One step at a time…

Recently, I’ve found myself thinking about my “true calling.” You know, your personal mission in life. At 23-years-old, I do not have a single clue of my so-called personal mission in life. 

We tend to go with the flow or follow the advice of others, including myself. Without realizing it, I have reach a certain point in my life where I wonder if this is where I want to be. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to be where I am, living, laughing, enjoying every moment and event. The question is: do I want to be here? Have I found my true calling?

These thoughts have been keeping me up late at night. I can’t sleep without forming a good answer and solution for myself.

Then, one day, while enjoying a bowl of red bean soup, I realized that I am where I am because I let it happen, naturally and unwarily (just like I let myself enjoy a nice bowl of red bean soup). I simply cannot realize what I want and where I want to be, like I chose my major in college. To be happy or to achieve happiness, I may have to go through a journey of adventurous attempts and bolder ideas. I think it’s more maintaining a state of happiness than to simply select or realize a “true calling.” As long as I can smile each day, then I know that I’m completing my personal mission. 🙂

My mom… holding her 23-year-old daughter’s hand in public

On a sunny day, My mom and I decide to go to Chinatown to go grocery shopping. Of course, my dad was also dragged along. Who else was going to drive? I was rather excited that I was able to sit in my dad’s old Chevy van. I haven’t been driven by my dad for a long time ever since I purchased my own car. As my dad journey to Chinatown with one hand on the steering wheel and a cigarette on the left, I watched the sun travel with the highway of I95. Eventually, we reached the hustle and bustle of Philadelphia Chinatown. I immediately smell the fish from the market and hear excited chitchat in Cantonese dialect. The moment I step out of the car, my mom grabs for my 23-year-old hand. To the people around us, it might look odd that a full-grown Chinese woman is holding hands with her mother. Doesn’t matter where we are, doesn’t matter who’s around us, my mom just adores holding my hands.

The warmth and smooth texture of her hands are bliss… until we run into my manager. -___-

Broad Street Run Countdown: 31 days left to go

Am I nervous? No.

Do I feel guilty? Yes.

It’s been over 2 months since I’ve signed up for the race and I have not trained. The only upside is that I’ve been following my regular eating and workout regimen. On the downside, I’ve been heavily drinking and bingeing on the weekends. Worst of all, I have not been running as much as I would like. For Pete’s sake, 12 miles was the most I’ve completed in a week for a very long time. When I was training for the half marathon, I was hitting 25-30 miles per week! Even then, my legs felt like heavy jelly by the 9th mile. Here’s what I plan to do in order to avoid jelly-legs and half-assed results – 

  1. Follow the training plan. Hopefully, mother nature will be nice to me and grant me sunny weather on my runs.  Otherwise, I’ll need a backup running course.
    • x mile run: Fartlek style. Fartlek is a free-flowing format in which you run faster for however long (or short) you want to. Many great athletes, including the Finnish Olympic medalist Lasse Virén, have done their speed training this way. To run this way, I will be challenging my body by doing quick sprints every now and then.
    • muscle train – any workout BUT cardio: Body-weight style. I’m not a big fan of weight machines; I rather use my own body as a weight to train. I’m fairly new to the muscle training area of fitness so don’t judge me! T__T Anywho, I really like the no equipment full body workout plan by “The Bike Guy” (http://www.instructables.com/id/No-Equipment-Full-Body-Workout/). Just a series of your old-fashioned push-ups, sit-ups, planks, and leg-ups. I also want to try the navy seal abs workout… (http://www.instructables.com/id/Navy-Seals-Ab-Workout/step2/Crunches/)
    • Cross Train – any workout BUTrunning (options): 
      • I’m a huge fan of the insanity program and have completed the program several times. Nowadays, I choose a video and jump to it. It’s an amazing workout program and everyone needs to try it! Shaun T is just extraordinary…. and sexy, if I must say.
      • Swimming. This is only if I can get into a gym with my friend’s gym guest pass since I don’t have a gym membership. I’m too poor to afford one… and I simply don’t like working out at a gym. I’ve started my fitness lifestyle in a gym and slowly edged out of it. Nowadays, I’m usually running outside or jumping around my house to Shaun T’s voice.
      • Various gym classes such as cardio kickboxing and boot camp. Once again, I’ll need my friend’s fancy guest pass to LA fitness. Fortunately, I have several good friends with that option :D! 
  2. NO HARDCORE DRINKING. This means no weekend black-outs, Fanny! Yes, you! I mean, me… 1 to 2 shots here and there or a glass of wine is acceptable.
  3. NO BINGE EATING. This means I’ll have to start eating healthy on my weekends as well. I’m in the habit of using my weekends as cheat days. Instead, I’ll have to cut back and start having 1 cheat meal per week only.
  4. Develop a good sleeping pattern. I’ll have to learn how to sleep early on weekdays and even weeknights. No more waking up at 2pm EST on the weekends…. =___=

