While I haven’t been blogging much about My Happiness Project, that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been following through on it. These last few months have gone by incredibly quickly, but they have made me so much happier than I have been in a long while.

In my last post I talked about building community and reconnecting with my family, and I have to say that I wish I had set that goal YEARS ago. For many years now I have told myself that I don’t need anybody. I have prided myself on the fact that I never get homesick or miss my family while other travelers are desperate for news of home. But I think I finally understand why they thought I was the one who was missing out. In the past few months I have traveled to Utah, Arizona, California, and Washington, D.C., and have reconnected with friends and family that I hadn’t seen in quite some time.

Some of the highlights of these trips included hearing my 90-year-old grandmother talk about her experience working as a military nurse in WWII, going to the gym with my 90-year-old grandfather (!), and having the first real chat with my mother in about a decade. I came to terms with my own mortality on this journey, facing two aging grandparents who have been role models for me throughout the years and learning of my mother’s worsening health, which included brain surgery a week before my visit. All I can say is that I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to see them again and that none of them seemed to mind that I have been MIA for so many of the last several years. Despite my upcoming move abroad, yet again, for once I feel like family will be one of the big things that I will miss about “home.”

As my most recent beau told me this weekend: With technology today, we are never too far apart. I think Senegal will still feel like worlds away, but I will try to be grateful for some Skype sessions with my baby nephews and my grandparents while I’m away.


Kati wrote me today and I learned a couple of things about the fam, which I’m now going to share with you.

No. 1: Mom is working, dad is not. Kati and Peter are really growing up in a different time than me an my other siblings did.

2: Little Matt has finished basic training and is going to be stationed in London for two years starting in two weeks. Why oh why did he have to wait until I’m leaving Europe? We could have had so much fun together. BUT at least now I have a good excuse to come visit.

3: Parents discussing another move. Maybe California. Yikes! Actually, no matter what I say, I’d love to have my parents living closer.

4: I posted a new blog about the fam on The Nervous Breakdown. Go leave me a comment PLEASE!

When you’re the black sheep

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, but when you’re the black sheep of your family, not so much. I haven’t lived near my parents for almost two years. But I felt like they were close when they were only two states away because I was constantly arguing on the phone with my dad about pretty much anything and everything. He and I can never have just a normal conversation.

And moving 3,000 miles away hasn’t changed that. Apparently I’m too old for my parents to love or care about. So I’m over it. I’m not talking to them anymore. All it does is hurt my feelings.

Someone to love

Being in Paris makes me really want a puppy, especially a super cute one like the one above. Unfortunately, Tony isn’t convinced I’ll take care of it. And, um, he’s right.

So instead I’ll be buying a plant. I think a lime tree. If I can keep that alive for a whole year I might move up to goldfish.

I really do hate watching everyone walking with their cute dogs around here. It makes me super jealous.


I really feel like I’m in Paris now because I finally bought and ate a croissant yesterday. And it was just as delicious as I remembered it being. Now I think I’m addicted. I’m going to work in a bit and I woke up super early just so I’d have extra time to stop off at the boulangerie (bread store). Croissants and bread are one thing I’ll always be able to afford here. Croissants are 45 centimes and a baguette is 90 centimes. You can’t beat that!

In my last blog I gave a short synopsis of the recent tragic events of my grandmother’s last years.

The funeral is on Tuesday next week. It will be the first one I’ve attended for a family member. This is not because I’ve never had family die. It’s because the death’s in my family, for the most part, have been on my father’s side. And because my father’s family never had a real affinity for children, we weren’t allowed to attend. This will have been only my second funeral ever. So I’m not exactly sure how I’m supposed to act. I think I’ll manage though.

Anyway, I thought some of you might be interested in reading the most recent article that was written about her, and her son.

For the record, this isn’t my blood grandmother. She was my father’s step-mother, but she was his step-mother for all of my life, so I never knew her as anything but my grandmother.

Also, I have to admit that as a child we weren’t particularly taken with her because she had more rules than we cared to uphold. There were seven of us back then and she and my grandfather lived in a million-dollar house with all white carpet and furniture. They even had white dogs. So basically we went there to swim in the pool and were allowed to touch nothing in the actual house. I learned later in life to appreciate her, and found some things we enjoyed doing together (mostly crossword puzzles and reading the newspaper), but for the most part we all spent time wishing we didn’t have to visit. Of course, I regret that now, but it’s too late for regrets.

