May 12

Blogging and learning

I’ve been inconsistent lately about my blogging. My last post was on my birthday, nearly four weeks ago! For a while I had the goal of blogging at least twice a week, and for that short while, I was good about it. But lately something always comes up. Writing for work, my novel, shorter pieces, being lazy.

This week I read this post from Chris Dixon about how he uses his blog to learn. Specifically, he tries “to learn at least one interesting thing each week and then blog about it.” I love this idea.

Like Dixon, every morning I catch up on the news mostly via Twitter, and for work, dump links to interesting stories (mostly regarding words and language) into a Google doc for a bi-weekly series that I write. Why not do the same for myself? Often I’ll read and retweet interesting stories, but it ends there. Once in a while I’ll blog about something interesting I’ve come across, such as the lies behind the etymology of iceberg lettuce and details about the Sino-Japanese war. But I’m not consistent. I do it only when the mood strikes me or when I happen to remember.

So I’ve decided to follow in Dixon’s footsteps and blog once a week about something new I learned. It could be via Twitter or my news feeds, or as I’m doing other research, or even – gasp! – in real life. I want to blog more regularly and I want to document stuff I’ve learned so that’s killing two birds with one stone.

This week I learned, aside from the idea of blogging what I’ve learned (how meta), that I should try applying my work techniques to my personal life. I’ve already mentioned how I gather interesting links. Something I also do is keep a schedule of upcoming words of the day, lists of the day, and blog posts. The schedule helps me keep everything organized and also gives me ideas. I have to follow it, well, because it’s for work.

Why not do that for myself? The only blog schedule I have is vague and in my head. “I should do two posts this week.” But when and what about? Every day I work on my novel. That’s a given, especially since I don’t want to give MB ten bucks. But often I let other submissions slide. I realize, often too late, that submission deadlines are upon me (or worse, already passed) and I end up having not enough time to submit as much as I want to.

I put the deadlines on my calendar, but it’s not enough. I really don’t look beyond the current week. For work, I schedule everything in a spreadsheet so that I can see several weeks at once.

Seems like such a simple thing, but it took reading Dixon’s blog post and forty minutes on the elliptical to figure it out. Now let’s see if it works.

Apr 12

The Grateful 40

“For years I wanted to be older, and now I am.” Margaret Atwood, Cat’s Eye

Okay, I admit it. I turn the big 4-0 today, and I’m not thrilled about it. I can pretend to be positive and cheerful, and say, “Forty is the new 30!” or call myself Forty and Fabulous, but that’s not me. My parents sent me a birthday card that while lovely might as well have been a sympathy card. “Our condolences for turning 40!”

Until I was about 28, I had always wanted to be older. As a kid, as a teenager, those years seem to pass so slowly. I seemed to take forever to reach the double digits, the teenaged years, then 16, 18, 21. Now the years pass entirely too quickly.

From 28 till about 33 or even 34, I felt the right age. Twenty-five was too young. I was unsure and didn’t know enough about life. At 30 and over, I was wiser and more confident, but I still felt young. Part of me wishes I could stay 33 forever, at least until I do the things I want to do, and accomplish what I had hoped to accomplish.

But this isn’t to say I haven’t accomplished anything, and that no good things have happened in my life. They have.


I’m glad I no longer work at the Big Blue Pill Company. While it paid well, every day I felt like any minute someone was going to say, “You have no idea what you’re doing, do you?” and I’d have to say, “No, I don’t! I’m winging it!”

I’m glad I had the opportunity to jump-start my writing career. If MB hadn’t gotten this job out here, I don’t know if I’d have quit my job and pursued writing full-time. Probably not. I needed those six months of writing full-time to get clips, become part of an online writing community, and build up an audience.

I’m happy that I get to write for my job. I. . .LOVE. . .MY. ..JOB. I get to tweet all day and write about fun word-nerd stuff. In fact, it’s sometimes more fun than my own writing. Plus I get paid for it.


