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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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In my 99 Things That Bring Me Joy journal, I have reached list number 7: listing your closest relatives. I find this list a bit hard to write about, as I have complicated relationships with some of my closest (DNA-wise) relatives. I have a good relationship with practically everyone in my family, including my 90-year old grand-uncle & 96-year old grand-aunt (both siblings of my maternal grandmother). However, in regards to my immediate family, our family dynamic is quite strained/tense.

If I had to make a definitive list based on who I believe are my closest relatives, well, I would definitely put my mom at the very top of my list. I have a wonderful relationship with my mother that continues to flourish every day, even as she lives with Jian & me. I wouldn’t exactly say that my mom is my “best friend” because I believe in parent-child boundaries, but we are extremely close & talk to each other about every subject under the sun.

When I was growing up, I feared my mom so much. She was an extremely strict disciplinarian, who had no qualms with disciplining me in public. I would often get myself into trouble, doing things my mom had specifically told me not to do, & that’s when my mom would really lay down the law…not with time-outs, or sitting in the corner, but with physical punishments (nothing severe, just basic spankings & light paddling with a thick/hard hairbrush). I had ultimately feared my mom’s strict discipline as a child, but grew to appreciate it as an adult, turning what would be perceived as punishment into a learning lesson.

On the flip side, I was super close to my dad when I was a very young child, but as I got older, I would often clash with my dad & we would get into arguments both small & extreme. My teen years living with my dad was especially tenuous. I was going through puberty, & wanted to be like my peers with more lenient parents who let them stay out late & drive to the big city, & go to music concerts. My parents, my dad especially, wouldn’t let me even hang out at a friend’s house on a school night, even though most of my friends lived on the same street as I did. So, that led to more than a few clashes with my dad, but eventually, I learned to stop fighting against my dad’s words, & start to listen to his words more. Gradually, as I further grew into adulthood, I became even closer to my dad, & we built a bond I will treasure forever even though his life was cut short.

I would then say, after listing my parents, that Jian would be the next closest in terms of relationships. He is my absolute most best friend in the entire world, & there is nothing in the world that could break that bond. Jian & I talk about absolutely everything, from internet memes, to our individual hopes, dreams & fears, all the way to bowel movements & flatulence.

Yes, at one point, Jian used to call me every day at work while he was making his morning deposits in the lavatory, & I would sometimes do the same to him, & we would often joke around that we should send each other photos of evidence, a la the “pics or it didn’t happen” meme. THAT is how close we are…resorting to talking about poop. However, aside from our easy banter, we also talk to each other about personal issues, life goals, & everything in between. I don’t even have girl-friends who I can talk to this freely. Jian truly is one-of-a-kind.

And then the next up on my list would be my two older brothers. It’s been a strange & difficult journey, since there is such a huge age gap between the three of us. My oldest brother is 17 years older, & my second oldest brother is 9 years older, but we have grown closer over the years, & we communicate with each other regularly.  It’s a bit difficult to keep in touch with my brothers, as the oldest has a family of his own to take care of (his two daughters are already out of university & into the working world), & my other brother lives in Southern California, but we still call & text each other regularly, & I will always cherish the memories I have of my brothers helping to taking care of me & playing games with me when I was growing up.

Here’s where things get a bit sticky-icky-icky. I do have an older sister, but things between my sister & the rest of our family is extremely strained. Due to many personal circumstances that have occurred throughout our lives, tension has continued to build over the years, & many unresolved issues have resurfaced to become obstacles blocking the path to our family’s unity. We still keep in touch with my sister, albeit limited to her terms, & we try to maintain a close relationship with her two children (my beloved 11-year old nephew & 9-year old niece), but when we get together as a family, the tension boils to the surface, & things spiral out of control. So, we try to keep things on my sister’s terms, in order to placate her hair-trigger temper & to “keep the boat from rocking”.

I’d love to build a closer relationship with my sister. We did not spend a lot of time together when we were growing up. My sister is 6 years older than I am, & when we were growing up she was always steps ahead of me: liking boys, wearing makeup, hanging out with friends. By the time I would reach a certain age, she would already be much older & had moved on to more mature things, which always left me doing things by myself while my sister would be going out with her friends. So that left me with no older sister figure for me to look up to at home.

We never got a chance to build a relationship when we were growing up, & it became even more difficult as we got older, since my sister moved out of the house as soon as she graduated high school & went off to university, never looking back. I had thought we were building our relationship once my sister became a mother, since our whole family centered around her & her kids, but our relationship became strained when I started getting closer to her children, & she thought that was totally inappropriate for an aunt to be so close to her nieces & nephews. Ever since that notion crept into her mind, things between us have not been the same. Our relationship has now devolved into one developed out of her paranoia, & my walking on egg shells around her while trying to placate her…unsuccessfully, to her chagrin.

Overall, things just are what they are. We are all trying to make the best of our situations, & getting by one day at a time. I am so happy & grateful that I have a wonderful & supportive family surrounding me, with three awesome nieces & one cool nephew. We’ll just have to wait & see what happens next. Until next time fam, cheers!

Today’s song of the day:

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