dear you…brought to you by two point five days in az

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IMG_2226Dear Chub-Chubs,
I realize I’m the one that decided to move to Tokyo, but I’d like to request that you stop growing up until I get back. I mean, I realize that you probably want to keep walking and that talking would make your life a lot easier, but seriously, if you could just hit the pause button for the next 18-24 months I’d really appreciate it. And I know you don’t know me quite as well as your siblings, but I promise, we are going to be the best of friends and you will come to realize just how fun I am. I swear.
Love,
Auntie Chlo-Chlo

Dear Boo,IMG_2245
Please continue to be the sweet girl you are today. It’s so fun to see you with your little cousins and the kindness and love that I know they can feel from you. I’m so lucky to be your aunt!
Love,
Aunt Chloe

IMG_2236Dear Sister,
Thank you for all that you do for me. I don’t know what I would do without you. Even from 6,000 miles and who-knows-how-many time zones away, you take good care of me. Thank you for running me around everywhere I needed to go and letting me ship things to your house and use your address as my “home” for all my USA needs. Thank you for staying up late with me (or letting me stay up late with you?) and for keeping your house stocked with all of my favorites and just being awesome. I know it sucks that we don’t have Mom around, but you do a pretty great job filling in.
Miss you lots and love you more,
Elizabeth (I’d rather go with that nickname than publicly disclose the other names you call me…on that note, thanks for always reminding me that I’m still your little sister.)
P.S. Tell your husband thank you, too. I know he sacrifices a lot when I’m in town and I really appreciate that, too.

IMG_2229Dear Mims and Pepperoni,
Thank you for still loving me as much as you do even though I moved to Tokyo. I love that you still want me to cuddle with you at night and that you still want to take baths in “Chlo-Chlo’s bath”. I love that you are so excited for me to get there that you start counting down the days weeks in advance. But more than anything, I just love you. There’s nothing quite as therapeutic as your laughter. I hope you both know just how much I love you even from so far away. I can’t wait to see you the next time I’m home (maybe in July…). Please don’t grow up too much while I’m gone. I hope you’re being good for your soccer coach these days. I’m sad I was there too early to see your games. I promise I won’t miss too many more seasons as long as you promise you’ll keep playing.
Love,
Auntie Chlo-Chloe

Dear Brittlit,
Thanks for ditching your friends to come to dinner with the fam. I know at your age that’s not always an easy decision, but it meant a lot to me.
Love,
Aunt Chloe

So, I maybe stole this from my sister-in-law's FB, but I needed a pic of the missionary.

So, I maybe stole this from my sister-in-law’s FB, but I needed a pic of the missionary and his sister.

Dear Elder Andersen,
We all missed you. It was weird not having you around. And it was a little hard to see how much all the kids were missing you (and your mom and dad, too), but we are all so proud of you and know you are exactly where you should be. I hope Texas is treating you well.
Love,
Your Favorite Aunt (and the one that writes you every week)

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Dear Sister-through-Marriage,
Thank you for being from AZ and wanting to return there. And thank you for being such a good mom to my darling nephew and nieces. And for always being there when I need you. And for taking me to get my very first pedicure. And for introducing me to “good” makeup.
Love you,
Your Favorite Sister-in-Law (I won’t tell if you won’t tell)

Dear Arizona,
Thank you for feeling like home. Thank you for all of the wonderful memories and friendships that you still hold. Thank you for the multiplicity of drive-thru Sonics, cheap pedicures, my favorite chain restaurants, and warm weather in February. Someday I will be back for good, but in the meantime, please keep treating me as well as you do. And please keep taking care of my family. I can’t wait to see you this summer.
Love,
A girl who must apologize for how ugly she thought you were the first time she visited her older brother and his new wife all those years ago

Dear Big Brother,
Thank you for deciding to follow your girlfriend to AZ all those years ago. So many good things have happened in my life as a result of that decision, not the least of which was getting an awesome new sister, but lots of other things, too. And thanks for always being willing to pick me up and drop me off at the airport (even though it means you have to stay up late and/or get up early to do so). Our drives from and to the airport are some of my favorite memories and conversations.
Love,
Your favorite sister (Just like I said to Justin…it’s okay, everyone knows it’s true.)

