Tag Archives: family

Books and Roses (or A Day By USC)

When I thought I would be having surgery last week, I was trying to figure out fun things for my parents to do. I knew they wouldn’t want to be in the hospital with me all day long, so I was looking up what events were happening in LA while they were here. And the one that stuck out to me was the LA Times Festival of Books.

At first, I was so sad because I thought I would end up missing the Festival of Books. But of course, there was nothing I could do about that. But then when the surgery got cancelled, I was so happy because that meant that going to the festival was something I could do! So this past Sunday, we decided to go spend the afternoon there.

Both my mom and dad went with me and we had the dog with us as well. And since parking is so expensive near USC, we took the light rail (where it turns out my parents are senior citizens and the ride only costs $0.35!). Tucker is very good with traveling, but this was his first light rail experience. He didn’t love it, but he was really well-behaved and just sat on the floor by our feet. I don’t think a lot of people on the train even knew we had him with us. But the Metro employees loved him!

I told my parents that the festival was pretty big, but I don’t think they understood how huge it is! The last time they were at USC was when my brother graduated college there and I don’t know how much of the campus they had explored before. So I think they were a bit overwhelmed by the crowd there (so was the dog). But we just tried to go up and down the various sections and casually checked out the booths. We didn’t go into too many booths, but we did make a stop at the LA Public Library booth.

I’m a huge book nerd and was spending so much on books until I rediscovered my love for the library. And now I’m getting so many library books for my Kindle. I’m saving hundreds of dollars a month on books and I love that I can support the public library system. It’s so important and I don’t think enough people take advantage of what they can get there.

After being at the festival for a while, the crowds were getting to be a bit too much. So we headed across the street to the Rose Garden to see how all the roses were looking.

Since we had so much rain this past winter, everything was in bloom! The past few times I had been at the Rose Garden it wasn’t looking so great, but this time it was pretty full with flowers. The fountain in the center wasn’t going (maybe to still conserve a bit of water), but it was still so nice walking around checking out all the flowers.

My dad knows so much about roses and plants so he could almost name all of the types of roses in the garden without looking at the sign saying the name of the variety of roses. But there were some that we didn’t know and the names were a bit crazy. It was nice getting to just relax and walk around. It’s so pretty there and of course Tucker was loving all the smells all over.

It was a pretty warm and sunny day so after walking around a bit it was time for us to go back to the light rail station and take the train back. Tucker was much more comfortable on the train this time and he looked like he might fall asleep on the ride. And again, I don’t think a lot of people realized that he was with us so that’s a sign of a pretty obedient dog.

I’m so glad that I was able to make it to the LA Times Festival of Books. It really is a great event and I wish I could have spent more time there. Maybe next year I can go on both Saturday and Sunday so I can see even more of what there is there and hopefully learn about a ton of new books that I want to add to my reading list.

LA Staycation (or Hanging Out With Family and Friends)

Normally, I try to keep myself pretty busy. Between work, workouts, acting, and having a social life my calendar can get full. And when I have downtime, sometimes I stress out that I should be doing more and I don’t feel like I’m really enjoying some free time. I don’t get to take vacations that often because I don’t have the money to do it and I don’t have paid time off. So I’m pretty much in a routine in my life in LA.

I’ve been joking for a while that my vacation this year was going to be the time in the hospital after surgery. I knew that while I was in the hospital I would have no responsibilities and wouldn’t have to worry about what I should be doing. And then when surgery got cancelled, I started to look at my schedule again to try to get things back to normal. I’m not taking that much time off of work because I want to save the banked hours for future things. But I did take a few days off since my parents are here in LA for the week (they couldn’t cancel their trip when my surgery was cancelled so they decided to have a low-key trip here).

Most of the time that my parents have been here, we’ve been doing a lot of lazy stuff. And honestly, all that lazy stuff has been perfect with me. I’m not working most of the days they are here (I did work on Saturday since my shift was done at 11am) so we have the entire day free. And we did try to make some plans with family and friends so my parents could take advantage of their time in LA. They usually aren’t here for more than a day or two so this was a rare trip for them as well.

On Thursday (what would have been surgery day), we drove out to the valley to see my dad’s friend. He and my dad have been friends since they were kids and my dad tries to see him when he’s in LA but he doesn’t always have time. My dad’s friend is very into gardening and succulent plants and has been getting ready to various garden clubs to come over to his house for a plant tour. So we got to see the rehearsal for the tour and check out all the amazing plants that he has in his yard. His garden is almost nicer than some of the huge ones around LA so it’s pretty incredible.

My dad’s friend also has a dog that Tucker loves. I don’t think their dog, Sunshine, loves Tucker as much as Tucker loves her. But that seems to be the case with a lot of dogs. Tucker just wants everyone to love him at all times and doesn’t understand why other dogs or people aren’t the same. But the dogs get along enough so we took them out for a walk and to a park so they could run around a bit. And when they both got tired, they were relaxing near each other nicely and seemed to be getting along more than they were at the beginning of the visit.

On Friday, we had lunch with some of my mom’s cousins. I hadn’t seen these cousins since I went to Passover a few years ago so it was great to get to see them again. We went to a restaurant near the rental house my parents were staying in, and while the food was ok the service was pretty awful. Servers were bringing food over to our table before we even ordered and nobody could remember what drinks went to which table. I think we were offered drinks every few minutes and they were never ours (it also took them like 15 minutes to get my mom an iced tea). I’m glad that we had a nice visit with family and that the bad service at lunch didn’t bring us down.

