“The Switch” (Emily King) Is My Therapy Anthem rn

I have been with my therapist since January 2020 and it is one of the most important relationships in my life to date. In trusting her with my story and how I want to rewrite it, she has been teaching me mental tools to become who I was meant to be; to believe in the someone who I already am. And there is a song that illustrates my therapy journey perfectly: “The Switch” by Emily King.

I can feel so much of what Emily’s singing in her lyrics and her cadence:

Friends, they adore you
It’s never boring whenever you’re around
Great conversation, entertaining
You never let them down
But you’re always tired when I get you alone
Run out of your charms by the time we get home
And I ain’t got time
So turn it on

I sing this song to Joanna, my alter ego, asking her to turn on the “switch” for me. I pride myself in being charming to our friends, our family, and even strangers. But once alone, Joanna can be so negative and self-loathing, strongly affecting my mood and outlook. The charm disappears.

Joanna has incredible qualities, like her assertiveness and cool confidence but once the switch is off, that energy goes way south. For example, when angered, Joanna comes out in full fury, fires blazing. She can be mean, cold-hearted, hateful to self, and hateful to others. She’s the tiny figure on my shoulder perpetually saying negative things about me, other people, and my experiences. She dims what I know to be my bright light, rather than letting my light shine.

Joanna’s incredible energy helped me so much to survive my childhood trauma. She protected me, she spoke up for me, and she harbored latent anger for me so I could cope in really difficult times. In fact, she still harbors a lot of anger for me, but now, that anger no longer serves me. Instead, it gets me into trouble and keeps me down. I am working to let that anger go.

Now, I choose to harness the amazing things about Joanna and integrate it into the Joanne I know – caring, confident, fun, and loving.

So, turn on the switch, Joanna! ❤

Thoughts on MLK’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail”

I just reread Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail. The moment we are in today seems like the same moment he was in when he was jailed for protesting in 1963. I picked the piece back up again in order to help me make sense of what is happening right now.

Here are a few excerpts that spoke to me most:

I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.

You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. Your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city’s white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.

I have no fear about the outcome of our struggle in Birmingham, even if our motives are at present misunderstood. We will reach the goal of freedom in Birmingham and all over the nation, because the goal of America is freedom. Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with America’s destiny. Before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth, we were here. Before the pen of Jefferson etched the majestic words of the Declaration of Independence across the pages of history, we were here. For more than two centuries our forbears labored in this country without wages; they made cotton king; they built the homes of their masters while suffering gross injustice and shameful humiliation – and yet out of a bottomless vitality they continued to thrive and develop. If the inexpressible cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands.

I also wanted to hear again the words of a great leader who was the voice for the black community then. Our black brothers and sisters are still demanding the same things 57 years later, so I will listen, speak truth to those who might not see, and fight for freedom.

Yosemite – My Church

Just a few months into our relationship, Conrad and I went camping together for the first time and fell in love with the outdoors. Neither of us had grown up going camping, so it was a new experience for the both of us and something we share to this day. Since that first trip, we’ve gone camping at least a few times each year.

Visiting Yosemite National Park had been on our bucket list, so we took a last-minute trip in 2016. We fell in love the moment we touched down at Tunnel View. We still loved it even when we had to cut short our hike to Cathedral Lakes by way of Tuolumne Meadows because of raging altitude headaches. We both felt a spiritual connection to Yosemite and had committed to visiting at least once every year moving forward.

Our Friend John and the Yosemite Backcountry

The following year, I had the privilege of exploring Yosemite backcountry with Conrad through the generosity of my friend John, who at the time was an acquaintance I’d met through work. (After spending a few unbelievable days in the wilderness together and sharing bowel updates regularly throughout the trip, we now solidly consider him our friend.) Two of his friends who’d planned on going with him on the trip dropped a month before go-time, so he asked me to join, knowing I shared his interest in backpacking.

I jumped at the chance to explore Yosemite backcountry, which meant that we could drop our jaws at the beauty of the place without the Disneyland-caliber craziness of the valley floor, and gradually adjust to the altitude, rather than casually drive up to one of the highest spots of the park and think as a sea-level dweller, “Oh, sure, altitude won’t be a problem at all!”

Shortly after committing to the trip, Conrad and I met up with John at a restaurant near my office to talk logistics. I knew immediately that we were in good hands when I spotted a map in John’s hands as he came in through the door.

