Monday, August 26, 2013

How I Used Facebook to Get Me Through a Mental Breakdown

Anybody who knows me knows that I am addicted to Facebook. I’m on it multiple times daily, updating my status, adding photos, and messaging people. I have 1231 photos of me uploaded that are visible to any of my 828 friends. I’ve dabbled in pinterest, twitter, vine, and instagram, but none of them have stuck. I own this addiction, and don’t claim to be special by any means. There are tonnes of us out there.

I have also been diagnosed with both Panic Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I don’t claim to be special in this regard, either. After all, approximately 18% of American adults will develop some sort of anxiety disorder in their lifetime, and comorbidity rates among the disorders are extremely high. In other words, if you’ve got one, it’s pretty likely that you’ve got another one. Symptoms vary by the person and the disorder, but they include cognitive symptoms, such as obsessive thoughts, constant worrying, and, well, anxiety. They also cover physical symptoms, such as sleep disturbances, muscle tension, sweating, trembling, chest pain, nausea, and much more. I get a combination of both depending on the attack and the trigger. 

Everybody has their own reasons for using social media, whether it is to feel like a part of a group, or simply to keep track of their life. I use Facebook for these reasons, but it also has a much more therapeutic use for me. It helps me to stave off panic attacks and log my triumphs in my battle with anxiety.

When I first started to get panic attacks, I didn’t know what to do. Even as a Psychology major, the onset of symptoms was so sudden that I thought I was dying or going crazy. I remember when I had my first one. I was hanging out with a friend at Starbucks, and I made him walk me to the bus immediately so I could get home. When he’d dropped me off at the stop, he went to leave, and I grabbed him, terrified, and made him accompany me the whole way home. When I got home, I sat in my bed for hours, shaking and waiting for everything to stop spinning and for the world to go back to normal.

After that first attack, I had a few other separate episodes, but between episodes I was completely fine. They were isolated incidents, and I just lived my life free of worry. Then I decided to completely uproot my life and move to Japan for a year to teach English. I was placed in a tiny town in Hokkaido where nobody spoke English, and my panic attacks became more frequent. Then, one day, I had an attack right at the beginning of my first class. It started out as normal. My hands started to go numb, I started to feel dizzy and sick, and my heart was beating like it had never beat before. I had to sit down, and I barely made it through my first class. I told the teacher I worked with what was happening, and she agreed to reschedule the next few classes. I went to the nurse’s room to rest.

When I woke up from my nap, though, all my symptoms were still there. I was still incredibly anxious. My mind was going crazy, my heart was racing, and I was trembling and dizzy. My teacher took me to the town’s tiny clinic, where a doctor with shaking hands prescribed me pills without asking me any questions about myself. I then went home to my tiny apartment by myself to cower under the blankets and wait for the symptoms to abate. When your body doesn’t want to cooperate with you, you just can’t feel normal no matter how hard you try, and you have no idea when it’s going to end, it’s hard to calm yourself down. I called a helpline, I set up an appointment with a therapist over Skype, and I talked to my mother. All of these things helped immensely.

I still couldn’t leave my apartment for three days. I was terrified that I would have another attack. What if the next one was harder to control? What if I couldn’t get help? What if I was too far away from my apartment, the only space I had designated safe? I finally mustered up the courage to walk to the convenience store. When I had finished the five minute walk and the world hadn’t ended, I celebrated by buying some popcorn and walking home. The symptoms started to abate a little, day by day, and I started venturing out of the house more and more to do things. It started with a soccer game a five minute bike ride away. Then I visited the school for a few hours. Then I went to another town for a festival for the day. And things started to feel somewhat normal again.

In the beginning, I treated Facebook like the enemy. I was so down on myself that whenever I saw people posting statuses like “Just got back from an amazing trip to Osaka!”, I would attack myself. How was it that everybody else had their shit together, while I was curled up under my blanket afraid to even leave my apartment? Then, once I started doing things again, I would advertise them to the world. My first status update after my breakdown was when I finally went back to teaching. That day, I was nervous all day, but I went into school and taught all of my lessons. I went home, and promptly told all of Facebook that “Teaching is fun!” 

