Dear Friend

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

                                                                      Benjamin Franklin

 

It has been a couple of months since my last blog. My goal was to post at least once a month. Things have been kind of crazy for me. I am in the process of selling my condo (my first home) and there are so many things to do to get it ready before I list the place. Therefore, I have been super stressed out. I keep telling myself not to, but it’s so hard not to stress. I am trying to manage a lot of the work for this project with the handyman while I am working my full-time job. So many things to do and so little time, how do you prioritize?

Yesterday, one of my good friend that I have not spoken to in a while reached out to me and mentioned that he always use me as an example of a success story and that he respected me. He wanted to know what does it take to live a quality life without being broke from paying rent and raising his kids. He feels like his whole life this issue has been a vicious cycle that he can’t seem to break out of. He further asked how do you mentally get yourself out of feeling this way. I thought wow this seems like an easy question to answer, but yet its a bit more complex to answer in a text message. I am not in anyway a subject matter expert on this. I think that it starts with you sitting down and being real with yourself. Take out a notebook and jot down notes. First think out loud to yourself:

  1. What would a quality life look like to you?
  2. If you could live any life you want, how would you describe it?
  3. What financial situation is making you stressed?
  4. Do you have a budget?
  5. Create one if you don’t have one.
  6. Once you have a budget, do you see trends in your income or your expenses?
  7. Do you have daily routines?
  8. Do you feel positive, energetic and productive daily?
  9. Do you exercise?
  10. Do you have access to healthy food options? If so, do you eat healthy food?
  11. Do you drink 8 glasses of water in one day?
  12. Do you care a lot about a pair of Jordans or money in your pocket?
  13. What are your fears in life?
  14. What are your successes?
  15. What are you most proud of?
  16. What makes you insecure?
  17. What makes you happy?
  18. What makes you sad?
  19. What are you grateful for?
  20. Do you set goals (short and long-term)?
  21. Do you have personal time to relax without the kids?
  22. What are your favorite activities?
  23. If you could travel the world where would you go?
  24. What is an important cause to you?
  25. What is your long-term dream?
  26. If you could do anything for a living/career, what would it be?
  27. What do you want to change about your life? Be specific.
  28. Are you a lifelong learner?
  29. What are you learning now?
  30. What book are you reading?

These are some of the questions I would ask myself and I would ask others who want to try to establish some plan for their future to think about them. I understand everyone may not have written a plan down before or even thought about these questions out loud, but you should always start somewhere. Success is a result of planning. 

Thank you, 2017! Hello, 2018!

“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.”

                                                                                                    -Walt Disney

I am filled with gratitude today as I reflect on 2017 and filled with excitement as I look forward to what 2018 has in store. My 2017 was not perfect, but I am proud of my accomplishments. It was not easy and came with many nights of headaches, tears, disappointments and hard work.  

On December 23, 2016, I gave birth to my beautiful daughter, Ava. She made it into this world right in time to bring in 2017. My husband celebrated his second year on the job as a web programmer. I was physically and mentally trying to recuperate from a difficult labor & delivery. We moved into our dream home on Labor Day, rented out my condo and Pharoah started middle school in the Fall at a new school. His first report card was a 4.0. Then I started my mommy blog to try to give Cambodian American woman like myself a voice in this field. I started my weight loss journey and closed out 2017 with a total loss of 20 lbs so far. So many big changes all in one year, but they were all great ones.

As I look into 2018, I have three resolutions for myself:

Live a healthy life

I will continue my weight loss journey until I get to my weight goal and completely change my eating habits and portions. I will take care of myself by not feeling guilty about requesting my family to have “me time” so I can reset and focus.

Live a simpler life

I will remind myself every time I go shopping to not buy things I don’t need. Instead to reward myself with experiences and build long-lasting memories with my family than to overload with materialistic things that only bring temporary happiness. I want to have many stories to share with my children and grandchildren not just stuff crowding our home.

