The name game

laelene Posted in general blog,Tags: , , , , , , ,

With our civil ceremony fast approaching, Panda and I are preparing to jump through the legal hoops. One of these items is the marriage license application, with which I will need to indicate how (or if) I will change my name. The only thing we’ve agreed is not necessary is for him to change his name. But when it comes to mine, I was all for adding his name as a second last name, ie, Qin Bear (assuming his full name is Panda Bear, you see). I remember reading about a blogger who had done this and claimed to be able to use Qin or Bear or Qin Bear. That’s exactly what I’d like – a tie to his family name without actually really changing my identity. On the day-to-day, I’d still be Mary Qin. When it came to anything related to him, I could be Mrs. Bear. If it was something related to the kids (who I plan on naming with his family name), I’d be Mary Bear to match their surname.

However, I’ve been digging in to it and it seems things might be more complex than that. Technically adding the extra last name is changing mine, which means I’d still have to go through the annoying process of updating all my records (no thank you). Then there’s the question of whether two last names (NOT hypenated) is truly acceptable and whether the two can sort of be used interchangeably. If I indicate my new name is Mary Qin Bear, would a check written to me as Mary Qin be just as valid? I haven’t a clue… [any lawyers in CA please feel free to chime in!]

We were talking about this last night and he sees no need for me to change my name. I’ve built an identity around it and it’s a strong name. I actually have far less of a connection with my first name than my last. Perhaps I should drop it and make my name Qin Bear! You may call me Qin from now on. ;) I did want to add his to have that connection to his family roots and also share part of my last name with the kids. To some extent, I didn’t want complications because my surname didn’t match theirs, but Panda makes a valid point that our mothers raised us with their own last names and never had an issue. So should I just keep my name entirely? Seems a little lacking, after all this time that I was planning on adding a name.

And then of course I have intense debates with myself in terms of what the social influences are that are playing into my decision. Am I being too deferent to tradition by including his name? Am I being too headstrong by not? What is actually making me choose the way I am and does it make sense with my values? I’m thoroughly confused. Is it legal to list Mary Qin Bear on the marriage certificate but not update all my legal documents so I continue to use Mary Qin but have Bear floating in there on the marriage license? I think I might go with that.

Thinking of all this last name drama reminds me of an amusing fact: all three of my cats have different last names. Molly was given my mom’s last name, Missy was given my last name, and Smokey was given Panda’s last name. I sure hope it’s less confusing with the real kids. :-P

Voices hushed, voices crushed

laelene Posted in general blog,Tags: , , ,

There’s an epidemic out there. It’s a diseased thought, the idea that women shouldn’t speak up.

Why shouldn’t we express ourselves freely? Why shouldn’t we stand up for ourselves?

From a young age, we are taught that showing so much emotion is weakness. That complaining is really just whining. That saying something to defend ourselves is sassy or downright b****y. That a strong woman is not “feminine” (enough). We’re attacked for being too loud, too proud. For doing what we want, for being ourselves, for daring to be ourselves. We’re told not to rock the boat – “don’t create a scene.”

Really? Pointing out injustices is creating a scene? No wonder the majority of us endure rape, domestic violence, sexual harassment, and other abuses. Heaven forbid we “make a scene” over it. It’s hard for me to believe that in this day and age, we are still plagued with these issues. We keep our voices hushed so we don’t bring that negative attention to us. Who wants to be labeled a whiny b****?

When I bring up an issue that is bothering me, it should not be perceived as petulant. When I share I’m struggling with something, I should not be judged as weak. When I cry it out, I should not be any less respected. I had a friend suggest that bringing up grievances is showing your weaknesses. Just grin and bear it, right? But to me, doing so in a respectful manner is a show of strength. Strength is not pushing the world away and trying to go it alone. Strength is standing up for yourself and getting help doing that if you need it (and you probably will, if the struggle is meaningful and worth it).

And so it goes, this perpetuation of a preposterous idea. Women constantly find themselves put down and judged harshly for doing the very things men are praised for. “Way to stand up for yourself,” they cheer him on! “Why be such a drama queen?” they ask her. How in the world are we supposed to achieve equality with this sort of mentality standing in the way? How will women be respected when society continues to a demure beauty and men continue to objectify them? Just because “that’s the way things are” doesn’t mean it’s right, doesn’t make it acceptable.

