Tuesday, December 14, 2010

I'm gonna getcha!

Women gather together to wear silly hats, eat dainty food, and forget how unresponsive their husbands are. Men gather to talk sports, eat heavy food, and forget how demanding their wives are. Only where children gather is there any real chance of fun.
Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic's Notebook, 1960

Remember being a little kid, maybe just past toddler-hood but before too-cool adolescence, getting chased by your daddy or big sibling? He would be running behind you taunting, "I'm gonna getcha!" and you were overwhelmed with giggles that might literally burst out of your mouth? You could barely get one giggle out before the next one came along.

Clint and I were jogging into downtown today.... correction: Clint was biking and I was jogging into downtown today--and he called after me, "I'm gonna getcha!", threatening to catch up to me. Then I thought about how my biggest brother Andrew used to play Shark in the pool with me and I would get this overwhelming urge to giggle and run. (I also got anxiety but I think that's not typical of most kids. Yeah, I'm pretty sure I was the only one on the school yard who panicked during tag.) It didn't even matter what we were doing or why he was chasing me. For some reason, a child's DNA is encoded with so much innocence and play that if someone threatens playful pursuit, kids giggle and book it. Have you ever noticed that? You could be with the grumpiest kid in the world... and if you pause just long enough for the mood to settle and then say, with a mischievous grin (not a pedophile grin but a fun grin), "I'm gonna getcha!" his mood will undoubtedly perk up. He'll know exactly what game you're playing and be ready to beat the odds.

It dawned on me the next time I get to play chase, I'll be on the other side of that game. I got pretty excited thinking about that. Reasons are twofold: 1) I get to play chase without feeling that surge of panic and 2) it's so much fun, especially hearing a little kid's giggle bursting out uncontrollably to the point of squeal.

So, future little shit... get yourself some good shoes (that's right, buy your own darn shoes) and I'll promise to stay in shape cause chase just might be the easiest and funnest game for anyone in single digits. I don't want you to miss out on that!
(by Nas-city on Flickr)

Friday, December 10, 2010

This too Shall Pass: the Angry Brazilian man

Be brave. Take risks. Nothing can substitute experience.
Paulo Coelho

One of the things I hate doing is anything I am bad at. Blame this on my achievement orientation or whatever but being bad at something makes me feel vulnerable and well, stupid. But I guess everyone feels that way with things they suck at--some just handle the occasion with more elegance than others.

Last night, I accepted this little known fact: I am not good at everything. And then I embraced it. I took Clint to a Capoeira class last night because he's mentioned a few times how much he misses taking lessons. To be honest, I thought of Capoeira the way some people think of the white crayon--what's the point? Are you really going to kick someone's ass with Capoeria? Will you really color using the white crayon?

But 30 minutes into last night's lesson, I gained a new respect for Capoeira dancers. The Mestre leading our class was an intense little man who kind of reminded me of the man who plays the "Angry Elf" author in Elf (but about a foot taller): Peter Dinklage .
He had a thick accent and when he spoke to me specifically, I had no idea what he said after "Are you okay?" He was very athletic though. After trying some of the motions and exercises the Mestre taught us, I had a new respect for him, his coordination and strength, and Capoeira in general. Not only did I start sweating rain droplets, I also felt the tension in my hip flexors and hamstrings reminding me that I am not a flexible bendy straw. I definitely pulled out a few awesome unnecessary Matrix moves and felt really uncoordinated. I was ready to quit at the half-way point but then I reminded myself that 1) how disrespectful would that be to the class and the Mestre (who ended up giving me private tutelage from time to time which proved difficult since I could barely understand him past the music and Capoeira vocabulary); 2) that would have been cheating myself--I had no good reason to give up other than my own insecurity.... so I kept going; and 3) "this too shall pass"--I was already halfway through, I can accept that I am not the best and then give my best effort for the last 45 minutes.

While I still am not convinced that a Capoeira fighter would stand a chance against any other martial arts fighter, I have new respect for Capoeira due to the fitness, coordination and strength required to execute the movements. I also appreciated the humbling experience and all the nice fellow students who chipped in to help me understand particular moves. I'll probably never go again (and the Mestre will probably be happy about that) but I think it was a good lesson in patience, humility and trying new things.

So for your viewing pleasure, an old Friends clip. The girls decide to go to a tap class which Monica supremely sucks at:
(I was somewhere between a Phoebe and a Monica. The clip's embed code was disabled.)

And for fun....

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Little Things in Life: Music to my Ears

A painter paints pictures on canvas. But musicians paint their pictures on silence.
Leopold Stokowski

Music is a funny thing. Essentially, music is just a rhythm. It can be a rhythm accented with words or instruments. It can be a beat kept by the tapping of a palm onto the side of a leg. And in everyone's life, there is music--there is a personal rhythm. The chime of a cash box, a baby's happy squeal, or the roar of an ignited engine can all reverberate with a person's personal rhythm. These little notes and tunes perk us up unknowingly; they help us keep pace with our day. These are our favorite sounds...

My favorite sounds:

1. The flutter of a camera shutter
2. The swoosh of a net in a silent gym
3. The crack of a bat in a huge stadium
4. The pitter-patter of Willoughby's little feet as he rounds our bed... followed by the silence while he prepares to jump onto the bed
5. The pop of a peanut jar when you first open it
6. The clumsy speech of little French kids and their cute accents (I once heard two little French toddlers bantering at the New Release aisle in Blockbuster. They were so cute... toddlers have a way of speaking where the words seem too big for their mouths and so words seem to fall out of their mouths rather than be spoken. When those big clumsy words are in French, the kids are even cuter).
7. Laughter... some people have trademark laughs which are the best. Clint has the silent laugh where only his shoulders move. My mom gets almost cackly. Manda has an adorable giggle that makes me wonder if she laughed the exact same way when she was a kid. And Lisa always starts her laughs with a big 'O' face. These are little reasons I will pretty much do or say anything if it invokes a laugh.
8. The clicking of laptop keys
9. Gwen's whiny meow
10. The whir of our KitchenAid mixer's motor

What are some of the rhythm-keepers in your life? What are your favorite sounds?

Monday, November 22, 2010

The First Kiss... Again

Half of my heart is deployed.
Author Unknown

This blog entry is a bit overdue but I am nonetheless grateful. I think the most exciting day for a military family member is the day before he returns home from deployment. It's always a busy day but it's probably better than the day before Christmas. And the best gift of all--getting to have a first kiss... again.

Welcome home, babe!!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

It's not easy being green: pt II

...A great educational lecture about plastic pollution. She cites recycling at 7% but I have heard it's as little as 2% that gets recycled.

Truths About Plastic Pollution

It's not easy being green

A true conservationist is a man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers but borrowed from his children.
John James Audubon

When I was a kid my fifth grade teacher Mrs. Buckingham had a passion for the rainforests and for environmental conservation. Eighteen years later and her lessons and passion have stuck with me throughout the years. However, in my experience, this passion hasn't spread with the world as quickly as it should.

Last month I went to Greece on a quick getaway with one of the missions. We stayed in Souda on the island of Crete. There was only one day where the weather was suitable for a little beach time so we spent a few hours on a little beach unknown to most tourists. Wind and stormy weather had left tide pools in the nearby rocks. And then I saw this:

Plastic bottles floating on the coast had been carried into these little pools to settle and degrade.

So here's my big question these days.  Why aren't more people environmentalists? Particularly, parents?

Is this the world we want to leave behind for our kids? A coastline flooded with plastic bottles, an ocean with floating garbage islands, an arctic with no polar bear, and vanishing rainforests? Some people shrug it off because it sounds hyperbolic but the sad truth is it isn't... and that's why I don't get it.

As the midterm elections finally ended which means all the BS about government debt, taxes, and immigration is kind of over, the argument some people make about the nation's fiscal direction echoes in my head. As some push for lower taxes and others quarrel over government involvement, people's argument centers around this idea that we'll be leaving a huge debt behind for our children... that would just be a crime. But what about the environmental debt we're leaving behind? Why is no one ruffling feathers over that?

After some thought... and some frustration with my own venture in being low-impact... the answer is simple--it's not easy. It's not easy being environmentally conscientious. Therefore it's not easy asking others to be. But I would think all the signs point to green. It may not be as self-serving as say cutting taxes... it's better than that. It serves oneself and every generation after. While the fast-paced, technoligically-centered society of today's generation is obsessed with single-serving instant everything... the problem is... the world itself isn't single serving. The world isn't here for us to just use and dispose of; the world is here for longer than we are and we have to keep it in good condition for the next group.