Dear MTC Companion,
Who’d have guessed all those years ago that you’d end up living two miles from my sister and brother? Thank you for being so accommodating whenever I’m in town and making time to see me. What a blessing it was to have met you. I’m so glad you ended up on your mission a little later than you had planned. My life wouldn’t be the same without you in it.
Love,
The non-crazy one from our companionship of three
P.S. Next time we’re together we need to take a picture…it’s been way too long!

the last brownie

Last week I posted this photo on FB (and Instagram…I’m totally addicted to Instagram)…

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…and it was really fun to see all of the comments people left. Obviously, I like this picture. But the comments I liked the best weren’t about what I looked like on the outside, but about how people could tell I’m happy. I feel like you can’t fake that. And I wasn’t. I really am so happy with my life right now.

And since arriving in New York and seeing people I haven’t seen in a while, their reaction has been the same. I’ve received lovely compliments about how happy I look. Could there be anything better than that?

That’s not to say that there aren’t things I think I need to change (there are always things I think I need to change), or that it is all sunshine and butterflies (I just had a mini-breakdown about something totally ridiculous on Saturday night). But the reality is somehow, someway, over the past few years, I feel like I’ve figured a few things out.

The first, and most important, is that life is going to happen and I can choose to be a victim or not. And I am not a victim. Yes, crap things have happened to me in my life. Yes, my life is not exactly how I would want it to be if I had control over everything. But. But! I can choose how I react to what happens.

The second is that I can choose to do everything I can to make my life as good as it can possibly be in terms of the things that I can control. I may not have the exact things that I dreamed I would have when I was 16, but I have done the best I can with what I’ve been given and that’s something I can feel really good about.

The third thing is that friends and family are really what matters. I know that I’ve decide to spend the next who knows how long in Tokyo…on the other side of the world from most of my friends and all of my family, but I wouldn’t be able to do that if I didn’t have their support and know that they were there when I need them (and vice versa). And it has been so nice during this trip to be able to see so many friends and most of my immediate family (as of tomorrow night).

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Fourth, I really believe that God wants me to be happy. And sometimes part of that happiness means going through hard things so that I can learn and grow. But if I choose to learn and grow from those hard things, I will be a better person for it. And I will have the confidence that comes from going through hard things and the ability to empathize with those in similar circumstances.

And finally (and maybe most importantly) on those days when all else fails, I can always think of someone who deserves that last brownie more than I do. And sometimes that’s what it takes.

mochitsuki

The second Monday in January was a holiday in Japan. My friends, who know lots about Japan since they’ve been there longer than I have, invited me to go to a mochitsuki with them at a temple near their apartment (and my new apartment!). As a lover of mochi¬†and Japanese traditions, I was super excited about this. So, even though I woke up to horrible weather (including snow!), I was still excited to venture out.

There are several temples where we could have gone to see this tradition, but because this one was so small, we were the only gaijin there. And as we were it, everyone was super excited to have us be a part of things. It was amazing. We got to pound the rice. We got to roll mochi balls. We got to take a tour of the temple and were taught a traditional prayer. It was incredible.
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Holiday in Japan = Sake!

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hong kong – day one

Having gone home in November for my birthday, I knew going home for Christmas wasn’t going to be an option, so I decided to go to Hong Kong for a long weekend because, well, why not? And then my cousin decided she’d like to come over to my neck of the woods and join me for the trip and then come play in Tokyo for a while afterwards. Nine days in all. And we had so much fun.

View from our hotel room – it wasn’t super clear that first day, but you can see the other side of the bay if you look carefully.

Hong Kong is an amazing city. As this assignment in Japan is the first time I’ve been to Asia, all of it is new to me. I had heard good things about Hong Kong and with it being a short four hour flight from Tokyo, it’s an easy long-weekend destination.

Loved these super cute little trams going along the bay.

We had lunch at a restaurant on Victoria Peak that was all decked out for Christmas and had an amazing view!

After lunch we went for a walk/hike up to the very top of the peak and wandered through the gardens. It was so pretty…but I was not wearing the best shoes for it. Totally rookie mistake.

And then we took in the views. Such a beautiful city! 

Thankfully, one of my former bosses gave me some great recommendations about where to stay. Of course, her top picks for hotels were a little outside of my budget, but I was able to get in the same neighborhood and I’m so glad I did. We were staying in a great location, as I would discover.

