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.

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.

31 More Things – 13 – Quote

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

So here’s my day thirteen – quote

(journaling below)

Here’s my favorite quote of all time:

“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.” – Mark Twain

Mark Twain owns pretty much all the best quotes. He is both funny and pithy. Lately, a lot of the quotes I love come from Rumi. Here are some other favorites on my list:

“Sometimes the people around you won’t understand your journey. They don’t need to, it’s not for them.”

“You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean.” – Rumi

“Just because someone doesn’t love you the way you want them to, doesn’t mean they don’t love you with everything they have.”

“Allow beauty to shatter you regularly. The loveliest people are the ones who have been burnt and broken and torn at the seams, yet still send their open hearts into the world to mend with love again, and again, and again. You must allow yourself to feel your life while you’re in it.” – Victoria Erickson

“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.” – Oscar Wilde

“You are confined only by the walls you built yourself.”

“The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.” -Thoreau

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you are right.” -Henry Ford

And in honor of the word I plan to have for 2016:

“Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it.” – Eckhart Tolle

31 More Things – 12 – Camera

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

So here’s my day twelve – camera.

(journaling below)

I’ve liked taking pictures for as long as I can remember. When I was in high school, I was always the girl with the camera. I have hundreds of photos and albums from that time. And just as many from college.

When I lived in NYC, I played with smaller, toy cameras like the Aiptek pen camera and the Casio watch camera. I credit Heather Champ with getting me back into photography because she was the one who inspired me to buy those little ones. I had a point and shoot back then, too, which is what I used during our cross country trip. It wasn’t until we moved to the West Coast that I bought my first digital SLR. Looking back at the photos, I often wish I’d bought it before we went to all those beautiful places.

With my first SLR came my photography business. I remember taking David and Jake to Torrey Pines State Reserve so I could take photos of them and start my website. I remember sitting in our house and coding the site for my business. I remember getting my first clients and then more and more until I had enough money to get a nicer camera.

I don’t do professional photography anymore, mostly because I don’t have the time but I still do have my nice SLR and I have thousands of photos from my kids’ lives, which I love. I’ve also recently bought a small Sony point-and-shoot which I carry with me no matter where I go. And I will sometimes take photos on the android, too, but the photos that come out of the SLR are always, always my favorite.

I’ve taken fewer photos this year than usual. I think it’s because it’s been an unusual year, full of chaos and change and I haven’t found my new normal yet. But even so, I have about 400 photos form this year that are in my favorites folder. About 400 more that are waiting to be processed. But, even when put together, that’s a lot lower than last year’s 1,500 and 1,900 from the year before. This means I need more pictures this year. Even our weekly family photos have declined to become more occasional.

I know people say that taking pictures means you’re not experiencing life but, for me, taking photos has always allowed me to pause a few seconds longer than I would have so I can freeze the moment and lock it into my memory so that I can replay the magical capture again and again. I am incredibly grateful for this luxury.

31 More Things – 11 – Memory

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

So here’s my day eleven – memory.

(journaling below)

I have very few memories from when I was a child. It’s not that I had a sad childhood or anything, it’s really that I seem to have a really bad memory. I remember the shirt in this picture. I remember how much I loved wearing it. I remember Yona teaching me how to read on mom and dad’s bed. I remember going to Polenezkoy. I remember riding the camel. I remember long car trips and my singing Tembeli Tembeli, Oy so much that Dad had to pull over and ask me to stop. I remember getting carsick, a lot. I remember the fights and the divorce but I also remember the moment my parents told me they were getting back together. I remember going to the wedding. But I don’t remember much else. Not until after fifth grade.

Which is when I started keeping a diary.

I kept diaries for years. All the way through middle and high school. Even a little in college. And then I started a blog back in 1999 when they were first emerging. I’ve always had this need to write things down. My feelings, yes. But not just my feelings, also my thoughts, what happened, what I learned. I like to write it all down.

I think the reason I like writing things down (and taking pictures) is because I know that my memory is not very good. I know that I tend to forget so much of what happens and so I use these tools to help me remember. To help me freeze these otherwise ordinary moments of my life. To help me see that all of the magic of life is in these fleeting moments. So when I preserve these moments, I get to preserve some of that magic.

I know that our memories aren’t perfect. We rewrite history all the time. We are selective with what we remember. And even selective with what we forget. And maybe it’s not important to remember it all, perfectly. Or at all. Maybe we’re not meant to look back. Maybe we’re not meant to relive the moments again and again. Maybe we’re meant to experience them, learn what we learn then and then move on.

I know they say that those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it but maybe my bad memory is yet another sign that I am supposed to be here, now and live in this moment and soak it in and be present to my life as it happens. And maybe that’s all that matters.

31 More Things – 10 – 11:25

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

So here’s my day ten – 11:25.

(journaling below)

11:25 is different here every day. Some days I’m in a meeting. Other days, I am getting work done. This morning, I was having an early lunch with a friend and asking for advice. I had back to back meetings starting at 6am, with a brief break at 7:30 when I dropped the kids off to their shuttle for school. I came back, had more meetings which ended at 10am. Then I had some emails for the school association where I am president this year. Then some more work, a quick phone call with a friend, and I was on my way to my 11am lunch.

