31 More Things – 26 – Move

These are from Ali’s 31 More Things class. More context here.

So here’s my day twenty-six – move.

(journaling below)

Exercise, food, and I have a complicated relationship. I grew up without the discipline of exercise. I swam, played tennis, and skied as a kid, but I wasn’t really good at any of it. I’d say just above or just below mediocre. I never played any sports at school.

I tried to pick up the practice of moving more after I moved to the United States. I did some years of step aerobics, some kickboxing, some yoga, and some pilates. I even used the treadmill every single day for almost five years.

But none of it stuck.

It never sticks. I never feel the endorphin high others talk about. I never crave it. If I could stay healthy by sitting on the couch and reading my book all day long, I would not feel the need to exercise. Ever.

Alas, that’s not an option. So, like many times before, I’ve begun to make an effort to move more. Thanks to my fitbit, I’ve been tracking my steps for the last few months. My goal is just to get my 10K steps in every day. Once that becomes really easy, I can definitely raise the stakes, but for now, this seems lofty enough.

Since I work from home, on a typical day I move maybe 2K steps at most. To make up for this, after my morning meetings are over, I grab my ipad with my audiobooks and take a walk from our house all the way to El Camino and then walk back but instead of coming back home, I then walk down to Palo Alto and grab some coffee at Blue Bottle Coffee and then walk home. This usually gets me close to 7-8K steps which makes it easier to reach 10K before bed. (Even though it looks like I missed a bunch of days last week, it was actually because my fitbit died one day and didn’t log another day. So I think I only missed one day. And the other two misses in the last month are Jake’s and my birthdays where I gave myself permission to skip.)

I often wish I could be one of those people who crave the exercise. I wish I had strong muscles and could do yoga or push ups. I know these things are not magical for anyone and require hard work just like everything else but I wish that it wasn’t so very hard for me. Until then, I will show up and keep being grateful for audiobooks and California weather.

31 More Things – 25 – 7:30PM

These are from Ali’s 31 More Things class. More context here.

So here’s my day twenty-five – 7:30PM.

(journaling below)

Today was an important day for David. Something he worked very hard towards and hopefully a big milestone for him. He was brave and graceful and mature. And I am so very proud of him. So today’s 7:30 is slightly different than usual.

7:30pm is quiet around here. On week nights, Nathaniel goes to bed around 6pm and I snuggle up and read to him. We just finished Because of Winn-Dixie and started Bliss. We generally read for 10-15 minutes and he then goes to sleep. David gets to stay up a bit later but he’s in bed at 7pm with lights out by 7:30pm.

On most weekdays, I have 5 or 5:30am meeting so I go to bed early myself. Lately, I’ve been going to bed early with some tea and a small bar, and my ipad. I listen to my audiobook and play CandyCrush or I read, depending on my mood. I will then lie in bed for an hour or even more and turn the lights off between 9 and 9:30pm. Even with that, I don’t often get the full eight hours of sleep I need.

On weekend nights, Nathaniel still goes to bed about the same time. He likes to make sure he’s sleeping before it’s dark out. David gets to stay up until 8pm, so he might be in his room reading or downstairs, hanging out with me as we both read.

Tonight, he gets to say up as late as he wants. Jake’s in the city, listening to a speech by Justice Breyer so, David’s been sitting next to me, playing me wonderful songs from his Spotify as I write this. In a little while, we’ll sit side by side and read. There’s nothing that makes me feel as content as sitting next to my kids and reading while they read, too. I get to experience this with David regularly and it makes me so happy. I am looking forward to getting to do it more with Nathaniel too as he discovers and expands his passion for reading.

Before I took the job with the Zurich team, I used to go to sleep a few hours later and
even though I would call myself a night person, I’ve grown to love this new schedule.
And even though waking up when it’s dark is tough, feeling productive and accomplished by 10am is a wonderful feeling.

I am off to spend more time with my wonderful son. Here’s to many more nights together.

31 More Things - 24 - Mess

These are from Ali’s 31 More Things class. More context here.

So here’s my day twenty-four – mess.

(journaling below)

This is my desk right now. It’s where I do my work all day long. it’s where I write my journaling. It’s where I do my art. It’s where I spend pretty much most of my awake hours. While I like to keep all my pencils and art supplies out, I constantly wish my desk was less messy. When it looks the way it does now, I feel stressed out and overwhelmed.

