005 survived infancy. the more i read about modern parenting, the more i conclude that the worst thing about becoming a mother will be other mothers. 

of course, i realize they are not all bad, as i know plenty of nice moms, and perhaps i’m reading the wrong stuff, like the comments sections, but there just seems to be a whole lot of hysteria going on. the only piece of advice i plan to take away from the stream of endless advice is to follow my instincts, which are already telling me not to treat parenthood like a religion and my son like a child king who’s capable of making every decision for himself. 

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my boy in utero at 18 weeks.

judging by this sonogram, he will have his father’s face, which i predicted in my last post about my pregnancy. it’s a handsome face to have, so i don’t mind looking at two versions of it at home, though i’d like to see a little of myself in him besides just the dark brown eyes and hair his father also has. 

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selfie in office bathroom at 18 weeks 

im no psychic but i’ve been receiving a trickle of information that seems to grow as he grows. i’m not sure why or how things are coming to me, or even if they are accurate, but i feel a profound awareness of my body that i have never before known. i’ve been trying to hone this into feeding my intuition with messages about who he is and how he will be.

so far, i’m two for two in predicting that he was a boy before the doctor confirmed gender and that he will look more like Warren. even before i felt him move, i sensed he would be an active child, so that’s almost a third. i’m also suspecting a sizable birth weight, past the 8-pound mark, and a birthday around march 23, a week before my official due date. he’ll be a good eater, too, maybe too good, just like his parents. i’m not yet sure about his sleep or his name, but i hope he’ll tell me soon.

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Indy, guardian of the bump. 

of the three dogs, only Indy seems to sense my pregnancy, or perhaps he’s the only one reacting to it. nowadays, Juice is indifferent to most things in her old age and puppy Z is too wrapped up in himself and his chew toys to be interested in anything other than food, but Indy has been conducting a daily sniff inspection of my torso for many months now, always concluding it by draping his head over my belly. 

i imagine this dynamic will be the same when my boy is on the outside, with Indy being his greatest fan while the other two aim for avoidance. though i never would have agreed to two puppies entering the household six months ago if i knew there would be a baby on the way, i am committed to making this new pack work — unless one of them bites my child, in which case he will be quickly shipped off to whatever country they are still eating dogs in.

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on the beach in Hawaii and feeling like a whale at 20 weeks.    

in the second half of my pregnancy, my main objective will be getting prepared. this will likely involve some mad scrambling as i have done little to prepare for the arrival of my son beyond starting a Pinterest album for him and rolling my eyes at several internet articles that have informed me of how not to parent.

now i need to evaluate cribs and strollers, plan a shower, figure out the nursery, visit hospitals, understand my maternity leave and handle all the other assorted first-world issues that come with modern motherhood. i wish i felt excited to do them, but what interests me most right now is lying in bed marathoning bad reality television while eating pizza. 

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is not a reflection of what kind of mother i’ll be (i hope), but in the interest of enjoying my last few months of freedom and sleep, as everyone has advised me, i’m just not motivated to do all that much right now. and with a holiday season of decadent eating and cold, lazy days approaching, i’m thinking i should just wait until the new year and third trimester to start handling all that official stuff. yep, that’s exactly what i’ll do. thanks for agreeing.  


good talk, internet. 

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Pregnant at 38

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a commercial ran constantly during the World Cup games that showed nurses standing in a nursery full of screaming newborns asking, “what happened nine months ago?” then came a quick cut to tense soccer matches and excitable couples watching them in their living rooms before looking at each other and making out furiously.

Warren and i were one of those couples. and now we are having our very own cliched World Cup baby. team Costa Rica did great this year, dominating its group and eliminating fan favorites like Italy, England and Spain. naturally, this excited Costa Ricans all over the world, and i’m sure Warren was not the only tico eager to score a goal of his own. being that i was/am in my late thirties, jewish and desirous of a baby, i made sure to bench my goalie and install flashing, neon arrows pointing toward my ovaries so his kickers could score easily.

we weren’t so much trying for a baby as we were not trying to prevent it that one night. this is not to suggest this was an accident as i had been needling Warren about making a baby together for several months, always in a joking fashion. he insisted he was sterile, also in a joking fashion, so i insisted we test his theory. and on the night we did, our son was conceived.

when i received news of a positive pregnancy test i was at my doctor’s office. i had come in for a routine physical, letting my doctor know that “i plan to pressure my boyfriend into having a baby this year so i want to make sure everything with my body is kosher. but first, can i get a pregnancy test? my period is a day late but i feel like i’m about to start it so seeing a negative pregnancy test will help move things along because i’m having a major headtrip about this one time two weeks ago, but i’m sure it didn’t do anything, forget i mentioned it, so can i just get the test?”

five minutes later, i was lying down and trying not to pass out as nurses stood around me asking if i needed smelling salt. an hour later, i was at home telling Warren, who screamed “gooooooaaaaaaaallllll” and then hugged me as i sobbed happy tears against his shoulder. phone calls to our immediate families followed, with both our fathers telling us to get married immediately, as did a dreamlike day of euphoria that i was sure i would wake from at any moment. that was in mid-July. we expect our boy to arrive in late march 2015.



welcome to my uterus! here’s a visually arresting photo of a potato (8 weeks).

so how am i feeling, right? (that seems to be the first question people ask). honestly, i’m feeling pretty good. and in a statement that will make me even less popular with already and aspiring preggos than admitting i got pregnant my first time up at bat, i’ve had very little morning sickness and have never once vomited. there has been queasiness, sure, but it usually passes out as quickly as it comes in, resulting in only a handful of days when i felt like total muck and wanted bedrest.

i did have the famous sensitivity to smell that i heard so much about, but thankfully (or perhaps unfortunately), none of it involved food aversions as i’ve been eating like i have a tapeworm, with every imaginable dish looking and smelling delicious. the smells i find most repulsive involve cars: hot pavement, exhaust, fuel, rubber, etc. i’ve also been made instantly nauseous by Windex.

cravings have also been minimal. the truth is i’m mostly craving alcohol (and have allowed myself the occasional half glass of red wine since i’m european by birth), but there has been nothing too notable beyond a hankering for smoothies those first few weeks, which may have been due more to LA’s ridiculously hot summer than the kid i have cooking.