I’m grateful for my parents. It’s true that I had and have a lot of conflict with my mom, but when I hear stories about abused and neglected kids, I’m so grateful for the parents that I have. I’m also glad they’re relatively healthy and still active. In fact, I just learned they’re taking off for China and Taiwan for two weeks this fall. Lucky ducks!

I’m grateful that I have a brother who is also one of my best friends. By the way, if you have a story about how you scared yourself, Greg wants to hear about it!

Friends and Loved Ones

I’m grateful to have at least half a dozen people I can call my good friends. I’m glad I was lucky enough to meet MB, and that he’s been so supportive of my writing and other pursuits, and has pushed me not to be lazy and procrastinate. For instance, we’ve struck a deal where I have to give him $10 if I don’t work on my novel at least six days a week (even for just a few minutes) or if I don’t go to krav maga at least twice a week. I haven’t owed him any money for not writing, but I’ve given him about $30 for not going to krav maga enough.

Past Accomplishments

I’m happy I had the chance to travel to some cool places, namely:

  • Beijing
  • Tianjin
  • Dalian
  • Xi’An
  • Hong Kong
  • Amsterdam
  • Brussels
  • Paris
  • Prague
  • Tokyo
  • London

And of course a bunch of places in the States. I’m grateful that I got to live abroad (China for six months), and that nowadays I can pretty much pick up and go anywhere, almost anytime.

I’m grateful that I was able to pursue two graduate degrees, mostly free of charge. I guess the Big Blue Pill Company was good for something!

I’m Still Learning

I’m glad that I realize I still have a lot to learn. I know I worry unnecessarily and sometimes incessantly, that worries and negative feelings don’t change the past, won’t change the future, and only ruin the present. I know this and still I do it. I worry about my parents getting older; I worry about having kids and selling a book. I worry that I’m not where I’m “supposed” to be, that I’m “behind.” But as Zen Habits says, when I compare myself to others, I only create my own suffering. All of these worries are my own creation.

So it’s my birthday, just me and Sizzle and Conan O’Brien and Hayley Mills. James Woods, Rick Moranis, and Eric Roberts. Melissa Joan Hart, America Ferrera, and let’s not forget Kourtney Kardashian. It’s my birthday and I’m glad for all the good stuff.

But between you and me, I’ll be 39. At least for another year.

Mar 12

Way to go bro!

You may know that my brother Greg has been doing one scary thing a day for a year, and he just finished! Congrats! To celebrate he made a compilation video summarizing what he did and put it on Reddit. It ended up on the front page, and now he’s getting press like crazy!

He’s gotten press from Huffington Post (who had also mentioned his No Pants on Metro post), The Daily What, and elsewhere. And today – Yahoo news! For now at least, his video is on the front page under Must See Videos.

He’s right up there with Cozy the 40-pound cat.

I got to do a couple of scary things with Greg over the year. I sat in the audience while he read at Mortified San Francisco, where everyone kept looking at me while he talked about reading my diary as a kid (guess what, I already know!) and bullied encouraged him to get his photo taken at Hot Cookie in the Castro.

I’m totally proud of him and am living vicariously through his fame.

More importantly, his project inspired me to start doing more scary things, such as battling my driving phobia and getting behind the wheel for the first time in years (so it was a go-cart, a license was still required so there); breaking out of my shy shell and being more social; and learning krav maga.

Today I’m reminded and re-inspired. It’s easy to get caught up in the day to day, and to use excuses like “I’m too busy” or “It’s not a big deal” to not do scray things. For instance, this week at AWP, I should have been a lot more social (more on that in another post), and while I did meet a few new people, I could have done a lot more.

While I don’t think I’ll be doing a scary thing every day, realizing when I’m entering a “scary” situtation and being more systematic about breaking out of my shell are good first steps to conquering my fears.

Thanks, Greg, for reminding me of that.