My father, however, adored her. He was just about the only person in the family that could stand her frankness. My family says he’s taking it pretty hard. He was really devastated when contact with her was cut off. He even took in my grandmother’s mother for awhile when Nema (my grandma) disappeared. I guess he just wanted some kind of contact with that part of his family. After all, he had just lost his father and then he had his stepmom taken away from him too.

I don’t know, I’m really just rambling now. I’ve just been thinking a lot about it and looked up the story on the whole situation. Elder abuse is something that just seems wrong to the core.

As you all know, I’m not a big fan of old people, but I don’t think I could ever steal my parent’s life savings and leave them living in an unfurnished apartment with no caregivers. I mean, they spent at least 18 years raising me (and in reality will have spent some 40 years raising children by the time they’re through), is it really that inconvenient for me to give up maybe six or seven years taking care of them?

Yesterday I got to meet Sophie Kinsella! Thanks to Melissa Dahl, I even got to hang out with Sophie for a little while before she gave her presentation. I also won her new book and tickets to the Sacramento Ballet! I’ve never won anything in my life so that felt pretty awesome.

I did, however, forget to bring the battery for my camera. Tony brought it to me at the very end of the event so I at least got this one shot:

Not really proof that we hung out or anything though.

Oh, and I learned that Sophie’s publicist hasn’t even read her books. I thought that was pretty unreal.

Other stuff:

One of my grandmas died yesterday. I haven’t seen her in about six years because she was basically kidnapped by my uncle when my grandpa died. She had alzheimer’s and didn’t know how to contact us. It was sheer coincidence that we found her at all. She happened to be in a beauty parlor at the same time as my dad’s sister. My aunt told my dad, my dad called the cops, and my uncle was arrested for stealing millions from my grandma. But because my grandma couldn’t identify us, the state couldn’t tell us where she was staying, only that she was OK. They took care of her using the money my uncle had stolen, and only contacted us this week when she passed away. Kind of a tragic story really.

So I have a funeral to attend. She’s going to be cremated and placed next to my grandpa.

I also have a wedding to go to next week. My cousin is getting married in Utah and since my parents are going to be driving out here for the funeral they offered to take me back with them. Unfortunately I also have three articles due by Thursday and I of course have been procrastinating. Now with all this family stuff I’m feeling a bit pressed for time. I’m sure I’ll figure it out though.

Also, you can read here about how I finally got rid of my car!

If someone in your family gets cancer you’d think someone would mention it. Not my family though. Nope, sure didn’t know and probably wouldn’t have if I hadn’t mentioned to my mom today that I was planning to visit my grandma for Thanksgiving.

Me: “Yeah, I think this year I’m going to go out to Arizona for Thanksgiving and visit grandma.”

Mom: “Oh. Well, that’s good. She just finished her chemo so she should be doing alright by then.”

Me: “What?!?! Chemo?!?! What are you talking about?”

Mom: “Yeah, grandma has breast cancer. She had to have a mastectomy a few months ago and she’s been doing chemo all summer.”

Who doesn’t tell you when your grandma has a potentially life threatening disease AND gets surgery for it?!?! I’m super sad right now, especially because now when I call to tell her I’m coming to visit I know she’ll think it’s a pity visit when it’s SO not. Well, maybe she won’t think that because she and I have always been close and I’ve been saying I was coming out for awhile. But still!

I am DEF going to Arizona for Thanksgiving now. No matter what! My grandma is one of my most favorite people in the world and I’ll be devastated if something happens to her.

This isn’t the best picture, but it’s the only picture I have of her on my computer (the rest are on film and are at my home in CA).

I still can’t believe no one has mentioned it to me before today.

Worse still, apparently it runs in my family. My grandmother’s mother also had breast cancer and here I’ve been telling my doctors for years that I have no family history of anything. My dad’s father died of cancer a few years ago (this is my dad’s mother) I wonder how my dad is doing.

I guess I better start paying more attention to the recomended self-checks. This sucks all around.

Click for info on breast cancer