John had been to the Yosemite backcountry before, so he knew exactly which route he wanted to take. Conrad and I just nodded along in excitement as John mapped our trip and gave us tips for what supplies to bring, including a trowel for pooping. I had no idea what I had gotten myself into, but I was so stoked at the prospect of exploring an unknown territory on my personal map.

In between our logistics planning and Day 1 of our trip, Conrad and I prepared by acquiring the necessities, including my very first Osprey backpack. It’s a beautiful forest green with sky blue straps, and I will cherish it always for all the memories is has gifted me. Conrad’s insane attention to detail came out like it usually does for trips like these, which needed finesse, thoroughness, and diligence in planning and preparing – he’s so good at this type of thing.

Soon enough, we were finally on the road to Yosemite on an early Friday afternoon, having taken a half day from work. We were to meet John there, who’d gone ahead of us earlier in the day. By the time we got to the Backpacker’s Campground, it was pitch dark and late. None of us got much sleep that night.

View of North Dome from Backpacker’s Campground

Day 1: Don’t Get between A Mama Bear and Her Cub

The next morning, we ate breakfast, packed up, and prepared for Day 1. Our first two stops were Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls by way of the aptly named Mist Trail – you have to wear rain gear to avoid getting soaked by the mist from the falls! It was entertaining to see the spectrum of people from those who were unprepared and soaked within a few minutes (wearing a t-shirt, jeans, and nice sneakers) to well prepared and completely dry by the end (wearing a full poncho and rain boots). Luckily, our group all had rain gear.

Happiness at Vernal Falls

Earlier in the day, Conrad, John, and I had wholeheartedly agreed not to make too many lingering stops to ensure we didn’t lag behind schedule too much, since we only had a two-night permit. But we didn’t know how hypnotizing Nevada Falls actually was until we got to the top. We set our backpacks down and ate lunch to enjoy the sounds of the roaring river, which was overflowing from California’s first wet season in at least seven years.

We all separated to enjoy our own piece of the falls. I sat on the bare granite to feel its warmth from the morning sun while I french braided my hair and people watched. The many people gathering to enjoy the same majesty was so comforting, and I knew that I was in the presence of kindred spirits. Conrad didn’t go too far for his sun salutation. And John went off to a shady area where we later found him napping. An hour had passed before any of us even realized it. Reluctantly, we packed our things and went on our way.

Braiding at the top of Nevada Falls

All of us noticed the moment we were away from the Disneyland-caliber crowd when silence surrounded us. We had been hiking through Little Yosemite Valley just east of Nevada Falls when we looked at each other and realized that we were on our own: away from the crowds, park rangers, and comfortable safety. We were officially in the backcountry of Yosemite, with no other humans in sight.

Nothing humbled us more than spotting a black bear. We had been hiking and enjoying the sites for a few miles, taking for granted that we were no longer in human territory.

John saw it first as he and Conrad were yakking away, but he paused when he noticed a huge rustling in the grass. The black bear crossed the trail in front of us, giving us all a pretty good view and enough time to freak out a little bit. We started making a lot of noise – screaming, clapping, whistling – and acted big by waving our arms and legs, as you’re supposed to do to scare black bears away. But for some reason, it wasn’t leaving in fear.

Instead, it started bearing its teeth.

I point Conrad and John to our right as I realize why: her cub was on the other side of us, which is the worst place to be when encountering a bear – between her and her baby.

I’m unsure now who had the sound mind to think of it, but we just started booking it along the path. We knew immediately that the mama bear perceived us as a threat, so all we had to do was get the eff out of there.

In that moment, I instinctively knew we weren’t in danger, though I still had to keep looking back for peace of mind. My instinct instead reassured me: mama bear just wants to be alone and safe with her cub. We were the ones invading their space, so leaving was the simplest and most obvious solution.

When we knew we were out of the woods, we had to take a breather and laugh out the tension we had been feeling for the last quarter mile. The bear sighting made the entire trip worth it, and it we had just started Day 1! It is, to this day, one of the most exhilarating moments of my life.

Soon after the bear scare, Conrad and John’s clutch navigation skills in action

We continued on our journey, juiced for the rest of the day from that gnarly experience. This time, we didn’t sleep on making our presence known to wildlife: John adjusted his bell on his backpack for maximum noise, we sang or yelled every few minutes, or we clapped a few rounds.

A long stretch of our hike along the Merced River is honestly a blur, except that I remember noting if I took the wrong step or slipped on wet rock, I could get sucked into the river’s insane current and be in grave danger. That thought still gives me the chills.

