Friday, December 19, 2014

Vintage Mom

Mom, far left.

Mom, second from right.

There she is. Far left, rocking the hair clip.

Laughing, far right. With her sisters.
Obon dancing. Legit.

Helping out a friend.

She's on the far right looking so beautiful I can't stand it.

She looks so much like my sister here it's freaking me out.

Putting together the slideshow for the funeral is bittersweet. My heart is heavy, but who doesn't love vintage photos? Especially when kimonos are thrown in to the mix. Especially when your mom is a rock star.

Obviously, being a Japanese American in the 50's meant your mother forced you into kimonos to dance in festivals, but I think my mom liked it. She was a shy person, so the limelight wasn't her most favorite thing. But she appreciated her culture and was a very obedient daughter. In those ways I'm very much the opposite of her. 

I remember looking at these photos as a kid and wanting to be like her. It's very strange to feel myself developing into her. There are subtle things that are slowly happening, like my die-hard purse addiction or how I overreact to cute babies. I didn't appreciate her outer beauty until I was in high school and realized, "My mom's really pretty."

I thought it might be fun if you shared some vintage photos of your mom, grandma, etc. If you have a photo you want to share, email them to me at dancingbranflake @ I'd love to feature them. If you have a blog, website, or social media link, I'll include that with the photo so we know who you are.

Have a good weekend, friends.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

What To Say

So many people have said to me, "I'm so sorry for your loss. I don't know what to say." I want to reply back, "It's okay. I don't know what to say, either."

Because it's true- I have no clue how to respond without sounding trite or a blubbering mess. My natural reaction is to hide and turn away, but I know my mother wouldn't want to such a rude daughter when people are being so nice. So I let people in. I accepted their condolences and let it comfort me. It's much easier to shut out reality and live in denial (while scrolling Pinterest, aka my safe place where I don't have to think about things or answer questions). But that feels wrong. Sure, it's easier to forget death, but then you forget the person who died.

Thankfully I have good friends who taught me exactly what to do when someone loses a loved one: give. I'll tell you the kindness of these people because before I never knew how to help a grieving person, but they inspired me and I'm so grateful for them.

~I came home after 12 hours of travel to a bouquet of flowers from Kristen 
(who is living in Africa, by the way). 
Her note was concerned, brief, functional, and perfect. 

~My friend, Julie, stopped by with a box of muffins and her sweet baby for a needed visit.

~Leah came by with flowers and a beautiful sculpture that almost made me burst into tears when I opened it. 

~Sarah remembered I liked straws and my mom hated BPAs, so she bought me BPA-free straws and a Sriracha cookbook. 

~Cierra cooked a magnificent dinner of enchiladas and bought chips and salsa from a delicious Mexican restaurant. 

~Niki got me a gorgeous bouquet. 

~Cydney gave me a little care package with a beautiful note tucked inside.

~Mr. Branflake bought me Oreos and put them in my hiding spot where I hide food I don't want him to eat.

And then there are the messages from friends. I still haven't gone through them all. I tried, but it was too difficult. But I will. And I'm so grateful for those who, even though don't know what to say, said it perfectly because they said it with love.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Most Beautiful Person

Thank you to all who gave love and support to my mom and my family during her battle with cancer. She passed away suddenly on Sunday night. I received a phone call Sunday afternoon that she had to be admitted to the hospital after developing a fever. I hopped on a plane to see her, but it was too late. In her weakened state, she just couldn't fight the infection.

She died peacefully and painlessly surrounded by her husband and my sister and for that I am eternally grateful.

Monday I wrote her obituary. Tuesday (today) I visited her in the funeral home before her cremation. Her funeral will be in a few weeks in California.

There is an odd and unexpected comfort that has been with me through this. As I flew to see her, the thought, loud and calm, came to my head: "You can go, Mom. You fought hard and please don't wait for me."

There has also been tears and huge waves of grief. It's rare an hour goes by and I don't cry and my cheeks are red from wiping them. But, really, there's just peace, as if I'm constantly being held up and comforted. I have no other way to describe it. It's surprising, really.

So thank you for your prayers and good thoughts. She was well loved until the end and I'm so glad she was made aware of it while she was still here.

She was the best mother. I could write a book about why. Perhaps I will.

I love you, Mom.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Orange and Brown and Fall All Over

I'm still not quite believing Thanksgiving is next week. It feels like once that step-child of a holiday is over, it's Christmas everything and the world turns red, green, and white. So before it does, I'm enjoying all things brown and orange. 

Like Apple Spice Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting and Pumpkin Caramel Drizzle. Or those adorable clementines. Or freshly grated nutmeg on egg nog (life changing, really). 

If you are looking for a dessert to bake this holiday season, the Apple Spice Cupcakes pictured above are super easy to make!

