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The next list brings me to the topic of a thoughtful gift I’ve received. This was a fairly easy topic to write about, but I had to decide between two thoughtful gifts I’ve received in my life that each hold extremely special meaning. Should I rehash my sentimental story about the white handkerchief (named Tom Hanks-erchief) my dad gave me again? Or should I tell you all about my other sentimental object that also has significant meaning & value in my heart/life? Let’s talk about the latter item, shall we?

Let me begin this blog with a little background information about myself. I’m not much of a jewelry wearing type of person. That’s not to say I don’t wear jewelry at all, but I’m just not the type of person who has to wear jewelry every single day, or have sets of jewelry to match my outfits. I do, though, have a couple of pieces of jewelry that I wear on formal/special occasions, like weddings & dressed-up parties.

I do have a few select pieces of jewelry that I wear on a daily basis, like the platinum & diamond ring Jian gave me for that finger on my left hand, & my grandma’s personal (& custom made) jade bracelet, which has now become too small/tight on my fat wrist. Hey, it was already a challenge to get the bracelet on in the first place. I had two bruises on my hand after I had the bracelet put on, & I’ve gained a bit of weight since I have matured from my early twenties (where I used to be able to wear extra small sized clothing & eat whatever junk I wanted with no immediate consequences).

The one piece of jewelry, however, that holds the most significant meaning in my life. I have a necklace that I wear on a nearly daily basis (except when I’m wearing formal jewelry). I have had this necklace since I was a little girl, approximately 9 or 10 years old. It was given to me by my maternal grandmother, whom I was extremely close to. (Side note: I have kept nearly every gift my grandmother has given me throughout my life.)

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My maternal grandma was one of the most badass persons I have ever personally known, with an Elizabeth Taylor-esque jewelry collection, of course. Like Mz. Taylor herself, my grandmother had a lot of her personal jewelry custom made. I vividly recall one of my most memorable trips with my grandmother was when she took my mom & I on a special trip to Hong Kong. We were there to visit old family friends & former colleagues of my grandmother’s, but we were also there to pick up some custom made jewelry she had purchased, & while we were waiting at the jewelry shop, she casually asked me to pick out a little trinket/charm to put on a necklace chain.

I remember thinking to myself that I shouldn’t pick anything too outrageous, & I was too shy in accepting my grandmother’s enormous generosity. So I ended up choosing a simple gold key. I’m not sure why or how this key stood out amongst all of the other pretty charms, but it was the first design to catch my attention. Of course, my grandma not-so playfully laughed at my overly-simplistic choice (she would’ve chosen something more flashy/substantial for herself), but she bought it for me anyway. I was so incredibly grateful that my grandma would go out of her way to gift me this beautiful, albeit tiny, piece of jewelry. Since that day, I’ve taken considerable care of this charm, cherishing it as well as the memory forever tied to it.

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A couple of years later since that special day in Hong Kong, my mom surprised me with another charm to add to my necklace. She had just finished going on an outing in our city’s Chinatown with her dad, my maternal grandfather (who had long since been divorced from my grandmother). She passed by a local jeweler who was having a flash sale at his jewelry stand, so she decided to pick out a few items, & she stumbled upon a pretty jade charm that she thought would match well on my necklace.

The jade charm doesn’t really have a distinct carved design. Many have studied it, but could not decipher what it’s supposed to look like. I’ve come to the conclusion that the charm is supposed to resemble a rock with clouds swirling around the top & a flower with a single leaf at the bottom corner. With all of the swirled carvings around the majority of the jade, you can’t really tell what the main shape is supposed to be, but you can distinctly see the carved flower at the bottom left corner.

Whoever carved this charm was extremely clever in choosing to carve the flower in the lone green spot on the piece of jade they used to make this charm. Chinese mythology/superstition believes that as your good fortune/good luck increases, the green part of your jade jewelry will become brighter. I don’t think this superstition has any factual merit behind it, but it’s a fun anecdote to pass around & share with your friends for a bit of good humor.

