‘Tis the season to… Order holiday cards from Minted

Hey guys! So I don’t know about you, but around the holiday season, we get a bunch of cute greeting cards in the mail, and it always brews a little jealousy. How do my neighbors put out adorable Christmas cards year after year?! I think I found the answer. I recently discovered an incredible company that has the cutest holiday cards and for really affordable prices too. But these aren’t generic holiday cards, they’re unique and trendy. Plus, every single card is hand-made by one of Minted’s many independent designers and artists and they’re printed on recycled paper. Good for the artists, good for the environment. I’m honestly in love.

Here are a few of my favorite holiday cards:

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And here is their brand new line of customizable photo holiday cards:

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Aren’t these cards just darling? I can’t wait to order some and add my own personal touches to send off to all my friends and family!

One more thing: Are you an artist? Do you want to see your own designs on one of these holiday cards? Join the Minted community and submit your work, and you may see your designs on the next greeting card!

 

**This is a sponsored post, but all opinions and words are my own**

Health update after moving back from China

Hey guys! It’s actually been a while since I’ve updated you on my health, and since I met with my doctors yesterday, I figured it would be a good time to fill you in! Basically, it’s a good thing China didn’t work out because my health has gotten worse, and I wouldn’t have been able to get good health care away from Western medicine and my doctors.

Anyway, the other day I had what looked to be the onset of a stroke. My face was numb and I was having trouble seeing and breathing. So I got some tests done and after meeting with my doctor yesterday, I was diagnosed with two new diseases, which are related to/caused by my lupus.

I now have Pleurisy, which is when your body attacks the lining of your lungs, causing inflammation and the worst pain I’ve ever known. During each episode, I’m completely knocked on my butt. I can’t stand up, I curl up in pain, and it brings me to tears. The worst part is that because of my autoimmune diseases, I can’t take any pain medications because they all affect my liver. So I just have to ride it out until the pain subsides, which lasts up to an hour. The last episode, the pain was so bad I had to lie down and force myself to fall asleep so I wouldn’t feel the pain.

In about a week I’m going to be getting an MRI to make sure my brain is functioning properly, and I don’t have any masses. Because I have lupus, I’m at high risk for strokes and brain damage, even though I’m only 22! I was completely shocked when my doctor told me this, because my body has been notorious for causing problems, so I’m afraid this will be the next war we fight. Anyway, after we get the results from this test, we’ll know if I have a neurological condition that is also caused by lupus, which affects my nerves. Thus, the facial numbness!

And, next month I’m meeting with another specialist to discuss beginning a drip line treatment. Since my body hasn’t been reacting well to oral treatments, he thinks it’s time we start this new form of medication to blast this disease. I’ll talk more about that later, when I know more.

Anyway, that’s it for now! It’s a lot of new information, new terms, new scary things to worry about! I honestly don’t know what to think about it. My disease is progressing, despite numerous tried attempts at fighting it. It seems like the more I fight, the more my body fails at succeeding. None of it makes sense right now, and I don’t know how to process any of this information. I’m just kind of floating. Positivity has been hard to find, and it’s really difficult to want to try to get healthier because I know that even though I may be the healthiest I can be, it will never be enough for my body.

Journal entries from China

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Hey guys, while I was away from the Internet, my cell phone, and my friends and family, I spent a lot of time with myself and with my journals. This time was very therapeutic and although in the end, I wasn’t able to strengthen myself enough to stay in China, I do believe I came out stronger anyway. Here’s some (not all, because that would be a long post) of my journal entries from the time I was in China. (These are really raw, and I feel truly depict how I was feeling through anxiety attacks and as such, may be triggering for some).

Nov. 1
- Today I arrived in China, and I still can’t believe I’m really here. The flights were long and tiring, but I think I’m #winning at avoiding jetlag. Of course, traveling abroad isn’t done right without a few bumps in the road. My suitcases were lost. Yippee! Then my assistant who was supposed to pick me up from the airport was three hours late, my phone wasn’t working so I couldn’t call her. Long story short, I had tons of scenarios run through my mind: this was a scam, I traveled all the way here and no one’s here to pick me up, my bags are lost, etc. I broke down at the baggage claim and came so close to buying a ticket back to Maui.
- I had dinner with my boss and her daughter, Marina. Marina is SO good at speaking english, and she’s so passionate about the language. Listening to her speak really warmed my heart, and got me excited to begin teaching.

