Thursday, September 30, 2010

The 5 Cornerstones to Eternal Happiness

My baby is FINALLY down for the count and taking his afternoon nap in the bedroom so I can sneak away and do some writing. Ever since we got back from Hawaii, it seems like my life quadrupled in work (housewifey bidness, odd jobs I am picking up), personal aspirations (I REALLY want to write that darned book I said I would work on since I was 20), stress (bills, credit issues, fixing up our old apartment), and physical ailments (extreme hair loss, plugged milk ducts that we won’t get into…). I feel overwhelmed and a bit hopeless as I take a step back and ask myself “Why am I doing all of this?” I ponder it all over a pint of ice cream (end of summer sale!) and two mini scones (gotta be cutting the calories somewhere) and start delving into the really dark and philosophical questions of life and human existence when I run out of Phish Food since Patrick’s really going to kill me now (it’s his flavor). But before I jump off the deep end, I need to take a step back, breathe, and remember that IT’S ALL GOOD. The sun is still out, my biddy babes is as chubby as ever, and at some point my hair’s gotta grow back...right?

When I have blah days like this, I always remember my list of 5 things that keep the stir out of the crazy and the “why” out of happy:

1.    EXCITEMENT- It’s the little things I look forward to in life that keep me going: A dinner with friends, out-of-town visitors, cracking into that bottle of wine… When there are good times, experiences, and things to be had in the near future, it sure keeps you going like a dangling golden carrot.

2.    KEEPING YOUR TRIBE CLOSE- Oftentimes I find myself preoccupied with social interactions that have gotten me down like a spat with a coworker, finding out indirectly what someone really thinks of you, or not getting that invite to a party. It’s a proven fact that at any given point in your life, you can only have up to 12 people in your inner circle (the people who truly matter and are fully relevant in your life) so fretting over ruffled feathers anywhere else is a needless expenditure of energy. Just smile, nod, and move on.

3.    TAKING CARE OF YOUR BODY- Over the years, it’s become blatantly apparent that my happiness is almost directly linked to the health of my body image. When I take care of my body, it takes care of me and I am liberated to live and love without secretly searching for a mirror to look into around every corner. And when you are physically well and capable, you can just do more and run faster, you know?

4.    MAKING GOALS- Progress is happiness. Learning something new, discovering, challenging yourself, accomplishing something…happiness is being able to look back on your last five years to see how far you have come. Make a goal for yourself today and if you have trouble keeping it, just tell someone or post it on your blog. Or email me—I won’t let you forget about it.

5.    PICKING YOUR BATTLES- Life is hard. Period. If you let all the things bother you that you could be bothered by everyday, then getting out of bed each morning would even be a chore. I remind myself that I’ll always win some and lose some, and all the some’s in between just get tossed to the wind.

What are your keys to happiness?

Grandpa always makes King happy.

This grandpa makes King happy, too.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

My very first date. Ever.

I grew up in a small city in Northern California where people all sort of knew each other. The children rode their bicycles to school, the parents planted vegetables in the backyard…you know, the type of place where the locals are at once boastful of their easy-living and organic lifestyle and proud of the education and money that seemed almost a prerequisite for moving into the comforting confines of the city. An expansive university sprawled across over half of the available land for living and served as a constant reminder for all the high school students the preferred progression into adulthood: Above everything else, make sure you get into college first.

So at 17 and in my junior year of high school, I was this never-been-kissed kind of girl (unless you count a throwaway game of “spin the bottle” in the 8th grade) who chose to focus solely on getting straight A’s, scoring high on the SATs, and filling my schedule with useless extracurricular activities like volunteering to shelve books at the library and being the president of the Spanish club who never spoke Spanish, all done in high hopes of gaining admittance into a prestigious college. I had not a clue what I would do in college, why I needed to go, or what my career aspirations would be but my concentrated efforts of preparing myself to be the perfect candidate for any campus of my liking more than occupied my time.

Image source: FFFFOUND!