9 weeks and my belly begins protruding ahead of my boobs for the first time.

this is not to suggest that pregnancy has been a total breeze for me, as plenty of networks in my body have gone haywire, namely my digestion (hello, prunes), libido (where are you?) and skin (yay, full-body eczema outbreak). plus, there was a bladder infection in the 8th week that required antibiotics, a recent sinus infection that i was able to kick naturally and the lovely anxiety that characterized virtually all of the first trimester, when every odd bodily sensation convinced me i was on the verge of miscarrying.

plus, there were those geriatric mother tests and that mocking box titled Advanced Maternal Age that required them. they involved a blood test that separated my DNA from the baby’s and an ultrasound at the end of the first trimester to check for genetic abnormalities like Down Syndrome (outlook good, phew). but the waiting and agonizing over the waiting were not that good. 

the blood test also identified gender, though i knew i was having a boy since the day i found out about the pregnancy with a certainty i have had very few times in my life. i’m glad i’m right because i’ve always wanted a (mama’s) boy and i didn’t want to fail at my first attempt of mother’s intuition. my second flash of intuition is predicting that my child will look more like Warren than me and i will be pissed about it. as of today, our boy remains unnamed and we’ve decided to hold off on that discussion (aka argument) until the last trimester.



11 weeks and starting to get strange looks from co-workers who surely wonder whether i’ve been hitting the buffet too hard (which i have).

while i’m excited about the pregnancy and eager to meet my son in march, i’m glad i have six months to prepare because i need every single day. not only is there much stuff to get and a new world of parenting to understand, there is an emotional readiness that i need to build. this baby came at me like a torpedo, leaving me in an initial state of bewilderment that is finally starting to melt into happy anticipation.

Warren seemed concerned those first few months as i moved through the days “looking like a space cadet,” with him constantly asking me, “are you OK? are you happy?” of course, i was and am happy — that’s the easy part — but happiness is just one of many emotions washing over me currently. having a child, especially a first child, involves a thousand considerations ranging from the horrors of labor to the details of daycare to the cost of college.

plus, there is this phenomenon that has been developing lately as more friends, family and even strangers find out about my pregnancy where they start presenting themselves as doctors and child experts. i had been warned i would receive unsolicited advice, but i didn’t expect it to be so constant, so detailed, so self-righteous and so annoying.

it doesn’t help that i have issues being told what to do and strong opinions on pretty much everything, making it hard to contain the “oh, shut the hell up” that wants to escape from my mouth each time i hear another person advise me to take my prenatal vitamins and sleep when the baby sleeps or question me about my daily cup of — gasp — caffeinated coffee.

like everything else in my life, i will be doing pregnancy and parenting my own way. as of today, i’m not yet positive what that means, but i’m fairly sure it won’t take into consideration other mothers’ painstaking research on co-sleeping (nope) and IQ-raising special strollers (what?). i’m not ashamed to admit i’ve broken half the rules on the “do not eat while pregnant” sheet i have up on my fridge without a twinge of guilt (or consequences).

i consider how women around the world handle pregnancy — guessing that japanese women don’t stop eating sushi any more than french women stop eating unpasteurized cheeses or soviet women like my own mother stop eating smoked fish — and feel more firm in my decision to not become obsessive over every detail. as long as i minimize stress and use common sense, i think i’ll be fine.



my boy at 13 weeks looking like an old man reading a book, which is how i hope he'll be in real life.

my favorite moments of my pregnancy so far, aside from the private ones i’ve shared with Warren, center around the ultrasound. those days have felt like christmas, or what i imagine christmas excitement feels like if i celebrated that silly little pagan holiday, which i’m going to have to do now that i’m having a child with a latino. (not going to mass, though.)

but truly, hearing my son’s heartbeat for the first time at 8 weeks, which sounded like rolling thunder, moved me to instant tears. it was a game-changer, making the pregnancy feel far less abstract and doing much to snap me out of my space cadet bewilderment. i walked out of the office repeating to Warren, “holy shit, we’re having a baby, we’re having a baby.” he seemed happy that i finally realized this. 

the second time at 13 weeks, our boy bounced around, with arms and legs flailing (“moving to a latin beat,” Warren said). the moment we made out his hand, he waved to us. when we saw his feet, he kicked them. i watched the monitor mesmerized, trying not to blink as the tears streamed down my face. the moment it ended, i asked about the next appointment. i wish i could watch him every day.

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14 weeks and “carrying like a boy” (or a mullet) with business in the front and party in the back.

needless to say, Warren and i have been having a multitude of parenting talks in addition to the marriage talks. in general, we’re on the same page about raising our son “immigrant style,” like our parents raised us, without succumbing to the “special snowflake syndrome” that seems to characterize much of modern parenting these days. my parents did me a favor by letting me know i was not the center of the universe, and i plan to do the same for my son. of course, he’ll receive plenty of love, affection and support, but he’ll also know chores, consequences and the meaning of the word “no,”

i’m sure he’ll teach us plenty of lessons as well, not all of them pleasant. as Warren and i discuss our best intentions as parents-to-be, my mind often returns to the refrain: “i was the perfect parent before i had kids.” i know better than to aim for perfection as a parent (or a pregnant woman), so i’m already accepting now that i’ll make mistakes, especially as a first-time mother. i’m also accepting that there will be triumphs among the missteps and that the best approach for me to take is to keep the faith, seek counsel from those i trust and navigate my new role as best as i can.