References:

1. http://www.runnersworld.com/article/0,7120,s6-238-263–12081-0,00.html

The Hunger Games VS. Battle Royale (warning: slight spoilers involved)

As of March 23, 2012 3AM EST, I have watched and read the movies and books of Suzanne Collin’s “The Hunger Games” and Koushun Takami’s “Battle Royale.” Despite the concept of sending teenagers to a remote location and having them kill each other until one lone survivor remains, the two stories are surprisingly different. Sure, if you have never read/watched either of the stories, then, yes, you’d probably think HG is a “rip-off” of BR. That’s certainly what I thought when I was introduced to HG for the very first time. I thought “damn, another American rip-off of a great Japanese film...” Oh, how I regret saying or even thinking of such a judgement. Let me tell you, HG is a very well thought out story. Suzanne obviously took a lot of time and, most importantly, writing skills to create the world of the Hunger Games.

   So, what are the similarities? Let me point them out in list-format –

  • 20-30 teenagers are sent to a remote island to off each other until one lone survivor remains
  • In the end of the story, more than one survivor walks away from the game
  • Suzanne and Koushun-san has taken a great amount of skill to create and develop each of the characters in their stories.
  • Trackers are forced onto the students in order to track their whereabouts.

Overall, the similarities are material and physical.

What are the differences?

  • Battle Royale is involved with pointless killing. The survivor goes home to his/her typical everyday life. They aren’t treated in any way special. In HG, survivors are crowned victors and given expensive gifts. They are elevated to almost capitol-level. Most importantly, the concept of the Hunger Games is to remind the 12 districts of past uprisings against the capitol. It is the capitol’s tool, used to control the people of each district.
  • There is near zero emotional investment involved from the readers towards any of the characters in BR (I say near zero because a VERY smart part of me roots for Nanahara Shuya’s survival. HOWEVER! I have also rooted for other characters in BR. For example? Mitsuko Souma who is a seductive, manipulative, and purely evil character). For HG, we are very much investing our emotions towards Katniss Everdeen. We want her to win, to survive, and to have a happy life.
  • Battle Royale is all action and violence. Unlike HG, you WILL see severed limbs and leaking entrails in BR. Sure, you see a little bit of blood in HG. However, in BR, you see full footage of exploding heads and victims being hacked to pieces. The reader/watcher of BR is more focused on the strategies and techniques used by each killer which is the essential elements that defines BR. In HG, we are concerned with the people of Panem. We are in love with the idea of creating a better place for the 12 districts. We can relate to the people of Panem because there are certain elements of the government that are corrupt and we want to change it for the people of Panem. Why do we want to see Katniss survive? We want her to become a symbol of rebellion and hope. She is the key to bringing peace and happiness to the 12 districts. For BR, the title of survivor is meaningless. The end results is simply a lone survivor who goes back home as an average-joe.
  • In BR, the program is secret and the deaths/survival of the selected students cause zero to no impact to the Japanese society. These students could just as easily die from a car accident or natural causes and no one would know. HG is a worldwide, public event for all of Panem.
  • BR is not based on a first person perspective. The novel is told in 3rd person but most of the time it is told from the perspective of a single student per chapter (http://www.ratracerefuge.com/bookreviews/takami-battle-royale.html). Unlike HG, the reader does not become absorbed and emotionally invested in one protagonist (Katniss Everdeen). BR zooms in on the minds of each killer/student and helps us to relate to each one.

Neither of the lists are at all conclusive. Please feel free to point our any similarities/differences that I am missing.

Rule to the fitness bandwagon: NEVER eat foods that you do not like

I think the most valuable lesson I’ve learned throughout my life in regards to fitness and health is to eat what I enjoy. I have fallen off the fitness bandwagon multiple times and one of the leading reasons is that I ate foods that I simply did not enjoy. This list includes plain oatmeal, plain yogurt, certain types of salads, black coffee, etc. I can go on, & on. For a long time, I never thought that simple alterations can make a complete difference in not-so-enjoyable foods. For example? I used to force myself to eat mixed greens with a drizzle of olive oil simply because it is good for me. Eventually, I stopped and lost all hope in lettuce and olive oil. Until, only recently, my friend introduced me to balsamic vinegar. Just a couple of drops of this stuff in the olive oil spring mix turned my taste buds around! I love it so much that I try not to eat too much of it in fear that I may lose my fondness of the recipe. I also used to hate carrots until I added peanut butter to the little orange sticks prior to munching.

