I’m Renovating My Apartment

“Here’s what you should do…” is probably one of those beginnings to sentences that will set me off and land me in a fistfight. I’ve come close a few times, especially with people I love the most, and we all deal with our triggers differently.

I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and I know it has and will be received with mixed reviews. I haven’t been very vocal about it because of this, but I’ve decided to do renovations on my apartment.

I get the impression that my friends think I’m wasting my money or that I just really hate my money or something. Why spend the money on a perfectly useable space? Your apartment isn’t leaking. It fits your things. Sure, some of that stuff is old, but it still works. Why bother?

“Here’s what you should do. Save your money for something else. Nobody cares about a new kitchen sink.”

Dudes, you know what? I care. A lot.

I work from home. It’s a happy joke that I am willing to play along with, but the truth is, I spend 23 hours a day on average in this apartment. I know every inch of this place by heart, and I do a lot to keep it well-maintained and loved.

I also come from a family and culture of people who love their homes. My family in Manila, we invest time and energy in our homes because it’s one of the most important things in our lives. It carries our memories and our eccentricities, physical manifestations of our habits and flaws. Our homes are a reflection of who we are. My family and I aren’t fucking nomads like the people who travel and find themselves and do whatever. I’m not Julia Roberts. I don’t do that Eat, Pray, Love shit.

Decorating and designing a home for me isn’t just a fun thing that lonely housewives or bored celebrities do. It reminds me of my mom a lot. She loved doing this shit as much as I do. I remember when she did a renovation on our first Manila house.

We had shirtless workers in and out of the house for weeks. Our shit was all over the place. I even remember being tasked with peeling off bits of wallpaper from the room I shared with my brother. She transformed this house that was originally a 1970s bungalow for a newlyweds into a family home for six.

And my sister, bless her, went slightly over-budget with renovating our new Manila house, but you know what? It’s fucking glorious. It’s a beautiful space that she worked hard to decorate, and when I saw it on my trip back, I was immediately comfortable. It was a decent house when we purchased it, but now it’s actually our home. And therein lies the difference.

She put in touches and details that considered my shirtless father (shutter blinds in his room and a full-wall built-in for his trinkets and collections) and my brother (large desk space for his computer work station and drawing area).

Our kitchen is now open and inviting, and makes you want to have breakfast with each other in the mornings. It overlooks the back yard where we can have our cousins over for BBQ’s and pool parties.

Now that I’m older, I feel like I’ve stepped into the same shoes, and our feet are the exact same size. Now that I’m actually able to accomplish this, I’m so excited to do it. If not just for the shirtless workers. But this is Canada. People here don’t work shirtless, unfortunately.

I’m not putting in a stripper pole in the middle of the room or adding an extension for a bowling alley. I’m just updating my apartment to how I’d like it to be. Sure, there are cheaper ways to do it, but I want to do it the proper way. You go spend time re-sanding and re-finishing that weirdo Craigslist tabletop with the gargoyle feet. I don’t give a shit.

Some people get new fancy cars or nose jobs, or they go travelling around the world to find themselves (again, Julia Roberts). Well, I don’t want a fucking Lexus, Trung thinks my nose is cute, and I hate flying.

This apartment helped me grow up and out of being a shitty baby from Emily Carr. It’s given me a wonderful place to appreciate Vancouver and all its fine points. It’s helped me host many dinner parties and family guests over the years. It’s a milestone that marks my responsibility and obligation, both financially and emotionally. It’s become mine.

This is something just for me, and I don’t think anybody has much of a right to tell me what I should do.

I Was in a Room Full of Warm People and Yarn

Guys, I totally had a blast going to Knit City this year. I was unable to attend last year, but I’m so glad I was able to make it this time around.

The second Trung dropped me off and I saw that THERE WAS A GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICH STAND outside in the parking lot, I knew it was going to be a good day. And then I got inside and there were Girl Guide Cookies. Oh man.

Beautiful yarns and fibrework, wonderfully warm people and just the most positive ambiance. I don’t want to say “energy” because that sounds really annoying. Maybe it was because it was a knitting thing, too, but the Croatian Cultural Centre that weekend just had this awesome toasty blanket-by-the-fireplace kind of feel to it.

Actually, yeah, that was probably because it was a knitting thing.

