My life is feeling jumbled recently. I moved back into a cubical after a brief stint sharing an office with two fabulous windows and natural light. Our little house on Henry St. had adopted a fuzzy mouse guest that likes to nibble through plastic lids, butternut squash, sacks of flour and sweet potatoes. The weather swings wildly back and forth between frigid wintery chill and balmy spring day. I’ve begun online dating. I’m flying to Washington DC in a week.
2014 is already proving to be a wonderful and terrifying year. So here is a short list of sweet things in my life:
1. Birthday Cards- I sent off a couple birthday cards in the mail this week. I’m bad, very bad, at remembering friends’ birthdays. It’s not for lack of love but more the sporadic nature with which I check my calendar and organize my numerical thoughts. The sending of birthday cards–stamping well wishes and trusting the US Post–feels warm and fuzzy knowing someone far away will physically touch the same envelope and reach the same words that you wrote days earlier. To all my friends whose birthdays I have forgotten, do not despair. There’s always next year.
2. Brownies- Not just any brownies but Slutty Brownies. I made these beauties for a co-worker’s birthday and they are most intense, dense and luxurious brownies I’ve ever made. It takes all the decision-making (Cookie? Oreo? Brownie?) difficulties out of your dessert treat. Not for the dieter or faint of heart.
3. Sue and Donna-On Mondays and Wednesdays I wake up at 6:10am, stumble out of bed and navigate my way to the gym as my eyelids slowly unglue themselves from sleep. Sue teaches step/rep exercise classes on these mornings and I love her for all her high energy music and dedication to step aerobics. Donna, a spright 50 year old Asian woman, has more energy than a classroom of kindergardeners and personally recruited me for these deathly early morning workouts. But they are quickly becoming part of my personal routine and considering how much butter is in a slutty brownie, it’s probably for the best.
4. Movies- I don’t see movies much, if at all. And yet by tomorrow morning, I will have seen three within a week’s span. And good films at that. The bare and hauntingly beautiful music in Inside Llewyn Davis and the questions of meaning and longevity in Nebraska have stayed with me long after the lights of the movie house faded back into reality. Food for thought. I can only hope Dallas Buyers Club dusts me with an equally powerful residue that I’ll carry out into my daily comings and goings.
5. Untraveled Places- For obvious reasons. Because they’re waiting for you.
Imagine my life as a house. And imagine Ray Bradbury walked into that house unannounced and proclaimed,
“2014 is going to be different. You might not be happy all the time or find all the answers but this year is going to make you think about what is really valuable in life. You will identify and go after those things.”
Maybe Ray said those things and maybe he didn’t. But I’m saying it to you right now.
I’m currently reading Fahrenheit 451 and, let me say, it is the kind of book that makes one shift uncomfortably in bed before falling asleep. Similar to George Orwell’s 1984, this small book packs a realistic punch from a distant unimaginable future. I carry this futuristic dystopian society around with me–to the grocery store, at work, in the gym. How is our current reality similar to a world that hates philosophy and new ideas, a world that burns books? What would I do in such a society? Who would I be?
Which brings me to my very real and very vague 2014 New Year’s Resolution:
Life is short. Life is sweet. Life is NOW.
We are not always given the things we believe we need or deserve. The boss will not award us the promotion or extra week of vacation just because we sit passively waiting for our just desserts. I’ve yet to find my one “true love” while sitting on a park bench watching strangers pass me by. Living is not a passive verb and we are not a passive species. In 2014, I will find things that make my life worth (actively) living. And I will go after those things…whether I’m ready for them or not.
Sometimes you just have to jump out the window and grow wings on the way down.
In anticipation of the new year, I’ve purchased tiny pink cans of champagne, a blank Moleskin planner and a new purple ballpoint pen. With only two days left to overindulge in Christmas cookies and make plans for an overly anticipated NYE, I’ve set my mind ahead to 2014. Will my gung ho ”fresh out the gate” enthusiasm for the next twelve months dissolve under the pressure of routine, procrastination and reliance on destiny? Only time will tell.
Glancing back at my 2013 planner, I witnessed small snapshots of my past year. I remembered meeting friends for the first time, auditioning for plays and dance groups, accepting a job, noting birthdays I remembered (or forgot), and a brief 3-month obsession with hot yoga. The experiences, mistakes, scheduled appointments– all filed away in the pages of months gone by.
How much do we change year to year, moment to moment? Years can pass us by without any noticeable change while a single event may alter the way we view our role in the world forever. My journal entry dated December 26th, 2013 read remarkably like my entry dated exactly one year earlier in 2012. I had the same feelings of nostalgia surrounding Christmas festivities as an adult, insecurity about my future, questions about the definition of home and the absence of romance in my life. Have I changed? How can I tell? Is change tangible, pencil marks on the wall for each inch and every year taller, or a continuous wave ebbing and flowing with the cyclical tide?