I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with mess. I am messy and have always been but then sometimes all the mess overwhelms me and I cannot clean it up fast enough. Lately, it seems worse than usual. I feel the need to shed everything around me. I want to throw away or give away everything but the bare minimum of what I actually use. I feel like the items around me are too much. I can’t wait to get rid of it all.

When I am in the middle of working, scrapbooking, making art, my desk is always a total mess. I take things, I put things, I pile them up in ways that are clearly unwise, stuff is everywhere and it doesn’t bother me one bit. But then, as soon as I am finished, I need to clean every single thing off my desk. Even if I will continue to paint, scrap or whatever, I need to clean up between two different pages. I can’t start a new project unless I am starting with a clean desk. I cannot go to bed with a huge mess on my desk.

I regularly find myself making messes and cleaning them up throughout the day. (In fact, I started cleaning up my desk and I am type this.) For me, this dichotomy between having everything out and within reach and keeping my desk tidy is always tough to work with and I rarely find myself at peace with the solution. Every few months, I seem to hit a threshold and I will remove every item on my desk and start over. But it doesn’t take long before it’s exactly where it is right now.

Maybe my desk will never be super-clean. Maybe my life will always have pockets of messes. Maybe I will never be as neat and tidy as I feel I should be (or even as neat as I sometimes wish to be.) But, in the end, I what matters most is I love this table. I love how it’s full of things I love. Things that bring me joy and happiness. Things that I can touch and feel and experience. Color. Texture.

Everything on my desk is a piece of my life that I cherish and my full desk reminds me how full my ordinary life is in all the magical ways. So I let go and embrace the mess.

31 More Things – 23 – Hair

These are from Ali’s 31 More Things class. More context here.

So here’s my day twenty-three – hair.

(journaling below)

One of my earliest memories about my hair is sitting in the car with my mom and telling her that I didn’t want to have short hair anymore and I wanted to grow it out. I was in the fifth grade and I didn’t cut it again until after college. Small trims here and there but I didn’t cut my hair again until I was in my mid-twenties.

And then one day, I chopped it all off. At the time, it felt so liberating that I decided to have fun with it. I dyed it different colors from blonde to red to black during the next few years. I had a few years where I was getting more and more blonde. And because I got married during this period, in all my wedding photos I am blonde. Which is so weird to look at, now.

A few years later, when I was teaching in the Bronx, instead of working on Wall Street, it became really expensive and time consuming to keep dying my hair so I went back to dark and never looked back. And then I slowly started growing my hair out again. Not purposefully but just little by little.

Even though I’ve had gray hairs since I was seventeen, I had never been so great at taking care of my hair or making sure I dyed it regularly. In the last two years, I’ve found a hairdresser I love so I’ve been much more consistent with trying to take care of myself. She has also started lightening the bottom of my hair to give it more of a layered color and softer look. My hair is long again. In fact, I am almost back to where I was in my twenties. And I will admit that I love it.

I feel like long hair is a part of my identity and I’ve had long hair for so much of my life that it’s become one of the things I envision myself as when I think of who I am and what makes me, me. Of course, there might come a time when it’s no longer appropriate or convenient and when that time comes, I will do whatever I feel is right. Jake still hopes that I will go back to being blonde again one day.

Maybe at one point, I will cut it short and go blonde all at once. One can never tell. But, for now, I am really enjoying where I am and how my hair looks on its good days. Yet another small, but lovely thing to be grateful for, today.

A Book a Week – station eleven

I read Station Eleven because it was on so many lists for great books of 2014. And I will say it was likely one of the most interesting books I read last year. Unlike anything else. It’s dystopian but not young adult and it talks of a terrible future but the story is told from the perspective of a traveling orchestra and theater troop. The story goes back and forth in time and weaves together.

It’s interesting, well written, and thought provoking. Gets points for being different but not at all gimmicky!

31 More Things – 22 – Heart

These are from Ali’s 31 More Things class. More context here.

So here’s my day twenty-two – heart.

(journaling below)

My heart has been tender lately. I think all the work involved with David’s middle school process has me thinking about the future and how our lives are about to change as he moves into a new school and starts a new step in his own journey. And about how it’s becoming more and more his journey as he gets older and has to walk through some paths by himself.

