Month: April 2017

What It’s Like to Provide Hospice Care to Your Own Family

Death happens in so many ways, and many of us handle it in different ways. The first few times I knew of someone dying, I was either too young to understand what was happening or I was intentionally far removed from the situation. I remember trying to get on my tippy toes to see who was on the hospital bed, and I remember how pristine the room was with family crowded around behind these flimsy curtains. I also remember seeing someone I knew — a family friend — who used to be warm, loud, and welcoming just laying peacefully at a funeral. I was too young to process the entire ceremony or even the process leading up to death itself.

The first real death I understood and processed was when I was in my first year of college.  My grandmother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  Every summer, I would go to Hawai’i to visit relatives, and this summer was no exception. The only difference was that now, my grandma couldn’t do the things I was used to seeing her do such as cooking us dinner, walking around, and running chores in the backyard. This time, I had to help my dad wash her on the couch, she had a bag attached to her so she could eat and use the restroom, and my father and I would have to clean this bag often. It was definitely a little hard to see, but it wasn’t anything I couldn’t swallow.  She was hardly tired.  I knew she was a strong spirit, and this wasn’t going to stop her boisterous attitude. By the end of that summer, she seemed to be improving, but just in case, I said my goodbyes. Not long after I flew back to California, she passed away suddenly, and I was not expecting it. Two months later, my grandfather passed suddenly, and of course, that was hard on me.  He was in amazing health when I had said goodbye to him. I’d spent every single summer with them since I was a child, and the period in which they passed wasn’t long enough for me to digest either of their deaths. It was a difficult rest of the year to say the least…

Around that same time, my other grandma was diagnosed with dementia and it progressed quickly each year. I made trips back home often to help my parents care for my grandma– feeding, clothing, showering, walking. It was a ’round-the-clock responsibility that we chose to take on as a family because my mom and aunt were nurses, and I don’t regret it.

Fast forward to ten years later. About four weeks ago, I got a phone call from my mother saying that my grandma had suffered a major heart attack, and the doctor said that before this, she had (over time in the past year) been having minor heart attacks. No one knew because my grandmother didn’t know what was wrong with her and likely forgot almost as soon as it happened so she never voiced anything. Since then, only 25% of her heart has been functioning.  I flew home the next day I received the phone call to help my mother because we were going to begin palliative care as the prognosis was essentially that she did not have long to live, and my dad had just had cataract surgery rendering him helpless as well. No other relatives were around to help care for my grandma. That week, I spent all day every day next to my grandmother. Feeding her, changing her diapers, bathing her in bed, brushing her teeth, taking her on walks when she felt well enough. On those walks, I’d walk her down the same streets she’d walk me every day for seven years to get to school. It was just us two, and I would stroll her in silence taking in the sunlight.  We both love the warmth of the sun.  Those were our moments, and I’m lucky I got those moments. At night, my mother and I woke up every 4 hours to give her medication and change her diapers. During the entire week and a half, she still knew who I was and was able to talk to me, and she seemed more alert than before. As soon as I got to the airport to go back to my new home with my husband, I fell apart. I cried the entire way home and well into the night in my husband’s arms. But I thought at least, I got to say my goodbyes, and she knew who I was when I left.  I didn’t need to go through the heartbreak again.

Then just a few days ago, my mother said she needed my help again because she needed to work. The day arrived, everything seemed just as it was when I left. My grandma was still eating, could sit up, and look at me. But as the night took over and my mother and I continued our four hour routine, we noticed my grandmother had taken a turn for worse breathing harder. At times, we saw her stop breathing for seconds at a time before we could proceed to rotate her. The only time she would open her eyes completely was when she was in pain and couldn’t breath. When my mother would walk out of the room to get water for her, she would look at me wide-eyed when it was just the two of us in this huge living room, and it completely broke my heart. I was so helpless.  She was telling me with her eyes, “Help me, I can’t breathe.” Just her eyes struck at my heart.  At this point, I had never dealt with death this closely, and I could have lost it then and there, but I needed to keep it together for my mother. When my mom walked back into the room and my grandma gasped for air, my mother knew she needed to give her pain medication, and it was the first time she ever needed to use it. By morning, my mother and I looked at each other and knew she was starting to actually go.

My grandmother, as of this morning, can no longer drink liquids or eat baby food. Instead, we have to brush a sponge filled with water to wet her lips and make it easier for her to suck on it. We grind her pills with liquid, and she can barely even take it. She can no longer speak, and her eyes roll to the back of her head and stay closed. Her breathing stops more often, and when she gasps for air, it pierces my heart every. single. time.  With her congestive heart failure, liquid is filling her lungs, and she can’t cough.  When she breathes, you can hear the gurgling. She turns her head left to right in agitation trying to breathe.

