Nanna's Handkerchiefs


It's been a while since we've updated, but I wrote this a few weeks back. Please forgive me!

While I was home on vacation in Maryland, my mom let me pick out some of my Nanna’s handkerchiefs that she got when she moved Nanna into a nursing home. They are beautiful, vintage, colorfully embroidered handkerchiefs that are still in pristine condition. My Nanna was always a well-taken care of lady. She always had to have her hair “just so” and if anyone ever inquired about her age, she would coyly answer, “I’m 39-plus”. She still gave this answer even when her face began to sag and her hands began to shrivel.

When we were kids, we’d visit our Nanna and Bompa in their house in San Francisco. Although it was a small house, we never tired of all the nooks and crannies that begged to be investigated. Nanna was old school. She never owned a clothes dryer or dishwasher and fought with all her might against getting a microwave or garage door opener. Nanna and Bompa owned just about every National Geographic magazine ever printed and we would go down into the basement to crack open the crusted, yellowed pages to see the monkeys of Burma, or the hill-tribe people of Thailand. My favorite discovery that I made in Nanna’s basement was the Re-Gift Cupboard. I am pretty sure that any time Nanna and Bompa received a present that they didn’t want or need, they’d put the object into this cupboard and stock up until a holiday or birthday came around. From this cupboard, we received very strange presents, definitely not intended for children. Letter openers, a pen, monogrammed handkerchiefs, and a thick-handled magnifying glass were some of the gifts we received from this cupboard. I would visit the cupboard from time to time, just to check on the inventory. Nanna also had an assortment of plants throughout her neat little house. I always noticed that they seemed much shinier than my mom’s plants and I asked her about it one time. She beckoned me over to her and whispered her secret into my ear. “I smear a touch of mayonnaise around each leaf and that really makes them shine!”

I saw Nanna the day before Aaron and I left for Taiwan and she was a little bit tired looking, but she was her old self-funny as ever, stubborn, warm and loving. While we were gone for a year, she had a series of mini-strokes and dementia slowly took over her mind. After many trips to California, tears, conversations with family, and tough decisions, Bompa informed my mom and uncles that they needed to be taken care of full-time in a nursing home.

Every time I visit Nanna I almost don’t recognize her. I never thought my own grandma would be one of those sad old ladies in the nursing home who doesn’t know where they are or why they’re there. Her decline has taken a toll on all of us, but especially Bompa. He is in his mid-90’s and although he’s very tired, he’s very much mentally there. Bompa worries about Nanna all the time, and he is heartbroken that he’s slowly losing the love of his life. Nanna lost a lot of weight and her formerly wavy hairdo has fallen to her shoulders in a straight, limp mess. Because their stages of health are so different, Nanna and Bompa have rooms on different floors of the facilities and Bompa tries to see Nanna every day but admits that it’s hard to see her declining so rapidly. When The Notebook came out, I thought it was a nice story but I never thought I’d be witnessing a love like that with my own grandparents.

Although Nanna was confused and a little delusional when we visited for Thanksgiving, she never failed to offer me food or something to drink. Taking care of people is so innate for her that I don’t think she’ll ever lose that instinct.

I think it’s strange that ladies used to keep handkerchiefs in their purses to blow their noses and stuff, but when my mom gave them to me, she said that they were to catch the tears. I think there are about six in all, each one so different and varying in color and pattern. As many weaknesses as Nanna had (she was so stubborn and maybe a little spoiled), no one that knew her could argue that she is possibly one of the most colorful people they’d ever known. Nanna had a big heart and always yearned to take care of people all around her, from the gays on Stockton Street in downtown San Francisco when she volunteered with the health van, to my ragged high school friends when we spent a long weekend at her house, to the ducks that knew where to get the good crumbs on her back porch. I will keep a couple ‘kerchiefs in my purse, just to remind me of Nanna and just in case someone around me gets a little weepy.

Another blog?


Yes siree...I have just launched a blog for my photo business, Rika Fotografia. The Facebook page just went out too, so make sure you "like" that, okay?

Read my current post on Rika Fotografia for free design downloads. And just 'cause some of you are asking, yes, the Rikon Expedition will continue. We'll just blog here on a more personal level.

While I'm on the blog note, I wanted to highlight a few of my fav blogs of people I know. Ed and Jaela have started a blog called "Marriage Flavors", and has discussion on various aspects of marital life. The most recent one asks the question on whether it's okay to have close friends of the opposite gender after you're married. Interesting.

Another blog that I just discovered follows a couple of my friends from Southern on their year-long quest to travel the world. I got hooked on it over the break and have been trying to get my travel fix vicariously through these wild guys! It's called the wholeworldround. Right now, the two guys, Jeremy and Bjorn are in China on their way to Siberia. So rad! On part of this trip that I think is great, is that these guys take time in some of their travels to do mission work.

