Tag Archives: Slice of Life Challenge

Uncle Mike

I remember Uncle Mike was always around when I was younger. Uncle Mike wasn’t actually my uncle, not by blood anyway. But Uncle Mike was my parents’ best friend, which meant he was family to us. All throughout my childhood, I can remember Uncle Mike being single. I think he was married and divorced before he met Aunt Kathy, but I’m pretty sure everyone hated her. I can remember one of his favorite songs was “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong” by the Spin Doctors and the lyrics were something like “…since the bitch left town.” I think he liked this song because it was his angry divorce song.

Growing up, Andrew and I adored Mike. He was the cool uncle who always played with us whenever he came over. We nicknamed him “Monkey Bars Mike” on account of the fact that we would hang on him and crawl all over him and under his legs. I don’t know how he never got tired of us…I know I would have.

As long as I’ve known him, he’s always had a beard, or at least a goatee. I’m pretty sure that’s his thing. As he’s gotten older, he’s changed, as everyone does as they age, but he still looks like the Uncle Mike I remember from when I was a young girl.

When Uncle Mike met Kathy, he knew she was the one. She brought out the best in him, and she was just so gosh darn funny! What I loved about her is how honest and blunt she was. I was about 13 when Uncle Mike met Kathy. She was the “cool aunt” who told me all the stories from her teenage and college years. She didn’t treat me like a little kid, which I appreciated. When he realized he better hold onto her, they got married. I can remember going to their wedding. I wore a dress my mom made me. I think it was the tan one with white polka dots and the white collar (what was that thing called?) with lace trim. My mom curled my hair and I got to wear a touch of makeup. At the wedding, we danced all night, and I even flirted a little with Aunt Kathy’s younger cousin Mark, who was a little older than me.

A few years after the wedding, Jason came along, and boy was I enamored with him! He was the cutest little kid ever, and I loved to play with and take care of him. When I was in my final year of college, Uncle Mike and Aunt Kathy let me move in with them. I was student teaching in Clear Creek and since they live in Baytown, which was 45 minutes from my school, they let me live there for about 5 months. I loved living with them. Jason would come in early every Saturday morning to wake me up by jumping on my bed, Aunt Kathy gave me a lot of grief for my way too messy room, we went to Shipley’s Donuts on the weekends, and we had dinners together in the yellow kitchen that Kathy hated. I’ll always be grateful for them taking me in.

We lost Aunt Kathy last August to Covid. I still can’t believe she’s not here.

Tiny Homes Obsession

I have a confession. I’m obsessed with tiny homes. Like majorly obsessed. A few years ago, when the tiny home movement took off, I started dreaming about one day living in my very own tiny home. The obsession started off small, watching a few YouTube house tours every now and then, but quickly grew into a full-blown fixation. I’ve watched every episode of Tiny House Nation on Netflix, bored my dad with my incessant talking about tiny house living, scoured the Internet for examples of tiny homes to find out which elements I would want to include in mine, toured some tiny homes in Texas, and researched prices of making my dream a reality. I booked a stay at a really eclectic tiny home in Waco, TX during the summer of 2020, but had to cancel it due to the pandemic. I need to rebook for this summer.

What I love most about tiny home living is the clever use of space, the ethos of living with less, and the minimal costs compared to living in a traditional home. I also appreciate that you can build your tiny home in a sustainable way so that it can be mostly off the grid, saving energy and money in the process.

Here are some of my favorite tiny homes:

I’d love to build a custom tiny home in Austin, TX that I can rent out on AirBnB. It’d be decked out in funky furnishings and decor, something “Instagrammable” to draw in people looking for an experience on their holiday in the ATX. Ideally I’d like it to be as close to South Congress as possible, where all the action is. My tiny home would have plenty of room in the kitchen, a bedroom that you can stand up in, a luxurious bathroom, and a large deck with a variety of seating options and a place to barbecue.

