Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Proposal

I'm engaged!!!!!! I am someone's fiance and he is mine. Can it be real?? I have to keep checking my finger!

Yep, it's still there. Must be real. 
I hope you're ready for a very good proposal story:

This past week, my adorable fiance, Aaron, traveled across the world to see me (and Thailand). I'm the luckiest girl in the world. After what was supposed to be a 24-hour trip, which really was something like 30, the moment I've been waiting for and obsessing over arrived. Not the proposal, yet. For the past 2-3 months I've been picturing what every place and event would be like if Aaron were there with me. That sounds super creepy... but keep in mind that I knew he was coming and had to plan out what he might want to see of Thailand in 7 days. So when he stepped off the plane, my instinct was to step into hyper-tour-guide/awesome-girlfriend mode. I await his blog to hear his first thoughts, now that he has had some time for them to sink in.

During the first few day or two, we toured the university, survived the hustle-and-bustle of Bangkok and public transportation, went by skytrain and boat to various markets--including the largest outdoor market in the WORLD, survived some incredible heat (Aaron says it wasn't that bad... it was. Bless his heart), and... finally.. got a Thai massage to celebrate his arrival. Here's a link to the album of pictures from his first and last days, which took place in Bangkok and outskirts I live in.

On the second day, we went and saw the must-sees of Bangkok/Thailand: The Grand Palace and
Wat Po. Luckily for Aaron, he is a "sooon jing jing farang" (really, really tall foreigner) and could see above the heads of all the Chinese tourists and sun umbrellas. We about died of heat stroke, but got some amazing pictures that I always wished I had from my first visit with a lesser-quality camera. After the temples, Aaron was pretty much initiated. All we had left to see were the fancy malls.....well, not quite, but it seemed that way. Oh, and the South of course.

For the heart of the week-- the middle 4 days-- we took a trip to Phang Nga province, near Surin and Similan Islands, in the southwest of Thailand (Andaman Sea side). I had been to the south once before, to Krabi, and had the time of my life and couldn't wait to share it with Aaron. I always imagine and talked about how cool of a place for a wedding it would be. Well... i got the next best thing! On the second day of speed boat riding, lounging in  paradise, snorkeling for Nemos, and skipping in icy blue water and on white sand beaches, Aaron proposed. Here's the adorable, mushy story for anyone who has asked:

The day of the proposal, Aaron packed the waterproof bag for the day (carefully lodging the ring box in a sock so I wouldn't notice it). I offered him my tripod, which he accepted with enthusiasm...I learned why later. We had an hour boat ride to Surin Islands with my Thai family
and 2 tour guide friends and about 15 other foreigners and tour guides. Once we arrived at the island, we snorkeled in 1 or 2 spots and had a fantastic time checking out "nemos" and coral whilst talking through our snorkel masks. Aaron, a novice snorkeler, did a fantastic job and was super cool. No sign of nerves yet :) For lunch, we ate with Dr. Register and her family and had some interesting southern food. Aaron had his first experience eating off of a whole fish-- with eyeballs and all. Somehow, he still kept his cool. Somewhere in this time, without me noticing, he talked to Dr. Lindsey and told him to distract Luke (their 6-year-old son and our tag-a-long) for 10 minutes while he and I found a beach. I was super excited to find a beach and get some sun/swim since we didn't have much free time between snorkeling. We found a neat rock formation and I decided it was a great picture spot, so I started taking tons of pictures while Aaron sneakily set up the tripod and video camera-- also sneaking the
ring into his pocket. I started suspecting out of the corner of my eye :) but didn't want to get my hopes up since Aaron takes a lot of videos anyway. After a few minutes (struggling with the tripod and to hide the ring box bulge in his swimming trunks), he called me over and suggested that we make an awesome video by walking out into the ocean together. Hmmmm... I agreed, my heart pounding, and--sure enough-- once we got to the ocean, he pivoted to his knee and whipped out the box, the ring, and
If you look closely, the tripod.
asked me to marry him. I'm pretty sure I said "yes" in a normal amount of time, but he swears I stood there, awkwardly in shock, for a long time before saying anything at all. I was pretty shocked, after all! Ok, I thought that Thailand would be the perfect time and place for him to ask, but  he also led me off of his trail multiple times. And I don't know how he managed to hide his nerves! (ask him to see his "mafia face" sometime) Perhaps he knew I would say yes :) Anyway... I said yes, put on the ring (temporarily blinded by its sparkling beauty), and he picked me up and spun me around. For the next 10 minutes or so, I was still in
Right after, still in shock.
shock, but we walked around the beach to an even more private area (people were starting to hover) and I started looking for shells to keep to commemorate the event. We ran into our tour guide, Hui, and she got these awesome shots of us celebrating the event. Once we found Dr. Register's family, I told them that I found something in the sand (showing them the ring). They were super excited! Except for Luke, who looked super mad instead, ha. I still don't know if he was jealous that I found hidden treasure or if he thought he and I had a chance when he grew up :P Anyway..... the rest is history.

