Category Archives: Self improvement

Growing Up

When I was 19, I used to think that I didn’t ever want kids. My “humorous” reason was that I was way too selfish and wouldn’t want to put someone else’s needs above my own. At 19, that was probably true.

When I was 24, I realized that I wanted to have kids, just not yet. I wanted to be married for at least a year before even thinking about it.

When I was 27, I was desperate to be a mom. I hated all my friends who were having babies.

When I was 28, our son was born, and we spent the first two nights in the hospital feeling totally shell-shocked and confused about what we had signed up for. The first few weeks were overwhelming, scary, and really made me question everything I had thought I wanted. Luckily that was all just the craziness of the first weeks of the first baby, and I’m happy to say that I don’t regret anything.

When I was 31, our daughter was born, and it was slightly less crazy but still overwhelming, and it’s been almost 6 months and we still aren’t sleeping super well and it seems that they never nap at the same time and there is always someone needing something.

But I think we’re done now…and it makes me sad to think that I won’t be pregnant again. The first time around, every stage was new and intriguing, and we saved everything religiously for the next one. This time, we’re starting to jettison things, baby clothes and toys and gear, just getting rid of things when she doesn’t need them or fit into them anymore. It’s hard to give away boxes of baby clothes in the mindset that there won’t be another one.

But still, I sometimes think about that selfish 19-year-old, and I think she had the right idea. Doing whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, being accountable to no one, spending time with Drew or with friends or even alone – it was so luxurious and I didn’t even know it. I remember in New York, when Drew and Jared would be working two shows on Saturday and Sunday, I could sleep until noon, and then spend the rest of the day lying around reading. I used to watch a lot of Law & Order: SVU while doing cross-stitch kits. It didn’t matter. I could do whatever I wanted. (I want to yell this at the 20-somethings I know who complain about being tired. You have no idea! Embrace it! Just take a nap and you’ll feel better! Go out to brunch or something!)

In the last three years, I have discovered that I have a well of patience that I didn’t know existed. I have also discovered a temper that I didn’t know I had. They both kind of depend on the amount of sleep and protein I’ve had in the last 24 hours. I am definitely a different person now. I think I’m more responsible. More willing to lower expectations. More grateful. I hope the changes have been for the better.

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Filed under Baby, Dreams, Drew, Family, Memoir, Nonfiction, Pregnancy, Self improvement, Sentiment

My love affair with Ira Levin

One of the other things keeping me busy lately has been a writing class I’m taking – the first course of an online master program in creative writing. It happened kind of out of the blue. A friend of mine mentioned how she was finally going to bite the bullet and get her masters, because her husband had found this program that was entirely online and fully accredited. I looked it up and it looked good, so now she and I are both students at Southern New Hampshire University.

Go Penmen!

So I just finished my first class today. I submitted my final paper this afternoon (before crashing and taking a 3-hour nap…yikes). This class was the basic intro class on Rhetorical Grammar – so lots of talk about voice, rhythm, diction, cohesion, adverbials/adjectivals, punctuation, nominals, and other exciting concepts. I actually really enjoyed the class, and I think that was due in part to a cool, accessible professor.

It was probably also partly because we were able to choose the author we would be focusing on throughout the term. So while some people were applying voice/rhythm/diction/etc to HP Lovecraft or Shakespeare, I went and picked Ira Levin, one of my all-time favorite writers.

A major upside to writing about Levin is that his books are generally pretty short, so it was relatively easy to read through Rosemary’s Baby and The Stepford Wives about 3 times each over the last couple months, as well as reading Veronica’s Room and the endings of Sliver and Son of Rosemary. (I still can’t believe this is scholarly.)

If you’re going to write a 16-page paper with 12 different sources, this isn’t a bad stack of books to be working with.

FullSizeRender (1)

I get a week off before the next term starts, and I’ll be taking a literary theory class (which terrifies me) and a creative writing class (which thrills me). I plan on using this week to watch all the Best Picture nominations we have left, to read something besides Ira Levin, and to sleep as much as possible.

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Filed under Beginnings, Self improvement, Writing

I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going tomato this anymore

I’m giving up. Or taking a stand. Whatever you call it, I’m not going to put up with it any longer.

Tomatoes from the store (or restaurant, or wherever) don’t taste like anything anymore. I love tomatoes, but that’s not what I’m eating on my salads or sandwiches anymore. I don’t know WHAT I’m eating. They are red and round and they vary in size, but there’s no taste. Its purpose is texture only. And let’s face it, tomatoes can have a pretty gnarly texture.

So, this weekend, after shelling out for a clamshell pack of organic grape tomatoes at our local grocery store, only to throw them away because they tasted like soft sour nothing instead of just plain nothing…I’m not going to do it anymore.

