Where I’ve Been

A few people have asked…Where have I been lately?  How come I haven’t blogged?  Well, to be honest, I’ve been in emotional hiding.  The last couple of months have been a little much.  I hate to use “drama” but I don’t know how else to classify it…And I’m not sure if it’s a good thing or a bad thing, but none of the drama has even been mine!  I don’t want to get too much into it other than to say that members of my family are going through a really tough time and it’s taken a bigger toll on me than I’ve let myself realize.  Add to that is the fact that my husband has been sick off and on (mostly on) for the past six weeks…Suffice it to say, I’ve been a stress ball…The only thing that has saved me is that we have been spending more time with friends lately.  We’ve tried to have quality time with the important people in our lives and I have been so grateful.

So…I thought I’d get back into blogging by talking about what I’m grateful for instead of the “stuff” that’s been quietly aging me the past few months.  Here is my random and spontaneous list:

1.  I am so grateful for my relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  It may not be what I’d like it to be, and I probably will never get there, but I feel so much closer to Him than I did two years ago.  I am a work in progress, indeed!

2.  I am so grateful that Mark is (somewhat) feeling better and returning to his old self.  I am even more grateful that he showed a girl, who never knew the love of her own father, what the true love of a man is supposed to feel like.

3.  I am so grateful to have friends in my life.  I think of them as the family I’ve chosen.  It’s true that sometimes friendships fade…and that’s been no exception in my life.  Some friends who I thought I’d be close with until I die have drifted away and it makes me sad at times.  But some friendships are just as strong and some are getting stronger.  That’s exciting!

4.  I am so grateful to have a job.  Everyday, I see people in financial hardship and I know the end is not as close as they’d like.  It is humbling to be able to eat out often, buy groceries, plan trips and not have to worry.

5.  I am grateful to have the family into which I was born.  Yes, it’s hard sometimes.  And I get disappointed and hurt.  But knowing what I know now, which I didn’t really know until last November, I’d rather be hurt by them once in a while than not have them at all.

Well, that’s my list for now.  I think I will add more on a random basis.  A little blog series…LOL.  So now I ask you: What are you grateful for?

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We are soooo old!

So one of Mark’s co-workers had a bachelorette party yesterday.  Well, really, she’s one of Mark’s “work wives.”  Yes, he’s got more than one.  There are four of them.  Some of Mark’s male coworkers call these girls his “harem.”  I get a kick out of it.  More than anything, I’m grateful they support him so much because there are times that his work environment stresses him out.  He’s wanted me to meet them for a while.  So last night turned out to be a good opportunity.  Two are already married and two are engaged, so we knew the party would be pretty tame.

We had a great time.  Or at least, I know I did.  I enjoyed getting to know them, their personalities and quirks, and it was obvious that they look at Mark as their big brother.  We really only went to hang out for a half hour or so…Next thing we know, it was three hours later, and it was 10:30pm.

We are old!  We don’t stay up this late!  And I was drinking…I have finals this week!  What is wrong with me?  We didn’t get home until at least 11p and probably didn’t fall asleep until midnight.  Sigh.

Mark woke up this morning and said, “I’m never staying up that late again.”  We are soooo old!

Death of a Whale

Ok, so I’m a girl…I mean, I know that’s evident to most people, but what I mean is I can be pretty sensitive at times.  Mark would say I’m extra sensitive when my “cycle” is about to start.  I know, I know, I’ve engaged in poop humor on this blog and now I mention womanly issues…something IS wrong with me.  Anyway, as most of you in southern CA may know, there has been a story about Lilly, a gray whale who was hanging out in the harbor at Dana Point in Orange County.  A co-worker lives near there so we have been caught up in the story all week.

There were conflicting stories why Lilly was in the harbor – some thought she was weak and got separated from her pod while migrating to Alaska for the season and some thought she may be curious and wanted to play.  We all hoped it was the latter and not the former.  Hundreds of people gathered around the harbor to get a glimpse of her.  Just the other day, a boat captain noticed that she had some netting around her mouth and tail and Sea World came to the rescue.  They spent almost three hours painstakingly cutting away the netting that weighed almost 150 pounds!  The whale was calm and docile the whole time, and I guess the sappy part of me was thinking, “This whale came to the harbor to get help from humans.  And we’re doing it!  How amazing is that?”  And Lilly had more energy once the netting was cut off, and everyone hoped she would feel better and get into the open ocean.  It appeared she did.