The world is a lot like a public toilet when you think about it. We all have to use it at some point. At the beginning of time, the toilet was pristine, filled with blue disinfectant bubbles to signify its cleanliness. Our era is probably something resembling the lunchtime rush-hour; waste output is starting to pick up and people are becoming more concerned with their own need to get in and out rather than consider who is using the toilet after them. But the problem is, the world doesn't have a janitor coming to clean up dribble spots or clogged drains. The next day's patrons will just have to deal with the overflowing drains and skidmarks. The next day's patrons are our kids though. Is that really how we want to leave for world for them?

My recommendation? Vow to reduce consumption (buy less, reuse more). Support products you do have to buy that biodegrade easily and come from recycled products. Watch lectures like Charles Moore's and read No Impact Man's book and be moved and motivated....

Why you shouldn't? It'd be slightly more convenient and easier in the moment...
Why you should? We only get one "toilet". Your children depend on it.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Dear little shit: Color on the walls

Anybody out there who is a parent, if your kids want to paint their bedrooms, as a favor to me, let them do it. It'll be OK. Don't worry about the resale value on the house.
Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture

Dear little shit;

I've been questioning my route in life lately and I called your grandma for advice. Here are a few anecdotes she gave me about how my brothers figured out which routes NOT to take in life.

Your uncle Ben wanted to be an astronaut when he was a kid. We lived in Florida and had the opportunity to watch shuttle launches during school. Classes would take breaks and assemble on the lawns to watch the launches. In January of 1986, your uncle's class stood outside and watched the Challenger launch... and then they watched it smoke... and then he watched it explode.

He came home and said, "Mom, I changed my mind. I don't want to be an astronaut".

Your uncle Charles is in the Army and has spent two tours in Iraq so far. He was planning on volunteering for another tour but in Afghanistan. He was torn between a few options about his career and then decided he could make a lot of money if he went back to serve.

Your grandma said, "What if something happens to you? Yes, you'll make a lot of money. But if something happens to you, what good is that money? You could lose your life! You could lose a leg, you could be terribly hurt." Uncle Charles considered those options but didn't seem convinced. She added, "And after another year... your cats won't even be yours anymore. They won't remember you!"

He stayed home.

These past few weeks, I have been thinking a lot about what I want to do with my life and career. I've never felt so confused. Why don't I have a passion? Why can't I just have a passion to follow and be happy?

Your daddy and I are the results of two very different pasts and influences. Thus, your daddy knew what he wanted to do in life, strove to achieve his goals, and is happily on his way. Your mommy is running in circles, questioning every other decision, and just figuring out in life how to be happy. I don't want you to go through this... nor when you're 28 anyways.

I want you to find your happiness in life. I want you to find your passion.

I'm not sure how I'll help you do this but I want you to know, success is not about a bank account. Success is not about a title. Success is living the life that fulfills your passions and aligns with your values. Success is coming into who you want to be. I want to help you figure out your passions in life. I want to guide you as best I can.

Randy Pausch was a professor at Carnegie Mellon. In the last year of his life, he wrote a book about how to achieve your childhood dreams. He reminisces about his childhood and describes how his supportive parents encouraged his creativity. They saw the excitement in his face and rather than stifle his ideas, they encouraged them. They let him draw on the walls.

I plan on being right next to you, paintbrush or colored pencil in hand, putting ideas onto the walls (hopefully in our owned-outright home and definitely not with acrylic paint). I don't want you to go through life as a succession of decisions based on what you don't want to do; I would rather help you figure out your passions and then guide you along the way until you know what you do want to do. I want you to live life bursting at the seams because you are so excited about becoming who you want to become; I want you to live life with contagious smiles that inspires others to do the same; I want you to live life never knowing what it means to settle--don't just draw on paper, go for a good bright fuchsia on the wall.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Future gradtitude: For looking so young....

The soul is born old but grows young. That is the comedy of life.
Oscar Wilde

Well Oscar, my soul must be taking my body along with it because I was definitely born with an old soul and my body seems to be getting younger... or at least my face is. I can't seem to handle liquor the way I used to but I still get carded at the movies.

Last week I was hit with a freakish desire to shop. I'm not really a shopper and I can't really justify the purchase of new clothes when I have a closet-full of perfectly wearable items. However, the events last night lead me to believe deep down I wanted a makeover—an I-want-to-look-my-age makeover.

I spent the entire day on base yesterday. I decided to get a good workout in the morning before my Red Cross meeting which was followed by a doctor's appointment and then capped by a photography class in the evening. I decided to dress comfortably and in clothes that could keep me warm in the now zero degree weather. At 3pm, I had a few hours to kill before my class and decided to spend that time doing homework, checking email, and perhaps finally borrowing Harry Potter from the library to read.

So picture it... no makeup, hair up in a bun, big hooded sweatshirt and some stretched out jeans, a backpack hiked up to my ears full of textbooks, some awesome cystic acne on my forehead (thank you hard water), a bag of Clearasil product in one hand, and a copy of Harry Potter in the other at 3pm in the afternoon.

I happen to be at the library along with 20 other hoody-wearing, acne-prone, baggy-jeans-wearing, loitering teenagers who just got out of high school. When I give the librarian my ID card she gives it a double look, analyses it a few moments and hands it back with a big, "HMM".

"What?" I ask.

"Well, you just don't look that old".

In my head: "How the fuck old do I look??"

So I guess it's time. I need a makeover. I need to look my age. How do I do that? Perhaps a drastic hair cut tomorrow will help (my last drastic haircut left me looking like a J-Pop rockstar though, so I'm scared. My mother even supervised the haircut, perm, AND color (purple) and she never bothered to stop me and say, "Hey.... you look ridiculous".)

Maybe digging up some sheeker looking digs and wearing them instead of waiting for a special occasion (like warm weather) will help. I don't know if I actually care how old I look—after all, being carded isn't a big deal and age is a matter of spirit more than biology to me. But now that 30 is rearing it's big ugly head around the corner, perhaps I should take advantage of being only 28 by actually looking 28. So, a big thank you to the librarian and the dozen or so teenagers who probably thought I was a classmate. I am reminded of my commandment to make the most of every moment... and if that means making the most of my twenties by looking like I'm in my twenties to avoid those second-glances and awkward stares then by Buddha, I'll try.

My Facebook diet: Living in the present

Social networking sites satisfy that basic human need to belong, as well as the ability to experience instant feedback and recognition from someone, somewhere, 24 hours a day. 
The Daily Mail

I started using Facebook back in 2002 or so when my friend Eric moved to Ohio. For a long time he was probably my only friend on Facebook and we used it as a means of keeping up with each other's lives. He was one of my best friends in the dorms but at the time the Facebook whirlwind hadn't yet caught on and I checked it, at most, once a month or even once a year. Now he is one of my 418 Facebook friends.... 418? Honestly? I'll venture a guess that 10% of these folks are high school classmates to who, if I saw on the streets of Walnut Creek, I probably wouldn't even say "Hi". I am not discounting our high school friendships--it would be great to see how everyone is doing now--but half of these FB friends didn't speak to me in high school, would they want to break the trend now? The other half sends me promotional emails and I know they just need to expand their networking, not reconnect.

There's probably another 10% who were dorm friends or acquaintances in college and another 10% who aren't even actual people but groups or organizations I support. I could continue this breakdown of FB friend composition but I don't really want to analyse that and I don't think either of my readers care.

Since Clint left for deployment, most of my time at home is dedicated to homework. I barely even cook anymore... I think I ate spaghetti for 4 straight days which is fine with me. At some point during the third week, I realized I was barely getting the same amount of homework done as before Clint left--how is that possible? I rarely turn the TV on and except for when I workout on base, I'm home with the books cracked open. But the laptop is also cracked open... and like a zombie with only a body and no soul, I freakishly and mindlessly manage to logon and zone out while reading status messages or thinking of silly things to put as status messages. Before I know it, an hour has gone by and I'm only 3 paragraphs in to Chapter 1 of my text. I think to myself, "SH*TCO**SUCKMOTH***UCKER where did the time go?!". Besides getting behind in studies, the time consumption on Facebook means less time spent doing other things--studying photography, practicing French, cleaning the house, interacting with real-life people, being productive. And when I'm not being productive, I turn into an unhappy beast. So that's when I realized... I need to get off Facebook.

