28 Too Late

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(I have a thing for insanely gorgeous wrapping paper.)

I turned twenty eight years old this May, and the last few years I’ve become one of those people who forgets their age.  I truly have to think for a moment before I say I’m 27 and then realize, oh wait, I just turned 28.  I’m grateful that my twenties lasted as long as they did and that I still have two years to go.  But I’ve also grown so much in only 2 years, and it’s scary how change happens so quickly.

Remember this?  I’ve abandoned some of them, such as taking hourly pictures on my birthday, gardening, and road tripping to Arizona with B.  I will definitely garden and road trip, but it’s no longer a goal of mine in the next two years.  I’m pushing myself in new ways, and settling into being 28.  It’s strange how some ages require that settling period – a period of putting two feet on the ground, sitting in silence imagining what you want in life, and cutting out the last shreds of negativity that somehow seep into our presence.  I’m not scared of what’s to come.

 

 

Dining Room: Complete

I am almost 28 years old and not worried one bit about my crawl to thirty.  My birthday is at the prime time of the year when there is so much excitement in the air, good weather, lilacs blooming, and summer so very close.  This weather change and general May merriment leads me to be insanely productive this month – spring cleaning, organizing, reading outside – all of the beautiful things in this world.

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I finally found the perfect print for our dining room wall.  The space has been bare and ugly for months now, so it was time to make a decision.

Enter Photojojo!  I have always perused their website for photography supplies, but this past year they started offering $20 engineering prints of your own photos.  This puppy is 4×3 feet, and the picture is one of B’s from China – yogurts for sale.  Perfect for our kitchen/dining area.

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I’m still trying to find the right frame, but for now, thumbtacks will just have to do.

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B bought me this orchid last year, and the plant stayed dead and ugly for the majority of that time.  Then, one day, blooms were bursting.  Such a delicate, odd plant with much more to it than I ever expected.

Miss Priss

Meet Miss Priss, the newest addition to the Gill household.

 

Miss Priss’ mother brought her to be put down because she couldn’t take care of her anymore and the cat was scratching her couch.  The vet decided to adopt the cat out instead, given she was so healthy and only ten years old (SIDENOTE: that old lady is a meanie, all she had to do was buy the cat a scratching post – she has yet to scratch my furniture).  B’s sister went to get dog food and there she was, waiting for a new home.

She has blue eyes and really soft grey hair.  She has already scratched Pearl and drawn blood many times.  She loves our guest room and sneaks into our closets every chance she gets.  And even though I hated that her name was Miss Priss at first, it really suits her perfectly and I’ve justified it in my head as being short for Priscilla Gill, a name B and I have both always loved.

IMG_1127With her fluff, she looks like a big, fat cat.  But when you lift her, she weighs nearly nothing and has the tiniest body.  I swear she has some sort of munchkin cat breeding in her because when she trots around the house, her legs are so short and her stomach nearly drags on the floor.

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Little baby munchkin legs laying in the sun!  Until I have babies, I am proudly one of those people who love my pets like my own children.

xo!

 

BACK!

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(Drinks at Mizuna on Bryan’s birthday – mine, the Hemingway Daiquiri, and his, an old-fashioned, as always.)

I have always been exceptionally lucky.  And given my severely pragmatic and realistic mindset, it didn’t take long into my teen years before I understood how I was going to survive.  Even as a kid, I wondered what the purpose of life was, and knew deep down how inconsequential we all seemed.  But these worries brought me to the conclusion, very young, that there is no value in measuring your life against others unless that’s something you willfully do in effort to motivate yourself.

There are so many people that will never come to this realization, or even arrive at the point where they reflect on their measurements.  There are people with no self-awareness, or understanding of their flaws, who put down others while not realizing they are silently screaming their own insecurities.  And I am thankful, because I feel as though I’ve transcended the negativity that society tried and tried again to inflict on me, whether it be in the form of my parents’ “worries” about me or growing up knowing I would have to maneuver within the constraints of being a female, second-class citizen.

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(The most gorgeous gift wrap I’ve ever owned, and will most likely use for millions of things instead of actual gift wrapping.  Shelf liners?  Bulletin board background?  I’d probably cover my house in it if I could.)

All of this comes to mind because Monday morning, I return to the professional world after a four month hiatus.  And while I’m a public servant at heart, I will be entering the world of private industry and I’m scared and excited and charged in a way that I have needed for a long time.  I measure my success by what I want in my life, and that has brought me nothing but pride and satisfaction and growth, even with the many hurdles and struggles that come along the way.  Every cliche about change being a good thing is worth listening to.

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(Our portraits from Kim, our dear friend and flower girl, that she gave us the night before our wedding.  I feel lucky to know talented people.)