But then she came back.  And she died on Friday.  It was the news I got just before heading home for the weekend.  And I don’t know why, but I was so saddened by it.  When I came home and told Mark the story, I started to cry.  Before I knew it, I was sobbing.  And Mark is torn between being worried and wanting to laugh.  He hugged me close and asked, “Is this really about a whale?  If it is, it’s kind of silly.”

Of course, it hit me.  It’s probably not completely about the whale.  Death is so final.  It feels like the idea of hope for…everything… just ends.  I know it really doesn’t, but it just feels that way.  I just think about everything that those marine biologists did to try to help Lilly, and it still wasn’t enough.  And there’s a part of me that cried because I was so happy that she knew the kindness of strangers in her last few days.

When my mom died and I went back to the Philippines, my sisters and I spent an evening visiting her old haunts…the place she liked to eat, where she liked to have coffee, where she liked to shop, etc.  There was a particular coffee shop she went to every time she went to the mall.  We walked in and started talking to the girls at the counter.  We pulled out a photo of my mom and asked if they remembered her.  They said, “Oh yes.  That’s Mommy.”  They called her Mommy.  They were in their early 20s and my mom was in her early 70s.  Calling her “mommy” would be a very Filipino thing to do.  They knew exactly what she ordered, where she liked to sit.  We told them she had passed away.  And they cried.  She was basically a stranger to them – they didn’t know her real name.  But they knew other things that mattered.  They knew she was kind, they knew about her children (including me in the US), they knew about her grandkids.  She talked about us to them.  They knew she liked to play Bingo and would often head to the Bingo center after having her coffee.  I remember tearing up and just telling them “thank you” for taking care of her while she was there.  I was so proud that my mom made such an impact on strangers.  I wasn’t surprised because she often did.

I guess that’s what matters, right?  Not how she died, or that she died, but that her life made an impact on people.  Like Lilly did.

Ok, so I am silly.  But I’m ok with that…

Mother’s Day

I debated whether or not to post this…Mostly because I don’t like to bring people down.  But I did start the blog thinking it would be therapeutic, so here it is.

Today kinda sucked.  Not so much because of what happened, but because of what didn’t.  I couldn’t call my mom to wish her a happy mother’s day.  I couldn’t hear her voice or her laugh.  Or tell her I love her.  It just sucks.

I’ve lost a friend or acquaintance before to accidents, and I’ve even lost family members.  My first marriage died…well, mostly exploded, I guess.  I thought I knew what death was, but I didn’t know this feeling.  To lose a parent…it’s a loss so profound that I can’t put it into words.  It’s like the grief is the ocean and I am sinking inside it.  For a while, I just drift along.  Then, a huge wave comes and I get caught in some sort of undertow and I can’t fight my way out.  And sometimes, I don’t really want to.  It’s overwhelming.

I don’t know if I feel this way because I’ve never known my dad.  Maybe it would be different if I had another parent to whom I could turn.  Or maybe it wouldn’t.  But it feels like something I’ll never get over or get used to or move on from.  That probably sounds unreasonable.   I’m just being honest.  Sometimes I get mad thinking the tears are over, and how could they be over?  Then something reminds me of it, and I can’t stop the tears no matter how hard I try.  This whole process makes me feel a little like a yo-yo…going back and forth between wanting the grief to pass and wanting never to let it go.

I don’t have a lot of other friends who have gone through this.  I think what I’m feeling is pretty normal, but I hate it all.  Is that normal, too?

I thought I would have a lot more Mother’s Days to be with or call my mom.  I was wrong.  I remember so many times when I worried about my mom or thought she was being overprotective of me and complained about it…Now, I would give anything to have those worries or her overprotectiveness present in my life again.  Sometimes, I hear a friend complain about their mother and all I can think is “If you only knew what I know…”  I’d give anything to have something to complain about, know what I mean?  Again, perspective is key.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Customer Service Isn’t What It Used To Be

Some of you know that Mark and I use a cleaning service.  We both work and go to school full-time.  We also like a clean house.  A couple of years ago, we decided that it was worth our money to hire someone to clean our home every couple of weeks rather than use our precious free time to do it ourselves.  Mega Maids in Huntington Beach is the second cleaning service we’ve used (the first one did not do a very good job with the actual cleaning so we switched).

During the first couple of months, the service did fine.  At least it was adequate enough for Mark who grew up in a military family with a German mother, so hey, he is very particular.  But soon after, the quality did drop off.  We lived with it because we didn’t want to bother ourselves with trying a different company.