Live a  productive life

I want to be the girl who lived life to its full potential and not be filled with regrets. I need to learn how to live and enjoy every moment. This means to never stop learning regardless of how old you are. Mahatma Gandhi said, “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”

 

Important Lessons My Son Has Taught Me

My oldest son, Pharoah, is 11 years old and he is slowly becoming a young man in a blink of an eye. A few days ago I stood up next to him and he is almost as tall as myself (mind you I am only 5’2”, but still). I remember the day he was born and how tiny he was. I was so scared to hold him because I was a young mom at 24 years old and was so intimidated by motherhood.  I come from a traditional Khmer family and I was in an interracial relationship and was an unwed mom. This is looked down upon and I was so afraid to tell my parents. I am pretty sure my mother was aware of the changes that were going on with my body, but I didn’t break the news to her until I was 7 months pregnant. I was forced to tell my mom by my sisters. They held me hostage and did not allow me to leave until I shared my pregnancy with my mom. I was so embarrassed and nervous. I felt like I let my whole family down. I never had a chance to enjoy my first pregnancy. Deep down inside I felt so blessed with my son. He was my everything even before his arrival. Every time he moved around inside of me I felt so amazed. It was definitely an incredible feeling I can’t find words to explain. I just wanted to give him everything I never had, provide him an experience I never got a chance to, and protect him from all the crazies in the world.

The lessons my son has taught me:

Be Resilient

As a young mom, trying to figure out life on my own I felt depressed and alone. I felt like no matter what I did, I just could not get it right, but every time I looked at my son he reminded me that failure was not an option. He gave me strength that I didn’t know existed and he pushed me to my greatest limits. I learned that having resilience meant being able to be flexible, learning to cope with hard times, and never giving up.

Live in the present moment and don’t forget to smile

I was so obsessed with what I needed to do to please others and win over their acceptance that I often forgot about myself and taking care of “me.” My son reminded me to live in the present. I wanted to be there at every stage of his life. I took thousands of pictures to remind me of his “first time” for everything. The day he crawled, the day he walked, the day he ate, his first birthday, his first day of school, his first plane ride, his first time on a bike, etc. I tried to capture every moment so I will never forget it. Now I realize, in those moments instead of trying to capture the best photoshoot I needed to be “present” and smile. Enjoy it and have fun.

Lead by example

As I mentioned in my previous post, there’s no handbook on how to be the best parent, but you definitely have to lead by example. You can’t tell your kids not to lie and turn around and tell one. You can’t tell your kids to have compassion when you turn around and say awful things. We are all not perfect nor will we ever be, but we should attempt to be a better person in every way in our life. We need to show our kids how to love, to dream, to work hard, to be kind, to listen, to share, to never give up, to try, to not be afraid to fail and to be happy. To be successful with these things, we have to show them how. Sometimes, it may take us a lifetime to teach them everything we want and this is why it’s so important to just be patient. Growth is slow.

I Want to Fall in Love With “Me”

All my life I have struggled with accepting myself and learning to love “me.” Ever since I was young, my mom focused on how “fat” I was. If you are on the heavier side in my family, everyone (meaning your relatives) would tell you how “fat” you are and give you weight loss advice even though they could lose some damn weight themselves. This became a normal conversation around my mom and her friends. They often talked about weight and diet as if they were weight loss experts. My mother would often tell my friends how fat I was when they came over to visit and how I loved food. My older cousins would say “wow you are bigger than the last time I saw you how much weight did you gain?” So, they say in these situations, you’re supposed to have thick skin and can have a sense of humor as if sensitivity did not exist. It happened so much that I learned to just accept it.

Over the years, I learned to cope with this thing called “stress” when you become an adult and have responsibilities. I used food as my escape through those stressful days. I love going out to eat and had no limit on my portion size. I would just eat until I can’t anymore. I used to say I am truly blessed to be able to go out to eat and have a good life. I associated eating out with moving up socially and economically. Growing up we never went out to eat because we just could not afford it, plus my mom was a homemaker so she would cook every meal that is in a Cambodian cookbook.