This is how our voices get crushed. It’s no wonder we barely speak.


(So thank you, blog, for giving me a bit of my voice back.)


laelene Posted in general blog,Tags: , , ,

Yesterday I spent the day relaxing at home, spending a ton of time on my beloved technology. I think the entire day I was either staring at my phone, my iPad, or my laptop. So as the light started to fade outside and the phone started to blind me a bit, I thought it was just an adjustment issue. But when it didn’t go away, I started to get confused. One corner of the screen was so bright I couldn’t tell what was on it. Then when I looked over to my laptop, I noticed that I had a blind spot to part of the screen. I tried blinking it away, but there was no change.

As I started to notice a strange halo-ish glowing pulsing in the right peripheral of my vision, I tried to pinpoint where it was coming from. It felt like it was related to my right eye, but when I closed that eye and covered it with my hand, the brightness still made its way through my eyelid and caused the same pulsing glow. Looking out at things like the rooms of the home and the buildings outside made the effect less obvious, but I could see how small areas were distorted and jiggling. I thought I’d try a headstand since an inversion could bring more blood to my head and perhaps flush out the feeling (yeah, I wasn’t thinking straight). It didn’t change a thing.

I figured my eyes might be strained from all the technology, so I looked outside for awhile, but the blurred spots remained. I started to imagine what I could do… should I go see an optometrist? They wouldn’t still be open at 8 or so on a Sunday. Perhaps I should wait until the next day. What if it was still like that tomorrow? Would I be able to drive? Could my neighbor take me to the optometrist? Could I drive there slowly with my hazard lights on?

At that time, I started to get worried and really wished that Panda was around. I tried to look in the mirror to see if there was unusual movement with my eyes or something visible on them, but with my poor vision I couldn’t tell. I tried taking a video and playing it back, but that didn’t help either. Looking at any screen just didn’t seem like a good idea anymore. After about 20 minutes (and some pondering how life would be without my eyesight – or losing it in one eye), I went to go take my contacts off. They didn’t have anything on them, but soon after removing the right one from my eye and stumbling around trying to figure out where my glasses were, the effect went away. Was it related to my contacts or just coincidence in timing, that the effect faded just as I decided to finally try removing my contacts? Hard to say.

Today I put the same contacts back in and haven’t experienced any problems. I’ll be monitoring things closely to see if anything weird happens again. After all, nobody wats to go blind or have severely impaired vision, do they?

Love With Food Take Me Out to the Ballgame June 2014 review

laelene Posted in general blog,Tags: , , , , , ,

This is my very first Love With Food box, which I got because it was free (I paid $2 for shipping). For the life of me, I can’t remember where I got that deal (and no amount of searching has helped). But hey, I came across a link to the deal that you can use this month! So try Love With Food free too (and pay for shipping).

Love With Food is $12 per box (or as discounted as $120 for an entire year, with an option in between) and comes with 8 or more snack products. Boxes are sent monthly with no option to skip. They offer a referral program that earns you points towards products or boxes.

love with food box in plastic wrap

The box comes nicely packaged and protected from the elements with plastic wrap.

love with food june 2014 box first look with card and snacks in open box

First look! The card shares the theme of the month.

contents of june 2014 love with food box including eight snacks

And the snacks for this month.

love with food june 2014 box info card listing snacks included

Check out the deets here.

Overall, they stuck to the theme well and these are all snacks I can see bringing to a ball game or eating on the way there. I’m not sure about the value, which certainly doesn’t blow me away, but I do appreciate being introduced to some nice brands. My favorites are the Dolcetto chocolate cookies and the Snikiddy baked fries. The cookies attracted Smokey too, and I had to quickly ensure she wasn’t able to eat any lest she get sick. They kind of remind me of those flute/straw cookie things that are crispy and crumbly (just looked it up and apparently they are called Piroulines). The Snikiddy baked fries were strangely reminiscent of onion rings, even though they’re actually made with potato and corn. I really liked them for the super crunch!

