Tag Archives: Family

Best of Boston

Last week I spent 5 days with my sister in Boston. Bundled up in coats and scarves we wandered through the rain around the streets of Cambridge. When we were younger our relationship centered around doing gymnastic routines in the front yard, playing 20 questions at night in our bunk beds and arguing over who took whose schruchie. I kid you not. I was the bossy, commanding, older sister and she was the sweet, easy going, middle child. And even though we sometimes still fall into those constraining birth order roles, I think we have come a long way in learning to be both friends and sisters.

We spent a lot of time just talking; curled up on the couch, sitting over a cup of coffee, or sharing appetizers at dinner. We managed to fit in some dancing one night and shopping the next morning- both equally enjoyable especially when there is this wonderful thing called the free “coat check.” I had never experienced that before. And did you know there is no sales tax on clothes in Boston? yesssss. We spent a good number of miles walking which is a great in a city that caters to pedestrians. Imagine 4-way stops where floods of people cross every which way and the cars just wait. ha. We managed to take every form of public transportation possible- yes, we hopped on and off the T, waited for the bus, and hailed a taxi. Steph took me to one of her favorite cafes, Flour and I wandered around little bookstores with stacks of books and cute greeting cards.

I was so impressed by my sister, Stephanie. She has a meaningful job working with people from all different cultural and religious backgrounds. She creatively started and now organizes yearly events like Soccer Nights for the entire city of Cambridge (check it out here). She has incredible friends who love her and an adorable apartment on the 5th floor of a charming building right by Harvard Square. Not only did I get to enjoy Boston, but also I got to see part of Steph’s life. There is something about being present with someone that brings together what cell phone conversations and text messages cannot. Now if only I could have brought the sunshine with me.

Weff, thanks for letting me come stay with you! I am glad that I can call you sister and friend.


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Bean and Bo

Somewhere along the way my family came up with nicknames. That’s right. All 6 of us rarely refer to each other by our given names, instead we use these cute/odd/weird one-syllable words that have come to represent some form of our names.

So, let me introduce you to the youngest two, Bean and Bo.

Christine and Andrew, two very different, delightfully individual people, who happen to share the same birthday! Yes, they’re twins. Today is their 22nd Birthday and I can’t imagine my life without them.

Christine is full of pizazz and wit and makes me laugh harder than anyone I know. She is my fashion consultant and my go-to pop culture trivia girl. She introduced me to Friends, Tiffany’s and Mick Jagger, but perhaps more importantly she reminds me to see the beauty in life. She is one of those people who is just easy to be around; even small animals flock to her. I am convinced she has dog whispering skills, but she denies it. Christine is expressive and creative and one of the most talented artist I know. And I am not just saying that because she is my sister. She makes my life fun and encourages me to live fully.

Andrew is my little brother, who now towers over me at 6’1. For the longest time I was convinced that I could still beat him at arm wrestling, but I have since been proven wrong. He is strong and athletic and tends to be good at whatever he does. He is our family tech support for all things mac. He fixes things mostly; occasionally breaks something. He is thoughtful and sweet and sends Valentine’s cards to me and his sisters every year. He knows that when a girl says “I’ll be ready in 5 minutes” it usually means 15 min. I think having 3 older sisters prepared him well for life (he might beg to differ). Andrew is a helper in the truest sense of the word and he has shown me how to serve others well.

Happy Birthday Christine and Andrew!

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I am back. Well, I have actually been back for over a week now, but I spent the first week back drowning in papers to grade, work emails, meetings and piles of laundry. Now, I feel like I am at least treading water. I have no complaints about Italy, but taking a week off a work in the middle of September is not exactly convenient.

But maybe convenience is overrated, right?

I had a wonderful time in Italy. It was so good to be with my sisters- it beats texting, gchatting, and using other forms of technology enhanced communication by far! Parts of out trip felt like a scenes straight out of Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants-and if you have no idea what I am talking about, well then you probably don’t have sisters.

Christine lives in a cute, little apartment right by the Ponte Vecchio and even though she had art classes most days, Steph and I were quite content sleeping in, drinking coffee, walking around Florence, sitting in cafes, reading, shopping and oh, eating. We successfully managed to get at least one cappuccino and gelato every day. We spent one day on a bike tour of Tuscany and another few days hiking along the coast in Cinque Terre.

One of my mentors, a wonderfully wise woman who appreciates life in ways I can only dream of, will often ask me to give her a word to describe a recent trip or an event that I attended. It seems a little simplistic at first, but try it. It’s actually unbelievably difficult to try and capture an entire trip or experience in a single word. But for some reason I like the task of trying.

So, when I think about my time in Italy the one word that comes to mind is: growing.