During high school, I was physically fit, but I never felt pretty or comfortable in my own skin. I played sports and was super active. I don’t think I weighed more than 150lbs at a height of 5”2”. I was so insecure and just was embarrassed of my body and the way I was. I am pretty sure many women can relate. I just could not pin point why, but I did. It’s a feeling I can’t explain. Then in college, I gained my freshmen 15 from eating “dorm food.” I went to U.C. Berkeley and I never turned down a late-night run to Blondies or Fat Slice pizza then of course binge drinking and coffee runs. I would procrastinate on my projects and papers and then pull an all nighter finishing the day before its due. By the end of college, I probably was at about 165 – 170 lbs. It was crazy. My insecurity got worse. At this point, I was like damn no matter what I do it won’t work. Then I would say things like “oh well, whoever I will marry will just have to accept my love handles and muffin top.” I started approaching my weight gain with my jokes to make myself sound like I was not tripping out about it.

In May of 2006, I had my first child, over the pregnancy I gained 15 lbs. This put me at 185lbs. I was like oh my god, this is crazy, but then I had no self-control and I just would go on these yo-yo diets and kept struggling with my weight. In June of 2013, I had my second child, and I gained another 10 lbs. I shot up about 200 lbs. Even breastfeeding didn’t help because when I stopped I over ate and the weight just stayed frozen at 200 lbs. Then in December of 2016, I had my third child and I was at about 210 lbs. The heaviest I have ever been. I never thought that I could get this big, but our skin is like elastic so it can just keep stretching. I am back to 200lbs, but I can’t get under this weight. I keep going up and down between 195 and 200 now.

I think all women should support each other and not body shame each other. Working out and mindful eating should not be a chore. You can make it fun and take it one day at a time, but have an action plan and go for it. Sometimes, we want to wait for the right time, but there is no such thing. Loving yourself starts with you and not the people around you. You need to start by changing the way you eat and start taking more steps each day than the day before. Losing weight is not easy, but you can do it one step at a time. I have been holding strong at 195 for a couple of weeks now. Follow me as I embark on this journey to love myself.

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Fun Day @ Farmer’s Market

img_3294.jpgI used to go to the Farmer’s Market in Old Oakland (Oakland, CA) with my mom back in the days. It was on Friday mornings so skipping school was not an option. I would have to wait to be off of school to tag along. It was a lot of fun sampling all the different types of fruits available by the vendors. Farmer’s Market is now in every city throughout the Bay Area and opened on various days and time. This is very convenience for working families especially if you want to include your kids.

My mom still loves going every Friday because it reminds her of the public markets in Cambodia where everything was freshly picked and available for the day. There was no refrigeration system available when she was growing up in the 60s and 70s out in the countryside so families grew their own food or shopped daily for fresh ingredients.

In Downtown Concord, close to where I live, Farmer’s Market is usually opened on Thursday evenings in the middle of Todas Santos park. It is an awesome time to take your kids on a hot summer evening where you can grab food and sit on the grass while listening to some music in the background.

Over the years, I have been struggling with my weight and I am now practicing mindful eating and healthy choices. I try to fit in 2-4 exercise session at the gym for a minimum of at least 30 minutes. It is not that easy, but every step I take counts. I am also trying to make eating fresh vegetables fun to myself and my kids. My oldest son will eat it, but is very particular about what kind. My second son will not eat it at all. My daughter is only 9 months so she doesn’t know the difference yet.

This morning my husband and I took the kids to a small Farmer’s Market in Walnut Creek. It was only about 15 vendors. It was super small, but it was a lot of fun. The kids were excited about tasting persimmons, peaches, and pomegranates. They even tried Afghan flatbread. We saw a variety of fruits and vegetables. My 4 years old asked a bunch of questions and we went around and named a bunch of vegetables that he is not familiar with. He learned about “Kale” and “Persimmons” today. I was excited as kids seeing all the beautiful colors and fresh smell of the flowers, the peaches, rosemary, cilantro and tomatoes.

I am definitely going to work on being more organized with my grocery shopping to avoid waste and make better healthy choices. I learned that eating healthy does not have to feel like a chore on my checklist; instead you can make it a fun adventure. Plus, I think if I include my family on this journey I will be successful.