Nov. 2
- Today is a busy day. Last night I stayed in a hotel, but today I’m going to be moving into my apartment. I have blisters on my hands from carrying my bags through the airports.

Nov. 3
- I’m sick of it here. I know it’s only been a few days, but it’s too overwhelming, too many changes all at once. My anxiety is so bad I can’t eat or sleep, I’ve only cried since I got here. My coworkers are nice, but this isn’t for me. I hope and pray I can leave today because honestly one more night here might kill me. I just can’t stand it. I feel like an idiot for thinking I was strong enough to come here. I’m a failure.
- Last night I was trying to sleep but there was no lock on the apartment door. I propped up a chair against the door and sat in it for the night. My upstairs neighbors were fighting and screaming, I thought someone was going to die. Around 5 a.m., what looked like the Chinese equivalent of ROTC started chanting and yelling outside, then they sang, marched and yelled some more. Now it’s 7 a.m. and there’s construction going on outside.
- I’m eating stale bread and anti-diarrheal medicine.
- I don’t like being alone. There’s something about this place that gives me anxiety and throws me into panic attacks. I don’t like being away from my family. I don’t speak the language. I can’t navigate this city. There are millions and millions of people here. The streets are filthy dirt roads, the people stare and spit at me, traffic laws are nonexistent and personal space is a foreign concept. I don’t like being alone. I hate it, I hate it, I hate it.

Nov. 4
- I’m staying with a coworker because I can’t handle being alone. I feel ridiculous and ashamed, but I’m very grateful for her and all the love she’s given me.
- I’ve decided that if I’m still not stable by Friday, I will go home. I feel terrible, but I would feel worse if (**I didn’t finish this sentence, and I don’t remember what I was going to say)
- Today a mother pulled her child’s pants down and he pooped right there in the plaza.
- I told my boss that I didn’t feel safe, and she told me to “grow up.” I don’t feel supported here at all. I just want to get out of here.
- I need to stop biting my nails!!!!
- Side note: I need to buy a mask. The pollution here is over 200, which is terribly unhealthy. The air is so thick and dirty, it’s nauseating.

Nov. 5
- Be confident and respect yourself always.
- Life is very beautiful, and so very short. So enjoy every minute of it.
- Take life positively, sometimes with patience, and remember things will all work out in the end.
- Let go. Don’t think about being alone. Just accept it.
- “Be alone, my dear, but never ever, for as long as you live, be lonely.”

Nov. 6
- I was extremely homesick this morning, it woke me from my dreams and I was in actual physical pain. I’ve also been losing weight since I’ve been here. It’s so hard to eat.
- I forgot to shower last night and my hair is gross.
- A bunch of my friends have been reaching out to me via email and Tumblr (the only things I have right now, since China blocks everything else and I still don’t have a phone). And it reminds me how supported I am, and how lucky I am to have the greatest friends in the world.
- The world is yours to create. Take it, mold it, shape it into everything you’ve dreamed it would be. Absorb the culture around you, appreciate the little things and give thanks for the life you’ve been given, because it truly is a magnificent one.
- Today I finished Lena Dunham’s book and I’m amazed. Her writing is addicting, something to fall in love with.
- One of my best friends, Scarleth, recommended I download a bible app so I can do daily devotionals. I like this idea, and today they helped me. I’m blessed.
- 7pm: chemo time!

Nov. 7
- I had a really odd dream last night. I was sitting in a doctor’s office, and a guy had his arm around me. I’m assuming it was a significant other, although my dream yielded no faces. Then I had another dream that my uncle and I went to a high school. My uncle hit on a girl, and then her boyfriend chased us around with guns. It was terrifying and I awoke more exhausted than when I had fallen asleep.
- Today is the one year anniversary of my uncle Julio’s passing. It’s hard because I really want to be around family. I need a hug, I think.

