Today, I picked up the keys to my new apartment. It’s taken me just over two years to get to this point, where I can stand on my own two feet and have my independence. I could not be more excited.
I’m so pleased with the wonderful apartment I found in North Park. It’s so convenient to downtown, University Heights, Hillcrest, the freeways, and the hip little hot spots around the area.
The apartment is a bit of a historical building. It’s one of the old Navy row house cottages and dates back to 1935. I love the hardwood floors and the tiled kitchen and bathroom. The bedroom and closet are quite spacious for this style of housing. Actually, the apartment feels very roomy and will be more than adequate space for my furball, Aria and me. I’ve never really lived in large spaces, so this is just perfect.
I’m eager to move in and have yet another fresh start here in San Diego. Funny thing is that even though I am a native of this wonderful city, this is my first apartment in San Diego. I’m excited to finally have my freedom, and the independence to create a life that is reminiscent of the way I lived my life when I lived abroad.
I move in on Monday and I am so excited to unpack all those boxes I sent from Hanoi. I’ve forgotten what treasures are packed inside. I’m sure it will be a wonderful stroll down memory lane!
Here’s a couple of photos of my blank slate!
When she was brought home as a foster kitten from the shelter, she was one in a litter of six and definitely the most outspoken of the group. Trying to get her out of the carrier provoked hissing and growling. Once the group got settled in, she was a bit more friendly. She morphed into the first kitten at the door and the one most eager for food and also affection. She spent many evenings curled up on my legs as I sat with my iPad or laptop on the couch.
Aria is the one on the left. The Tabby with the Jaguar-like markings. Her nickname became “Jag”
That was Aria’s favorite spot to hang out.
Working from home, I would close my door during the day so that I could have privacy and not be distracted by kittens. But she would find her way to my door and cry. She wanted to be with me. And so I fashioned a sling out of an old scarf, a spot that became her favorite, the one where she spent most of her day cuddled against me.
When she and another runt-sized kitten were found to have eye goop, the shelter’s kitty coordinator, Kim, told me that they both might be too congested to give back. I looked at little Jag – her original name – and her tabby swirl markings, her adorable little face, and said to Kim, “I don’t care what happens to the black one, but Jag has got to be OK.” That was the moment I knew that this little kitty had worked her way into my life in the most unexpected way.
Her constant need to be near me and with me, the way she’d look up at me and stare at me, it was as if she was saying, “You’re my buddy. I choose you.”
That’s Aria’s “Hi, Mom!” look.
My first task was to find a name that suited the little songstress and finally decided on Aria (Phoebe will be reserved for a future dog). Her name has grown (literally) to represent her character and so her full name is now Aria, Jagalicious, Smarty McTarty, Rolly Polly, Spastastic Bright. The Smarty McTarty was originally Farty McTarty, as it took months to find the right food for her and her sensitive stomach. I never understood how a small creature could make such big smells. I can’t tell you enough how glad I am that the Farty McTarty phase is behind us!
Aria is pretty unaware that she is a cat, I believe. She spends her day only a few feet away from me. She’s so attached, she even sleeps at my feet. She absolutely loves hair ties and has learned to fetch them. Aria initiates these games throughout the day by picking one of the colorful hair ties out of her toy box and dropping it at my feet with a hearty, “MEOW,” and the touch of her paw on my shin. Sometimes I find hair ties dropped on my pillow on weekend mornings when I just want to sleep a bit longer.
Here’s Aria, with one of her hair ties, ready to play.
She’s got a bit of huntress qualities, as she amazingly spots the smallest of moving objects. Any spider or insect who comes in the house doesn’t stand a chance. When she is on the hunt, she chirps. When she wakes up and wants breakfast, she also chirps. She chirps to get my attention and chirps when she’s fetching hair ties. Chirps usually turn into meows if you don’t take notice. Her chirps are a quick trill and very melodic. They can sound inquisitive, uncertain, disturbed or satisfied. If you speak to her, she usually answers back.