One of my commandments is to "be in the present" and one of my resolutions is to "make the most of every moment". I only have a shallow understanding of what it means to "be in the present" and I think the two ideals are similar and interconnected because in order to make the most of every moment, you have to be mindful of your surroundings and your presence first. Being in the present doesn't just mean being interacting with the present. It also means being mindful of the present and being HERE--aware of what is around you, taking advantage of the opportunities near you, and making the most of your time in that moment. When people are on Facebook, they are not in the present--their minds are in a virtual, socially-dysfunctional playground of acquaintances and status messages while their bodies sit catatonic in front of PCs and macs. When I think of my happiest friends (Sunny, Lisa, Amanda, Natalia), they conjure up images of women who are productive in their lives, happier with who they are, and always PRESENT. They are also, as far as I know, rarely on FB. So maybe this is a hint of how to be present in life and thus happier?

I have been on a FB diet now for about 6 days. This means I am on FB less than 5 minutes a day and for the past 3 days, I only logged on to send FB messages to people of whom I don't have emails. So far I have been more productive, happier, and well, still behind in homework. (But with a new professor who assigns 12 chapters of reading a week, how could I not be behind?)

For the sake of any future children, I hope this becomes a steady trend. I want to be a good role model of how to live in the present and to make each moment worthwhile so that they can too.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Gratitude for the Spirit of the Game

In the city's Castro neighborhood, rowdy residents tossed toilet paper over the Muni lines...boys kissed boys, other boys booed George W. Bush and three beefy barmen stripped off their shirts and yelled, "Yeah!"...
Local San Francisco Newspaper

When I was seven years old my dad took me to my first ball game. AT&T/SBC/PacBell Park was known back then as Candlestick... (a much cooler name than AT&T Park.) On a Thursday evening we sat in seats so far away from the game that the flies buzzing around looked bigger than the players. But it didn't matter, it was my first game and I was with my dad and well... I was bored out of my mind.

But I was only seven. A couple years later I had matured. We were living in Walnut Creek and a neighbor and his dad took me to my first Oakland A's game. Our seats were so close I could feel Jose Canseco's arm hair tickle my nose when he slid home. We walked down to the third baseline and Mark McGwire walked right up to us in his number 25 green-trimmed white uniform and signed autographs. (He didn't sign an autograph for me, just so you are aware--I had neither a souvenir nor a pen. But he stood right in front of me and ignored me the whole time. I felt like I was standing on Mt. Olympus next to Zeus). A clip of sports life during that time: the A's had just swept the Giants in the 1989 World Series a few years prior, they played in the World Series again in 1990, and I just joined my first little league team. I was a die-hard A's fan ever since.

But the A's went to the playoffs only a handful of times since then, losing the division series successively. And both the Giants and the A's have had rocky seasons these past few years. But it doesn't matter... win or lose, I'll always love the A's. And the Giants will always be... ya know... okay.

The Giants brought it all home this year though. They finally won the World Series. While I'm not exactly jumping out of my pants for them, I have really enjoyed the excitement it has caused back at home. I love sports. And being here in England opened my eyes to just how much good ol' American sports mean to me--the unification of complete strangers on railway cars hollering their team name; drones of people walking towards stadium entrances all wearing the same colors; the acceptance of total idiocy while grown adults paint their faces and chug on $8 pints of shitty beer. I love what sports does for people and I freaking miss it. So while I'm not a Giants fan per se (I'll support 'em but in a Battle of the Bay game, I hope they burn)... the energy and hearing about all the updates and festivity make me happy. So thanks Giants--I'll always think you're a team of old fogies but I'm really glad you won the World Series and got my sports mojo jiving again.

Dedicated to the A's, the Cal Bears, and the GS Warriors. I hope my teams start winning again. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Dear little shit: You might...

Heredity is what sets the parents of a teenager wondering about each other.
Laurence J. Peter

Dear little shit;

I apologize in advance for all the crazy, terrible, funny stuff that is going to happen to you in your life. I will embarrass you until your cheeks burst from blushing on more than 18 occasions... and I so look forward to it. Your dad will probably trump my efforts. And because your dad and I are goofballs, you might really enjoy your childhood... or develop an anxiety disorder because of it. Can't say for sure yet. You might love having us as parents... or you might not be able to stand us.

In fact...

You might get all your presents wrapped in newspaper,
But your mom is an eco-freak which benefits your planet.
You might hear about planes every day of your life,
But your dad is a pilot who supports your freedom.
You might have plain brown eyes and plain brown hair,
But those are genetic advantages against skin cancer and stereotypes.
You might never be a tall, slinky model,
But I'm forcing you to be a doctor so get over it (j/k-you just won't be tall).
You might grow up having to communicate in multiple languages,
But we hope you learn to appreciate your heritage.
You might be the kid wearing hand-me-downs instead of new labels to school,
But you'll build character not worrying about superficial stuff like that.
You might get dragged on weird family vacations far from Disneyworld,
But we hope you learn more about the world and your role in it.
You might have a strange, big, mixed family,
But that means you have lots of aunts and uncles to learn from.
You might not have two grandfathers,
But you'll have one who can fill the job twice.
You might make mistakes here and there and feel bad,
But know you're learning and we love you just the same.

...and we'll always be there for you to help you along the way (picking our noses and everything).

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Death Cab for Margie and the Good Debate

At the end of an argument, you will be shaking fists.
At the end of a debate, you will be shaking hands.


Just a few days ago I was sitting in a hotel lobby in Souda, Greece with a few friends. We were waiting for a cab to take us into downtown Chania, a beautiful little town in northern Crete. When the cab driver finally appeared, we were ready to get into town and enjoy some authentic Greek food. Mind you though that the road between our little hotel in Stavros and the Old Harbor in Chania winds and twists, up and down. So my friends were nice enough to let me have the front seat since I have a tendency to get carsick (note to other carsick sufferers-don't travel through Costa Rica without first preparing yourself for those roads!). With my friends chatting in the back, I decided to make nice with the natives. The cabbie and I started talking about everything, from the political demonstrations to the idealization of communism to... FOOD.

"Oh the food is delicious... I hope none of you are vegetarian."

Ummm... He seems like a nice enough guy, right? "Actually, I am". And so it begins....

Coming out as a vegetarian, I imagine, is similar to coming out as a gay person. People have one of two* reactions: 1) The Friend-who-can-relate: "I have lots of [gay/vegetarian] friends!" or, "Oh, I have this other friend who is [gay/vegetarian] too!" Thank you for trying to ease the pain of coming out and attempting to show you can relate. 2) The Evangelist: "You're going to hell".

What? What did I do to offend you? Coming out as either vegetarian or gay always seems to put that one closed-minded person on the defensive... the num-chuck-like admonitions come swinging: "You can't get enough [protein/family values] like that"; "You're missing out on the great [food/pussy]"; "You're going to hell". (Did you catch that the first rebuke in each phrase is for vegetarianism and the second is for homosexuality? I hope so...)

While I was tempted to react by either 1) challenging my portly cab driving friend to a race down the beach to see who was getting the right nutrients; or 2) to educate my hairy little friend about the structure of a protein and that it is made up of amino acids which are found in every food, thus allowing for many combinations of vegetarian foods to be complete proteins (i.e., whole wheat bread and peanut butter, brown rice and black beans, etc), or 3) giving him a list of vegetarian and vegan superathletes who do damn well (if not better) without meat.

But had I done any of those things, I would have lost the argument. Because really, one can never win an argument. Once you enter an argument, you have already lost because at that point each person is only trying to force the other to accept their truth. However, in a good debate, two people are trying to understand each other's truths.

Just yesterday I entered into a good debate. Fate, or the Facebook Gods, brought a friend's status message to my attention. While the topic itself isn't important, our status-comment-tango turned into a dance of Facebook messages where we tried to understand the other's point of view. Rather than trying to change each other's view, we just wanted to understand each other's perspective... thus, a good debate.

While I wonder if I could have beat Death Cab in a footrace down the beach, it wouldn't have changed his mind. Maybe one day he'll have a good debate of his own and can learn a thing or two about vegetarianism... but I won't hold my breath. I'm grateful for the two contrasting experiences though cause it taught me a thing or two about communication and that if I want to get my point across, I have to be open to points coming from the other direction. "Arguments are fueled by aggression; debates are fueled by expression."

*There is actually a third reaction that is perhaps more common than I give credit for: "Why?" but in the open-minded sense of the question, not the other way: "Why?!"