Nov. 8
- It’s always mornings that get me.
- I really miss my college roommates. I wish they were here because although we bickered sometimes, we truly were the best of friends.
- I’m sitting at my desk, that come tomorrow morning, will not longer be “my desk.” My time has come and gone. I’m having mixed emotions.
- I’m reading news articles about apples and a storm that’s supposed to hit Alaska’s Aleutian Isles.
- And just like that we’re back at square one: What the hell am I doing with my life?
- My horoscope today: “The answer is closer than you realize, even if it doesn’t come immediately, it will come. If not today, tomorrow. If not this week, next week. Practicing patience all but ensures your success.”
- Side note: I want to take a pottery class.
- Only 14% of expats are completely satisfied with their life abroad (internations.org)

Nov. 9
- Today I am leaving Zhenjiang, which I never thought I would do. I won’t write about it. I’m taking the train to Shanghai where I’ll stay with some friends. I’ve been looking at other places to teach, maybe I can live with Paul? But realistically, everyone wants someone with more experience or a TEFL. But I’m a firm believer in “everything happens for a reason,” so there’s a reason why I wasn’t supposed to be here, and I knew that from my first night here.

Nov. 10
- I’m with Paul now. Yesterday he took me sightseeing around Shanghai. This city is huge. 24 million people, yet it’s cleaner and actually a developed city, unlike the place I was at.
- All of this feels like a dream, it’s all so bizarre, it can’t really be happening, can it? I wish it wasn’t.
- Scarleth has been heaven sent throughout this entire trip to hell. “Even if you fly back home, it doesn’t mean you have failed at this. It just means it wasn’t for you. This doesn’t make you a failure, this experience can only make you stronger.” Thank you, Scarleth.
- I hate being an imposition. My whole existence is an imposition.
- It’s official, I’m heading back to Maui tomorrow morning. No doubt I have mixed feelings, but I’m happy to finally go home. This was supposed to be the trip of a lifetime, the best year of my life, but here I am sitting in Paul’s AP calculus class just itching to board that plane tomorrow. And even though my adventure in China was cut short, and I didn’t do what I came here to do, I’ll still leave here with more than I came with (except for the money I lost in coming here, but that’s beside the point). I’m still going to tell my children about this, and this will also be the best damn chapter in my memoir.
- Side note: Take Paul out to dinner tonight!

Nov. 11
-I’m sitting on the plane to Manila right now, I just ate a decent airplane meal (as decent as airplane meals get, anyway). I caught a cab from Paul’s house to the airport and surprisingly navigated the airport without getting lost, missing my flight and/or dying.
- I’d be lying if I told you that I’m not going to miss China, but I would also be lying if I did. I won’t miss the terror, anxiety, language barrier and unsupportive, unknown environment. But I will miss the people I met and what could have been.
- Even though the sun has set and risen and set again, it’s technically still Tuesday, which blows my mind.
- I didn’t sleep much because the turbulence was terrifying. The plane actually dropped several times and I honestly thought we were going down. A lady also went into cardiac arrest on the plane, but I was too tired to pay any attention.
- Vertigo and airplanes don’t mix well.
- Side note: I really need to shave my legs…

 

I hope you enjoyed a peek into my mind and my trip to China. Do you journal?

Photos: My week in China (Yes, just a week)

Guess who’s back (it’s me!). As you can guess from the title of this post, I spent a week in China. Yes, it was supposed to be a year. Yes, I was excited about it. And yes, I’m disappointed. But alas, it is what it is. I won’t go into detail because I would rather preserve the integrity of the company (even though I am surprised and hurt by how disappointed I was by them). Anyway, here are some photos from my trip!

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The Peace Hotel was where John Lennon and Yoko Ono frequently stayed during their trips to China.

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Luckily, I had friends in Shanghai who let me stay with them after the nightmare that was living in the other city. I stayed with them for a few days and then flew out, back to safety. Now before you say anything, please be kind, until I tell you all the full story (which I plan on doing at a later time), no judgments! If nothing else, this was a learning experience, a “vacation” if you will.

I missed you guys for the week I was away, and I’ll keep you updated on my next steps. But as for right now, I’m just trying to recover from the traumatizing experience that was China.

Café Monday: The day I shot the love of my life

It was a Tuesday afternoon when I left my house to go and meet you. It was raining and your car was six blocks away, but I knew it was useless to ask you to pick me up. Another argument, that would have only ended in, “I’m sorry, you’re right.”