You might ask me “well, Fanny, aren’t you adding more calories to these supposedly healthy foods?” The answer is yes, yes I am. But what is a little bit of balsamic vinegar if it gets me to eat my greens? What is a little bit of peanut butter if it gets me my vitamin A? Alterations to recipes and foods should be beneficial, not counterproductive. Instead of adding sugary dressings, I chose balsamic vinegar. Instead of ranch sauce, I chose peanut butter. These are only little example of beneficial alterations. My equation to healthy eating? Generic plain healthy recipe + beneficial alteration = WIN.

Now, you’ll probably ask “Fanny, doesn’t it take a ton of time to figure out WIN foods for myself?” My answer is yes, yes it will. Taste buds change all the time; therefore, figuring out what you enjoy eating will be a lifelong adventure. We spend so much time searching for schools, jobs, and love… why is it any different with food? (That is my question to you) You should always give your body the best, quality AND taste. If the food is not tasty, it is not worth it. Think of your body as your car, would you fill your car with low quality gas? You’ll just end up messing up your car (obviously, I’m not a car kinda gal…)

I found myself sticking to my fitness lifestyle when I eat what I enjoy. That does NOT mean you should eat cheesesteaks, french fries, pizza, etc.  Healthy foods that are delicious are just as abundant as unhealthy foods. Believe me. It just takes time to find those foods. Remember…. generic plain healthy recipe + beneficial alteration = WIN.

Do you want to look like the loch ness monster for 10 minutes?

I recently found out that oatmeal is not only good for your heart but it is also good for your face. Apparently, oatmeal has the ability to absorb extra oil, exfoliate, and strip dead skin cells. Since eating the oatmeal will not do the job, one must apply the gunk onto the face. Now, imagine walking around with oatmeal over your face…

Anyway, as a typical girl (with acne problems), I decided to give it a try. My first attempt did not get me anywhere. The problem? I smeared the oatmeal, as it is, straight onto my face. It took me 20 minutes to cover one small section of my face simply because the chunky mixture would NOT stay on my face. I immediately got impatient and walked away, leaving the oatmeal mess all over my sink.

The next day, I woke up to a bunch of oatmeal boxes that I purchased for the purpose of creating a DIY mask. There was no way in hell that I’m going to waste good food. Therefore, I rolled up my sleeve and determined to make this damned mask for me. After a bit of searching around the internet, I came across simple recipe to make the perfect oatmeal mask.

Ingredients are –

  • oatmeal
  • water
  • honey

Tools needs –

  • food processor
  • cups
  • fork for mixing

I mixed the oatmeal and water together with a fork and grind the concoction in the food processor. This way, the oatmeal looked more like puree baby food. I mixed in the honey so that the concoction became sticky. By now, the oatmeal smelled so good I just want to eat it (which I did. Don’t worry, I left some for my face). I went back to the bathroom and smeared the puree baby food .. I mean, oatmeal… to my face. This time, the oatmeal actually stayed on my face. Success!

The results? Pretty fabulous if you ask me. The acne on my face diminished in color and my face did not feel as oily. Just one day, my mom noticed that my face looked more plump and dewy. If you don’t mind looking like the loch ness monster for 10 minutes, I highly advise trying this mask. I’ll have pictures for the 3rd time I do this again.

References

Confirmation that my Asian Parents actually did not find me in the garbage can

Young and impressionable, I was raised by eccentric parents to follow a specific path: go to school, get a job, get married to a man, have 2 kids, and retire comfortably. This is the specific path that my parents believe in (and fight for). I can understand their reasons for believing in this path. Hell, they immigrated all the way from China to America for a “better life”! They simply need something to believe in.

I have no doubts that this path will bring happiness in the forms of social acceptance, financial stability, family comfort, personal intellect, and much more. I’m not saying that it’s the wrong path. Not at all. I just wish they would have introduced me to different paths. Don’t get me wrong, my parents are pretty open-minded (by Asian standards). They respect and value my choices; however, they also know how to alter my choices in a subliminal and passive level. My parents won’t straight up tell me “no, that’s a bad choice” or “you should probably reconsider.” They know me so well that they are able to manipulate me to cater to their fancies. In the end, I’m following their path again.