Most of the rest of the time on Friday was spent with taking the dog to a few different dog parks. He loves going to dog parks and there are some really nice ones in LA. We have been really liking the ones in Playa Vista because they aren’t just dirt like the one near my house. There’s one dog park that is bark and the other is fake grass. Both were really nice and had some fun dogs for Tucker to play with. I don’t get to hang out with Tucker that often, so just watching him at a dog park is a nice treat for me.

I’ll write more about what we did on the second half of their time here in another post, but I’m glad the time that I was expecting to be in the hospital were spent doing much more fun things. We didn’t have anything planned at first but we were lucky that we were able to get some plans organized pretty quickly so we could do some nice things while my parents are here. I know that they probably won’t do a long LA trip again soon unless there is a specific reason (like if I do have surgery eventually), so I’m taking advantage of having them here for a while without anything that we have to do.

Celebrating Not Having Surgery (or Getting To Have Some Family Time)

Today was supposed to be my surgery day. I had planned out blog posts to write while I was going to be in the hospital and how to document my recovery the best way possible. I think I’m still in a bit of shock that the surgery was cancelled and that I’m not going to have to worry about all of that right now. There is still a chance I will be having surgery in the future, but unless something crazy happens soon it won’t be for at least another 6 months or so.

My entire family did so much planning to make sure that they would be able to help me as much as possible through surgery and recovery. While most of my family wasn’t going to be able to be in LA with me, my parents made plans to come to LA for a week to help me get through everything. My parents have come to LA in the past to take care of me after I’ve had surgeries, so I expected that they would do the same this time. But I’m still aware how lucky I am that my parents have the ability to come here to help me out when I need it.

Since the surgery was cancelled, a lot of things have changed but one thing hasn’t. My parents are still going to be in LA with me for the week. I don’t think my parents have ever spent a week with me in LA outside of taking care of me after a surgery, so this will be pretty cool. We are slowly filling our calendar with some fun things that we’ve been wanting to do so we can enjoy this weeklong hangout. I’m going to take a few days off of work since I banked so many hours so I can spend a lot of time with them. But I’ll also be working a little bit as well so I still have some hours saved if I need them in the future.

I think it will be pretty great getting to have this week with my parents here. Normally when they are in LA, they are only here for a day or so and we are pretty busy doing things. They haven’t really met any of my LA friends. But now, they will have a chance to meet all the people I hang out with (and blog about) while they are here. I think it will be pretty cool to get to have everyone meet each other. And my dad is going to join me for an Orangetheory workout too! He usually only does the Thanksgiving workouts, so this will be a nice bonus for him.

I will also be going to San Diego with my parents to visit my grandma. I won’t be in San Diego as long as originally planned (since I won’t be recovering with my parents and I want to work a bit), but I will get to spend a nice weekend with them. It will be much more relaxing this way than it would have been if I was in pain from surgery.

I just wanted to say thank you again to all of you who prayed for my tumors to shrink or put some awesome tumor shrinking thoughts out there. Since I shared the news that my surgery was cancelled, I got so many amazing messages on social media and emails telling me congratulations and how they were so happy for me. I’m so grateful that you all care about me and my health and that you were as excited about my news as I was!

While I won’t be blogging about surgery or recovery now, I’m glad I’ll have much more interesting things to share with you all in the coming weeks. I’m working on getting my social calendar filled up again since I was planning on taking time off. And so far, the things I think will be coming up are going to be so much fun and just a continuation of celebrating not needing surgery today!

Full Thanksgiving Week (or Lots Of Family Time)

I feel like I’m still decompressing from my Thanksgiving week. It was such a great week and even though it was the same length as most of my Thanksgiving trips, I felt like I got more family time this year than I have in the past.

I was able to get my work shifted to be a bit earlier during Thanksgiving week, so I could start my drive to San Diego 2 hours earlier than normal. That made a huge difference in my drive since I ended up missing the big rush of traffic and was able to get down to San Diego in about 2 1/2 hours (normal for me is 2 hours and last Thanksgiving was over 4). My drive got a bit delayed when I was almost to the rental house when I got pulled over by a cop. Turned out my loaner car from the mechanic didn’t have the current registration sticker on it! It took some time for the cop to write the ticket, but since I’m not the owner of the car it isn’t my ticket.

Even with the time spent waiting for the ticket, the drive was easy and fast and once I got to the rental house I relaxed. I felt like I was totally in vacation mode and the view we had from the house really helped.

first-sunset

And Tucker decided to make himself very comfortable by using me as his personal pillow. At least I know he loves me since he was always laying on my legs if I was on the ground or on my feet if I was sitting in a chair.

tucker

The day I arrived, we didn’t do too much. Most of us had gotten to San Diego that day, so we were fine with relaxing and not rushing around. My parents, brother, sister-in-law, and I went out to dinner that night which was nice since we were going to be around a ton of family the rest of the week.