One day, Mark was at home while they were cleaning the place.  He actually saw one of the maids STAND on our leather couch while cleaning the ceiling fan.  Now, there is a stepstool available just 10 ft away.  He called the manager (which turned out to be the owner) to let her know.  She said she would instruct them to not do so.  We figured, problem solved.

Then, one day after a cleaning, Mark noticed that they broke an item.  It was a gift I gave him of a Marine novelty item.  We were upset it was broken, but more because they did not call to tell us they broke the item.  Mark contacted the owner to let her know.  She said she would have to speak with the employees to confirm what happened, and she would call us back.  She never called us back.  But we let it go because we figured that people do make mistakes, and hey…we understand.

Then two weeks ago, at their last cleaning, we came home to find another broken item.  This time, it was another gift I gave to Mark – the bobblehead I had custom-made to replicate him on a surfboard.  It was broken into 3 different pieces.  This time, they left a note admitting they broke it. 

Suffice it to say, we were upset.  They seemed to have little regard for our things.  And we were worried, because the last time we brought it to their attention, nothing was ever done and we let it go.

Mark called the owner to let her know.  She, once again, did not take our word for it (which is fine) and said she had to confirm the issue with her employees.  She did not call us back that day.  We called her the next day to follow-up.  She offered to glue it back together.  We told her that  wasn’t acceptable…I mean, WE could do that.  Via email, we sent her a link to the same website I used to create the bobblehead to prove how much it costs, and asked her to reimburse us so we can order a new one.  In that same email, we let her know that she would be losing our business over less than $200 if she didn’t do what we felt was right, considering the circumstances.  The email was professional (no cursing of any sort, no mocking, no putting down – it was like 5 sentences long).   

She called Mark and told him there was no need to “threaten” her and that she ran a reputable business.  Mark was taken aback since we didn’t consider it a “threat.”  Rather, we felt we were being very upfront with her.  She said there was a process to getting reimbursed for the item – that it would need to be sent for appraisal.  She even said, “That’s what I’m paying millions of dollars to the insurance company for.”  (We should have known she was a little off just by this statement.)  Mark told her that sending the item for appraisal or to the insurance company was no problem.  She sent someone to pick up the item last week.

On Monday, we followed-up with her (she had not called us to give us an update).  She said that she had “glued” it back.  We were upset.  We asked her specifically not to do that since we had no idea what quality work she would do.  But at this point, we just wanted it back in our hands.  She said she would drop it off that night.  We waited.  And waited.  And waited.  She never came.  She never called.

On Tuesday, we followed-up with her…AGAIN.  Eventually, she called Mark back to inform him she had just dropped off the item at our place by the “planters.”  Mark didn’t know what to say.  He was on his way to school.  I was at school.  When he got home, he looked in our “planters” (we thought she was talking about the bushes in front of our door).  No bobblehead.  Looked in our neighbors’ planters, no bobblehead.  At this point, it’s turning very dark, his food is getting cold, and it is aggravating.

We called to let them know we couldn’t find the bobblehead.  We sent an email outlining the situation, and let them know that if the bobblehead wasn’t recovered, we would be asking for reimbursement for sure.  We mentioned that we didn’t give them permission to glue it together; we mentioned that this was the second item broken; we mentioned being misled about the item going to an appraiser or insurance company.  We made it clear we would now be severing our relationship.  Again, very professional (no cursing, no mocking – just several bulletpoints; the whole thing was maybe the equivalent of 2 paragraphs).

Today, the owner left a message saying that the bobblehead was INSIDE our apartment in our plant.  You know how she did it?  She broke into our apartment.  We have a window we leave slightly cracked, but it does have  a screen cover.  She actually removed the screen cover, shot her hand through the open window and dropped the bobblehead into the PLANT (not planter) in our dining room. 

Does she have any idea that if anyone saw her do that, they would think they have a way to “break-in” to our home?  (This isn’t really the case because the window can’t actually be opened any further than a crack.)  But I couldn’t believe that she would do that.  Can you?

Then, she goes on to leave an incredibly nasty voice mail.  She starts mocking us, saying “oh poor baby, you’re so vain your bobblehead is broken like it’s a big deal” and on and on…Then she says, “You wanna stop your service? No problem.  I’ll GLADLY GLADLY GLADLY give you back your key.  In fact, I’ll throw it at your face.”

Excuse me?