Since I have to wake up so early for work now, I take my “me” time later in the day. Part of this is taking a walk in the neighborhood for almost an hour so I can get all my steps in. I don’t wear workout clothes or shoes. I just walk at a normal pace and slowly make my way to Cafe Borrone which happens to be about a 20-25 minute walk. I then sometimes get coffee and other times, just walk back home. I always listen to my book on the way.

Today, I walked at 10:20 and started to listen to my book, called 14, on the way but my mind kept going back to 5th grade applications and setting up my son’s shadow days and trying to figure out how to navigate all the appointments, visits, etc. A lot of this has been weighing on me in the last few weeks and it’s making it hard for me to focus on pretty much anything. So instead of fighting it, I just turned off my book and let my mind wander and worry and focused on the walking. It’s been exceptionally hot here for the last two weeks and maybe 11am wasn’t the best time to talk my walk.

But I made it there early and got my coffee and salad and sat down to wait for my friend. She showed up on time, gave me some lovely advice and kindly listened to my worries and then I was back on my way home for another work meeting. On the way home, I got a call from one of the schools and didn’t even try to listen to my book even though I only had about 20 minutes left.

That’s how it is some days. I am learning to be kind with myself and give myself permission to be tender with all this. Giving myself permission to worry when I am alone (because I am trying hard not to get my son anxious, too.) In the meantime, I am still walking, I am asking for help from friends, I am trying to get a lot of work done, and I am having faith that things will work out they way they are supposed to. Because, almost always, they do.

31 More Things – 9 – Laugh

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

So here’s my day nine – laugh.

(journaling below)

I don’t laugh that much. As my husband often says, I don’t really have a sense of humor. At least not in the typical sense. I don’t find most humor funny. And I tend to take life on the serious side. If you need things done, I’m your gal. If you want to talk, I’m your gal. If you want to talk about books, life, frustrations, or even celebrations, I’m your gal.

But I’m not the gal to have superfluous conversations with. I am not the gal to go shopping with. (unless we’re shopping for book.) I am not the gal to drink with. I am not the gal you go out with if you need a night of laughter.

I used to think this meant something was missing inside me. That I was somehow less than. Why can’t I be fun when so many others are? Why can’t I laugh and be silly with the best of them? What’s wrong with me?

But as I get older, I am realizing that this is just who I am. I take things seriously. I care about people deeply. I care about things deeply. And this is what makes me a good friend, a kind wife, a reliable employee and a loving mother. This is what makes me, me. It’s not good or bad, it’s just who I am.

And I’ve also learned that I do laugh. There are times I will laugh so hard that I can’t control the laughter. There are times I am laughing with pure, unbounded joy. There are times when I tickle my kids or laugh at their silly jokes. These are my moments. Most of my laughter comes from joy. From gratitude. From moments of letting go and being right here, with the people I love and letting them love me in return.

They don’t happen often but when they do, I am so grateful for these moments. For these reminders of how special life is, how lucky I am and how there’s so much treasure hidden in the tiny moments of ordinary life.

Maybe I am not the silly type. And maybe I don’t laugh as much as I should. But I am
learning to be okay with that because, for me, it’s a part of learning to be okay with who I am and there’s so much joy and contentment in embracing all of myself. In the meantime, here’s to the rare people who can make me laugh anyway.

31 More Things – 8 – Makeup

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

So here’s my day eight – makeup

(journaling below)

When I saw this prompt, my first instinct was to skip it. I don’t wear makeup so there’s no story there. But then I decided to go deeper. Most stories are interesting if I’m willing to go deeper.

I used to wear makeup. Just like I used to wear 6-inch heels and dye my hair blonde. Even though my looks were never the most important thing in my life, there was a time I did spend considerably more time thinking about how I looked and spending energy and money on makeup. This is not to say those things are not worth the money or the energy and there might very well be a time in the future when I do it all over again.

But not now.

At this moment, my time, efforts, and money go to other things. They go to keeping my body healthy, they go to colorful dresses that make me happy, they go to my kids’ education, they go to books. And art supplies. And many other things that are not makeup.

Looking at this photo, I am reminded that we go through different stages in life. And each of those stages feels eternal. As if they are forever and they are the new “truth” of my life. But they do end. The stages come and go. Some change slowly and some drastically but if there’s one guarantee, it’s that my life won’t look like this five years from now. I will have different priorities (however slight) and different hopes and wishes and worries. I will spend
my money and time and energy on different things than I do now. If I am lucky, none of it will be terrible. If I am lucky, we will still all be healthy and happy.

But, it will be different. And I will look back on these days and wonder why I worried so much all the things in my head today. And, in ten years, I will remember these days fondly, but also like they are a part of a distant past, just the way those makeup days feel to me now. In ten years, these days now will be a part of my history.

That’s the thing about life; it passes quickly. And this little prompt today ended up being a reminder that I would like to make sure I cherish these days while they are here. I nurture the person I am now. I give thanks for what we have. Amazing what a little prompt can do.