There was a moment one night at dinner where the three of us sat around and shared a bottle of wine and it hit me, wow, we’ve grown up. We had honest conversations about issues that don’t have simplistic Sunday school answers, and we laughed (mostly thanks to Christine’s undeniable gift of story telling) and we even cried a little (well, I did). What’s ironic about sisters is that even in these “grown-up” moments, we still have countless other moments where bickering, arguing and mocking each other are the go-to form of communication. I think part of the challenge for sisters, or maybe for all family for that matter, is learning how to see each other for who we are, not who we were. I think is this is part of the growing process.

In a lot of ways my sisters and I could not be more different. (Although Stephanie and I do look more and more alike every time we’re together, which is odd considering when we were growing up we looked nothing alike.) Stephanie has this beautiful balance of strength and gentleness that draws people to her. She can make the best out of almost any situation; it is almost like positivity flows through her blood. I somehow seemed to have missed out on that genetic trait. Christine has this creative spunk and empathetic spirit that makes her dream big dreams and care deeply about people–and animals for that matter. And she can make me laugh harder than anyone I know.

We decided that we should do an Italy reunion trip every 5 years. I’ll cheers to that!

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In a little less than 24 hours I will be in ITALY with two of my favorite people in the whole wide world-my sisters!!! (you can tell, I am only a teeny, tiny bit excited)

It’s been a little stressful trying to make sub plans for next week, while also trying to finish up grading and planning and wrap up everything at work for this week. So, needless to say, I have not started packing (very uncharacteristic), and we don’t yet have a place to stay once we get there (not like me at all) and I would rather sit and watch the office tonight than try and figure all of this out (what is wrong with me?)

Regardless, I will, Lord willingly, get on a plane tomorrow afternoon and after three long flights and layovers in two different countries, arrive in Italy where my sisters and I will reunite. We decided upon seeing each other it is only fitting to jump up and down and make loud squealing noises…ya know, the ones that only girls and maybe small dolphins can decipher their meaning. Yes, these kind of events draw unwanted attention, but sometimes it’s just necessary.

For teachers, September is not exactly the best month to just pack up and take off for a week, but I am starting to feel that maybe this trip comes at a necessary time. Life gets busy, sometimes too busy and I can so easily fill every moment with unnecessary stress and pressure and a constant running list of things to do.

I want to listen more and create some space in my life. In fact I need to.

I love this quote from Henri Nouwen:

“In the spiritual life, the word discipline means, “the effort to create some space in which God can act.” Discipline means to prevent everything in your life from being filled up. Discipline means that somewhere you’re not occupied, and certainly not preoccupied. In the spiritual life, discipline means to create that space in which something can happen that you hadn’t planned or counted on.”

So on this trip to Italy I am going to create some space; some space in which something can happen that I didn’t plan on or count on. Some space to listen. and rest. and enjoy. I’m going to soak up slow mornings and sidewalk cafes with cappuccinos and gelato. And time with my sisters. Time to laugh. and talk. and simply be together.

Italy here I come.

But first, time to pack…and watch the office.

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the love sac

Part of my trip to LA last weekend included an afternoon with my brother. And I think any trip to see my brother definitely warrants its’ own post.

My “little” six-foot-two brother, Andrew, is pretty great. And yes, I am biased. I mean for growing up as the youngest of three older sisters- three very talkative, loud and opinionated sisters-I think he turned out pretty good. And I have just come to trust that all the times we dressed him up, made him play school, and do choreographed routines in the living room are either repressed painful memories or he was simply too young to even remember. All that to say, I am quite thankful that he still lets me be a part of his life.

Andrew, more commonly referred to as BoBo, by our family, is a senior at Biola. (really, BoBo is an endearing term, despite whatever negative connotations you have attached to the word) He’s living in a cute, suburban neighborhood near La Mirada and last weekend he and his six other roommates opened up their frat-house style home for a BBQ with friends and family.

Now he and his friends are great guys…very upstanding, responsible citizens, but this is not a normal house. Take for instance the living room: there are 3 BIG (I mean huge, 62 inch) TVs all lined up next to each other, complete with 5 couches, and 2 coffee tables! I guess that’s a pretty good ratio 3:5:2. So you can sit on any of the 5 couches and face all 3 TVs at the same time, making it possible to watch the current football game, the espn post game show AND simultaneously play video games without having to flip back and forth between channels. My dad explained this is every boy’s dream.

And it continues- each bedroom has another TV and the “study room” as they call it, hosts all seven of their computers. Everything is about function, not form. There are no decorations. zero, zlich. no pictures, no frames, no cute magnets on the fridge, nothing. They do however have a color coated, rotating chore chart taped to the fridge (my mom would be proud). Oh, and what twenty-year-old male household is complete without the love sac. I will probably never quite understand why post-adolescent men gravitate toward this large, furry, over sized bean bag, but they do.