Once I retire, I’d love to live in a tiny home, but I’m not sure yet where I’d like to retire. I’ve seen plenty of tiny homes that are mobile, which would give me freedom to move it from place to place, but I’m not sure that’s right for me, since that would pretty much limit me to the US. Perhaps I’ll build two tiny homes, one somewhere in the states and another somewhere else abroad (maybe Thailand, France, Italy, Portugal, Bali…) to give me options. I can always rent out the other one when I’m not there. My tiny retirement home will be somewhere with space and a view. I don’t want to live in a tiny house complex, where my windows look into my neighbor’s house. Outdoor living is important, and I’ve seen a few homes that bring the outside in by having glass doors that open completely, creating an open space between the living room and the deck. As someone who loves to entertain, it’s important that I can have a large living space in a tiny home. My retirement home needs to have room for guests, too. I’d love to have a spare bedroom for visitors, even if it’s just a loft.

Have you ever considered living in a tiny home?

I Quit Social Media

At the start of the year, I decided to take a break from social media. The only account I had was Instagram, as I’d already deactivated my Facebook back in 2017, and I’d never gotten into TikTok, Snap Chat, or Twitter. Instagram is a great app, and I really enjoy posting travel pics, keeping up with my friends, and following inspiring accounts. However, I realized that I was spending an inordinate amount of time scrolling through random reels and photos, wasting hours each week.

I’m not one of those declare-that-I’m-quitting-social-media kind of people; those posts always come across as attention seeking to me. I just quietly signed off, deactivated my account, and deleted the app, unsure of how long I’d be away. When January 1st came around, I began my hiatus. While it was difficult at first, and my habit of picking up my phone multiple times a day took an embarrassingly long time to break, after a while, I didn’t miss it as much as I thought I would.

I figured I’d stay away for a week, maybe two; I didn’t think I’d be away this long. In some ways, I think I should go back, since I miss seeing my friends’ photos and finding new ideas for school. On the other hand, I worry I’d go back to my old ways and waste time again instead of using the app sparingly. I’ve read articles and books about the power of social media and the grip it can have on someone. These apps are designed to make it hard for people to stop using them, and despite knowing the tactics they use, I still fall prey to them.

Social media can connect you to other people, but it can also isolate you. Finding balance between the two is like walking a tightrope. Since signing off, I’ve lost touch with some people, and I don’t always know what’s trending at the moment, but I’ve gained more connections with people in real life, as I’ve prioritized my social life now that things have opened up more here. Whenever I decide to get back on social media, I hope I can do it in a balanced way.

Stuck.

It’s the eleventh hour. I’ve been staring at the blank screen for a while now, willing an idea to come into my head and out of my hands and onto the page. I’ve scanned my feed of blogs I follow, looking for a spark of inspiration, an “I can write about that too” moment. I’ve looked through my copy of Old Friend From Far Away, focusing on the highlighted sections, for a prompt that grabbed my attention, begging to be written. The only one that remotely stood out was “write about a memory of a popsicle” but I quickly tossed it away. I googled writing prompts and quick write ideas, but it was all too overwhelming and most of them were trite anyway. I opened up Pinterest, willing one of my pinned quotes under “Quotes I love” to leap off the page and inspire greatness. Not today. Succumbing to the writer’s block isn’t a proud moment, but it’s the eleventh hour and I haven’t sliced, so here’s my meager slice for today. Let’s hope inspiration strikes tomorrow.

Two Years Ago

Two Years Ago

Two years ago, I was well into lockdown and figuring out this thing called online learning.
Two years later, I move around freely and get to be in person at school.

Two years ago, I was living in Jakarta, Indonesia, finishing up my third year.
Two years later, I’m living in Jeju, South Korea, finishing up my second year.

Two years ago, I did all my shopping online and had everything delivered.
Two years later, I pop down to the shops to pick up what I want.