Soon enough, I started to realize that my profile was looking a lot like the profiles of the people that I was envying just a few days ago. To the casual observer, I looked exactly like anyone else who was making the most of their year in Japan. And when I realized that this is how it looked, I realized that that is how I felt. I was dealing with my anxiety head on, and not letting it get the best of me. There is a lot of literature that states that the act of smiling will actually make you happier. I feel like this is a personal parallel for me. Acting like I wasn’t anxious was actually making me less anxious.

Many other people in my situation might not have thought this was a big deal. In fact, people might even have found it unhelpful, spending too much energy feeling like they were pretending to be “normal”, pretending not to be anxious. I don’t presume to know what works for other people, since anxiety is so personalized. For me, though, it was a way of feeling like I was normal, and focusing on the moments where I was anxiety free. It was a way of recognizing my achievements, rather than my shortcomings. It was a way of reminding myself of what I was capable of.

Two years have passed since I had my minor mental breakdown, and I’ve been getting better and better ever since. Large changes and events can still get to me, though, and I’ll have weeks and months that are better than others. 

I just moved to Vancouver, all the way across the country, to get my Masters in Journalism. It’s a big change, and I’ve been feeling way more anxious than usual. But when the anxiety flares up again, I know what I’m going to do. I’m going to go out and do awesome things anyway, then I’m going to brag about it all over Facebook. And there’s nothing that you can do about it.

Friday, July 26, 2013

I Am Home Alone

My boyfriend has left for the weekend to go hike up a mountain with his friends. This leaves me alone with Cattitude for two whole nights! Now don't get me wrong, I don't NEED to have him here to be happy, but I absolutely hate being alone. I've had roommates since I moved out, and before that I grew up with a huge family to keep me company. When you are used to having someone around, it becomes uncomfortable when you are forced to spend a few days alone. I'm not going to lie, I even considered spending a couple of nights at my mother's house. But no. I am a grown-ass adult and I have to get used to spending the night by myself.

SO INSTEAD I decided to write a list of all the awesome things I can only do when I'm home alone and try to do as many of them as possible. Without further ado, here is my list!

10 Things I Can Only Do Alone:

1. Go to bed with Murakami instead. For hours on end.

2. Listen to the Scissor Sisters discography at top volume without any shame.

3. Leave all my dishes until 30 minutes before he gets home.

4. Play video games without judgement or "tips".

5. Have LONG Skype conversations with people I haven't heard from in forever. (If you think this might be about you, send me a message!)

6. Write a love song to Cattitude on my ukulele.

7. Use all 5 of the pillows on the bed and not have them stolen from me.

8. Sleep in as long as I want.

9. Watch a really scary movie on Netflix and then stay up all night waiting for something to get me.

10. Read emails by 15 year old me and laugh at my former self.

So yeah. We'll see if I do any/all of them. Is there anything I forgot to add? Do you enjoy being home alone? What are your favourite things to do? Stay tuned. I'm already excited for this weekend.

Friday, March 1, 2013

5 Unexpected Perks of Cat Ownership


It's been a while. 3 months, to be exact. I wish I could tell you that I've been doing something so crazy, exciting, and off the wall that I haven't had time to do any writing or posting, but the truth is that most of my days, I look like this:

Cattitude and I have been inseparable ever since I got her, and while I'm loving the life of a new pet owner, it is strange to be responsible for another living being. I often find myself prepping to go away for a week or two, only to remember at the last minute that there is another life form that I am responsible for. Luckily, I've got people close enough to me that I can call them up at a moment's notice to take that life form off my hands. 

And that brings me to this post: 5 unexpected perks of cat ownership.

1. New Friends.
You wouldn't think this would be true, but it is.  When you get a cat, all of a sudden, people find you more responsible, more appealing to them. Also, they have an excuse to come visit now. 

2. Ability to Not Sweat the Small Stuff.
Somehow, when your friend calls to cancel a coffee date, it just doesn't seem major. After all, yesterday, your cat managed to smear poo that was stuck to her butt all over your floors and furniture, and you dealt with it like a champion.