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15 weeks and rocking more lumps, curves and bumps than i’ve ever had in my new maternity dress.

i think this is when being a mother of Advanced Maternal Age will help. at 38, i feel far less neurotic and anxious than i ever have before. though i’ll admit i’m struggling a bit, too, as embracing the finality of marriage and entering the culture of parenthood mean letting go of the person i’ve been. i realize that neither role will require me to sacrifice my personality and become some foreign version of myself, which i’m incapable of doing anyway, but there is a loss with this gain.

that loss involves stripping away the very part of myself that i’ve used to define myself for so many years. it’s the loss of the independent girl — the-always-alone-but-never-lonely girl who calls the shots in her life and does things her own way. that girl is incompatible with the responsibilities that come with being a wife and a mother. as i’m making peace with putting her to bed for the final time, i can’t deny that i’ll miss her and the adventures we’ve shared.

but the bigger truth is that i’m happier than i’ve ever been before and am looking forward to being a wife and a mother in a way that i never thought i would before. the timing is finally right. my partner is finally right. and my mind is finally right, thanks to that independent girl who spent most of her adult life figuring out the world and her place in it.

so as i stand at the precipice of my new life, i feel gratitude above all else. i’m grateful for every experience that has propelled me here. i’m grateful for friends and family and the cushion of love and support they have offered my own budding family. i’m grateful for that dumb magic chicken for bringing me Warren, whom i’m sure will be a extraordinary father and provide our son with a fine example of not only what it means to be a decent man, but also a decent human being. 

and of course, i’m grateful to my unborn son for reasons obvious and unknown, but mostly for ushering me toward what’s sure to be my life’s greatest adventure. thanks, kiddo. i can’t wait to meet you. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Status Change: Engaged

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i wasn’t expecting this. ok, maybe that’s not entirely true, because i never thought this was out of the realm of possibility. i just didn’t expect it to happen for another year, maybe two. we hadn’t discussed marriage much before. so when he got down on one knee on the deck of our house under a full moon, on his birthday, i honestly thought he was doing a lunge. we had spent that day at Disneyland and came home complaining about our achy backs. “that looks like a good idea,” i said right before i was about to join his lunge. then a ring appeared and rendered me motionless.

i’m not really sure he asked the question and i think my first flustered response was “where did you get that ring?” which was followed by several more flustered responses including “are you sure?” and “are you serious?” while he remained kneeling and looking at me sideways. finally, there was a “yes,” or something like “well of course i’ll marry you. duh,” followed by hugs and happy tears and me trying not to hyperventilate. very romantic!

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taken roughly 10 hours before the proposal at the happiest place on earth, where Tico (real name: Warren) and i spent his 36th birthday. 

but let’s back this train up a minute and start at the beginning with the story of how we got together, a story i’ve never shared here out of respect for his privacy. but now that he’ll be the husband of someone who’s kept a blog for over 10 years, i think it’s safe to say this will have to be his first sacrifice for our marriage.

so once upon a time (roughly 4.5 years ago), in a neighborhood very much like my own, two people met randomly at an art gallery one night. the lady was there upon the invitation of a friend named Juan, whose then-girlfriend’s art was hanging on the walls. the gentleman was there because he was one of the partners running the gallery. but there was an extra element at play that night: a magical plastic chicken (appropriately) named Pollo Magico.

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Warren receiving the magic chicken in May 2010, taken the night we met

let me stop a moment to acknowledge how ridiculous this chicken story will sound. let me also stop a moment to stress that this story is 100% true, because the story of the love between Milla and Warren, like so many other love stories, is seeped in magic (and delusion). in our case, the magic came in the form of a plastic chicken our mutual friend Juan was mass producing and passing out to all his friends that year, telling them it would make their wishes come true. he even created a Facebook page for the chicken that disseminates inspirational messages daily and wrote a manifesto he emails to every new recipient.

the principle behind the magic chicken is no different than the principle behind The Secret, in that we can attract whatever we want into our lives by asking the universe. the chicken is just a prop to get us visualizing our desire and then stating it in clear terms, accepting that it will happen on its own time and “with ease and grace,” which is the ending one is supposed to close every request to the chicken with.

naturally, as i listened to Juan tell me this while handing me my very own magic chicken, i rolled my eyes.   

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taken the same night at the gallery moments before i received my own magic chicken and met Warren. (of course, i was hoarding the cheese.)

as my friend urged me to remain open-minded and try it out, Warren walked by us. i’ll confess my eyes followed him across the room while the rest of my body registered an immediate attraction. he was pretty goddamn cute. as a joke, i looked at the magic chicken in my hand and told it i wished that this dark, handsome stranger would kiss me (confession: the R-rated version in my head was a bit more robust but let’s keep it PG for the kids).

at that time, i was in the throes of a Big Breakup and wasn’t looking for a new boyfriend as i still had a broken heart to nurse. but i did want to get my groove back after many months of celibacy and solitude and figured a kiss from a sexy, bearded man might help. plus, he had really beautiful lips.

later that night and without knowing my first request of the chicken, Juan introduced us. we exchanged a cordial handshake, said “nice to meet you” and left it there. there was no kiss and sparks did not fly. the whole exchange was rather unmemorable. soon after, i went home alone and didn’t give Warren nor the chicken much more thought.

but i did return to the gallery over the months that followed. a second saturday art walk seemed a good reason to get out of my empty house and i did appreciate much of the art, eventually buying some to hang at home. plus, i kept running into old friends, as Warren and i had more than our crazy friend Juan in common. i also took various friends along with me, saw Warren there most times, chatted with him sometimes, felt my crush on him intensifying and went about my business without trying too hard to make much happen.

