Ode to My Taco

This is going to be a short post, but I just wanted to write a quick ode to my taco.

(I can hear the confusion now.) Erm, what? Your… taco?

That’s right, ladies and gents: my taco. And I’m not talking about some delicious concoction I whipped up in the kitchen or purchased from a street cart in Mexico; I’m in fact referring to my chair.

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I’ve had this puppy since high school. I got it as a Christmas present from Santa (I think in my junior or senior year?) and it’s been a part of my life ever since. It’s seen me at my best and my worst. I’ve slept in this thing on more than one occasion. It’s so perfectly comfortable and easy to curl up in. I’ve read many a book, watched many a movie, and written many a blog post in it. And when it’s folded up, it’s shaped like a taco!

When we were living in Seattle, there wasn’t really a good place to put it. It didn’t quite fit with our decor (though it was in the same color scheme) and we just couldn’t find a way to make it work. So it remained folded up in our (giant) closet for two whole years, coming out only once or twice when the mood struck me and I just had to sit in it.

And I think a little part of me was really sad about that. I longed for its cushiony ways, for the days that I spent reading in it or surfing the web or studying. But try as we might, the taco and our living room just weren’t friends, so in the closet it remained.

Then came time to move to New York. I got rid of a whole bunch of stuff, but I couldn’t bear to part with my taco. I knew it was completely unreasonable to bring it with me; if there wasn’t room in Seattle, there surely wouldn’t be room in New York. But when we got here and set everything up, I realized there was a perfect spot for it! I transformed a corner of our living room into a reading nook, with my taco taking center stage.

I’m writing now from it. Just sitting here makes me so happy. I’ve made so many memories here, mostly by myself, but in a way, this chair feels like home to me. It’s not particularly pretty or even very grown-up, but it’s mine. So thanks, taco. I appreciate you always having my back. Here’s to more years of comfort and friendship.

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Nay-Sayers

I go about my life just fine, sunny skies, mountains never too high to climb, then in a second, they appear. They surround me, engulf my thoughts, stop me dead in my tracks.

What do you think you’re doing? they say. You can’t; you won’t. Who do you think you are for wanting something like that?

I’m me, I respond. Me with my dreams, smart, talented, enthusiastic. I can do anything I set my mind to!

Their murmurs drown me out and make my voice quieter. You think you can do what? You want to go where? 

I grow smaller and smaller as they stand in my way, darkening my sun.

No, I gasp. No you’re wrong. I can do this. I can –

The terror grips me, paralyzing and tangible. Maybe they’re right. Maybe I can’t. Maybe I’m destined to be like this forever, to become one of them someday and give up chasing dreams of my own.

That’s right, they say. Stop trying. You don’t need to struggle. You’d hate it anyway. It isn’t worth the effort.

They aren’t right. They never are. I know that now, as I sit here typing, when they’re not trying to pull me under. But sometimes they feel so real.

Sometimes I can’t resist them on my own. So my back-up comes, to whisper in my ear that yes, I can, that it all will be okay. That I shouldn’t give up – that I can never give up. It helps me pick my head up and trudge on, through their sticky black sludge, away from them and toward the light of my dreams.

This is the story of me fighting back, screaming at the top of my lungs, I can, I can I can. Though my voice may be feeble, like a small flame on a windy night that threatens to go out, it’s still there.

They haven’t won yet. I don’t plan on letting them. I know I’m not alone in this struggle, that they bother everyone at one point or another. But they feel so isolating and sad and dark.

So I count today as a victory. Another day and the nay-sayers haven’t succeeded. Each day won is another day stronger. I will achieve my dreams. I will never let them stop me.

Another Happy Post

(Just a note: I wrote this a couple days ago, and have been delayed in posting it. Today in Seattle it’s rather wet, not as sunny and bright as mentioned here, so don’t cross-check this and think I’m lying…)

Today has been one of those days where I just can’t get over how wonderful life is.