I guess tomatoes just really suffer from being out of season, or not locally grown. So from now on, we’ll buy tomatoes during the months from July to October, and we’ll buy them only from farmer’s markets, or we’ll mooch them off our parents. I don’t want to forget what tomatoes taste like. This is the dystopian future I live in. Take that, Hunger Games / Divergent / The Maze Runner.

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Filed under Nature, Nonfiction, Not awesome, Self improvement, Tomato, Writing

The Road Not Taken: A Lesson in English and Life

The Road Not Taken
by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth; 

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day! 
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. 

==

This is one of my favorite poems, for three reasons.

1. I love the rhyme and the meter of the poem. I love reciting it. There’s something so musical about the ABAAB and the iambic tetrameter. I loved studying poetry in school, and sometimes I really miss it.

2. I love the message of the poem. But stay tuned. Because:

3. This poem doesn’t actually mean what everyone thinks it means. And here’s your English lesson for today:

In the early 1910s, Robert Frost became friends with another writer, Edward Thomas. They would go for walks through the woods, and Thomas was constantly moaning about the fact that they had taken the “wrong” path – and missed something amazing on another path. Frost wrote this poem in 1915, a sarcastic answer to Thomas’ worry that he was always making the wrong decision.

If you dissect the poem, there are three instances where Frost admits that there is no “better” path:

“as just as fair”
“the passing there / had worn them really about the same”
“both that morning equally lay”

The closing stanza is a sigh from someone looking back on opportunities lost. Frost is gently mocking the narrator (and Thomas) for fretting over missed opportunities, and for not seizing the opportunities that one is presented with.

I freaking love this poem and the story behind it.

==

Today was my last full time day at my theatre job. On Monday I start a new job as an Executive Assistant, in an office full of brand new people. This was my choice, my decision, and it was a hard decision, but I still think it was the right decision.

Every new path brings change, something new to learn, and new opportunities for joy.

Two roads diverged in a wood. And I.

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Filed under Beauty, Dreams, Friends, Love, Nature, Nonfiction, Self improvement, Sentiment, Theatre, Travel, Work, Writing

The special beans

I gave up chocolate for Lent this year. It hasn’t been too bad so far. It’s only been 9 days. Only 35 more days to go. (Or something like that.)

There’s plenty of other sweet stuff that I can find to try to fill the void. Including (but not limited to) dried pineapple, popsicles, and vanilla lattes. It’s both a blessing and a curse. (PS. It doesn’t completely fill the void. I cannot wait for post-Easter half-priced Robin Eggs.)

Every year I ponder Lent – what exactly is the reason that I’m giving something up? I have to re-justify what I’m doing, and figure out how to frame it. I have read different theories for how the tradition came about, and I think that the one that suits me best, and makes the most sense, is that I’m making a sacrifice, albeit small, to honor God’s sacrifice for me.

So even if giving up chocolate feels like a superficial thing to do, I suppose there’s a point to it. I don’t know if I’ll necessarily come out the other side of this a better person, but all introspection is good introspection, and I’ve never heard of someone regretting going 6 weeks without eating chocolate.

Now if only my coworkers would stop leaving bowls of it out on their desks all day…

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Filed under Food, Holidays, Memoir, Nonfiction, Religion, Self improvement, Writing

Christmas and the Four Gift Rule

This time last year, Drew and I were brand new parents. B was still technically an infant, and still novel to us, and Christmas was our first chance to really spoil him. He was growing out of all of the neutral-colored infant clothes we had started out with, and he was beginning to be interested in rattles and other toys. It was the perfect opportunity to go a little crazy with presents, buying him cute outfits and colorful stacking cups and yes, even some stuffed animals.

We have a picture of him from Christmas 2012, strapped in his bouncy chair, with all of his gifts piled around and on top of him. It’s an embarrassment of riches, especially for a 3-month-old. (We also have a picture of him lying on the floor, almost totally covered with wrapping paper – but that’s just for fun.)

This year, I’ve been asked the question multiple times: What does B want for Christmas? And the truth that I keep telling people is: He literally doesn’t need a single thing. Thanks to friends who are liberal with their hand-me-downs, he has clothes to get him through the next year and a half. Thanks to an admittedly lavish first birthday party, he has a ton of toys – several that we haven’t even given him yet. He has all the gear, all the furniture, everything a toddler could desire. We didn’t even know what we should get him, and we’re his parents, for crying out loud. (But no more stuffed animals. We’ve learned that lesson already.)