And my brother and his friends love it. The eat on it. Sleep on it. Read on it and wrestle on it. (see below)

But more important than seeing my brother’s new house with a gazillion TVs and a giant love sac, it was seeing him. My brother is only 21, but he has a wisdom and depth that I respect so much. He knows how to love people and love them well. He can fix and tinker with almost anything and he has more natural computer geniusness (yes, I made up that word) then I’ll ever have. He tries to give me dating advice, and I should probably listen, considering he has had the longest dating relationship in the family : ) And whenever he travels or visits another country he brings back thoughtful little gifts for my sisters and I- beautiful mugs or scented candles or handmade scarves and earnings. aww, so sweet, right?

The truth is I wish I got to see more of my brother. We’re not the best at talking on the phone. Conversations usually consist of no more than 7 sentences and maybe some text messages during the week. I am learning sometimes it’s just good to be together. in person. face-to-face. It’s just better that way.

BoBo, you’re wonderful!

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The Best Way to Love Someone

My mom amazes me because she knows how to love people well. She taught me that love is sacrificial and sincere and that sometimes the best way to love someone is to listen.

And my mom knows how to listen.

Growing up as 1 of 4 kids, it sometimes felt like everyone was vying for mom’s time and attention. My mom helped us with daily homework and drove us to practices; she cooked dinner and came to our school plays and watched our games and stayed up late sewing those god-awful Halloween costumes. And for as important as all those things are, I am convinced that it was her patience to listen to us that made all the difference.

I remember being a confused and awkward 13-years old, with tears streaming down my face and my mom just sat in the car with me and listened as I poured out all of my junior high emotions. I remember calling her from Taiwan, scared and overwhelmed, wanting more than anything to come home, and my mom graciously knew I just needed someone to listen. And I remember after I broke up with my first boyfriend, my mom drove up to Westmont just to take me out to dinner. I told her she didn’t have to come up, and that I was “ok.” But she wanted to…And it meant the world to me. She wanted just to be there with me and listen. Even as I get older some of my favorite memories with my mom are when we grab coffee and sit for hours in oversized chairs next to a small round table, sipping our lattes, talking and sharing about life-and it doesn’t matter what we’re talking about necessarily-faith and church, or work and my students, or dating and relationships- my mom listens to me.

There is something so beautiful about listening. It is this timeless gift that stretches across people groups and ages and cultures and religious. I believe everyone wants to be listened to. And when you sincerely listen to someone you learn how to love a little bit better. I get sad that sometimes in our noisy culture where our minds and hearts are saturated with sounds and distractions, I don’t always make the time and space to listen to others.

The art of listening involves being patience and attentive. By definition it involves caring about someone else and their thoughts and feelings more than yourself. I think it is one of the best gifts mothers can give their kids. I want to learn to be a better listener. And one day I hope to be a mom who will not focus on doing the hundreds of tasks that moms have to do and instead spend time listening to my kids like my mom did.

Mom, thank you for taking time to listen to me.

Happy Mother’s Day! I love you.

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Reason #27 to be a Teacher

Spring Break.

Ok, so there are probably more than 27 reasons to be a teacher, but spring break is definitely one of them.

About 3 years ago I realized that the rest of the working world does not in fact get a glorious week of vacation right in the middle of March. Thankfully, I chose a profession that honors this week and I eagerly look forward to it every year.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my job but having a week off is always a wonderful! My days and weeks can become so routine and scheduled, with a 28-min lunch period, 4-min bathroom breaks and bells that signal the start of each class. I welcome a week where life moves at slower pace. There is freedom in letting a day unfold with no set plans or expectations. I sometimes crave the spontaneous and unexpected events and conversations that just happen when I am not so busy running-here-there-and-everywhere.

So, this Spring Break I Rested. Relaxed. Played. Rode my bike. Took a yoga class. Napped at the beach. Had Sushi lunch with friends. Read. Prayed. Went to bed early! (this never happens) Ran on the beach. Coffee dates. Picnic lunches. Salsa dancing. Road trip down Highway 1 with my sister. Thrift Store Shopping. Watched my brother play lacrosse. Surprise dinner with my parents. (I LOVE surprises) Lots of Laughter. Happy Hour with the roommates. Pure joy.

Here are a few pics from my week:

confession, I did not take this picture…but it captures one of thee best drives along the California coast

my beautiful and far cooler sister, Christine.
She helps me out in life and makes sure I don’t buy plaid golf shorts at the Thrift Store.

who knew boys with sticks could be so violent?
My “little” brother, Andrew, (although much taller and stronger than I) is in the red.

I think my friend took this picture only to make fun of how ridiculous I look.

aww, Santa Barbara.
This is the view from my beach chair…where I spent a good too many hours.

Back to work tomorrow. Bright and early.

But only 39 more days ’till summer….

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