Stories of Twenty-Fifteen - Week 25

Here’s this week’s story:

Title: Pismo Beach
The day I got back from New York City, the boys started their Spring Vacation. Even though I’d already taken too many trips away from home, I knew they’d like to spend some time relaxing and enjoying California sunshine.

I wanted to go somewhere far enough to have Southern California weather but still within a reasonable drive. So we decided to go to Pismo Beach. (Well, I called hotels in Cayucos, Morro Bay, Carmel, but all of them were booked except for Pismo.)

It was a little over three hours to drive down there and we left first thing on Sunday morning, so we got there about midday. Our room wasn’t ready yet so we decided to drive to San Luis Obispo and have some lunch instead. We went to the famous Firestone Grill and had some hotdogs and burgers. Walked around a bit and then went back to the hotel to check in.

Our hotel was right over the beach and we could watch the sun set from our patio. We spent the next four days playing on the beach, swimming in the pool, sitting in the hot tub, making sand castles, flying kites, eating candy and reading. The boys also played video games, football and other sports with Daddy.

On Tuesday, it rained, so we decided to go see a movie. At home was playing and we’d been looking forward to seeing it. It turned out to be a wonderful movie. We also spent some time at the bookstore and managed to avoid all the rain. We spent a lot of time walking around and enjoying each other’s company.

I came back home to a lot of work and felt very very tired on Thursday. But, even though the weather was colder than I’d hoped and my back hurt a lot more than I’d like, it was still really wonderful to get away for a few days. I managed to read a few books, get a lot of sleep, and soak in the sunshine.

Nothing like spending some family time together. Nothing like spending time away from our typical routine. Nothing like laughing together. Discovering new things, like the blood worms we found on the sand. Nothing like enjoying my incredible family.

Stories of Twenty Fifteen is a project for 2015. You can read more about it here.

Stories of Twenty-Fifteen – Week 24

Here’s this week’s story:

Title: Six Hours in New York City
While I was in Zurich, Marcus told me that he was visiting New York City in just a few weeks and it might be nice if I joined them as well. I hadn’t planned on traveling so soon after I got back from Switzerland but I also didn’t want to miss the opportunity to see the engineers since they were coming all the way to the United States.

Marcus and I went back and forth several times on which days might be the best for me to be there. After several discussions, it became clear that Friday was going to be the ideal day when I could have meetings with the people I needed to see.

I considered getting there on Thursday and spending the night in the city but I really didn’t want to fly all day, get there late in the afternoon, and then get up and go to work the next day. I figured instead of wasting an entire day on the plane, I could take the red eye on Thursday night, go right to work after the plane lands, sit through all my meetings and then take the evening flight back to San Francisco.

This way, I’d only be away from the kids one night and one day. I’d still make it to all my meetings, and even get to spend extra time with Marcus on the way back to Newark. I knew traveling 12 hours to be there for nine seemed a bit crazy but it felt like the best option, to me. I was worried that I wouldn’t get to sleep on the plane and would have an awful day, but I decided to take the risk anyway.

As it turned out, everything went just fine. I didn’t get to sleep on the plane but I got in to work early, took a shower and had breakfast before I met up with Marcus. I was awake and present for all the meetings, I had lunch with one of the engineers I hadn’t spent enough time with up until then, I met a lot of people in the New York office, and I got to chat with Marcus for a long time on the way to our planes.

All in all, it was a very worthwhile trip and it wasn’t nearly as bad as I had made it in my mind. I goy home at11pm on Friday so I went right to bed and had no problem recovering from the slightly insane schedule the day before.

Lesson learned: it’s ok to do crazy things every now and then.

Stories of Twenty Fifteen is a project for 2015. You can read more about it here.

Stories of Twenty-Fifteen - Week 23

Here’s this week’s story:

Title: Pinkeye
When I got back from Zurich, the boys were very happy to see me but they also looked like they’d had a wonderful time with Daddy. They’d played games, eaten cookies and ice cream, spent a lot of time running around at school and playing with their friends. I felt grateful that they have such a wonderful Dad.

The next day, however, I noticed Nathaniel kept scratching his eye. At first I thought he was having an allergic reaction to being outside. He was sneezing and had a runny nose so it didn’t seem impossible that he was allergic to something. And maybe the jet lag got in the way of my thinking clearly because I didn’t think too much of it.

That night he was even more agitated but because I’d already fallen asleep, I didn’t know about it until the next morning. By the time he woke up, both his eyes were completely red and swollen. It didn’t even take me a second to diagnose him.