The river doesn’t look dangerous in this photo, but take the wrong step…

Eventually, we reached a campsite that fooled us into thinking we had reached our stop for the night, Bunnell Point. But it actually was an unofficial campsite that just looked official, likely from heavy use by plenty of unknowing backpackers like us. There were specific spots for campfires and makeshift log benches strewn around.

By the time we realized it wasn’t Bunnell Point, we were too tired and it was too dark to move on, so we set up camp and enjoyed our first night of sleep after an eventful first day. Conrad and I slept with our tent’s windows open to sleep with the stars and woke to warm sun and a beautiful view of the huge mountain of rock surrounding us on all sides. The full windows made the purchase 100% worth it.

Our beautiful campsite at Fake Bunnell Point

Day 2: Gold Fever and A Night Under the Stars

We packed up and continued on our way. It didn’t take too long before we reached the actual Bunnell Point. If we were climbers, it would have been a more incredible landmark, but we decided to continue on the trail along Merced River towards our next stop, Merced Lake.

At the southern part of the trail, with bare rock surrounding us with the occasional stream crossing, John was far ahead of me and Conrad when he stopped to point in front of him: “What do you guys see?” he asked.

I looked down at the stream and immediately saw a glimmer of gold dust reflecting in the sun among the brown dirt and tiny gray rocks of the riverbed. “It can’t be – is that gold??” I asked.

Before he could answer, John was already taking off his pack to extract his trowel and shoveled a sample of it to examine it more closely. “I think it is!” In his hand was the sample, and he moved it to and fro to catch different angles of light. It definitely looked like gold.

Conrad and I took John’s lead and took our packs off, too. For the next hour, we got lost in panning for gold. There were multiple streams around us, so we split up and started shoveling dirt into Ziplock bags we had packed to store our food. We could’ve gone for hours more.

Yosemite (the city) has a whole web page dedicated to panning for gold, and apparently, it’s still a common pastime. The gold mesmerized the three of us, and no wonder: “Gold Fever sets in the moment you find your first piece and is guaranteed to awaken a new affinity for gold panning that simply cannot be explained.”

Together, we collected what looked like a pound of dirt with gold shimmered all over. I still have the dirt Conrad and I collected together in a jar on our bookshelf. It’s one of my favorite mementos from our travels together.

Reluctantly, we called time on our gold panning. So much for “not lingering,” but the Gold Fever struck and we had little control.

(Conrad would later find out that it wasn’t gold. He identified it as rusted diorite, which is very commonly mistaken as gold… WAH WAHHHH…)

For at least the next few miles, bare gray rock kept us from really knowing exactly where the trail was, but rock markers and cairns left by previous backpackers thankfully kept us on track. It became a fun little game being the first to find the next cairn, breaking up the monotony of the hike. Sometimes, we’d add a rock or two to keep a cairn in tact for the next set of backpackers.

Thanks, Cairn, for helping us!

With Merced River overflowing from a very wet season in years, at least two miles of trail to the lake had been completely washed out. So we skipped from log to log trying to avoid falling onto the wet, dark, and sticky mud. It felt a little like playing Super Mario, each of us jumping to a different log to advance to the next stage of the trail.

We reached Merced Lake and were disappointed that we hadn’t arrived with more time to spend there. Its sprawling blue lake invited us to take a quick swim, and we were so tempted. But with the sun going down soon, we decided to hike a few more miles to set up camp and eat dinner.

We continued on, but had make a quick stop to admire a giant sequoia just off the trail. Just as we approached the sequoia, a pair of deer appeared close to our path. The saturated green of the trees surrounding them is a strong memory, contrasted against their subtle brown fur.

The three of us stopped in our tracks, and I held my breath as if that would help to not scare them away. They clearly noticed us, too, and were more curious than scared. As her mom moved on ahead of her, the fawn stopped to eat some leaves, as if to give itself the excuse to stop and take a quick look at us. I swear I made eye contact with her. Eventually, they continued on their path, and we on ours.

We didn’t have a specific destination in mind for Night 2’s campsite, so we searched for a spot with a clear view of the sky. It didn’t take long before we found one that was high enough with a view of Half Dome’s tip in the distance. Halfway between Sunrise Creek and Merced River atop a huge mountain of rock, we set up camp, ate dinner, and watched the sun slide down Half Dome. It was an incredible way to end Day 2, having panned for gold and navigating what was the most difficult part of the trail.