On Wednesday of Thanksgiving week, I had to work from the rental house in the morning. There was a breakfast bar in the kitchen so I worked from there. It was a bit noisy, but it allowed me to still hang out with my family while I was working. I didn’t want to isolate myself so it worked out nicely! After my shift was done, I went with my dad to take the dog to a dog park (he needed to get out some energy). It was another pretty low-key day until dinnertime. We all headed over to my aunt’s house for dinner that night. Almost the entire family was there (we were only missing 1 person) and it was awesome!

It was a casual dinner which was nice. I ended up at a table with my brother, sister-in-law, cousin, and my cousin’s kids (so we were at a kids table), but that was fine. Eating dinner was pretty quick and most of the time we were there was spent in the living room talking. I was telling my grandma how you can look up census paperwork online and showed her how I found the paperwork her parents (my great-grandparents) filled out when she was little. Their maid was listed on their paperwork since she lived there and my grandma was telling us all stories about the maid and her parents. It was a really special thing to get to hear  since we don’t know a ton of stories from when my grandma was growing up.

Thanksgiving day was pretty busy. My morning included the family workout at Orangetheory (which is quickly becoming one of my favorite traditions!) and then I was trying to help out my mom with getting dinner ready. A lot of stuff was done in advance but there was still plenty to do the day of. One of my jobs was to help with the big table we were using, but unfortunately even with all of the muscle in the family, we weren’t able to get the extra leaf in the table. But we managed to get everyone in between the main table and a card table (for the little kids), so it worked out well.

table

On Thanksgiving Day, my cousin Adam and his girlfriend arrived and with them there we had the entire family at Thanksgiving for the first time in a very long time! It was a very full dinner, but it was incredible to have 17 people from 4 generations together.

img_1499

This was also the first time in 6 years that the 5 of us in my generation (my cousins, brother, and I) were all together. I’m hoping this will be happening more often, but we had to get a photo together just in case it is a few more years before we can do this again.

cousins

The day after Thanksgiving, I had to work a full shift for work. I was able to get my hours shifted early again, so I only had to work from 8am-1pm. And I worked in the kitchen so I was spending time with my family in between customers (we didn’t get a ton of people calling or using our chat system so there was a lot downtime). My brother and sister-in-law left to go back to Santa Barbara while I was working, but everyone else was going to be coming back to the house for dinner again that night.

That last night in San Diego had another incredible sunset and my mom and grandma pulled some chairs over to the big windows so they could relax and watch the sun go down. We also tried to see the green flash with the sunset, but it was a bit too cloudy.

family

After having leftovers for dinner, I got back into my loaner car to make the drive back to LA. It would have been nice to spend another day in San Diego, but I really needed to get back. I said goodbye to everyone (a lot of them I might not see again until next Thanksgiving) and made the drive back up. Fortunately, I had a very easy drive (and didn’t get pulled over again) and was home in time to unpack before needing to go to bed.

Overall, it was a pretty wonderful Thanksgiving week. I know that I’m so lucky that my family can get together like this and I’m very grateful that we all make the effort to continue this family tradition.

Thanksgiving Workouts (or Continuing A Tradition)

This past week of workouts included some in LA and 1 in San Diego. It’s pretty much a once a year occurrence that I work out somewhere other than my Brentwood Orangetheory, but it was awesome to get to work out with my family in the middle of the week.

My workout on Monday was in LA and it was an endurance day. We had a lot of long push paces but I pushed myself a lot. I was preparing to work out with my dad and I wanted to make sure I was in the best running shape possible. For the 3 minute pushes, I did my 1 minute intervals. For all the pushes that were 2 minutes or under, I ran the entire time. We also had a progressive push for 4 minutes where we were supposed to get faster every minute. I know I can’t really run for 4 minutes yet, so I set up my own intervals. I did 90 seconds of running, 30 seconds of walking, and 90 seconds of running to get through that long segment. And when we had a 1 minute all out, I decided to go really fast to see what I would be able to get for my distance in class. And to find out I did 2 miles again was a nice confidence boost!

2-miles

For the floor on Monday, we had 2 blocks. And each of those blocks started with a 750 meter row. That’s a pretty decent distance to row and I knew it would be tough. But I still wanted to go as quickly as I could to see what I was able to do. I managed to get them done in 3:37.6 and 3:26.7 which isn’t bad at all! We also had a lot of arm work including chest presses and flies and using the straps to do rows and bicep work. By the end of the class, I felt pretty prepared for my Thanksgiving workout with my family.

My next workout was on Thanksgiving at the Orangetheory in La Jolla. As usual, my dad was able to join me (one of my aunts was supposed to come for the 3rd year, but she was dealing with some injuries that prevented her from working out). My aunt who came for her first class last year was also with us. My brother came back after missing the workout last year. And my cousin and sister-in-law were there for the first time! We had a pretty large group and our experience levels were a big range, but I was so excited about it. I think my cousin and sister-in-law were both a little nervous (and having me explain the workout wasn’t making it better), but I think everyone was happy that we were doing something to help burn off the calories we’d be eating later.

This workout was a 3G (or 3 group) workout like it is every Thanksgiving. We were able to start on the treadmill and it was an 8 minute distance challenge. My dad and I were on treadmills next to each other, but I knew he could go farther than I could since he can run pretty well. But it was cool to have my dad next to me since this was the first time he was getting to see me run. I did 2 minutes of running with 1 minute of walking for my intervals and I managed to get .6 miles done in those 8 minutes.  We were back on the treadmill one more time and we had a 5 minute block with pushes and all outs. Each segment was 90 seconds or under, so I was able to run the entire time for those.