Two years ago, I didn’t own any masks and the idea of wearing one was completely foreign.
Two years later, I have a basket full of colorful cloth masks and mask straps near the door, match them to my outfits, and can’t imagine leaving the house without one.

Two years ago, I was perfecting my banana bread baking skills.
Two years later, I can’t remember the last time I baked banana bread.

Two years ago, the airports were eerily empty.
Two years later, the airports are bustling again.

Two years ago, I was terrified of catching Covid.
Two years later, I’ve had Covid and luckily it wasn’t that bad.

Two years ago, I spent all my time alone.
Two years later, I can be social again.

Two years ago, I never used the words quarantine, PCR test, or travel restrictions.
Two years later, they are part of my everyday vocabulary.

Two years ago, I thought everything would go back to normal soon.
Two years later, I’m not even sure what normal is anymore.

Two years ago, Covid was all people talked about.
Two years later, Covid is all people talk about.

Summer Camp Memories

A few friends and I went out to dinner tonight to celebrate my friend’s birthday, and we had one of those meandering conversations where we start talking about one thing, which leads to another, which leads to something completely different. Throughout the conversations, we had lots of laughs, learned many new things about one another, and made a few connections to things in our past. One of those things was summer camp, and I had a flood of memories come back to me.

As a kid, I went to a few different camps. In my elementary and preteen years, I attended summer day camps while my parents worked, and when I was a tween and teenager, I went to church camp for a week every summer. But the most memorable camp experience was going to Young Life Frontier Camp when I was 15.

I can remember the extremely long bus ride from Texas to Colorado, the furthest I’d ever been away from home. As we neared camp, the mountains surrounding us, I couldn’t believe I was actually there. Since I didn’t really know anyone at camp, I was open to new friendships and experiences.

I can remember the cluster of cabins, tucked in amongst the pine trees. Naturally, I chose the top bunk. While I can’t remember any of the girls in my cabin, I do remember loving our camp counselor, a college-aged girl with loads of energy and enthusiasm.

What made Frontier Camp so special was that it was full of surprises. No one told us what to expect when we were there (I’m pretty sure it was designed that way), so we were constantly surprised by all the events they’d organized for us. What I remember most was that we had a different theme each night, but because they hadn’t told us about them, we had to get creative with whatever we’d brought with us. Our camp counselor was always good at helping us scrounge up items for our makeshift costumes. Western night was that first night. I didn’t have anything cowboy-ish, despite being a Texan. I remember I wore my favorite grey and white Henley t-shirt, blue jeans, and sneakers. To make me look the part, my counselor braided my hair into French-braided pigtails, tied a red bandana in my hair, and used her eye liner pencil to draw freckles on me. I was ready to go!

Down at the mess hall, we sat with our cabin mates for dinner. The food wasn’t typical “camp food.” It was actually delicious and we looked forward to each meal. Each night, after everyone was served, the counselors would put on a show for us. That first night, one of the male counselors, a pillow stuffed under his shirt and donning a too-tight blazer, started swinging his arms around, saying in a loud voice, “I live in a van down by the river…” The mess hall erupted with laughter throughout the whole of his skit. Now I know he was mimicking Chris Farley’s famous SNL sketch, but as a naive 15-year-old, whose parents wouldn’t allow her to watch SNL, I had no idea and thought that this guy was the funniest man ever!

I’m not sure how to explain how this happened, other than to chock it up to the magic of camp, but I had a week-long romance with a fellow camper from Kansas. I can’t remember his name, and I know I never even kissed him, but I do remember being totally smitten. He was tall, towering over my short frame, and had broad shoulders like someone who played football. His hair was blond and shaved close to his head. On the last day of camp, we cried as we said goodbye to each other. After returning home and developing my photos, I added a photo of us my friend had taken on the last day of camp, where we were hugging one another and I was looking up at him with such a sad face. I remember that we kept in touch for a while after camp, through handwritten letters and a few long-distance phone calls, but you can only sustain a week-long romance over hundreds of miles for so long.