The YumEarth fruit snacks were quite good, but it was such a tiny pack and half of it was mango-flavored, which I don’t like. If I could get just the raspberry and pineapple, I’d be a happy camper. The G.H. Cretors Chicago mix was quite interesting and featured a mix of salty cheddar popcorn with sweet caramel popcorn. I’ve never had such a thing before and I enjoyed it. The Stoneridge Orchards dried cherries were pretty good, but I’m not into cherries that aren’t fresh, so I can’t take more than one bite at a time. I would want to try one of their other fruits though!

Finally, I have not yet tried the rest of the items. I’m most interested in The Cookie Department’s cookie because it’s been on my wishlist. I didn’t want to open it for a taste test until I wanted to gain the benefits of this detoxing cookie though. The Tree Hugger Gum gumball is cute, but again, the sample size could have been more generous – say, three gumballs? I don’t chew much gum and if I do it’s almost always to freshen my breath so I prefer a strong mint flavor. The Jolly Oak granola looks more appealing than granola usually does to me, but I still am not interested in granola so I gave this one to Panda for his travels. Great little snack to have handy!

I’m going to keep the subscription and see what the next box or two look like before deciding if I’ll keep this subscription. It’s nice to get more food sent to me again. What do you think about the snacks in this box? Have you tried any of them?

[This post contains affiliate links. Signing up through them helps support my subscription and I'd be ever so grateful. :) All opinions are my own and I received no compensation for this review. I just purchased this box at the special offer price and wanted to share what I got!]


laelene Posted in general blog,Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I was going to write a review of my newest subscription box, Love With Food, today, but I am just pooped. Between a day at work that required quite a bit of effort and a night that just kept going, I don’t have enough energy left to finish that post. Tomorrow, perhaps.

cat and person lying on ground sleeping

Felt much like I did this Sunday afternoon, when we had a little impromptu nap time.

I’ve been running a series of webinars at work to train partners on the features and benefits of our product. It’s surprisingly tiring to talk for an hour and explain things via a presentation, demo, and Q&A session. On top of that, I’m trying to manage follow-up for a set of events that occurred over the past two months, which required a lot of navigating websites that wouldn’t load due to some awful internet connection quality. There are a bunch of other projects I’m supposed to manage too, but those were put on the backburner while I focus on the webinars and events. I’m starting to have trouble keeping up with things.

I left work just before 6:30 and headed off to yoga class. I’m not sure why I’m so tired coming out of it because it wasn’t very difficult and we even spent half an hour meditating. I always fall asleep during meditation, so I got a nice nap out of it. Perhaps the physical exhaustion is from my attempts at headstands after getting home today. I an easily get up into one by the wall, but can’t quite seem to find the strength required to balance straight up on my own. Before I got into that, I had to jump on a call with another partner (out in the Philippines) the moment I got home. After we synced up for the week, I was finally able to eat dinner (but not before I tried those headstands).

Have you ever eaten a light salad on an empty stomach? If you’re hungry enough, it’s kind of nauseating. So I asked Panda to make me some ramen, which is helping. But boy am I absolutely knackered! Not even mentally, mostly physically. So much exertion today. I hope I can get up tomorrow.

A year in

laelene Posted in general blog,Tags: , , , ,

It’s the 1-year anniversary of our engagement, just so happening to fall on Father’s Day this year! We’ve made plans for the marriage, but not yet the wedding and it’s one big confusing set of circumstances. I’m putting off wedding planning as long as possible, but I probably should start since it’s going to be only a year away soon enough (less than two months from now). A year is a decent amount of time to plan, right? It’s not like we’re going all out crazy; I’d rather have a nice time celebrating and enjoy a more elaborate honeymoon. Actually, it looks like our “honeymoon” will be coming in three (or more) parts. A 7-day thing here, a 10-day thing there… and hey, why not make every vacation going forth part of our never-ending honeymoon?

Was it just a year ago that Panda was getting his Master’s and we got engaged? Hard to believe, with all that’s happened since! I relocated from California to Virginia, decided to rejoin the workforce as an employee rather than an entrepreneur of sorts, got a condo, adopted a cat, and pretty much experienced change in most parts of my life. I feel like we’ve grown up so much in this span of time and I look forward to all the adventures we’ll have together over the years. The next great adventure will be getting our marriage license and legally getting married, which seems so strange to do a year before the wedding ceremony. We’ve grown up associating the two, but they don’t have to be hand in hand. So, as I always seem to do in my life, I fall neither here nor there – the exception to the norm, the couple who’s married but not yet, sort of? How are we going to explain this to people?