We also had a bit of a partner workout between the rower and the floor. The people on the rower were rowing for distance while they waited for their partner on the floor to tag them out. On the floor, we had to do squats, squat half swings, and push ups. Because of how the partnering worked, none of my family was partnered with each other. But that might have been for the best because then we didn’t have to be mad at each other for taking too long to tag us out. On the other half of the partner workout, I didn’t end up having a partner (it wasn’t a full class). So we had 1 minute row sprints and then went over to the floor to do shoulder pressed, one leg deadlifts (I did them one-legged but held on with one hand) and more push ups.

For the end of the workout, we had 5 minute rotations where the rower was quick pushes and on the floor we did some plank work. It wasn’t an easy workout, but it wasn’t the worst I have done. But for my family who isn’t used to the pace or pattern, I know it was a bit tough on them. But fortunately everyone had a great time (my sister-in-law even said that she would join Orangetheory if there was one in Santa Barbara for her to go to) and I think that everyone will be joining us again for the workout next year.

And as always, we had to get a photo as a family with our coach. We had someone different this year (the past 2 years we happened to have the same coach each time), but this guy was awesome! I hope he will be our coach next year!

family-otf

We also got a silly picture after the workout. There had been an ongoing joke about if my brother would get sick from pushing himself too hard in the workout this year, so in the silly picture he is pretending to throw up (he’s hidden behind my dad’s arm).

silly-otf

I got back from Thanksgiving late on Friday, so my next workout in LA was on Saturday morning after work. It was a strength day and I was pretty glad for that. I was a bit tired from Thanksgiving and was happy to have a lot of walking during the treadmill time. But it ended up not being a standard strength treadmill day. We had 3 blocks on the treadmill and each started with a 90 second push pace at no incline. I ended up running for all of those. Then we had our hill climbs. Those ranged from 3 minutes to 90 seconds and I walked at an incline between 8-12% for all of those. Then we ended each block with an all out pace (between 30-90 seconds) and it was at a 4% incline. Normally, I wouldn’t run those, but I figured I’d try it because 4% is my walking flat road. Running at 4% isn’t easy, but I was able to do it and I’m glad that I tried.

On the floor, the first block was more focused on arms. We had push ups with weighted rows plus bicep curls (I was using 20 pounds for the bicep work) We also had some ab work in that first block. In the second block, we had lunges plus some strap work and then rowing. The rowing was between 300-400 meters so it was more like a sprint than some of my rowing in the beginning of the week. I was glad that I chose to do a workout on Saturday because it really helped me to get back into my normal schedule after being out-of-town for a few days. And I also knew I ate a bit more than normal over Thanksgiving so I wanted to make up for that.

For the next few weeks of workouts, I don’t think I have anything too crazy going on. There is a contest at my Orangetheory where you have to do 15 workouts in 6 weeks, so I know that should happen for me (if you get that done, you win tickets you can use for various drawings for prizes). I’ve heard there is a sprint dri-tri coming up, so I’m going to look into that and see if it fits with my schedule. But mainly I’m just going to keep doing what I’ve been doing to make sure I end 2016 better than I started it!

The Rest Of My Maryland Trip (or More Family Time)

While the main event of my trip to Maryland was the family reunion, I also had all day Sunday there to spend with everyone. I started my day on Sunday with breakfast at Maria’s Love Point with my mom, dad, brother, and sister-in-law. I can’t speak highly enough about Maria’s Love Point. My family were the only guests there so we had some really personalized attention. We had such an amazing breakfast every day and they asked us what we liked so they could make us things we would want. Every breakfast was fantastic and I’m just glad I didn’t gain a ton of weight from the trip!

After a relaxing breakfast at the B&B, we got into the car to head over to my Aunt Susan’s house where most of the family was gathering for breakfast and family time. It was a pretty short drive from where we were staying to her house, so everyone who was there was still there when we arrived. This was the first time I had seen my aunt’s house, so I got a quick tour from my dad and then spent the rest of my time there hanging out with my cousins.

I really was just so grateful that I’ve gotten to know my cousins as adults. I’ve had the privilege with my cousins on my mom’s side, but I see them every year. It’s not really possible for me to go back east every year or for my cousins to come to CA every year so our time together is really special to me. My cousin Danny is working on his PhD right now and he and I got into some really smart conversations. He sent me a couple of papers he’s worked on and while I knew he was smart I had no idea that he was that smart!

My conversation with my cousin Rachel, Alisa, cousin Janis (Rachel and Leah’s mom) and my mom was actually about childbirth and all the craziness that goes with it. I was the only one in the conversation without kids, but it was still fun hearing everyone’s stories. I’ve heard my birth story from my mom a couple of times, but it was fun watching my cousins listening to it and having their stories to share too. And while we had that conversation, everyone was taking a turn with Alisa and Danny’s brand new baby Hendrix (he was only a few weeks old). Everyone wanted to hold him because he’s just so cute, and finally I got my turn.

Hendrix

I’m so happy that I got to meet Hendrix, but I’m sad because I have no idea when I’ll see him (or Sebastian, his older brother) next. I’ve already been bugging Alisa and Danny that they need to come out to the west coast for a trip, so hopefully they will come visit soon!

