What Makes Love Last?

We walked across the Brooklyn Bridge for our anniversary

We walked across the Brooklyn Bridge for our anniversary

I recently discovered a podcast called What Makes Love Last?  which captured exactly what I needed to hear at the moment about love, life and relationships.

Last Sunday was our 3rd year wedding anniversary, so it was good timing to hear tips from Dr. Gottman, a relationship guru on love or in other words, how not to let your marriage tank.  Apparently, what makes love last isn’t always the far-flung trips abroad. Nor the expensive jewelry or even the five star restaurant meals. Quite simply, it’s the every day humdrum of life: the words of appreciation for picking up takeout and the thank yous for vaccuuming even if your partner’s turn to do it.  A big part of this is “turning towards each other” and really taking an interest in his life like listening to a problem and showing empathy without always wanting to jump in there with a solution.

Why do these things matter?

If these small acts of love are peppered throughout the day to build the “emotional bank account”, then when conflict does happen, all that love capital acts as a buffer. In other words, we are going to be much more loving and kind to each other even when arguing and then it’s easier to ‘repair’ the relationship.  But if there’s a zero balance in the emotional bank then, well, the claws come out and it just isn’t pretty.

Introducing the newest member to our family: Baby Claire!

Introducing the newest member to our family: Baby Claire!

Did I mention we just had a baby this year?  Although we adore our new daughter Claire who is truly a joy, life has changed completely for us:  sleepless nights, cranky conversations about poo / diapers and lots of stress and uncertainty about how to navigate life with a new baby.  Moments like these can make it hard to be loving to each other. I can see now how divorce rates skyrocket during a couple’s first year of having a baby. So lately we’ve been trying hard to follow Dr. Gottman’s easy tips: showing appreciation for making dinner, saying thank you for taking out the garbage even if it’s the person’s turn anyway.  And listening to his passion that may not necessarily be mine like his enthusiasm for archery and Genghis Khan’s conquests. (Ask me anything about Genghis and I’ll tell you!)

One of the best tips I ever heard was from my friend Jenny who has two boys and she shared this: connect together as a couple for a few minutes when coming home after work.   This is so important to do because it’s easy to rush into questions about the baby, laundry and who picked up milk.  Jenny recommended a connection area like the foyer but in our tiny 2 bedroom NYC apt, the three foot radius behind the front door next to the coat rack will do. Every evening, when we come home from work we try to hug, connect, ask questions and listen before we enter into a flurry of our usual evening activities with the baby.  So simple, yet it’s not always done.

We don’t have all the answers and I’m baffled at how hard it is to manage our lives as new parents without falling apart.  Sometimes I look at other couples on the subway and wonder how they do it.  Dr. Gottman mentioned that the divorce rate is too high in the U.S. because people give up too easily.  Perhaps the idea of trying hard is insurmountable to many when actually the little acts of appreciation every day make a huge difference between staying together and growing apart.  I’m leaning more towards making our love last.  Here’s to another three years!

 

Rest in Peace IYee

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Me and IYee last year

One of the saddest moments this year has been my favorite aunt passing away.  My “I-Yee” was a rock for us:  she was a big sister and best friend to my mom, a pillar of strength for her six children, and a beloved aunt and friend to the rest of us kids growing up.

The funeral was last month in Seattle and I couldn’t attend due to starting a new job.  That day, I was rather sad knowing that I wouldn’t be there in person to wish her goodbye.  Just only a couple of months earlier, during a Skype chat, I saw her fatigued yet hopeful face, and I knew then it would be the last time I’d see her.

IYee and her six children

IYee and her six children

When the doctor first confirmed her cancer, we were told she would only have a few months to live.  She lived for almost two years more.  All of us felt blessed that we got that extra time with her!

No doubt, my IYee had a tough life raising six kids in a new country where she barely spoke English with a semi-absent husband.  She still managed to remain resilient and optimistic with her words of encouragement and steady presence.

IYee had a way of making everyone feel so good

IYee had a way of making everyone feel so good

My IYee had a wonderful sense of humor and a tremendously positive outlook in life.  Sometimes family members would vent and share frustrations, and my IYee often responded in the most Buddhist way with “It’s okay.  Life is short.  Love your kids no matter what, no matter how different their paths may take them.”  She embodied true openness and love.

Her heydays were in Hong Kong where she grew up as a teenager.  As a young thriving soul, she used to cruise through the Hong Kong markets, arm in arm with her friends.  She frequented the wonton noodle shops and window-shopped with curiosity.  And someone told me that back then, she loved riding on the back of a friend’s motorcycle, laughing and smiling with not a care in the world.  I’d like to keep that image in mind whenever I think of her now.

Two sisters:  IYee and my mom.  Although they were 16 years apart in age, they were very close and talked almost every day on the phone.

Two sisters: IYee and my mom last year. Although they were 16 years apart in age, they were very close and talked almost every day on the phone.

When we received the news about her death last month, we were prepared.  We had known for months that the day would come soon.  Acceptance had come in and through us, and all that was left was the waiting.  But still, on the day of her death last month, I cried.  How can she leave us?  I was then comforted with an image of her younger days when she used to ride the back of a motorcycle with her hair whipping back, the sun warm on her face.  She lived her life, freely and openly with a positive attitude that touched so many of us.

Rest in peace IYee.  We will miss you so much.

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Postcards of Argentina (Part 2)

We were so impressed by the multi-colored mountains near Humahuaca in Northern Argentina.  More than 4000 feet above sea level!