Sure, my friends were typical teenagers, relentlessly hot for boys and incessant gossipers about the she said and he said kind of topics in our juvenile knowledge of relationships but for me? I never so much thought about boys let alone know what I would do with one if I were ever alone with him, heaven forbid. Expectedly, when I was accidentally asked out on a date by a basketball player in the same grade as me early in my high school career, it seemed only natural for my twin sister, Carly, and best friend, Liz, to tag along even though they were not invited. It took me a while to learn that very rarely do men ever go for the packaged deal when it comes to romantic dating. Unless, I have to add, he is chasing other types of conquests but we won’t get into that…yet.

My entourage and I met up with “date boy” to watch Pearl Harbor at a nearby theater. He gave me a quick hug when he found me at the concession stand and told me he had already gotten me a ticket. Shit, I thought to myself, I guess this means we are really on a date. He also took it upon himself to “set up shop” in the way back of the theater, saving us two seats isolated from the rest of the audience so that I could ask him about the parts of the movie I didn’t understand while not bothering anyone else, or something like that. Unfazed, Carly and Liz paid for their tickets, picked up some popcorn and licorice, and shamelessly plopped themselves a couple of rows in front of us. As the movie started, I sat rigidly like a statue next to Date Boy, my eyes permanently fixed to the humongous screen in front of us, my focus unwavering as if I were wearing blinders.

Date Boy must have noticed my eyes since he expressed unusual concern for my vision, brushing away my bangs for me seemingly every five minutes to make sure I did not miss out on one bit of the Josh Hartnett and Kate Beckingsale scandal. And then he would lean in, whispering something about my hair blocking my “beautiful eyes” and after the nth time I felt his clammy hand beginning to touch my forehead, I turned to him and shrieked, “Please stop it! I just don’t want to kiss you!”

Carly and Liz were never there to watch the movie in the first place, of course, and were completely delighted by the action, or lack thereof, going on behind them. By the time the ending credits rolled, my seat was covered with bits of popcorn and candy they’d thrown at us over the course of the last couple of aggravating hours and to this day, I simply refuse all invitations to watch Pearl Harbor again. Not that people get a hankering to watch Pearl Harbor too often.

The last thing I remember about my first date experience was us, all four of us, awkwardly walking out of the dark theater together and the best parting words I could come up with to Date Boy was “See you later.” Short, not-so-sweet, and disturbingly open-ended, it’s needless to say he never called me again.  Not that I was barricading the family phone waiting for him, either.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Finding out your ex is engaged...on Facebook.

I know the ink is barely dry on a recent post I wrote on how I’ve let Facebook ruin my life but don’t worry, this post isn’t about me. I’m still off Facebook. Woot.

A close friend—we’ll call her B—called me the other day and dropped the OMG-bomb: “I just saw Nick’s new status update and he’s engaged.”

“Wow—congratulations to him! I mean…how do you feel?” I asked, changing my tone midway as I realized the news may not be all that happy for her. Nick, my friend’s high school sweetheart, and B had the type of relationship people write novels about, the kind of sickly sweet fairy tale stories Taylor Swift won Grammys for, the romances we all too eagerly could wait a lifetime for. The “I’m going to search for someone just like you for the rest of my life” kind of love that has the hearts of even the most curmudgeon of people pitter-pattering but like a juicy and tragic daytime soap opera, it didn’t end well.

Photo source: 9gag.

B spent the rest of high school and many years in college dealing with the emotional and physical aftershock of losing her first love recklessly over a stupid fight but now in her mid-20s, she’s doing great with an up-and-coming career in finance and envy-inducing lifestyle. And she’s dating someone new. Someone pretty special to her. Nick was like a faded bad dream from her past so when she saw that he is engaged, she should have been happy for him…right?

“When I saw that, I had to quickly turn off my computer because I felt so weird,” she told me. “I mean, I don’t know how to feel. I was really upset over it, actually, but I shouldn’t be. I know he’s so in love with his fiancé and they seem perfect for each other. And we were just kids when we were together. We would have never worked out anyway.”

“So why does this bother you then?” I wanted to know.

“Maybe because this means he could never be mine again. Maybe he was never mine all along and I just have to let it completely go. But after I turned off my computer, I went over to my boyfriend and just cried. He just hugged me, never asking me why I was so sad like he already knew, and I kept crying. Maybe I was so sad because it wasn’t me. But I didn’t think I wanted it to be me. Maybe it’s hard for me to know Nick has truly moved on, that our ending is real. That after all these years, it's really over now.”