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Lastly, I have one more charm left to talk about on my necklace. This charm holds the most significant meaning to me because my second brother gifted this to me on my & Jian’s special day. My brother is not the type of person to gift someone such a personal & extravagant gift such as this, except for immediate family members (i.e. my mom, my sister, & my sister’s kids) & one of our younger cousins who has a unique brother-sister relationship with my brother…since she doesn’t have any brothers of her own, only sisters.

Ever since I was a little kid, my brother always got me super cool presents for my birthday & Christmas. He always knew what I liked & got me all of the fun stuff, like the newest toys I wanted, or the latest fashion trend. My brother, although he was so much older than me, always cared for me & treated me like I was his favorite little sister (even though he had one annoying middle sister, & another even younger half-sister from his dad’s side of the family).

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I was extremely touched when he gifted me this incredible Oriental red envelope charm on my big special day. To be honest, I didn’t even know these types of necklace charms existed outside of Asian jewelry shops. It was absolutely fitting to receive such an item on that special day, a day where red envelopes are the most appropriate gift to give. Plus, I thought it was so clever & funny to show off how “Asian” our family really are.

This necklace charm that my brother got for me came from Tiffany’s. It’s well detailed, right down to the envelope flaps on the back of the charm, & the front has the simplified Chinese character for the word “lucky” (吉). All in all, it’s a very simple, yet meaningful charm. This charm originally came on an existing necklace chain that was too tight fitting for my neck. At first, I didn’t even think to transfer the charm to my other necklace with the jade & key charms, so I had carefully stored this charm away in my jewelry box.

It wasn’t until this past Lunar New Year’s celebration that I finally decided to take out this charm & wear it on my necklace. In our household, my mom has convinced us all to follow the Chinese mythology/superstition that one must wear something red on their body everyday for the entire year if that year coincides with their Chinese zodiac animal.

With this superstition/myth, it is said that if the new year coincides with one’s zodiac animal, then that person may either face a very difficult year or a very prosperous year. However, if you wear something red every day during that year (i.e. bracelet, nail polish, article of clothing), it will help to ward of any negative energy/bad mojo…but the item has to either be completely red or mostly red. Also according to this superstition/myth, red underwear is the best defense against negative energies/bad mojo. I’m not kidding. I had to wear red underwear everyday for a year once. It’s not as hard to do as one might think. Just head over to your nearest Target or TJ Maxx & snap up a six-pack of cheap red skivvies.

This year just happens to coincide with Jian’s Chinese zodiac animal. So far, everyday he’s been wearing a red bracelet along with the many pairs of red “manties” (a.k.a. man panties) I got him from UNIQLO for Christmas. Although this isn’t my zodiac animal’s year, I have also decided to wear something red, alas my red envelope necklace charm, for the whole year, just to keep any negative energies away.

So far, things have been looking good this year, & both of us are going to continue on this path of warding off any bad mojo as best as we can. We shall see how the remainder of the year plays out for us. So, until the next blog…cheers!

Today’s song of the day:

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I love Christmastime. It’s one of my favorite times of the whole year. Christmas reminds me so much of my late father. He truly loved Christmas, making our house look festive & cheerful, & having friends & family gather around to celebrate together. Christmas was my dad’s most favorite time of year to get our whole family together: grandparents, parents, brothers & sisters, cousins, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, even in-laws. My dad loved having a house overflowing with happy people celebrating & sharing in the joys of family togetherness. Plus, my dad loved spoiling his loved ones with plenty of food, drinks, & gifts for all the little kiddos scampering around the house. That’s probably where I developed my love of giving to others & taking care of others…learning from my dad’s selfless generosity.

Each year at Christmastime, my dad loved having the house decorated, looking colorful & festive. My mom loved it too, but she always dreaded having to put away all of the decorations after the holidays were over. (Who doesn’t dread the massive holiday clean-up?) I also loved decorating the house for Christmas, but my all-time favorite was decorating the Christmas tree. The tree was always the main attraction at our house, & it still is, which brings me to the next topic in my 99 Things That Bring Me Joy journal.