The night of the proposal, our friends threw us a party with some wine and karaoke in the restaurant of the resort. Good times! We crashed pretty early after a big day of snorkeling and proposing/accepting. The next day, our tour guides decided to surprise us with an engagement photo shoot! Pat is an excellent photographer and I couldn't be happier that we have good photos to celebrate the event.

Ok, maybe a mix of good and silly :) Totally us. 
That's all for now, folks! Check out the pictures on Googe+

If you're reading this at home, know that
-- No, we don't have a wedding date yet, nor will we for a long time!
-- No, we're not getting married in or moving to Thailand in the future-- no worries
-- Aaron is back home, sadly, but he left me with a gorgeous ring and hope for the future

I'll try to keep this short and sweet but check Aaron's blog for more about his trip to Thailand and the best week ever.

P.S. Thank you again, mom and dad, for your blessing! We are very excited. Love you both!!!

Monday, April 1, 2013

At My Best

Forewarning: This update is all about me and my goal work/progress. I apologize for the topic, unknown readers, but I needed to write it somewhere.

Things have been really looking up over here para mi. Not that they were ever down... but I can't believe the changes I've been seeing in myself, thanks to some old-fashioned hard work and a strong will (and maybe a little bit of travel-related inspiration). It's amazing what you can accomplish when your world is turned upside down and you have a completely new foundation to start upon. And I'm only halfway! To give you a good idea of where I've come, you have to know where I was last semester:

I had a great semester student teaching, but I picked up some HORRIBLE habits. I ate TV dinners every day for lunch and take-out, TV dinners, or junk for dinner on most  nights (unless my sister cooked :)). I didn't work out a SINGLE time when I was student teaching (or for as long as I can remember before that, either). I watched a great deal of Netflix. I was too tired to accomplish anything after I got home from school so I usually just stayed in my room and slept when I could. I bit my nails.  I drank too much coffee. You get the picture. Luckily, I KNEW they were horrible habits and just kept thinking "I'll fix this in Thailand". In my defense, I really didn't have the time or energy to even think about making changes after teaching 13 classes a day.

I'm so thankful that the "I'll fix this in Thailand" resolution is finally in the actualization stage.

*** Back to the Present ***

Here are 3 people that were catalysts for my changes, though indirectly:

You might hear me (or +Aaron  ) talk about our "Demetri List" sometimes. A few years ago, we watched comedian Demetri Martin's special called "If I" (start at 5:43), where he explains a detailed point system he created for himself after thinking "If I could just figure out my life" and thinking of himself as a puzzle to solve. A simple point reward system with clear objectives in all life domains and a way to reflect/analyze your results. Aaron and I tried one for ourselves and... let's just say that it may be a life-long thing. I made a specific "Thailand Demitri List" and recently put it into a Google Form-- a fun alternative to a printed check-list. Check it out.

This semester, in Thailand, I picked up Gretchin Rubin's book you see left (as mentioned in my last blog) and discovered within the first chapter that she had her own self checklist which she uses every day for a year and reflects upon throughout the book! Reinforcing my Demetri List.

Guess who Gretchin Rubin got her idea from? A Founding Father of our country-- Ben Franklin. I knew I liked him. He's often called the "grandfather of the self-improvement literature".If he thinks it's a good idea, it's probably a good idea :) I really hope to read his book "Wit and Wisdom" where he describes his self-improvement checklist, but for now I've got a good idea from Rubin's book.

As a side-note, I've realized lately that I really look up to "Renaissance"-type people-- Ben Franklin, Justin Timberlake (his new album is super fun, btw), etc. There's a book I found online about this being a personality type and I'd love to read it. If you know me well, you know that I have a very eclectic list of hobbies, skills, and career interests.

