Kintsugi: aka my philosophy on life.

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For years, I’ve found myself identifying that the concept of turning obstacles into opportunity (or “ad astra per aspera,” dontchaknow) has become the distillation of my life’s purpose. Not just for myself, but also through leading by example, encouraging others to do the same.

Per-Aspera-Ad-Astra-Amarelle07

That simple philosophy has been such a major influence on my life, that it led me to create The Broke-Ass Bride, and this blog right here. It has gotten me through the many, many struggles I’ve encountered, and inspired me to fight ever harder to maintain an inspired life, positive outlook, and build a better future. Fighting through struggles, reaching for the stars. Not just surviving, but thriving.

if you can meet with triumph and disaster...

So, you’re probably wondering what Kintsugi has to do with all this. It’s a funny word, right? It means “golden joinery.” Today, thanks to the power of Facebook, and one of my heroes, Elizabeth Gilbert, I learned about the Japanese art of Kintsugi (or Kintsukuroi), in which broken pieces of porcelain are repaired with gold and lacquer to fill their cracks… thereby rather than masking their imperfections, they are made more beautiful by those imperfections.

Kintsugi as a personal philosophy

Isn’t that a beautiful way to approach the idea of repair? Whether in reference to porcelain or oneself? I certainly love the idea of practicing this at home when our dishes break. Artist Lotte Dekker developed a DIY Kintsugi kit that I definitely plan to order.

Anyway, the clearer my life’s purpose becomes, the more things like this resonate. I absolutely love this metaphor my core philosophy.

What do you think about Kintsugi as an analogy for life and how to approach it’s challenges? Have you identified your life’s purpose/core philosophy?


Korean Wife Camp: Bori Cha – roasted barley tea

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korean wife camp: bori cha (roasted barley tea)

I’m straight up addicted to this tea. It’s traditionally served in Korean homes and restaurants, either hot or cold, in lieu of plain drinking water – and has a delicious, nutty, clean, refreshing taste that compliments whatever it accompanies. I am head over heels in love with it, drinking gallons each week like I’m some weird herbal vampire and this barley tea is my life blood. It’s dead easy to make, and even easier to drink.

And it’s good for you! Roasted barley tea has been found to inhibit bacterial colonization and adhesion, specific to the major cause of tooth decay and implicated in cardiovascular diseases. It’s also known to assist in digestion, improve blood health, and (according to eastern medicine) control damp heat in your system. Which is something I struggle with a lot. I’m super damp guys. No joke.

But even if for no other reason than general thirst, this shit is the yum.

You can find roasted barley in packages at most Asian supermarkets, as this tea is also widely consumed in Japan (as mugicha) and China (as dàmàichá). Or you can find it on Amazon. It looks roughly thusly, depending on the brand:
bori cha roasted barley tea
It takes about 1 Tablespoon in about 2.5 cups of water for a small batch.
But I say, fuck small batches. This stuff is meant to be consumed with gusto, not merely sipped!

So, I fill up my giant 16 quart Le Creuset stockpot to the handles, and scoop in about 15-20 Tablespoons (or basically just enough to cover the surface of the water).

bori cha roasted barley korean tea

It’s really not an exact science, which I love. Depending on how weak or strong you like your tea, adjust the amount of barley and brew time accordingly. We like a hearty brew around these parts, so I set it up to boil rapidly for about 15 minutes, but have been known to get distracted and let it boil as long as 30. It was delicious and no one died.

But most people get it to a boil and go 5-15 minutes. Depending on the strength, the color will fall somewhere between weak tea and strong tea.

Then, because I make such giant batches, and prefer to drink it iced, I usually just take it off the heat, pop the lid on, and let it sit overnight to cool before I bottle it. But you can drink it hot, immediately, if that’s your bag. A bonus to letting it sit until it cools is that the barley sinks to the bottom and I can just ladle it out into jars, or dunk jars in to fill them quickly without hassling with a strainer. I always advocate for less dishes to dirty.

Then I throw the leftover barley into my composter, or feed it to the dogs. I suppose you could toss it into a salad, if you felt like it.

Here’s my haul from the pot above:

korean roasted barley tea bori cha

So, the large mason jars are half-gallons, and the milk jugs are 4 cuppers. And the glass on the right was the little bit that didn’t fit anywhere except my very thirsty mouth. It will last me maybe a week. Probably less.

As you can see, I was practicing my Hangeul on the labels, and have quite a ways to go until my block lettering skills are better than a 3 year old.

….And I just finished off another batch while writing this. Try it yourself! It’s a real summertime, or anytime, treat!


Darling Inspiration

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I think I ought to start referring to more people as “darling.”
Especially myself.
(Alone, naturally. Not in some creepy third-person way in casual conversation.)

