Category Archives: Self improvement

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.


(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.



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

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Filed under Awesome, Baby, Children, Dreams, Nonfiction, Self improvement, Sentiment, Writing

Evidence that dentists are the worst

Sorry, it’s nothing personal, if anyone happens to be a dentist. In fact, the dentist has always been the second-least-scary doctor to visit, in my opinion (the ophthalmologist being the least-scary). But I’ve noticed that dentists seem to be doing all they can to keep the surprisingly popular fear of dental visits alive and well.

Steve Martin in "Little Shop of Horrors"

Steve Martin in “Little Shop of Horrors”

First of all, the pre-appointment chit chat is terrible. Here’s what happened to me on my most recent exam visit.

Hygienist: How’s your day?
Me: Good, how are you?
Hygienist: Good, good…so how are you?
Me: Um. Good.
Hygienist: Great. Having a good day?
Me: Yes…?
Hygienist: How do you pronounce your name?
Me: Syche.
Hygienist: Syche…Sychay.
Me: You just said it correctly, then incorrectly. Did you do that on purpose?

Okay, that last line didn’t happen. But the rest did.

Secondly, they shame you for not flossing three times a day. Frankly, that seems excessive, and quit acting like you’re surprised that we don’t floss! Why are you all high and mighty about it? Maybe you could figure out a different way for us to get clean teeth.

(Although, I have to admit, since I’ve been flossing this last month or so, they haven’t asked me about it, so maybe they actually do see the difference and don’t need to shame me. So okay. Well played, dentists.)

Finally, the dentist is where you get the largest amount of patronizing medical jargon while you lie there helpless. It isn’t enough that you have to be in this supine, submissive position, while they raise and lower the chair in a sick display of power – now they will talk from behind their mask (which hides their face so you can’t tell what they’re thinking) to the hygienist (also wearing a mask) and the two of them will use lots of terms you’ve never heard of to talk about you like you’re not even there.

Hygienist: *mumbling unintelligibly*
Dentist: What’s that, Milton? Did you want to do a probe now?
Hygienist/Milton: *mumbles*
Dentist: Okay. Starting with lingual binding. *starts stabbing gums with tiny pitchfork* 4, 3, 2, 3, 2, 3, 3, 4, 3, 2, 3, 2… *this goes on for awhile while I stare at the ceiling and avoid making eye contact with the stranger who is 6 inches from my face*

Dentists, please tell us what you’re doing before you put anything into our mouths. And give us some props for having only 1 cavity in almost 30 years, or for having all 4 wisdom teeth, or for remembering to brush/floss/drink water/not eat anything before coming to our 8:30am appointment.

And for the love of God, put some posters or word searches or something up on your ceilings so we have something to look at while we’re stuck in your chair.


Disclaimer: I don’t really hate the dentist.

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Filed under Humor, My name, Nonfiction, Self improvement

30 Before 30

I’m turning 30 almost exactly a year from now, so I was thinking about doing a “30 before 30” list. I like lists and goals, so it seems like an exercise that I’d enjoy.

But maybe I’ve made too many lists in my life, because my 30 before 30 list was very derivative of all my other lists, including but not limited to: to-do list (short term), to-do list (long term), wish list, New Year’s Resolutions 2013, bucket list, to-do list (work), RunKeeper goals, New Year’s Resolution 2013 updates, and the half-hearted bucket list I’ve been keeping in my head.

I don’t want to just repurpose old bullet points for a new list. Isn’t 30 supposed to be a big milestone in a girl’s life? I don’t want to pay my respects to 30 by vowing to floss every day until then. (See also: I have totally flossed every day for last the two weeks and I am incredibly self-satisfied.)

But a year isn’t a very long time, and realistically, there’s no way I’m going to go in a hot air balloon in the next year, or buy a house, or go on a cruise. Those are bucket list entries – at least, I think they are, but I’ve never written any of them down. I feel like maybe I should have done this 30 before 30 list about 5 years ago.

I’m not sure if it’s responsible and wise of me to know my limitations over the next year; or if it’s kind of sad that I’m not bothering to dream big. Is my love of crossing things off making me censor what I write down? Should I go ahead and shoot for the moon here, even if part of me doubts that I’ll ever actually find the time and the means and the inclination to even get off the ground?