Like almost every typical asian child, I was raised to learn how to play the piano, meticulously do my homework after school, dress to impress, look down upon “lesser” or “inferior” human beings, be compared to other robotic asian children, get scholarships, go to harvard, become a doctor slash engineer slash lawyer. Some of the items on this list, I have followed or achieved. Some, I simply refused to even acknowledge. I’m sure my parents meant well. Otherwise, they could’ve just thrown me in a garbage can and walked away. I just wish that they would’ve given me other options, instead of turning me into another little asian robot. Couldn’t they just tell me to start my own business or, even better, become a rock star?

Reference

waiting for my constant supply of unexpressed feelings pop like a balloon

Is it dishonest to constantly tell myself to “smile!” for every situation? Even if the current situation may piss me off or make me sad?

Before the constant “smile” reminder, I threw tantrums for every little thing that pissed me off and I cried for every event that made me sad. Soon enough, I began to scare away some of my closest and dearest friends. My family never thought I could be so inconsiderate. I remember telling my dad that he was annoying, always nagging, about my personal life. I remember pushing my best friend away by screaming all types of foul drunken insults to her.

Before, I was never ashamed of expressing my hopes, dreams, desires, needs, and fears. If I liked a boy, hated a part of my body, or felt sad for a certain reason, I would tell my best friends. Hell, I didn’t have a problem expressing myself to new people! I would even express in great details. Nowadays, I feel like people either do not care or will judge me.

I can’t say what was the final push for me to become this “smiling” creature for every known situation but I’ve definitely found it more difficult to express myself, unguardedly, to other people. Some nights, I force myself to think of events and situations that bother me and I try to cry – but not a tear touches my pillows, not one! Have I become so guarded, that I can’t figure out what truly makes me unhappy? Don’t get me wrong – I find it pretty easy to complain and bitch about work or minor personal struggles. But when it comes to my fears, hopes, desires, and needs, I am unable to wholeheartedly express my thoughts to others. Just like a balloon, all of the unexpressed feelings that I am unable to let out will POP! Will I finally lose it? Or spew so much insults and inner thoughts that all of the people I love will run away and never come back?

I’m slowly trying to regain the confidence of expressing myself to others. I won’t lie to you but it’s truly been a challenge to do so. On one event, I purposely numbed myself with alcohol before I “let go.” Midway during my “expression,” the people around me begin to give me advice, opinions, and ask questions. I couldn’t handle some of the judgemental remarks so I immediately stop and change the subject. Have I become so guarded that even alcohol will not save me? Don’t ask me what the subject was – I’m way to guarded to let you know. I wish I could. I truly do.

Smile-worthy!

Taking pictures of things that make me smile

 [my Domo make-up bag]

[Dark Chocolate Hershey’s Kiss]

[Mr. Garrison: “Don’t forget, kids, there’s no such thing as a stupid questions… just stupid people.”]

[Cousin’s little baby girl, Cecelia, wearing a monster hat (note: I didn’t take this picture)]

More to come…

My 1st Half Marathon

In the beginning of August, I signed up for the Philadelphia Half Marathon. I was a click away from selecting the full marathon. Thank goodness I did not. Somehow, a sane part of my mind stopped me from signing up for an option that would potentially destroy my legs.

Last Sunday, I was able to successfully finish the half marathon with several friends. I am proud to inform you that I had the best time (amongst my peers, of course). However, I am also not very proud to announce that the moment I reached the half marathon finish line, I saw, to my left, finishers of the full marathon… finishing at the same time as I did! My face of triumph immediately disappeared when I saw those running machines dash ahead of me. At the moment, I vowed to become a better runner!

I have to admit that I sorely underestimated the half marathon. Before the race, I thought “I’ve ran multiple times before. I’m ready for this. Who cares if the most I’ve ever ran was 10 miles? Look these seniors around me… if they can do it, so can I!

How silly of me.

In the beginning of the race, I felt confident, my legs felt great, and I was pumped! Even the weather was great! Nothing could stop me. Well, after 8 miles, I felt the exact opposite. I felt sluggish, my legs felt like jelly, and I was exhausted. Even the weather felt too hot! Although I felt this way, I never doubted that I could finish it under a good time.

I just wished that I trained harder. Instead of slacking off at the very last month, I should’ve amped my miles up. Next time, 26.2 miles! Here I come!

Also, most importantly, I give my blessing to the deceased runners’ families.

Pictures from the race: http://orders.islandphoto.com/RACE/Proofs.aspx#26531443-00002-0014