When I’m brewing my second cup of coffee in the morning, I take her outside and just sit for a few moments. She relaxes in my arms and watches birds fly over, chirps at ants on the ground, tries to keep up with the zoom of a humming bird and gazes at the bumble bees. She doesn’t lunge or wiggle or get set to pounce. We just sit there together and enjoy the moment. It’s a favorite of the day.
Aria’s black scarf/sling is now her small throw at the foot of my bed. After she fills her belly, she likes to jump on the bed and uses the scarf to kneed. She takes one little piece into her mouth and by the look on her face, goes into the zone of complete comfort and pleasure. She purrs and kneeds and eventually lays on the scarf with her nose deep in the material, relaxed and sleepy. She often exposes her belly when she sleeps. What a great belly of spots! She greets me by rolling on her back and from side to side, paws up, belly exposed. Complete trust.
There’s Aria with her frog and her scarf. Such a cuddle bug.
Of all of the things that I envisioned for my return to the US, a pet, and certainly a cat, was never in my mind. But I’m glad the outspoken little furball insisted on being a part of my life. It’s been several years since the family dog passed and I forgot how much joy and love a pet can bring into your life. I’m reminded every day how full of love these creatures are. She’s my constant little companion, my dog-cat, my Aria. I adore her and love her so very much.
According to the Vet’s calculations, today is her birthday. Happy first birthday, Aria. Thank you for choosing me.
Yesterday was a terribly sad day. A community of friends from my high school days gathered to say goodbye to the lovely Marsi, the adored wife of our classmate, Steve. The service, held in the same church as our high school baccalaureate, was a loving and moving tribute to a vibrant woman who passed a month before her 41st birthday from a three year battle with breast cancer.
It was heartbreaking to hear her brother’s words, gut wrenching to catch glimpses of Marsi and Steve’s young children. But it was Steve’s moment at the podium that put us all at ease. He was tender and emotional, but he lightened the mood with a few humorous stories. We all admired his composure under the circumstances.
It seemed almost everyone who was at the service was equally eager to join in the celebration of life at a nearby pub, just as Marsi would want. We told stories, relived special moments, and we rekindled old friendships.
Some faces I hadn’t seen since high school. Some not since the last reunion. I’m amazed how everyone looks exactly the same. And I love that we pick up our conversations like we had spoken on the phone just yesterday.
In celebrating Marsi’s life, we celebrated friendship, honest and open conversations, and deep connections with people who shaped our childhood, who stamped their names on treasured memories. Why does it take losing a beautiful friend to celebrate the beauty of old friendships?
I hope Marsi is at peace, and I thank her for reminding us that life and the people we love and cherish should never be taken for granted.
A random post on Facebook tonight reminded me that I’m due to celebrate a very special 10 year anniversary. July 28, 2002.
Only a week before, I had sold nearly all of my possessions and prepared two and a half suitcases for a move to a country I had never stepped foot in. The yard sale was one of the most liberating experiences of my life. And it set the tone for a more simplistic life. One where the layers of complexity were peeled away with each new cultural experience and every moment I settled into a completely new way of life.
My first year was a whirlwind of memories. There were a seas of new faces in not only my students and co-workers, but in all the other foreign teachers who came to the tiny country seeking new adventures, work experience, fun, perhaps even a delay of reality. I easily adapted to my new surroundings and loved my little apartment with the fabulous view of a very handsome mountain. Teaching high school students was often more challenging than any job I had ever held. But warm friendships were formed and I remain in touch with a good handful of the, then seniors who are now 28… some married, some with children.
I was apprehensive to transfer to my new job, but it turned out to be the best decision. It required some effort to get settled in all over again, but the pay off was a new office full of supportive co-workers and the chance to teach the tiniest and cutest kids imaginable. For four years, I danced, sang and gestured to get the English meaning across. I played dodgeball almost every day at lunch. Lunchtime with teachers helped me better understand their language. I made so many new friends, big and small, old and young. I traveled. I listened. I absorbed. I laughed, cried, ate, drank and embraced that amazing culture. Along the way, I shared all the highlights with you.
When the time came for me to leave, I wasn’t ready for the journey to end. But it was clear that this was a chapter in my life and that turning the page would begin a different, yet also exciting adventure. A new story was ready for me. The goodbyes were bitter sweet, the sentiments genuine and special. The friendships were real and celebrated.