It’s like being inspired with a timeless, kid-gloved hand. Which we all need from time to time, no? It can’t always be “tough love” all the time.

darling lets be aedventurers

Darling. Such a lovely blend of sophistication and affection in one graceful, soothing word. A most underutilized pronoun.

I have this one hanging above my desk:

what if I fall

Have you seen The Grand Budapest Hotel? Ralph Fiennes bandies “darling” about with true artistry. See the movie. Not just for that reason, but for that reason among hundreds.

Meanwhile, I’ll be trying to track down one of these discontinued darlings from Kate Spade to carry with me as a reminder.

ive never been a millionaire...Until next time, darlings…



Korean Wife Camp: Learning Hangeul & the Korean Language

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Learning Korean

In school, I studied French and Italian, and did well. Knowing some Italian made it easy to get around Mexico. I have a good ear. And I’ve always been curious about the challenge of learning a non-romanic language, and wanted badly to learn one… but learning a language without a readily available practical application for it seemed like a waste of time and energy. It would be too hard to keep up, and it wasn’t like I was going to change careers to make that language a new path for myself. Basically, learning a more exotic language, just to be able to say I did so, seemed like a fruitless exercise in ego. Can you imagine?

“I speak Aramaic, you know.”

“Oh cool, what do you use it for?”

“Um…” *crickets*

Then I met Paul. And BOOM. A reason to learn Korean came crashing into my life. As I mentioned in my first KWC post, Paul and his mother speak almost exclusively Korean when they’re together. We’re spending about 2 weeks in Seoul during our Honeymoon. And we definitely plan to raise our daughters to be bilingual from birth. I’ve picked up a few conversational words here and there… mostly from Paul and his mother, going out to eat at Korean restaurants, and watching K-dramas on DramaFever. But in order to get to a point of fluency, which is my end-goal, I had to get into a class. So I’ve plunged headfirst into the wild and wacky world of Hangeul: the Korean alphabet.

I started by enrolling in a class at the King Sejong Language Institute at the Korean Cultural Center of LA. Korean Cultural Centers all over the world offer language and culture classes at extremely affordable rates because they’re subsidized by the Korean government. So for a 12-week class, the cost was only $80, which is unheard of! But, the class pace was too slow for me, and the drive to Koreatown during rush hour was brutal. So, I looked for a more privatized option, and Tabitha from Winston and Main recommended I check out iTalki.com, which she was using to brush up her Japanese.

iTalki allows you to search for teachers based on the language you’d like to learn, and has detailed profiles for them including photos, credentials, student reviews, and even videos. You can buy trial lessons to sample up to 3 different teachers before settling on one, and take your lessons via skype or G+, allowing you to tap into teachers anywhere in the world. You can also find conversation buddies if you’re just looking to practice your language skills, or meet other people who speak the languages you fluently speak. The rates are extremely affordable for private lessons (usually $15-$25/hour, depending), and you can schedule as many or as few as you like per week, or sign up for a package deal.

I found my teacher, Zeanie Yoon, on iTalki, and she has been a total game-changer in my learning. Her ability to teach Korean with mnemonic devices, analogies, humor, and common sense really appeals to the ways I learn best; and having her full attention, rather than sharing it among a group, allows us to move much more quickly and focus on what will help me most practically, the fastest. I feel so lucky to have found her.

If you’re interested in learning a new language, or brushing up an old one, iTalki is running a special in the month of July – so if you use this link to go find a teacher, you get $10 in free credits to use on the site.

And if you’re curious about the basics of Hangeul…. here you go!

To break it down: Hangeul was developed by Sejong the Great, 4th King of the Joseon Dynasty. Han (한) meant “great” in archaic Korean, while geul (글) is the native Korean word for “script.” Unlike general phonemic writing systems such as the Roman Alphabet, it was uniquely designed to combine consonant letters and vowel letters into syllabic units. Hangeul is a very logical approach to the alphabet, because the consonant letters are based on the shape of the speech organ used to create the appropriate sound for it, such as the tongue, teeth, throat, lips, etc. It’s not an exact science, but knowing those correlations has helped me. The vowel shapes are said to be based on the 3 “elements” of fire, earth, and human. I find this to be far less helpful in learning their letters.

Consonant letters:
ㄱ ㄴ ㄷ ㄹ ㅁ ㅂ ㅅ ㅇ ㅈ ㅊ ㅋ ㅌ ㅍ ㅎ ㄲ ㄸ ㅃ ㅆ ㅉ
Vowel letters, dipthongs and thiphongs.
ㅏ ㅑ ㅓ ㅕ ㅗ ㅛ ㅜ ㅠ ㅣ ㅐ ㅒ ㅔ ㅖ ㅘ ㅙ ㅚ ㅜ ㅝ ㅞ ㅟ ㅢ

Until next time, 안녕히 가세요 (goodbye!)