Nevermind that, though. We’ll do things our way and enjoy it all along the way! I just learned that my dad is going to be around for the civil ceremony this year, which is super exciting since he’s usually only in the country a few weeks each year. It looks like our entire immediate families will be able to attend – both sets of parents, plus Panda’s brother (maybe even my cousin??). That’s all we need! I don’t want all the fanfare and formality and I hope they don’t expect it. Let’s just do the legal stuff and have a good meal together.

Our kind of weekend

laelene Posted in general blog,Tags: , , , ,

This weekend was the first in quite awhile that Panda wasn’t traveling or working shifts or volunteering (and neither was I). We planned to have no plans and it was lovely.

cat sticking head into small cat carrier

Smokey was quite curious about her new carrier from Target.

Friday night, we did start off with light plans – yoga for me and volunteering for him. That’s when I swung by Target and got some great products. Saturday we slept in and lounged around at home before sauntering off to the mall. Panda claimed a free coffee at Cinnabon and I got a free piece of chocolate from Godiva (watermelon-flavored!). I happily took advantage of the Yes To deal also mentioned in the Target post and wandered around the Body Shop deciding what to purchase. I have a Groupon for that store that I need to use by the 28th. When we passed by a Hot Topic, Panda wanted to take a look and I ended up getting some hilarious sunglasses! I’m sure you’ll see them featured in pictures in the future.

wearing new blue heart-shaped sunglasses seen in mirror of car

Great timing on the new sunglasses.

guys wearing similar clothes looking at potted plants

Yes, I made him stand there for photo proof of the resemblance.

On the way to dinner, we decided to stop by Merrifield so Panda could show me around. As we arrived, I found Panda’s doppleganger! Even being in the car next to him, I thought the guy browsing plants was him. We explored the plants and got some popcorn to enjoy as we walked around. I found my beloved Venus fly traps and will definitely get some at some point. We also came across a super cool PINK blueberry bush! If only I had a yard, I’d totally get something like that. Alas, for now I’m restricted to herbs, flowers, and other small plants. We sort of got full from the popcorn, but continued on to enjoy excessive amounts of sushi (using a Groupon deal where we needed to get $40 worth of food!).

At night, I decided to try out one of my Homegrown projects: the olive oil and herbs foot soak and scrub. Panda and I sat by the tub, soaking our feet in hot water steeped with rosemary and lemon peel. After a good long session, we scrubbed our feet with olive oil and sugar for super smooth, moisturized feet. I completely forgot about the pumice stone part, but my feet felt so soft it hardly mattered! It was a nice slow night with plenty of time to talk to each other and enjoy the weather.


succulent with orange flowers

What brilliant flowers!

trio of three types of carnivorous plants in dome

Looove carnivorous plants.

five types of sushi rolls on single platter

All these rolls plus two entrees for dinner!

blue dragonflies mating on grass

Came across these mating dragonflies!

On Sunday, we made sure to make it to the pool before the storm clouds rolled in. We were the first ones to show up and I swam around in sunglasses, which was a strange feeling. I’d never done that before, but it was so bright out that I really needed them. Sometimes it’s so liberating doing something different like that. I laid around enjoying the warmth of the sun before Panda and I made our way to the local Walgreens. I skated and he walked, sometimes pulling me so I didn’t have to kick. I wasn’t sure if they’d let me in without pants (see picture – I was in swimsuit loose top only), so I wrapped a towel around my waist before going in.

girl skating on skateboard with two jugs of drinks in handsOur goal was the Arizona green tea iced tea jugs; they’re one of my favorite sweetened tea drinks! We grabbed three one-gallon jugs and another of an Arnold Palmer flavor for Panda. Can you imagine us, a girl in a swimsuit on her skateboard and a boy with a giant beach bag, carrying these huge things home? It’s less than a mile I think, but quite the adventure. As we were turning in to my community, I scraped my big toe on the asphalt and next thing I knew, my foot was gushing blood. I’ll spare you the picture, but it’s surprising how much skin flapped around!