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first photo of us taken at one of the parties at my house.

then things started happening. we began chatting on facebook messenger, which led to the occasional phone chat and him coming to my parties. still, it took a while to get things off the ground as i kept playing the part of disinterested girl while stealing glances at his lips. of course, i did recall my early wish on the magic chicken but shook my head at the ludicrousness of it all and kept it to myself.

eventually, that kiss came (around October 2010) and kept coming for about a year. the first eight months of that year were spent in this gray zone of dating but not really Dating, where we agreed to keep things relaxed and casual. there would be no expectations nor declarations of exclusivity and undying love. and i was comfortable with this.

until i wasn’t, because the heart wants what it wants and mine could no longer deny the fact that i enjoyed spending time with Warren and that meant something significant, even as i tried to convince myself that it didn’t.

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game-changer day we spent together in February 2011 frolicking in the snow with my dogs. i remember coming home afterward full of feelings. a few months later, we had “the talk.”

the talk happened the weekend of memorial day in 2011, fueled by drinks and an intimate dinner when we managed to confess our growing love for each other. i even told him about my wish on the magic chicken. several lengthy talks later and with our heads spinning, we agreed to be in an exclusive relationship. 

but there was trepidation. he didn’t seem fully invested and that kept me cautious, with my instincts warning me to stay detached as his behavior alternated between loving and aloof. i could tell he cared for me but felt conflicted about committing. by October 2011, he called it quits.

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my 36th birthday, June 2012

the quits calling hurt but it didn’t hurt like hell. it was kind and respectful, with him saying he couldn’t offer me the things he thought i needed in a partner and me nodding silently in resignation. it was not a bad breakup and we resolved to stay friends. but staying friends got muddy when dinners turned into breakfasts and i attended his family’s christmas gathering. so after more kind and respectful conversations, i requested a no-contact policy.

that kept us in our own corners for a little over a year, but not easily. i missed him terribly but wouldn’t admit it. he missed me and would admit it, often asking if we could hang out, even just for coffee. with a few exceptions, i refused. so he began stalking my Facebook page and if ever i complained about having a cold, a tupperware container full of homemade soup would appear on my doorstep. i found it slightly creepy but mostly romantic because i still cared too, immensely so, but i didn’t see a future together so i became set on getting over him with online dating.

cue the laugh track because my three months of online dating was a laughable experience. but it seemed to stir him into action and me into softening my stance, because after more than six months of not seeing each other, i agreed to meet him for lunch — as friends. three months later (June 2013), we were in a relationship again. by the end of that year, we were mostly living together, and nine months after that, he would be on one knee proposing to me on his birthday.

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if you ask Warren the story of how we got together, he’ll likely say, “she put a curse on me with a magic chicken” and that isn’t entirely untrue. certainly, i asked the chicken to bring him into my life, and given the initial success, i did also ask it for a lifelong partner. that time, i was sitting on the edge of my bed, single and despondent over my lackluster love life, as Warren and i had split up over a year earlier and online dating wasn’t going very well.

i pulled the chicken out of its secret compartment in my wallet, where it still lives, and said, “ok, chicken. i’m tired and getting older. bring me not just someone, but the one. surprise me if you must. deliver on your own schedule. but make it real, make it right, make it long-lasting and make me happy. with ease and grace.”

(it should come as no surprise that i’ve asked this dirty piece of magical plastic for much more since and will continue to in the coming years.)

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Dre Day Los Angeles, February 2014

ok, so what now? there’s a wedding to plan, details to iron out, guest list to create and many questions to be answered. the true response to all of this is i have no idea how this will look. ok, maybe i have some idea but i don’t want to think about it much. i would rather have an invitation show up at my house a few months before and then arrive at the appointed day and place in a classy white dress with perfect makeup applied by elves, who also sucked 20 pounds out of me.

this fantasy is fueled in large part to the myriad married people who, after finding out i became engaged, advised me to save myself the expense and headache and just elope. i could get behind the eloping idea but my beloved wants something more substantial. so we’re thinking a very small ceremony populated by family and close friends followed by a big party for all friends, but probably not until 2016 due to extenuating circumstances to be mentioned later. then we can ride off into the sunset together and live happily ever after, as getting married will surely solve all our relationship problems, right?

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on a boat in Costa Rica, September 2013

when i consider what marriage means to me, something i’ve been doing a lot of recently, my answer is “i’m not really sure.” this is not meant as a copout nor a red flag, but i honestly don’t believe any newlywed can speak about marriage with authority. that is for people who’ve had long marriages and have plenty to reflect on.

that is for people like my parents, who’ve been married 45 years, most of them happy but many of them rough like the first 10 when they were two of nine people living in a three-room apartment in soviet russia. of that time, they said they fought every day and likely would have separated if they didn’t have children. i’m not sure i could have remained as strong.

my parents — who are thrilled by my engagement as they love Warren as much as i do — have been full of marriage advice and, for the first time, i’m listening. first among it is staying committed to the commitment, which is what carried (or maybe dragged?) them through those first 10 years. they also remind me that marriage is not 50-50 and that i shouldn’t expect to get my needs met all of the time. depending on life’s circumstances, it could be 70-30 or even 100-0, and that’s ok as long as the scales shift back eventually. they tell me to choose Warren, to really really choose him in heart and mind, and envision the rest of my life only with him by my side. 

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top of the rock in New York City, January 2014

Warren and i have also been having lots of conversations about what marriage means to us, not all of them pleasant but all of them necessary. through our talks, i’ve realized how much i’ve been clinging to the idea of myself as the independent single girl who doesn’t believe in the permanence of love. it’s the mindset i’ve entered all my relationships with, probably to my detriment, and despite finding myself with a ring on my finger and a man who really loves me, this useless outlook still informs many of my thoughts and actions.

i’ve been working hard to overcome this and heeding my parents’ advice of really choosing Warren with the sense of finality that accompanies entering into a marriage as i am not looking to ever get divorced. not that anyone ever looks to get divorced before they marry, but in my case, the bar was raised so high by watching my parents’ marriage that i convinced myself i should never risk taking the plunge lest my marriage crash into disrepair like all of my prior relationships with men have. 