Jun 11

Stopping to smell the roses

As part of my experiment to try to be more conscious of my energy (which sounds so incredibly flaky), last week when I was feeling a lag in the afternoon, which I do every afternoon around 2:30 or 3, I took a walk.

My boss had told me about a rose garden just a couple of blocks from our building.  I had no idea such a place existed.  Sure enough, I looked it up and turns out there’s a whole park right near my workplace.

The weather had warmed up – a little too warm for my taste, which means about 80 degrees, which means I’ve become totally spoiled by Bay Area weather – and I tried to take my time walking over instead of speed walking like I usually do.  First I checked out the Japanese Garden, which while lovely was overrun with kids.  Then finally the roses:






Pretty! And they smelled good too.

I had also wanted to sit quietly, but the sun was too strong. So I made a round, then headed back.

Did I feel rejuvenated? Sure, and I’d do it again. But it was also a relief to get into air conditioning.

In other news, I worked out four times in a row this week! I haven’t done that since I started working. Monday I was working from home so I ran four miles in the early half of the morning. Tuesday I went after work for the first time. Seems ridiculous I haven’t done this before since my bus passes my gym. Wednesday ditto. Thursday after a much-needed haircut.

It feels great not to have to worry about working out again for the whole weekend, though I’ll probably do yoga today and something other weight-bearing exercise tomorrow. Hope I can keep this up!

It helps to remind myself there are specific accomplishments that make me happy – working out, eating right, and writing, even if just a little. Work, sleep, and chores take care of themselves. In other words, they are already habits. I still need to work on the first three.

Apr 11

Scaring myself again: Driving

I have a  bit of a phobia about driving.  Although I grew up in the suburbs, I was never eager to get my license.  I didn’t like not being able to see quite where the car ended.  I hated dealing with other drivers.

But then I took some lessons with a great teacher and I was psyched. “I love driving!” I announced to my parents after a particularly successful lesson.

I should have taken the test right after that, but my parents made me wait and practice more.  Practice with them.

A typical driving situation with my mother:

Mom, holding onto her seatbelt for dear life: “Slow down! SLOW DOWN! SLOW DOWN!!!”

Of course I was made even more nervous driving with either of my parents.  Once I got too close to side and ran over a gutter.  It was an accident.  I was inexperienced, but still my mother lost it like I had done it on purpose.

“My car!” she screamed to my father.  “She damaged my car!”

Since I went to college in Manhattan, not having my license wasn’t that big of a deal. In fact, many of my friends didn’t have theirs either, though they had the excuse of having grown up in a city.  I graduated, got a job, and moved to Boston, where I *still* didn’t need a license.  Ha, suckers! But not having one hung over my head, if only because my ex was obsessed about it, and people found it weird.

I went to China (where I *still* didn’t need to drive), and when I returned, I was determined to get my license.  I took lessons again, despite my ex’s insistence that I didn’t need them, and had another awesome teacher.  I gained back some confidence, used the same car I learned on for the test, and finally, FINALLY, got my license.

I was 27.

After that, I still didn’t love driving, and wanted to avoid it as much as possible.  This would have been easy if I had stayed single and lived in the city.  But I moved out to Westchester and married my ex, who expected me to drive much more than I did.  I tried – mostly to the grocery store – but not hard enough.  My non-drivingness was a point of contention to the bitter end.

So when I met MB and found out he also doesn’t like to drive, I was tremendously relieved.  We could be weird non-drivers together!  We could avoid the issue forever!

Till now.

Last week my workplace held a team building event, which involved batting cages, mini-golf, and go-karts.

Yes, go-karts, a smaller version of that thing I hate.

I thought I could get out of it.  “I’ll go play some arcade games,” I said.

No such luck.

I wasn’t nervous about flipping my car or anything like that.  What concerned me was being the slow poke that others got stuck behind. I imagined everyone’s cars lined up behind me, beeping and honking (although we didn’t have horns).

