2013 Year in Review

This year was a mix of good and bad. Lost an aunt to cancer in August, made some health gains, had some career struggles, and spent time with dear friends I hadn't seen in ages.

Ultimately 2013 was pretty good to me, especially considering how rough previous years had been. I'm also still so relieved and grateful to be living the Bay Area.

Here's how things measured up to the goals I'd set for myself:

1. Improve my health. 
I did beautifully on this front. Instead of my usual twenty thousand cold and flu bugs that last for months at a time, I got for reals sick twice. And not for long. My ankle is so improved that I'm able to walk in high heels again (it's been years - maybe since 2006). I've logged a lot of hours at the gym and am fitter than I have been in ages. I also lost about 22 pounds, but that's varied a bit with the holidays (as expected). All of this is the result of my insistence on honoring my body's natural sleep cycles and returning to a more physically active lifestyle. 

2. Take steps toward performing again.
I didn't quite get as far here as I would have liked, but I did put some feelers out into the local music scene. Hopefully these efforts will result in some more concrete activities in 2014.

3. Travel.
I didn't travel far, but I did head out to Napa and other less-traveled (for me) parts of the Bay Area. I had an incredible time in January and again in August gallivanting around with my bestie and our friend Justin - we all went to high school and college together.

4. Read.
I read fewer books this year, but I'm not actually disappointed. The highlight was probably Amy Tan's Valley of Amazement. Exquisite and had me in tears several times over.

5. Be selfish.
I was much better in this department and plan to get better still. Considering the improvements in my health, it's in my best interest to keep it up. 

6. Write.
If you count my efforts on www.qwertycafe.com, I've written MUCH more than usual. Not quite as much creative writing as I'd like, but I'm still pleased.

7. Focus. Or not.
I went with "or not," mostly because I spent more time than I'd like figuring out how to make ends meet. That's okay, but I think I'd like to focus my efforts in a more structured way come the new year.

8. By the end of the year, have at least one moment where I have felt like I was exploding with joy. 
I'd say that I looked pretty darn happy. What do you think?


Shameless Plug

I'm only going to do this here once (I promise). :)

I know money is tight for a lot of us, but if you happen to have the time and inclination, below is a link with information on my dear cousin's quest to fund her education. Every penny helps, since donations are being matched up to $1,000. 

For more information, check out her fundraising page here:

Much love!



"Douchebags like you are ruining San Francisco"

A well-meaning friend sent me THIS to mull over. 
Now it’s worse than it was in 2000. Now it’s only about the money. Now the only diversity we have left is ethnic diversity. Everyone is rich and privileged and entitled or hustling as hard as they can to become rich and privileged and entitled. A city once defined by people wanting to change the world is now defined by people who just want to be among the world’s richest. A culture that once understood history and tried to create it now has a memory that’s about 2 fiscal quarters long - and a vision that goes as far out as their funding allows. 
 It amused me that the author, after having acknowledged being part of the problem, didn't realize how self-centered he was being in his assessment of my favorite city.

I responded with:
The truth is that, yes, these are *some* of the people making affording a city apartment nearly impossible. But the old money from the area, plus strange laws around tenants/landlords have also done major damage. And there's a trend of using property as a vacation rental (higher prices) rather than a place to house people actually living in the city long term. BUT, my beloved weird people who are so much more liberal and progressive and open-minded than I am are still in the area in abundance. And I adore them. It's also gorgeous here - from surf to skiing in the same day, mountains and ocean, lush farmland and a major metropolitan area. There's incredible racial and cultural diversity, though admittedly you have to include areas outside of the city for this to be fully true. The art, the food, the quirky fashion, I still love it and will continue to do so. It's home.
I'm never sure if I can call myself a San Francisco "native." I grew up in the heart of the city - my artist parents lucked into a swank apartment in upscale Nob Hill before things got pricey. The usual test I've heard is, "well, which high school did you go to?" I have an answer, but I only attended for a year before my dad had an epiphany that took us all to Great Falls, MT.