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Making of King Ch. 9

Missed the last chapter? Read it HERE.

Hi Mom…guess what? I’m pregnant. But just a little bit.

The rapid heartbeat of my baby, urgent and strong, gave me some relief that I was choosing to do the right thing—that keeping my baby despite the circumstances was still the better decision for me than doing something else I could possibly never forgive myself for. And that was the story I kept telling my mother when she first found out about my unplanned pregnancy through Instant Messenger. Through an IM conversation because I was sure there was no way I was going to say those words out loud to her. Hi Mom…guess what? I’m pregnant. But just a little bit.

Without hesitation, my mom suggested I get an abortion immediately and move on with my life because Patrick wasn’t the right guy for me. Outwardly, I was disgusted anyone would even think killing my innocent unborn child was the solution for my predicament and I resisted with stubborn determination, determined to continue being pregnant and then figure how to mend the rest of the pieces later. So what if I am 22, unmarried, and knocked up by someone I just almost broke up with? But deep down, at my core and inside my soul, I was ridden with doubt and immense fear that what my parents were saying would prove to be true, that I was making the foolish decision and choosing to make my life harder. That regardless my desire, I would always be bound to Patrick out of necessity from this point forward.

So no sooner did I tell my mom did she don the cap of the Ice Queen, keeping our phone conversations extremely short but sufficient enough to remind me that there is an easier way out. I would beg and beg to talk to my father because maybe he would be more sympathetic towards his dear daughter but at this point he was so distraught over my baby news that he refused to comment, preferring to give me the silent treatment until he had ample time to digest what I had just offloaded on them. Three agonizing days later of calling home, hearing my mom’s voice on the other end, and pleading to put my father on please, my dad finally agreed to talk to me and offer his judgment of the situation.

“I know you very well, Missy,” he said. “And you could never have an abortion. I’ve been talking a lot to my older brother about this and he thinks it would be better for the whole family if we stuck together on this.” Like music to my ears, I silently sung praises to the day my Uncle Wally was born and his rational wisdom, always doled out in a succinct manner, was what traditionally relaxed my father about other child-rearing issues, too.

“Dad, I am so sorry for everything but I have to keep my baby. I don’t care about what anyone else will think and I just have to stay strong for myself,” I explained.

“Well, if you really want to have the baby, then have it. But one way we can prevent people from talking about you is to pretend that the baby belongs to your mother,” my dad proposed in all seriousness.

“What?!?” I was dumbfounded that my parent’s could even think I could like, go into hiding for nine months and then have my mother suddenly emerge from nowhere with her newborn child. “Is this all a problem because other people might look down on me and my family if I have a baby out of wedlock?”

“No, but what you have gotten yourself into could bring a lot of shame into our family. This could give many people weapons to attack you with.”

“Dad,” I tried to suggest, “What if I just marry Patrick? What if before the end of this year we get married and have a real ceremony for us?” If a huge concern for my parents, for everyone, was that I wasn’t married to my baby’s father, then I figured I could just marry him. Carly had originally planted this seed in my head and even though it sounded ludicrous at first, faking that my mother had my baby is even more absurd and I was reaching a breaking point where I needed to bring as much peace into my pregnancy as possible.

I could hardly believe that I had just asked my dad if I should marry Patrick but in the midst of how everything else in my life was spiraling in the wrong direction, marrying Patrick almost seemed like the impetus that would gel things together for me. When I found out I was having his baby, Patrick told me he was not leaving my side, contrary to what I was almost sure he would do, and has been as supportive as any 20-something bachelor could be. And isn’t it every girl’s fairy tale to get married and have a baby? Perhaps not so suddenly and all at once but could it truly all be happening to me right now? Could this possibly have been my destiny all along with Patrick and our baby already written in the stars for me? Yes, maybe. Maybe this is how it was meant to happen to me. Yes.

So Patrick…marry me?

To be continued.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Hawaii pt. 2


Pictures from the beach and our luau. Plus, scroll to the bottom to read about my brush with fame and stardom. Sort of.