3. Really Tough Skin.
Nothing hurts anymore. Your skin is so scarred from the clawing of the kitten phase that when you jam your finger in a door, you barely even feel it. Hyperbole, of course, but you get the idea.

4. Built In Alarm Clock.
Search for batteries no more! Don't worry about turning your phone off silent! Inevitably, your cat will paw at your face at 6 am every day, looking for food!

5. Companionship.
When you have a bad day, she will listen, and she will understand. She won't bitch or say you are overreacting. After all, she doesn't have the power of human language. She will just sit there, all cuddly and warm, and let you hold her. Until she claws at your face.

And there you have it. So if you haven't thought about it yet, go out and adopt a cat from your local SPCA. But only if you want one. We wouldn't want to contribute further to the world's feral cat problem.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Life After JET.

It has been approximately 73 days and 21 hours since I permanently left Japan. That is 2 months and 12 days since I entered the immigration office at Narita International Airport, signed a form that said I was denouncing my Japanese residency, and had a hole punched into my gaijin card. Since I hopped on a flight to Denver, connected to Montreal, and after a week of sightseeing, finally managed to find myself home. In my parents' house. In Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada.

From the beginning.

I will admit, I was not surprised to find myself there. After all, it had been my plan to stay (not live, but stay) with my parents for a few months until I had a job and enough money to move into my own apartment. Then, I was going to continue working for the year while applying to graduate schools and building up a portfolio that simply screamed "Accept me!". Because of this, I can't say I was shocked when I was unpacking my clothing into my younger brother's old closet, or when I was buying odds and ends for an apartment I hoped I would eventually have.

No, I wasn't shocked. But I was disappointed. Disappointed in myself for having gone from a well paying job in a foreign country to living with my parents, unemployed and mooching food and gas money. Disappointed for having gone from having adventures every weekend to being in a city where all my friends had moved on to bigger and better things. I wouldn't say I was depressed, but I certainly wasn't very happy with myself.

However, I had a job interview as soon as I got home, and quickly managed to find a job doing something I absolutely loved: working at an after school programme for elementary school kids and coaching gymnastics. I threw myself into my job and gained happiness from there. I gained new friends where I lacked old ones, and I started re-exploring my city. "Saint John isn't so bad after all," I started to think as I got excited for another shift or to check out a new restaurant uptown with a friend.

See? Not so bad!
Don't get me wrong, things are still very weird here. Every time I open my fridge, I'm shocked at how much space there is. I managed to fill my tiny Japanese fridge with enough food for myself, but here it is difficult to do so. My mother makes fun of me every time she comes over for not having any food, but honestly, it just looks that way. In fact, I am amazed at the size of all the appliances. My washer and dryer (oh yes, I have one of those again) are huge, able to do twice the amount of laundry as their Japanese counterparts.

My tiny Japanese washing machine

The weirdness also extends to my interactions with people. I still have to resist the urge to point out "foreigners", even though they make up 98% of the population of Saint John. I still say "sumimasen" and "gomennasai" when I run into people on the streets, prompting some strange looks from passers by.  I still feel the need to follow around the three Asian people in my city, trying to find out whether they are Japanese. They never are.

In short, I feel a bit out of sorts. I'm beginning to feel a bit more comfortable here, but I still don't really feel like I belong in my hometown. Hopefully, as time passes, the nostalgia for Japan will settle and I will become normal again. If you've met me, however, you know that that's never going to happen. I will never be normal, nor do I want to be. Japan was a major part of my life, and hopefully I will integrate these two facets and create a better whole. Here's to "ganbaru"ing it up!

I miss Japanese food.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Redefining Success: Still Making Mistakes

Hi, as you all know, my name is Jeri, and I am a 22 year old aspiring writer. When I was chosen to review W. Brett Wilson’s book, Redefining Success- Still Making Mistakes, on my blog, I couldn’t have been more excited. Honestly, I was a little surprised that he picked my tiny little blog out of the group of applications that he received. In fact, I was so excited that I didn’t think about the possibility that his book might not be meant for people like me. I waited and waited, eventually received the copies that were sent to me, and set about reading it. It became apparent early on that I was not his target audience, but I plowed through it nonetheless. I read and read, and when I finally got to the end, I realized that although the book was not meant for me, there were a variety of points and lessons that I could take from it regardless.