After only one day, my heart can’t bear it. I’m ready to collapse, burst in tears, and my heart is panging. But seeing my aunt and mom crying, I know I need to be strong. We know the end is nearer than we thought, and she could go at any moment.  I don’t know how I am going to be able to handle this or move forward. I’ve never dealt with death on this level. Providing hospice care for a family member is incredibly hard– having to watch them suffer like this every second of the day, getting worse every hour and you can’t take away their suffering. Having to provide comfort to them while watching them die. I would not wish this on anyone. I’m not ready to deal with this at all… I didn’t think heart break could get any worse. Just moments ago, I walked into her room to get something and that huge lump in my throat and the tears just hit me.  The piles of clothes she wore were on her bed, her wheelchair that she had used just a few days ago was there, she used to sleep in there, but her clothes… her clothes. As I walked back out of her room and into the living room to sit next to her and seeing her so helpless, I am losing it this second.

I can’t help thinking that she knew I would be back without my even knowing it, and she held on just for me to come back. But that breaks my heart even more. I don’t know how I will face the rest of this night or even tomorrow, but all I can do is pray.

How Much Are Those Pinterest, The Knot, and Style Me Pretty Wedding Dresses Really?

Hey girl! You’re newly engaged and the first thing you want to do is shop for wedding dresses that you’ve been pinning on pinterest! I get it—I’ve been there. For the married ladies, most of us have been there, too. There’s nothing more exciting! (Other than possibly taking that ring bling picture for social media, of course.) Sign me up. Where do I start?! You’re going to have a bunch of questions, so I’ll try to answer some from my own experience and post-wedding research.


(Both images above belong to me.)

How do I find the dress I love from Pinterest, Style Me Pretty, Carats & Cake, and The Knot?

First, you’re going to want to make an appointment at bridal boutiques. You have pictures of the kinds of dresses you want on your phone, and maybe you want to try the same exact ones from Pinterest and screen shots. Most of the pictures usually don’t say the designer name of the dress, but some do. If they do, then head on over to google to find the closest bridal shop with the designer you want. If they don’t, it may be a little hard to find the designer, but you can try and drag the original image into google to see if anything pops up.  Now that you are ready to try on gowns and you have the designer names, you’ve found the bridal salon location, and are about to make an appointment, let’s go! But wait—how much does it cost?

 Okay, I know the exact dress(es) I want to try on… And on a scale of “$ to $$$”, they’re $$$ to $$$$$$$!

When I first started dress shopping, I had the general idea that most wedding dresses were around $1,000. The dresses I pinned on Pinterest had no prices listed, so I blissfully assumed dresses like that were available and somewhat affordable (aka maybe slightly more than $1,500). What I didn’t know was that a lot of the wedding dresses I loved from Kleinfeld or Pinterest were easily over $4,000.

Ladies, keep in mind: THIS IS ONLY THE PRICE OF A DRESS. It doesn’t include a veil and/or headpiece, alterations and bustling, you and your fiancé’s rings, florals, venue cost, a wedding planner, alcohol, cost of food (plated food versus a buffet if it comes to that), linens, chargers, other table settings, décor, invitations and save-the-dates (if you don’t go paper friendly), chiavari chairs, DJ, MUAH (make-up and hair for you and if you choose to pay for your bridal party), bachelorette party, rehearsal dinner, photographer, and videographers. Maybe even the cost of a bridal suite for the night before and day-of-the-wedding). Take a deep breath!

Here are just a few of the main designers I pinned when I was dress shopping myself and fell in love with. I’ve seen my girlfriends recently pinning the same dresses as I did, so I thought I’d post the ones I loved (and still do) along with retail prices listed from my research so you’re not caught off guard. (Many of these designers’ main lines have dresses that run well over $9,000. I was completely heartbroken when I found two dresses I had my heart set on were such dresses.) While these are only a couple pictures, I can guarantee just about any picture you click on will be one of these designers’ dresses.

Berta– $8,690. This is my personal all time dream and favorite dress by Berta. (Obviously can’t afford this! Well, I could but how smart am I being at that point?)

Inbal Dror   $8,500 (a close second contender I loved! The back of this dress is just stunning.)

Monique Lhuillier – (This is the designer of my actual wedding dress. I wanted this exact dress, but the cost was $8k – $9k! The horror… this dress was tied for second.)

Hayley Paige – ($5,345.00)

Lazaro – ($5,390.00)  I personally love how flattering this dress can be and the horsehair mermaid structure. While this particular designer never really caught my eye, I’ve seen lots of girlfriends posting his dresses.