If I was to pick a New Year’s Resolution, it would have something to do with mindfulness. Mindnessful, “a state of active, open attention on the present (Psychology Today)” is linked to Buddhism and the practice of meditation. In his book A Gradual Awakening, Stephen Levine compares our thoughts to the cars of a train and encourages the reader to step away from the continuous flow of images and experiences, letting them pass by and disappear around the bend. I’m sick of being overbooked and underwhelmed. I will strength my resolve to live fully within these precious moments with a greater awareness of time and space. We have, after all, only ourselves to suffer with, to love with and to cherish.
Every year is given to us as a gift and it is up to each of us how we use the mystery beneath the wrapping paper.
I’m sitting at my desk watching the snow drift out of the sky and onto the two lonely minivans in the parking lot beyond my window. The office is quiet today. The world itself seems quiet.
I memorized a poem last week and wanted to share it with you, dear reader. Please close your eyes and imagine a warm place surrounded by the snow globe of your memory.
Like Snow by Wendall Berry
Suppose we did our work
like the snow, quietly, quietly,
leaving nothing out.
Pico Iyer, a writer and world traveler, gives an incredibly powerful 14 minutes TED talk titled “Where is home?” He begins with this simple question and delves quickly into a larger discussion on the global community and individual sense of belonging. If you skip the rest of my blog post, at least watch this:
Iyer’s poignant observation regarding movement and stillness rang true in my life as a traveler, a millennial, and a dancer. But his discussion on home also triggered another part of myself. That as a multiracial child in the 21st century.
Which brings me to the Race Card Project (racecardproject.com), a fascinating platform for people to speak about race. Michele Norris with National Public Radio started this project by inviting people to share any thought or experience regarding race. In six words. Some of the stories have been shared on the radio and online. I decided to create my own. What would your race card say?
“They only see the Asian half.” -My race card
My mother is of Irish and Italian heritage; my father of Japanese descent. Both of my parents were born in the United States as were their parents before them. Both consider themselves to be American as documented by their passports, drivers licenses and birth certificates. My mother and father speak English has their first and only language. And the American child they created and raised together? Well she constantly gets asked where she is “really” from because New York State is never the correct answer.
I learned to identify myself as Asian-American because that is how others categorized me. My classmates assumed Asian was the reason I got good grades. Asian was the reason I liked seafood and tanned like an islander. And Asian was the reason my grandmother was lived in a Colorado internment camp directly following the attack on Pearl Harbor. My history. Asian history. The rich Irish-Italian culture of my mother’s family never stood a chance.
‘Tis the season– the season for seeing the first dusting of snow, filling shelves with bottles of Cab & Merlot, building fires in the wood stove, and casting stitches for knitted hats, mittens and scarves. The radio stations praise jingling bells and baby boys and Black Friday enthusiasts are setting their alarm clocks across America. Reserve a turkey and plan the menu. The holiday season is here.
This year my Thanksgiving, as many in the past, will be held at my parents’ house. The morning begins with fresh coffee, breakfast bread and the low hum of parade commentary drifting into the kitchen where preparations are in full swing. As cars arrive, hugs are delivered and tinfoil dishes are slid into the oven. Tradition is butternut squash soup served in hollowed turkey-shaped dishes and Grandpa’s pumpkin pie with a healthy dollop of whipped cream. The dining party is small–five wooden chairs arranged at the table–but the quality of the company far surpasses the quantity of faces and names.
I am thankful for these people around my table and seated elsewhere throughout the world. I saver their unyielding support and generosity as I do my braised carrots and mashed potatoes, thyme and time again. Behind everything in my life that I am thankful for–my job, my home, my travels, my future– there is a friend, family member or stranger who contributed to my thanks.
Who are you thankful for?
Giving thanks often begets feelings of guilt. The Philippines will not easily recover from their country’s devastation. Wars are being fought, children shot and voices left unheard. Who am I to sit in a warm house with a full stomach and fuller heart while others struggle for so much less? But guilt does not help the world. Guilt neither feeds the hungry nor protects future generations. It is hope, not guilt, that arises from thankfulness and paves the way forward. Hope is the kindling that fuels the fire of change. Hope pulls us from our beds each morning and tucks us in every night with the promise of a new dawn.
This year on November 28th, wherever you are and whoever you are with, give thanks for all the people and moments in your life that have made you who you are today. And with this thanks find hope in things to come.
Want to have a sustainable Thanksgiving? Check out last years blog: Giving Thanks Sustainably.
During the summer of 2011, I spent three magical months in a southeast Asian island nation that has recently made its way into newspaper headlines and radio interviews. The Philippines was the place I learned to scuba dive, eat fertilized duck eggs, and formed friendships that have continued long after my return flight home. It is a country of beauty and unyielding hope for a better tomorrow.
I want to thank all my friends and family who reached out to me after hearing about the mass devastation due to Typhoon Yolanda. All of my close friends and host families are safe, protected in other parts of the 7,000+ island country. And while the death toll is less than previously estimated, thousands of people are without homes, food, water or clean clothes. My friend Vivienne recounted a story she heard from a friend living amidst the chaos and struggle for survival:
“It looked like a re-enactment of a zombie apocalypse. People there started destroying homes, banks, groceries. It’s crazy. One of my friend told me that her friend who lives there sleep with guns already.”