One of my favorite campsites

We slept without our tents that night, since it was warm enough and we had all brought sleeping bags rated for 20-degree weather. We could see stars and the Milky Way all around us. I didn’t sleep especially well that night – I need my memory foam mattress and a good pillow, let’s be real – but anytime I woke up, I just looked at the stars and fell right back to sleep.

Day 3: Half Dome, Pizza, and Beer

The final morning was bittersweet – I loved waking up to the cool air on my face but I knew the trip was almost over. Our last stop, Half Dome, called to us in the distance, illuminated by the bright morning sun. We had permits to climb it that day, so we packed up and went on our way.

The hike to Half Dome was just 7 miles from our campsite. I don’t remember much about this stretch, except for how brown it was for a long time – sprawling, dry grass and bare trees all around, making it the most monotonous stretch of the entire trip for me. On top of that, I was getting tired and cranky. My motivation waned, but chanting “Pizza and beer!” helped a ton.

On the John Muir Trail to Half Dome

We finally reached the base of Half Dome at midday, the tip peaking just over the hill. The hike up was pretty brutal, my pack weighing me down as we climbed its steep switchbacks. We were back to seeing people again, all in differing levels of preparation for this particular hike: tourists sweating in their fancy clothes, backpackers like us coming from different parts of the backcountry, and day hikers hiking up from the valley.

We reached Half Dome’s second base and took our packs off. The base was covered in snow in some parts, which compelled John and Conrad to investigate a little further to see the full condition. I stayed behind to watch our stuff and took a much needed break.

About ten minutes later, John reported back to say the way up was too icy for him to risk tripping and breaking his ankle. (By the way, did I mention that John is a triathlete?? I wouldn’t risk it either if I were a friggin’ triathlete…) Plus, the chords for the climb up Half Dome were down. So he stayed behind and I went on to catch up with Conrad.

I eventually caught up with my love and saw Half Dome up close. I had dreamed of climbing it one day, and unfortunately, that day wasn’t the day. Without the chords, each climber was taking a pretty big risk, with the ice making it too slippery. Plus, I didn’t have gloves to withstand the chains that you could use to climb up in place of the chords. Conrad and I were disappointed but excited at the prospect of coming back in the future when the chords were actually up. We snapped a few selfies with Half Dome, then went back down to John’s post.

‘Til next time, Half Dome!

We continued on our journey back to home base, making our way down to the valley by way of the John Muir Trail. Nevada Falls eventually came back into view in the distance. My crankiness was getting to me, with the trail getting more and more annoying with each switchback. Just when I thought we had arrived at the valley floor, another switchback teased me. It felt like forever before we reached the actual floor.

Nevada Falls from a distance

Finally, we reached the throngs of fellow hungry people of Yosemite, following the path to our final stop of the trip: pizza and beer, as I had manifested. John charmed one of the bartenders into giving us multiple rounds of beer, and we were set for the night. While John and Conrad chatted up a storm, recalling the trip with fervor, I dozed off every so often, full of pizza, beer, and adventure.

We spent our last night at the Backpacker’s Campground, this time with a full night of sleep. My body literally shut down from lack of sleep the two nights on top of all the work I put on it. It welcomed the rest.


I woke up a new person, having learned about myself that I am capable of a lot more than I thought. My body is stronger than I gave it credit for, and my mind had the resolve to make it through the 30 miles of steep terrain, dangerous stretches, and majestic views. Looking back on the trip reminds me of this each time.

This trip solidified for me that the church I’ve been looking to belong to all my life is at Yosemite. I worship the breathtaking landscape that has inspired humanity for hundreds, if not thousands of years; that is home to beautiful wildlife and incredible flora.

I vow to pay homage to Yosemite each year, and if you’d ever like to join me, just say the word.

Home Improvement: The Front Yard

Conrad and I have been renting a cute single-family home that was built in the 20s. Since I moved in with him a few years ago, I’ve slowly improved the interior by converting Conrad’s “bedroom” into an actual living room, using the dining space for its original intention, and snagging better furniture here and there each year.

Now, the challenge is the exterior. Our landlady recently visited and asked why we don’t live in an apartment. We don’t use the backyard much, which is a shame because it’s huge. We mostly just use it as Keby’s dog park. And the front yard, while well maintained, isn’t totally a beauty.

So, I’m challenging myself and Conrad to improve both, starting with the front yard.

