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Dear Daina -Stuff dreams are made of

Hi D.

In all my life I have never appreciated this fall back time change more than right at this moment. An extra hour of sleep was as welcome as a fresh squeezed glass of lemonade on a hot summers day.

One might say “steady la” in Singlish. Singlish is a creole type language rooted in British English and a variety of other languages including  Hokkien, Mandarin, Cantonese and about 15 other languages. Because we just thought America was the melting pot of the world.

Steady – excellent or agreeing about something. Pronounced “stay – lee”

La or Lah- Used as a full stop in a sentence but doesn’t really have a meaning,. It’s  often used to change the tone of a sentence.

“Wha! You got an extra hour of sleep already? Steady la! 

Sitting around the dinner table with the local office personnel, I learned that Singaporeans quite enjoy listening to tourists try to speak a little of their Singlish language. And found out pretty quick, it was purely for the entertainment factor.

So let’s chat culinary delights for a bit.

This dinner was quite possibly my favorite experience of the entire trip. There is no better way to experience another culture than to sit side by side with a local and break bread….or crab as it is common in Singapore. Chili crab to be more specific, but we will get to that in a minute.

Ranesh was our guide for the evening and guide us he did, right down the red light district of Singapore where one side of the street marked in large bright red numbers are your local brothels and the other is mostly made up of locally owned restaurants and bars. Including No Signboard Seafood. The name was actually given to them by their customers, when they were first a hawker (open air food market) with no name. The locals would make plans for meal time meet ups and say “let’s meet at the no signboard place.” (except for in Singlish, which no doubt ended in lah) The place eventually adopted the name as their own.

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Drunken Prawns

For starters, we had a dish called Drunken Prawns. The waiter approached the table with a stainless steel pot of live prawns and presented them to our host for the evening. A local colleague leaned over to explain to me that many permits in town require some seafood to be served live to guests. Just like table-side guacamole, they literally drowned the prawns in a mixture of rice wine and brandy and then put them in a pot to boil them table-side before serving.

I was told  that the soup of brandy and rice wine is quite good for the body. Imagine that?! It’s like healing powers in the alcohol.

Apparently there is a live version of this dish, which we did not have. Thank the good Lord above! If the idea of cooking live prawns table-side is not gross enough for you, watch this video. What is the Singlish word for gag?

The video is quite like the open air dining experience we had at many of the restaurants in Singapore. Apparently, Singaporeans don’t like their air conditioning too much. So they accommodate the hot and humid climate with open air facilities all over the place.

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Look at these beauties? Bamboo clams (also known as Atlantic Jackknife clam or Razor clam) are one of the most beautifully prepared dishes I have every seen. Prepared being the operative word here.

Because why? Just watch. No need to sit through the entire thing, just catch the first couple of minutes.

And again I ask, how do you say gag in Singlish?

“Obscene and gruesomely looking..” <– my favorite part of this video.

The best part of the meal finally made it’s way to the table. And before you ask, my friend- 1)  it is not the bread and 2) it did not crawl it’s way to the table live.These amazing crabs did however come from the muddy lagoons of Sri Lanka and are prized by seafood lovers around the globe.

Chili Crab is claimed to be the national dish of Singapore. It’s a mud crab that is stir fried in a semi sweet and savory tomato and chili based sauce, which is actually not spicy at all.

We were draped with plastic bibs and provided water bowls for finger dipping because this is another hands on meal. The crab meat was juicy and sweet and the savory chili sauce dripped from my chin. Shiok!

I can’t finish this without telling you about those little heavenly  pieces of bread …It was almost like a fried donuts without the sweetness. An eggshell thin fried exterior and a light and soft warm center. Perfect for scooping up the chili sauce that dripped across your plate.

Shiok -Exclamation of extreme pleasure or the highest quality. Intended to be said with much passion.

This chili crab dinner was damn shiok, man! 

This meal truly was stuff that dreams are made of…both the delightful and the eery!

Happy eating!

-Ames

P.S. One guess as to what my first meal was after landing back in San Antonio? ‘Ole. Isn’t that Spanglish for something like…Mmmm. Get in my belly.

