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.

A Book a Week – this is where i leave you

I read This is Where I Leave you because I wanted to watch the movie so I had to read the book first. I hadn’t read Tropper before so I thought it was a great opportunity to start.


It was so over the top, trying so hard to be funny that it just drove me away. I felt like the characters, the story, everything about it was too comical. Too two-dimensional, trying too hard. Most of the story felt predictable to me, too. With some interesting twists.

There’s kindness in the book. Warmth. Connection.

But I still think it gets lost in his trying too hard to be funny.

And the movie: meh.

31 More Things – 15 – Feet

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

So here’s my day fifteen – feet.

(journaling below)

I have so many body issues. I can make a very long list about all the different body parts that I would want to alter, but my feet aren’t really on that list. My feet are sometimes too dry because I don’t take the time to put the kind of care and cream they deserve. My feet are of average size: 7.5 and they are long and narrow. My toes are relatively even and uneventful.

I feel relatively similarly about my hands, too. Nothing amazing but not problematic. Perfectly ordinary.

Not that there’s anything wrong with perfectly ordinary. In fact, when it comes to body parts, I wish I could just be perfectly ordinary all over. I wish that like my feet and hands, my body was average enough that I wouldn’t spend so much of my time feeling bad about it.

On the other hand, I am very grateful for my body. For how long, and well, it has served me. When I was little, I used to get sick often. In my twenties, I had an injured back and a lot of pain in my jaw. But, here I am, in my forties and my body is being really kind to me. I have a little bit of back pain sometimes and some jaw pain but, for the most part, I am doing well. I’ve had two healthy children. I’ve been sick very few times in the last ten years.

My feet have carried me through countries and cities, through stages of life, through weight gains and weight losses. They have never, ever failed me.

Here’s to hoping the next twenty years are as smooth and painless as the last ten have
been. I think after all the work its done for me, it’s maybe time for me to take better
care of my body and my feet. It’s always been on my list to prioritize such self-care but I just never do it. Or at least never do it consistently.

But as I get older and my body gets weaker, if I don’t start prioritizing it sooner than later, I know that I will regret it. So I am trying to take small steps. Small steps like walking daily. Small steps like drinking more water. Small steps like remembering to put some cream on my feet. Sometimes all I can do are the little steps. But they are still better than no steps. Here’s to one small step at a time.

31 More Things – 14 – Bedside Table

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

So here’s my day fourteen – bedside table.

(journaling below)

This table at the side of my bed has been with me since I graduated college back in 1996. It’s traveled to New York City, Boston, La Jolla, San Diego, Palo Alto, and now Menlo Park with me. It holds my socks, underwear, and some knick knacks from all these years as well as serving as a bedside table for me. It’s seen me in my 20s, 30s, and now 40s.

It used to be that my bedside table was always full of books. Piles of books that I read, was in the process of reading, or planned to read. But not anymore. Even though there was a pile until last week, I finally put the books back in the bookcase because I knew they were simply collecting dust.

I do all my reading on the ipad now.

The big and small changes I’ve made in my life are all reflected in this one piece of furniture. I have a lamp that is supposed to wake me up with the natural light and feel like the sun is coming up but because I wake up at 5:00am and it starts to light up 30 minutes before I wake up, I’ve turned the light part off so that it doesn’t wake Jake up. Instead I wake up to the sound of birds chirping, which I love.

The bedside also holds a small tupperware filled with lotion. For my body, for my feet, and hands. Lotion that I forget to use more often than I remember. Even though you’re not supposed to eat in bed, my routine for the last few months has been to go to bed an hour before I am supposed to sleep, drink some tea, eat a small bar, and listen to my current book while I play Candy Crush or cards. Sometimes I will read a book, too. I am often reading one book and listening to another so what I do in bed will depend on which book is more interesting at that moment. But both of them are on the ipad. I often like to turn out the lights and use the black background with white text so I can slowly get tired and be ready to sleep.

Who knows if in another 10 years, this bedside table will still be storing bits and pieces of my life. Will I still be in this house? Will I still have this piece of furniture that I got when I was 21? What will be my night and morning routine then? I don’t know the answers to any of these questions but I do know that these moments at night are some of my most peaceful moments right now and I will cherish them for as long as I can.

everything is different

still having fun with the fashion-y girls but I am feeling unmotivated in general. not sure if it means anything or that i should just give myself permission to rest more.

here are all the shiny bits.

the quote says:

isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back everything is different. -c.s. lewis

There’s nothing that makes this quite as acutely clear as being a mom. I look at the photos of my children and ponder how they got so big so quickly. Just yesterday they were tiny. Day by day, it feels like the change is so small, so incremental, and yet there are these moments where I look at them and they take my breath away. Especially David, sometimes he already looks like the teenager he will soon be. How is it possible that so much has changed without my realizing? How is it that time has passed so quickly?

I also feel like this is such a good reminder for getting up and doing the work daily. Exercising, doing art, eating well, learning a new language, whatever your thing is, doing a little every day amounts to so much. Days pass and you feel like what you do makes such a small difference and like you’re not progressing at all but then, one day, you realize that you can run without feeling out of breath. You’re craving the healthy food and not the chocolate. Ok, maybe that one will never happen, but the point is still valid. Little changes add up. Life changes even while you’re not paying attention and the important thing to realize is that if you’re intentional about the things you do, the choices you make, you will wake up one morning and your life will be exactly what you’ve intended all along.

I don’t know what our lives will be like 10 years from now. David will hopefully be in college and Nathaniel will be almost done with highschool. So many things will happen in the meantime. I have no idea how things will turn out. But I do know that everything will be different. And I know that the change will happen one day at a time. It will seem like nothing at the time.

And I know that all the little, tiny choices I make every moment will end up having a huge impact on what that change looks like. The tiny choices will accumulate.

So here’s to hoping I choose wisely.