But I had nothing to worry about.  Somehow, luckily, I ended up being last.  Not on purpose.  I was busy getting our tokens and tickets together since I was the one who arranged the event.  Plus they make sure there’s enough of a buffer between drivers so that we wouldn’t catch up with each other.

Still, sitting in the car, I was anxious.  I could barely reach the pedals, but one of the guys noticed and gave me a cushion.  Much better!  I inched up with the others.  Then it was my turn.  Red. . .yellow. . .green. . .GO!

And you know what?  It was fun as hell.  I was pretty slow, especially on the turns, but I didn’t care.  Maybe the others were watching me, but I felt like I was alone.  The sun on my face, the wind in my hair, the roar of the motor in my ears.  Plus it was much easier than real driving – no traffic, no worries about cutting someone off or getting cut off, no pedestrians.

No mom nagging me that I was going too fast.

We did five laps, and I felt myself improving with each one.  Faster! faster! my brain said.  I definitely wasn’t fast, at least compared to the others, but I had no one stuck behind me either.

Now do I want to run out and start driving all the time?  Not necessarily, but I would totally drive go-karts again.

Apr 11

Scaring myself: Being social

Last night I got an invitation to join some literary folks for dinner.  Not a big deal, right?


For someone as shy and neurotic as I am, just the idea meeting up with a bunch of people I don’t know – at least beyond Facebook profiles and online writings – puts the fear of God in me.  Will I make a fool of myself?  Will I say something stupid?  What about those uncomfortable silences?  What if they think I’m a total idiot? After I got the email, I sat there staring at it for a good minute, trying to decide what to do.

All the usual excuses went through my head.  I’m too tired.  I have to get up early the next day. Ghost Hunters is on.

Then I thought What Would Greg Do?  He’d do the scary thing, that’s what.  Before I could psych myself out, I sent a reply back saying I’d love to join them.

And after that, I felt great!  The uncertainty and indecision were gone.  Having dinner with some strangers wasn’t going to kill me.  In fact, it could only lead to good things.  I’d have some fun and interesting conversation.  I’d meet online colleagues in person.  I’d make some writerly contacts.

And of course all of those things happened.

I wasn’t even nervous beforehand.  It helped that I was totally distracted by being stuck in the WORST TRAFFIC JAM EVER on my bus ride home from the train station.  Obama was in town, in case you didn’t know, meeting with Silicon Valley bigwigs and fucking up my commute.

It took us literally 40 minutes to go from 3rd Street to 7th Street.  At that point, I said, “Fuck this shit,” got out and started walking.  Avoiding the Tenderloin, I walked up to 11th Street then turned onto Van Ness.  I was at McAllister when a bus pulled up just in time.

And guess what?  It was *my* bus.


At least it could have been a faster bus.

Mar 11

Scaring myself every day

My brother recently took up an experiment: do something scary every day for a year.  These scary things included talking to someone new (we’re both very shy), going to a party by himself, and telling his friends about his blog.

Then he did number 15: post an embarrassing video of himself on YouTube:

And he has become, for at least these 15 minutes, an internet sensation.

Over 100,000 views.  On the front page of Reddit.  Mentioned on The Daily What and Buzz Feed.

Holy crap.

It’s a hilarious video and really well-edited.  At times I thought, Is that my brother? Most of the time I was laughing. But more importantly I was thinking, I want to scare myself too.

I probably won’t be posting any videos of myself, but for the past several days, I’ve sort of been quietly keeping track of the “scary” things I’ve been doing.  When challenged or nervous about something, I’ve thought, Just do it, you can cross off the scary thing you have to do today. Here they are thus far.

3/16: Speak in a meeting. I have to do this three times a week, and every single time, I get nervous.  For some reason this time, thinking, This is my scary thing, made it less scary.

3/17: Be in the front and middle in yoga. I’m not as bad as I used to be, but I still prefer to be near the middle and hugging the wall or a pole.  On this day, it was either squeeze in the back, or head to the very front, smack in the middle.  Scary thing be damned!  Front middle it was.