Then a friend on Facebook posted a PSA about the “mistakes” she has made as a parent. She said that she has spoiled her kids by buying them piles of gifts for every occasion, and now that they’re older, they’ve grown used to it, and even started to take it for granted. She was very honest and blunt, and I really appreciate that she was willing to open herself up like that. Most parents I know wouldn’t have come clean in such a way. At the end of her cautionary tale, she referenced the Four Gift Rule – “Something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read.”

I love it. I love the idea of taking some of the emphasis off of gifts, and simultaneously shifting focus to other holiday activities – but not in a chastising way, or a “you ungrateful child you” way. It just feels like a gentle guideline. I also love the foundation it gives me in figuring out what to get this kid (who’s not going to remember any of this anyway). Now that we have categories, it’s easier to come up with ideas.

And the four categories cover all bases well. We’ve already established a tentative “new pajamas for Christmas” tradition, and I’m always up for buying more books (even board books). So we’re halfway there.

Perhaps, in another year or two, when we have more room for large presents, and an older child who actually has a Christmas wish list, the four gift rule will go out the window. But for this year, I’m happy to enforce this for everyone in our family. (For B, we’ll just need to fudge the “something you need,” since he needs nothing. “Something you want” is easy – he’ll want it as soon as he sees it, at least in the moment.)

Merry Christmas! May your gifts be meaningful, your families be joyful, and your smiles be plentiful. And a Happy New Year!

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Filed under Baby, Children, Holidays, Nonfiction, Self improvement, Writing

Why I quit nanowrimo 2013

Okay. So, I realize that technically there are still 4 more days in November; and that if you can conceive it and believe it, you can achieve it; and it’s not over until the fat lady sings, etc etc. But here’s the thing. I have some really good reasons for why I’ve decided to quit Nanowrimo this year.

1. Ultimately this is about fun. So when I’m having an adult temper tantrum because I “have” to write, then the purpose has been defeated. At least for me.

2. I guard my sleep jealously these days (since it’s still interrupted multiple times a night, and it’s always over by 7am at the latest). I’m not about to stay up until 2am writing, like I used to.

3. I thought I liked my story, until I got to a point that I was like, what the heck is this about. (Yes, I know that’s kind of the point of this whole thing.) But then I abandoned it midstream and switched to this YA novel idea. And it was downhill from there.

4. I also joined a dietbet this month, and I won that, so you know, you win some, you lose some.

5. When I started this, I was shooting for 25,000 words (the “real” goal is 50,000). I figured that 25,000 would still be impressive, especially with the other things I’ve had going on this month. And I made it to about 32,000 words. So I think that’s something to be proud of.

So…that’s that. Sorry, I hate when people just whine about how busy they are. But I’m not going to spend the next four days (and over Thanksgiving, even!) feeling guilty and stressed about this. There’s too much other stuff to pay attention to. Sorry, unfinished weird novel. I’ll read you over in a few months and see what’s salvageable. RIP.

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Filed under Endings, Fiction, Memoir, Nonfiction, Not awesome, Self improvement, Writing

Under pressure

We have a new car.

I can see how car shopping might be fun, if you’ve got the luxury of time to look around, and you’re not planning the whole time about how you’re going to afford it, and you don’t have to go do test drives on your lunch breaks.

We looked around a bit in the evenings, but we always had to take B with us, and I’ll be straight with you: he can be kind of a drag sometimes. Like when you’re just trying to stand there under the stadium lights and see how many miles this Jetta has on it, and he’s shrieking because riding around in the umbrella stroller is no fun. Not to mention, you can’t test drive anything together because someone has to hang out with the kid and try to make car shopping fun.

We went on our lunch breaks a couple times, but those car salesmen (they’re always men) really drag things out, and you can really only look at one or two cars before you both have to get back to work before someone notices you’re missing.

We were under a lot of pressure to get a car purchased, because for the last 3 weeks I’d been driving my parents’ lime green VW Beetle, which was a lucky break. They just happened to be flying to Italy for the month of October, and planning to leave their car parked at our place anyway, a couple days after my old car (which I got last September) had some kind of crazy electrical malfunction, and burned mostly to a crisp.

(Yup.)

(I’m okay.)

So. My parents’ vacation was nearing its end, and they were flying back to SFO on Monday, so we knew we needed to get this thing under control. So last Friday afternoon, Drew and B and I went to a new (used) car lot, one we hadn’t yet visited, to poke around. Almost immediately we spotted a new-looking gold 2008 Elantra…whose major selling point was the 22,000 miles on the odometer. I’ve never had a car with that few miles. I didn’t even know they could have that few miles. Don’t even new cars get that much just from the factory?

So we both test drove it (separately), then we dickered a bit with the salesman (who was super nice), then we said we needed to go talk about it and come back that evening. We walked back to the Beetle in a turmoil of emotions, and then stood there for a few minutes discussing it. We ended up turning around, marching back inside, and buying the car.