There’s something about peaks and hearts in Asia. Here, Seoul…

With as busy as I’d been at work leading up to the trip, I hadn’t had a lot of time to plan out what we were going to do, so other than a hotel and a couple of restaurant reservations, we were just going with the flow.

The Christmas theme was going on everywhere – including inside the tower on Victoria Peak where we got to listen to a high school band/orchestra play Christmas songs.

So, we spent our first day up on Victoria Peak and wandering through the city checking things out. For those of you who may go to Hong Kong in the future, I got some great advice from one of my friends before going…to take the bus up to the peak and the tram back down (most people just take the tram both ways); the reason being that you get to see so much more from the bus and it is SO CHEAP! It takes a little longer but it’s totally worth it.

I wish you could tell how steep it was on the way down from this photo because it was steep.

The Governor’s Mansion

Hong Kong is super hilly–like San Francisco hilly–and one of the things they’ve done to help people in terms of transportation is to install these escalators that take its riders up or down the side of the mountain (depending on the time of day, they change directions). Seriously, they are pretty incredible. Which is why I took a bunch of photos.

My super cute cousin posing for the camera

To be continued…

owning it

So, if you follow me on Instagram or we’re friends on FB, you know that recently I’ve had this little problem? obsession? affinity to? (take your pic) posting pictures of myself in various outfits. (I’ve posted the pics here, too…apologies to those of you who have seen all of these already.) Yeah, it’s  self-indulgent and rather obnoxious, but it’s a big deal for me. And it’s not because I think I look amazing or that people want to see all these self-portraits of me in different outfits. It’s also not because I’ve recently lost 20 lbs and want to show it off (I haven’t). It started with a request to see the maxi dress I’d posted about somewhere.

Never in my life had I considered posting (or even taking, for that matter) a full body shot of just myself because why would I ever do that when I so dislike what my body looks like right now (and always, really, even when I did weight 60 lbs less than I do today)? But something in me finally decided I was done and that it was time to just be okay with me as I am right now.

Would I love to lose 60 lbs? Hell yes. I’d take 5 lbs at this point. And do I think exercise and eating right are optimal for good health and happiness? Of course. But I’ve spent most of my life thinking about how much better it would be if I could just lose those 20 (or 30 or 60) lbs. Every (and I do mean every) success in my life has been tarnished by and every failure has been more painful as a result of these thoughts. And it has been exhausting. And sad. And a big, fat (pun intended) waste of brain space. 
The request for a picture of the maxi dress was a big part of this, but I don’t think I would have been in the mind I was in without moving to Japan. Here, it wouldn’t matter if I was skinny, I would still stick out like a sore thumb and there’s nothing I can do about it. People stare. People occasionally even move when I sit next to them on the subway. (Yeah, I’m not kidding. It has happened to all of us “gaijin” at one point or another.) Children point and say “Amerikajin”. No getting around it. And there is an incredible amount of freedom in that. 
And then there’s the fact that my life does not currently include anyone I would seriously consider dating or a circle of single girlfriends who are all constantly worrying about what they look like and their “marketability” and there’s freedom in that. So, in the absence of worrying about what other people think about what I look like and constant comments from women both thinner and prettier than I am about how they wish they were prettier and thinner, I am free to just be me. I’ve been able to let go more than I’ve ever been able to before. And letting go means that when I went home in November and needed to get some new clothes, I bought things that fit me and looked good on my body as it is right now, without worrying about what size they were or what store I’d purchased them at or indulging some hope (dream?) that I’d magically lose 5-10 lbs so it would be okay to buy something that’s just a little too small because that would be the motivation I needed to lose weight.

(Side note: I seriously could have outfitted an entire village–or four–for a generation with the myriad articles of clothing I’ve purchased on that hope, never worn, and subsequently donated when they were finally out of style…with them still not fitting me.)
While it makes me sad thinking about all the opportunities for happiness I’ve wasted worrying so much about something that is such an insignificant part of who I am, today is a new day. Today, I’m choosing to be the best version of who I am right now, extra pounds and all. And so I’ve been taking pictures to capture how I look and feel as I am right now. (Bet you didn’t realize there was all of that going on in my head.) And it feels so good to wake up in the morning and know I have clothes that will fit and that I will feel good in, even if they aren’t the size I want them to be. Even if I’m not the size I want me to be. 

There’s only one “today” and I will no longer be wasting it on thoughts of how much better tomorrow might be, if only…