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Tarahumara: Head-to-(Running)-Toe Inspiration

When you run on the earth and run with the earth, you can run forever.
Tarahumara Indians

I used to love running. I ran almost every day between high school and England. While my distances varied, running was the one constant in my life that could slow my mind and tune me back into my own voice and my own rhythm. At Davis, I ran along the Country Road until I could pop onto dirt trails that helped me forget the collegiate surroundings. In San Ramon, I took to suburban trails that were only a mile away from the freeway but were miles of quiet serenity. I jogged in every place I traveled--London, Puriscal (Costa Rica), New Orleans, and Burgos (Spain). But something happened and I left my blue Adidas in the corner for a while. I started training using CrossFit Endurance last year and I forgot how to love running. Instead, it was a chore every day to run X amount of time or for this many intervals. I didn't have time to let my body fall into a rhythm and let the world melt away. Between the homesickness and the weight of assignment-running, I hit a funk and everything from my body to my social network suffered because of it.

A friend of mine lent me a book I have had on my to-read list for over a year now. Christopher McDougall wrote Born to Run, a book about amazing athletes, a tribe that loved running, and living life the natural way. If I manage to get past the first chapter of a book, it usually means I'm hooked and if I'm hooked, I'm usually pretty inspired by the time I put the book down. After reading about ultramarathoners, the benefits of vegetarianism, and the triumphs of average people who became ultimate athletes, "inspired" was an understatement. I've spent the last year and a half trying to maintain a workout routine with Clint. We routinely fall off the CrossFit bandwagon, the way Kirstie Alley falls off the resist-the-donut wagon or Whitney Houston's I-want-to-sing-again wagon. With the extra time I have while Clint is deployed, I have the ability to focus on setting a workout routine again (and subsequently, on myself again). And with the motivation that comes from knowing other vegetarians (and vegans!) have accomplished amazing things just with their two legs, I feel like maybe this ride on the CrossFit wagon might be more sustainable and permanent. I needed a little reminder that I used to live for the trails. I'm even excited to incorporate a few CFE workouts if they can boost my pace up (but this time, I'll know to incorporate them less often). Just in the past few weeks, I have felt happier about my progress and happier in general. I feel like I'm gaining a sense of my old self back, a part of me that loved to run and loved to live.

The Tarahumara are a tribe that love to run. But sometimes I wonder if running helps me to love.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Gratitude for Awareness

A person dies by suicide about every 15 minutes in the United States.
Every day, approximately 90 Americans take their own life.

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

I was checking out the PostSecret website and saw this:

Is it weird I'm grateful that "Please Don't Jump" Day is my birthday? Or maybe I'm just grateful there is a Please Don't Jump Day at all. I'm grateful for the people who increase awareness about depression and suicide and do their part to help others see that suicide is not the only option in life....

Inspirational Friends: Say it "Little and Loud"

A great leader's courage to fulfill his vision comes from passion, not position.
John Maxwell

Imagine a small place far away. It's a little place with beautiful flora and beautiful smiles. This beautiful place is on a small island and it's about to get a great big heart.

My friend Vivien is about to venture over to Fote, a small village in the Solomon Islands. She will spend a month immersed in the culture helping an NGO enrich this little community. Hearing, er I should say reading, about the journey she'll be embarking on reminds me that there are great people in this world who do care, who do want to end suffering, and who do have hope for a better future. For me, that inspiration is priceless and I am grateful. For the people she is about to help, that dedication is an improved livelihood.

Bon Voyage, Viv!
(For more on Little and Loud, the organization helping Fote: Little and Loud)

Friday, September 24, 2010

To nest or not to nest

I want to have children and I know my time is running out: I want to have them while my parents are still young enough to take care of them.
Rita Rudner

Babies are being born pretty much every week these days (at least, in our little community, it seems that way). And as Clint and I become more and more surrounded by these little human larvae, I find myself more and more invested in developing better habit patterns, sourcing healthier more natural food, and scoping out the latest baby and child trends. Clint and I realized a weird little habit we've both been developing lately, simultaneously and separately.... we've been nesting.

At least, I think we are. He confesses he's been checking out people's baby gear, asking himself which ones he would use and why. I watch people's parenting styles, wondering what I would employ and why. I've been trying to baby-proof our routine these days too... finding ways to make dinner and do school (which will one day be work) while wondering how a baby would schedule into our lives.

At the same time, I also find myself freakishly frustrated with the world. Do I want to nest in a society that communicates more by type than in person? Do I want a baby to grow up in a world that cares more about convenience than environmental preservation? Do I want to a kid in a world where Snooki gets more attention than the midterm elections?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Gratitude for the Earth: Harnessed Power!

Nature does nothing uselessly.

I used to hate cleaning the house when I was a kid. To be honest, I probably never cleaned the house as a kid. The smells from chemical cleaners made me nauseated and sick. But my mom was a junkie for a streak-free shiny home so she chemically pulverized whichever home we were living in at the time with an armory of Windex, Mr. Clean, Green-All, and Comet. I found any reason to leave the house and avoid inhaling the fumes for as long as possible.

It was the same story with classrooms. I could smell the Clorox bleached desktops and flooring every Monday morning. I got headaches and nausea. I was lucky though, and never developed asthma which is now on the rise, tripling in the last two decades. Literature attesting to the harmful effects, both on people, pets and the environment, because of chemical cleaners or other chemical solvents is on the rise. When I lived by myself, I was my only concern and I was able to clean (or for that matter, not clean) in the manner I wanted to. Now that I live with Clint and cleanliness concerns more than a one bedroom rental I had by myself, I have had to get creative with cleaning.

One word: Vinegar. I am amazed. What used to be an ingredient in my dumpling dipping sauce is now the main bacteria fighting agent in my household. Nature has provided a solution for everything!

What used to be needed:

Clorox bleach, fabric softeners, Windex, Comet, Ajax, Resolve, etc.

ALL that power is now harnassed in a simple solution of 1 part white vinegar and 1 part distilled (I use Brita filtered) water. It cleans EVERYTHING! I use a plain white cloth and this bottle of magic around the house to clean the windows for streak-free shininess, pet stains (it both lifts stains and neutralizes odor), and disinfecting hard surfaces (bathroom sinks -> kitchen counters). A tablespoon or two in your laundry makes for a fabulous fabric softener. I use baking soda and vinegar to unclog shower drains and I use a cup of vinegar in the toilet to clean the toilet (in a last ditch effort, I once left bleach in the toilet overnight... we came back and it didn't do anything. A week later, a lightbulb moment led to an idea to soak vinegar in the toilet and it worked!)

Ah vinegar... while cleaning the house now makes my mouth water because of the aromatic reminder of dim sum, the smell goes away in minutes and all that's left is a non-toxic clean home.

(Other non-toxic, cheap, genius ways of cleaning the home: baking soda. A non-toxic, fragrance free replacement for deodorant: baking soda and corn starch.)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Dear little shit: Looking forward to someday

What feeling is so nice as a child's hand in yours? So small, so soft and warm, like a kitten huddling in the shelter of your clasp.
Marjorie Holmes

The truth is I didn't want you. Well not you  per se, but children in general. To clarify further, when I was younger I didn't want children. Remind you, I'm the type that started planning my collegiate ambitions when I was 5 so to say that I was young when I started planning did actually mean a bit. As a child, I thought children were gross, babies grosser. Who wants to put up with exploding diapers, runny noses (I could barely tolerate my own runny nose), and the worst criminal act of children--spit up, yuck!

When I started coaching elementary kids in high school, I started to see more of their adorable side. OK, I thought, kids aren't that bad but babies are still gross. The kids were so eager to learn and were so able to learn! Fast forward a few years and there I am standing on a balcony overlooking the San Ramon hills with my pregnant friend Becky and her parasitic baby inside. I never questioned pregnancy before but now, standing there with my friend exhausted all day, everyday, with this life-form inside her getting first dibs at everything she ate, drank, and absorbed, I wondered why women put up with that! A few months later, little Callie was born. She was adorable. I visited the family in Bellevue and watched my friends converse with their little infant using baby sign. I watched her absorb all this information from the outside world: she mimicked her dad use the sign for "more", she watched her mom use a spoon, and best of all, she learned to throw that spoon like dice on a card table just like daddy.

Becky and Daryl were are amazing parents. I questioned my abilities to show a child the world and all the possibilities in the world without also screwing them up irrevocably and irreversibly. I didn't want to be the reason she was in therapy at 42 and blaming me for her neurotic tendencies that left her single and working for the man while struggling to find herself because her mommy made her nuts.