Anyway, what do all three of these people agree upon? The idea that we should frequently take time to reflect about what is contributing to or detracting from our ideal quality of life, write down those things in the form of a goal, and look at those goals daily to remind yourself of who you want to be or what you need to do to feel your best.

By the way, Demetri calls it "the point system", Rubin calls it her "resolutions chart", and Ben Franklin calls it "the Thirteen Virtues" and they all tally and collect data totally differently. As it should be! Everyone has unique needs--including different types of positive reinforcement to meet those needs.   

Self-help books might be one of the cheesiest, cliche, hated genres on the market... but I like them. NOT because I am depressed (I'm not), have a crumbling life I need to piece back together (I definitely don't), or whatever reason that people would think if they saw me reading one. I am just genuinely interested in the subjects that they offer. Happiness is the ultimate, "umbrella" goal for each of us, every day. In the field, we call this "quality of life". What contributes or detracts from each of our feelings of happiness? As a clinician or teacher, it's my job to help foster happiness in others-- but I first need to identify about what makes ME happy so I can keep doing whatever that is. In reading about how to improve ourselves, we can identify what things are contributing to our current levels or unhappy or happy.

Self therapy, my friends. Music therapists, or other healthcare professionals, employ these methods EVERY DAY when creating treatment plans and tracking progress for their clients. It's my new-formed hypothesis that contributing to our own happiness by employing a similar technique will help us be better client-centered clinicians, better student-centered teachers, and a better society in general.

Top 6 areas in which my "Demetri List" and dedication to self-improvement has positively changed my daily life thus far in Thailand:

  1. Exercise: I've never stuck to a workout program in my life and I very much intend to this time. Physical happiness contributes to inner happiness which contributes to further physical happiness, etc. Be good to your body so it will be good to your mind and vice versa.... my latest philosophy. It's also been great on my self-confidence and makes biking and walking around Bangkok easier.  
  2. Willpower: This goes along with No.1 but also beyond that. I've grown out my nails for the first time ever-- just because I could! Not that I love them short or long, I've just never had the patience and willpower to let them grow. (Still working on willpower when it comes to my diet)
  3. "Adult" Education: I know that learning should be life-long and there's no better time to start the habit of reading, frequently, than the present. Realizing that I can read in the pool, on the bus, for 5 minutes while I wait for my computer to move, etc., I've managed to get a lot of reading done that I didn't think I had time for in the past. 
  4. Good Habits: Brushing and flossing every morning and night, taking care of the skin, washing dishes right away, frequently turning off lights, taking vitamins. All things that can be practiced until they become habit-- which is something the list is definitely helping with. 
  5. Creativity: Part of my list is journaling (doodles or stories), blogging, and general projects. This is something I continue working towards with my list. I may even add more objectives to include music-making and new art mediums (which stems from my watercolor trial in Thailand which ended up being quite enjoyable once I realized that I cOUld paint that way). 
  6. Fun: Nobody likes to check the "no" box in the fun category. It's a great reminder on a hard work day to stop and do something I consider fun (watching an episode of Community, for example). 
There are many other areas I'm still working on-- communication, good eating habits, etc.-- but seeing improvement in 6 areas is still exciting. 

Moving on...

There were other people and, certainly, events that were catalysts for change, but I'll save that bit. In my quest to read as many books as possible, I came across this picture that summed up what's going on for me:

Since the "Happiness Project", I've moved on to my next self-help/leadership book: "How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie. I have to admit, the title is a bit off-putting but the contents are rich and timeless. There are too many good quotes to remember, so I recently started a "book" of quotes and thoughts inspired by reading. Thank goodness for Adobe Reader and ebooks-- I can read on the go and underline, highlight, or circle things in my books.

And since I drafted this blog update, I've finished that book and started "The Monk Who Sold his Ferrari"-- very interesting read. It reads more like a novel which should hopefully balance the palette of nonfiction books I've been reading.

Speaking of books, I've also started my own account on GoodReads.com and have over 50 books in my "to read" list. See the right sidebar for my book list and progress! I highly suggest this site for ideas if you have no idea what you like to read and you want to title browse. Amazon just bought the company today, if not yesterday, which will mean that the site will have ebooks available soon.

It's time to catch some zzzzzz's but also high time that I posted. All for now!