I just LURVE the picture below because of how I was able to take it. Patrick, King, and I went to a luau (think kalua pork, poi, Mai Tais, barely dressed Hawaiian guys and gals, partying into the sunset on the beach with a bunch of like-minded tourists...) and after an absolutely gluttonous feast of traditional island food, the luau ended with a fiery show of dancers in huge costumes shaking away to the beat of the heavy drums. Because we were sitting in the back and I wanted better pictures of the show, I stealthily made my way to the front of the stage and snapped away as quietly as I could. Well, this young, MUSCULAR (don't worry Patrick, he wasn't my type), oiled up lad in nothing but a headdress and something to cover up his shlong spotted me and pulled me on stage, kicking and screaming, and MADE me shake my booty and dance with them. UGH not my thing but those few moments in the spotlights, all eyes on me, well...I could get used to this. Or not.

But I did have my camera with me still while I was "dancing" (I put that in quotes because I am sure it wasn't a pretty sight and probably not something that can be qualified as dancing) and got the most up-close-and-personal shot of the show I couldn't have taken any other way. And they didn't even have me wear a coconut bra, much to my relief and Patrick's disappointment.


Lovely Photo - Wordless or Not-So-Wordless Wednesday at Aspire

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Balance, work, and Zen.

I am taking a break from sorting through my Hawaii pictures today since life never fails to pile up when you slip away for a weeklong escape. A million dollar question is how you measure your success as a person and I agree to some degree with Timothy Ferriss that you know you have made it big when you’ve automated your life so much so that you are completely liberated to enjoy all the beauty and thrills of the world without anything back at home depending on your physical presence to keep churning.

Thankfully, my sister Carly is newly (f)unemployed too and has signed on (starting this week) as my assistant, babysitter, dietian, and lifestyle coach. Yes, she does it all—minus changing dirty diapers—and I will try to keep her around for as long as her savings will allow, compensating her with entertainment from my endless vault of not-so-witty jokes and the occasional green fruit smoothie I might blend up for her nourishment. No seriously, having her here now is such a blessing and will give me a little bit of extra time and a good set of second hands to put some order and routine in the homestead.

We also made some goals today on where we would like to see ourselves and what we would like to accomplish by the end of this year just to make sure we are not, you know, enjoying (f)unemployment TOO much, eating embarrassing amounts of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream on the couch, watching Food Network marathon shows, maybe throwing the occasional toy here and there to King as we leave him idling in his play pen. No, us girls would never, EVER do that, now would we?

So here are some personal goals I have for the next three months, some more far-reaching than others but hey, it’s always fun to dream a tad bit…right?

1.    Continue blogging- Like I have attributed over and over again, blogging has been such a welcome addition to my daily routine as a reluctant housewife and keeps me out of trouble. And my teeth brushed.

2.    Continue breastfeeding exclusively- At 4 months, King already weighs 20.5 lbs (his weight no longer fits into a percentile as it is literally off the charts) and is as healthy, happy, and active as can be. At our doctor’s appointment this morning, his pediatrian started talking to me about feeding King solids and supplementing his diet with vitamins but after all the independent research I have done, what I think is best for my family is to keep King breastfed exclusively for as long as we can and have him self-wean when he is interested in what we are eating. And seeing how he made such an ugly face and spit out the fruit I gave him yesterday, I know he is not ready for food yet.

3.     Become a domestic goddess- Or at least aim to cook dinner for Patrick each night. I shamelessly tricked him into thinking I was this supermom and power housewife when we were dating (c’mon, all us girls do that!) and now that we actually have a family together, he is feeling the bait-and-switch real good (or bad). So Patrick, dear, I’m going to (try) to cook and clean more, ok?

4.    Write a book on relationships- HAHAHA yes we can all LOL but I would really like to write more and maybe put something together on love that might actually be cohesive and make some sense. Patrick always pokes fun of me for thinking I am like this old soul who has all the answers in life (because I sure argue like a petty 5-year-old) but you know those people out there who are forever in a predicament in their own lives and yet give the greatest advice on how to live yours? Sadly, I think I am one of those people.

Okay, 4 goals and 3 months. Now off to Whole Foods to grab ingredients for dinner!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Hawaii pt. 1

At a macadamia nut farm. Samples galore!

Hawaii has always been a fantasy dream vacation of mine. Crystal blue water, Mai Tais, tropical weather, ubiquitous hang loose attitude…when I lost my job a couple of months ago, I knew exactly what would inject a little bit of life and energy right back into reluctant housewife ho hum-ness. Patrick and I booked the trip without any real idea on how baby King would fit into our travel plans (or how we would pay this off the credit card, for that matter!) but sometimes you just gotta leap first before taking a look (seems to be the trend in my life, right?).