I also have been thinking about the future. Near and far. How our day to day life will change next year. How we will have to work out a collection of “new normal”s. How it will all change all over again when Nathaniel goes to middle school, too. What this means for us. For our family. For Jake and me. For our routines. For my job.

I can go for hours spiraling through all these thoughts and even though I am keenly aware that worrying or stressing won’t actually solve anything, I can’t seem to stop my mind from from spinning.

One of the things I’m trying to learn as I get older is that as I work on trying to change and improve, I also want to embrace who I am. There are many parts of me that aren’t perfect, and never will be. And that’s true for all of us. But life (and change) is much easier when I learn to let go and forgive myself for all that I am not and embrace myself for all that I am.

Yes, I worry about things I shouldn’t. Yes, I stress too much. But I also care a lot. I give my whole heart to everything I do and everyone in my life. I love with all my being and I feel all my feelings. I am loyal to the end. I work hard to be kind every single day.

What makes me caring and kind is the same thing that makes me anxious and worried. I don’t think it’s possible to drop one without also losing the other. This is me. This is who I am. I care. I worry. I love. I get tender. It all goes hand in hand.

So instead of judging myself and scolding myself for how I feel, I will just be patient with myself. I will give myself the grace I need. The kindness I give to the ones I love. And I know that, as with each thing, this, too, will pass. I will move through it. We will get to the next phase with its ups and downs and we will adjust as needed. We will find our new normal and life will be magical. It always is.

31 More Things – 21 – Paper

These are from Ali’s 31 More Things class. More context here.

So here’s my day twenty-one – paper.

(journaling below)

Even though I work with computers and absolutely love computers, I still do most of my planning and todo lists on paper. There’s something wonderful about sitting down with a pen and making lists and then getting to cross them off. Something the computer can never replace for me.

I’ve used these squared Moleskine notebooks for a few years now. Last Spring, I briefly tried to switch to a planner but despite multiple efforts and a nice amount of money spent, i never stuck. What I love about these notebooks is that they are not bulky and I can take them with me anywhere I go. I also love that they are squared. Each time I start a new notebook I print out my vision board for the year, some photos of my family, a calendar, and my goals for the year. I glue them to the front and back pages of the notebook.

I use the front side of the notebook to do my weekly planning, daily notetaking, etc. Each Sunday, I open a new spread and decorate it to my heart’s content. Then I lay out the appointments for the week and make a personal and work todo list. Things move around and change all week, of course, and the real copy of my calendar lives on the computer but I still like having a record of it all on paper. I love going back to previous weeks and having a written record of my life.

Starting at the back of the book, and upside down, I use the notebook to do my journaling. This way, when I am flipping through the book, I don’t have to worry about people seeing my journaling.

Over the years, I’ve also done my sketching, drawing, painting in these same notebooks. I love that when I look through them, I can see the days of my life. What I did, what I thought, what I created, what I felt. What I filled my moments and worries and wishes with for all these years of my life. When I was little, I used to keep a diary every day. I guess in
their own way, these journals have become my replacement.

I have moved several parts of my daily life to the computer. I live by my Google Calendar, contacts on my phone, and Gmail. But when it comes to todo lists, paper is still my first and last choice. I doubt I will ever give it up.

31 More Things – 20 – Path

These are from Ali’s 31 More Things class. More context here.

So here’s my day twenty – path.

(journaling below)

I’ve always known what I wanted my path to be. I knew early on that I wanted to move to America. I knew early on that I wanted to study computers. I even knew early on that I wanted to work from home one day. On the surface, it looks like I am living the life I’ve always planned for myself.

And yet when I look around and pause to notice my life, I am blown away by how it’s turned out. How I made my way to this magical place, at this magical time, with these magical people. I am blown away by the magic that is my life.

I am also finally old enough to understand that life is not a straight line. Nobody really gets to go from Point A to Point B in their lives. Most of us meander around. Even though this idea traumatizes the part of me that wants to control exactly how things work out, it also calms me down. It helps me remember that all we get to do is show up, do our very best, and then the rest unfolds as is does. We have a lot less say in the path than we think we do.

The path I followed here was filled with hard work and tears at school, tough times at work, friendships that didn’t last and ones that made it through, managers that inspired and bosses that can’t even be described by words. Moments of sheer happiness and deep despair. Different cities, different lives, different hopes.