Let me paint the picture for you: I’m sitting on our rooftop patio, 18 floors up overlooking downtown Seattle. The sun is on its way toward setting, it’s in the 60s in March, and I’m sitting next to my best friend (and husband!) at a tall metal table. We’re both typing away on our laptops – Davis on work, me on this – and sipping delicious red wine recommended to us by our beautiful friend Jena (Five Branches Pinot – less than ten bucks, and it’s fantastic, as is typical when she recommends things). I just returned from physical therapy, which I love, then a run around Green Lake, one of my favorite places in the city.

Life. is. so good.

I feel incredibly lucky that I can do these things, that I have opportunities to live in a cool city and run when I want to and drink wine on top of a roof. But every little thing this afternoon really made me smile. I opened a new chapstick – it was an exciting moment. I’m wearing a relatively new Team In Training headband (Sweatybands – they really don’t slip!). I’m sitting outside in a tank top. And they played Call Me Maybe on the radio while I was driving home. Sure, I could have been annoyed that I was stuck in traffic, that I could have probably walked home in the same time it took me to drive, but instead I got to spend time singing along to Carly Rae Jepsen at the top of my lungs. Must I say it again? Life. is. so good.

This is why I started this blog: to just talk about the little moments, the tiny things that make me happy. The times I can’t help but throw my hands up and shout to the universe and thank God that it’s so so good to be alive. Life makes me smile more often than it makes me sad (though that does happen too), and for that I am so grateful. I truly hope that you can find some happiness in your day today, whether it comes in the form of a hug from a friend, a bite of something delicious, a smile from a stranger, or a moment alone after the family goes to sleep. Happy Thursday, everyone!

My Hate-Hate Relationship with Makeup and Hairstyling

I am so bad at being a girly-girl.

It’s honestly never been a strong suit of mine. I’ve always been too busy reading or playing sports or out there living life to take much notice of it. Sure, I wore skirts in high school, but that’s because they were a mandatory part of my uniform. And in general, I like wearing dresses from time to time – they make me feel pretty. But I seem to have missed the classes (er, years) that were supposed to teach me how to braid my hair and apply eyeliner. I went to an all-girls’ high school, where many of my friends came to class sans makeup and with sponge curlers in their hair if something special was happening that night. So I was under the impression that for the most part, they didn’t care much either back then.

Facebook and real life have chronicled that pretty much all of these people – the same ones that came to school in “illegal” sweatpants under their plaid skirts – seem to know how to look pretty now, how to put mascara on without stabbing themselves in the eye or how to properly wield a curling iron. But not me. I’ve given it many a good shot, buying the hair goop and having friends explain to me – again – the four (four?) steps to applying eye shadow. But it never seems to stick.

I have a couple hypotheses as to why not. One is simply that I’m pretty blind – and I say that with little exaggeration. Without my glasses, I have to get less than an inch away from a mirror to see anything – so even trying to put on eyeliner is very difficult and rather scary, since an eye poke is pretty much inevitable. It takes me a long time to do it too, with many mistakes and frustrated “Oh please don’t cry and ruin this whole thing” moments, some of which I know would go away with practice. Another reason is that I really don’t think I need it. I get really self-conscious if I’m wearing any makeup at all, even if it’s just lipstick. I truly like the way I look without it better. A third (and admittedly lazy) reason is that I value sleep and other morning activities wayyyy too much. If I don’t have to spend half an hour wrestling my hair into a 24-step ‘do, I can spend that time reading or eating breakfast or waking up in the shower. And finally, I don’t feel like I have to. Maybe it’s a little anti-feminist, but I’ve already wowed the people that are important to me. The love of my life (who I’m married to) loves me without makeup. My siblings don’t care, and neither do my friends. They do occasionally razz me about it, then proceed to apply the makeup for me and help me style my hair – which I’m totally fine with. Sure, I want to occasionally impress strangers, employers, my husband, heck even myself sometimes – but most of the time, the battle with the makeup bag and hair dryer just isn’t worth it. Besides, if you’re going to judge me before you know me for my lack of wearing makeup, I’m not sure I want to be your friend anyway.