3/18: Yell at large. Again, at work. We were in a meeting, trying to start, and people were still yakking. I yelled, “We’re starting now!” They didn’t listen, but at least I tried.

3/19: Let myself leave at the last minute. Normally, I’m anally early, but on Saturday, I let myself leave at the very last minute to meet MB at the airport. His flight was delayed, and I could have left sooner, but I waited till he texted me that he had taken off. And when he did, I wasn’t even ready yet, and usually I’m ready waaay beforehand. This time, I purposely waited, got the text, threw on my clothes, and ran out the door. Was still 30 minutes early though.

3/20: Play piano (not scales) at full-volume at a music store. MB and I visited a music store so that he could drool over the electronics. Bored, I fiddled with the synthesizers. I don’t usually play anything, mostly because all I can remember are scales, but that day I played an actual song. Well, part of a song, but at full volume. Then I wished I remembered more.

3/21: Question the boss. This was probably the scariest thing I’ve done so far. It was a small question, but I always worry about coming off as insubordinate or bitchy. Then I thought, Fuck it, the worst he can say is no. But he didn’t! Not entirely. We reached a compromise, which we wouldn’t have if I hadn’t asked.

(Ha, you know, my boss says, “How do you know when you’ve crossed the line? When you cross it.” Then hopefully you’re in good enough standing to reel it back in case you’ve gone too far.)

3/22: Be pushy. Rather than waiting, I went ahead and demanded of my brother, “Blogroll me!” Call me opportunistic. Of course I also linked his site – and wrote an entire post about it!

While I’m glad to have done these things, they’re small scary things.  What about big ones?  Like reading my work in public?  Or taking a cooking class?  Or (gulp!) a dancing class?  I’m not making any promises though.  Just some considerations.

Mar 11

My Plaid-Infested Life

When MB was away, I started watching My So-Called Life on streaming TV.

When the show first aired, I had already graduated from college, but I ate up the teen drama like I was 15 again.  High school was still close enough to feel like it had just happened, and I had more in common with the moody, awkward Angela (besides a name) than I cared to admit.

At the time, I was working as an editorial assistant in children’s publishing.  There was another assistant exactly my age, and we’d dish on MSCL every week.  Oh my God, Jordan Catalano is so hot.  Oh my God, Ricky’s such a good dancer!  Oh my God, can you believe what Rayanne did? We were both devastated when the show went off the air after just one season.

After its cancellation, MTV would occasionally rerun the whole series, and I’d watch it whenever it was on.  But it’s been at least 10 years since I’ve last seen it, and I’ve been surprised at how much I both remembered and had forgotten, and what resonates with me now.

All that plaid. I seriously don’t remember everyone wearing so much damned plaid flannel. Of couse it makes sense. It was the mid ’90s and the height of the grunge era. I had at least two plaid flannel shirts myself.

Also, I can hardly believe high-waisted, tapered jeans were the norm, and what the heck was Rayanne wearing half the time? She was like a Raggedy Ann bag lady with cornrows.

Claire Danes was amazing. Of course she still might be amazing, but I haven’t seen anything she’s been in since Romeo + Juliet. In MSCL, she’s totally believable, almost to an annoying level, as the melancholy, self-conscious Angela Chase. She’s such a good cryer, I’m a weepy mess whenever she starts up.

Now it looks like she’s in a bunch of movies I’ve never heard of, including a made-for-TV movie and a TV series. Hmmm, and her leaving to pursue filmwork was supposedly what caused MSCL’s demise.

Jordan Catalano was super-tasty. But he was also kind of a jerk, at least at first.  I think I never realized what a jerk he was.  Still, I love hearing him say “Angela!”

Now I identify more with the parents. It’s rather depressing that I am now the age of Angela’s parents – but without kids – and identify more with the stuff they were going through. Distance in marriage, a possible affair, wrinkles, aging parents.