After a few hours at my Aunt Susan’s house, it was time for us all to leave. My family headed back to the B&B where it was so hot out that the only thing we could think to do is to get back into the pool.

At The Pool

As you can tell from my photo, I got a bit of a sunburn while in Maryland. Only the parts of my body that were out of the pool (including my knees) got burnt and thankfully the sunburn is starting to fade now. I tried my best to protect my skin but I’m wondering if the humidity affected how the sunscreen worked on me. And yes, that is the bathing suit that I bought for Hawaii.

The pool was perfect and we spent a long time in there just hanging out as a family and enjoying our trip. It was nice to have some relaxing time together and I’m glad that we weren’t crazy over-scheduled while we were there.

After some time in the pool, we all got ready for dinner. We went out to a restaurant that was right on the water and we had a gorgeous view from our table.

Dinner View

After a nice dinner together, we headed back to the B&B and we all started packing to get ready to leave the next morning. My brother and sister-in-law were heading to Washington D.C. the next day and my parents were meeting with some friends to go camping. I had to get back to LA to get back to work, but it was nice that we were all leaving at the same time.

The next morning, we all headed to the airport together. The train station (for everyone else) was right next to the airport and we tried to arrange all of our transportation to be around the same time. I was the first one dropped off since I was flying and had to get through security. So I said goodbye to my family and headed into the Baltimore airport for my trip home.

I had 2 flights to get home with a few hour layover in between. My first flight was pretty uneventful. I had my window seat and the flight was full so every seat was taken. I spent most of my time reading my book and taking really quick naps (I think I slept for maybe 5 minutes at a time). My layover was spent getting some lunch and doing more reading. But when I got on the plane, I discovered that my seat was upgraded a bit!

Since I booked my tickets for this trip back in January, I’ve had several flight changes for my flights home. I think at one point I was getting flight or schedule changes every day. At one point, my new flights only had a layover of 30 minutes. I wasn’t ok with that so I called the airline to change it. I guess when I changed my flight but asked to keep my original seat number I got upgraded from economy to the fancier economy section!

The section I was in was only 3 rows of seats so it felt nice and small and I didn’t feel overwhelmed or panicky at all. I had a window seat with a ton of leg room and there was nobody sitting next to me so I stretched out on the flight.

Upgrade

It was so worth it to have the slightly upgraded seat (I would have loved to have been in first class, but that wasn’t in the cards for me), and I think having the extra room in front and next to me really helped to make this flight the most calm one I can remember having. If I have the option to upgrade to the nicer economy seats in the future (which I usually can’t do since I fly Southwest), I think I’m going to splurge on it because it was so much better for my mental health. I really am so happy that my flights were calm and I didn’t even take my meds for it. This is huge progress for me and I’m hoping that future flights go just as well.

Between the drive to the airport, my flights, my layover, and the time to drive back home I had traveled for 13 hours to get back to LA. The trip was totally worth it and I wouldn’t have changed any of it, but I was happy to be home.

I really hope that these family reunions will be more often in my future. I don’t want it to be another 5 or 16 years before I see people. I really do love my family and I want to be in their lives and not just through Facebook. Hopefully some of them can come out to visit me soon or I will have an opportunity to get back east again in the near future.

Going To Maryland (or A Cousin Reunion)

As I’ve mentioned, this past weekend I went to Maryland for a family reunion. I know it’s a bit crazy to fly back east just to be there for the weekend, but I had limited time I could take off and being there for the weekend is better than nothing!

My trip began on Friday (I was able to take both Friday and Saturday off from my box office job) when I flew to Baltimore. I was able to get on the same flight as my brother and sister-in-law so that was nice. Our flight was a bit delayed, so we grabbed some lunch at LAX before getting on the plane. It was a super packed flight and we couldn’t sit together, so I spent my flight reading and trying to not panic (I didn’t take any panic meds and I did great!).

When we landed, we got a cab out to Stevensville and arrived at Maria’s Love Point (the bed and breakfast my family was staying at) after midnight. We were all pretty tired so all we did was say hi to my parents, find our rooms, and go to bed. My room was perfect for me and I fell asleep pretty quickly that night (thankfully no jet-lag for me).

The next morning I woke up and had an amazing breakfast (seriously, Maria’s Love Point was the best B&B ever!) and went exploring around the B&B with my family. It was crazy hot and humid but we did want to go outside to check out the amazing view that the property had.

The View

There was a dock that went out into the water and we walked out to the end and back. I was shocked to see that the water was filled with jellyfish! Everywhere you looked you would see them so I was glad I was up on a dock and not walking along the edge of the water.

That day was the family reunion, but since it wasn’t starting until 1pm we tried to relax that morning. We all ended up spending a bit of time in the pool to try to beat the heat, but we were so grateful that the B&B had some really powerful air conditioning when we needed to cool off more inside.

Maria's Love Point

The family reunion was actually held at Maria’s Love Point, so that made things pretty convenient for us. We hung out in the pool until about noon and then we all started getting ready. It was being catered by a local restaurant and it was being held in a big room on the bottom floor (it was supposed to be outside but with the extra high temperatures and humidity we ended up moving it inside which was best).

I was pretty excited for this reunion! I went to the last big family reunion which was 16 years ago (half of my lifetime ago) but I hadn’t made it to any of the smaller reunions in the years since. I saw my aunt, uncle, cousin, and cousin’s girlfriend 5 years ago at my brother’s medical school graduation; but I hadn’t seen them since. I was in touch with a bunch of family through Facebook, but that’s not the same.