For those of you who don’t own a television, W. Brett Wilson was one of the Dragons on the CBC version of the television show Dragon’s Den. On this show, budding entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to a number of well-established businesspeople, the “dragons”, who then decide whether to accept or reject their pitch. From the start, Brett Wilson was known as the generous Dragon, and he accepted more proposals than anybody else, often based more on a gut instinct for the person than the pitch itself. He is an established entrepreneur, having founded various successful companies, and philanthropist, having given millions away to various charities and organizations. He has battled workaholism, cancer and divorce and come out of it a better person. Basically, he is a great guy.

Redefining Success is a collection of stories and recollections from his life, combined with advice as to how others can live a more successful life themselves. He discusses his early life and how he started out, and then moved on to the decisions that made him successful. Then, he talks about the dark period in his life, where he realized that there was more to life than material success. Unfortunately, he was too late to save his marriage, but he improved his health and redefined his life to fit with a new set of priorities, which he mentions in another chapter. Of course, no book of his would be complete without mention of the deals he made on Dragon’s Den, so he devotes an entire chapter to those. He goes on to reminisce about his philanthropic ventures and offer suggestions as to how we can all give more back to the world we live in. Finally, he concludes his autobiography with a series of lists that concisely recount the main points he attempted to drive home.

I’m going to be honest, when I started reading Redefining Success, I didn’t actually expect to like it. I am not a big fan of autobiographies or self-help books, because I find that they are repetitive and cliche. I will admit, this book had some of those elements. I was a little confused as to why every chapter started with a photo of W. Brett Wilson in a different pose, accompanied by an artsy bit of text. To me, that addition seemed a little self-indulgent. Also, Redefining Success has the same problem that many self-help books seem to have. It was quite repetitive. I found myself skipping over parts, thinking that I had already read this information two or three times. I understand that for something to stick in your brain, it needs to be mentioned more than once in a different way, but I never felt like the points were made in an innovative way. Finally, the last thing that bothered me was the large amount of name-dropping. I didn’t know the names of most of the people that were mentioned in the book, and frankly, I didn’t really want to. I’m sure I feel the same way as most of the popular audience. These names don’t mean anything to regular people, and to me it just felt like another attempt to seem impressive.

On the other hand, there were a number of things that the book did quite well. On the small side, one of the chapters started with a Harry Potter quote, which pulled me in from the beginning and made me relate to the author a bit more. It is the little things that count when one is trying to be relatable, and the idea that this millionaire sat down, read Harry Potter, and thought that the quote was relevant enough to put in his autobiography really made me connect with him a bit more. Also, the chapters on creative philanthropy were very unique and introduced ideas to me that I had never previously thought about. The best part was that I felt I could apply them to my own life, even though my life is completely different than his. He advocates throwing parties or events and instead of a gift, telling everyone to bring a cheque to a charity of his choice. This is something I would have never thought of, but it is such a brilliant concept. Finally, I absolutely loved the conclusion. I am a very organized person who lives for lists, and the idea of summing everything up in a collection of lists really resonated with me. It was simple, concise, and easy to read. Well done, W. Brett Wilson. Well done.

Overall, I wouldn’t say that the book was meant for people like me. Its market is more entrepreneurs and older adults who can connect with his life more easily. However, even though it wouldn’t be my first pick for winter literature, it was easy to read and there were many points made that were directly relevant to my own life. I would recommend reading Redefining Success if you have watched the TV show, if you want to know more about W. Brett Wilson’s life, or if you are looking for ways to tweak your life for the better. 

Another reason to read this book is if you win it, of course! I have a signed copy of the book that I’m looking to give away to anyone who made it all the way through my review. In order to win, post a comment on the review with your thoughts and email me at! I will choose a comment at random and get the book out to you as soon as we get in touch!

Looking forward to reading some awesome comments!