There are a number of organizations currently receiving donations. Due to poor infrastructure and limited transportation, cash donations are preferred for those living outside of the Philippines.
Click the map to view in Google Maps
I will continue to update the post with more organizations accepting aid. My friends in the Philippines are working directly on the ground and I will try to find additional ways to contribute to the cause. Search hashtags on Twitter (#TyphoonHaiyan #yolandaPH #reliefPH #BangonCebu #BangonVisayas #PhilippinesTyphoon) and like these Facebook pages:
Before and After Pictures (Time Magazine)
“So open your heart
Give what you can
We’re all responsible
For our fellow man.”
Excerpt from A Helping Hand by Ray Hansell
Two blogless months and none the wiser…
Halloween, once again, has snuck up on me. There are 2 for $6 candy sales on miniature Snickers and farm stands overflowing with carving pumpkins, squash and oblong gourds. Empty windows are transformed into “Spirit Halloween” displays that appear overnight in abandoned lots and vanish just as quickly as they come. On liquor store shelves, bottles of Octoberfest and pumpkin ale fill the aisles while children plan their trick-or-treat routes around the most generous of neighbors. Apples and celery sticks? No thanks.
It is the evening of October 30th and I, a young lively 23 year old, have no plans and no costume for the company wide costume parade tomorrow. What is a girl to do?
Answer? Bake mini cupcakes.
Here are some wise and wiser words of wisdom in anticipation of Halloween Eve:
- Carving a pumpkin should be fun, not a creativity competition.
- You can’t eat too many candy corn.
- Being a cat for Halloween was so 1999. I was 9. And I was a cat.
- If you feel like over-indulging, opt for the mini peanut butter cups NOT the unidentified punch bowl.
- You CAN eat too many candy corn.
- Even fake chainsaws are scary.
- Do not attend a party if bobbing for apples is the main attraction. It feels like you’re drowning.
- Eat dinner early, around 3pm. After that, your doorbell will ring until you run out of candy and your house is egg-ed.
- Thank every adult person you encounter who is not wearing a mask.
- Be safe, eat candy and celebrate with friends…
Or go to your favorite writing group because Carol just e-mailed and said you come come.
Where were you a year ago?
August 26th, 2012 was a Sunday. I was awake, reminiscing on my most recent weekend as a newly graduated, slightly lonely resident of Western Mass. My third week of work was about to begin and I sat in bed recapping my weekend to my journal before setting off into a new Monday. I had experienced my first solo outing in an unfamiliar town. I had traveled with co-workers to the Red Fire Farm’s Tomato Festival and baked my first homemade quiche. On August 26, 2012 I wondered how long I would be in Northampton and what I would be doing a year from now. One year ago to the day on this rainy Monday evening.
Journal entry: “Curried tuna fish for dinner and walked to the Brewery. It was nice outside but a little boring, lonely almost. Not because I felt pity for myself but simply because I wanted someone to talk to.”
Fast forward to 2013. I went back to Red Fire Farm’s Tomato Festival and ran into a couple of familiar faces. I drank a beer at the Brewery with co-workers last week and welcomed the new round of EcoFellows into our company. And just yesterday, I laid in bed and wondered where I would be one year from now. In 2014. Another 365 days of unknown possibilities.
The earth rotates, the sun burns and we find ourselves looking at a calendar full of memories cast behind a forgotten closet door. Don’t forget to open that door, dust off the taped boxes and shrunken sweaters. You might be surprised to find by how far you’ve come.
Stare long and hard at the horizon out beyond the low-lying hills.The nights you spent huddled over the wood stove and buried beneath blankets with a good book and a cup of tea vanish into fond memories as the sun erupts into pinks and blues across the sky. How you have waited for summer to arrive. Keep your eyes open and alert. Even when tears form, do not blink. Summer is coming and almost done–Anticipating April blending into Hot and Humid August. Where did all those lazy, hazy days go?
“Mid-August,” the woman answered as she folded plastic wrap over our blueberries and secured each container with a *snap* of a rubber band. Peach season, summer’s signature digestif, were three weeks away and I found myself wondering where all the time had gone. July and July had been trusted friends and secret admirers but August was coming, a childhood sweetheart bridging the worlds between blazing sun and crisp fall chill. My summer had floated by, fierce and brief as smoke rising off a sizzling grill before dispersing into the thick warm air.
My plan is to eat my way through these remaining days and nights of late sunsets and hazy sunglass goggles. I will savor each blueberry in pancakes, muffins and sprinkled in my morning yogurt or smoothie. I will patiently bide my time with cucumbers and fresh cherry tomatoes while I wait for beefsteak varieties of hungarian hearts and Cherokee purples. And when the branches grow heavy and tired with ripe peaches, I will satisfy the summer child within me until my tongue itches with fuzzy sweet juice.
Summer is luscious and fleeting. Eat up every last moment of it. I know I will.