Monthly Archives: December 2015

On Orphanages and Opportunities


Some background music.

My Morning at the Dentist

Do you believe in New Year’s Resolutions? I don’t. Instead, I have five daily objectives and long term plans while remaining open to whatever the winds of happenstance blows my way.

I awoke early this morning and completed some of my daily objectives: workout, yoga, meditate and at least 15 minutes of To Do’s over my after-breakfast coffee. I have yet to complete my fifth daily objective today: piano practice. After doing all this, I set off to my dental appointment. I haven’t been very good this year: I had two cavities filled today, more than I’ve ever had in one year.


In the laboratory, The Arizona Bark Scorpion can be frozen for weeks and still be alive. It’s sting is very venomous.

As I sat waiting in the big dental chair, my eyes were affixed to the television. It was on The National Geographic Channel, which I’m a fan of but don’t ever turn on my TV at home. It was a show on wild animals in the city: big cats that steal little pets in the night, birds of prey nesting on skyscrapers, rats in the dumpster eating every 20 minutes, pythons eating the rats in the sewer pipes of New York, sloths of Rio de Janiero and deadly scorpions of Las Vegas. “Scary!” exclaimed dental assistant as she walked in and saw the scorpions on the screen. She introduced herself as Vannah. She asked if my name was Vietnamese or Chinese.

“Chinese,” I answered with a quizzical glance her way.

She saw my questioning look and answered, “I’m Cambodian…a little Chinese. I was born in Cambodia. My parents brought me here when I was little because of the war.”

cambodia ratcliff

Photo by Trey Ratcliff


I smiled at the mention of Cambodia. “I was just in Cambodia in spring.”

“Where did you go?”

“I mostly stayed in the touristy areas…Siem Reap.”

“How long did you go for?”

“Only a couple of days.”

“Just Cambodia?”

“No. I traveled over other parts of Asia. I wish I had stayed in Cambodia longer. It was so different!”

“Different how? Did you like it?” Then she couldn’t contain her excitement any more. “For Christmas, my husband surprised me with tickets for my mother and I to Cambodia! I’ll be going for three weeks this February. I haven’t told my boss yet.”

“That’s so exciting! I liked it! Different in that I had never seen any place like it. I had the chance to visit some homes and there was no running water…”

I wanted to go on and tell her about the beautiful children, the food, the villages, the markets… the grandeur of Angkor Wat but didn’t get a chance.

“I want to visit the villages and the orphanages! I still remember it. I feel I can identify with the children. I asked my mother if I could buy them bags of rice and she said they probably would rather have money.”

At this point, I grew concerned. “You do know those orphanages aren’t real; right?”

“What do you mean?”

“They’re tourist attractions…”

“Oh! I know about that! The parents are too poor to raise the kids and leave them  or sometimes sell them.”

Children Are Not Tourist Attractions

I wanted to tell her about why we shouldn’t give money to “orphanages” but didn’t get a chance to do so as the doctor walked in… I wish I had the chance to show her this video: Why We Shouldn’t Give Orphanages Money

The doctor, a curly-haired woman who went by the Italian name of Dr. Antonini, made pleasant conversation as she worked. “Did you stay in town for Christmas or go out?”

“I just stayed in town. How about you?”

“ I went to Chicago. That’s where I’m from.”

“Was it snowing there?”

“No. I heard how cold and windy it was here… It was unseasonably warm in Chicago: 70 F. My kids didn’t get to go ice skating.”

“There’s an ice skating rink 45 minutes away. I’ve never been there but I heard…”

“There is?! Maybe I’ll take them this weekend! There is nothing to do around here! My husband is in the Air Force and we live on Base.”

“Oh… There really is nothing to do there!”

“I know! I drive 15 minutes to work. At the last town we were in Ohio, it took me five minutes to drive to work and I liked going home and doing laundry during my lunch. At least I don’t commute to LA…”

I agreed with her, as the traffic in Los Angeles is terrible for daily commuters, not Beijing terrible, but bad enough.

At that moment, I had such admiration for this happy woman who was able to find steady work and raise kids while married to a man in the military. My mind drifted to why I never visited the ice skating rink. It’s something I want to do. I love ice skating! My face was numb from the novacane now… I could feel my heart beat in my chest, just I like do on the rare occasions when I drink too much.

“I feel drunk.”

She laughed heartily and reassured me, “You’ll still be able to drive home. You aren’t the only one who has said that but it’s just your face.”

When I got home, I started writing/ typing all of this out, but I didn’t finish very quickly because my mind started to wander again. I thought about the past and the future.