I felt inspired this week to try doing something new with my hair. Almost every day for the past (eesh) eight months or so, I’ve pulled my wet hair into a tight bun soon after getting out of the shower in the morning. It works, but even I know it’s the epitome of lazy. So onto Pinterest I went, searching for easy hairstyles (I mean, if it involved braiding or excessive amounts of bobby pins, it was out). I saw hundreds of them and tried a handful out – and none of them seemed to look any good at all. It goes back to the embarrassment aspect – I just don’t like trying to dress myself up by doing something new to my appearance. I’m at a bit of a loss at what to do for work tomorrow. I think I might just blow dry it (I do know how to do that… kind of) and pull it into a side ponytail. That’d be different.

But even in trying, I felt all of this anxiety. I felt the angst and the nervousness and the resignation of pulling it up in a bun again and calling it a day. I don’t think I want to be a girly-girl, but I do wish I knew a little bit more about this stuff.

So there it is. My hate-hate relationship with makeup and hairstyling. Most of the time it doesn’t bother me, but every once in a while, it creeps up and makes me frustrated. We’ll see what happens with my hair tomorrow. Honestly, anything out of the norm will be a victory for me.

The Awesomeness of Podcasts

I have become completely and overwhelmingly obsessed with podcasts.

(As a side note, how on earth is the word “podcasts” not in the Google Chrome dictionary? This technology has been around for a while, people! What’s with that?!)

I can’t honestly recall how it started. I remember years ago trying to listen to a podcast that promised to help me learn to speak Italian. This was in the time before smartphones – or, at least, before I had one – so I’d download it on iTunes and load it onto my oh-so-cool iPod Nano, use the scroll wheel to fly down the list of everything else I had on there, then listen to it intently. There was no 15-second rewind button. No efficient way to subscribe. And for all of its good intentions, I barely listened to it, so it didn’t really teach me Italian at all (mostly, I think, because of the tedious process of staying up-to-date with the lessons. The audio quality wasn’t that great either.).

Wait wait wait – this started even before the Italian podcast. How could I forget my first-ever podcast experience, MuggleCast? This one I’d listen to every week in high school, then discuss with a friend. I remember enjoying it but fell off the bandwagon somewhere along the way. Then it was the Italian podcast. Then another hiatus, until I happened upon Freakonomics Radio.

This I distinctly don’t remember. Maybe someone in school mentioned it. Maybe I saw it on iTunes and decided to give it a go. Maybe I wanted to reestablish faith in podcasting and it led me to explore the options available to me and I picked that one. In any case, I do know that sometime around my last year of college I became interested in podcasts again. Davis listened to one too (EconTalk, I think it was). I remember long drives together, listening to Steven Dubner and Steven Levitt explain how economics works in the real world. One of our favorites was the interview they did with Tyler Cowen about the economics of food.

I remember having quite a backlog of Freakonomics podcasts to listen to, and that made me really excited. They helped me survive the many road trips I took that year, up north to visit Davis or back home to see my family and plan our wedding. They kept me alert and made time whiz by. So when I caught up completely, I felt really sad and kind of out of luck. How would I ever find another show that I loved so much?

If only I had known that was just the beginning.

After we moved to Seattle, I mentioned (offhandedly, I think) that I had caught up with Freakonomics Radio to Davis’ friend Nathan, who, upon hearing that I enjoyed consuming audio media, proceeded to spew out a long list of the podcasts he listened to. Luckily for me, he has great taste, and I quickly became hooked on This American Life and RadioLab. From there it’s just spiraled to this crazy point of obsession. I also love the spin-off shows that have begun, like Serial, Invisibilia, and TLDR. But I feel like my craze for podcasts increased even more when I started listening to StartUp and Reply All from Gimlet Media.

Gimlet Media is, as its podcast’s name suggests, a start up that a former producer of This American Life and Planet Money began. The podcast walks its listeners through the process of starting a business – but not in a “Step 1 + Step 2 = Profit” sort of way. Sure, it talks about the pieces and everything it takes, but it shows the emotions and the real people bits that other media doesn’t seem to cover. The listeners hear the anxiety in the host’s voice when the company can’t decide on a name and the thrill when it gets funded faster than anyone thought possible through crowdfunding. Everyone who helps to create this show (and Reply All, Gimlet’s other production) has so much enthusiasm and drive and love for podcasting – it makes me love it so much.