The eerie future. In one episode, Angela says how her parents’ generation all remember where they were when JFK was shot, and how her generation doesn’t have anything like that.  I couldn’t help but think that in just a few years 9/11 will happen, and then they – or we – will have something like that.

I’ve only watched as far as episode six out of 19. Hopefully I’ll be able to sneak them even now that MB is back. Or maybe I can get MB to watch with me, although he doesn’t do angsty teen dramas too well.

Mar 11

Fuck you daylight savings time

This week “spring forward” fucked me up more than usual.

My sleep’s been off anyway because a) I was hormonal which for some reason gives me insomnia, b) MB has been away for a few days at another conference so I probably haven’t been active enough and spending too much time at home, and c) Sunday night I always have a bit of trouble sleeping anyway because my sleep patterns have gone off for the weekend.

Then fucking spring forward.

Sunday night I found myself still awake at one AM. But at least I expected it.  I had a carby snack and some hot milk with honey to relax me.  I worked a bit on my memoir.  When I finally went to bed, I surprisingly had no problem drifting off.  But the morning was a fucking bitch, let me tell you.

I guess if I were back east, I’d be used to waking up in the dark all winter.  But I think it gets light here earlier so I haven’t been.

Today I couldn’t bear getting up seven when the sun was barely up, and slept in till 8:30.  Luckily I’m working from home today.

The only good thing about DST is that yesterday afternoon flew by.  Before I knew it, it was after five.

* * *

I want to be a super-independent woman, but basically I’m a bit of a mess when MB is away for more than a weekend.  I don’t leave the house as often.  I’m alone a lot.  Some nights I have trouble sleeping (not last night though, finally).  I also start to worry.

Without MB distracting me, my head starts to spin into an endless vortex of made-up anxieties.  I started thinking what if we’re next for an earthquake?  Why did I move to a state where earthquakes are a possibility?!?

Then I started to worry about my dad.  Right now I’m reading The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher.  It’s very good, but there are characters my age with a mother who just had a heart attack.  And the mother character is younger than my father.  So I started to worry about my dad, and thinking I just couldn’t bear it if anything happened to him (knock wood).

Of course I feel the same way about my mom, but my mom still seems vibrant, seems, basically, the same as always, while my father seems to have aged suddenly in the last several years.

My grandmother lived to be 94.  I really hope my dad lives as long.

Mar 11

The insecurity blanket

Recently Amelia over at The Frisky wrote about giving up insecurity for Lent.  One of the commenters wrote that shouldn’t a sacrifice for Lent be something you like, such as chocolate, sex, or some other decadent indulgence.  I’d argue that in a sick way for some of us, insecurity is as indulgent as a carton of ice cream.

While insecurity feels terrible, in some ways it’s comforting. It’s that outfit we wear on our “fat” days. Those loose yet unflattering jeans.  That cozy ugly sweatshirt.  I’m fat anyway so I might as dress ugly!

Insecurity for me has been difficult to give up.  It’s easier to be insecure (I call it “shy”) and stay at home rather than put myself out there and meet new people.  I work myself into a tizzy about MB and other women because hey, it’s gonna happen sooner or later!  Who cares if MB loves me to death, wants me to have his babies, and has only been faithful?  Being stupid insecure and jealous is easier than being all OPEN and VULNERABLE and telling him how I feel!  Much safer to stew in the cozy juices of my low self-esteem rather than risk rejection.

And most of the time, that rejection is all in my own head. Or if it’s not, it’s not like I’m gonna DIE from rejection. Men go through it all the time. We women, in general, just aren’t used to it.

Insecurity has been my crutch for ages, and I love the idea of systematically giving it up.  I also love the specific steps Amelia lists, and which I have to remind myself of regularly, especially living in the moment, not stewing about an unhappiness (I’m the worst about that!), and telling myself to STFU when I start to spiral into a negativity nebula.

But chocolate?  No way I’m giving that up.