Although this guy doesn't blog super often, his photos are absolutely incredible. I went to high school with Brandon and he's just totally taken the fashion photography world in the northwest by storm. He's also shot a few of our classmates' weddings and the photos take your breath away. His photos are intimate, a little vintage-y, funky, beautiful. Check him out, his name is Brandon Witzel! Update: I just talked to Brandon and he wants to make sure I let you know he's a wedding photographer. So go get him! Wedding Photographer man!

On a totally different note, I can't forget to mention a friend from college, Daniel, who is currently battling cancer, and has been for the last few years. His blog, Precision Points chronicles his treatments, his thoughts, and his faith. Daniel is such an inspiration and I get shivers reading some of his thoughts, such as how it feels when a seizure is about to hit, and all the raw fruits and vegetables he blends to treat his cancer with all forces possible. I did an audio documentary of Daniel and his wife Logan a few years ago and he is probably one of the strongest people I know.

The last blog that I'm highlighting on this slow Sunday evening always brings colorful inspiration to my life. Joy Nudd is the author of the Cobblestone Rue blog, which features very cute, modern styles for life. Joy was my boss/friend when I did my photography internship during my senior year of college. Joy is incredibly talented in business, marketing, hunting down great finds on the internet, and being a fantastic mom to her two adorable girls.

If you haven't yet, you should definitely add these blogs to your Reader.

A tribute to vacation!



Christmas Break and then some:

I love working in education because we get nice long breaks. None of this “3 weeks a year” of vacation business. As soon as the kids left Rio, our minds were flooded with ideas and possibilities of things to do. Even though we were stuck with miserable, rainy weather, we still dreamt of setting up a dark room, turning some wooden bowls, visiting old friends, going Christmas shopping! I even had time to take a much-needed CPR class for work as well as work on my upcoming website.

After a week of doing random things around the house and town, (btw, Aaron set up a sweet sound system that goes through our house. We can even control the song and volume through our phones, which are attached somehow wirelessly to the computer which is attached to the tv, which is attached to the speakers. Don’t ask me how-he’s a miracle worker!), we decided to spend the day in San Francisco to check out the Christmas Eve action in the City. We went to the Exploratorium, which I used to visit as a kid, and Aaron got to experience it for the very first time. However, the museum closed several hours early, and our only other appointment that day was the midnight mass service at Grace Cathedral. We had SO much time to kill. So we went down town, and went to the mall like a couple of teenagers, then went to look at the ice skating rink in Union Square, then attempted to eat at the Cheesecake Factory at the top of Macy’s, and were rejected due to the 120 minute wait.

We eventually found some food and went to kill some time at a café and found ourselves at the only open espresso bar in the area which happened to also be a hookah bar. We did not partake of the hookah but it was rather entertaining and maybe slightly ironic to be spending Christmas Eve with a bunch of Middle Eastern guys smoking the hookah. Actually, it was awesome.

And so was midnight mass. So glorious! All the instruments and singers were in tune and their tones rose to the heights of the massive cathedral. It was very heartwarming, especially since we’d spend the entire next day, Christmas Day, traveling.

I love going home. I love my family and our rebellion against tradition. We opened presents one day late and had a big big Kwanzaa brunch to celebrate the day that none of us know anything about. We also brought with us a couple of kids from China, who are juniors at our school, so that they could experience the culture and entertainment of a “typical” American family. Or rather, that we could have an extra element of entertainment.

We took the kids almost every day to downtown DC to see the monuments, museums, trains planes and automobiles. We took them ice skating, shopping, and out to eat. Lucky kids!

My mom decided to start a new tradition this year of taking her favorite daughter (me!) to a spa for a facial. Wow! Mom, my face is still thanking you. We had some really great bonding time in between shopping and entertaining people and my parents remodeling their bathroom.

I got to see old friends-Juan Pablo Ariza and his lovely new wife, Erica. They are super cool and are changing the world for the better. I’ve known Pablo since 2nd grade and I’m always astounded at how grown up he is. He’s going to be a pastor, and will such a good one. I also got to see one of my best friends in the world, Ansley, who is another world changer. She’s studying public health/nurse practitioning/mid-wifery at Emery in Atlanta and not only is she a selfless, giving beautiful person, but she’s a lot of fun too. We ran all over DC area going to the Newseum, sampling coffee, trading in movie tickets for later times, and tasting delicious cupcakes. She is definitely one of those BFF, buy a friendship necklace, call up anytime kind of friends. Ansley, I love you and one day is not enough to catch up!

One of the best parts of this little vacation was our Gemmell music day. The 3 of us did music for church and then we had the 2011 Gemmell House Concert, where we had about 40 people show up and many of them performed. Random, unplanned, interesting, crazy. Technical difficulties have momentarily prevented these performances from being uploaded to youtube.

I love vacation! But I do have to say, it’s good to be home and surrounded by teenage boys who think it’s a treat to eat my burnt attempts at sweet potato fries.