It’s going great so far and I think we made the right decision. Someone else would’ve snapped that thing up if we hadn’t.

Last Wednesday (five days later), on my way to work, I noticed that there was a light on on the dashboard. It wasn’t a light that I recognized, and I spent every traffic light flipping through the manual, trying to place it. Finally I found it: low tire pressure. When I got to work, the tires all looked good, but I was (am) still very cautious about this car, so on my lunch break I drove to Arco.

I thought the optimum PSI was printed on the tires but I couldn’t find it anywhere, so I just made sure they were all about 32, which I thought sounded right. The air kicked off, so I got back in the car and started it – the light was still on. I googled “optimum tire pressure for a 2008 Elantra” and some anonymous person somewhere said it was 38. Okay. So I went back inside, asked the woman behind the counter to turn the air back on, and I filled the tires all to 38.

By this time, a girl had pulled up behind me and was waiting for the air. I finished up and she approached me and said she hadn’t done this before, so I kind of walked her through what she needed to do, feeling very good about myself and all my Car Skillz.

Then I got back in the car, started the engine – and the light was still on.

Drew had texted me, so I called him and told him about the light, and as I was saying, “Maybe your dad needs to take a look at it–” the low tire pressure light TURNED OFF! I started cheering for myself. (For some strange reason, he didn’t join in.)

Listen: it’s rare that I can
a) identify something is wrong with the car;
b) put my finger on exactly what that thing is; and
c) fix it by myself.

This calls for, like, a victory dance or something.

Which I did, in the front seat of the car, all the way back to work.

You gotta celebrate the little things sometimes.

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Filed under cars, Drew, Humor, Memoir, Nonfiction, Self improvement, Writing

I Have A Dream

August 28, 2013 is the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr’s iconic “I Have a Dream” speech. His daring vision for the future has either come true or not come true, depending on who you are and where you live.

Fifty years is a long time (or a short time, depending on the quality of your life and your general outlook on it). A lot can happen – and has, over and over again. And it’s probably only going to get worse from here on.

If you’re older than 25, you probably have feelings about technology and how it’s hurting today’s interpersonal communication. You might worry about what we’re doing to the environment and the polar ice caps. If you’re older than 80, you might even draw unpleasant parallels between these times and the 1930s. From vaccinations to pesticides to mortgages to the apocalypse, there are things to worry about every day.

I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will get itself out of the recession we are in, and there will be annual raises and holiday bonuses and comfortable living for all – even those who work at a nonprofit. That 20-somethings who graduated with student debt will still have to work hard and set their sights to pay it back, but that paying it back will, in fact, be possible. That there won’t be so many stories reporting that parents can’t afford to buy diapers for their children. That people right and left won’t lose their houses. That people can actually afford houses in the first place.

I have a dream that we’ll all drive electric cars and there won’t be gas stations on every corner, and we won’t drive 15 miles out of the way to pay $.04 less per gallon (which doesn’t really make sense, you guys). That smog will go away, and there won’t be videos of polar bears swimming around in the Arctic Ocean because all the ice caps are melting. We’ll somehow clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and we won’t ever let anything that crazy happen again. There won’t be any more Dawn commercials of cleaning oil off of baby ducks, because that will just be a sad thing that used to happen, but don’t worry, we put a stop to that.

I have a dream that even as technology marches on and everyone gets more attached to their devices (yes, I’m guilty too), we won’t forget to sometimes stop and put down our phones and look each other in the eyes and have an actual conversation. And we will remember to tell our kids that they can’t watch any more TV right now and they have to go outside and build a fort or pretend to be pioneers or fall out of a tree or something (low branches only please). And sometimes the cable will go out and we don’t have any TV or wireless internet, so we’ll all sit together and play Scrabble or tell stories or sing songs or something. Yeah, it’s quaint, but it’s my dream.

This is my hope for the next 50 years. This is my belief, which counteracts the worry. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our world into a beautiful symphony of peace and brotherhood.

(Thanks to MLKJ, and I know you’re a cool enough guy that you won’t mind the liberties I’ve taken with your elegant words.)

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Filed under Awesome, Children, Dreams, Religion, Self improvement, Writing

Typography: Round 2

Second attempt!

1. I emphasized the words that are actually important to the message.

2. I got rid of some of the white space between words.

3. I kept it to three fonts.

4. Fonts that don’t come standard with MS Word.*

goblet of fire typ color edit

*Fonts (in order of appearance):
Wonderland by jully1780
Hand of Sean by Nice and Ripe Ltd
Wednesday by bythebutterfly.com

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