31 More Things – 31 – Water

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

So here’s my day thirty-one – water.

(journaling below)


I’ve lived near water my whole life. I grew up in Istanbul, a peninsula. Spent the summers on an island, Burgaz. I then moved to Pittsburgh which has some mighty rivers. Then, to another island, Manhattan. Spent time on two more islands: England and Japan. Moved right by the ocean in beautiful San Diego. And, finally, I am now living in another peninsula, the Bay Area. Even though I’ve never had the luxury of having a home walking distance to water, I’ve always lived a short drive away.

There’s nothing that can give me the sense of peace that water can. My mom often mentions how she’s used to looking out to the sea and seeing land. In Turkey, when we look out to the sea, we will see other parts of the country or parts of Greece. We are surrounded by Seas but not huge ones. Whereas in the West Coast, what you see is the infinite blue of the ocean. She prefers being able to see bits of land in the distance. I like that, too. But I also like the infinite waters.

When I am in the presence of endless blue, it reminds me of the immensity of the universe. I get the same feeling when I am by those huge redwood trees. They are big and mighty. And I feel so small when I am in their presence. Not it a bad way. In a way that makes my problems seem small. In a way that helps me acknowledge the power of the universe and how I am just a part of everything. It gives me perspective. It makes me feel connected. It calms me.

One of my lifelong dreams is to live by water. To be able to walk out of my house and dip my toes in the water. To look out of my window and see the endless sea. I know that it is unlikely to happen. I’m practical. I know living near water means mold. It means constantly keeping up with things rotting. It means living in the middle of nowhere or being really, really wealthy. It’s not likely to be a reality but I am okay with that.

I am grateful to get to live so close to water. I am grateful to be near so much nature. I am grateful for the incredible weather in California that allows me to take walks by the water whenever I wish. I am grateful for the restorative power of water. For the peace it gives me.

And that’s a wrap! 🙂

31 More Things – 30 – Ritual

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

So here’s my day thirty – ritual.

(journaling below)

I believe in rituals. Routines. Schedules. I believe in repetitive structures that make it easier for me to do the things I know I want to do. I believe in acknowledging sacred moments of joy. I believe in taking moments to reflect, replenish, and rest.

Because I value these parts of my life so deeply, I make it a practice to create rituals that encourage me to incorporate them into my days in a recurring fashion. Here are some of the rituals I’ve had this year:

– During the first month of school, I woke David up at 5:45 each morning, so he could study for his exam while I sat in my meetings. Each morning, I would walk into his room, snuggle in his bed and hug him to wake him up. We would then walk downstairs hand in hand and he would grab the computer to study his words while I sat to review my email. He has since taken his exam so we no longer do this.

– Every weekend morning, I get dressed and walk to Cafe Borrone for some alone-time. I listen to my audiobook on the way there. When I arrive, I get a non-fat, no-foam, double-shot latte and a warmed up croissant. I like to pour my coffee into a small, ceramic cup and drink a bit at a time. I eat 1/3 of my croissant and take the rest of it to go. While there, I journal, sketch, or just listen to my book. Then I slowly walk back home.

– Every week, for the last few years, we’ve taken a family photo of all four of us. This used to be done weekly, no matter what. This year, we’ve lapsed quite a bit but I am working on re-establishing the practice.

– Every year, I set myself up with weekly art projects that allow me to practice or learn art that I would like to undertake. Lately, this process falls apart during the summer and I have a hard time resetting myself for the rest of the year. But I still love the projects.

– Each night, i grab some tea, a ‘smores bar, and my book and lie in bed for an hour as I listen to my audiobook. I try to sleep somewhere between 8:30-9:30.

These are just a small sample of rituals I’ve created for myself. Maybe they are routines or traditions. Regardless of the wording, I cherish every single one of them.

31 More Things – 29 – Break

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

So here’s my day twenty-nine – break.

(journaling below)

As part of my job, I have to take a few yearly trips to Zurich. My whole team is there so these trips are my time to connect and get some work done face-to-face. Even though I dislike leaving my family behind, these trips end up being a break from my day to day life.

I often take the Sunday night flight out of SFO and come back on Friday afternoon. (Though, for this January, I booked a flight that leaves on Friday and returns on Thursday, so we’ll see how that configuration works.) So I am only in Zurich for about four days. I spend most of my hours at work.

But I also get a lot of jet lag. I find myself awake at 2am and I can’t go back to sleep. So during those early hours of the night, I lie in bed and read and read and read. At night, when everyone’s gone home, I go back to my hotel room where it’s quiet and I read some more. When I am finally ready to give up on sleep, I walk downstairs to this beautiful room filled with floor to ceiling bookcases and I eat my breakfast while I read my book. I get a lot of reading done each time I visit Zurich. And it always feels so peaceful.

In the past, I’ve brought things along with me, like books to journal in or watercolors and sketching notebooks. But I never touch them. (Though on the most recent trip, I ended up sketching and coloring my meal on the plane back home.) It seems reading is the one thing I like to do at 2am, 4am, 7am, 8pm and whenever else I am not sleeping or working. It’s something I can do with a lot of jet lag and it’s something that makes me feel rested and centered.