It was so inspiring to see everyone walking around in their sweaters.

I recognized a ton from my Ravelry queue and favourites, and it was so cool to see the same patterns on different people. A garment totally changes with the smallest of nuances. Even though it comes from a single pattern, it always, always comes out differently for everyone. That’s what I love so much about knitting. You really never know how it will turn out.

You know it.
You know it.

I also was lucky enough to sign up for a class with Kate Atherley, who is adoraballs. I love that her background is in mathematics and that she is able to bring that nerdiness into her knitting.

It’s a great example of integrating all sorts of divergent things into a big ball of what you love. You find the common themes and threads and fantastic things happen.

It was tough not to blow all my cash on… everything in there. But I went with Jane and she held me down a few times, which is a good thing.

It’s important to have a good wingman/yarn-partner/hand-slapper when you go to these things.

Awesome shirt
Awesome shirt

I went home right away and organized my Ravelry queue. Now I have three projects cast on, and the only thing stopping me is that I don’t have enough needles. Holy shit.

Indigodragonfly's booth felt like a really colourful cloud you want to jump on. I held back.
Indigodragonfly’s booth felt like a really colourful cloud you want to jump on. I held back.
The Cascadia line-up
The Cascadia line-up

Fiona and Amanda had done an amazing job with Knit City. I am so excited for the next one. Next year I shall be strutting around in my own hand-made sweater.

Dudes I totally saw that poncho and the Peasy sweater on Ravelry.
Dudes I’ve totally seen that poncho and the Peasy sweater on Ravelry.

Restlessness & Youth & Independence

So I have to admit I went a little bananas. I never thought I would, but over a year and something of working alone in my home office, but okay—I totally went apeshit.

I don’t know if that is a bad thing or a good thing, but I do know that there was one night where I was talking to my manfriend and just totally burst into tears. I didn’t even feel it come up. One second I was talking normally, and when my manfriend turned to get something from the fridge, I was already bawling.

And suddenly I was looking at flights to Korea to see my sister, looking at fitness classes at the community centre, and attempting to make peanut butter cookies at ten to midnight. Oh, and I think I moved some furniture, too.

It felt like I was stuck in this one pace and place, where I just let things happen over and over. I didn’t notice the gnawing feeling until it felt similar to how you let go of taking care of an ulcer.

I would wake up, go to my corner, feed the cat, work until dinnertime, and then Netflix and then go to bed. Washing, rinsing, repeating, and suddenly I’m in the tub, having scrubbed myself raw and I’m bald.

While solitude is still something I very much enjoy, there are also times where I really miss my family. I feel so grown up admitting that, and would never had expected it from myself five, ten years ago.

All that mattered then was my independence, and this illogical need to make that point. That’s why teenagers are so shitty, for the most part. And I like to think that I earned my independence at a much earlier age than people like me. That is, sheltered, Chinese-Filipino, middle-class and trained in a Catholic School with Jesus biscuits as treats.

And then, I suppose I got lazy.

It's like we don't talk anymore, Hugo.
It’s like we don’t talk anymore, Hugo.

I guess it takes a toll on you, being alone. I still don’t mind it, and I really don’t think it was totally because of the home office situation. My family is across the Pacific Ocean. My good friends were all moving to different cities/getting married. It just hit me how quiet things were all of a sudden. And without that noise, I succumbed to keeping to myself like the natural mountain man that I am.

It’s also more the matter of missing this place, rather than being there. Perhaps it’s a common thing for Third-Culture Kids, but there’s a weird mix of dissatisfaction with where I am and longing for it at the same time. I like to move around so that I get the opportunity to miss it. You stay in a place long enough and you start taking it for granted.

I went home to Manila recently, and it was a bit of a surprise to see how different I had become from when I first left at seventeen/eighteen years old. Anything we leave behind gets stuck in a time-warp, I think, and all that usually holds up are your memories of it. Some are bad, good, totally inaccurate, but somewhere in there lies the truth of how you feel about the place.

I sound like a fickle housewife, forced to choose between a loving husband and the pizza delivery guy.

Routine is a struggle for me sometimes, as I’m not happy with seeing the same thing over and over. Perhaps this is also just residual feelings from youth, and something that I’m still growing out of. I’m not that old yet, and really, if there’s anything I’ve learned, there doesn’t seem to be a threshold for youth anyway.