He had pinkeye.

So off to the emergency room we went. It was Sunday morning, of course, as these things only seem to happen on Sundays to us. We were lucky enough to get an appointment at the Medical Center so we didn’t have to go to Stanford’s Emergency Room which is always a long wait and makes me really sad.

The doctor confirmed he had pinkeye and gave him drops for the next eight days. She did, however, say he’d be able to go to school on Monday since he’s have had the drops for 24 hours by then. This was a huge relief because I was scheduled to go to work the next day.

Even though the pinkeye continued for the next few days before the symptoms subsided, the little boy took it all in stride. As he does with almost everything. I am so grateful that he’s always in such good spirits and doesn’t get fazed. I’m also grateful that it was just pinkeye and nothing more serious.

I love you, little boy, hope you get better fast.

Stories of Twenty Fifteen is a project for 2015. You can read more about it here.

Stories of Twenty-Fifteen – Week 22

Here’s this week’s story:

Title: Directions Spring Pow Wow
When I went to Switzerland back in December, the team told me about a quarterly powow that would likely happen in January. I told them that I didn’t think I could be back for January but I would make sure to attend the next one.

Well, the next one was in March. As it worked out, it was a relatively uneventful week at home so I didn’t feet horribly guilty leaving the kids. I was still not really looking forward to the long trip, to leaving the kids, and to multi-day-long meetings.

The first day I got there was late in the afternoon. I went into work and chatted with some of the engineers and I was already happy to be there. The second day, however, was extremely long and full of a lot of information. By the time I went to bed, my head was spinning and I was ready to get some rest, especially since I’d woken up at 2am that day, thanks to jet lag.

The next morning, I felt alone and homesick. This always seems to happen on day two. I feel the most disconnected and alone on that day. But by the end of the same day, I was completely happy to have made the trip. I had had a lot of meetings, connected with many of the people I work with but don’t get to see in person. We also went out to dinner as a whole team on Wednesday night which was quite nice.

On Thursday, I was even happier that I’d come. I spent even more time talking to my team members, to other, wider team. Generally by this day, we’ve done all the must-do work and it’s more casual, deeper conversations. The ones that really make me feel a stronger sense of connection and belonging. We then went out to dinner on Thursday night, just our team. It was a wonderful day and night. The perfect way to end the trip. It made me feel grateful to have made the effort.

I know that there will be one of these every quarter and maybe I can’t attend all of them but I wanted to write down this story so that I can remember how wonderful it is to take this time and connect with the team in person. I know it’s no fun leaving my kids, but I also know that being happier at work is strongly correlated to feeling a deep sense of belonging. So it’s worthwhile to take the time to go.

Stories of Twenty Fifteen is a project for 2015. You can read more about it here.

Stories of Twenty-Fifteen - Week 21

Here’s this week’s story:

Title: Planting Vegetables
Last year when Jake’s mom was visiting, I asked her if she’s be willing to put some vegetable beds in the backyard. I wasn’t sure if anything can grow in our yard considering how little sun we get and I also didn’t want to ruin any of the grass. But I still loved the idea of the boys spending time nurturing and eating food we grew ourselves.

My mother in law not only rose to the challenge but was thrilled to tackle this project with the boys. So when they came to visit us in March, while Jake and I took our trip to Cayucos, they began their project of creating some planters in the backyard. The boys and she discussed the items at length and ended up with lettuce, peas, radishes, carrots, micro greens, tomatoes pole beans, and bush beans. A nice, wide range of wonderful vegetables.

They bought the beds, the soil, the seeds and spent their weekend putting the whole thing together. And the boys are now tasked with watering the plants every day. They take so much pride in telling me what they chose and how to water everything just the right amount.

I know that for most serious gardeners, this is a tiny step that might not even be worth mentioning, but, for us, this is exactly the right size for a project. We are not usually great at growing things and I love that it’s a small step we can take to try doing something new. It’s manageable by the children so they can fully own the process and take pleasure and pride in the outcome.

Some of the plants have already begun sprouting and it’s so wonderful to watch the kids’ delight in seeing their work come to fruition. It’s so magical to see food growing in our yard. It gives me incredible joy.

Thank you so much, Marilyn, for making my dream come true. For doing it in such a simple, elegant, and kid-centered way. We are all so very lucky to have you and we are so grateful for this lovely new project. It’s the gift that keeps giving again and again. We love you so very much!!