And then came marriage with the baby carriage. Not my baby carriage but 14 carriages, er strollers, filled with other peoples' toddlers. (Correction: I wasn't actually married when I started working at the base daycare. I was desperate for a visa so I wouldn't be deported.) I spent 30 hours a week caring for the angry, the sad, the pitiful, the merciless, and the needy two and three year olds of enlisted military and officers. I cried every other day to Clint. I cried on the inside every other minute. But after a few weeks, I really started to love the little brats. While the CDC managers themselves were insane, I still managed to learn a thing or two about children and utilized the knowledge I gained in a Developmental Psychology class at UC Davis (I should really send that professor a Thank You card). I started to figure out my own way of teaching kids, consoling them, and making them laugh. I was their mom between 6am and 1pm and after an hour of destressing, I would daydream about the mom I would be someday. I started adding names to my list, crossed names off. I saw what some parents did and how that affected their children which led to hours of discussion with Clint on what we would do and what we would not do with you.

Now I daydream about the day there's a little Olivia/Eleanor/Sophie/Peter/Aidan crawling around the floor and figuring out how legs work. While we're not ready yet, just know you were never an accident-we have been planning you for a long time. Know we want what is best for you-we're not trying to make life harder but hoping to make your future easier. Know we are here to answer your questions-and we hope you learn to question and not just memorize our answers. Know that no matter how much your organic bamboo diaper explodes, your nose oozes, and your cries keep us up at night we will always love you... and will get you back for it when you're older and have your own kids.

(Future thanks to the grandmas who will be helping us... xox. And a word of gratitude to the toddlers I got to experiment with.)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

No Impact Marge

In nature there are neither rewards nor punishments; there are consequences.

Robert Green Ingersoll

I once told Clint I wish I could be like Kendra Wilkinson and the Girls Next Door. We were watching an episode of the Girls planning a Midsummer's Night's Dream party at the mansion when I blurted out this guilty pleasure of a wish. While I was sure he wishes parts of me were like Kendra Wilkinson too, he gave me one of the biggest looks of disgust I had seen since I showed him the bunion on my right foot. But I had an explanation for him! I envied their ability to see the world and all the fun in it. I wished I could live a life where my conscience wasn't screaming at me every time I drove, turned on a switch, left a faucet on, or wasted a sheet of paper. I wish my perspective of life were as sequined and feathered as theirs but alas, it is not...

(People with environmentalist tendencies just don't seem to have as much flair as people with porn tendencies.)

I'm not sure if I'm an environmentalist or if I am just a concerned citizen. I have always had weird habits about waste and water usage. (My mom can attest to my hoarding of "garbage" but all those old notes and deconstructed school projects were reusable!) I had a fabulous fourth grade teacher who taught us the importance of environmental sustainability and preservation. Our assignments consistently revolved around the Brazilian rainforest or tropical animals. In college, an environmentalist friend taught me more about agriculture, animal industry, and how it only made sense to be a vegetarian. And my more recent studies of books and documentaries in past years have led to a more holistic understanding of the environment, how our actions impact the environment, and how the results of our impact affect people in other countries, particularly third-world countries.

I have now honed a decision-making thought-process that would blow Kendra's mind.

Take for instance, printing paper. I saw someone printing documents the other day and as soon as I heard the hum of the printer and saw the paper feed through, I was overwhelmed with visions of logging trucks, bare forest floors, paper processing plants, bleach-water running into streams and polluting the environment, large trucks spewing smoke into the sky while transporting reams of paper, until finally all that was there was a single sheet of fine white paper sitting in a printer tray.

It's the same thought process for everything... someone commented on their new iPhone4 and how they quickly replaced their old iPhone. That old iPhone had to be manufactured leading to fumes from melting plastic painted the sky, a trail of smog tracing its footsteps. That old iPhone was probably "e-recycled", which means it ended up in a heap of other old electrical waste in a Chinese village where e-recycling is outsourced and villagers are asked to remove any useable wiring and plating until they are consumed by lead and mercury. (See for yourself or read the article)

But no one wants to hear these things. No one wants to be inconvenienced this way. I would be such a funner friend if I thought like Kendra. But I just don't think that way and sometimes I wonder if I should. Life would be easier, maybe I would be happier, and my husband too.

There is a small percentage of people in this world trying to fix these issues. They have a long hard fight ahead of them. Meanwhile, the remaining 99.95% of the population in the developed world is happy with the way life is; their favorite fruits and vegetables are always available regardless of the season or terrain, iPhones magically disappear when discarded, and the only waste paper leaves behind is in their garbage can. While I know I am not part of the 99.95%, I am also not fighting enough to really be included with the dedicated .05%. But I am trying, regardless of the upstream battle (actually, I think many people I know are in this little huddle with me but for the sake of easy reading, I won't redo the math and recalculate the Kendras vs. Environmentalists).

I recently read a book called No Impact Man. My goal is to acheive a lifestyle where I can be Minimal Impact Marge. My fear though is that my efforts will fall on deaf ears with the society around me.... I was already mocked yesterday for wanting to save paper. (Why are people so mean?) So why is that .05% fighting so hard when 99.95% aren't even aware of the battle? What if the 99.95% don't even care if we win the battle? What will we be fighting to save then?

What if the world doesn't want to be saved? What if my lack of impact isn't on the environment, but on the people (Kendras) around me?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Conversations with my daughter: Say what you mean, mean what you say, but don't say things just to be mean

A foolish man tells a woman to stop talking, but a wise man tells her that her mouth is extremely beautiful when her lips are closed.

Dear Little Shit;

Emotions boil, anger bubbles, tensions mount... sometimes all you want to do is say the thing you know will bring the moment to a point and let all the frustrations come spilling out. Maybe I've grounded you for dying your hair, or maybe Dad prohibited you from dating the guy with the 'tude problem. Maybe the world just doesn't understand the emotional abyss that is "teenage angst".

It's ok.

It will all be okay. Just be careful how you handle it all. Hopefully Dad and I have taught you well and showed you how to cope with anger. But maybe we missed a step or maybe we just are not the strongest influence in your life. Regardless of what the situation is, if you love the person you're in this situation with then learn how much more beautiful a situation can end when you compose yourself with sealed lips. I don't mean to bite your tongue or to not express yourself. I do mean to keep your anger in check and not say anything you don't mean. Sometimes it's easier to just say the hurtful thing because you want the other person to feel as betrayed or jaded as you. All that does is set things back, not move things forward. Maybe you really want to say something mean to me, Dad, your best friend. But once you release words, you can never take them back.

As angry as you might be, regret is a worse feeling.

Try and try again: Inspiration!

Courage is the discovery that you may not win, and trying when you know you can lose.
Tom Krause

I've been completing avoiding my blog. I don't mean to be so incognito but one could say I'm busy playing with my awesome new toy (Nikon D90) or that I am busy preparing for trips and vacations (California in 10 days) or that I have just been uninspired in the writing department.

However, I have been inspired in life. While my writing neurons haven't been firing much, my creative juices have indeed been flowing and my zeal for all the things life has possible is at an upturn. I've started playing soccer with Clint (yay for him pushing me because even though I have the skills of a dead goat, I love trying while I'm out there)and I've been marinating a been more on my plans for the Red Cross. I've also been excited about all my plans for... well... life in general. I was in a bit of a rut for a while but now with wedding planning behind us, I have so much more time to focus on school, life, environmentalism, etc. I'm a junkie for environmental tips and green living, and I am addicted to documentaries about the planet, food, healthy living, sustainability and the like so I have been watching documentary after documentary. Poor CLint has to put up with the after-effects of this though (I cried after The Cove... I couldn't help it. So sad....) Now, my environmentalist, hippie-heart is ready to fire up a new way of life. Clint and I have been talking about starting a garden in our next home and maybe even getting a chicken or two. (I don't know if Gwen and Will will love that or hate it but we'll see). I'm also aiming for us to take a volunteer-vacation at least every other year. I'm aiming for Thailand and an eco-tour to save sea turtles as our next trip.

While we may not save the world, I'm hoping to at least make an impact on my world. I also hope these efforts and this inspiration translate into great material for the after-school project I'm working on. No, I'm not part of some after-school club... but I am trying to start one. (Thanks to Allysyn who pushed me to 1)join the Red Cross, and 2)nurture my need-to-help instincts and translate it into something for the base high school.)