Looking Back


One of my journals from 2002



Do you ever look back at old things you wrote long ago? Over the years I have kept dozens of journals. I do not know why I still have them… Perhaps I am secretly hoping to get famous and then write a memoir by selling my journals or perhaps I am intending to  compile and publish all of the poetry I have written at numerous times through the years. Looking back, in a journal entry dated October 24, 2002, I wrote out various fantasies. It’s interesting to see all of the things I wanted to study: yoga, costume design, nursing, fashion, film, international relations, teaching, history, religion, kungfu, massage… The list goes on. I’ve always been interested in everything!

One of the things that stands out to me is that I wanted to go to graduate school at UCLA to major in World Arts and Cultures. At UCLA, they have a program in which one may study a culture of choice through either language or dance. I no longer want to attend UCLA to study one culture. I do not want to be restricted to study one culture and I do not have the multi-lingual and dance skills required to enter such a program; nor do I have the money and energy. Even renowned Joseph Campbell never finished his doctorate because he did not want to be restricted to studying only one subject area.


Inside the front cover of an old journal from 2002.

In fact, I’ve been dreading a little bit my decision to stay in my current town for a few years to finish paying off my student loans because of my wanderlust. Looking at this journal from thirteen years ago, I see that even then I wanted to be either a traveling nurse or traveling teacher and even today I have full intention of finding jobs overseas to see the world when I have finished paying off the student loans. I realize that I have a problem. I’m on a hedonic treadmill of pursuing one goal after another and I’m not a very pleasant person because I always keep too busy pursuing things. And so.. while it’s not a New Year’s Resolution… I endeavor to take the slower route. No more running from work to every class imaginable. I want to take life slower and become a calmer/ more pleasant person on the inside and out. Instead of running from work to every which class and coming home exhausted and not yet even having dinner every night, I’m going to come home from work and have quiet evenings. I know it will be difficult at times to be alone with Silence because in Silence sometimes there are emotions we don’t acknowledge and I’m an emotional person. For now, I want to fill my evenings not on busy-ness and work, not on impulse, but by studying yoga and learning to cook…. Studying how to remain present one spice, one bite, one breath at a time.

every moment

Cooking for One

Not long ago, I had the idea that I could satiate my wanderlust by traveling the world through food. I wondered if I could create and eat meals from all parts of the world. I did a google search for some recipes and was delighted to find that this idea of mine is, of course, not original under this Sun! I am very happy to find this because Sasha Martin has published her global recipes on her blog and has written a guide for “cooking the world”! The blog she writes is very family-oriented, so I’ve decided to create a new blog about cooking the world for one. Mrs. Martin graduated from a culinary school and is very experienced in cooking. Her blog details the act of gathering the ingredients for the food. I don’t want to do this with my blog. I want to write about the geography and culture of each food and the meaning of each dish as a symbol of global human connection instead, as that is where my interests lie (and I really don’t know much about culinary arts, though I look forward to learning).

homer cooks

I’ve got a bit of Homer in me, but this new blog may or may not contain bloopers.

Writer Amanda Ford’s ode to the solo life illustrates my exuberance about this idea best:

To nourish your body with healthy food and exercise, to control your finances by paying off debt, living within your means and saving a bit of cash each month, to use kind words when discussing your character, to forgive yourself again and again for all of your human mistakes-these are high acts of self-love….Food is sustenance…Be aware. Learn to listen to your body, to your stomach, to your cells. Healthy food is a basic building block. Without it, you cannot sustain the life of your dreams…If you can conquer the kitchen, if you can sit at the table for thirty minutes slowly enjoying your meal, if you can satisfy your own hunger, then you can do anything. The world is your oyster…If you take time to educate yourself about wholesome nutrition, and make time to prepare nourishing meals and snacks, then you need not fear a thing. You have proven that you can care for yourself at the most basic, fundamental level…Let loneliness erupt! Let sadness arise! Let disappointment intrude! These feelings will not devastate you!…You have the skills to soothe your own heart.”

Be on the look out for my new blog soon. I will be listening to my body (and my stomach) through yoga and cooking. What are your goals and resolutions? As the year comes to an end, have you looked back?


Guilt Free Holiday Vacation Thoughts


I love this video! It makes me want to go back to dance classes. I keep staring at my schedule today trying to figure out where I could possibly fit dance classes back in knowing full well how stressful it is to be a maximizer. Afterall, even the lady in the video had to put things on hold until her kids and husband were gone before she became an international dance sensation. We have time for only so much at a time.Have I talked myself out of wanting to do more when I’m on vacation and feeling like I have time? We’ll see!


