Sunday, March 30, 2014

Bye-bye Winter.

The photos above were taken on a whim during one of the biggest downpours Southern California has experienced in what felt like years. All of us were also fighting the worst cold ever when the Hubby suggested we take Little J out to see the rain. I was a bit hesitant at first, as I battled through thoughts of pneumonia and other scary outcomes- typical Mom thing to do. However, I was glad we took his suggestion, because Little J had so much fun walking around in the rain (we bundled him up rather nicely) and seeing what was normally a barely trickling stream turn into "white water rapids."

March has definitely been an interesting month - fighting off the nasty, lingering cold that has overextended its stay and infected our entire family, to the random earthquakes and series of aftershocks that followed. In the midst of all that were glorious celebrations such as my baby sister's wedding, the Hubby's birthday and another family member's engagement. There was much to rejoice over and be thankful for. I am now pretty much recovered from the nasty cold, though the poor Hubby is still recovering (he caught it last) and other than a few things that fell over, our home has remained in the same condition as prior to the earthquakes, which is a tremendously undeserved blessing.

The physical trials we faced in the last month could hardly be seen as challenging in the eyes of those in the world who suffer through real tragedy on a daily basis. Comfort has become our enemy in a way that we moan and groan when it is disturbed. How often do we take for granted the blessing of physical health and a sturdy roof over our head? I need to be reminded that every day is a gift from God- not just knowing it, but living it. We are all literally at the mercy of His hands, and our lives are so fragile. All that we own and the talents we possess can be taken away without a moment's notice. And if that were so, what would remain? This past month has left me with some uncomfortable questions, ones that I am still trying to find answers for.

I find that each day is full of little graces that can either make me laugh, smile or want to scream. And sometimes, the laughing is done in hindsight...
Tough life for a tough guy.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Post-Holiday and Shopping Challenge Reflections

So...I tried using the Blogger app earlier to type the text and when I tried going back on the computer to edit, it all disappeared....oh the frustration! But anyway, I guess I'll try to remember what I was trying to say:  A very belated happiest of all holidays to everyone! For those of you who still read this blog, thank you for your support! It helps to know I'm not just writing to the computer screen. I do realize that my blog has slowly evolved into a family lifestyle blog with less fashion/outfit posts. However, that's the beauty in blogging - it evolves and grows with you, which is perfectly fine to me!

I cannot believe another year has just flown by. End of the year = End of my Shopping Challenge. I've been meaning to update you all on that, so sorry for the lag! But going on with my challenge, I did end up finishing without succumbing to the tempting after-Christmas sales. To say I did it all on my own would be an overstatement, for I would've caved in after the first week of my challenge. This was definitely an area I needed to surrender to the good Lord and to trust that he would give me the strength and supernatural self-control I would need to refrain from buying things I felt I "needed." What I needed was a lot of hand-holding and wake-up calls. A year without purchasing clothing, accessories, handbags, shoes, anything related to assembling an outfit was mighty challenging, but my closet feels the least neglected. My husband walked by and mentioned my closet still looked full (whatever). Yes, I was also blessed with gifts and hand-me-downs from family and friends: One friend handed down about 6 pairs of shoes to me! 

What I wish I had better prepared for, was the post-shopping challenge adjustment. Just as one does not begin to binge on copious amounts of fattening food right after a food fast, I probably should have eased back into re-learning the art of shopping. I found myself with a imaginary list of "needs," which were, let's face it: wants. Even though I did not spend extravagantly, I did feel a little guilty for not thoroughly thinking through my priorities and new habits I wanted to build. But what has been done is done, and I shall move forward...

A year of not contributing to my own closet has also led me to learn the art of giving, which is far more rewarding than buying for oneself. Not to say it comes naturally or easy, but it is certainly a test of my heart. It also caused me to reevaluate why I chose to purchase certain items - Were they purely because I loved the item aside from outside influences? This led me to ask myself some more difficult questions and learning to face the truth of my reality in all its ugliness. Some reflections on shopping I would like to share (this serves as a good reminder for myself)...

- The less we buy, the more we can give (simple math).