There are countless moments that are so easily recalled with great fondness and affection. A word might pop into my head, a photo will catch my eye as the cover of a digital album, or a craving for any number of specialty foods creeps into my belly. In those moments, I pause to honor the memory, remember a face, hear a voice or a laugh. I miss it. I miss that life, that work, those people, that version of me.
Ten years ago on July 28, 2002, I packed my bags and boarded a one-way flight to Japan. And it changed me forever. Surely, that’s something worth celebrating.
Occasionally I take some time to go through web design sites. I like to see what’s trending and check to see if I need to make updates to either of my websites. (Yes, I need an update to On The Bright Side. It’s in the works.) I was browsing through one designer’s site and came across the website for the Gypsy Girl’s Guide. While the site design doesn’t necessarily appeal to me, one of the posts caught my eye. Check out this photo.
This is Boho Gratitude Garland. I love it! For the author of the blog post, the Gratitude Garland was inspired by the holidays. But because of their holiday beach rental, they used shells and bark and other natural things they could find. And the result was a very bohemian looking piece of art that was full of gratitude.
I love this idea for everyday, not just the holidays. What a wonderful way to create something that continually reminds you of all the things you are grateful for. This is a great family project, or for a vacation with good friends. If you were to create this type of art for your home, what materials would you use? Where would you hang it? What would your items of gratitude say?
It’s been just over a year since I’ve been back in San Diego. I have to admit, I am still getting familiar with the lay of the land. Just tonight, someone asked me about my favorite sushi place. Rightly so… you would think that after spending five years in Japan that I would have staked out every sushi restaurant in the hood! But the reality is… I’m still finding my way around my lovely hometown.
When I returned, I told myself I would treat San Diego like a new foreign city…that I would take the time to explore and discover and find my favorite spots. While I am discovering new places all the time, I recognize that San Diego is a pretty large city and at that a town I haven’t lived in since I was 19 years old. San Diego has changed a lot since then!
What’s funny to me is that all my memories of San Diego are childhood/young-adult memories. I’m a great tour guide for anyone who has never been here because hot spots like the zoo, Sea World and the Hotel Del Coronado never go out of style. But my favorite dive bar or sushi place, a hot spot for Sunday brunch or the best craft beers? I’m at a loss.
So help me feel at home, dear friends. What places do I need to discover? Where do you like to like to dine? What San Diego hot spots do I need to check out? Please leave your comments below or post on my Facebook Page On The Bright Side.
Thanks so much!
Lately I’ve been reading the online magazine Inc. which is geared toward small business owners and entrepreneurs. I’m loving the tips and advice and chance to learn from others’ experiences. Today I found this fabulous article which really hit home. It is a completely different concept of achieving success – asking yourself 10 questions. Once you read the list, I believe you will see how checking in with yourself every day and being focused on results will push you to achieve more. The article is below or you can read it on the Inc. site – HERE.
10 Questions That Create Success
Think that success means making lots of money? Think again.
Pictures of dead presidents have never made anybody happy. And how can you be successful if you’re not happy? And buying things with that all money isn’t much better. A new car, for instance, might tickle your fancy for a day or two–but pride of ownership is temporary.
Real success comes from the quality of your relationships and the emotions that you experience each day. That’s where these 10 questions come in.
Ask them at the end of each day and I absolutely guarantee that you’ll become more successful. Here they are:
1. Have I made certain that those I love feel loved?
2. Have I done something today that improved the world?
3. Have I conditioned my body to be more strong flexible and resilient?
4. Have I reviewed and honed my plans for the future?
5. Have I acted in private with the same integrity I exhibit in public?
6. Have I avoided unkind words and deeds?
7. Have I accomplished something worthwhile?
8. Have I helped someone less fortunate?
9. Have I collected some wonderful memories?
10. Have I felt grateful for the incredible gift of being alive?
Here’s the thing. The questions you ask yourself on a daily basis determine your focus, and your focus determines your results.
These questions force you to focus on what’s really important. Take heed of them and rest of your life—especially your work—will quickly fall into place.
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