During this upcoming trip, I will get to be in Zurich for a Saturday afternoon and Sunday. Even though I will be jet lagged for most of it, I am hoping I might finally get to see a bit of the city. Do some actual sightseeing. It will be cold and possibly even snowing since it’s going to be the end of January but cold weather and snow don’t scare me. My bet is that they will make the city even more beautiful. And if it’s raining or just way too cold: well I always have my books. I never say no to an entire day of sitting by the fire and reading.

Even though I feel sad leaving my boys behind, I am also grateful for the small break that Zurich creates in my life. A few days dedicated solely to work. And nights to quiet reading.

31 More Things – 28 – Happy

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

So here’s my day twenty-eight – happy.

(journaling below)

Things that make me happy right now:
– Listening to audiobooks while I walk around the neighborhood.
– Reading to Nathaniel in bed every night. I love the snuggling, too.
– Supporting David in his journey. Happy to be able to be there for him.
– Jake’s hugs. Always.
– My Desigual dresses. All the color they have.
– My evening routine with tea, chewy bars, and going to bed early.
– My journal. I love my weekly tracking, my journaling, the squared pages. All of it.
– Greek Yogurt, Strawberries, and Granola.
– Wonderful and comfy shoes my mom sent me from home.
– Good books that make me think and grow and learn more about myself and the world.
– Good friends who are both kind and interesting.
– Paint and art and watercolors even though I am not using any of them lately.
– Giving myself grace.
– Making the doctors’ appointments and follow ups that I need. Taking care of myself.
– New possibilities at work. They make me happy and scared at the same time.
– Old friends. The warmth of knowing that these are my people. That we share so much.
– My parents. How much they love and support me, no matter what. I am so lucky,
– My sister. Her smile, her kindness, her relentless support.
– My nephews. I love talking to them, listening to them, seeing them.
– Nature. Trees. Flowers. Birds. Squirrels. I love them all.
– My 7.5K steps in the morning, looping around Menlo Park and Palo Alto and ending with some Blue Bottle coffee.
– Coaching. I love my clients. I love listening to them.
– New friendships. New adventures. Stretching. Trying. Being Brave.
– My schedule. I feel like I might finally be finding my new groove. It’s not perfect but I feel like it’s improving.
– My hair. I love my hairdresser and how kind she is.
– California. The sunshine.
– My quiet time at Cafe Borrone on weekend mornings. Latte, croissant, and me. Lovely.
– My family. My boys. My husband. These people are my heart and soul. I love them so.
– My life. I have no idea how I ended up having the exact life I’d always dreamt of having but I look around and I feel a deep, deep sense of gratitude for my amazing life.

31 More Things – 27 – Sweet

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

So here’s my day twenty-seven – sweet.

(journaling below)

If I had to only eat one sweet thing my whole life, it would be chocolate. I can give up pretty much any other sweet. I’m not crazy about ice cream, cake, cookies, or candy, but give me chocolate any day of the week. I don’t care for chocolate cake or even hot chocolate, just the candy itself. Especially Nutella or the kind of chocolate that’s hard on the outside but soft on the inside. Just thinking about it right now makes me want to have some.

As part of my job, I now take regular business trips to the chocolate center of the universe: Switzerland. And I work at a place where we get lots of free chocolate and food. This combination, while sounding wonderful, often means I eat way too much chocolate when I am in Zurich. I, of course, bring a bunch home, too so I end up continuing to eat too much chocolate for another week after I am back.

Since I have so many issues around food and my weight, this love of chocolate is always such a struggle. I can never truly, deeply enjoy the chocolate when I am eating it, because, if not during, certainly moments after I finish the chocolate, I feel a huge wave of guilt. I immediately chide myself for making bad choices and not having willpower. Which then makes me want to eat more chocolate. And on and on the circle goes.

My boys aren’t as crazy about chocolate as I am. David prefers candy over chocolate. He likes the sour or the gummy kind. Nathaniel likes chocolate but also likes candy. They both like cake, cupcakes, etc. But their favorite is ice cream. They love most kinds of ice cream so occasionally we walk from our house to Yogurtland and the three boys get ice cream. David prefers Mango and Tart ice cream with mochi and gummy bears for toppings. Nathaniel likes Oreo and RockPops ice cream and m&ms for toppings. They both like sprinkles, too. Jake usually gets different but mostly plain types of ice cream but he likes to add a lot of cookie dough. On the rare occasions I get some, I tend to stick to Coffee or the fruity flavors. Ice cream, like the chocolate, is also fraught with “I shouldn’t be eating this” thoughts for me so since I don’t love it anyway, I tend to stay away from it.

In general, I am much more a “savory” person than “sweet.” I prefer bread, cheese, rice, croissants. In Turkey, we have salty baked goods and those are often my favorite. The one and only exception is chocolate. My sweet of choice.

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.

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.