Stopping to smell the "roses" at the Dole Plantation.

Even though a private bungalow stationed alongside an active volcano on one of the other islands would have been our preference, the majority of visitors flock to Oahu for a reason. Sure, it’s super touristy and you can’t get a decent meal without shelling out at least 25 bucks a head but with its accessibility to transportation, late-night snacking, healthcare, Internet—oh, and diaper changing tables—Oahu fit the bill perfectly.

Flowers at the Dole Plantation.

We took an early morning flight into Honolulu last Monday and immediately upon arrival we already could feel, sense, taste the SLOW lifestyle of choice for the locals. The airport, although decked out with 21st century amenities, seemed like it was straight out of the Brady Bunch era—brown leather, varnished wood, green carpet, yellow-toned everything else—and our taxi cab driver had no issue going 45 MPH on a completely clear freeway. Not to say we were in any rush either, being on vacation and all.

Scenes from our bus tour.

At the top of Pali lookout, King was windswept into a sleepy daze.

That night, poor Patrick fell terribly ill with a mystery bug so I took King for a long walk around our resort. For a little man who doesn’t talk, he nonetheless makes the splendid companion with his juicy legs and ever-expanding jowls. And while I know King still can’t comprehend, let alone remember, any part of this trip, it is seemingly every mother’s lifelong mission to show her children as much of this beautiful world as possible.

It was near impossible to choose just a few water pictures to post since there were so many and I liked them all.

King often opted for some shut-eye time when we were at some of the most spectacular scenic views. Sure makes for one expensive nap!

At a Japanese-style Buddhist temple.

Probably our favorite activity was the island tour we took on Wednesday. A daylong bus ride along the whole coastline, we stopped at many breathtaking viewpoints and saw some of the more "rustic" areas of Oahu that we probably would not have visited on our own. To boot, Patrick and I both had a tremendous arm workout seeing as we couldn’t take the stroller with us and had to carry King for the better part of 9 hours. Whew!



More pictures from the Dole Plantation.

The Hilton Hawaiian Village at night.

Come back tomorrow for beach day and poolside pictures! As depicted below, King quickly learned the wonders a fluffy white bathrobe and cowboy hat can do when it comes to attracting attention of the female variety while sunbathing on the beach. ;-)


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Lost in paradise.


Yep, Patrick, King, and I found ourselves in some form of paradise for the past week. Paradise because we wanted to celebrate our 2-year anniversary, King's 4 month birthday, my (f)unemployment, and...just because. We landed this morning after quite possibly the longest and most dreadful of red-eye flights but we are back in Los Angeles and home never looked so good. Except maybe I could do without the unpaid medical bills, 500+ emails, three loads of laundry that need to be washed, having to pump some backup breast milk for the freezer...ah, I return to the joys of domestic (goddess) life. Speaking of which, during the darkest hour of our flight back, I was bargaining with God and making promises to Patrick that I'll be a better house-wifey from this point forward so we'll see how I, uh, do with that this week.

More pictures of Hawaii to come!




Monday, September 13, 2010

I have a follower.

When I started The real L.A. love story less than two months ago, I had no expectations that anyone could possibly be interested in my life and personal story. My dad even had the tenacity to imply I was “heading in the wrong direction” since most people don’t have the time to read through someone else’s “diary.” But I knew I had to keep a daily account of my new life as a reluctant housewife and mother—if not just to get me out of bed each day to do something, then at least for King to look back on when he is older—and posting in a public space gave me the accountability I desperately needed to keep going. At times I have felt vulnerable putting up pictures and private details from my life and other times empowered that I have this platform to share and exchange stories and experiences with others.

King being all cute with his doting Aunt Carly.

I remember when my blog first went “public” and this tiny icon popped up on my follower’s list. It was my college friend, Sun Min, and he was my very first follower. At the time I was still figuring out the kinks on my blog and even though I wasn’t completely sure what it meant to “follow” someone on Blogger, I knew I had in some measure one reader and it put a huge smile on my face. 40 posts later, I KNOW that many friends, family, and fellow bloggers are reading and I am humbled and so thankful that you check in with me, comment, and give me feedback and advice on my writing and posts. I read every comment, look at every follower’s blog, and wish I could write personal emails to you all.