Wish List 2012

Dear Santa,

How are you this year? How is Mrs. Claus? I hope you're doing her right and smothering her with the love and affection that she deserves as a woman. She doesn't make those cookies for free, you know! And how is Rudolph? How are the other reindeer? It gets quite cold in the North Pole, so I hope that you are housing them and feeding them in accordance with animal welfare laws. Are there laws in the North Pole? Is there a government? Who do you pay your taxes to?

No matter. This year I've been a very good girl. I've tried very hard to make everyone I love happy, and I hope that you've been able to see that. I'm not asking for much this year, but these are some of the things that I might like:

1. A new coffee table. Or an old one. It doesn't matter much. Right now, I am using the floor in front of my couch for my coffee cups, and it is very un-feng shui. A light wood would be best so it matches the rest of my furniture. Thanks!

2. A bookcase. Also made of light wood. I read a lot, and my current bookcase is overflowing with books and DVDs. Also, my DVDs are currently on my desk, and my cat knocks them down every five minutes. It is tiring, and that is energy I could better devote to being a better person.

3. A rug with cool patterns. My floor looks kind of bare right now and rugs are groovy.

4. Really comfy slippers and wool socks- My floor is also kind of cold and my feet very much enjoy being warm and surrounded by cozy things.

5. A toaster. I am currently borrowing my neighbours, and even though he is the nicest person in the world, I would like to be able to toast bagels without depending on anyone else's goodwill.

6. A blender. I want to be able to make delicious smoothies and sauces without having to strain my arm muscles. Also it will look super hip on my counter. It could also be used as a sort of eclectic decoration.

7. A new Kobo. I have been having anxiety attacks ever since I broke my first one. It's not that they aren't sturdy, it's just that they don't take well to being entirely submerged in orange juice, even if you place them in a bag of rice immediately afterwards. Now, I have all these books that I can't read, and I'd like to be able to.

8. A queen-sized memory foam mattress pad. I got my bed for free from my brother, who got it for free from someone random. I am very appreciative, but it is not very comfy. I think a mattress pad might fix the matter, and I am hoping to no longer feel the springs in my back every time I try to go to sleep.

9. A cat kennel. My cat needs a way to be taken to the vet. Preferably hard cased, since she is currently kicking and screaming and scratching and biting every time she gets taken out.

10. Coffee mugs. At current, I only have two, which gets to be tricky if I ever invite more than one person over for coffee or tea. Since I enjoy both coffee and tea, I would like some more mugs. Preferably pretty ones.

11. Mario Kart for Wii. I don't even need to explain this one.

12. Board Games. I love a good board game. I'm looking for Cranium, Settlers of Catan, Pictionary, anything else that you think is SUPER DUPER FUN.

13. Wine glasses. I know, Santa. I'm sorry. But sometimes I like to have a drink. Or four. And it is a lot less tacky when you are drinking wine from real wine glasses as opposed to the two mugs I mentioned earlier.

14. A cocktail shaker. If I'm going to drink, I might as well be classy about it!

15. An emergency kit for my car. I don't want to die this winter, and I love my Bug, but I'm not sure that it will never break down. Please keep me alive this christmas!

16. Money towards the "Help Jeri Go to Greece" fund. Because I want to go to Greece. And I need your help in getting there.

17. Last but not least, I want this awesome travel thermos:

Anyway, I know that seems like I'm asking for a lot, Santa, but I'd just like to give you a lot of things to choose from. The thing is that I just moved into my new apartment, and I can't really afford to furnish it right now.

Please write back at your earliest convience.


P.S. If you give me a lump of coal, I will be a sad panda.


Hey people!

Once again, I have been neglecting the blog this month because it is the time of the year where I attempt to write a novel in only 30 days. NaNoWriMo. The month is almost finished, and my book is coming along quite well, so I figured I'd share a bit of it with you!

In all its glory, here is the prologue:

September, 1990. La Khongkhed, Laos.

Thala turned her head to look behind her, the wind whipping her long black hair in front of her as she climbed. She knew nobody was following her, and that she probably wouldn’t be missed, but she couldn’t help but nervously glance back every five seconds anyway. She continued to climb the mountain, trying her best to keep her stomach from hitting the rocks. 