Stories of Twenty Fifteen is a project for 2015. You can read more about it here.

Stories of Twenty-Fifteen - Week 20

Here’s this week’s story :

Title: Losing His First Tooth
The boys went to the dentist with their dad last week. It was supposed to be a regular cleaning appointment but as it turned out, Nathaniel needed a follow up so they could pull one of his bottom teeth. Poor little boy.

So today was the day they went back to the dentist and the little boy lost his first tooth. It ended up that it was a really good decision to pull his tooth because its root was so big that the new tooth coming below it would never been able to push it out. He was brave and didn’t make a fuss about any of it (he never does!)

I can’t believe this little boy is already old enough to be losing teeth already. He was supposed to be our baby and now he’s becoming a big boy, too. No more babies in this house.

This little tooth, even though it didn’t fall of it’s own accord, is just the beginning of many milestones he will have on his way to becoming a big boy. I look at this cute face and wish I could hold on to these years just a little bit longer. I wish we could cuddle a bit tighter and laugh and giggle and snuggle together.

One of my focuses this year has been spending more time together. Savoring these precious moments. Letting Nathaniel run around the playground a little longer. Encouraging his silliness. Laughing at his shenanigans. Remembering that these moments will slip away before I know it.

Next thing I know, this little boy will be a teenager. He will be a college boy. He will be married and then a father himself. I deeply hope all these things happen for him. I hope he walks through life’s journey as smoothly and joyfully as possible.

But I also don’t want to rush these days. I want to remember every one of his hugs. Each of his smiles. The way his cuddles feel. His soft hands. His sweet smiles. His shining eyes. His bouncy step.

Most of all, I want to remember his magic. I love you madly, Nathaniel.

Stories of Twenty Fifteen is a project for 2015. You can read more about it here.

Stories of Twenty-Fifteen - Week 19

Here’s this week’s story :

Title: Just the Two of us at Cayucos
One of my goals this year was to take more adventures. Be bolder. Take more chances. One of the items on my list was to take a trip with Jake without the kids. This is something we talked about several times but never did and I had decided 2015 would be the year we’d change that.

I emailed my mother-in-law and tried to see if they’d be willing to fly over here for a weekend so Jake and I could go away. She graciously said yes right away. And this was the weekend. They came on Thursday night and spent Friday and Saturday in our house so we could go away.

We had a lot of of conversations about where to go. We started with exciting locations like Paris and South America and then moved to more adventurous places like Alaska to see the Northern Lights. And then we scaled down to Phoenix but finally landed on Central Coast. It might sound lame to start with Paris and end with Cayucos, but it actually gave me so much relief to know we were going to be only a few hours away without a plane flight, somewhere sweet and calming and right by the water.

And it was the perfect place to go.

Our little hotel was literally on top of the beach. We didn’t even have to walk two steps to have our feet in the sand. We slept and woke up to the sounds of the crashing waves and saw a magnificent sunset while hanging out with the birds on the beach.

It really was perfect.

We walked around town, we drove to San Luis Obispo, we went to the Montana de Oro park. We relaxed. We talked. We drove up PCH all the way home and stopped in San Simeon to see the seals and in Big Sur to eat a bite at the lovely Nepenthe. It was all breathtakingly beautiful.

And the kids? They had a blast with their grandparents and didn’t miss us much at all. Here’s to the beginning of many more adventures!

Stories of Twenty Fifteen is a project for 2015. You can read more about it here.

Stories of Twenty-Fifteen - Week 18

Here’s this week’s story (sorry for the blurs i didn’t want to put the other kids on the internet without permission):

Title: The Last Basketball Game of the Season
Today was David’s last basketball class for the season. This is his second year playing and he has improved so much over time. Yes, he’s still a long way from some of the superstar players on his team but he’s a lot more comfortable on the court and he’s participating very actively in the games. More importantly, he’s part of this wonderful group of very supportive players.

David’s team won all but four games this season including this very last game. David gave his best this game and so did all the other boys. It was really wonderful to see that both of the fourth grade teachers also made it to the game so they could cheer their students on.

I grew up doing no sports whatsoever so, to me, all of this is very new and I find the whole process foreign. Even though David’s inclination, like me, is to stay home and read and stay away from sports, I wanted to make sure he had experience being part of a team, and playing games that might not come easily to him.