Back at home, I cleaned off my foot and hobbled around getting pictures of my latest Fabletics outfit and doing the other project from my latest Homegrown box: infusing olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I even got around to cleaning up some of the boxes I have lying around. And of course there was time spent enjoying Smokey’s company.

cat sitting with paw on wool ball

Quality time with Smokey.

For dinner, it was out to CPK for some new dishes I haven’t had before. Every time we go there, something seems to go wrong. The first time, Panda forgot his wallet. This time, he left his main credit card at home. Alas, it’s always troublesome! We had a good meal though and then made our way to Walmart to get Smokey a harness and leash. We’re going to train her to walk! Or least we shall try… she seemed ok with the harness, so now we’ll practice walking. And so concluded our oh so nice weekend that was stress-free and a wonderful bit of family time. These are just the types of slow-paced weekends I look forward to! We’re just homebodies who want a relaxing time.

cpk meat lovers thin crust pizza

So much meat! I could only eat one slice.

cpk strawberry shortcake with whipped cream and ice cream

Shopping success

laelene Posted in general blog,Tags: , , , , , ,

I am so absolutely pleased with my trip to Target yesterday (and then a visit to CVS today). You see, I’d been coveting a reed diffuser, but I kept putting it off, hoping for a good sale. By the time I finally decided to get the one I’d set my heart on, Target had apparently stopped carrying them. Just my luck. Still, much like the marinated mushrooms I can no longer find at Costco, I still check every time I’m in the store. Just in case.

philosophie by pure natural tangerine and olive reed diffuserAnd what do ya know? Just like those mushrooms, which took nearly a decade to resurface, the very reed diffuser I was searching for showed up on a shelf yesterday. Just one, and thankfully in a scent I was interested in. It was hidden off in the back of a shelf, not even grouped with the other reed diffusers. I immediately grabbed it, hardly daring to believe my stroke of luck. Then I went to scan the price, wondering if it was still the normal full price. I think it normally would have been $13.99 or so, but the scanner showed $4.48! I was so excited I called Panda immediately so he could swing by another Target on his way home and see if it had some too.

I had really given up hope on ever seeing these again and probably would have gotten one of the other brands eventually, had I not run into this one. What’s so special about this one? Well, I liked that it wasn’t just reed sticks, but they had a few that were bent and woven into leaf shapes. I don’t know why that was so important to me, but I just didn’t like the ones with nicer bottles or other reed styles (one had paper flower sort of things on a couple of the reeds). This was unique enough yet not too much flair. I think the scent is pretty special too, though I’m sure I could find a scent from the other brands that I’d enjoy as well. Now that I have this, I’ll be on the lookout for a cool bottle. Satisfy one craving and then go to the next, right?

I know, I’m crazy for making such a big deal out of such an unimportant item, but I can’t help it. I get attached and I want something, but not at full price, and then I end up missing the opportunity usually. To prevent that, I’ve started to get things I really want when I’ve waited it out for just a little bit. In fact, in this same shopping trip I got a bunch of other items that I didn’t want to regret not purchasing.

As for the CVS trip, it tapped into the Yes To facial wipes that I’ve had on my list but weren’t purchased because I know they won’t be phased out anytime soon and I can wait around for a deal. First thing I saw as I entered the store was a table with buy one get one 50% off on the Yes To products. I thought that was a decent deal, but what sold me was the set of $3 off $10 coupons that were also offered there. That helped bring down the price to nearly half off both products I’d get. I’m now the happy owner of two types of facial wipes from them. :) It’s these little wins that bring a smile to my face every time I see and use the products I got!