We didn't get to start the garden at our current home the way I had hoped but I have been given the time to learn new things and get inspired and be prepared for the next location so that we can maximize all our efforts... Looking forward to trying. Even looking forward to failing if it means I get a lesson out of it and can try again.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Inspirational Teachers--it's amazing how they stick with you

No printed word, nor spoken plea can teach young minds what they should be. Not all the books on all the shelves – but what the teachers are themselves.
Rudyard Kipling

My French teacher in middle school was in her mid-twenties when she was my teacher. I was always amazed by her energy, which seemed boundless in relation to her frustrating, neo-teen students. She was an incredibly passionate person and her interests became more and more apparent in French class when her French lessons veered away from the language to the politics and culture of the third-world locations where the language was spoken. She taught mini-human rights lessons and enlightened us to the plight of NGOs in Haiti. She organized a fundraiser in our class to raise money for Heffer so that we could buy cows and goats for poor families in Haiti.

During my eighth grade year, she started a class called "Teens Around the World". You have no idea how much I regretted not taking this course. I wanted to focus on "real" classes, classes that prepared me for college. And then I figured, when I get to college I could take courses like Teens Around the World. That opportunity never came though and I think I missed out on a class that could have really helped me blossom into the person I am trying to be now.

Her class focused on teenagers around the world and their experiences, particularly in third-world and developing nations. She wanted to expose us to more than just Spice Girls and Melrose Place. Whenever I think about teaching or working in schools, I think about this class and how I wish every school had a course like this. Now, over 14 years after taking her courses, I am trying to implement something similar at the base high school. I'm amazed by how much her passion and interests have affected me now and I think and hope I am not the only one. She was an amazing teacher and I will always be grateful for my experiences in her classroom. I hope the ripple doesn't stop with me though... Here we go Lakenheath!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Little Things in Life: Leave it to Beaver and other great theme songs

Eddie Haskell: Gee, your kitchen always looks so clean.
June Cleaver: Why, thank you, Eddie.
Eddie Haskell: My mother says it looks as though you never do any work in here.
Leave it to Beaver

I've decided to start a new series in my blog about the little things in life that make it great. It will basically highlight actual things that make me happy...

I realized a few months ago that I get really bored with "domestic" duties. Laundry, cleaning, dishes... it all gets pretty tedious and repetitive, right? However, if you've got some music to rock on to, all those little domest-ickies become easier to do. I was walking to the store a few months ago, kinda zoned out, and started playing this little tune in my head. Didn't really pay much attention to it until I realized how much my mood was lifted. And then I recognized the tune! Oh gloriousness, the Leave it to Beaver theme song... Kinda dopey, but it freakishly works. I try not to admit it to too many people but I'm not ashamed... it's a happy little tune.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

My Yoda!

Feel the force!

More character building... is that Gwen?

Or Yoda that was?

Humor is the spice of life. I intend to be a spicy parent. Practicing now.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Wedding series: Breaking even Pays off

Reunion after long separation is even better than one's wedding night.
Chinese Proverb

I was searching for family reunion quotes to introduce my blog on my recent family reunion and I had to smile when I saw this quote on a website dedicated to family reunions since my family reunion happened to be at my wedding. I'm not sure which was more pleasurable(/awkward)--the family reunion after thirteen years or the wedding night watching Clint vomit in the sink while this massive moose head stared at me whilst cleaning tomato chunks out of the drain.

Anyways, to the discussion at hand! While Clint and I were tallying up the costs of our wedding a few months ago, I started to wonder if it was all worth it... all the stress over guest lists, lodging, planning. The average U.S. wedding costs $25,000. While we didn't quite hit the average cost, we went well over budget. I couldn't help but wonder, is this one day all worth it?

A few days after the wedding, Clint and I started reading all the cards. They were so filled with love. Amazingly, I managed not to cry during the wedding but when I read my sister's card, the tears were rollin'! She's the most inexpressive person in the family I think... in our family, that is a feat. We're not great with communicating our feelers. Her card was so sweet though. As I continued to read the cards and let her sentiments sink in, I became incredibly grateful for all the hard work we did the last year to make this one day happen. We had not seen my brother Andrew in over 13 years. The rest of us see each other once a year at most. To have a series of days together during which my brothers were helping my mom cook 10 pounds of chow mein and my sister was giggling in a photobooth made everything worth it.

This one day was more than sangria, calla lilies, and table arrangements. This day was an opportunity for my family to act like a family which hadn't happened in years. To have that again was priceless...

Andrew, Ben, Charles, Clint, me, Mama, Louise, Albert 05.29.10

Dear little shit: Don't judge me... or anyone.

Judgment is like elastic, it snaps back at you.

Dear Little Shit;

Try not to judge people, it's really not worth it. Take stock--your mother grew up judgemental, your father didn't. Check out who is smiling more in their childhood pictures.

Let me start over at a different angle. Love really is all that matters. Love, relationships, friendships... those are the things that will matter on your birthday, on your wedding day, when you're sick, when you're alone. Laughter lubricates love. Enjoy little moments, and if you can laugh at yourself, you'll find it easier to judge others less. Let me explain...

Your daddy grew up in a different place than your mommy. Your mommy grew up using food stamps and welfare. Your mommy grew up an "ethnic minority" as they say. Your mommy was also surrounded by other types of minorities. She became very self-conscious of her upbringing. But she made good grades and was praised for them; good grades mattered because good grades led to good jobs which led to financial security grandma couldn't provide for your mom and uncles. Financial security became an important goal. So your mommy learned happiness came from getting praised, and she got praise for doing things that other people weren't that good at. She liked the praise so she did more to stand out. She started to judge others to protect herself when she didn't feel good about life. But as she got older, she found out she wasn't that happy deep down.

Your daddy grew up with parents who were able to provide a more comfortable life for him. He grew up helping his friends and family do things on the ranch and in school. He grew up laughing a lot, even at himself. Grades were important but his family and friends helped him see how much more important the people he loved were. Daddy isn't a very judgmental person. Very few people are like daddy which is why he's so great.

Mom sometimes feels like she missed out on life because she was always criticizing herself to do better and this led to her criticizing others.She forgot to laugh at herself along the way (she still laughed at herself a lot, just ask Aunt Becky and Aunt Adrienne and all the dumb things mommy did in college). But she put a lot of pressure on herself and criticized herself. So then she criticized others because it made her feel better but only for a second. (It's like that adage... if you don't love yourself, you can't love others... or something.)

Grades are still important (very important) but at the end of the day, your report card, your work praise, your percentile improvements won't love you back. Grades don't give your life meaning, relationships do.

So be sure to treat your friends well. If you think you are better than them... then help them. If you think someone else isn't as good as you... remember, they might be better than you at something else. If you think someone else's ideas or values are wrong, tell them why you think so and ask them about theirs. Not everybody had the same chances you did in life so don't judge them for things they can't control. The joys of life will pass by while you criticize.

Be loving. Be open. Be trusting.

Mama Shit and Papa Shit.

Viv's going away; 2008 Bolinas, CA--the night Strom couldn't stop snoring, 
Adrian wanted to cuddle with the mattress, Rogers and Sunny became official, 
and Viv and I watched the seals while the sun rose.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Wedding series: Vows

Together we are better than the sum of our parts.
UPS man, seat 42B

I wanted to post our vows, so when I got sad or mad or just felt like having a pick-me-up, I could reread these, remind myself of what a gorgeous day that turned out to be and remind myself of the feelings I had when I wrote mine and when I heard his. Today, and everyday, I am thankful for these vows and the love that inspired them.

These were too beautiful to only have for one day....

Clint's vow:
I was told by a great friend, 'You know when you love someone fully when you have told them everything and your heart is laid bare.'

Since you appeared in my life, at an occasion similar to this, you have ignited my passion to live. Your beauty and intelligence invigorates my life. Your strength and passion lifts my spirit. You make me a better man.

All that you give for me, all that you do, I promise to do for you, I promise to share with you all that I am; to stand besides and support you while you achieve all your dreams. I promise true faith to you for all my life. As your friend, your confidante, your partner, I promise to
love you.

My vow:
Five years ago, I told myself I would never settle. Five years ago, I learned to have patience and faith in a love that was waiting for me somewhere. Five years ago, I was inspired by the best advice I had ever been given, and it was by a stranger on a plane. When I asked him, how do you know when it’s the right person? He said the most simplest and profound thing; He said, “When the two of you together are better than the sum of your parts, that’s when it’s right… that’s when you’ve found him”. It wouldn’t be for another two years that I would learn the depths of these words.