One of my favorite childhood holiday memories was when I was in my teenage years, & my dad would make a big fuss over decorating the house for Christmas. He would load up our family (usually myself, my mom, my dad, & whichever cousin was boarding at our house at that given time) into his minivan, & we would drive to the wholesale flower market in San Francisco. Back then you didn’t need a wholesaler’s/decorator’s license to shop there (unless you wanted to get a discount on bulk items).  There were a few decorating supply warehouses that would be packed to the gills with every Christmas decoration & novelty item you could possibly think of.

My dad loved taking us to these shops during the holidays, so we could all pick out new ornaments for our tree & decorations to liven the house. There were a couple of Christmas holidays where we would buy entirely new sets of tree ornaments to create a different theme/color-scheme each year. One time we decorated the whole tree in plastic, metallic musical instruments (i.e. trumpets, saxophones, drums, guitars, etc.) & music notes. My cousin & I had a fun time decorating the tree in all of these wacky ornaments. The next year, my mom chose the theme of our Christmas tree, & she decorated the tree in a pastel Victorian theme with lots of ribbons/bows, angels, plastic violins & harps, along with papier mâché hearts.

Picking out tree ornaments was a big deal in our household. However, over the years, we stopped shopping for plastic ornaments at the wholesale flower market. We now prefer to pick & choose ornaments that are more durable/long-lasting, a higher quality, & have thoughtfulness & meaning. My parents are the super “bougie” kind of shoppers, & will only buy Christmas decorations (mainly tree ornaments & decorative candles) at places like BloomingdalesCrate and Barrel &/or William-Sonoma. As for myself, if I see a holiday tree ornament that I like, I will spend an unnecessary amount of time, pacing back & forth mulling over whether or not I will get it. Then, after a lot of complaining from Jian, & a lot more internal back-&-forth thoughts in my mind, I will end up buying said ornament.

I’m not quite sure exactly how many Christmas tree ornaments we actually have. I haven’t counted them all, but I can safely estimate that we have a crap load amount. I had to buy three jumbo sized ornament storage containers from The Container Store, & with my super amazing organization & compartmentalization skills, I’m pretty sure I’ve been able to fill each box with triple its designated capacity. Organizing & compartmentalizing (to the point where I often forget where I’ve stored things) is probably my biggest & proudest skill to date.

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an example of the storage containers we use for Christmas decorations

Since my dad’s passing, I’ve taken it upon myself to head up the Christmas decorating department. My dad always loved to shop for Christmas gifts & decorations around this big holiday season, & I suppose this trait has very much rubbed off onto me. I also love to give gifts & shop for Christmas decorations…mainly tree ornaments. It is a fun tradition that keeps me forever linked to the memory of my dad during the most festive & cheerful time of the year.

Oh, & just a little side note… our Christmas tree is fake. Yes, it’s a plastic fantastic (& metal) contraption that we have to make a big to-do about each year, but we love it nonetheless. It’s always a pain to set-up & take down our tree, but it’s just one way we’re doing our part as a family to conserve environmentally. Well, to be honest, we mainly decided to switch to a faux tree because my dad & I are both severely allergic to pine trees (especially freshly cut ones with tree sap & pine needles aplenty). My dad hated having to put the tree on a tree stand, which always made the tree crooked no matter how much adjusting we did, & that annoyed my mom, who liked everything in our home to look Architectural Digest Magazine-ready at all times, especially during the holidays when we hosted many parties. As for me, I hated always being delegated to keep the water tray on the tree stand full, which was an extremely difficult task for a child who was prone to spilling things & inadvertently making messes everywhere. Let’s just end this part by saying I got more water outside of the tray than inside, & that got me in trouble with my mom more often than not.

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our now famous Xmas tree

I love keeping my dad’s tradition alive every year by adding something new to our overly-decorated Christmas tree. Both my mom AND Jian think I go overboard on decorating our tree each year, but I think it’s quite lovely & definitely necessary. Our annual Christmas tree is an absolute statement piece whenever someone  new walks into our home, or during the time when we host our annual Christmas party extravaganza. Yes, it’s a huge pain in the ass to carefully pack away all of the decorations at the end of the year, but it is all worthwhile as long as I get to keep my dad’s memory & tradition going for all of the family to enjoy together. We’ll just have to wait & see how our tree will be decorated this year. Until next time, cheers!