 

Dear Daina – Beauty Looking Back

Hey there, friend! Remember when we would make up stories about where we were going and head off to Longhorn for an evening? Or how about that time we told our parents we were taking a weekend girls trip and snuck along a couple of boys? Something about 3 Strange Days.

Oh memory lane can be a fun place to visit, can’t it?

This week I had the pleasure of taking a quick stroll down memory lane with a taxi driver. This aging Chinese man who came to Singapore as a very young child mumbled story after story through our cab ride as if he was talking to no one in particular.

“The little children used to go to pick up spiders there in the naughty lady’s house.” He reminisced about his childhood and how “the little children” would walk all the way from China town. “Today little children take the bus because they say it is so far” he complained in his broken English with his heavy Chinese accent. All of the d’s sounding like t’s with a heavy emphasis on the t’s. He repeated himself frequently and every time he said “naughty laty” I could not contain my own giggle.

Chinatown Food Street

We passed a very busy business district with retail store fronts on the lower levels and office space on the upper, “theaters those once were.” He seemed to be flooded with memories that he could not contain with each building we passed. “A church there, a school over there and now it is all gone,” disappointment dripping from his words. 

We turned the corner near Fort Canning Park (a site I did not have time to squeeze in) and he rambled on about the Japanese surrender that was decided in the underground Far East Command center in 1942. In his soft spoken mutter, he went on and on about how this was the start of great change.

Did you know it is compulsory for all men to serve in the military here for 2 years? Owning firearms is prohibited except for certain law enforcement. No less than five different male cab drivers asked whether we owned guns or not when we told them we were from Texas. The only time they are allowed to handle firearms is during their service time. No doubt this contributes to the favorable safety conditions of Singapore. That, and the extreme punitive system. Upon arriving, my immigration paperwork reminded me that execution is enforced for certain things like drug trafficking. Bear in mind that drug trafficking here is akin to casual use in the states, something that might not even warrant a slap on the wrist. It’s definitely a different world.

The driver reminded me of my own dad. A man that for as long as I can remember has had a fondness for storytelling. And as he ages his fondness seems to grow and sometimes the tales grow too. I often find myself frustrated that he pays little attention to what is ahead and seems to thrive on the yesteryears. It may be because personally I am so averse to looking back. Go figure. 

“Mikaeri Bijin” is the work of a Japanese artist named Moronobu Hishikawa. Ironically, this painting was used for the first commemorative stamp after World War II and the Japanese takeover of Singapore. It’s meaning is “the beauty looking back.”

My version of Beauty Looking Back

During a layover in Japan, I had the chance to try my hand at creating some traditional Japanese art. 

While this beauty looking back was intended to simply represent courtship, I found that the events of the week helped me remember how much beauty there is in looking back. 

I think I’ll give my dad a call when I get home. 

Much love for all the memories we’ve shared and the new ones we will make. -Ames

Dear Daina – Lizards and Bread

Dearest friend,

I just got back from a run through the Singapore Botanical Gardens which happens to be just around the corner from my hotel. The trails wind through dense tropical gardens and lush rain forests and then open up to green lawns and lakes. There was a light rainfall this morning as I was running along the edge of Swan Lake admiring the view across the water, when I rounded a corner and caught a glimpse of this guy laying in wait across the path.

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My heart stopped for a brief moment and all I could think about was the toddler that got swallowed up by the gator at the Disney resort in Florida recently. I was surely going down by this baby gator on the edge of Swan Lake half way around the world. But then, I saw another lady running toward me and she jogged right on over him. She was kind enough to explain to me in my panicked state that the monitor lizard was perfectly tame as long as I stayed on his tale end and away from his face. The skepticism must have been all over my face because she offered and did run with me, to show me that it was perfectly safe. Thank you, Singapore running buddy whom I will never see again! Run on and run safe. 

The gardens were one incredible view after another. A couple of my favorite spots included the Orchid Garden and the Evolution Garden, which walked you through a series of vegetation, trees, and flowers that are representative of each period of time since Creation.


Ohhhh D – You know how food is one of my love languages? The Singapore bakery scene speaks to my soul. They love their bread here. Bread shops and bakeries are on every corner, much like Starbucks is stateside. (But, to be fair, Starbucks has their fair share of corners here too.)