Tabs for Ronald

laelene Posted in general blog

About two weeks ago, a coworker brought in a container (on behalf of his kids) to collect bottle tabs for the Ronald McDonald charity. I guess this is something the kids do around here? Who knew those little things would be valuable at all. I hadn’t heard of collecting them before, but it’s certainly easy enough, especially since the drinks at work are free. Why not pull off the tabs when I’m recycling a soda can? Well, one afternoon I decided to go ahead and pull the tabs off the cans in the recycle bin as well. After all, not everyone knew about the collection yet so I figured it was such a low-hanging fruit to just get the tabs from the cans that were being recycled anyway.

large plastic container for collecting aluminum can tabs for ronald mcdonald charityOne of my coworkers came across me doing this and was very curious why I was doing it. Because it’s nice? Because I want to help? Because I’m a good person? Because I care? None of these answers satisfied him and he kept pressing. What was motivating me to spend time digging through the recycle (I was hardly digging, really) to pick out cans and remove the tabs? Honestly, I don’t know. It just seemed like something I could do. Perhaps it was more of the contrast between me doing that and the others at the office not. He wondered if everyone else is “not a good person” then? Why did nobody else stop to take the time to pull the tabs? Um, I still don’t know. It’s not exactly something I think about. I do what I do and I don’t go around expecting others to do it too.

Why help? Well, when I considered it, why not? Why shouldn’t you take a few moments of your time to do something for others that costs you nothing more than a few seconds or minutes? It was such a strange line of questioning and I don’t know if I’ll ever have a satisfactory answer. I do those things because I can, because it’s easy enough, because it’s little risk with good rewards for an organization. I may not have answered his question, but that doesn’t change my own justifications and how I decide to act. I sure am confused though. Why question me so thoroughly about something others would just take for granted as a nice, helpful thing to do?

He asked my why I didn’t contribute to the shoe collection downstairs. Well, that’s not as easy to accomplish. I don’t just have shoes lying around I can donate, nor do I know people I can collect them from. It’s taking advantage of a situation that I can be useful in without changing much of my own patterns. If I had old shoes I didn’t want, I would bring them in. Similarly, I wouldn’t go out of my way to buy cans to drink to donate the tabs. But when they’re right in front of me, why take the easy way out and do nothing?? I mean, it’s not even something I felt I needed to justify… certainly nobody else questioned my actions!

What would you do in this situation? Would you put in your tabs and help with the others? Would you just put your own in? Would you forget to do it at all?

A moment

laelene Posted in general blog,Tags: , , , , ,

How often do you take the time to enjoy a moment? People get way too caught up in the past and the future, even as they’re living out their lives. It’s not often they stop to enjoy right here, right now anymore. They walk right by gorgeous flowers, stare right past the breathtaking sunset, and tune out the music of their lives. They tend to forget to notice the little details, to take a deeper breath, to feel, to be present. Perhaps that’s why our society is filled with over-stressed, over-worked, overly-unhappy folks. How can you be joyful if you do not get to enjoy?

cat sitting on arm of couch with arms dangling in front off couch

Zen moments.

Being present and shutting out the rest of the world can be such a peaceful experience. I love just get lost in my thoughts of nothingness while staring into someone’s eyes, gazing across a stupendous landscape, or even driving around. It’s noticing the slight breeze that tickles my face or the brilliant colors splashed all around me that brings a smile to my face. Cats are exceptionally good at living the good life; I’m sure we could all learn from them. They know how to soak up the sun in bliss, sniff the breeze with mild curiosity, and then settle in for a spectacularly long nap (after which they get an oh-so-satisfying stretching session).

What I love about yoga and meditation is that it allows me to actively be in the present. I am aware of my body, aware of my mind, and able to relax and challenge both. It helps bring a lot of peace in my life, especially when I’m letting stress get the better of me. I don’t necessarily need either to appreciate the present though. I often take time to sit quietly and let the thoughts flow in and out. I can stare out at everything without really looking at anything. It’s soothing for me, like resetting my mind. I find the most effective way to enjoy those zone-out sessions is with some sort of nature nearby. I can listen to a waterfall or the rustle of leaves; I can smell the gentle perfume of flowers and feel the breeze bringing their wafting scents; I can watch birds hopping around as they chirp their little sounds; I can even turn my face to the sun and feel my body heat up. That’s why I like to eat lunch outdoors!

So the next time you’re feeling stressed, go take a stroll (or seat) outside and notice what you can. The humidity clinging in the air. The dull roar of conversations around you. The smell of wet pavement. Let it all come and go and take some deep breaths. It’s such a wonderful release. Or if you’re stuck indoors, trying meditating. Think about your breath, feeling it go in and out. When you get distracted, just go back to the breath. I almost always fall asleep when I do this, and isn’t that the ultimate relaxation? :)

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