Clint, it is in you that I learned what love is, how to accept love wholly and to love unconditionally. You make me feel like the person I want to be; and you make me feel like I can be anything. I have loved you since I met you and I promise to love you forever. I promise to be there to console you in bad times and to rejoice with you and bring joy to your heart in the good times. I promise to laugh with you (and maybe at you) to keep our souls young; and to be by your side during the struggles as we grow old. I promise to walk by your side in the light, to lead you in the dark, and to have faith when I need your guidance. I promise to mirror your potential and to support your dreams. You have brought meaning to my life as you brought meaning to those words five years ago—together we are better than the sum of our parts. I promise to never forget that. I love you.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A true aviator

Accept that some days you are the pigeon and some days the statue.
Dilbert [Scott Adams]

They bobble their heads along busy streets like little businessmen as if they belong there and have somewhere to be. They pick scraps from the ground the way models would scrap for cookie crumbs. They make poop-piles that would put your husband's beer-shits to shame.

One day, I might miss many of the things this country has to offer. One of those things: the pigeon.

I'm a big fan of pigeons. I think their ability to adapt to city life makes them an evolutionary champion. And even though people despise them for carrying disease, I say, "Hey, so do children." So look beyond the fact they could be weapons of mini-destruction and see them for what they really are: fluffy, hard working, skilled birds. I envy them for their ability to survive in the city. But the British pigeon has enchanted me! Their larger, fluffier bodies make them look almost like the Goose's little sister. Their keen senses have allowed for these larger, fatter, fish 'n' chips pigeons to thrive in England. Watching their round, corpulent bodies try to land on branches and wires is like watching a baby hippo dance as the branch sinks and then rebounds (slightly) under their weight.
Their plumage is beautiful: softer and fluffier looking than their grungy San Francisco counterparts. And I miss listening to the pigeon couple that had nested atop our chimney stack. Their coos were lovely, the melody almost hypnotic.

And so, this entry is dedicated to the British Pigeon. Even on the dreariest of days, watching them land on a branch or try to fly really makes me smile.

(I tried to take a picture of one but I haven't been fast enough with my camera! So instead, here's a lovely article with an adorable picture: Pigeons with backpacks!)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Weird ads

I hopped onto my blog for a moment to make sure my most recent post looked okay and then saw the advertisement for a Meatloaf CD. What is it about my posts that conjure about the craziest ads from AdSense? Honestly, what is this about?

Looking towards the future

Enthusiasm is excitement with inspiration, motivation, and a pinch of creativity.
Bo Bennett

I've started my first week of classes for my Master's in Counseling Program and I must say, I'm a bit rusty at school. After looking over the course syllabi for my classes, I'm also a bit anxious about the finals which happen to coincide with my wedding--oh joy.

But I try not to get discouraged. I think about how great it will be when I've finally crossed that finish line and can enjoy a new chapter of my life as a guidance counselor. To help me stay focused, I think about inspirational people whom I look up to and hope to emulate one day... :)

Emma from Glee:

(Silly, I know but it works!)

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Green Machine!

We won't have a society if we destroy the environment.
Margaret Mead

I love finding new home remedies for things! They benefit me in many ways but the main two are they tend to be cheaper, they're typically eco-friendly, and they're typically not harmful like store-bought chemicals (which makes me feel better about using them around my family and pets). (They are also not filled with perfumes or toxins which can be hazardous and smelly--the smells give me headaches cause I'm allergic to fragrances.)

Since moving to England, I've discovered quite a few helpful home remedies. They range from home made facial masks to window cleansers. But today I wanted to focus on the home-cleaning remedies!

I am definitely a believer that today's traditional methods for cleaning the home (or anywhere really) can do more harm than good. A group called the Environmental Working Group is a non-profit that helps consumers make better safer choices in their homes and lives by promoting greener methods and exposing the potentially harmful tools you might have under your kitchen sink. (Did you know many cleaning products might promote or exacerbate your child's asthma? Or your own exzema?)
(They also do the same thing but with cosmetics and skincare products; you should hop onto their website and see how your sunscreen or foundation scores! http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/)
So a few tips and things I learned:

1) Dryer sheets often use tallow (animal fat) as an ingredient as well as many other chemicals that can irritate your respiratory tract! I switched to Method which offers Softener Infused Dryer Cloths that use softeners, anti-static agents and fragrance that are all plant-derived. Each sheet can also be reused once! So it reduces litter and adds more bang for your buck.

2) You can clean windows and mirrors with a simple solution of 1/4 Cup vinegar and 1 Quart water (I use filtered water to avoid hard water spots.) I also used this to wipe off the hard water and soap scum off the shower doors. I loved this solution because it was easy and didn't fill my house with the awful fumes other cleaners leave behind--my house smelled just a hint of vinegar which reminded me of pot stickers and dim sum-YUM.
If you notice this formula is leaving streaks, add 1/2 teaspoon of dish soap (I use Seventh Generation) and this will help cut through the residuals waxes left on from past window cleaners. (You can also use this for mopping!)

3) Use baking soda to clean your toilet... Pour some in and let it sit for a bit and scrub.

4) Use baking soda to deodorize your home! Pour some on the carpets before you vacuum, let sit for a while, and then vacuum it up.

5) Mouse problem? If you live in England you might have had a mouse problem... Mice hate the smell of peppermint so hang a few peppermint infused sachets around problem areas or plant peppermint around your house. They also don't like the smell of cedar. (Another solution? Get a cat... or just cat urine. The smell of that keeps them away but probably not an ideal solution.)

6) You can make your own Drano with baking soda and vinegar! Pour a cup of baking soda down the drain. Slowly follow that with a cup of vinegar. Let it fizz for a while then chase that with some hot water.

Happy cleaning!

Monday, March 29, 2010


When angry, count to four. When very angry, swear.
Mark Twain

Oh Mark, you silly bastard. A few years ago, I tried to quit swearing. In it's place I used quirky euphamisms. The euphamisms did two things for me: 1) they allowed me to express myself in a similar, passionate fashion without an expletive (helpful in the presence of a G-rated audience) which releases tension 2) calmed me down by the sheer silliness of my euphamisms.

Unfortunately, this didn't last, I swear up and down like it's my first language, so I'm not sure why but I'm going to try and bring it back with the help of some euphamisms!

Replacements for angry words (think of things you don't particularly like but are G-rated and persnaps amusing or just words that sound funny, like "amuse bouche"... I try to use the first G-rated phrase that come to mind in a mad-libs style.)
-Martha Focker
-Toe Jam!

Replacements for angry words directed at people (Things to say to people that you might actually mean but are less harsh than the typical cursings)
-Go suck a toe.
-I hope you get diarrhea on your next date.
-You're the moldy grape in the bunch.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The joys of "motherhood"

Motherhood is the strangest thing, it can be like being one's own Trojan horse.
Rebecca West

I plan on applying my cat-owning mothering style to my child-rearing mothering style.

Embarrassment builds character!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Keep moving forward

Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.
Herman Cain

Yesterday was my last day of work in the Camfed office. I walked in through the green side door of the building thinking about all the things I acocmplished in the last six months and wondered if I should be extremely proud of my accomplishments... or extremely humbled by where I came from and how much further I have to grow. While I've made a lot of friends and managed to get everything I wanted from my experience at Camfed, I still was not happy working there and I don't know why. It was an opportunity I had been wanting for years and when I finally had it, it was everything I expected and everything I didn't expect. I expected the work to be difficult, rewarding and extremely challenging which it was and I loved that. But it wasn't satisfying and it wasn't enough for me, which I did not expect.

So it was a bittersweet day yesterday in the office. I poked fun at Moin's clothes and Dan's abilities for the last time. But it also felt good to be embarking towards the next step in my life... a Master's degree. While my expectations are lowered and my concerns are at the forefront of my mind, I am a bit relieved to be moving on and excited to see if this is a step towards the right direction.

I finally met Ann Cotton. I was able to affect girls' lives in Africa. I rose to a challenge daily. I couldn't have asked for a better experience.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Dream a little dream...

To dream anything that you want to dream. That's the beauty of the human mind. To do anything that you want to do. That is the strength of the human will. To trust yourself to test your limits. That is the courage to succeed.
Bernard Edmonds

One of my friends just did something really brave... she followed a dream. She followed a big dream. I love feeling a courage in a friend's heart and seeing a person who refuses to settle in life. These friends of mine are my inspirations and I hope this blog entry does her justice. Good luck Helen!