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being crabby in San Francisco, August 2013

thankfully, it feels different this time. it feels healthier, primarily because of our communication. with rare exceptions, Warren and i have managed to work out our disputes with maturity, a stark contrast to my past relationships where even a minor disagreement could erupt into a world war. but now, there is kindness in the honesty, respect in the delivery and openness to the responses. we go out of our way not to hurt each other. 

plus, i really love hanging out with him. we have fun together, share plenty of common interests and make great travel partners. my heart still quickens when i hear him opening the front door and slows when it’s pressed against him in bed. with Warren by my side, i feel calm, safe and at home, regardless of where we are. he’s funny, sweet, passionate, motivated, sensitive and, just as i suspected when i first saw those lips while holding the magic chicken, the best damn kisser of my life.  

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in front of a world heritage temple in Kyoto, Japan, May 2014

so now comes the happily ever after part. i’m excited about all that and (marginally) excited about planning a wedding, but if i’m totally honest with myself and the internet, i’m most excited about the other and perhaps more pressing major development in my life: the arrival of a son, due next March.  

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Stuff & Things

hello again, blogosphere! i have missed you so much, though i doubt you have noticed the absence of my whiny voice from the conversations i have here with myself about such riveting topics as my dogs, so different from every other dog.

it's not that i've been avoiding you or even been too busy because, let's face it, i waste A LOT of time, it's just that i've been uninspired and lazy. these have been pervasive emotions throughout my life, as much as i try to fight them, which is admittedly not too much, so i just roll with it and remain content taking that second nap and lazily whiling away the days. that is what summer is all about and i've been enjoying mine immensely this year, spending it in the following non-blogging ways:

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FIRE IN THE SKY: my favorite day of the summer is July 4, because this is the day my beloved Los Angeles neighborhood of Highland Park decides to set itself on fire with a fireworks bonanza extravaganza that makes anyone who experiences it gawk in shock and awe. every year, i've thrown a fireworks-viewing party on my deck, and every year, it's had a great turnout, this past year being no exception. there are plenty of explosions, pretty colors in the sky, flavorful microbrews and good friends that more than make up for the disgusting air quality the next day.

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WORLD CUP: speaking of the next day, the Costa Rican soccer team qualified for the quarter-finals on July 5, and the leftover food and brews from the previous day's fete came in very handy, especially when some of the same friends showed up to watch the game with Tico and me. that was a great day for many reasons, despite the fact that Costa Rica didn't progress much farther, but it was still nice to see my own Tico so damn happy. all in all, the games were a great addition to my summer as i made it a point to watch as many as possible. i assure you it had nothing to do with the soccer thighs.

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INDY: this guy is the most unbelievably loving, unintentional funny and needlessly nervous dog i've ever known. it's been a hard road with Indy as his separation anxiety has translated into destructive behavior whenever he was left without a human home to reassure him that he is not being abandoned forever. despite our best attempts to dog-proof the house, Tico and i returned home to many messes. then someone recommended the Thundershirt and hot holy hell, that thing actually worked.

the minute we put it on him, he began getting very sleepy and even stayed stationery as we moved around the house, a stark contrast to the shadow he's always been. nowadays, we come home to no (or at least less) destruction and a much calm(er) dog. i can't recommend this thing enough. and no, the manufacturer is not paying me to say this, though i really wish they were because i would totally take the money.

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SCHROTH THERAPY: though i may look mighty relaxed lying on a hot pack above (my favorite part of physical therapy), i assure you that the rest of the hour i spend in therapy is grueling. i've been going for several months now as part of the treatment to manage any current and future pain associated with the broken rod in my back. i'll detail it more in a future post, but it's been very very beneficial for me so far, despite also being very very difficult.

to sum it up, i am learning how to dramatically alter my posture by activating underworked muscles in my back while allowing the overworked ones to atrophy. it is a lengthy, oftentimes painful process that involves targeted exercises to support the new posture, exercises that i'm learning so i can practice them at home. to help me stay dedicated, i've set up a gym in my garage (and am actually using it). this is one of those maintenance-for-the-rest-of-my-life things akin to a change in diet, which i'm also striving for so i may lighten the load on my back. so far, it's working, except for the times when it's not, like pizza time.

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HOUSEHOLD: Tico officially moved in with me this month, despite unofficially living with me for a year. to commemorate the occasion, we went to work on fixing up the detached garage to make it a usable space as it had long been just a place to store plenty of things i no longer needed. so we got to throwing them out, painting some walls, opening up other walls, building out the gym, adding a desk, bookcase, loungy area, shelves and a workspace for Tico. it now looks welcoming and usable and awesome (photos to come). i am thrilled with the results and feel accomplished like one of those DIY homeowners i sometimes see on reality shows. granted, he did most of the work but whatever. i steadied the ladder despite him telling me i didn't need to. and with the house on its way to becoming even more awesome, i am hoping that the rest of life follows suit. but first, there are more lazy days of summer to while away.