In the office building where I am working this week there is a brief moment at the entrance where the aroma of fish lingers in the air, because that is common for breakfast here too. Gag. But I rush by it so that I can take in the sweet smell of yeast and fresh bread at the little shop next door.

When in Singapore, do as the Singaporeans do – right?

Yesterday I caved and had an afternoon snack that was pretty much equivalent to an entire loaf of bread. Oh, did I mention it was chocolate bread and stuffed with cream cheese. Be still my heart.

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And this is why I run.

Signing off for now. More to come. Much love and big hugs!

-ames

Dear Daina…a series

I have this friend, who at times knows me better than I know my own self. She is a loyal companion, a confidant and a fine example of fortitude for all who have the joy of crossing her path.

My life and career have afforded me the opportunities to travel. By no means am I jet setting around the world on the regular, but I do get out and about from time to time. Her life and career have afforded her the pleasures of remaining closer to her home. We live vicariously through one another’s life.

She is my encourager. And she says to me journal; write it down and send me pictures.

Dear Daina,

It is 3:30 am and I am wide awake. After a carefully planned out sleep schedule so as to avoid jet lag as much as possible, I am wide awake on Monday morning at 3:30am. Good thing though, because it gives me a few minutes to share a little of my sights.

Travel was an experience in and of itself. To say anxiety levels were high about the distance and length of time I would be crammed into a tube in the sky is an understatement. However, I found that flying business class is a different world. Not enough to make me want to do this on the regular, but it was bearable. Do you know how many movies you can watch during 22 hours of flight time? ballpark…10,621.

Let me tell you a funny story, reminiscent of a scene out of Pretty Woman. The only difference is that I am not in a fancy hotel room because I am a woman of the night invited by a lonely man. Other than, pretty much the same. A simple girl from humble means found in a rather opulent hotel room. Got the idea?

I finally walked through my hotel room door at 2:20am. It was pitch black and I was less than “with it” after my journey around the world. Let’s just talk about technology for a moment…I searched for no less than a half hour for light switches. I simply wanted to be able to see where I was putting one foot in front of the other. Thank goodness for the flashlight app on my iPhone. There was this gadget on the wall near the door and I finally decided that maybe Singapore or this hotel was more advanced in technology than any previous stay at your run-of-the-mill Marriott Courtyard or Homewood Suites. The room key was magic! I slipped it in and located a cleverly hidden master panel inside the fake drawer front of the bedside table that provided all of the lighting options a girl could ask for at the tip of her fingers. Every light bulb in the room pretty much has its own button with dimming capabilities for each. Sheer drapes up and down. Blackout drapes up and down. Needless to say I spent another half hour just playing with them because, you know… my inner child just needed to come out and play for a bit.

Yesterday I made up for all that sitting time with an entire day on my feet.  It was a bit of a global adventure that started with breakfast in a French restaurant, lunch in Little India, an afternoon stroll through Chinatown, and finished in Marina Bay after a quick trip to the SkyPark at the Sands Hotel and Casino.

More to come on this my friend. But for now I will lay my head back down and try to sleep before the alarm rings loud and I must get shifted into a work mindset.

Much love and big hugs!

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Matter….A Reminder

I stood barefoot on the salt and pepper ground swallowed up by the dense, gray layer of moisture suspended all around me. With every effort I could muster, I stopped the endless thoughts in my head and listened to the soft crashing of waves and rolling of seas that lie just beyond my arms reach. They captivated me long enough to settle my mind into a state of awe and then a swell of endless thoughts would crash in my head disturbing that brief yet extraordinary moment of distraction and tranquility.

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My intention for the next 3 days was simply to leave this place with clear answers for a multitude of decisions that sat directly in font me. Each one complexly related to the others and all impacting the trajectory of my life. With every ounce of energy I had, I mustered up the courage and pleaded for help.

Show off. I will only listen. No more planning on my part. In your mysterious way, oh Lord, show me where to go from here.