Our front yard is, at best, very… Blah… It has been neglected for some time now, and the long drought doesn’t really help. The tiny leaves from the willow tree have dried up on the dirt and have made an unattractive coat of tan on our dried patches of grass. I’ve lost the will to make our grass grow… I am constantly envying beautiful gardens during our daily doggy walks around the neighborhood, but I am so ready to do something about it.

I expressed my aspiration of growing a decent garden to a coworker of mine, and she was generous enough to lend me a pretty cool book called Sunset Western Garden Book. It’s basically a dictionary of all different kinds of plants that thrive in Western North America, covering 24 zones.

Considering that our yard doesn’t get much sun thanks to the 2 fully grown trees eating it all up, I would have to find shade-tolerant plants. Luckily, I came across a section that satisfies my search for plants that don’t need much sun. I’m also going to throw in another criterion – bird attractors. Because, hey – who doesn’t like birds in their garden??

Here is my short list of plants that may find a nice, shady home in our front yard. I’m excited to share, as I’d love to hear your thoughts if you have experience growing any of these plants.


  • Aka Carpet Bugle
  • Perennial
  • A. reptans – popular ground cover variety
    • Makes thick carpets of lustrous leaves
    • Spring to early summer
    • Feed in spring or late summer
    • Water every 7-10 days in summer
    • Mow or trim off old flower spikes
    • Subject to root-knot nematodes, rot and fungus diseases where drainage or air circulation is poor

Cotula squalida

  • Aka New Zealand Brass Buttons
  • Evergreen perennial
  • Grows a few inches high, good for ground cover in full sun to medium shade
  • Average water

Impatiens olivier

  • Aka Poor Man’s Rhododendron
  • Perennial, shrubby
  • Blooms in partial or deep shade
  • Needs some summer water
  • Attracts birds

Impatiens wallerana

  • Aka Busy Lizzie
  • Perennial, usually grown as summer annual
  • Best in partial shade with begonias, fatsia, ferns, fuchsias, hydrangeas
  • Grow from seed, cuttings, or buy plants from flats
  • Rich, moist soil
  • Most useful summer annual for shady gardens especially in warm-summer climates
  • Single-flowered kinds are best for massing or bedding – nearly cover themselves with flowers
  • Attracts birds

Iris foetidissima

  • Type of beardless iris
  • Grows in sun or deep shade
  • Needs little care
  • Extremely drought resistant
  • Real attraction – large seed capsules which open in fall to show numerous round, scarlet seeds, admired by flower arrangers


  • Aka primrose
  • Ideal environment: high shade, cool atmosphere, moist soil
  • Perennials
  • Zone 22-varieties
    • P. malacoides – fairy primrose, baby primrose; bloom February-May; set plants in October or November; use under high-branching trees in containers; grow as annual; indoor or cool greenhouse pot plant in cool climates
    • P. polyantha – almost any color; blooms from winter to early and mid spring; most datable; large flowered strains are Clarke’s, Barnhaven, Pacific, and Santa Barbara; novelty species is Gold Laced; excellent for massing in shade, for planting with bulbs, or in containers

I proposed to my boyfriend.

Why I Proposed

It was the 2.5-year mark when my boyfriend and I had the conversation about our future together. On the car ride home from an amazing Thanksgiving trip with his family in Sedona, Conrad initiated the discussion with, “So, my mom and I were talking…” I knew immediately where he was going.

As any woman in a long-term, intimate relationship or any hopeless romantic would hope, the discussion went super well. We established that we were in it for the long haul, that we both saw the other in our future, and that a long, fulfilling marriage is definitely something we both want and with each other. Great. Perfect.

But what was funny to me was that, even though we had a conversation about our future together, it wasn’t a proposal. It absolutely should have been, but because Conrad and I both had the implicit expectation that a ring had to be involved, we weren’t engaged yet.

The idea of an engagement ring was a pain in my butt, only because I didn’t know what I wanted. Conrad needed some reference for what he should get me, but I could not send him a design – doing so would have felt disingenuous. The only criterion I had was that it had to be a fair trade gem of some sort, or it could be a grandmother’s engagement ring. I also wanted him to get me an engagement ring that reminded him of me because I knew I’d love whatever he decided to get.

Eventually, though, my need for an engagement ring became almost nonexistent. What I wanted way more than a ring was that moment together, the actual proposal, the unmistakable commitment of marriage. I wanted to be able to look back on the moment and recall how big our hearts were for each other, not how big the rock was.