I’m back to the real world and I feel relieved.

Beijing, Part One

It has taken me some time to get to a point where I felt ready to reflect on our trip to China over Thanksgiving break. Travel writers rarely forget to touch on the subject of gratitude, maybe because once you’ve gone somewhere new, it’s difficult to not feel grateful. Even those with terror stories afar come home grateful for the experience.

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I’ve wondered if this reflex comes from being raised to not take anything for granted. Every stage of my life has been peppered with adults making sure I knew just how “special this time of your life is” and “don’t waste a day of it” and “boy I wish I could be your age again”. Part of this is due to the fact that I have a dad forever living in his glory days, but the other part comes from a generation gap. Those adults sharing their life wisdom with me were most likely part of the Baby Boomers, the generation that took everything for granted and will spend their twilight years looking back. The science fiction stories of their days often sought eternal youth, ways to stop the aging process; science fiction now centers around tales of artificial intelligence taking over and fighting to stay alive in a post-apocalyptic planet. That’s a stark comparison between their world and ours. But, their lessons stuck and I grew up so grateful for every breath, every day, every meal, every age and moment of my youth.

China was no exception, and I felt grateful. Grateful to experience such a different culture on my first international journey. Grateful to walk the Great Wall with my best friends. Grateful that we were together the day we found out about Jon’s diagnosis. Grateful to be in a country where we are the minority, collecting stares from strangers and awkwardly standing while Chinese people took pictures of us and handed us their babies and giggled and pointed. Grateful to see Connie maneuvering a new country like a pro, teaching us things we would have never known without her expertise.

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When Connie told me she was going to China to work as an architect right after she got her Master’s degree, I knew I was going to go see her. I wasn’t sure if Bryan would be interested, but I knew I would regret it forever if I didn’t go, and doing things alone never bothered me a bit. Visiting China takes a bit of planning, and I wanted to wait until Connie got there to buy my plane ticket because she was unsure of the details of her time there. Initially she was promised three months of work, but once she arrived, they placed her in a design team and told her she could stay as long as she wanted. I was ready to buy my ticket.

At this point, Bryan had decided he wanted to come. We bought tickets for Thanksgiving break and told Connie we were all set. When Ashley got the news we were officially going to China, she was immediately dead set on finding a way to go too. Ashley had been in Tennessee for several months and we were still adjusting to living apart. Being in China together was too tempting to pass up. It wasn’t long until Ashley and Destry had their tickets booked. Well what would Thanksgiving in China be without Emily? She knew she would be so sad in America while we frolicked in Asia, so finally, she booked her ticket as well!

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While preparing visa paperwork, I noticed that you have to have the address of the place you are staying before you can apply. We all wanted to be near each other as much as possible, but I also knew Bryan and I wanted our own room and bathroom because why not? Emily found some great rentals where we could all stay in one apartment, but usually these were far from the city and lacked character. I sent them a link to the Peking International Youth Hostel, a place I found online after sifting through pages and pages of reviews. It looked really charming, bursting with fresh flowers and lots of options for rooms. Bryan and I had a room “en suite” which Connie told me means your bathroom is in your room, and Ashley, Destry and Emily stayed in a room with two beds “en suite”. Connie’s housing is on the outer edge of the city, so she was able to book a bed in the big sleeping room at the Hostel for the week we were there.

Emily, Bryan and I left from Seattle around 3 p.m. on the Saturday before Thanksgiving (November 22) and arrived in China around 10:00 p.m. Sunday night (November 23) after a 13 hour flight. We passed the time watching movies and trying desperately not to check the map to see how much longer we had. I cannot sleep on planes, so I knew it would be brutal at times. Although, watching the plane progress on its journey was interesting – I assumed we would cut straight across the Pacific Ocean to China, but instead, the plane followed the borders of Canada, Alaska, the Bering Strait, Russia, North Korea, then down to Beijing.

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Ashley and Destry had arrived a few hours before us, so when we exited the terminal we were greeted with the biggest hugs and smiles that we had waited so long to see. Ashley, Destry and Connie were nearly three sheets to the wind, since you can drink beer everywhere in China and they had been crushing them waiting for our plane to land. We got on the airport express subway and a half hour later, numerous stops and transfers, we arrived in our hutong. It was quiet as we wheeled our luggage down the cobblestone alleyway, and I felt such strong contrasting impulses to explore Beijing all night and immediately fall asleep until late morning. I had some life left in me, and once we put our stuff in our rooms, I smoked one more cigarette with the group before finally going to sleep.