But always the one wonderful man. Jake’s been by my side for 21 years, now. More than half my life. He’s such a major part of my path. And I hope that he gets to be the one I share the rest of my path with as well.

In the last few months, I’ve been pondering my path a lot. A year from now, David will be going to a different school. How will that change our lives? Five years from now, will Nathaniel join him in the same school? Will I still be working at Google? How will Jake’s company be doing? Will we still be in California? What will I be doing?

All of these questions seem unanswerable to me. I feel panicky at not knowing what the future might bring and whether we will be ok. But then I remember that we do it one step at a time. And that’s all we get to do. So I show up, and take my next step and I hope for the best.

31 More Things – 19 – Cook

These are from Ali’s 31 More Things class. More context here.

So here’s my day nineteen – cook.

(journaling below)

I don’t cook.

In the almost twenty years since I’ve graduated from college, I’ve maybe cooked a total of twenty days. For a brief period, when we moved into our current house, I cooked fancy meals for David, Jake and me but I quickly cook tell that the reward was never equal to the work involved. And the meals weren’t any healthier. In fact, they were considerably less healthy.

So now I don’t cook. Most people are very surprised to hear this and often ask me what I eat and what my kids eat. My kids are pretty picky eaters, so they often eat almost the same thing every day. They eat oatmeal or cereal for breakfast. For lunch, at school they have sandwiches, carrots, yogurt, and fruit. For dinner, they eat green beans, bagels or cracker sandwiches (crackers with cream cheese), yogurt, and fruit. Sometimes they have hot dogs and meatballs. So while it’s not super varied and not amazingly healthy, it’s not terrible either considering we don’t cook.

Jake and I also eat simple things. On my good days, I might have oatmeal for breakfast or just coffee/tea. Then I will have yogurt with granola and fruit. I might snack on more fruit. I can’t eat carrots or celery or other similar healthy snacks because I have pretty bad TMJ and my jaw will instantly start hurting. So if I can’t eat something healthy, I try not to snack. I will then have eggs and vegetables and tomatoes. And towards the evening I might have some tea and a small bar. We used to also snack with airpopped popcorn for a while but we ran out, so I have to buy more. On my bad days, I will eat much more erratically and often just whatever I can get my hands out.

During the week, we rarely ever eat out. Every now and then, if I am feeling really cooped up in the house or if I am meeting a friend I will eat out but not otherwise. On the weekends, however, we generally eat at least one meal out. Often it’s lunch on Saturday and dinner on Sunday. We will go to Cafe Borrone because it’s nearby or Bagel Street Cafe because the kids really like it. We almost never order delivery or go to fast food restaurants. We used to before the kids but not anymore.

So, despite the lack of cooking, I’d say we do relatively well here, most days.

31 More Things – 18 – Fear

These are from Ali’s 31 More Things class. More context here.

So here’s my day eighteen – fear.

(journaling below)

When I look at the word “fear” it doesn’t speak to me that much. I guess I always link it with being “afraid” like in horror movies. I always categorize myself as someone who’s very worried as opposed to afraid. I don’t know if there’s a difference there since the things I worry about are what other people might classify as fears but, to me, that word just feels wrong.

Regardless of what one might call it, fears or worries, I definitely have plenty of them. Generally most of my worries are around not being able to be enough for the people around me. I worry about not doing enough for my kids or husband. Not being able to always do just the right thing to meet all their needs. To make sure they can always feel how much I love them and how much they mean to me. I constantly fear disappointing them.

I also spend a lot of time worrying about belonging. I’ve never really felt a sense of belonging as a kid and there are still many, many moments in my life where I feel like I am just “not like the others” (in a bad way) and I often feel really sad about this. I wish it was much easier for me to feel belonging. With this, I also worry about abandonment. I want to make sure the people I love stick around. I want them to love me. I don’t worry about being alone as much as I worry about being without the people I love.

I also have plenty of practical fears. Fears around not being able to take care of my family financially. Not being able to send my kids to the schools they want to go to. Not being able to give my kids what they want or need in life. Not being able to keep my job. Not being able to get the tasks on my list done. On and on.