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Friday, June 27, 2014

38

i feel like i’m finally reaching that age when getting excited about my birthday seems unnecessary. whereas before, i celebrated the big day like a 12-year-old finally turning 13, the transition from 36 to 37 has been just as unremarkable as it sounds. and now at 38, i can only summon the same emotion that has characterized each birthday for me since i hit 35: disbelief. 

in my head, i am still somewhere in my early 30s. and i’d like to remain there instead of facing the reality of eventually turning 40. not that there is anything wrong with 40 and what comes after, but the start of each new decade of life can’t help but carry with it some semblance of urgency that moves us to PANIC and begin taking life seriously. 

i don’t think i’ll be panicking when turning 40, certainly not like i did when i turned 30 and wrote a series of lengthy blog posts highlighting everything i wish i knew in my twenties (a.k.a., my failures at life). with that came goals i hoped to accomplish by the time i turned 40, goals i revisited at 33 and then again at 35 to check my progress (needless to say, i fell short). 

i thought of revisiting those goals again this year and then realized it would only depress me by highlighting my shortcomings, so better to skip it. and maybe that’s the biggest lesson i’ve taken away with each passing year: the key to maintaining happiness is staying delusional. this is not to suggest there is some simmering misery below the surface of my life, just that i don’t need to wreck a good mood in the name of facing a harsh reality. 

harsh realities will always be standing by to face later, and i’ll face them soon enough. they are not that scary anymore, which is perhaps another lesson i’ve taken away from the passing years: face the truth, even when it hurts like hell. because while the truth is often mean-spirited and runs counter to every well-intentioned life plan, it’s all we have, and it will always get us in the end. so better to pony up sooner and get the hurt over with.

i’ve been working at sorting out the truths in my own life for several years now and can say that, without a trace of irony, at 38, i’m happy. and of course now that i’ve confessed this to the unforgiving tubes of the internet, i will be fired from my job, mauled by one of my dogs, dumped by my boyfriend, cursed with facial warts, and overrun by an incurable case of BO. (note: i never said i stopped being neurotic.)

all joking aside, i am happy this year, just as i was last year around my birthday. at that time, i was entering into a relationship with Tico, which, admittedly, has provided me with a steady stream of smiles, punctuating the year with the warm and fuzzy emotions that can only come out of romantic love. though our union is far from perfect, it’s the healthiest relationship i’ve ever been in and i know i need to nurture it every day. this is less a reflection on past partners than it is on me and my previous inability to be in a healthy relationship. only took me 38 years to get here.

but even if i weren’t in a healthy relationship, i’d like to think i’d still manage to be happy, because romantic love is not my life’s ultimate goal – happiness is. i was plenty happy (though a little bored) during my year of celibacy in 2012 when i relied on the love of friends and family to fill me with joy. they also managed to provide me with their own special brand of warm fuzzies, and still do. the dogs do as well (miss you, Pinko).

add to that the stable career, roof over my head, food in the fridge, healthy parents and functional body, and i am one lucky girl. i don’t even need to keep reminding myself of this fact because it stays with me always nowadays, thanks to a lot of LA asshole-type navel-gazing in which i learned to reflect and simplify and basically chill the fuck out already. so i’m (mostly) chill now, knowing that my lofty goals will be accomplished with time and even if some never are, it will be OK.

yesterday’s not-so-big day started with a lavish breakfast prepared by Tico, featuring some of my favorite foods (plantains and avocados). then came a breezy workday when i yelled at the break room TV when the U.S. lost its World Cup match to Germany (those damn nazis!).  

Tico picked me up from work early and whisked me to a two-hour Thai spa treatment, complete with full body massage. then came a romantic dinner by the beach and walk along the pier, where we took dumb selfies and exchanged kisses as he counted down the minutes until midnight, when my cinderella day would end and he could quit playing prince (see, NOT perfect).

and when it did end, my clothes turned into rags and car turned into a pumpkin and i had to panhandle for cab fare to get home. but i kept my happy disposition through all of it, because i’m goddamn happy person nowadays.

what i want most from the coming year is nothing to change, at least not too dramatically. and if it has to change dramatically, i hope it’s only for the better. of course, i realize how original this wish is, but it’s the only one i have, this year and every year, because at 38, loud noises and sudden moves make me wet my pants.

happy birthday to me, and cheers to the best year yet (or some close approximation). 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Kyoto, Japan

Kyoto, Sunday morning. 8am
Kyoto, Japan, at 8 a.m. on a sunday 

spoken by my friend Anne, writer of the TunaToast blog, back in February: hey, you want to go to Japan? i have a friend looking for journalists to cover an event there, and its probably something you can do for GEEK.

me: hell, yes, i want to go to Japan! is that a question with more than one answer? what do i need to do to make it happen?

Anne: figured youd be an easy sell. ill send you an email with the info.

emails were sent, possibilities were discussed, two tickets were requested (one for me as the writer, the other for Tico as the photojournalist), the conversation stalled, follow-up emails went unanswered, hopes were dashed and then ultimately forgotten.

then came the reversal about six weeks ago: the request was approved by the organizers of the event, who were flying out a handful of journalists from all over the globe to cover a two-night Japanese pop music event called Japan Night, to be held at Tokyos National Olympic Stadium, which would be torn down and rebuilt soon after to accommodate the 2020 Summer Olympics. as this was a Big Fucking Deal for the country, some international exposure was needed. somehow, Tico and i managed to worm our way through the cracks.

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a lion-dog guards a temple in Kyoto

wait, what? Tico and i said to Anne and each other while scratching our heads. were going to Japan? that question mark quickly turned into several exclamation points as reality sunk in, prompting plenty of happy scrambling on our parts to make it happen. then, during the entire last week of May, Japan happened. and it was FUCKING GLORIOUS.

im going to preface this by saying {spoiler alert} this post is one endless brag. and not even a humblebrag, just a straightforward, shameless, taunting, self-congratulatory, hands-in-the-air-suckas brag. but to add some counterbalance, this wasnt entirely an all-expenses paid trip. the organizers of Japan Night covered the flight and five nights at a Tokyo hotel, which was, admittedly, the lions share of the cost. breakfast at the hotel was also included, though i wish it werent because im pretty sure thats where i got a violent case of food poisoning (to be complained about in the next post).

but as far as transportation, other meals, tickets to events and attractions and hotel the first two nights of our trip, it was all out of pocket and all very PRICEY, as Japan is pricier than New York. as this trip came on the heels of a mini remodel project (also to be complained about in a future post), i wasnt expecting this expense and am now patiently awaiting thank-you cards from my various creditors.