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Monday was spent exploring our hutong and the surrounding neighborhoods. Hutongs are basically narrow alleyways that were constructed to house courtyard residences and shops. While they are packed with pedestrians and signs forbid cars from driving down the alleys, you’ll still feel a slight bump on the leg from a car slowly weaving its way through the hutong. There are no rules in Beijing seemingly, especially when it comes to traffic. That first day, we had the most beautiful blue and clear skies, something I hear is rare in such a smoggy city.

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On Tuesday, we went to the 798 Art District. This was my first real experience with Beijing traffic. I learned from Connie that middle-class homes didn’t have cars until 7 or 8 years ago, so the surge in traffic was swift and poorly planned. Cars make lanes where they want, and horns are used consistently to warn other drivers that you are squeezing between. Children ride on their parents’ scooters with no helmets in the midst of 6 lane traffic, and yet we only saw one traffic wreck the whole time we were there.

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The Art District was full of sculptures, paintings, graffiti, museums, shops, and cafes. It also had a really unfinished, industrial feel to it that I thought made it much more interesting to observe some of the pieces. The district spanned four (or more?) blocks, and takes you from dusty alleys covered in rubble to streets lined with delicate life-size flowers made of crepe paper. After we walked around all morning, we found a literal hole-in-the-wall restaurant where we ate some good, greasy Chinese food.

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Before we headed back to our hutong, we stopped by LotteMart, the hugest store I’ve ever seen in my life. The entire store is the size of most American malls, and tiny booths are crammed on every floor selling everything imaginable. We made our way to the grocery side so we could buy coffee and snacks to prepare for our trip to the Great Wall the next day. As we left the store, Ashley found a stand selling candied fruit sticks, something she had seen people eating all over the place. Her and Bryan were not impressed, but at least they got to try it.

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Stay tuned for Beijing Part Two next week.

xo!

Socker

Socker, or the easiest IKEA build to ever exist.

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I have an ever growing collection of matchbooks, and this was an insanely affordable item at IKEA that I thought would be perfect for them.  But I overestimated how much space they needed, so it’s looking a bit empty.  This miniature greenhouse may be put to an entirely different use sometime soon, while I continue the search for the perfect vessel for my matchbook keepsakes.

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I didn’t really expect the item to come fully built, but I also got a kick out of constructing something from IKEA on my tabletop instead of the floor.  It was the least frustrating IKEA item to build, but I still furrowed my brow too many times while putting it together.

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Someday you’ll get a peak at some of my collections, but for now, here’s a top view.

xo

Jilly

“Robert California, let’s have a conversation.”

I came from a mother with a fabulous sense of pop culture and a great taste in movies, shows, theatre, books, everything.  She introduced me to the Sopranos, West Side Story, New York Times crossword puzzles, flash sale websites, and a healthy crush on Jeff Goldblum.  Her commentary on celebrity scandals has always been hilarious, and she always seems to know the next big thing before everyone else.

When she first brought home The Office (UK) seasons on DVD, I could barely understand the characters’ thick accents.  But the dry humor suited me, and after one episode you adjust to the Slough drawl.  Flash forward to the announcement that there would be an American remake of the beloved two season BBC show The Office.  I was so mad, high and mighty, saying I would never watch it.  Even a boyfriend at the time, who loved both versions, got me to watch a few episodes of this American remake, and I was even further perturbed because they followed such similar story lines, camera shots, even some matching dialog.  Were they really going to just copy this thing bit for bit?  Are we really that culturally inept that we cannot watch something from another country and have to have it regurgitated to us in “American” terms?

Then, it happened.  A few years after the show started, my friend Bill, whose humor I trust indefinitely, leant me season three of The Office.  He swore if I watched it beyond seasons 1 and 2 and saw how the characters were unique, especially since The Office (UK) never did a third season, I would be in it to win it.

Of course he was right, and I’ve loved both shows in their own right ever since.  Anyone else who loves it knows there were ups and downs, and changes towards the end that I never thought would settle in.  And the UK and US versions, to me, have become their own very distinct shows in my mind.

And if you are an Office fan like me, you see yourself in so many different characters and different moments.  (Except Pam, I never relate to Pam, gross.)

But nothing spoke to me as a person more than Robert California’s declaration that he is never uncomfortable.

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Erin was scared Andy was going to fire her, so the conversation in his office devolves to their past relationship and the fact that Andy was just planning on telling Erin that he has been seeing someone.  Robert California continues to linger in their conversation, often interjecting advice and then backing out saying “I’m not here.”

Finally, Andy says “I’m sorry this must be really uncomfortable for you.”

Robert looks at Andy squarely and says,

“I’m never uncomfortable.”

No situation is too awkward for me.  xoxo