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I journeyed the peninsula on the far west side of Vancouver Island from Ucuelet to Tofino. Not more than a stretch of 20 km, but packed full of adventure. Rain forests edged wide sandy beaches that cupped gentle surfs, and rocky cliffs protected the inland from fierce sea swells of the Northern Pacific.

For two days, I strolled the waters edge every morning and every night. My mornings started with a plea for help. Answers that would chart out my life path. As the mornings wore on, I found myself so captivated by the beauty of this place that my thoughts could not help but contemplate the depths of the sea, the vastness of the great ocean, the mystery of suspended cloud cover, the reflection of light and the intensity of darkness, the sweet smell of fresh rain, the wonder of life big and small. Those endless life worries that consumed my thoughts before stepping foot on this island were ever more interrupted with the swelling emotion of gratitude as I soaked in the wonder of my surroundings.

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As the sun set the evening before I was to depart. I strolled the beach one last time basking in my own heart’s state of wonder for creation that had provided a welcome distraction these last few days. And just as tears began to fill my eyes and heaviness started to well up in my soul at the realization that I was leaving this place with no more clarity than when I arrived, you whispered.

I have you hemmed in behind and before, sweet child. I have you covered with my hand.

Although a peace settled into my soul, I worked hard to try and conjure up the remainder of this passage in an effort to unravel exactly how it applied to me. But as hard as I tried, I could recall no more. So I made a mental note to look it up in the coming days.

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Settling in for a 2 hour fairy ride back to the mainland, I decided catch up with some online reading.  A couple of clicks took me directly to one of my regular daily reads, She Reads Truth. With the same wonder and amazement I had experienced the last couple of days looking over the vast ocean, contemplating the mysteries of suspended cloud covers, the awesomeness of light and darkness, and the pure wonder of life and creation I let my eyes settle on the words before me. It was a grace day, indeed.

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Tears clouded my eyes as I read through the passage. The same creator of all things wondrous that my eyes had just witnessed had woven together a series of events specifically for me. You have searched me and known me. You discern when I come and when I go. You know when I sit and when I rise. You know every word before it is even on my tongue. You are familiar with all my ways. (My paraphrase)

Oh my heart! I That tender, soft message delivered in the foggiest of settings late in the evening a night before suddenly became so big and so clear. A light in the darkness. As I settled on the edge of the sea and rose at dawn contemplating all your ways, I lost site of the simple fact that you created me and knew all my days before I was even a thought to my parents. If I were to try and count how many small details You know about me and my life, it would outnumber the grains of the salt and pepper sands I had just left.

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It’s been a little over a month since my trip and this incredible grace experience. I wrote it down as soon as I returned out of sheer excitement and also knowing in my heart that it would just be a matter of time before I’d need a reminder. While the memory is still as clear as day, today was one of those days. I needed a fresh reminder that I am hemmed in behind and before.

And so it has begun. A new year. A new season. A fresh start. A clean slate.

I wrote that 7 months ago, hit save, logged out and haven’t since logged in to WordPress.  As I wrote those words, I knew there was a whirlwind of change in the coming year but looking at my calendar, it seemed the so far away. Let me be the first to tell you, as soon as I hit save and logged out it blew in like gale force winds. I fully expect hurricane force winds by the time August rolls around.

With all this change I find myself clinging to the familiar, the steady, the constant, the predictable things in my life. Oh, and chocolate…lots and lots of chocolate.  I’m knuckling in things that I’ve been trying with all my might to let go and my grasp is slipping on the things I’d just barely got a hold of before winds started brewing. Take writing for instance… 7 months of silence. It’s time for some change.

MP Quote

#Instalately

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gratitude turns everything into enough

“Gratitude is an attitude.”

At Girls On The Run, we talk about this important lesson and how it helps us get out of the “Girl Box.”  If you are a girl, I am sure you have an idea of what the Girl Box is all about, but for the sake of clarification let’s break it down. The Girl Box is the box we get caught up in that says we have to look a certain way, talk a certain way, have certain friends, things, thoughts, etc.. Basically all of the things that box us in from embracing our authentic selves and experiencing the joy that comes with being confident in ourselves.