Spring Break Plans

Everyone’s all a buzz at school about what they’re planning to do for spring break. It’s not for another three and a half weeks, but for the first time since the pandemic began, we can actually travel with little to no restrictions. It’s definitely cause to celebrate! We are allowed to leave the country, as long as we get the required PCR tests and re-entry permits, with no quarantine upon our return. Many teachers are going to Vietnam, Thailand, or Singapore. We are also now allowed to travel to the mainland (South Korea) for the whole week without a PCR test upon our return. During previous holidays, school has only allowed us to go for a few days without a PCR test (and I avoid those things like the plague…in Korea, they are incredibly painful!).

While I’d love to travel somewhere outside of Korea, preferably Thailand, I’m going to play it safe this holiday. I don’t want to risk testing positive on a PCR (I’ve had Covid and you can test positive for a while after) and/or not be able to get back into the country for some reason. I’m looking forward to traveling back home and to England this summer though!

I’m excited to spend half the week in Seoul and the rest of the time here in Jeju. I’ll fly up on Sunday and stay Sunday and Monday nights at the Grand InterContinental Parnas hotel in an area called COEX in the Gangnam district. It’s an area I visit often when I’m in Seoul, so I know how to get around easily. I’ll eat at some of my favorite restaurants, Paulie’s Pizza (it’s just like pizza back home!), Egg Slut (yes, the name is awful, but this breakfast chain from LA is delicious), and Cafe Mama’s (a Korean cafe with the yummiest ricotta salad). I’ll also partake in some shopping at the COEX mall, where I can find some of my favorite shops that we don’t have here, like H&M and ZARA. I’m also looking forward to going back to my favorite salon, Juno Hair, where they treat you like royalty.

I’ll then move to the Grand Hyatt Seoul hotel in Itaewon, a trendy neighborhood in Seoul, for Tuesday and Wednesday nights. A couple of my friends are also going to be there, so we’ll have lots of fun walking the artsy streets and alleyways, shopping in boutiques and art shops, and eating at new restaurants. I love Plant Cafe Seoul, which is a vegan restaurant tucked away in Itaewon. I’ll do my best to persuade them to go with me. There’s also The Original Pancake House, which is like stepping into an American breakfast diner. One of my favorite night spots is a tiny place called Apt (for apartment). It’s got a really chill vibe, with old school jazz music and velvet couches, and the cocktails are top quality. I haven’t drank any alcohol in a long time, so I’ll have to see if they’ll make me a mocktail. While I’m staying at the hotel, I’ll probably try to squeeze in a relaxing massage too.

For the latter part of the week, I’ll be back in Jeju, where the weather has just started to be perfect. I haven’t made any plans yet, but I’m thinking a staycation on the west side of the island, a place I haven’t explored much yet, is in order. Since it’s not a Korean holiday, things are cheap and can be booked at the last minute, so I’ll probably play it by ear.

Here are a few pictures of Seoul from previous trips. Let’s see what I get up to this time!

Unique Things About Korean Housing

This afternoon as I was looking up possible housing options online for next year, I started thinking about all the differences between Korean housing (houses, townhouses, apartments) and those back home in the states. Quite frankly, some of these differences are also unlike other places I’ve lived (China, Albania, Thailand, and Indonesia).

First off, the rental pricing structure and high costs would put most Americans off. The prices are quoted in yearly rental prices, and must be paid in one-year increments before you move in. My budget, allocated by my school, is 18 million Korean won per year (~14,600 USD). Many places I found online today were in the 24 – 60 million range (19,400 – 48,500 USD). I wonder if there are other, more affordable options to be found. Navigating the site in Korean was really tricky, so hopefully I can get a Korean friend to help me. In addition to paying a year’s rent up front, you also have to pay a hefty deposit in advance. The deposit is at least the yearly rent, but many of the rentals I saw online had larger deposits. For example, a place I liked was 30 million won a year plus a 48 million won deposit. That means you’d be paying 63,000 USD up front!