I think it’s fair to say that I spend a lot of my time worrying. I try hard to do whatever’s needed along the way so fear doesn’t paralyze me but it definitely gets in the way of my happiness. It makes it so I can’t enjoy the moments of my life. It makes it so I am never sure if I can really just let go and be right here, right now. It makes it so that I am always planning for the next step and making sure everything is scheduled and planned.

It’s as if by organizing and worrying, I can predict how the future will turn out. As if I can control the outcome and guarantee something positive. Of course, I know that this is not possible but that knowledge doesn’t stop me from trying. Or worrying. This is something I work on every single day because it’s the biggest impediment to my peace.

31 More Things – 17 – Rhythm

These are from Ali’s 31 More Things class. More context here.

So here’s my day seventeen – rhythm. (sorry I blurred the photo, it was my work calendar.)

(journaling below)

One of the biggest changes that came with my move to the Maps team has been the hours. The meetings at 5am have meant a whole change in the rhythm of my days. It’s been over nine months and I still haven’t really found my footing.

I used to wake up at 5am even before the job, but it used to be my quiet hour. I would sit and journal and do some art and exercise and slowly ease into my day. Now I wake up to a long list of emails and by the time I’ve given them all a quick read, the slew of morning meetings descend on me. In the middle of the meetings, I need to shower, make breakfast, and make sure the kids’ lunches are packed. I then quickly rush out the door at 7:30 or 7:45 depend on whether we’re taking the shuttle or driving to school.

For months, this meant that my exercise and personal time completely went out the window. Lately, I’ve been trying to make up for this by taking a walk right after my big block of morning meetings are over. But it feels much less calm to do it in the middle of the morning than it did during the early morning hours.

The mornings are definitely no longer calm and centering. But the upside of this schedule means that I now have quieter afternoons. It means I don’t have to rush or feel guilty or worried when I pick up the boys from school. It means that when we come home from school, for the most part, I’m done with my day, too. It means I can be with them. Help with homework, make dinner, or just relax.

There is another major factor in this season’s rhythm and it’s that David’s in the middle of the middle school process so for the last three months, there’s been a lot of studying and for next three months there will be a lot of visiting schools during the weekend, missing school to shadow at other schools, driving all over town, filling out applications, etc. The rhythm of our daily life is definitely strongly impacted by this phase of our life.

And, finally, since the mornings start so early, the evenings are considerably shorter around here, too. I am usually in bed by 7-8pm and lights are out by 9pm latest. If I don’t get my full eight hours of sleep, I feel completely useless so I do my very best to ensure I can have lights out at a reasonable time.

31 More Things – 16 – Learn

These are from Ali’s 31 More Things class. More context here.

So here’s my day sixteen – learn.

(journaling below)

I think saying that I love learning might be an understatement. I am a voracious learner. I’ve loved school for as long as I can remember. I think my parents were worried that I might never leave school. There hasn’t been a moment in my life that I wasn’t working on some sort of learning. After I graduated, I took lessons in writing. Lessons in psychology, literature, politics, languages, photography, and art. I’ve easily taken hundreds of lessons in the twenty years since I’ve left “official” school. And, deep down, I’ve always dreamt of going back to school and learning more and more. I know that if I ever did become independently wealthy, that’s exactly what I would be doing.

Learning gives me joy every single time.

I am not picky about the subject matter. Physics excites me as much as the Odyssey or Japanese. As long as I am learning something new, I’m engaged. I love being engaged. I love being surrounded by other interesting, engaged people. I love that my kids love learning. I am always thrilled when I learn from them. I am one of those people who’d much rather be the stupidest person in the room. I love learning from everyone around me. I love opening my mind.

I even love talking to people who disagree. I love learning about new ways of thinking. New ways of looking at the world. New perspectives. Anything that challenges what I think is always welcome in my world.

I take so many of my classes online now. With two little kids and a fulltime job, it feels like the most doable option. I also love teaching online so it’s great to be on both sides of the learning continuum. But I also have the sheer luck of living ten minutes from Stanford University. I get to take classes there at night sometimes, and I love them each time. I love siting in a classroom.

My hope is that one of the greatest things about getting older is that I will have more and more opportunities to slow down and spend my time doing more of what I love. For me, this will mean learning new things. Learning more about the things I know. Always growing and always surrounding myself with people who can teach me.