This reunion was a reunion of cousin’s on my dad’s mom’s side. It was my dad, his siblings, his 1st cousins, and all of the 1st cousins’ kids and grandkids. We were only missing a couple of people there but we had 30 cousins from 3 generations all in one place which was incredible!

3 Generations Of Cousins

It was really great seeing people again for the first time in years and I even got to meet some cousins that I had never met before! It was a bit overwhelming, but I think we were all thinking that so there was no awkwardness at all.

Even though I was super excited to see everyone, I think I was extra excited to see my cousins that I’ve been closest to over the years. My cousin Leah (who I believe is technically my second cousin but we always called her my third cousin) and I were super close as teenagers. She came to stay with my family for a month for a couple of summers and I stayed with her family for a few weeks one summer. She even came out to California (she lives in Pennsylvania) for my Sweet 16. We were pen-pals for a couple of years and we see each other on Facebook, but the last time I saw her in person was 16 years ago at that reunion. Since then she’s gotten married and has 2 kids!

I was also super excited to see my cousin Rachel (who is Leah’s sister). She and I weren’t as close before as Leah and I were (Leah and I are only a few months apart and Rachel is a bit younger), but we’ve stayed in touch through social media and we’ve got similar personalities and senses of humor. I know if we lived closer to each other that we would be super close and probably hanging out quite a bit. She’s also had a kid since the last time I saw her.

And Alisa is my first cousin Danny’s girlfriend. Before this reunion, I had only seen her once in person 5 years ago my brother’s medical school graduation. At the time, she was super pregnant with their first kid. She actually had him a few days after I met her. And since then, she and Danny have had another baby. Again, we see each other online all the time and we’ve become very close, but it had been years since I had seen her in person.

The four of us were hanging out quite a bit at the reunion and I had to get a selfie with my amazing cousins. None of them are my first cousins, but that doesn’t matter. I love them all so much and I am so incredibly lucky that I get to have them as my family.

My Cousins

5 years ago (when I last saw Danny and Alisa), we got a picture together since before that trip it had been over 10 years since I had seen Danny. Ross, Danny, Alisa, and I got a quick picture after dinner and I’ve loved having that picture. Since we were all together again, we had to recreate the photo with the 2 babies (one of whom is technically in that first picture in Alisa’s belly).

5 Years Later

I have to say, I don’t think we’ve really changed that much in 5 years!

Sadly, the reunion had to come to a close around 6pm. I loved spending time with everyone, but we only had the space for a certain time and we didn’t want to take advantage. There was still more family time (more on that tomorrow), so it was only goodbye for the night.

While my parents, brother, sister-in-law and I were relaxing that evening; we found out that the house next to the B&B was throwing a huge party that night and they would be having a fireworks show. They do this party once a year and it happened to be the night we were there! So after it got dark, we all headed out to the patio to check out the show from the next house.

Fireworks

By the time the fireworks were done, all of us were pretty tired from the big day and we all headed back to our rooms to get a good night sleep before the next day (and my last full day in Maryland). And I’ll write about that tomorrow!

Trip Planning (or Keeping Panic To A Minimum)

This past weekend, I went to Maryland for a family reunion. I just got back last night so I’ll recap the trip tomorrow, but I wanted to share with you how my trip planning went.

I’m a pretty good traveler, but I get so nervous and panicky about things. I always want to make sure I remember everything and I know I overpack because I’m scared I’ll forget something that isn’t easy to find (like clothing). For years, I’ve taken panic meds before traveling (for a day or so before flying and then right before my flight to be ok with flying). But since I’ve been doing better with my panic attacks and my Vyvanse makes the panic meds not as effective, I’ve been trying to get through traveling without the meds. I’ve been doing ok with doing that at the dentist (which is a miracle), so it should be the same for traveling.

I tried to do all of the other things I do to prepare for traveling to keep myself calm. I made all of my usual checklists, I did all of my usual prep work (checking all my travel toiletries and supplies), and tried to plan for some fun things to do on the flights there and back. I flew there with my brother and sister-in-law, but I flew home by myself so I wanted to make sure I had plenty of new library books on my Kindle to read and other things to keep my mind off of flying.

I was doing pretty great with my prep stuff, until I started planning out my clothes. While I am used to occasionally having hot days in LA, we don’t have humidity like they do in Maryland. I wanted to make sure I had clothes that would do their best to keep me cool in 90 degree heat and 90% humidity. Most of what I packed were workout clothes since those wick away sweat (I know that’s gross, but it’s true). And my outfit for the reunion was a tank top and a skirt so I figured it should keep me a bit cooler than other things. But just knowing that I might be sweaty for the entire weekend stressed me out.

I don’t know why that got to me so much, but I really was stressing a lot about the clothes and what would and wouldn’t show sweat if I was gross. I know that everyone else might be just as gross and sweaty, but I still didn’t want to look that way. I think part of it is knowing that I don’t want to look like I’m sweating because of my weight. I don’t want to be that stereotype and while I’ve been making good strides in my fitness and weight loss, others don’t know that and I don’t want to be judged.