On that note, I’d like to make a shout out to some of the bloggers who have been so awesome and welcoming from the get-go: Ashley Sisk, Ameena, Pua, Buckeroomama, Life With Kaishon, Ebony, Efrutik, Puna And a couple more new readers who have been leaving me really encouraging comments lately: Debra, Brandi… And a big thanks again to each and everyone of you—the list would go on and on so I will just say I look forward to many days of bountiful stories, discussions, and friendships!

P.S. I am out of town for most of this week and am not sure what the Internet situation will be. Advance apologies for delayed responses…and I can’t wait to show you where we are going!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

I love L.A.


Only in Los Angeles do you spend the day ogling at the gorgeous skyline from the top of the Hollywood Hills, sprinkle in a good helping of vegan Thai food from hipster-central Silverlake, and somehow manage to get yourselves cast as extras in a TV show pilot before the night is over. I am so glad I brought my camera.

My brother Wayne and his girl Lexi came to visit from Northern California.

Refreshed by coconut water and Thai iced tea.

Late-night shopping.

The extras partying it up.

I can't believe I only live a few blocks from here.

They take their work seriously.

Carly was the first to join in on the fun.



A good night out is never complete without a final stop to get Pho. King agrees.


Friday, September 10, 2010

The Making of King Ch. 8

Missed the last chapter of my baby story? Read it HERE.

The last I spoke to my parents I was belligerently crying about how Patrick was every bit the wrong guy for me and how I am completely over it now so I still did not know exactly how to approach breaking my pregnancy news to them. But my brother’s positive reaction was encouraging and I knew I couldn’t keep my secret inside of me any longer so I texted my mom, “Can you go online to chat for a minute?  I have to tell you something” and held my breath.

Deep down, I was truly screaming for my mom to wrap me up in her arms and say “It’s okay. We will get through this.”

“Ok” my mom responded and her chat icon popped up on my screen followed by a little ping letting me know that a new friend was available to talk. I stared at her icon for 30 seconds and then a minute more, my hands too shaky to be able to type anything cohesive to her but the mere thought of a real phone conversation crippled me even more. I felt like I was back in junior high, contemplating ten times over if I should initiate an online conversation with the boy I had been crushing on for weeks and visualizing in my head all the ways in which he would reject me, visualizing all the ways in which my mother would reject, no, disown me. Finally—

Mom: Are you there?

Me: yes.

Me: are you sitting down?

Mom: yes..

Me: i am pregnant.

Mom: you are kidding.


I finished my last sentence in capitalized letters thinking it would somehow disguise how lost I felt in this whole situation but deep down, I was truly screaming for my mom to wrap me up in her arms and say “It’s okay. We will get through this.”

Mom: Is Patrick daddy?

Me: yes.

Mom: get an abortion.

Me: what? I can’t!

Mom: he is the wrong guy for you and you cannot have his baby.

Mom: you are so disappointing.

And just like that, my mom quickly excused herself, saying something about having to entertain her sisters that were in town, and signed off. I let out tears of hurt and anger, hurt that my mom didn’t want to—couldn’t—talk to me more, to take care of me emotionally while I figured everything out, and angry that she would even try to make me get an abortion. I guess I was naïve to think she would be more supportive but my mother, the gentlest and most caring of souls, was always the one who showed compassion when no one else could find it in their hearts to sympathize and forgive. My mother, blessed with the sweetest disposition, always shielded me from my father’s wrath during the bad times in my childhood and was the first person to selflessly give up everything if it meant allowing her children to have the tools they needed to build a better life than she had in exchange. I was so hurt and angry but most of all, I was extremely ashamed that I put myself in a position to give such terrible heartache and embarrassment to my parents and whole family. Regardless of all the progressive 21th century advocates out there who wouldn’t blink an eye at a child born out of wedlock, I was raised with the firm belief that two people fall in love first, get married, and then have a baby.

So while I was already out of love with Patrick, I contrarily discovered in him a new human pulse I had not experienced before and it was just enough to keep me from walking off the deep end.