We were so impressed by the multi-colored mountains near Humahuaca in Northern Argentina. More than 4000 feet above sea level!

We were in Argentina to celebrate our 2nd year anniversary and I felt really blessed to be in such an amazing country with my hubby.  On our actual anniversary date (Aug 30), we took tango lessons!  How fun…and awkward as we tried to master a few steps in a 90-minute lesson.  It was great fun!

Another highlight of the trip was traveling north to Humahuaca (5 hours north of Salta) to see these beautiful multi-colored mountains, slowly erroded over thousands of years.   Pretty impressive.

We loved our time in Argentina with the architecture in Buenos Aires reflecting its European roots. The locals were always so generous and friendly, and the markets were alive with handicrafts and odd trinkets like knives with an eagle claw as a handle.  After visiting the northeast and northwest as well as Buenos Aires, we hope to be back one day perhaps to travel south to Patagonia to visit the penguins.

Tango lessons from the professionals!

Tango lessons from the professionals!

We got the hang of it after a while...

We got the hang of it after a while…

Overlooking the city of Salta (Northern Argentina)

Overlooking the city of Salta (Northern Argentina)

Street vendor at bus station (Humahuaca, Northern Argentina)

Street vendor at bus station (Humahuaca, Northern Argentina)

Llama-embroidered hot water bottle as a welcome sight for our beds at night.  Temperature dropped to almost freezing in the Andes Mountains where we were

Llama-embroidered hot water bottle as a welcome sight for our beds at night. Temperature dropped to almost freezing in the Andes Mountains where we were

Empanadas and lemonade seemed to be our daily lunch routine

Empanadas and lemonade seemed to be our daily lunch routine

Postcards of Argentina (Part 1)

image When we first arrived in Buenos Aires, Argentina last week, we weren’t sure what to expect.  Then we discovered the explosion of color in the Boca area famous for its working class neighborhood; the friendliness of the locals including those who stopped us in the street to give us directions; delicious grilled meat everywhere; and the melange of European culture found in a fascinating city like BA.

Here are some snapshots of our first week:

 

"Parilla" or grilled meat is the Argentinian specialty and it's so tasty and super cheap

“Parilla” or grilled meat is the Argentinian specialty and it’s so tasty and super cheap

 

We saw some gorgeous series of water falls at Iguazu Park in northern Argentinia

We saw some gorgeous series of water falls at Iguazu Park in northern Argentinia

 

We discovered a string of open-grill Brazilian restaurants in Iguazu which borders Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina.  Great to try Brazilian style steaks and people-watch the locals

We discovered a string of open-grill Brazilian restaurants in Iguazu which borders Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina. Great to try Brazilian style steaks and people-watch the locals

One of my highlights was watching these kids slide down the hill on flattened cardboard boxes.   Fun!

One of my highlights was watching these kids slide down the hill on flattened cardboard boxes. Fun!

 

 

If you ever want to treat yourself…take a cooking class in Maine!

imageI treated myself this month and took a cooking course all the way up in Camden, Maine for a few days.  Initially, I was nervous because I wasn’t sure if everyone in class was going to be uber amazing with their cooking skills, but as it turned out, everyone in class was very humble, friendly and open to learning.  Hands down, this was the BEST cooking course I had ever taken.

Reason #1:  We got to pick our own vegetables from their garden to make our food.  Not only was Salt Water Farm cooking school right on the water with a distracting gorgeous view, a beautiful expansive garden surrounded the building.  Yes, get on your hands and knees and start picking the kale, lettuce and herbs – we have to make a garden salad!

Pick our veggies and herbs from their abundant garden

We picked our veggies and herbs from their abundant garden

Our finished product:  a garden salad from the garden (literally)

Our finished product: a garden salad from the garden (literally)

Reason #2:  The cooking class was more than just cooking techniques and knifing skills.  We also discussed the importance of good organic eating and how best to buy the right products that are the healthiest for us and the environment.  (mental note:  remove Kraft macaroni and cheese from my cupboard – pronto)

We made a goat cheese kale frittata that was so delicious and easy to make

We made a goat cheese kale frittata that was so delicious and easy to make

Reason #3:  The instructor Annmarie was so patient as us “type A” New-Yawkers and Bostonians in the room peppered her with questions all at once.  She was so patient and she always answered with such great detail.  I learned a lot!  Including how to make the crust on this delicious blueberry pie.
imageSeriously, it was the best blueberry pie I’ve ever had.  When we all had sat down to eat later, I was tempted to get a second piece but I didn’t want to look like a pig!

imageSo overall, the class was great and I learned a lot about seafood and cooking procedures.  Did you know that you can bake a fish in the oven for just 6 minutes and then it continues to cook for a few more minutes after you take it out of the oven?  all this time I’ve been over-cooking my fish and smelling up the apartment.

The best part about the course was that I never felt it was too complicated or difficult to replicate at home.  Super easy and I can’t wait to try the recipes at home.

We made this delicious seafood stew with lobster, fish, clams and squid.  Super easy!

We made this delicious seafood stew with lobster, fish, clams and squid. Super easy!

One last note…I almost didn’t make it to this course.  Why?  I was faced with taking a small 6-seater plane from Boston to Rockland and I freaked out.  I was so afraid!  Alas, good weather and a patient pilot who let me sit behind him on the plane, plus an elderly woman who held my hand saved the day and I arrived safely to take my cooking class.  Yeah!

Smallest plane I've ever been on!

Smallest plane I’ve ever been on!