On our last trip to his family’s house in Mexico that July, 8 months after our commitment talk, I encountered so many moments that could’ve been the moment. Floating on the Sea of Cortez hand in hand; kayaking across the beautiful blue ocean; gazing deeply into each other’s eyes with the sun setting over the sea… I just wanted to blurt out, “I love you so much, I want to marry you!” at least 50 times that week, but since I had the hint that Conrad planned to propose sometime in the future, I practiced restraint.

That’s when I realized, Oh, my gosh. I want to propose to Conrad! I want to give him the moment I’ve been wanting all this time! I want to show him how much he means to me, how badly I want to spend my life with him.

So why wait for Conrad to do something I already expect him to do and diminish any surprise and shock from it? Why pressure him into buying a ring that could cost him a fortune, a ring that I’ve never really truly wanted in the first place? Why automatically exclude myself from the role of proposing just because society tells me to?

I wanted to do none of that.

The Planning

And so began the brainstorming. My girlfriend Aida got my juices flowing, throwing ideas about how I could propose. And the idea that stuck real good was integrating what we love doing together most – camping and playing board games – making the actual proposal super personal and super special to the both of us.

Camping in particular holds a deeply special place in our relationship. We never camped as kids, so we did our first actual camping trip together at Sequoia National Park just a few months into dating each other. That trip was the first time he’d said “I love you” to me. We’ve been camping regularly ever since.

What’s perfect was that, around the point I decided to propose, we were already planning to go camping in a few weeks, so all I had to do was create the proposal materials. (What do you call a proposal symbol that isn’t a ring??) The original plan was to camp at Big Sur, but because of the Carmel fires, that got nixed. So Conrad suggested a quick backpacking trip in North San Diego County called Barker Valley. It wasn’t Sequoia, our annual camping haunt, which would have been amazing, but trying something new sounded just as amazing.

So, I told his sister Allison the news and asked her to redesign a character card in a game Conrad and I have played hundreds of times called “Love Letters.” One of the characters basically looks like an Asian woman. Plus, she’s a guard with sword at the ready. Strong female character of color: hell yes.

Originally, I requested that the action text at the bottom of the card be changed out for my proposal, but Ali went one step further and imposed my face on the character also. At first, I thought it was way too dorky to use my face, but she made a great point – I’m proposing to her brother, who is a dorky guy. Her reassurance that he’d love it made me feel more confident about it.

I got 6 copies of the card (1 extra) for the deck, and when Conrad and I got to packing for our trip, I discreetly switched out the guard cards for my proposal cards. So far so good.

The Proposal

We drove out to Palomar on Saturday morning and started our 3.5 mile hike down Barker Valley around noon. Not a great time to do any sort of hiking with the heat and all, but we still got to our campsite with enough sunlight to pitch our tent, wind down, smoke, talk, chill, and make dinner. We were the only ones in the meadow for most of the day, so it literally was just us two and our doggy Cheyenne.

Conrad cooked jambalaya for dinner, definitely the best I ever had. It could’ve been that flower, but it was most likely Conrad’s amazing chef-ness. His ability to cook an excellent meal on a backpacking trip just confirmed for me that my decision to propose was so, so right.

The sun was setting by the time we finished dinner, so we cleaned up our communal area and went inside the tent. I suggested we play Love Letters, of course, so I took it out of my pack and started shuffling. While Conrad changed into his PJs, I sneakily fixed the cards so he would draw my proposal card at his first turn.

When he drew it, he immediately felt the difference of the two cards in his hand – an actual card from the deck and my card. He flicked the corner of the card, testing the weight, and tried to look more closely at the card. The lighting wasn’t great so he couldn’t see well – the sun had set by then, and we only had light from one of our headlamps. He asked me, “Is this a different deck? It feels different. And the guard looks different. Though, I don’t remember now what it looked like before…”

“Why don’t you read the action?” I replied.

He read it to himself: “Name the one person you want to spend your life with. If that person agrees, you both win the game.” He smiled and looked at me for a few seconds, trying to read my face to see if it was a joke or something serious. He later told me that at that moment, he knew that what he said next was uber important. “You, of course,” he answered.

I smiled, grabbed his hand, and said my proposal with my cheek resting on his shoulder. I’m embarrassed to recount what I said because oh. em. gee. It was corny. Short and sweet, but so corny. But Conrad apparently loved it because he said yes! We laughed, we kissed, we embraced, and we relished the moment. I turned off the headlamp and the stars were all out, shining through the screens of our tent. We held each other and admired the sky, smiling and giggling like fools about our future together as a betrothed couple. Yeah, I used the word “betrothed.”