And I was out of love with Patrick, ready to let go of anything we had and could have had right before I found out about my pregnancy, and I knew the easy thing to do was to not tell anyone about this and just get an abortion. But I also knew that I wouldn’t like myself very much for it, that I would forever be haunted by my unborn first child, that I will obsessively think everyday about the child I didn’t fight hard enough to keep. There were no clear answers at the moment but Patrick, much to my consolation, continued to stay by my side and let me decide on my own terms what I wanted to do with my body, with our baby. So while I was already out of love with Patrick, I contrarily discovered in him a new human pulse I had not experienced before and it was just enough to keep me from walking off the deep end.

That night, he and I watched Juno and Knocked Up to get an idea of what we could possibly be in for. I had seen these movies many times before but now that I was unexpectedly pregnant, I appreciated certain aspects of the movies more, hastily jotting down as many notes as I could about what it’s like having a baby. Patrick could only chuckle at my sorry attempt at educating myself through Hollywood fairy tales and suggested that we go to see a real doctor right away to confirm the pregnancy and make sure everything is healthy. A few days later, we both sat like nervous teenagers in the principal’s office as my physician looked up from her notes, wrote a big plus sign on the front page of my medical history, and said, “Congratulations! You are about six weeks along.”

Congratulations. There, someone had said it again. As if being pregnant were a good thing right now but I just smiled and wanted to know “What next?” She assigned me to a local OB/GYN for the rest of my prenatal care and because Patrick had come with me to this doctor’s visit, I didn’t want him to skip out on more work so I told him I would go to the first OB/GYN appointment myself.  “Don’t worry,” I assured him. “I don’t think you’ll miss much.”

Some three weeks later, I walked into the pristine OB/GYN suite, comfortably decorated in pastel pinks and greens, and a gorgeous young blond at the front desk checked me in.  It was like any other visit to the doctor’s—got weighed, my blood pressure taken, my tonsils tickled—but then this lady in scrubs led me inside a dark room and said, “Are you ready to see your baby?”

“Wait, I’m getting an ultrasound? Right now?” I asked, completely disheartened that I had prevented Patrick from being here with me to catch the very first glimpse of our baby.

“Yep! You can just have your husband come the next time,” she answered as if reading my mind, but No, he’s not my husband thankyouverymuch. I laid down on the fake-leather reclining seat, the material cool against my skin, and the technician stuck some sort of an elongated “camera” up my you-know-what.

“Ahh…ok,” she said slowly as she looked up on the screen. She sort of poked and prodded and then exclaimed abruptly, “There it is! You see it? Your baby…and there’s the head and its itsy bitsy body.” She typed out on her keyboard the part of the “blob” that was the head and the part that was the body and she pointed to the little fins that were the beginnings of little baby arms and legs. I felt something stir in me, maybe my emotions or maybe I was just imagining the baby moving, and seeing my baby for the first time on that screen was everything and nothing like I thought it would be. I didn’t cry with joy like I had hoped and seeing my two-dimensional baby didn’t make anything seem any more real but something changed in the energy in the room. Something changed as if there had been an acute shift in the universe.

“And now,” she said as she pushed on a gray button by her keypad, “Here is the heartbeat.” The room echoed suddenly with the rapid pulse of the blob and she turned up the volume some more. “Wow, that is one fast and strong heartbeat, Missy. This baby is sure eager to live.”

Bump-bump, bump-bump, bump-bump the baby said. I closed my eyes—lost, scared, confused, helpless…and maybe a little excited, too—and drowned in the heavy pulsation of life some more.

Bump-bump, bump-bump, bump-bump…


To be continued.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Sex Sells

The biggest mistakes I've made with my wedding photography business...and how to get people to NOT take you seriously.

Early last year after my twin Carly graduated from college, I convinced her to relocate to Los Angeles and live with me in my tiny one-room studio apartment so she could be my right-hand woman in the wedding photography business I sought out to start. Sure, I'll be the first to admit it was a completely selfish move of me since it didn’t matter that Carly wasn’t all that interested in shooting long 10-hour weddings for a living. This was MY dream and somehow I convinced her it should be hers, too.