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alleyway in Kyoto

after a relatively smooth 11-hour flight, Tico and i arrived at the Narita airport on a Saturday afternoon and were surprised to see organizers from the event greet us by yelling GEEK magazine,” which made us feel very official, a stark contrast to how we looked and felt. the organizers kindly helped us board a train to Tokyos city center, where we got lost after getting off the train and enjoyed a quick meal of yakitori (roasted food on skewers) ordered via iPad and based solely on photos that taught me the important lesson that while liver and beef look very much alike in a photo, they do not taste alike at all. then we did something incredibly stupid.

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makeupless, humorless and jetlagged in the Shinjuku area hours after arriving in Tokyo.

after dinner, we boarded an overnight bus to Kyoto. while visiting Kyoto was not a dumb move, as we heard only awesome things about it and wanted to see as much of the country as possible, taking an 8-hour bus ride on the heels of an 11-hour flight, with luggage and gear carried on aching tailbones and sore backs, was Darwin Award-level stupidity. when we finally did arrive, at 6am, after another night of struggling to sleep while sitting upright, we begged for an early check-in at the Super Hotel so we could finally shower and lie horizontally for the first time in two days, but were allowed only to store our stuff until check-in at 3pm.

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weakly radioactive water quality?

our hotel, like many others in Kyoto, had an onsen, which is a natural hot springs and spa. though we were assured by the hotel manager that this was a poor translation and that nothing in the pools was radioactive or related to the nuclear meltdown at Fukushima (several hundred miles away), we still decided to pass.

then we dumped our stuff and threw water on our faces before proceeding to enjoy (maybe endure is more like it) a day of shrine-hopping in punishing heat and stifling humidity. the shrines were oh-so-spiritual and shit, but after the third one, i was over it. thankfully, we found a farmers market (conveniently held at a temple) to break up the monotony and provide a sample of local flavor. and we sampled the hell out of their samples, while also doing a bit of shopping and downing coffee drinks to stay awake.

we had to wash our hands before approaching the temple.
area to wash hands before approaching the temple.

another temple.

photographing Tico photographing a temple. im original like that.

the people line up to ring the bell to awaken their ancestors.

at the start of the line was a bell, which folks rang to awaken their ancestors. i thought of ringing it, too, until i realized my ancestors didnt live/die nearby and i probably shouldnbe the kind of tourist who tried to appropriate local culture. then i rubbed my belly and yawned.   

found the farmers/flea market at the temple. score.
outside of each shrine stood a giant torii that signified the area as a place of worship. clearly, this one was also a place of commerce.

the farmers market: HOLY SASHIMI! i had never seen one so vast before. not only did it have the standard food, clothes and jewelry stands, but also antiques, instruments, insects frozen in amber, goldfish for kids, carnival games, kabuki masks, dishes, books and all manner of knickknacks that probably made it more flea than farmers market. Tico bought a robe for 10 bucks and i bought a bunch of native seeds for the garden. bok choy for years!

he didn't have to offer twice.
his dried fruit was delicious. i bought a pound and finished it in an hour.

boiled, beautiful food (Oden)

boiled, beautiful Oden

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cashier tallies up my seeds purchase on a wooden abacus. like a boss.

salmon sashimi samples
i considered donning a few disguises so i could come back here all day to try the salmon sashimi samples. 

this is when i start muttering to myself: don't fall on the table.

i should have bought a few of these but felt too lazy to carry them around all day.

Kyoto was one of the only cities not bombed to smithereens in the second world war, so it
s old and intact. its also sizable, with a population of just under 1.5 million and a temple count of about 2,000. most temples are buddhist but some cater to the shinto religion as well. many of them are world cultural heritage sites with the most impeccable gardens youve ever seen. seriously, not a single leaf was out of place. i had major garden envy the whole time and asked Tico to take some cuttings so we could replicate our own zen garden back home. he reminded me there were Japanese gardens in Los Angeles and then suggested i drink more coffee. 

next stop: Kinkaku-ji, the Golden Pavillion, a world cultural heritage site.
think i could sell this as a postcard?

the Golden Pavillion, or Kinkaku-ji (the kinky temple, as i like to call it) is plated in gold leaf. its clearly the hotness, meant both literally and figuratively as the heat that day mingled with the huge sunday crowd and worsening sunburn and two-day-old sweat and yuck. i know we should have been marveling at its singular beauty, as its one of the most exquisite structures in the world, but we lasted 10 minutes before ditching it. 

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but not before taking the requisite romantical selfie, which is my current facebook profile picture. (awww, arent we the cutest patootest? ok, enough of that.)

pit stop to refuel here before hitting the next temple. food was incredible.

lunchtime here, where we enjoyed grade A+++ quality kobe beef. no patty melts here! (note: clearly, i suspended my pescetarianism in Japan, because the food, oh my god, the food was so amazing. i have since resumed it since returning stateside. thank you for not judging.)

the highlight of the first day for me was visiting the rock garden at Ryoan-ji, another world heritage site. without getting too LA asshole about it, its a zen meditation site where a monk laid a bunch of rocks of various sizes among pebbles after finding enlightenment. people sit and stare at those rocks, presumably for hours, maybe even years, in search of their own enlightenment. we arrived about 20 minutes before they closed so i had to find nirvana (and a toilet) fast.

next up: Ryoan-ji Temple, a zen garden and another world heritage site. i really liked this one.
rock garden at Ryoan-ji Temple, an example of Japanese kare-sansui (dry landscape).

canoodling couple ponders enlightenment.
i think this might be the most japanese picture i took on this trip.

how cute are they?
well, they were super cute.

caught a monk before he got on his scooter.

this monk about to get on his scooter is also super cute.