Ines De Santo – (This stunning couture gown sold for $6,500. Similar dresses from her line sold for upwards of $8,000) This image is from preownedweddingdresses.com 

And here are some more names of my other favorite designers (check them out future brides! Just beware of the costs):

Pronovias (This stunner sells for $6,500, but Pronovias actually has mostly affordable dresses around $1k – $2k. Do-able!)

Galia Lahav – $11,500 – $12,000

Pallas Couture –  $11,000 – $15,000 (For this particular gown, I couldn’t find the price. But the range this gown lies in is at the very least $11,000. Many of the other stunning dresses from this designer are in the same price range.)


Alessandra Rinaudo
Sareh Nouri
Alvina Valenta
Romona Keveza
Rosa Clara
Rue De Seign

What can I do if I can’t afford the same exact dress I want?!

Okay, now you’re in disbelief. While it is discouraging, there is something you can do about it. Actually, there are several things you can do. FIRST: some advice from one bride to another! Tell the bridal consultant your price range so they don’t pull out dresses from a higher range that you fall in love with. (I did this, and it worked until I saw a dress that caught my eye, I tried it on, and had to have it. I gave in, and it was my downfall. Don’t be me!)

Solution #1: Go with the cheaper line of the designer if they have them or go with a dress that can be altered to look similar to your dream dress.
Some of these designers—like Hayley Paige, Lazaro, and Monique Lhullier—make another line to make their dresses a little more affordable. Hayley Paige’s other line is Jim Helm, Monique Lhuillier’s is Bliss, and Lazaro’s is Tara Keely. (The Jim Helm and Tara Keely lines run around $1k-$2k. Much better, right?) Personally, I think it’s wonderful. Heck, I said “Yes to the dress” at first to one of Hayley Paige’s cheaper dress line to make it just like the higher-end $5k-$6K Monique Lhuiller gown I ended up purchasing. To some other bride-to-be’s, they feel a little bitter because they can’t afford the exact designs they wanted. (I totally get it, girl—Pinterest, Style Me Pretty, and The Knot got your hopes up. It’s kind of unrealistic and unfair to us ladies that have no idea what a dress or wedding costs! Nothing but the OG dress will do!)

Here’s the Hayley Paige Blush dress I said yes to at first just to settle… but later changed my mind: 
I planned on adding more layers to make the dress more full-looking, raising the horse-hair and adding a more mismatched layer of horsehair towards my waist line, as well as adding some pretty appliqué on the horse-hair like the Monique Lhuillier dress I loved.

Here’s my actual wedding dress, which was a Monique Lhuillier (all photos below are taken by Lin and Jirsa Photography):

(Below, dress is bustled.)

Solution #2: You don’t need to look to Pinterest for dress goals!
There, I said it. I mean it. When you go wedding shopping, you’ll have ideas of what you want but actually trying on the dresses is a whole other experience. You’ll find that some styles just truly aren’t as flattering on you as you thought. You’ll begin to develop a different taste of what you want. You might have wanted sparkles and then you’ll suddenly realize you want a simple elegant and modest front side with a sexy low-back. That being said, there are other great dresses come from sites like BHLDN, JCrew, and Grace Loves Lace (for boho brides). I absolutely love BHLDN and Grace Loves Lace. Also, sites like Revolve and Missguided now have bridal sections that look just as amazing, couture, and are affordable!

Other huge name brands such as Allure, Pronovias, Paloma Blanca, Watters, Essence of Australia and Maggie Sottero are incredibly gorgeous and affordable.

Solution #3:
You can go to sites like www.preownedweddingdresses.com or similar sites like Still White and Tradesy to get designer dresses at a cheaper price. While they may still be a little pricey, it is certainly a better bargain and you may find some incredible steals if you take the time to look. You can buy a dress a size bigger than you and take it to someone to alter the bottom and take it in. Then begin to add or take away things on your dress. (When I bought my dress, I wanted to add a bow to my dress, and the owner of the salon from where I purchased my gown laughed in my face and said it would look ridiculous. I ended up buying my own fabric, researched on similar fabrics to match my dress material, found a great alterations seamstress, and she made my vision come alive.)

Solution #4:
Buy your dress at full retail price and then sell it later on a pre-owned wedding dress site! Easy as that.

Solution #5:
Go to bridal salon sample sales! Go and ask the shop when and which gowns will be on the sample sale racks! You’d be surprised to see how great the dresses are and how good the prices are. I was surprised myself. This is probably one of the best things hands down you can do!

In conclusion, be careful when you’re getting your ideas off of Pinterest. You’ll fall in love and know the dress you want, but it’s dangerous and will end up in heartbreak. Now that you know what to look for and what to think about, good luck bride-to-be’s!!! And have so much fun!

Xx