It played out perfectly in my head: two energetic, young, and artsy sisters breaking out as the new industry stars seemingly out of nowhere. I already had the equipment, Photoshop know-how, blogging clout...things looked so promising that there was no way this wouldn't work, right? By April, Artemis Clover Photo was ready to open doors for business and take the greater L.A. area by storm.

Completely misguided, our first marketing campaign included pictures of us looking like underage coeds straight out of the Bangkok edition of Maxim. And the bubblegum...really??

People did take notice and we were booking paid gigs but 1.5 years, four corporate jobs, and a baby later, I think it is safe to say we are officially closing this chapter of my life. ACP wasn’t the smashing success I had hoped for and I never made much money doing it but it was a good first effort towards temporarily satisfying my entrepreneurial spirit. We all need that one (or two or three) “failed” business under our belts to truly know what it takes and means to work for yourself (not that anyone will ever have all the answers). And looking back I can say it was a way more entertaining avenue of learning the hard-knocks of business and marketing than any economics class with Mrs. Thompson (shudders just thinking of her) could ever provide.

The SOOC shot was taken with a self-timer in our teensy kitchen.

So what were some of the mistakes (and oh were there PLENTY!) we made?

1. Not charging what we were worth or worse, doing things for free: This is one of those flip-flopped and backwards things in life where the less your brides pay you, the more demanding they are and the less they respect you and your work. I knew what level of service and product I was able to and did provide to my clients but because I didn’t think people would actually pay me what I thought I was worth, I held my prices very low to attract clients. But the ironic thing is it led to people not trusting my artistic vision and professionalism as a photographer because when they’re not paying you much for your services, they don’t know your true value and level of expertise.

2. Apologizing too much or feeling the need to always add a disclaimer: Because we were just starting out and because we were so young, I was constantly putting our business down in my blog and in my interactions with clients and fellow photographers or making sure people knew that we were new to this whole wedding photography business. I guess I subconsciously did that because I was afraid people might actually—gasp—take us seriously and therefore expect us to know exactly what we were doing. It takes business owners years and years and many missteps before they can even have a semblance of confidence in their actions and decisions and everyone has to start somewhere so no one expects you to magically know all the right things to do right away. Being honest about being new to the game is one thing but being overly honest so you don’t have to take responsibility for your slip-ups is just shooting yourself in the foot.

3. Lack of focus or making it hard for people to know exactly who I am and what I am doing: It’s called transparency, folks, and every good business needs to be crystal clear. Your prospects need to know exactly what you can offer them and why you will do it better than everyone else. And they need to know that right away without having to do a lot of sleuthing and investigating on your business websites and blogs to figure out what you are all about. Artemis Clover Photo was neither here nor there (again probably because I was afraid to take ownership that yes, I am a REAL photographer) and I quickly learned that just being semi-cute and flirty ain’t good enough for people to shell over money to ya (unless you are in, uh, a different line of business).

4. Choose your co-fonder wisely: Unless you are insanely gifted in all areas of marketing, money, sales, and client services AND have 28 hours in your day, then you will most likely need someone to partner with to carry out your business venture. You need someone of your caliber or better and someone who possesses different skill-sets than what you bring to the table. And that someone preferably shouldn’t be your twin sister. We are too close as friends and family that we didn’t set boundaries in our day-to-day tasks and often confused what our roles in the business were. On top of that, it is much easier to flake on or push responsibility to a family member than someone you are strictly in business with. So just because you are best friends does not mean you are automatically the perfect work duo. Nope, not at all. (Love you sis!)

5. Expect to fail many times, you will have naysayers, and you’re going to make some costly mistakes: People don’t have successful businesses because they’ve encountered the least resistance. They do well and continue to advance and innovate because they persevere and have already made room for mistakes in their business plan. You need some grit and toughness in business and maybe I just didn’t have enough fire to keep pushing through the challenges that appeared along the way.

I immediately cropped this photo since I know Carly will think her arms are fat otherwise.

Because I am feeling tacky today, I adjusted the highlights/shadow of this picture to give it a cartoonish feel.

I ran an action to make this photo look "aged."

I distorted the picture to make it look like I used a wide-angle lens, lightened everything up, and adjusted the canvas to resemble a Polaroid snapshot. Viola! A picture so wrong in all the right ways.

What can you add to the list? And following my baby story? Next installment is coming tomorrow tomorrow night!
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