i
m sure i might have come to a different conclusion if i had years to stare at it, but after lying alongside the rocks to stretch my back, i ranted to Tico about the white space representing the mundane that we swim in every day and the rocks representing the big events that define our lives, with the biggest one bookended by two smaller rocks (our birth and parents) and other groupings to signify the clusterfucks in life that give us direction. he listened thoughtfully, probably while trying not to yawn, before saying, that was profound, honey. should we go back to the hotel? we can finally check-in and shower.

a smaller scale reproduction.
you see what i see, right? easy as harakiri!

looked like a festival just ended.
en route to the hotel, we got lost among Kyotos cute streets and alleyways. 

street cool, green lantern style

i love this guy!

when we finally arrived at the hotel, we peeled off our smelly clothing to examine our new sunburns, mystery rashes and travel bruises before respectively enjoying The Shower to End All Showers, taken in a stacked-on-top-of-itself bathroom where you could literally use the toilet, wash your face and soak your feet in the shower stall all at once. after a quick nap, we walked around for an hour near the hotel, devoured perfectly prepared 7/11 food (no slurpies there) and then slept the sleep of 1,000 dead villagers before getting up for another action-packed day.

and waited for something to open.
Karasuma street, a main thoroughfare very close to our hotel. an hour later, it would be packed full of cars and people. 

like a fairy tale.
taken near the Togetsukyo (moon crossing) bridge, on the western outskirts of Kyoto, in the most beautiful place we visited while in Japan: Arashiyama

we enjoyed the 2nd day in Kyoto far more than the first given the night of rest and rainstorm that helped break up the heat. when planning the trip, Tico had really wanted to go to Jigokindani in the Nagano prefecture, where Japans snow monkeys sit in a hot tub, as shown in the opening scene of the film Baraka. but that was too far from Tokyo and several friends urged us toward Kyoto instead, which had a snow monkey park of its own: Iwatayama Monkey Park. on the second day, we made it our first stop. 

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this marks our second international trip where we played with monkeys, the first being in Costa Rica last year. taking suggestions for a third. 


feeding time at the Iwatayama Monkey Park, where wild monkeys roam within inches of unruly children who are begging to be mauled.

greedy little bastards.
feed me, seymour!

next to the gift shop was a caged enclosure where you could feed the monkey for about a dollars worth of apples or bananas. the greedy little bastards would sit there pointing at their mouths, chasing off competitors and pawing at your hands, similar to how the howler monkeys behaved in Costa Rica, confirming to me that monkeys are essentially assholes.

baby snow monkey cuteness
but the babies were so cute. i didnt mind feeding them. 


snow monkey grooming, with music by Captain & Tennille.

stop what you're doing 'cus i'm about to ruin the image and the style that you're used to... with this random assortment of buddha statues that we fou

after filling our photo cards with variations of the same monkey shot, we took a fortuitous wrong turn and happened upon a sculpture garden full of hundreds of stone Buddha statues. 

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every statue was different and interesting in its own way. we got our photo fill here as well.

then came the most stunning gardens at Tenryu-ji temple, another world heritage site and the last temple we would visit in Kyoto, which we may have missed if we didnt get lost (again) on the way to the bamboo groves. this place was divine, especially during the rainstorm, which forced us to stop and stare at the pretty trees while holding hands and waiting for the rain to let up. our only regret is that we hadnt arrived a month earlier when the cherry blossoms were in full bloom. this provides yet another reason to return.

but the garden inside, wow.
koi pond in the garden.

and this place was zen.

meditating men in the temple hall

im not sure why, but at no time during our hundred-temple hop through Kyoto did i consider entering one of the rooms to meditate. clearly, i should have as there is no better backdrop to find serenity, but all the zen was incredibly stimulating and i couldnt imagine quieting my jumpy mind or keeping my darting eyes closed for too long. i wanted to keep drinking in the city so i breezed through all these zen landmarks without so much as an om shanti om.” 

the asian redwoods
then the zen found me.

i had seen so much breathtaking beauty in Kyoto by that point that i was certain my 
awe well was tapped out. so when we turned a corner and walked into the bamboo grove, where stalks of bamboo stood as high as my beloved redwoods, i could muster no more beyond holy fuck. words and photos are poor substitutions for standing there, feeling like an ant, among natural beauty that eclipses anything technology could ever cook up. it was magical.

still blurry but more civil
naturally, we took a (blurry) photo.

it was magical.

i wanted to pitch a tent and stay forever, certain hobbits would appear at night. 

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its obscene. put on a burka, Kyoto. quit making the rest of us look bad. 

after the bamboo grove, we had to say our goodbyes to Kyoto, with regrets about missing its fish market and Gion park, where geishas are known to roam. our last journey through town was bittersweet as Arashiyama in particular hypnotized us with its beauty, making us sad to leave. it was also brief as we had to return to the hotel, grab our luggage and haul ass to Kyoto Station, where we would catch the bullet train (Shinkansen) into Tokyo.



ride through Kyoto, with music by The Smiths.

tired but happy (and always consulting a map).

tired but happy--and always consulting a map.

when we learned the bullet train would take under 2 hours to reach Tokyo when the overnight bus from Tokyo took 8, we wondered why we hadn
t used this option on the journey in. oh yeah, because train tickets were 4 times more expensive and we figured wed also use the bus as our hotel that night. but if i had to do it all over again, bullet train both ways, baby.

we sat on that train bewildered that the previous two days had passed so quickly, and worried that the next five would also breeze by us as we trailed behind them trying to squeeze the life out of every second. we had work to do in Tokyo--work we, honestly, didnt want to do. we also had new people to meet, who were sure to burst our happy travel bubble with their foreign energy.

but before i could lament to Tico much more about my latest super depressing first-world problem, i fell asleep on his shoulder, my drool running down his sleeve, while he snored loudly against the window. moments later, we arrived in Planet Tokyo, where my mind would be blown countless times by things i never thought were possible on Planet Earth.

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