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As an expression of my gratitude for the amazing organization that is Girls On the Run, I have made the commitment as a SoleMate to do some charity fundraising over the summer and early fall. In November I will be running the Shiner Beer Half Marathon and plan to spend the next few months running, writing about my running, running some more, telling you all how grateful I am for all the running I am doing, running a little more, and asking you to encourage me through generous donations to my campaign. Oh, and then I’ll wrap it all up by a little more running.

I am looking forward to sharing this journey with each of you.

 

 

Thank You From the Bottom of My Heart

On turning 40

In early 2013, I completed my first tri. During the  check-in phase my calf was marked up with my age, a practice this rookie was not expecting. It was with mixed emotion that I walked away with this glaring and constant reminder of my age.

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Thankfully, the mix of excitement and nerves kept me distracted from that gigantic, black, Sharpied 39 on my calf. This isn’t a race re-cap post, so I’ll skip to the relevant part of the story. It was somewhere mid-run that a feeling of fatigue started to well up inside me and a little annoying voice began telling me that a short walk break wouldn’t hurt a thing. Afterall, I was 39 and I deserved it. My only goal was to cross the finish line and in no particular time. Certainly, just finishing was enough.

As my spirits dropped, so did my head and guess what was in my line of sight? Yep. Everyone else’s Sharpied age marked right on their own calves. Passing me were 59, 12, 48, and 64 year olds. This is the exact moment when I made a conscious decision to shift my focus. Literally.

Lifting my head up brought into my line of sight the path that lay before me and the friends and family that lined that path. I let their cheering lift my spirits. Your job is to do this and give it your best. Push through. What doesn’t kill you, only makes you stronger. You’ve got this, after all your only 39. If that 59, 12, 48, and 64-year-old can do this, you can too.  And just like that I was passing up that 59, 12, 48, and 64-year-old and crossing the finish line. Nicely done, Amy.

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And just like the finish line, my 40th birthday has come and gone. Life is so much like a race. Over the course of this last year from time to time my spirits waned but, when I made the effort to lift my head and take a look at what lay ahead of me it didn’t appear all that bad. My job here is to live the best life I can and I will push through the hard parts and find ways to experience joy as often as possible. Afterall, I am ONLY 40! I’ve totally got this and there is no time to waste dwelling on what I haven’t accomplished or how overwhelming it can all be sometimes.

 Last year I spent my birthday with an amazingly wise friend who reminded me that I was entering my 40th year of ilfe upon turning 39. My year has been filled with amazing experiences, love, and so many blessings. Not only did I complete my first triathlon during this 40th year of life, I have also has the sheer pleasure of

  • watching my boy turn  16-year-old, get his drivers license, get his first job, lose his first love, and get his first car
  • falling in love all over again with my best friend
  • watch one of the most precious ladies I know adopt the most special little girl ever
  • personally witnessing the amazing impact of the Girls On the Run program  on the lives of almost 20 incredible girls in San Antonio
  • learning to enjoy swimming for fitness (age+injuries= lots of pool time in 2013…I had no choice)
  • completing Priscilla Shrirer’s Gideon bible study that touched my heart in so many incredible ways
  • running a 5K for the first time  with both my sister and my mom
  • planting and watching our first herb garden grow
  • being spoiled by an amazing summer get away with my love
  • drinking mint juleps, listening to the amazing music of Mumford and Son’s under a beautiful summer night, and dancing the night away at a Fiesta party with my love
  • seeing the Market in Seattle, falling in love with a farm-house and the quaintest little town of O’Connor, Washington
  • watching the cutest niece ever turn 3
  • making memories with some of the best gals I know riding horses, drinking wine, swinging from trapeze, running races, drinking wine, watching Pink! swing from the rafters, and drinking wine 😉
  • doing my first  gym workout with my mom and watching her use heavier weights than me…she’s strong y’all.

There are too many fun memories to list them all, but it’s been a great little trip down memory lane. Most of all it’s inspiring and thrilling to think I have an entire year ahead of me to make a whole new list. Thanks to so many of you for making this year incredible for me!

So I am curious friends, have you ever struggled with a monumental birthday? Or do you just embrace getting older, one birthday at a time? If so, how did you manage to get through it and find joy and acceptance in your new age?