Which leads me to my kind of crazy idea. It’s caused me to start thinking about what it would be like to help with a production like this. I have that drive – the desire to create something so beautiful that it brings joy to people’s day, something that listeners anxiously look forward to each week, something that can cause the audience to think and to pause and to wonder at the world. I want to help with this so bad. I want to interview people, to create stories and write scripts and string thoughts together to produce a magical piece of art. I want to give others the excitement I feel when I realize it’s Thursday and there’s a new episode of Serial waiting to be listened to. I am willing to do whatever I can to help with this – even the seemingly mundane things. I can transcribe the interviews. I can take copious notes during brainstorming sessions. I can even go get everyone else coffee.

I think one reason this appeals to me so much is that it combines two things that I love – outside of listening to podcasts directly, that is. One of these things is talking to people. I can’t really put into words how much I love people. There’s a part in a course that Alex Blumberg (Mr. Gimlet/StartUp/former This American Life) teaches where he talks about getting to the true, authentic person underneath the “walls” we all have. He describes these embarrassed chuckles he’s gotten in interviews, these hesitations that show the audience that the interviewee is human, just like them. And I love things like that. I love having that kind of connection with people, of getting past the “hi, how are you” to the deep, interesting stuff. The other thing that I love is the story. I love writing things, especially just about thoughts of somewhat small moments. The way the sun hit the leaves on my walk home today, for instance. Or something I overhear in passing that makes me laugh. Usually moments like this put a smile on my face and make me think about the world a little differently, and I love bringing that to other people. I feel like podcasting is a way for me to combine these two passions, sort of.

Maybe it’s irrational. Maybe I’ll get over this aspect of my obsession in the next few weeks. Or maybe this is something that will stick with me, something that I suddenly feel called to do. Only the future holds the answer. But for now, I’ll keep listening, keep enjoying, and keep learning as much as I can about podcasting. I’m so grateful for the smiles, tears, and hours of listening entertainment that it’s given me so far and I’m excited to see what’s next.

At Least

It’s been a while since I last wrote – whoops! Seems to be a trend for me, but one I’m intent on breaking. I can’t say that I’ve been too busy to write, especially since I haven’t been spending long hours running insane distances between my last post and now. I guess I’ve just been out living. And while I want to document life here, I haven’t been good about being consistent. But I digress.

Optimism (the topic) has come up a lot at work, especially because inventory season is upon us, which is a time that no one seems to be particularly cheerful about. A little background on inventory: twice a year we have to count everything in the hospital (on a Saturday… you can see why people don’t like it that much) so that we have an accurate picture of how much money we have tied up in materials. It isn’t the most exciting thing in the world, but it has to be done. This year is especially difficult, as we’ve been trying to change the process, but in fact this has made it harder (instead of easier like we’d hoped it would be). And there’s a lot of grumbling – grumbling about the work that needs to be done to prepare, grumbling about coming in on a Saturday – just, grumbling.

Which is where my optimism comes in. I don’t mean to, but when something bad or sad or agitating happens, without meaning to and without fail, I follow it up with an “at least”. It’s pouring rain outside? At least it’s good cocoa weather. Our flight’s delayed? At least I’ll have a chance to grab a cookie and use the bathroom one more time before boarding. Inventory’s kind of a drag? Well, at least it will be over soon.

This isn’t easy for everyone. My coworker has admitted that he tends to fall on the opposite side of the fence sometimes, being pessimistic about things rather than seeing the positive. And I think a lot of people do this too. It’s not wrong. But I’m glad my glass usually looks half-full.

So I just wanted to write a small tribute to these two words. I know looking on the bright side isn’t for everybody and that it’s harder for some than for others, but I’m grateful that “at least” has been there for me, to turn the day around when it all seems to be falling apart. I’m so appreciative of the fact that it’s easy for me to do this. That I can see the silver lining, that I can celebrate the “at least”. My brain seems programmed to seek out the good, and I don’t want that to change. (is that bragging? I don’t mean it to be.)