The way basketball is offered in his school is the very best possible introduction to sports, in my opinion. Almost everyone in the class participates so the amount of experience and ability is a wide range. Competition is there but is not core to the experience and all the kids know this and they cheer each other on and encourage each other to be their best selves. When one makes a mistake, all the others are there to comfort him and tell him it’s no big deal and when one does exceptionally well, they pat him in the back and congratulate him heartily. It’s really rewarding to watch how kind they are to each other.

We have one more year of this before it’s time for middle school and who knows what the dynamic will be there, but in the meantime, I am grateful that David is willing to give this a try even though I know it’s not easy for him. I am grateful to the school for offering such a safe environment for the kids. And I am grateful to these kids who go out of their way to encourage each other.

Congratulations, my sweet boy. Here’s to another wonderful year in fifth grade.

Stories of Twenty Fifteen is a project for 2015. You can read more about it here.

Stories of Twenty-Fifteen – Week 17

Here’s this week’s story:

Title: Early Morning at Cafe Borrone
Saturday morning I found myself awake at 5:46am. As I was lying in bed, trying to decide whether I should go back to sleep or get up, I heard Nathaniel go to the bathroom. Since Jake looked like he was going to stay asleep, I decided to sneak out of bed and go downstairs to meet Nathaniel and ask him if he’d like to go to Cafe Borrone together. He said, “Yes!”

We looked up the Cafe’s hours and found out that even though they don’t open until seven am, they serve coffee starting at six. So we grabbed our books, got dressed and drove to Borrone. There were no other customers, so we had our pick of tables. I got some coffee and Nathaniel got some ice water and we sat inside by the windows.

We spent the next hour working on different problems in Nathaniel’s second grade workbook. We did some science and then we learned about telling time. We even played math bingo. By this point, it was past seven, so we got up and ordered a strawberry tart for Nathaniel (his favorite) and a warm croissant for me (my favorite). I tried to get some photos of him working but Nathaniel, being his sweet, silly self, made funny faces, laughed, and then laughed some more, so all my photos are blurry and silly. But I love them.

I love them because they were the perfect ending to the perfect morning. They are such an excellent reminder of Nathaniel’s sweet, kind, and silly disposition. All in all, we were there for a little over an hour. It was the very best way to start my morning. We got a little work done, we ate some tasty food, we laughed, we hugged and we spent time just the two of us. And I will likely cherish this ordinary Cafe Borrone morning for weeks and weeks to come.

Yet another example that ordinary moments are what make life so extraordinary. That these are the moments I live for and strive for every day in my life. This is what I want more of in my life: little moments of connection. Small ways to carve time to spend with the people I love so very very much. I am so glad I chose to get out of bed.

Thank you, my sweet boy, for bringing so much light into my life.

Stories of Twenty Fifteen is a project for 2015. You can read more about it here.

Stories of Twenty-Fifteen – Week 16

Here’s this week’s story:

Title: My New Planner
I blame Christy Tomlinson. Or maybe I should blame Stephanie Howell because Christy wasn’t even in my Instagram but Stephanie was and she posted a photo of some beautiful planners Christy was giving away. Then I added her account to my feed and, within a half hour, I was shopping for my own planner. I haven’t even owned a planner since 1990s and I have no idea why I suddenly had the unstoppable urge to own one.

After pondering it pretty much full-time for two days, I decided to bite the bullet and get one. The gold one was on sale for 50% off so I decided it would be a good first test to see if the planner thing would actually work. I bought the planner and even though I knew it wouldn’t arrive for at least a week, considering it was coming from Australia, I started stalking the mailman.

I spent my waiting days buying smaller but fun planner goodies, some a4 paper, and thinking about all the inserts I want to have. I designed five different kinds of inserts. Each day, my anticipation grew and grew and the planner could not get here fast enough.

Finally, this Friday, the mailman showed up with the planner in his arms. I almost kissed him. It was as beautiful in person and I’d anticipated. I spent most of my day making the inserts, the dividers, filling the pockets and making a fun but personal dashboard to remind me of what I want this year to be about.

I’ve only had it for a day and a half, so it’s too soon to tell whether this solution will work for me long term. The planner is definitely thicker and heavier than the Moleskine I was using before so we’ll see if it’s sustainable but, for now, I am enjoying it. Even though I probably didn’t need another obsession in my life.

All joking aside, it has been really fun dreaming up different ways in which I can organize and track my life. The colorful pages of my planner make me happy and give me hope that it might be able to help me get my life back on track.

Here’s to hoping it’s not just pretty but also effective.