When I saw you on the corner my heart started beating again and when you leaned in to kiss me, I floated above the ground. Your eyes glimmered and never strayed from mine as you reached for my hand. I felt so safe.

In your apartment, I took off my raincoat and hung it up next to yours, as I’d done countless times before. Above your TV, hung a 2011 hockey schedule. It was three years old, yet you kept it because you insisted it was the best year of your life. On the walls of the hallway hung all of your targets, the good ones and the bad ones, on display as if to warn others what a good shot you are.

I remember the first time I slept here. I walked into your bedroom to see a handgun on your nightstand, and immediately my head crashed through the pit of my stomach. “It’s blocked,” you reassured me. And then you proceeded to show me how quickly you could take it apart and put it back together. I wasn’t sure if I should have been impressed that you tried so hard to impress me.

We left for the range around 2 p.m., the rain had lightened up and your BMW whipped along the mountainside as we made our way for the outskirts of town. Your left hand gripped the wheel, and your right hand rested on my thigh. I traced the veins on your hand and wondered how we got from there to here.

The rain bounced off the windshield, and your tires splashed water up on the sides of the car. Why you insisted on driving without your windshield wipers on was beyond me, but again I sat silent. With every sharp turn, every arrogant lane change, every red light, you gripped my hands tighter.

I never thought of leaving you, I never wanted to stray from the one person who made my heart beat, from the one who got me out of bed in the morning, the one who made my smiles feel real. Yet here I was, sitting in a car with someone I loved, yet felt increasingly distant from the more time I spent with him.

At the gun range, you handed me your .45 and smiled. “Show me what you got, babe.” I held the gun in my hands and put all my focus on the silhouette in front of me.

I thought of our first date, our first kiss, our first “I love you.”

I breathed in.

I thought of our first argument, our first fight, our first “I hate you.”

I breathed out.

Bang.

As I fired round after round at the silhouette, it quickly became a metaphor of our dying relationship. A love that was hanging on by threads. The arguments became more common, the “I hate yous” became more prevalent, and the love I once fought for, the love we both knew, died right there as I fired away at a piece of paper.

I pulled the trigger, but you handed me the gun.

I’M MOVING TO CHINA

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It’s official you guys, I’m moving to China! I’ve been holding off on telling you guys because I didn’t know what to title this post (typical blogger) and I had cold feet, but I’ve finally plunged right in and I purchased my one-way flight. So, it’s official.

From the very first time I left the states to travel Europe, I knew I would one day live abroad. Of course, I never thought in a million years that the time for me to do so would actually come. Never once did I think that I would be moving thousands of miles away to a country I’ve never visited. I don’t even speak the language! But honestly, this is all part of my great adventure and I’m really excited. I’ll admit, I’m scared beyond belief, but I know that with an open mind, I’m capable of anything and everything.

You’re probably wondering why I’ve chosen to move to China, right? Well, I was offered a job there teaching English! And if you’re in my small circle of friends, you’ve been victim to my endless rants and complaints of uncertainty and stress throughout the application and interview process. So for that, I’m sorry! However, I also want to take this moment to thank my friends and family for being so supportive and kind to me during these past few months because I have been losing my mind. But now that I’ve finally gotten the job, God has answered my prayers and everything that I’ve worked so hard for has finally paid off!

I’m moving to a foreign country. On the other side of the globe. By myself.

I’m moving somewhere I’ve never even visited before.

I don’t speak the language. At all.

I’m going to be a teacher. An educator. A global traveler. 

I’m living my dreams and I couldn’t be happier.

I’m going to be living near Shanghai, and it’s right on the water so I’m very happy because while the move is going to be stressful and quite the culture shock, I’ll still be on the ocean. I also have a house set up already, which means… House tour! This will also be my very first home since graduating college. (Big kid moment).

I bought my plane ticket and I’m leaving next Friday, can you believe it?! It’s so soon. In just a little over a week I’ll be in China. WHAT.