And so I’ve taken it upon myself to build on new routines, ones that don’t feel too contrived, and am more aware of creating options throughout my day. The feeling breaks once in a while, but independence really is something we need to maintain, not just achieve. Because when we get lazy, we kind of stop deserving it.

Free Agency Turned 10

Ah, Free Agency’s 10-year anniversary office-warming.

What night with FAC is not complete without me saying at least seven idiotic things?

Here’s one:

Me: Congratulations, guys. You are awesome. Man. How long has Free Agency been around?
Don: (long pause) Ten years.

(pan right, to a sign at reception right behind me, where it says “THANK YOU FOR THE LAST 10 YEARS”)
(cut to, weeks prior, where I was opening my email and a giant e-vite pops up, “JOIN US IN CELEBRATING 10 YEARS”)
(cut to, a small collection of books that say, “WE WOULD NOT HAVE LASTED 10 YEARS WITHOUT YOUR SUPPORT”)
(cut to, a plane hovering past, with skywriting, “HAPPY 10TH ANNIVERSARY, FREE AGENCY!”)

Free Agency has been such a huge part of my life here in Vancouver. There have been so many memories and stories, and their beautiful office space was alive and abuzz with these that evening.

I’ve said it before, but I really do love FAC. Part-big-brothers, part-mom-and-dad, Don and Tak have always taken care of me. The night was a reflection of how far they’ve come in the past decade, and as I’m super self-centered, I found myself looking at how I fit into all of it.

I can’t look back on my years here in Vancouver without thinking about Don and Tak. I don’t know if anyone else feels the same way about them, but I tend to cling to people I admire. It’s important to recognize that point where you have no fucking clue what to do. It’s more important to seek out the individuals who will point you to the right direction. And I’m not the only one they’ve done this for.

Essentially, Don and Tak were the ones who got the memo early on, and they were kind enough to relay the message to me. They were in line when they were passing the brains out, and they generously passed some of that shit over to my direction.

Okay I’ll stop.

I feel like one of their young veterans, talking about “the old Water Street office” and meaning “the big one, when Don used to live there.”

There was a time in FAC where everyone who worked for them was gorgeous, and the office basically felt like a modelling agency. I swear to God. It was beautiful women designing Home and Garden Show collateral, and me in the corner, 20 years old and desperately trying to figure out how to turn on a computer without looking like an idiot.

I also did not look like a model. I looked like a half-baked turd sitting in the sun, just waiting to be stepped on. Nowadays I just look like a teenager. Or worse, my mom.

For the past few years I’ve known them, Free Agency has really cultured a way of gathering great students under their wings and training them really well.

What I also found that evening is that this training ground has started a weird but awesome sub-culture.

There were complete strangers talking about the same things and I found myself building a common understanding with them. When I mentioned specific clients, a couple of eyes twinkled and a few smiles crept in. Not because of anything remotely negative, but anyone who has worked on a couple of their larger projects knows exactly how much collateral and how much production goes on during the summer months. And of course we all shared and exchanged stories about the hilarity that ensued for each of us.

When I mentioned Tak and K-OS (the rapper), a few heads turned around to laugh. Because they also knew what that meant.

I think being the reason for these connections is an amazing thing. They’ve told me before about how they started in Don’s basement kitchen, and I’ve seen first-hand how hard these guys work. The fact that they are able to pass on that kind of experience and develop that work ethic among their students, my colleagues and peers, that takes some pretty serious commitment to what you want to do.

They haven’t just been doing it for themselves this whole time. Haha and whether or not they have planned that deliberately, I know I learned shit tons of lessons from Free Agency, and I don’t feel obligated to reciprocate anything. I genuinely want to extend the same courtesy, respect and faith to my other homies in the design biz. Whether you’re a student or a colleague, we’re all in the same community. And being able to grow that community is a fantastic privilege, bros. We can’t waste that or take it for granted.

These guys are serious about giving back. Not just because they love doing it in a Mother Teresa kind of capacity. They understand the idea of investing in people and seeing those returns later on. It’s a smart, kind and exciting way of doing business—a way that I first learned from them.