Or should I focus on some of the tasks I’ve already set myself? And just enjoy the last year of my 20s?

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Filed under Being a girl, Dreams, Humor, Memoir, Nonfiction, Self improvement

Gettin old

Post-college, I went for a couple years with no dental insurance, and consequently, zero dental visits. This eventually led to such problems as a cavity, which led to a broken tooth, then a root canal and a crown. Oh well…hindsight is 20/20 and all that.

Other than that, I’ve had a really good dental history. I might sometimes be a bit vain about it. (So maybe it’s good that I had to go through all that – it knocked me down a peg.) But now that I’m an adult with actual good health insurance (thanks husband!) I like to go frequently and responsibly.

My next appointment is at the end of June, and I decided instead of lying about flossing this time, I’m going to actually floss. So for the last week or two, I’ve created this new bedtime routine of brush, floss, mouthwash. It doesn’t take that much longer than just brushing, and it makes me feel super clean and self-righteous. Plus, it will hopefully pay off at my appointment.

I even added another non-teeth-related component to my bedtime routine: moisturizer. I haven’t really used it regularly, besides the cocoa butter during pregnancy, but I was realizing how much of me is constantly exposed to the sun, and how I’m kind of getting old and should be taking better care of my skin as well as my teeth.

Yup. Gettin old and boring.

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Filed under Beauty, Being a girl, Nonfiction, Self improvement

Playing the Game: Survivor

Survivor is practically an American pastime. In its heyday, it was consistently one of the highest-ranked shows on television, and I’m not trying to imply that its heyday is over. It’s the first reality competition. People are obsessed with this show. And yet for some reason, I just watched my first season.

Drew has always loved Survivor, but I hadn’t gotten around to watching it until about a week ago. We sat down to watch Season 25: Philippines (last season) and I was HOOKED. I would have been happy staying up all night watching episode after episode, if not for knowing that that little alarm clock, in the form of our 7-month-old son, would be going off the next morning at 6:45. After getting through Season 25 in about a week, we started watching Season 26, which is currently airing on CBS, and I look forward to watching it along with America every week.

The best thing about Survivor is the strategy. Sometimes you’ll get an episode where everyone can just be blatantly honest with each other about who they’re voting off, and it doesn’t matter because of the numbers. But usually, it’s all trickery and deception and bargaining, and I find that I can never guess who’s going home because it’s just all up in the air until the moment everyone votes. Amazing.

But there are some people who try to play “an honest game.” And I understand that being able to stand up at the end and say, “I didn’t lie to anyone,” is probably a good card to play. But in general, I cheer for the people who lie at every turn and manage to blindside other people – the ones who are really “playing the game,” as they always say.

Which makes me wonder if there’s something wrong with my moral compass. Shouldn’t I be rooting for the person who doesn’t lie, who doesn’t backstab, and who tries to keep up morale? But as you might have noticed, that just doesn’t make for good TV.

But in my Real Life, I think I’m a pretty moral person. My knee jerk reaction when someone gives me too much change is to be honest. One time a bank gave me an extra $5 bill and I gave it back. When I was in high school, and trying out rebellion, I once stole a small Mead notebook from a very well-known chain store. I think I just wanted to know that I could do it. The next day, I snuck it back in to the store, and then purchased it. I mean, I’d already written in it, or else I might have just stuck it back on the shelf.

No matter how much I cheer for the person who straight-faced lies into another person’s face on TV, I don’t want to see that in Real Life. It’s only fun when it’s all a game…with a million dollars on the line. I want to be able to trust the people around me, and I want them to feel like they can trust me back. I want to teach my son that he can trust his parents, and I hope that we’ll be able to trust him. I think the reason I enjoyed my childhood and adolescence so much is that my parents were able to trust me and give me some freedom.

I do, however, understand the need to occasionally push boundaries, perhaps in the form of stealing something small, and then un-stealing it to pay for it. That, I think, is a good balance of rebellious and nerdy.

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Filed under Dollars, Drew, Humor, Self improvement, TV, Writing