An interview about dreams and happiness:

1) What did you want to be when you were a kid?
Actually, I didn’t really know what I wanted to be. I just knew where I wanted to be. Growing up, my parents brought us around the Embarcadero everyday to “play”. Surrounded by buildings as tall as the sky, we would run up and down the streets around Embarcadero 1, 2, and 3. What can I say, we grew up on the streets of SF. Since my earliest memories, I had always admired the offices in the Financial District. I knew one day, I would work on the 20th-something floor, in an office of my own, with floor to ceiling windows. I would walk into work wearing a power suit and holding a power brief case. HAHA.

2) What do you want to be now? How are you following you dream?
Now, I want to be a fashion designer. I want to work for a designer label and design for a brand that exemplifies who I am.
In order to follow my dream, I gave up my silver-platter life in San Francisco and moved across the states for an internship at Betsey Johnson. I have never done anything of this sort and couldn’t be happier to have made this move.

3) What made you decide to do that?
I always knew I wanted to live in New York. It has always been on my life list of things to do. But I never would’ve given up my life in San Francisco for just any opportunity to be out there. A month before my 27th birthday, I wrote down what I wanted in life. What would make me happy? And I realized that although I wanted to move to New York, I needed a great big push. So I applied for an internship to work for a company that I followed in style, statement, and passion. When I got the internship, I made the decision to move out to New York.

4) What challenges do you think you'll face by pursuing this dream?
Hmm, challenges -- for one, I’ve never really lived on my own before. I was born and raised in SF and have always had a strong network whenever I made any life choices. Even when I left for college, a handful of good friends from high school joined me at UCDavis.
The biggest challenge I see is letting go of my security blanket, my safety net, and building my New York network from scratch. It’s a weird thing to not have the people you depend on be there for you when you go through life's ups and downs. Even though all my bests are a phone call away, I don’t have anyone right now to explore New York with. No one’s here to experience the every day and I have to remember that.
...How do you plan to overcome them?
I plan to put myself out there and build a strong network in New York. It’s going to be hard to overcome the urge to find a rock and hid but it’s something I’m pushing myself to do. Good thing I have never been one to shy away from obstacles. I hope to make a few good friends within these next couple of months.

5) What is it about this dream that makes you happy?
I’m happy with the fact that I’m doing this. That I took myself out of my comfort zone and “left the nest”. If all I have are these next 3 months in New York, I would be content with how far I’ve grown. At least I pushed myself out the door and tried something new. At least I answered my “what-ifs” and squished my curiosity of the unknown. But let me state, I will be happier if I was offered a full-time, well paid, salaried, position at Betsey Johnson. I want to stay in New York after the internship but I would only stay if I was offered a golden opportunity.

6) What 3 things would you take with you to a deserted island?
Never really thought about this.
1) A plastic bucket to build sand cities (entertainment)
2) A hammock
3) A friend

7) What makes you happy on a daily basis?
Simple acts of kindness. Honestly, I smile when I see strangers helping each other out when they least expected it. The little things really mean a lot and it’s nice to know that people still care about each other in a world full of individuals. I love this commercial from Liberty Mutual “http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wMwoexR1evo”

8) You're going to be all alone for 5 days--how do you entertain yourself (be g-rated)?
These couple of days has taught me that I need to be on the move. Venturing out and seeing things keep me sane. I like to work. I like to keep moving. And now that I’m in New York alone, to keep me occupied, I’ve been exploring the city and trying new things. I have to say, it’s not as scary as I thought.

9) Have you ever had the 'blues'? What'd you do?
Yes, I’ve had the “blues”. Though I’m naturally bubbly and find joy in the things I do, I have experienced a few “funks” in my life. The key for me is to keep going; to keep moving. You can’t let yourself think about the “what-ifs” and the “should’ves, could’ves, would’ves”, you just have to accept the situation and move on. I know it’s hard at times, but I find that that’s the only way to get over the blues.

10) What is something you are grateful for that you can always count on to make you happy?
JP, my boyfriend. I’ve never liked the notion that your boyfriend/husband/significant other completes you. I think the idea of it is wrong, that you should be whole with your own self. But JP makes me happy. I am grateful to have someone who understands me as much as he does. To support me as I travel 2,600 miles away for something as crazy as a childhood dream. To have a long distance relationship go on without an end date in sight. A lot of people would not stand for it. I’m not sure if he knows it but I rely on him when I can’t find happiness in my life.

I'm pretty lucky to have such inspirational friends. I must also pay tribute to my friend Sara who crossed an ocean to go to school so she could pursue a degree in contour fashion. My friend Manda, despite her fears, is having her first baby. Teresa who after some agonizing months of decision-making decided to bank on love and moved to New York as well. And my friend Strom who is taking great risks with his band and pursuing his love of music.

Dear little shit: conversations with my daughter

Children are like wet cement. Whatever falls on them makes an impression.
Dr. Haim Ginott

After working at the CDC and after teaching 3rd graders "literacy" as well as a few other things (like gangs are bad), the idea of parenting and the importance of being a role model burrowed into my mind and took shelter there far away from the potential terrible parents in the world. Children are so observant of things we would never realize because we're not as impressionable as they are... adults are more fully formed. Like wet cement, we have been exposed and solidified into the forms that our environments have created for us. (We can try as much as we can to recreate ourselves in ways but unless we go beyond our existing boundaries to find new experiences and new meanings, most of who we are is dictated by the life and surroundings we choose for ourselves). Children are like that wet cement; every groove on the bottom of your soles can make an impact on who they will become. Maybe hard grooves can be smoothed over if they're taught the proper ways to cope with them and they can learn to smooth out those rough surfaces; or maybe they will carry with them ingrained patterns and rougher textures for the rest of their lives.

One generation of adults helps to form the next generation of adults. We have to focus on who we are and then think about the type of people we want that next generation to be. Who they become will be a reflection of who we are now.

I have definitely developed patterns I learned from my parents. And I missed out on some of the tools in life that could have really helped me along the way cause I wasn't exposed to them. Little moments will happen in my life--say an argument with a friend, a dispute with a neighbor or stranger, a disagreement with Clint--and I wonder how my kids would be influenced if they were here to witness these. So I have been focusing a lot on how I want to settle disputes and how to be fair. I've been thinking about how I can better cope with problems so my kids will have great coping strategies. You can tell them all you want how they should be but they're like monkeys--they will learn to live their lives based on how you lives yours. So don't fuck up.

I've started to think about the types of conversations I want to have with my daughter...

(-or son. 'daughter' just sounds catchier. And no, I'm not pregnant.)

...as well as focus on how I can internalize these conversations now so maybe I'll never even need these conversations; she or he will learn these from the actions Clint and I take in life.
I've decided some of my blogs will be focused on these future conversations. And one of the things I want to work on I discussed in an earlier blog: 'Be fair-judge less'.

So... here goes.

Dear little shit;

I grew up watching a lot of my friends judge people based on his or her differences. It felt wrong but I went along with it sometimes. But I hope you will grow up understanding that people are just shells. Our skin, our freckles, our moles, our hair color... these are all things people cannot control about themselves and shouldn't be ostracized for. We're all just shells; the things we put on our shells and the ideas we fill our shells with are all different though and we can learn from these differences.

I'm working on being more fair, looking past preconceived notions and prejudices and understanding what makes each person different--and then being sympathetic to those differences. It's a step above the basics of avoiding judgment based on our shells but any higher level of tolerance I can achieve, the better. Hopefully this will rub off on you as you grow up, meet new (strange) people, and experience (odd, eccentric, fantastic) scenarios in life.

I think one of the reasons this particular lesson affects me is because since moving to England I've faced more racism than anywhere else in this timespan. (OK Spain was rather racist but in an almost endearing way; they called us "La Chinetas". No one was mean or cruel, we just happened to be a little more exotic than what the townspeople of Burgos were used to.) It would be really easy for me to turn this around and say something about England or the British... but that wouldn't be fair. And it wouldn't change the cycle of racism but instead perhaps perpetuate it. Being with Clint (if you noticed, your dad is white) I wonder what kinds of intolerance our kids will face since they will be mutts. It's hard enough being a pure-bred but will mutts have it more or less difficult?

If we can instill in you a habit of tolerance early, I think many other doors will open easily for him or her. You'll learn more about different cultures and different schools of thought. You'll have a positive outlook on the world. You'll learn to accept people of all different backgrounds and expand her understanding of the world! Hmm, maybe I'm getting ahead of myself... and ahead of our future child. But I have hig hopes and big dreams and I hope you're ready for them all!

(Again, no I'm not pregnant.)