She was almost there. Just a few more steps and she would reach the top of the hill. Just a few more steps and she would see the tip of the temple start to appear. As she climbed, she saw what she was looking for. The bright gold of the temple roof sparkled amongst the lush green backdrop. If it had been made of anything else, it surely would have been invisible amongst the greenery. As it was, however, the temple was a startling sight. With a gold roof, multicoloured glass walls, and intricate patterns carved into the surface, the temple was modest in comparison to others, but held just the right amount of respect for the spiritual path of Buddhists.

Thala took one final step and heaved herself over the ledge, taking care to land on her side and protect her unborn child from harm. She stood up and took a moment to wipe the sweat from her forehead. The air was still cool, but very humid. It felt like a blanket, instantly enveloping her in moisture as soon as she tried to do anything. She was tired, but she had come all this way, she might as well try. With that thought in her mind, she walked towards the temple, took off her shoes and lined them up in front of the entrance, and walked through the only door.

The inside of the temple was small, but well-decorated. In keeping with the Theravada style of Buddhism, the walls were intricately carved and decorated with stories of Buddha’s birth, growth, death and reincarnation. There was incense ready and waiting to be lit, and a large statue of Buddha sitting in the middle of the room. His eyes were closed, his palms facing upwards. He was at peace. “It must be nice for him,” Thala thought to herself, looking around. She had heard of the temple on top of the hill, but she had never been up here before. As a practising Buddhist, it wasn’t that she wasn’t allowed, but that whenever she wanted to pray, she just went to the wat in town. It was easy and convenient for her, just a couple of blocks away from her family’s farm. This one was reserved for men, mostly. People who could leave the town for a full day, since that is how long it took to climb all the way up. She had started at dark, walked through sunrise, and climbed for a few more hours. Finally, she had arrived.

Thala took her time, looking around and exploring before starting what she came up there to do. When she had finished looking around, she went back to the front, lit a piece of incense, and placed in the holder. She knelt in front of the statue, closed her eyes and bowed her head. “Clear your mind,” she reminded herself. “Only then will you achieve enlightenment”. She thought of the colour white. She thought of silence and stillness. She tried to think of nothing. She had never been good at the prayer and mediation part of her religion. She swatted at a fly that was buzzing around her head. Maybe it was time to change strategies. Maybe it was time to focus her attention on one thing, rather than trying to think of nothing. 

She thought. Her thoughts drifted all the way to the very beginning.

Thala had grown up in the small town of La Khongkhed, in Laos. In fact, the temple on the hill was the furthest she’d ever been from her little town, other than small trips to nearby farms to pick up vegetables. The town was quiet, peaceful. She wasn’t well off by any stretch, but then again, no one there was. They were equals, poor but self-sufficient. She went to a small elementary school, where she sat on the floor and shared a single book with the rest of the class, but she got an education. When she turned ten, she started to work for her family, tending to the small garden they owned, cooking meals for her parents, brothers and sisters. By fourteen, her family had found her someone to marry, a boy of sixteen from a town nearby. His name was Khamtai, and he was everything she wanted in a husband. He was kind, strong, brave, and he had a good name in the community. He was only sixteen, but he was already working  on his father’s rice farm. It was a family business, and one that made a decent amount of money. 

She fell in love with him instantly. They spent time together, talking about their future. They went for walks and frequented local festivals together. Even though it wasn’t official, it was only a matter of time before he would ask her to marry him. She knew it. And she was right. Soon enough, the families were discussing the bride-price. They went back and forth, and back and forth with gifts and alcohol, until they finally decided on the price. Then, they set the wedding date. The town elders were consulted, and everything was prepared, until soon enough, the time came. The evening before, Thala got together with her family and close friends at her house. Her mother rushed around the house, preparing the marital bed as was custom. Her aunts and grandmother were also bustling about, preparing enough food for the entire ceremony, including the pha kouen, banana leaves with marigold, a wedding specialty. Thala sat in the corner, unable to help for fear of where her life was going from then on. She didn’t know what the future would bring, but she was excited to spend it with Khamtai. She knew he would be good to her. 