Today’s song of the day:

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I am chugging along on my 99 Things That Bring Me Joy list train. This next stop brings me to the list of my oldest friend. Growing up, I didn’t have a large group of friends. I was an extremely shy child; so shy to the point where I spent a majority of my Kindergarten year of school cowering in the corner by the door of the classroom. I was so extremely shy & frightened to sit along with my classmates, that I spent the entire class period sitting in the corner between the front door & a table, doing & saying absolutely nothing the whole time. At the urging of my teacher (who was very gentle & kind), my parents tried to encourage me to engage with my fellow classmates, but like I always did when I was that scaredy-cat, little tyke, I bawled my eyes out. (I was an easy crier when I was a little kid.)

It wasn’t until I met a girl in my Kindergarten class who broke me out of my shell, & we became fast friends. Her family came all the way from Japan, & we were both two shy little girls with runny, sniffling noses who were both extremely into Hello Kitty & other cute Japanese things.

I don’t quite remember the details of how the two of us met or became such close friends in such a short amount of time, but we built a close friendship rather quickly. Since this girl came from one of the rare Japanese families to move into our neighborhood, both of our families bonded fast. I don’t know how, but my dad knew all of the Japanese speaking neighbors in our immediate neighborhood, & all of the moms got to know each other very well.

When we first met this family, my dad was thrilled to interact with a fellow neighbor who was also born & raised in Japan, someone he could freely speak Japanese to, who understood him. That’s how both of our dads became fast friends. Both of our moms also became good friends, with my mom teaching my friend’s mom how to speak English. My friend’s mom, in turn, taught my mom all about Japanese culture, & my mom was also able to pick up a few Japanese phrases here & there. I remember my friend had two older brothers who pretty much kept to themselves whenever I would hang out at their house, but like in true sibling nature, both brothers found us girls to be annoying (even though we never really bothered them).

I was super sad when my friend had announced after three years of living close by that her family was moving back to Japan. At that time, I had no idea what was going on or why my friend was all of a sudden moving back to Japan. Back in those days, especially when you’re a little kid, you never heard of the work-abroad program that was so popular in Japan. Big-time companies would send selected employees to work overseas for a maximum of three years, to build work experience & learn more about foreign business. My friend’s dad had come to the United States for his company’s work-abroad program, & the whole family moved to my neighborhood. I got to know this girl through school, & my parents got to know their family through all of the times we would spend at each other’s houses on play dates.

Ever since my friend had moved back to Japan, we have kept in touch over the years. We send each other greeting cards with letters written inside. I’ve traveled to Japan to visit her multiple times, & once stayed overnight at her parents’ (gorgeous & substantial) house in Tokyo. She has come back to visit the Bay Area a few times & take a walk down memory lane, checking out our old school grounds & passing by the house she once lived in.

A lot of time has passed between us, but we still keep in touch. My fondest memory was when my parents had planned a huge family reunion in Japan, & they had extended the invitation to my friend & her parents (her brothers were both studying & working abroad at the time). All of my extended family members came out, & we packed an entire Italian restaurant with our reunion group. My oldest brother (who is my dad’s first biological child) with his wife & two daughters were part of our travel group, along with my brother’s best friend (with wife & two daughters). My dad was extremely generous to invite my brother’s friend with his family to join us on our family reunion trip. It was so much fun interacting with my extended family & all of our friends.

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Here is a photo of my friend & I with our moms during my family’s huge reunion party circa 2006.

All in all, I am very thankful to call this girl my friend. We have both grown up so much from our days of sniffling noses & playing with Hello Kitty toys, but we’ve definitely stayed good friends throughout our time apart. There was another girl that I met in primary school after this friend had moved away, & we also became fast friends. We went through a shit ton of ups & downs (mostly downs), but I will leave that whole can of worms for a different blog post. I want this post to be happy & upbeat. So until the next time, cheers & T.G.I.F.!! (I really need a break this weekend.)

Today’s song of the day:

 

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