The eyes have it.

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You know what sucks? Waking up blind in one eye, out of nowhere.

It happened to me, in May, in San Francisco. Because nothing makes a romantic vacation better than a medical emergency, am I right?

So we found a retina clinic, post haste. Turned out I had a hemorrhage overnight, which caused my eye to fill with blood. The blood was too plentiful and dark to see through. (No, I didn’t cry tears of blood. Though that would have been fucking bad-ass.)

The doctor suspected that one of my 3 implants (2 glaucoma valve tubes and a slow-release steroid pellet) had rubbed against something and caused the hemorrhage. Not really a big deal, in the grand scheme. The blood would settle over the next week or so; my vision would get better; I could go on with my vacation and be merry. But he wanted me to visit my specialist when I got home, for follow-up.

If you know me, you know that for the past 17 years I’ve lived with an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation in my eyes, which is dangerous and blinding if left unmitigated. Over the 17 years I’ve had this disease, I’ve been treated with drops, injections, chemotherapy (which affected my fertility), lasers, and 17 surgeries (as of tomorrow).

Yup. I’m having eye surgery tomorrow. And, I had surgery just two weeks ago too. JEALOUS?

eye surgeryBIONIC, bitches.

Turned out, when I went to my local doctor for a follow-up on the hemorrhage situation, we discovered that my disease had come roaring out of remission, and I had significant swelling in my macula, which is probably what rubbed against my glaucoma tube and caused the bleeding. I needed the steroid implant replaced, so it could control the swelling and keep the inflammation at bay. It had run out of medicine early.

And since the implant in my left eye is only 4 months older than the one in my right, he advised that we replace it now, too, to minimize the chances that I’ll have the same problem in a few months, and need surgery too close to my wedding to allow my eye to recover.

So, this month… the eyes have it. 2 surgeries in 2 weeks.

But, on the bright side, once it’s all over, I should be good for another 3 years or so. Knock wood.

Also, on the bright side, PAINKILLERS.

Here’s looking at you!


The ghosts of daughters future: babysicles round 2 (electric bugaloo)

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How can you miss something you’ve never actually had?

Paul and I recently completed our second round of IVF embryo freezing, and through the miracle of science, we have produced another healthy female embryo. In addition to the two we produced the first time around.

daughters

I’ll spare you the long, boring details of this round and skip to the meat of it: things moved more quickly this time, so I only stimmed for 12 days instead of 15. But I didn’t have as good an output – only 8 eggs this time, 5 of which were mature enough to fertilize. As of day five, there were only 2 blastocysts that had developed enough for the PGD (genetic) testing. And only one of the two was genetically viable.

And thank god for that one.

I can’t imagine how frustrating and painful it would have been to put my body, our family, and our bank account through all that strain… and have nothing to show for it. It was a hard enough pill to swallow, knowing that exactly half of all the embryos we made were so genetically imperfect they would not have survived. It’s a product of my type of fertility problems, having more low-quality eggs than your average bear. But it’s not something we expected.

But those three survivors are such tremendous gifts. I am so incredibly, awe-struckenly grateful for them, and the potential they represent.

And it’s ironic. Because I was so sure… deep down in my heart of hearts… that this time would be better. I did everything “right”: I ate right, I exercised, I went to acupuncture twice weekly, I took my supplements and herbs, and even added in DHEA (which is supposed to support egg production and quality). I wore bracelets given to me by a Buddhist monk. I cherished a talisman given to me by a Hindu man. I visualized white light into my ovaries every night. But, at the end of the day, my body is struggling… and nothing can reverse the damage that being on chemo for 4 years has done.

Science, man. I feel so lucky for the miracles that science has made possible. Our three miracles.

So, Paul and I talk about them, because they’re real to us.

“Oh, I bet we’ll do lots of that with the girls.”

“OMG, this would be so fun for the girls.”

“For real, when the girls are here, we’re definitely/never __________.”

“I wonder if the girls will ___________.”

And it’s weird. It’s weird having to wait for them. It’s weird feeling like I miss them… when they are (for lack of a better word), just possibilities, really. But it’s so totally surreal, knowing we made them. Knowing they’re healthy. Knowing they’re girls. Knowing they’re just waiting for a chance at coming to life.

But, still, I yearn for my future daughters. I can’t help it. Damned biological clock! Damned friends with adorable families! Damned hormones! Damned Pinterest nurseries! They all make me so impatient.

girl quotes

And I know, there’s no guarantee my body will accept any of the 3 embryos we have in the freezer. There’s just no way to know, until we try. And even though my intuition failed me this last round, I still remain as positive as ever that we’ll have luck with pregnancy.

The time will come, soon, for them. And I can only have faith that at least one will find her way into our arms.