Now, if any of you really know Mark, you’ll know this is a hard thing for him to sit and listen to.  He doesn’t think anyone should threaten violence or play “tough” if they can’t back it up.  This chick thinks she can throw something at my husband’s face and live to tell about it?  She’s insane.

Of course, I did my best to try to calm my husband down.  I told him that if she did anything of the sort, we could contact the police as that could be considered battery.  The very threat she made could be considered assault.  But really, Mark is doing his best to walk in path of Christ, so he calmed down all on his own.  He even wrote her a very short email.  He let her know he saved her a trip to return the key since we let our landlord know of the trouble and he has changed the locks for us.  We also let her know that her last voice mail was violent and threatening and that it has caused us to fear for our safety.  Think about it, people…this lady knows where we live, how to drop something into our home (think malatov cocktail anyone?), has banking information through our check payments, and she’s proven to be off her rocker…Would you rest easy at night?

Well, this has been a lot to get off my chest.  Thanks for reading all of it – if you got this far.  As for the bobblehead, the glue job was horrible.  You can totally tell where it was broken into a few pieces.  We are interviewing other cleaning services now.  Sigh.

Were we crazy to hope for a fair turn?  Is it too much to hope for good customer service?  Were we really asking for too much?  I don’t think so.  Part of the problem I see is that people settle too much for less than they deserve…we did it for too long with Mega Maids.  We were only asking for what we felt was fair and only did so after being ignored over and over again.  Maybe next time, standing on principle won’t get us a turn with a crazy lady…I hope.

P.S. In the meantime, I have posted reviews of Mega Maids online anywhere I can recounting my story hoping to save others from the same fate!  I hope people read it!

You Never Know What Will Inspire You

So Mark was excited about watching “Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking” tonight.  Did I mention he was a geek?  Anyway, it’s about The Big Bang.  And I usually just watch this stuff so I can spend time with him, but tonight, inspiration struck during the first few minutes of the program.

Mr. Hawking was discussing how the young universe was first forming…and that gravity played a huge part, and is basically the reason that planets formed where they did, etc…Little imperfections in the universe.  Then he said, “So the next time someone complains that you made a mistake, tell him that may be a good thing.  Because without imperfections, neither you or I would exist.”

Brilliant.

In a way, life is such a measure of our imperfections.  And I don’t mean that like we should concentrate on our failures or anything like that.  I mean, that so much of life is experienced when we screw up.  So much in life is about learning and getting up from our falls.  Our imperfections, our imperfect lives, make everything mean so much…make “ordinary” moments seem perfectly extraordinary…know what I mean?  Because we appreciate the struggle in getting there…in just being happy in an “ordinary” moment…like watching a science program with your husband.

We all strive to be whatever version of ourselves we think will be “perfect”  (i.e. I want to lose a bunch of weight, become a CPA, be a gourmet cook, etc), and we all fail miserably quite often.  But it’s in the journey that we really live…the journey of finally realizing that all these “imperfections” don’t really count the way we think they count…that they just help us on our journey to discovering we are all imperfect and will always be.  Yes, Mark and I continue to walk the path of Jesus Christ, but we will never be Him and so we will never be perfect.  And that’s ok.  Because He loves us anyway.

Yikes, I never knew science could have this effect on me.  Has it ever had this effect on you?

Kogi BBQ Truck

Ok, so I’ve heard about these “awesome” korean short rib tacos for awhile now.  It was profiled on “Best Food I Ever Ate” on the Food Network and on “Top Chef.”  They have a cult-like following.  For those who don’t know, it’s like the taco trucks that are everywhere in Southern Cali, but they specialize in korean flavors.  I finally found the time to google them and they were in Huntington Beach today.  So even though I wasn’t feeling my best, I thought good food would help!

The wait was ridiculous.  They were there from noon to 2:30pm, and we got there at around 1.  It took about 40 minutes to get to the front of the line to place our order and another 20 minutes to get the food.  We ordered short rib tacos and short rib sliders.  Though it was good, it was nowhere near worth the wait.  If the wait was say, 10 minutes, I would go back.  But for an hour standing in the sun?  Not again.

Funny, Mark and once waited over an hour at a place called Famous Dave’s BBQ in Long Beach.  This is a classic bbq place (not korean bbq).  And when we got our food (about an hour and a half after we got there), we both agreed THAT was worth the wait.  And we’ve been back several times.  Just goes to show, we will wait for really special food.

Kogi Bbq…eh.