I hope everyone had a very happy holidays. I did! I have gained about ten pounds  over the holiday season eating whatever I want but I don’t really care. Our weight is supposed to fluctuate. I keep plenty active enough for it to be gone soon enough. I’ve really become self-accepting! I am not perfect and that’s okay. Imperfections open us up to growth!



And now I leave you with another dance video! 😀




fantasy cafe

Thirty minutes until the coffee shop closes tonight. I’m sitting here people watching and recalling a memory…

Only a couple of weeks ago, I had suggested to Scott we go to Whistler’s Coffee and play a board game over coffee. He had brought a book with him and had wanted to sit at the fire in The Yard House with his book and beer and had invited me along. I had not brought a book with me and had no interest in beer. We discovered that the coffee shop had already closed for the night. “What about laser tag?” I suggested. He liked this idea. About a week later, he texted me with the words, “What are you doing tomorrow night? Do you want to go play some laser tag?” The following evening began with arcade games and laser tag and ended with an an invite from him, “How about some pool at my place?” Against my better judgment, I followed him to his house where we played records, tossed the dog toy around as a very happy weiner dog fetched it and played pool. Scott gave good tips on how to play the game and gave me a chance to practice. The game ended and we sat down on his couch close together so that there was no space between us. We carried on casual conversation on various topics, but our body language was anything but casual. I knew that Scott was working up the nerve to kiss me and I stayed close to him, as if to give him permission to do so. When he finally kissed me, it seemed the kiss would never end and that we were falling deeper and deeper into each other’s arms.

That was two weeks ago. I haven’t seen him since that night. I think he must have changed his mind about pursuing anything with me. After the kiss, he had said, “I knew you were special since I laid eyes on you. I like you a lot but the timing of this is off: I’m moving soon.”

“When are you moving?” I had inquired.

“In a few months.”

“That’s plenty of time for us to get to know each other and you aren’t moving too far away…”

“When I fall for someone, I usually fall hard.”

“But we don’t even know each other.”

“I know,” he acknowledged in the darkness.

Maybe that was his way of telling me he wasn’t going to pursue anything else… That he wasn’t about to commit to this because he didn’t want to fall hard again…. I don’t know. I do know that the thoughts of him and his little dog still bring a smile to my face and in order to resist the urge to invite him to waste more of my time (and more of my heart), I find myself finding other things to do… Other things like wrapping Christmas gifts, tying them with grand Martha Stewart-inspired bows and decorating the house with the warm light of a Christmas tree. I can’t help but wonder what Scott will get his dog for Christmas, but that thought is one I push back as I busy myself with holiday happenings.

old city cafe.jpg

Coping By Christmas Trees



The house was silent save for the crackle of the wood burning in the small furnace. The neighbors’ kids had given her little ones a scare, telling them the rumors that their house had burned down multiple times, once with a young child in it, a young boy who supposedly still haunted the house to this day, but these thoughts were far from her head as she sipped on her hot coffee. She was always sipping on black coffee. Black coffee calmed her. A couple of weeks ago, she had finally made the decision that her kids would go live with her parents about three hours’ drive away. It was not an easy decision, but she knew it was the right one. Now, she couldn’t help but feel a sense of loneliness as she wandered the now empty house. She pictured the boys playing on the couch and snuggling with her by the Christmas tree she usually had standing in the living room around this time of year. That’s when she had the sudden urge to fill every room in the house with the warm light of a Christmas tree. Following this impulse, she worked through the night, pulling all of the old artificial Christmas trees she had sitting in the garage: a frosted white tree, a tall slender tree and a fat green tree. In a matter of minutes, she had them all unboxed. Within an hour, she had the fat green tree fully decorated in all its splendor in the living room. Within another hour, she had the white tree dangling with glittery artificial snow in the boys’ room. By the end of the evening, she had put up a Christmas tree glowing warmly in every room of the house and she felt as if the house was no longer so empty. Something about trees and Christmas decorations always could make her smile.

Another Happy Christmas Tree Story: Good News from New Orleans


Selfie Time!




Hi! My name is Anne. Thought I would remind you my name since it seems some of my readers forget my name since I don’t have it anywhere on this site. This is what I look like. I don’t generally post my image because I can be very self-critical and envy those who are good at taking narcissistic- I mean, self-portraits. I admire people who just beam without being self conscious, undeterred by the judgment of themselves or others!- Like these people: Sukothai. Everyone looks good with a smile! Here are some links below on selfies. If you have other links or thoughts of interest on selfies, please share!