-  Fashion is a never-ending vicious cycle, but style truly remains (well said, Coco Chanel - restated by me)

- The world says live on more, but Jesus says live on less

-  What kind of message are we sending to the world through the way we dress?

-  Are we enabling others to be bound by slavery through the things we purchase? (I understand this is a hugely controversial topic with various opinions)

- Where do we draw the fine line between dressing for self-expression vs. being a slave to trends?

And some questions to ask when one chooses to shop...

-  Will this clothing item last beyond several washes and trends?

-  Do I REALLY need this (I think we all ask ourself this question over and over...)?

-  How many outfits can I wear this item with? More mileage = better bang for your buck

What I realized about my shopping habits:

I own one too many statement pieces and high high heels, neither which are practical. 

I tend to buy when things are on super clearance or at the thrift store, which don't necessarily equate to being a smart, savvy shopper.

I am a social shopper, and tend to let my natural inhibitions slide when a girl friend tells me I need to have it.

I am too old to be shopping at Forever 21 (nearly a decade past).

What I actually needed to purchase:

-  socks

-  undergarments

-  basics: plain tees & tanks

-  comfortable shoes for walking: i.e. sneakers, tennies

Now that I am a mom, my "style" has definitely evolved into being a creature of comfort. My typical daily attire consists of sweats, sweaters, leggings, jeggings and anything made of cotton. Gone are the days of running around all day in super high-heels...though I can't completely give up what I already own and have minimized wear to 1-2 days a week, preferably on weekends. My goal this year is to whittle down my closet to the items I wear the most in order to maximize on what I already own, and filling in the little gaps if needed. I am no minimalist, so my version would be a mix of basics and statement pieces, rather than bare-boned basics. Everyone has their own style, and can do what they deem best for their lifestyle. I have already cleared out one huge shopping bag's worth of clothing in the past month that could use a better home. My cousin let me in on The Lean Closet Movement, and it had me inspired.

I think there was more I wanted to say, but at the moment I am having Mommy-brain. I will continue with the reflections as they come...

In regards to the Christmas season, it literally felt like a tornado that came and left! It was full of many firsts for our little one: Disneyland, Las Vegas, Castle on the Green (for all of us!), I am now out of words and will let the pictures tell the story...

Okay I lied, I do want to mention that the Castle Green in Pasadena is worth paying a visit during the holidays. This old building from the late 1800s was once a hotel that has been converted into residential spaces- and I love old spaces, particularly ones with the word "castle" in them. I am a closet romantic and princess at heart. Participating residents were so kind as to decorate and open up their homes for viewing, all elaborately decorated with holiday charm and sparkle. I had been wanting to check the place out when I first laid eyes on it as a past Pasadena civilian. The Hubby took us as a surprise and it was a real treat! Scroll towards the end for those photos:

Friday, January 24, 2014

What motherhood actually looks like, at least according to me.

A typical "Outfit of the Day."
Meal times are an adventure in themselves.
Why waste a perfectly good smoothie?

There are times when you throw in the towel.
Sometimes you allow them to partake in some monkey business... order to capture that perfect photo.
Who needs to buy toys when the best ones are free?
And the image that our house is always in order? Only when guests are around.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Amy's Senior Recital Photoshoot

This is Amy. She is a talented beauty with a gentle spirit and beautiful heart. This photoshoot was meant to be used for her Senior Recital, but ended up being a day of adventure that resulted in climbing trees, befriending horses, concert pieces played on a baby piano echoing through the park, and even seeing a couple familiar faces. The spontaneity of this photoshoot made it one of my favorites.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Home is where the heart is.

Watching the sunset from the second floor
Sometimes the best moments happen right within the home. For an extrovert such as myself, I used to dread staying home on weekends and enjoyed filling my days with events and outings. These days, I find myself relieved when we have an open Saturday to ourselves to lounge around and dilly-dally while savoring a morning latte. I guess your priorities do begin to shift after having a child (or it could just be age). Even though I still enjoy being out, I'm learning to savor solitude, as much of it that's available when you have a 1 year old crawling about. However, the scary thing about solitude is that once you have it, your thoughts can run wild. Perhaps that is why some unconsciously choose to remain busy, as it is a way to drown out the other voices that remind us of what is really going on inside. 