I was talking to my mom about this a bit last week before leaving and she helped to calm me down a bit. I said that I just wanted to make sure I was impressing everyone since outside of my immediate family I haven’t seen any of the people at the reunion for 5 or 16 years (or ever in some cases). My mom was telling me how it doesn’t matter whether or not I impress people. I’m living my life the way I want to and as long as I’m happy it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. I know I’ve known this, but having someone else tell me it made it finally register in my brain.

I really tried to focus on how awesome it’s going to be to be going on a trip and to see family that I haven’t seen in years. I’m so lucky that I had the opportunity to do this and I’m grateful that I got to go. These family reunions are held each year, but since everyone pretty much lives on the east coast they are always held there. And I usually don’t get to go so this time was really special. Focusing on those things did help me relax a bit and not feel like I really need to take my panic meds. I’d rather not have to take them anymore so testing myself is good for me. I’m so used to taking them, and trying to get off them is a good idea since I pretty much have to choose to take them or my Vyvanse (and I would rather be taking Vyvanse).

A full recap of my weekend in Maryland is coming and I can’t wait to share with you everyone that I got to finally see again!

Family Weekend (or Hanging Out With The Dog)

While Rayshell and Paul’s wedding was the main event of my weekend in Santa Barbara, I was there for a couple of days with my family as well. When I knew the date for the wedding, I had asked my parents if they would be in Santa Barbara at the same time. When I asked they didn’t have plans to be there then, but they looked into it and it worked out well for them to be there the same weekend. Not only did that give me time with my parents, it saved me the expense of getting a hotel since I could stay with them at the house they rented (thanks Mom and Dad!).

I got up there on Saturday afternoon after my race. When I arrived my parents were out with my brother and sister-in-law doing some wine tasting. I could have arrived up there earlier and might have been able to join them, but I was happier not rushing from the race to get ready. Taking my time was nice and even though I was alone at the rental house for a couple of hours before anyone else got back, I enjoyed that time reading and napping a little since I got up at 4am that day.

Once everyone got back, the dog was in heaven that so many people were there. He finally calmed down and settled in for one of his weirdly positioned naps.

Sleeping Tucker

While Tucker was resting, the rest of us visited. I had brought some stuff for everyone with me. My brother and sister-in-law got some stuff from a swag bag that I didn’t need (and I knew they would like), I had my mom’s birthday present since her birthday was last week, and I brought my parents’ anniversary gift since I didn’t know when else I could give it to them (I’ll see them at a family thing back east this summer, but I didn’t want to have to fly with the gift).

My brother and sister-in-law left a little bit after they arrived and I enjoyed a nice relaxing dinner with my parents. My friend Sarah came over and stayed with us that night (otherwise Sarah would have driven to and from Santa Barbara from LA twice in 2 days) and we all had a fun chat since Sarah’s last name is also Levin and I’m sure that somehow we are related. But since the wedding was the next day and I was exhausted, I was glad we all went to bed on the earlier side.

The next day, we dropped Sarah off at Rayshell’s parents’ home where the bridal party was getting ready (Sarah was a bridesmaid) and then my parents, the dog, and I headed out to Tucker’s Grove Park. I had heard of this park a while ago and thought it would be fun for the dog to go to a park with the same name as him. We started at the dog park, but some of the dogs were bugging Tucker a bit. So we headed out to do a walk/hike where everything was so nice and green because of the rain southern CA has been getting lately.

Tucker's Grove Park

It was pretty warm out and I didn’t want to get my hair too gross since I wasn’t going to wash it again before the wedding, so we turned around after a little bit and headed back to the dog park again to let Tucker get as much energy out as possible. It was all different dogs compared to when we were there before, but this time we met a dog that looked like he could have been related to Tucker!

Dog Twins

After the double dog park visit and the walk, I got some lunch with my parents before heading back to the rental house to get ready for the wedding.

I didn’t get back too late on Sunday night, so I was able to get up at a decent time on Monday. We relaxed around the house for a bit before taking the dog out to another dog park and for a nice walk. While the wedding was in Santa Barbara, the town we stayed in was called Summerland (it was just south of Santa Barbara). The town was really cute, but the freeway was really close and almost all the houses overlooked it. But at least they tried to hide the freeway with nice flowers.

Flowers

After our walk, my brother and sister-in-law came over and we went to lunch together to an Italian restaurant that they had been wanting to check out. After our lunch visit, I headed back to LA while everyone else went walking with the dog.

While the main point of my trip was to go to the wedding, it was nice to get to have family time too. It’s not too often that my immediate family is all together (and I’m not sure when that will happen again), so it was nice that we could coordinate schedules like that and all be in Santa Barbara together. I don’t know if I’ll see the dog before Thanksgiving (I might see him over the summer) and while I’ll see my parents in July I don’t know when I’ll see my brother and sister-in-law again (even though they live close to me, our schedules don’t always match). So I’m glad to get to fit in family time when I was already taking time away from home to make sure that I don’t go too long without seeing my family.

Girls Weekend (or Hanging Out With My Mom And Aunt)

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, I think you know that I’m pretty close to my mom and to my Aunt Cindy. I love getting to hang out with them and we had a really great girls weekend 3 years ago when they came to LA to hang out with me for a few days. And this past weekend we got to have another amazing weekend hangout!