All Korean houses are unlocked by a keypad on the front door rather than a key. My door also talks to me in a British accent, which cracks up everyone who comes over. I love not having to carry keys, but it’s a pain when I come home and the batteries on my door have run out. It’s only happened twice, but it’s weird that there’s no warning that the battery is low before it runs out. The only way to get back in is to “jump” the battery with a 9-volt. I’ve taken to carrying one around in my car just in case.

One of the nicest things about Korean houses is the under floor heating in the winter. Under floor heating is a radiant kind of heat, much different than the heating systems that blow out hot air. The only thing that’s tough is trying to find the right temperature at night, as your bed can get too hot from the floor heating.

As you may know, it’s customary to remove your shoes in Asian homes, a tradition I fully embrace now. The entryway is lower than the rest of the floor in the house and tiled in a different material. There are also cupboards in the entryway to store our shoes away, which is really convenient.

The windows are versatile. They are double-glazed and open two different ways. You can open them completely (inward like a door opens) or just a crack them a little at an angle (from the top) to let the breeze in and keep the rain mostly out. There are screens on each window that can be pulled up or down. With the spring and fall weather being so perfect, I utilize the angled windows often.

Lastly, due to the smaller size of the houses/apartments, there are a few appliances that do double-duty and save space. We have washer/dryer combos, which you can find in some smaller places in other countries too. The microwave and oven are one machine, which always confuses me since I can put metal in the microwave; it feels so wrong to do that. I sure wish we had dishwashers, because I despise doing dishes, but the large, deep sink with a removable drying rack is a compromise (I guess!).

Is there anything unique about homes where you live?

TBAs

When I can’t settle on one idea for a slice or when my mind is thinking about many things, I like to write my TBAs. It’s a reflective exercise I learned many years ago from a wise friend, which stands for Truths, Beauties, and Appreciations.

Truths

  1. My back pain flared up earlier this week, making it difficult to sleep, but luckily I’ve felt much better today.
  2. The Covid outbreak at my school is starting to let up…I hope it stays that way!
  3. I’ve been feeling a little down lately and I’m not sure why. Hopefully the winter melting away will lift my spirits.
  4. I haven’t been living out my OLW (Health) lately. I need to focus more on my health, both physical and mental. When things are stressful at work, I tend to revert back to old habits.
  5. I love shopping for clothes in person, but shopping online is so tedious and boring. I want some new clothes, but online shopping takes so much time that I generally just give up.

Beauties

  1. My green plants, which always make me smile.
  2. The new Pixar movie “Turning Red” is such a lovely film! I watched it this afternoon and loved all of it. It’s a perfect coming of age movie, depicting an honest mother/daughter relationship, the struggles and fun parts of being a teenager, and what puberty is like.
  3. The sweet smelling candle I’ve been burning all day makes my house seem so cozy.
  4. Spring Break is on the horizon, and in a month, I’ll be traveling to the mainland with friends. We are going to Seoul for some much-needed city life, where we’ll stay at a fancy hotel, go shopping, explore the city, and eat out at some delicious restaurants.
  5. My stack of to-read books that I am so looking forward to reading soon.

Appreciations

  1. The warm spring weather today. The sun was shining, there was a light breeze, and the temperature had warmed considerably, rendering my coat unnecessary for the first time in months.
  2. Having a whole day to myself to do whatever I wanted to do, which to be honest, wasn’t much.
  3. Coming home to a clean home yesterday. My cleaner comes on Fridays, which is always a special treat to start off the weekend.
  4. A friend of mine had surgery yesterday, and it went really well. Now onto the recovery, which will likely be a long road.
  5. The fact that quarantine is being lifted soon in Korea, which means I can spend more time at home this summer. I can’t wait to spend more time with my parents, nieces and nephew, and brother and sister in law, plus all of my extended family.