So since getting back from Los Angeles, I’ve been running around trying to get everything in order before I leave. In LA, I spent a lot of time downtown at the Chinese Consulate getting my Visa. I’ve also been crafting a handy packing list so I don’t forget anything (i.e., deodorant. They don’t use deodorant there, but you can bet your bottom dollar I bought the Costco pack of 12 deodorants to bring with me!). I have also been seeing doctor after doctor after doctor to make sure that my health is stable enough for travel (I’ll be posting a health update soon!). So far, so good! And of course, I’ve been spending lots of time with family because I won’t see them for an entire year!

Despite feeling overwhelmed and scared, I know I’m making the right decision. I know this will open many doors for me as a professional and a human being. I think this is exactly what I need to kick my adulthood into full gear, and I’ll also be able to cross a few things off my bucket list. I had my doubts, but after thinking it through I know this is about to be the best year of my life. I’m going to embark on an adventure that’s going to set me sailing high on traveling the world while making positive differences in many people’s lives.

One more thing: I couldn’t have done it without you guys. I come here and write down my thoughts, sometimes useful posts and sometimes I just ramble, but you come back day after day to see what I’m up to. I share my fears, my dreams and my stresses with you all and I’m never judged. You all give the best encouragements, and have inspired me to be the best that I can be. I am so thankful to have you as my audience and best friends, and I’m so excited to take you all on this journey with me. Are you ready?!

Photos: My California trip!

Well, my vacation in Los Angeles has come to an end. It went by so quickly! Unfortunately, I was quite sick during my time there so I wasn’t able to do much. I did spend a lot of time with family, which is very important to me, so that was nice! Here’s a few photos from my time here. Enjoy!

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The view from my bedroom is a jungle, and quite distracting while I try to be productive (aka pack my bags), but isn’t it a lovely sight?

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Of course, we had to go to the range before I left for my trip. I mean, it’s pretty standard.

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Accidental art?
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A little fact about me: I love flying. Always have, always will. I’ve been an avid flyer since I was a wee baby, and since my parents separated when I was small, I was on an airplane a few times a year. When I started flying by myself (big kid moment), my parents told me to always sit by the window so that I could keep my eyes on the ground until the plane got higher and higher and they faded away. I love watching the clouds dance in the sky, I love being able to watch the sunset/sunrise from above the clouds, it gives me a peculiar sense of happiness knowing that only myself and my fellow aircraft passengers are seeing this rare view on top of the clouds. It’s peaceful up here in the sky.
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My cold remedy must-haves. If you’re getting the sniffles and need to get better quickly, I strongly suggest these products! They make me feel better so fast and they don’t taste like medicines.

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I used to hate Lena Dunham. But I was wrong in doing so, because I had no grounds on which to dislike her. I have never watched her act, I have never seen her in an interview, I don’t follow her Twitter, I don’t even know what her voice sounds like. I was basing my distaste toward her on her fashion sense and haircut (the epitome of judging a book by its cover). However, that being said: I gave her a chance, I bought her book, I’m reading her book and I am falling in love. Since I started reading “Not That Kind Of Girl,” I’ve noticed that her and I are freakishly alike, I agree with a lot of things she has to say and I can relate to a lot of her life experiences. To tell you the truth, I wish I’d given her a chance a lot sooner. Even if you aren’t a fan, I strongly suggest you pick up her book, seriously it’s so good. 

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Golden hour at the cemetery. You know, I was going to leave that caption as a pretentious one-liner, but I actually have something to say about cemeteries. I have a lot of deceased loved ones scattered in many different cemeteries all over the globe. But I don’t feel their presence there. Sure, we had their funeral in that spot, and their remains are there, but as for their actual soul? It isn’t in a cemetery. But that’s not why I like to sit in cemeteries. I like to come here because cemeteries are quiet, they’re often empty and they’re so peaceful for me.

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How cute is this Jack Skellington cookie?! (Side note: That is black coffee in the mug, before I added in coconut/almond milk creamer. I can’t stand bland/bitter coffee so I have to add stuff to it. Almost to the point where it doesn’t taste like coffee anymore!)

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I started reading “The Bell Jar” after I finished “This Is Where I Leave You,” and both books are really good! Sylvia Plath is a wordsmith to say the least.

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Lastly, it’s time for Halloween pretty soon! So we decorated a little in the gun store!

I hope you guys had a great weekend and are having a fun Wednesday (humpdaaaaay, sorry I had to…) I’ll be on planes all day. Smile lots!