The next day, the wedding had begun. She awoke from her bed by her mother shaking her at an unreasonable hour. “We have to get ready,” she whispered excitedly. “Khamtai’s family will be here in just a few hours!”

Thala awoke and groggily let herself get washed. Afterwards, she got dressed up in a sinh, a traditional Lao skirt, and adorned herself with mountains of jewellery. Finally, she tied up her beautiful long black hair with the traditional ribbon on top of her head. All of a sudden, she heard a knock on the door. Her mother ran to answer it.

“Hello, my name is Khamtai Phouma, and I am here to offer you money, a cow, two goats and ten buckets of rice, so that I may live with your daughter.” Khamtai still looked like a boy dressed up as a man. His formal attire was a little too baggy, and his short black hair still looked like he hadn’t combed it down. His mother smiled, accepting his offer, and he left to join his groom’s group. They all came back shortly after, smiling and laughing with each other, playing musical instruments and singing. Thala waited and waited as Khamtai talked and drank with her parents, answered their questions and had his feet washed. It seemed like it was taking forever, and she thought she might die of anticipation. Just when she could no longer bear it, she was finally called into the room to sit next to her groom. After a short ceremony, attended by all their relatives, they were finally led off to their marital room. 
Thala remembered hearing her relatives long into the night, drunk on homemade alcohol and delirious with happiness, as she laid beside Khamtai for the first time, unsure of what to do or how to do it. She didn’t have to worry though, because he was slow and gentle. That was the night that her child was conceived.

Things started to settle after that. She built a life with Khamtai out of her parents’ house. She tended to the house, washing the vegetables and learning from her mother how to cook and be a good wife. With a baby on the way, she also started making preparations for birth. Eight months passed more quickly than she could have ever anticipated, and she found herself nervous and anxious about the addition of a new life to their family. She had enough for herself and her husband, but they couldn’t afford to travel all the way to the next city to visit a doctor. She had no idea whether her baby was healthy, but she had a feeling that with all the kicking it had been doing, it was bound to be alive and well. It would probably be feisty, too. That didn’t really come as a surprise, given how headstrong Thala’s parents always said she was. 

Thala was due any day now. She was getting more and more nervous with every day that passed, until yesterday, she couldn’t bear it any longer. She had to do something. That was when she decided to come up to this temple for the first time. She crawled into bed with Khamtai, feigning sleep long enough to hear his snores, then silently crept out of bed, dressed herself, and tiptoed to the kitchen. She threw a few things into a small cloth bag, and crept out of the house, taking care to walk silently until she was certain that nobody from home could hear her. She walked down the main road for miles, not stopping until she could no longer see any lights. She wasn’t worried. Even though she had never been to the temple before, she had walked this street enough that she knew where the turn-off was. It was then that she started to falter. She stumbled a bit on the turn, and decided to use the time to rest for a little bit. She pulled a candle and a match out of her bag, lit the candle, and waited, using the faint light to observe her new surroundings. She was surrounded by thick green plants and shrubbery, but she could barely make out the beginnings of a path that she knew was there.

She picked up her candle, and started to follow the path. She hiked and climbed for two more hours, until she saw the sun starting to rise. That was when she had found herself here, at the temple. She was still kneeling, head bowed, eyes closed. She finished reminiscing and began to pray.

“Please bless me and my unborn son or daughter. I don’t want much, just let us be well fed and have enough to get by. Please bring money and prosperity to our town, so that we can build a livelihood for our new family. Who knows how many children there will be after this one. Please allow my child to be healthy and grow up strong and safe. Please bless them. with opportunity to move up in this world and achieve things I never did. Please give them an education. Please give us love and happiness.” Thala wasn’t exactly sure how to end these things. While she’d been to the wat before, she had never made a prayer for herself. She finished by leaving a small donation in the box, 1,000 kip, and putting out the incense. She stood up and walked out, taking one last look at the giant golden Buddha before closing the door behind her. It was still early and she had plenty of time to make it back to the house before anyone was truly worried. After all, she was sure they were used to her outbursts and disappearances, just as she was sure they would shortly get used to her child’s.