History of Self Portraits

Other Selfies By Moi

Food for Thought



rumi spirit call

This vacation, I’m experimenting with a new concept to me that I learned about from blogger Tim Ferriss’ interview with Derek Sivers which is to prioritize time by saying “No” to everything that is neutral or isn’t a “F*&^  YES!!!!” This strategy is supposed to free up time so that you can only do the things that really call out to you. I was talking about this strategy with a friend of mine who had read about the same technique with her Bible study group of busy moms. She said she had a lot of trouble implementing this because of guilt. When I explained to her that guilt can be a useless emotion, she refuted that it keeps people such as children behaving…spoken like a true mother.


People Do Change


I just finished reading a fascinating article about a young lady who learned through Twitter interactions that people outside her Anti-Semitic, homophobic (and everyone else phobic/ hateful) family and church are just people, not unlike those within her church and family decides to leave her family and church:


I found out about this article from this wordpress:

How Do You Feel About Holiday Gift Exchanges?


The holidays are upon us and so too are the holiday gift exchanges! I am participating in two Secret Santas Exchanges thus far, and I do not intend to do any more as I am now thoroughly spent/ broke! Haha!

Do you like Secret Santas? How do you feel about them?

As I participate in these, I’ve had a lot of fun with giving, though not so much fun receiving with the one that is in full swing. I realize that I just simply have everything I want in life and don’t really want any gifts!

So for my second Secret Santa exchange, I requested gifts to charitable organizations and I made a long list I’d like to give to if I had the money. I hoped that others participating would do the same so that it would be a fun giving party. Instead, I see participants posting wishlists filled with frivolous items that one could just walk to store and buy any day: cute purses, fashion scarves, and so on. I feel disappointed and disgusted by this and not so great about being so judgmental and so unholiday-cheerish (Yes, I made that word up). I am (almost?) afraid to show up at this holiday party because I am so disgusted by people and how much they want. It just seems so selfish to me. It seems like all America cares about any more is their pet dogs and cats. They treat animals so well, but their fellow man, let’s shoot or drop a few drones on because Donald Trump will save us all by building a wall on the border. I don’t think I’ll be doing any more Secret Santas.



Self Pity is So Unbecoming


“Growth happens when we’re uncomfortable. I know this from my (long gone) days as a runner; sore muscles will grow stronger as they heal.”

-Laura Randazzo’s WordPress

The words of a fellow blogger really spoke to me today. You see, for whatever reason, I feel stressed and overwhelmed this week. Maybe not enough sleep… I came home from work and instead of running, I just decided to curl up on the couch and sleep because if I didn’t sleep the other thought was to cry. Sometimes it feels like I do so much to help and all that happens is people ask for more. I can hear my mother’s voice in my head calling me “lazy” for spending my free time sleeping and saying that I’m just like my grandpa on my dad’s side, sleeping all of the time. I probably would have felt better about myself if I had gone running… And now it’s nearly 9PM and I’ve yet to eat dinner or run. Maybe I do regret somethings in life… Never thought I did. Haha! Maybe I don’t get enough sleep and the amount of sleep I need is genetic and I have that “lazy gene” or maybe sleep is my coping mechanism. I don’t know which is true or if perhaps it’s a bit of both.

Last week, my principal told me that he would observe a lesson I did this week because it is required of him, but as far as he is concerned, I have a job for as long as I want to stay… I think this judgment is unfounded on his part, but I kept my mouth shut as I have learned that people will value you to be as good as you are confident. It’s nice to have someone who has faith in me and I wish I felt the same way. Instead, I feel discomfort. In my head, I’ve given myself this time limit of three years to get this right and then move on to something else. Is there such a thing as mastery or do you just become more prepared and organized for the new school year with each passing year?

When I am away from work, I often feel lonely but I don’t have the energy to go out and all of my close friends are busy with their children. The only times I don’t feel lonely are when I am hiking, doing yoga, playing piano, exploring or traveling. I often fantasize about just traveling, but I would regret this because I want to have enough money to support my parents when they retire. But the point is, why use my free time fantasizing about running away and traveling when I can stay with my discomfort and grow from it? Why go to sleep during the day when I can grow from my discomfort????? I’m also thinking I might get too comfortable here and not want to create some of those dreams I have in my head. I guess time will answer all of the questions I ask of if my life continues on its current course. Whatever path it takes, I don’t expect things to be easy or comfortable and I expect much growth.