2 apples
1 tablespoon flour
1 package of Spice Cake mix

1/2 cup butter
1 8oz package of soft cream cheese
3 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp sea salt

*I drizzle Pumpkin Caramel Sauce on top of them

~Just add the chopped peeled apples, that have been tossed in 1 tablespoon of flour, into the prepared Spice Cake mix.
~The frosting is simply whipping together 1/2 cup softened butter and 1 8oz package of softened cream cheese. Slowly mix in three cups of powdered sugar and a 1/2 tsp of sea salt.
~The pumpkin caramel is from Trader Joe’s, and I sprinkle a little coarse sea salt on top to make it pretty, and give it texture.

It's my favorite dessert to bring to parties and gatherings. The apples make it a little unexpected and a lot more flavorful. If you don’t want to arrive at a party empty handed, try out these cupcakes and make sure they're presented with some care. I think the personalized plates from Shutterfly are too adorable to pass up (so much cuter than flimsy paper plates!) They're such a great way to make a simple baked dessert memorable and festive.

Happy Fall, my friends! 

*photos by me

Thursday, November 20, 2014

I Want To Be Nicer

I'm typically a nice person. I have a deeply sarcastic and sassy side, but I generally know how to act appropriate in social situations and I genuinely like people so it's not hard to do. But lately I've noticed I'm not very kind to customer service. I'm not talking about servers at restaurants or the sales associate at Target. I'm referring to the time when I spoke to Kaiser Member Services after being on hold for an hour and transferred three times and he tells me I have the wrong number and no he can't transfer me but call another number, which was the first number I dialed to begin with. Oh boy I lost my patience and let him have it.

Or a few nights ago when I noticed my email address on was wrong and I called their customer service to fix it and they couldn't. That was frustrating because it meant I couldn't cancel my Thanksgiving flight to California. But was beyond maddening was when the man started talking down to me like I was a five year old. It got to the point where I said, "Sir. Please don't talk to me like I'm an idiot." But then he kept doing it and I just was very curt and mean to him and I still feel bad. 

I still feel bad because he wasn't talking down to me to be mean, but I think it was simply how he communicated and didn't know better. I know better, but I lost my patience and my pride. 

Sometimes I forget just because someone is rude doesn't mean I have to be in return. Mirroring someone's negative actions isn't effective or efficient.

That seems obvious, but I have this fear of being walked over or taken advantage of, especially by corporations who really just want my money. So when things go wrong and I call customer service, I already have this huge chip on my shoulder and project this fear onto them. 

I also have this womanhood complex where I fear people think I'm vapid or dumb because I'm a 31 year old woman at Apple trying to get my iPod fixed and they ask, "Did you try turning it off?" and I tell them in my steely teacher voice, "What do you think?"

Yesterday I had a very frustrating call with Costco's optical department. It was both the situation and the rudeness of the lady I was speaking to that grated on my soul. I know I was rude, and at the time I felt it was justified, but I hung up feeling sick and realized I needed to get my act together and just be nice no matter what.

I should know I'm strong enough and smart enough to not let people take advantage of me, so what's the point in being rude? I can still get what I want in a firm, kind, and patient manner. Even if no one notices but me, I still want to make the world a better place and I can't do that without fearlessness. And, like the sign above, sometimes it takes courage to be kind.

sign by Melina Sweet

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Best People Who Ever Lived

Thank you for your words of encouragement for my mom. One thing that's really stuck out to me about terminal illnesses is hope is a precious commodity. Finding inner strength to go on, despite the slim odds, is perhaps the most heroic thing a person can do. When my step-dad says, "Your mom had a rough night" it breaks my heart because it's not that she didn't sleep well or was uncomfortable, but it means she was in severe pain and/or making distressing trips to the bathroom. And with all the physical distress comes fear so brutally attached to it. 

But talking to her, you would never guess she was sick. She's always had a very matter-of-fact attitude about everything and I know that's where I get my "buck-up, move on" attitude from. Oddly enough, I don't think she's ever guilted or pressured me into thinking that way, I just learned from her example and made it a part of my sub-conscious. 

By the way, this attitude is not appreciated by a husband after he stubs his toe and breaks it. "You can still walk, can't you? Good. Then hurry up because we need to go berry picking."

(I clearly need to learn the part where I don't guilt others into sucking up pain.)

I saw the above quote and it made me grateful for a mom who teaches me not just why to persevere, but how. I know we all have times in our lives when life feels like an uphill battle, but I do take heart I'm in the footsteps of great men and women before me. And there is perhaps a reason for trials and heartache.

Thank you again, everyone. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014


Despite my mom's cancer cells going down, we found out her tumor has grown three times its size since her last scan. We're devastated. We were sure lower cancer cells meant a smaller tumor. She's scheduled to drive down to Arizona on Monday to another clinic for more treatment. She's having complications and might not be able to go, so please pray for her.

Sometimes I feel silly asking strangers for their prayers, but I believe in prayer and I'm not beyond asking for help, especially for my mom. I believe in miracles even when such notions are mocked and questioned by a lot of my friends. But it's okay. We all have different beliefs. But if you do believe in prayer, or even pray just a little, I ask you say one for my mom.

Thank you for all those who have been with me through all this. Strangers, friends, and kindred spirits, I'm grateful for you all. She's touched by all your concern and I know, if anything, it brings her greater strength knowing there are people out there believing in her.