After dealing with a bunch of flight delays for my trip with my mom and sister-in-law last year, I got some credit to use on Southwest for a future trip. I thought maybe I’d use it for a trip to Tahoe or something else, but I realized that the one year mark of getting that credit was coming up and I was going to lose the credit. So my mom and I decided that we would go to Sacramento (I flew she drove) where my Aunt Cindy lives to hang out with her! I haven’t really spent a ton of time in the Sacramento area except when I’m there for Thanksgiving. But then I’m usually hanging out at my aunt and uncle’s house and not really exploring the area too much. So I was super excited for this trip!

I flew out after work on Saturday. This was my first time flying while taking Vyvanse and I was so nervous that I would have a horrible panic attack on the plane. But I’m happy to share that just like at the dentist, I did surprisingly well on the plane! I even got to enjoy the view a bit. It was awesome seeing snow out the window since we’ve been dealing with such a horrible drought the past few years.

Snow From The Sky

Once I landed, my mom picked me up and we went to check into our hotel. All we did there was drop off our bags and then we headed straight to my aunt and uncle’s house. It was so awesome to be there again, it had been several years since we had Thanksgiving there. My uncle was spending time with a friend of his while my mom and I were there, so we all went out to dinner to work on planning out our next day. Dinner was fun (we went out for Chinese food), but I was excited for our full day the next day.

On Sunday, my aunt came over to our hotel and we were off on our adventure. Our first stop was the Folsom Zoo. My aunt is a volunteer there so she led us on an amazing tour!

Folsom Zoo

I know some people don’t love zoos and I’ve had some thoughts about them after seeing the movie “Blackfish”. But the Folsom Zoo is actually an animal sanctuary. The animals there were illegal pets, animals that were hurt and couldn’t go back into the wild, or donated after someone could no longer care for them. They don’t buy or sell animals and they don’t have a breeding program to increase their animal population. So I had no concerns with seeing the animals there.

We saw a ton of different animals at the zoo including monkeys, bears, tigers, wolves, horses, pigs, snakes, birds, and chickens.

Monkeys Bear Chicken

The animal we saw the most were peacocks. They were all over the zoo and since they technically aren’t zoo animals, they run free all over the property.

Peacock

The zoo is pretty small, so we were there for about an hour before heading out to our next adventure: the Folsom Prison Museum.

This might seem like a weird adventure to go on (especially since it’s located right next to the prison), but it was a really good little museum. The man working there was a guard at the prison and he had a lot of interesting stories to share. We got to see a video about how the prison was built and the architectural history behind it. The museum also had some artifacts from the early days of the prison and a section dedicated to Johnny Cash.

We had a minor moment of panic when we were inside the museum and heard a siren go off, but it was a signal that it was noon and not anything scary. As we left we saw people heading into the prison for visiting hours, but it was cool to see it after learning so much about its construction.

Folsom Prison

Our next stop was downtown Folsom. We got a quick lunch at a pizza place and then walked a few blocks to the old Folsom Powerhouse. The Powerhouse is a state historic park and there was a very nice museum that we walked through first that explained the history of the powerhouse and the history of having electrical power in the state.

After the museum we headed down a short path to see the old powerhouse.

Folsom Powerhouse

There was a really knowledgeable guide inside the powerhouse who told us all about how it worked, showed us some historic pictures, and even showed us a beaver that was living under the powerhouse that you could see through a grate in the floor. We were also able to walk down to the lower powerhouse (it’s not always open). While walking around, we were so grateful that we lucked out on the weather and it was a gorgeous day!

Gorgeous Day

Our next stop was supposed to be the Folsom Museum, but they were closing early that day and we only had a few minutes to walk quickly through everything before they closed.

Since we weren’t spending time at the Folsom Museum, we decided to do some walking around and checking out the stores. My mom found something really cool to get my grandma for Mother’s Day and I found something that I’m going to give Rayshell for her wedding (I can’t post it on here yet because I know she reads my blog!). There was also a store that had some really cool decorative things made out of old silverware. I really liked them, but they were a bit pricy. I have no idea if I could do it myself, but I think if I found some awesome cheap silverware I might try it.

Crafty

After all that walking around and exploring, we headed back to the hotel to rest a little bit and then headed out for a quick casual dinner to end our girls weekend. It was a super full day and I had a great time, but I wish that I had a bit more time to spend with my aunt. But overall, it was an awesome Sacramento adventure.

On Monday, my mom and I were originally going to try to go to the Walt Disney Museum (my brother and sister-in-law gave me tickets for Hanukkah), but timing things out with rush hours and my flight home (which was out of San Jose) wasn’t going to work out. So we just drove straight to Saratoga so I could hang out with my dog and my dad.

We didn’t do anything too fancy when I was hanging out in Saratoga. I hadn’t been home in 2 years (since the first time I met Tucker), so there were a bunch of cool new things my parents wanted to show me in the house. We also took Tucker to the dog park (his favorite place!) and for a couple of walks. He’s gotten bigger since I saw him at Thanksgiving and he’s calmed down a bit too!

Tucker

Before I knew it, it was time to go to the airport to fly back home. I had another relatively calm flight and was home in time to get a good night sleep to get ready for the week.

I really had the best weekend with my mom and aunt. We’ve joked that in 3 years we’ll have to figure out another adventure to do together, but I really hope that we are able to do something together as a group sooner than that. We do such fun adventures/trips together and I can’t wait to see what we plan on doing next!