Stories of Twenty Fifteen is a project for 2015. You can read more about it here.

It's time to Learn to Love Travel Again

Here’s a page I made for My Mind’s Eye for April.

And here’s the full journaling:
I’ve now worked at Google for almost nine years. In those nine years, the only travel I’ve done was a short trip to NYC over eight years ago. In the Chrome team, there wasn’t a lot of reason to travel so it didn’t even cross my mind. However, since I took the Transit team job, I knew travel would be a part of my new position. Even though I was nervous about how it would work out, I was prepared to take the chance in order to get to experience working for a different team.

Since taking the job, not even six months ago, I’ve already flown to Zurich twice and NYC once. And there’s probably at least one trip to Seattle and another one to Zurich on the agenda before this year is out. That’s five trips in a year, three of which are international. Insane compared to my one in the last eight years.

I remember packing for my first trip to Switzerland in December. I was so worried about everything. I had no idea if I would find my way to the hotel (I did.) or from the hotel to work (I could see the work building from my hotel.) I wasn’t sure if the team would be nice (They were.) or if I would get along with them. (Yes, I would.) I had no idea what to pack. (I packed too warmly. It’s way too hot in the office.) And most of all, I wasn’t sure if it would be worth the trip. (It so was!)

Those were just my worries about work. I also had a collection of concerns about back home. I had no idea if Jake would be able to handle the kids for the whole week I would be gone. (He so could!!) I had never left them for more than a day.

I was very anxious. I dreaded leaving. I whined and whined until the moment I got on the plane. But, of course, once I landed, I was completely focused on work. I did spend time chatting briefly with the kids each day but, for the most part, I wasn’t anxious at all once I was there. I went to meetings, I talked to my team mates, and I worked hard to not let jet lag get to me.

Each of the three trips came with dread but each of them was also incredibly useful, productive and completely worthwhile. I came back from each trip with a long list of work that excites me, tighter connections with my team members, and inspired to get to work.

I will admit that I still am not a fan of the time spent on airplanes and I would much rather be with my kids and sleep in my bed. But if a few weeks of traveling means I can continue to work from home, I think it’s a great deal. Even if I am out of town three weeks of the year, it still means I get to spend the other 49 weeks, at home, able to drop off and pick up my kids from school. I think that alone is worth all the travel I’ve been doing.

I know that, like most things, over time, I will find a way to make this whole experience more smooth. I will worry less. Who knows, I might even start looking forward to these trips one day. Okay, maybe that’s a stretch for now, but, at least, I get to bring back lots of delicious Swiss chocolate. Can’t beat that!

Stories of Twenty-Fifteen – Week 15

Here’s this week’s story:

Title: A Day in Santa Cruz
During the ski week that the kids get off, we were supposed to go to Los Angeles. Before I decided to book David’s surprise trip, this was planned to be how we celebrated his birthday. We hadn’t booked a hotel or made any specific plans but it was our intention to spend the early part of the week in LA.

After we got back from the Orlando trip, I was very tired and overwhelmed and wasn’t sure if I really could deal with going away again in less than a week. I though about it some and stressed about it some and then finally had a talk with Jake. I asked him if we could do something a lot more low key. I really didn’t want to sit in the car for six hours. I really didn’t want to do anything taxing at all. I asked if we could do day trips instead. Maybe a day in Santa Cruz, a day in the city, and another day filled with something local but fun. He said okay.

So Monday morning, we woke up and got on our way to Santa Cruz. It was early enough that the boardwalk wasn’t open yet so we went bowling instead. I did abysmally bad but the boys did well. Then we went to the arcade and played games for a while. I walked around with Nathaniel and Jake spent time with David so they could play the more mature games.

After a while, we took a break and walked on the boardwalk, got some food and ice cream and decided it would be fun to play mini golf. The place in the boardwalk is really nice and even had a section that has a lot of fluorescent paint and some black light. We didn’t keep score but I am pretty sure Daddy would have won.

We then went back to video games and played a whole bunch more. The kids were watching this couple play for a while and on their way out, they gave us all their tickets, which was awesome!! By the end of our time, we had enough points to buy two light sabers, a huge pen, a few stickers, and a little ring. Pretty great.

We walked the pier to see the seals and then got a slice of pizza before heading home. It was a really lovely day full of much joy, adventure, and family time. We all decided that we need to go to Santa Cruz a lot more often.

Stories of Twenty Fifteen is a project for 2015. You can read more about it here.