It was a perfect night. Even more perfect than I could have planned.

What Conrad Thinks

The true cherry on top is that Conrad absolutely loved that I proposed to him. He’s worked in the wedding industry and has seen literally hundreds of weddings. So he’s seen every kind of couple, every style of wedding, and he has become anti-convention because of how unremarkable and forgettable 99% of those weddings were. To him, a lot of the details seemed to be the same from wedding to wedding, so he knew his own wedding had to be special somehow.

When I decided to propose, I didn’t even have that in mind. To me, it just felt right that I do it because, well… I wanted to. I was excited to. But my proposing spoke so much to his anti-conventional-wedding attitude, and he was ecstatic.

On top of that, I involved his best friend and sister Ali in the whole thing as designer of the card. It added another layer of special for him, as he’s really close to her and had such a kick that she was in on the secret.

The payoff came in his lasting reaction afterwards. For at least few days straight, he was in awe that I, his girlfriend, had proposed. Let alone in a way that folded in our mutual hobbies and spoke to his attitude about the conventions of weddings. It made him very proud.

What I Think

I had an incredible time planning the proposal and actually proposing. I was nervous, even though I knew he’d say yes. The moment was exhilarating, heart wrenching, and an absolute adrenaline rush.

I hadn’t thought about how people would react. Though, I wasn’t at all surprised that even friends responded in sexist ways. For example, a friend joked that I proposed because I couldn’t wait for him to do it. I figure that’s what many people perceive when they hear that I proposed, but I don’t care. He and I both know I could’ve waited a long time for him, but impatience wasn’t my motivation. It was my overwhelming love for him that drove me to the decision. We have a relationship that I so cherish, so why not show him that somehow?

My decision also had a little to do with empowering myself as a woman and going against the grain. I can count on one hand how many women I know who proposed to their men, and that’s a shame, really. I have friends who consider themselves feminists, yet wait for their boyfriend to propose. Which I’m not knocking at all, but why do so many women opt out of even the possibility of proposing?

In my mind, a good marker that feminism is widespread (or better yet, when feminism becomes a word of the past and its principles are the norm), would be when it is common that a woman proposes to her man, and she is not perceived as desperate, impatient, or that she “wears the pants.” We are definitely not there yet.

For the health of your eyes, reduce your blue light exposure

A few months ago, I started getting regular headaches. It would happen at least a few times a week, usually after a day at work. I blamed it on my increased use of my eyeglasses and thought my prescription was incorrect.

So I asked my optometrist about it, and he had an answer right away; it certainly was not my prescription. My headaches were being caused by my computer screen, which emits blue light. Too much exposure to this particular wavelength can cause serious damage to your eyes, which are especially sensitive to blue light.

I was getting headaches at work because I’m on my computer almost the entire time! And it doesn’t help that I have two computer screens, one big enough to be my television.

My doctor tried to sell me on glasses that block blue light during computer use, and I really wanted to say yes for the practicality of it. But they looked so dorky! None of the styles he had available were stylish enough to attract my buying power, so I turned his offer down.

Instead, I found something better! It’s free software called flux that allows you to set the amount of blue light your computer emits throughout the day. I keep it simple and have it on my entire workday, and you can turn it off easily if you’re doing design work. I work on Photoshop a few times per week, so that feature has been essential. Even if you do more hours of design work than I do, flux will be a great help.

Even iPhone got on the bandwagon, and in iOS v 9.3.2, they installed what’s called “Night Shift” that does the same thing – blocks blue light. You can schedule it automatically, the same way you can schedule your Do Not Disturb setting.

It’s is pitched as a way to help you sleep better, but I have a personal rule not to look at computer or TV screens right before bed (30 minutes to an hour is a good buffer). Night Shift is great, but the discipline not to look at your phone for a lengthy period before bed is much more effective.

I’m sharing this information simply because most of us have phones for hands now, and many of us do a lot of work on computers. Let’s protect those eyes and keep their health for as long as possible, even in the SnapChat and Facebook age.

4th of July Weekend aka My Break from City Life

The 4th of July holiday evokes images of fireworks, barbecues on the overcrowded beach, s’mores, and lots of time spent just looking for parking (in the city). The only thing I did on this list is the s’more part because for the second year in a row, I spent my holiday weekend at Moses Gulch.