It is, in fact, raining outside, and I’ve got a bit of a stomachache. But at least it gave me a chance to write a blog post 🙂

Birthday Reflections

(Warning: This is kind of a self-centered, egotistical post. Read with caution.)

It’s my birthday tomorrow.

My birthday.

The coming of it this year has made me realize how I really am an adult. See, they tell you that at 18 – “they” being your parents, friends, the government – basically society as a whole. And I mean, 18 was cool – I bought myself a lotto ticket on my birthday and called it a day. Then 20 came and all of a sudden I was like, “Jeez, okay, there went the teenage years. Now I’m grown up.” And while yes, that was true too, 21 came and knocked me over entirely, what with travelling the world right before and getting engaged and, oh yeah, the fact that I could purchase alcohol too. I guess with that I was “grown up” – I could do almost anything that any other “adult” could do.

But that realization didn’t set in until a few days ago. Until  it hit me that all the “big” birthdays are over. Sure, I’ll be able to rent a car for cheaper when I’m 25 – you can see I’m really excited about that one – but… that’s about it. No one seems to care when you turn, say, 26. Or 37. Or – let’s be honest – 22. Suddenly, birthdays become kind of obsolete.

I feel like a two-year-old throwing a temper tantrum when I say that I’m not used to that. I – just like a good percentage of people in America – enjoy celebrating my birthday. But with this somewhat sad realization came with it another, slightly happier one: if birthdays aren’t as big anymore, less people will come. And if less people come, I have an opportunity to do what I truly want to do and to enjoy the company of good friends and family while doing so.

So long story short, I had a really tough time trying to figure out what to do for my birthday. This year is the first time that I’m not home for my birthday, and on top of that, I’m working. Call me a lucky summer baby, but I’ve never had anything that I’ve had to do on my birthday before – no school, no work, nothing. All of these differences made it hard for me to decide what to do.

After going back and forth on various activities – out to dinner? Pizza? Dave and Buster’s? – I realized that what I really, truly wanted to do didn’t fall under the category of “typical birthday activities,” which is why I discounted it in the first place. But now I’m more than content with my decision – I’m, in fact, happy about it, and am starting to get excited for my birthday, even though I have to work and even though my family isn’t here.

So what is it, you ask?

I’m inviting a few people over to my apartment and making them lasagna and pie. We’ll watch The Italian Job and maybe play some board games if we feel like it. And I am so excited about it.

I’m most excited because I’ve wanted to make lasagna again for quite some time. Lasagna is one of the things that I really enjoy making (not to mention that I’m pretty good at doing so, if I do say so myself!). While it does take a long time to do – it averages around two-ish hours before baking – I find it to be a meditation of sorts. There is something so soothing and wonderful about taking twenty-some ingredients and turning them into a masterpiece.

To save myself the time, I went ahead and made the lasagna tonight. Now all I need to do is pop it in the oven tomorrow! 🙂 I’m also going to be baking a peach-strawberry pie, which is absolutely delicious. The thought of all of this makes me so excited, and hungry too, of course!

While cooking your own birthday dinner seems kind of backwards (even to me), it is something that I’m so excited about and grateful that I get to be doing. I love making food for other people – I can’t explain it, but there’s some intrinsic joy that comes with it. I can’t wait for tomorrow night, when some of my closest friends will be eating together, laughing together, and overall just having a good time with one another.

On a completely different note, I’d like to take a second to reflect on one thing more: Europe. Tonight marked my one-year anniversary of coming home from Europe, meaning I’ve been gone from there for a year. It’s a little bit crazy to me just how attached I still feel to that wonderful place (or, well, places, rather). I can imagine the sights, the smells, the people, just like it were yesterday. A year seems like such a long time in my head, but right now I’d prefer to flip it around: this time next year, I hope to be back. I hope to be wandering the streets of Torino or Venice or Paris, but this time with my husband beside me. If a year flew by so quickly, surely it will do the same again.

So yes… all of my reflections. Thanks for reading – ciao for now 🙂