I’m grateful and sincerely happy for Free Agency, and I can only hope that there will be another time where we see Don put on Tak’s tiny track pants for another office laugh. Or order 20 cheeseburgers from McDonald’s so we can all eat family-style in the middle of a big table, drinking beers.

Congratulations on your 10-year-old baby, guys. Soon it will go into it’s teenage years and start mouthing off. I hope you’re ready when it turns 20.

I Went to New York for the First Time

I always thought I’d love New York at first sight, the same way people fall in love with the city in the movies. But my first visit there recently did not do much more than really convince me of how much I love Vancouver.

Why is she iPad-ding herself?

The fast pace does not make me comfortable, nor does it invoke a sense of challenge and passion in me. The people are well-dressed and intimidating, but none of them make me feel like I have something to prove. I suppose that’s a good thing. New York is a wonderful place to visit, but I could never live there.

It’s a bit expected to be wowed by such a city. But while magnificent, New York did not influence me as much as I thought it would. Not to say that it was a disappointment of any sort, but more of an assurance that Vancouver was a better place for me.

Vancouver is Van-groovy, filled with yoga-loving yuppies and dogs with t-shirts, but it also has a sense of slowness that I appreciate. Most people dislike it, but I actually prefer it. It’s not so impressive or enjoyable to see Vancouverites walking around downtown in Uggs boots and sweatpants from their high school gym classes, but there is something about Vancouver that comforts me and makes me happy. I am also not impressed by the term “Vancouverites” but that’s a separate issue.

I think New York is for people who have more energy and can run marathons and have verbal fights on the streets. It’s for people always looking up and don’t mind the grime. It’s a beautiful city, no qualms about it. The air is electric, the food is great, and the experience is stimulating. There is something romantic about New York, which many films and storytellers have explored. It has its own character, and is much more than just a geographical setting for something to happen. I felt the magic and the awe about the place, and the special things that people relate to it.

New York is definitely the type of girl that boys fall for, and nobody questions why.

Perhaps I’m just more of the idiot who falls for the quiet, nerdy girl that nobody notices. Vancouver is very much Laney Boggs, I’d say. She’s cute and people know about her, but she’s definitely no Taylor Vaughn.

Have I lost you yet? Those are references from the gem She’s All That. Don’t bother watching it. It’s terrible.

Anyway, about Laney Boggs-Vancouver. I can’t help it. I love this city. I used to hate it, but I’ve grown accustomed to everyone going to bed at 9pm. I like that people smile at me on the bus. I like that Canada has currency in techni-color. It’s just more efficient. The rude dumbass cyclists who can’t read stop signs I can probably live without, as well as the loud motorbikes and rice rockets, but every place has it’s downsides and assholes.

I also love that the mayor is so chiseled and good-looking.

I didn’t think it would take so quickly, but I think I’ve established some pretty strong roots here. It’s weird having such an international experience, but again, I regret nothing.

Maybe in the future I would like to visit again, under different circumstances. For the most part, this trip was to spend time with my sisters. Times together with my family are few and far in between, with each of us all living in different countries. And there is only so much you can do with Skype and FaceTime.

Some more things:

  • In Vancouver, a lot of the crosswalk buttons just give out a small “Beep!” when you press them, and then a chirpy “Beep-boop! Beep-boop!” I noticed in New York, their crosswalk buttons, while similar in shape and size, yell at you once pressed. It actually bellows, “WAIT,” in the way someone chastises a child for running in the hallways with scissors. Or the way a goon would say it while bouncing the business end of a baseball bat on his palm.
  • I very highly encourage everyone to stay away from those pretzels they sell at the hotdog street carts. They are extremely salty and not good to eat at all. :( Here is my face after the first couple of bites:

    Photo by my sister, Dianne
  • People in New York also do not know how to spell. It sort of takes away from the words of Johnny Cash.

    Photo also by my sister, Dianne
  •  Those bike tour guys are really aggressive.
  •  I never thought about how much nicer it is to hear “Pardon?” instead of “WHAT?” until I visited New York.
  •  The NBC Studio Tour is not so exciting when they take you to the set of “The Today Show” and, like, one woman out of the thirty of us know who Savannah Guthrie is.
  •  My sister lied to me and told me we were going to visit the MoMa. We visited three different Lulu Lemons instead. Don’t go to New York with my sister.