With less than a month left of my shopping challenge, I'm beginning to feel the pressure- not as much with spending, but more of what God has been revealing to me through this whole thing. If any of you decide to follow suit in this challenge, please be aware that there may be hidden curveballs thrown at you (not as intense as The Hunger Games). I came into this challenge feeling as though my main struggle would be preventing myself from purchasing a new pair of shoes or item of the moment. Mind you, it has been difficult at times to remain focused on the goal, especially when there are amazing deals or designer collaborations staring right at me through the computer screen (I enjoy dangling the carrot). I'm discovering more and more that this challenge isn't entirely based on me trying to tone down a life of excess. This process has led to the peeling away at the outer layers of my soul to reveal my internal weaknesses. Being a mom does reveal much of my own selfishness, but if there was a year that blasted this trait (one of many), 2013 would be it. Just as fasting from food can cause you to become impatient and irritable, I feel as though refraining from shopping has had a similar effect on me. Never have I had this much impatience for other people's flaws and quirks. And then I realize some of these flaws are staring right at me through the mirror. It's true, sometimes the things we despise the most in others are found within ourselves.

Learning to find remedies for these nasty episodes has showed me much of God's grace and provision in my life. He has taught me how it truly is better to give than to receive, but it isn't always so easy. I cannot recount the number of times I've wanted to purchase an item for myself, but a little voice in my head reminded me to give. And even when our minds don't always agree, I find that our heart will follow suit with our actions. On the flip side, I have also been in the place of being gifted. Having someone gift you something you love requires much thought, and is more of a blessing than purchasing it for yourself. 

At the end of the day, everything becomes part of our mountain of "stuff." New items lose their novelty after a given amount of time. I see the same thing happen with our child when he receives new toys. Within a half hour, he's over it and moving onto the next thing. I've learned from my mom to hide his old toys and bring them back out after he has forgotten about them. Works like a charm. Perhaps we as adults should do the same.... 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Aloha Love

This is a rather delayed post from our summer trip to Maui. Yes, we're back to the island of beauty, love and heartaches. I feel as though this place grows with me, yet remains the same. This solidarity is comforting, because I am usually the one that has changed each time.

My first time to Maui was with my family when I was at the sweet age of sixteen. I clearly remember thinking, "this is what paradise must look like." Never had I seen clouds so fluffy white and meringue-like. The shadows they casted on the lush mountains as we were driving were stunning. The glassy ocean, with its jewel-like tones of blues, turquoise and aqua were the most breathtaking part of this island. My fondest memory was when my dad would make random stops and pull over to the side of the road for us to jump into the ocean and go snorkeling.

The second time was on our honeymoon as we dove into the depths of marriage full speed with excitement, anticipation, totally in love and with just a little bit of naiveté (okay, maybe a lot). During this trip, every song on the radio became "our" song. We didn't do much but lounge around as newlyweds do, sipping Blue Hawaiians and swinging the night away in hammocks.

The trip after was bittersweet. It was our fourth year of marriage, and the most difficult. Things unraveled while we were on this beautiful island, and I remember expressing to the Hubby at the top of The Road to Hana, the irony of the beauty around us versus what was going on within our souls. It pained me to think that the previous time we were in Maui was when we were hopelessly "in love." What a contrast that was to where we were at the time. We were fighting hard, but feeling as though we were losing. However, we tried to make the best of our time there, but it became the start of a challenging journey ahead.

With that said, our most recent trip was what the Hubby called a redemptive one. It was our first time with our little one, and being in a much better place than we were previously, we wanted to recreate new memories. Though we had painful memories to remember, they were important in shaping where our marriage is today. Marriage doesn't run on auto-pilot, and it constantly humbles us to think that we could always return to that state. But by God's grace and redemption, he has brought us out of the darkness and back into the light. Our journey back on this island was a reflection of just that. As imperfect as we still are, we are reminded of how blessed we are to have a God to walk with us and teach us how to love. And if it weren't for that, our precious little one wouldn't be here today (just a small perk).

Here we are as honeymooners, circa 2007. Oh to be young again. : )