It may become my and Conrad’s annual 4th of July trip. Going off the grid for even a few days really rewired my brain for the better, and I still dream of sleeping under the stars and Sequoias with no city noise or gross smog polluting the air. (One night, though, some bros decided to blast their country music – absolutely the rudest thing you can do in the middle of the forest besides burning it down.) And, though I’m a people person, I get tired of people every once in a while (my introvert takes over at some point). Not seeing or dealing with very many humans was kind of heavenly.

Okay, so reflecting on why I loved this trip even more than last year brought me to a conclusion: camping will be an annual trip. If not Moses Gulch (I could go there quite a few times before I get tired of it), it would be some other remote camping site in the middle of the forest. Maybe sleep among the redwoods sometime in the near future. And, of course, Lulu and her wonderful parents have to be there. What a bonus it was to pseudo-serendipitously bump into them and end up sharing their campsite! They certainly made the trip exciting and saved me and Conrad the prospect of spending the whole weekend on our own, which wouldn’t be terrible, of course.

A 30-45 minute hike uphill and worth the trouble.

San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico

I finally made it south of the border, after living my lifetime in sunny SoCal. This past weekend, I enjoyed beautiful, sunny, blue San Carlos with some friends hankering for the (so close but yet so far) SoCal summer sun. I couldn’t find many words to describe how pretty it is down there because it literally made me speechless. It also helped that lodging (right on the beach) was free, roomy, and also very beautiful; and our gracious hosts brought down their quad and awesome dune buggy both on which we didn’t ride enough.

The trip couldn’t be too perfect of course. All five of us got a bad round of food poisoning on day 2 – we knew that crab tostada from the Soggy Peso Bar was way too good to be true…

But it didn’t deter us from having a wonderful time in possibly the most beautiful place on the west coast. Even being sick there felt like paradise. I’m definitely earmarking my next vacation for this place again – I wouldn’t mind that at all.

Childhood meal: fish and tomato

Tonight, I decided to make a simple, tasty dinner to replicate my mom’s fish and tomato dish, something she prepared for me and my sisters pretty often when we were kids. She loves her fish, and so do I!

My mom prefers her fish deep fried, her tomato heavy with soy sauce, and just a spritz of lemon. I made a few modifications: I baked the fillet drizzled in sesame oil, was more generous with my lemon, and added green onion for color. A little different than what my mom is used to, but I think she’d like it.

Tomato and green onion dressed in soy sauce and lemon
Tomato and green onion dressed in soy sauce and lemon


Baked swai fillet drizzled in sesame oil and green onion with rice
Swai fillet baked and drizzled generously in sesame oil and green onion with white rice

Gourmet Work Lunch: Open-Faced Sandwich

I technically don’t bring my lunch to work. I don’t plan well enough ahead on the weekends to plan out and prep my work lunches, and I’m absolutely fine with that only because I found a type of work-lunching that I enjoy.

If I’m feeling super motivated and concerned about how expensive eating out can be, I buy a weeks’ worth of ingredients. Making sandwiches is a great place to start: for mine, I buy deli meat, a huge block of medium cheddar cheese, arugula or spinach, mayo or whipped cream cheese (if you haven’t tried it, please do), and tomato. Berries are usually my side because 1) at least one kind is in season at any point in time and 2) I love, love, love berries.

All together, a week’s worth of sandwiches and berries cost $10, give or take. That comes to $2 a day! I love being frugal in general, but even if I didn’t have to be, I would probably go for $2 a day anyway. And I’m not compromising on taste at all– I make good sandwiches, if I say so myself! Plus, the time I set aside each day to make my lunch is my time for quietness and meditation. While others might just want their lunch immediately on a workday, I don’t at all mind taking a few minutes to set it up.

For this week’s lunch, I made an open-faced sandwich on sourdough with

  • Aidell’s uncured dried-tomato and garlic salami (I highly recommend, it’s super tasty!)
  • Muenster cheese
  • Baby arugula
  • Dash of red wine vinegar and olive oil
  • Blueberries and cherry tomatoes on the side

Open-faced sandwich

It cost me way more than I’d like – $28 – because the closest grocery store to my workplace is Bristol Farms, which marks up their products like crazy. (Even Kraft cheeses are priced like they’re premium products…) I also bought enough for 10 days, so I’m set until next Wednesday. So this pretty lunch still cost me less than $3 a day.

Even if saving money isn’t in your interest, tasty, fresh lunches should be!