I feel like an unnative native. It is and always will be my true home, my heart is here and it is here that I feel...well...like I fit somehow.

These conversations about San Francisco not being what it once was pop up constantly. I wouldn't care, but well meaning people send them my way, hoping for comment.

In the future, I'll send them here. It is and always will be my favorite city. Self-important startup folks aren't a strong enough force to change that. Ditto to hipsters, trustifarians, dotcommers, the "plants who ruined the hippie movement" or anyone else, for that matter. I'll never leave it for long.



Speaking about being better at prioritizing my health, I've been pretty pleased with my performance the last several months.

Sure, my main client bailed on me in January (they cut back on everyone, so luckily it wasn't a problem with my performance), but it's actually been great for me. Well, minus the super tight budget, but health > budget.

The least important, but probably the most Tweetable, milestone is that I've dropped 17 pounds. The weight loss is slow and steady, which is how I like it.

I'm more concerned with things like:

- Being able to walk for an hour with Cheeto in a hilly neighborhood without my bad ankle giving out on me.
- Running for nine consecutive minutes. I HATE running.
- Feeling good. Like, GOOD good.

Monday was another important day for me: I've been using an aerobics step during circuit training and I always cling to the handle for dear life. I was terrified that not doing so would make my ankle give out on me (and when I first started working out, it would have). On Monday, I decided to go hands free - and I was fine. A tiny bit of a wobble if I step wrong, but miles and miles and miles better than it used to be.

I'm looking forward to what comes next. Maybe talking myself into gym shorts instead of capri-length yoga pants? I really hate feeling overly warm when I'm trying to workout. 


Keep on Keeping On

Well, I was a bit worried I'd have to cut short all this healthy good stuff I've been doing recently. My short achilles tendons were really starting to hurt and my feet screamed at me after every workout.

Then Brie pointed out that I hadn't replaced my shoes in awhile. Whoops.

Behold the New Balance Trail Shoe

Though my budget has been ultra tight, I welcomed these babies into my life. Problems = solved. There are a lot of expenses I'll cut to make due - so far I've pulled back almost entirely on things like video games, eating out, and most of my beauty products. But, unless I'm totally destitute, I feel like fitness gear is a smart investment.

I'm slowly but surely getting better at valuing my health over other things. :)


Fancy Living

Me: I'm hungry.
Mark: You could try some of the Easy Mac.
Mark: How is it?
Me: Not as good as the real thing.
Mark: *eyebrow raise*


End Scene

Things started off well, but the last thing I wanted to do Wednesday - Friday was workout. Wow. It was like a motivation black hole or something.

To be fair, Monday killed my ankle. It swelled up and no amount of careful limping, ice, soaking, massage, and ibuprofen would make a dent in the pain or the inflamed tissue.

On the plus side, a few tweaks to Couch to 5k helped me make it through. You could call it cheating, but I consider it being kind to the previously mentioned cruddy achilles tendons and ankle.

Wednesday my ankle finally felt better, so I split the run time in half. Friday I *skipped* but made up for it today. Instead of a full nine minutes of sustained running, which was really killing me pain-wise, I ran three, walked two, alternating for about twenty minutes.

In all, I worked out for four hours and 52 minutes. Not shabby, considering the massive energy drop after my ankle started throwing a fit.

I'm thinking I'll continue the alternating walking/jogging for week 5. Sustained running is probably causing more damage than it is worth at this point (weight?), but I still want the aerobic benefit of the increased intensity of jogging v. walking.


Activity Tracking

Looks like writing down what I've been doing for workouts is making me get competitive with myself.

By that I mean that I just checked out the past two weeks' activity levels:

  • Jan 25-31 I worked out for 6 hours and 17 minutes. Wowza.
  • Feb 1-7 I worked out for 3 hours and 34 minutes.

Now that I am looking at the numbers from the drop in activity from week to week, I feel like doing more. I'm enjoying all of this motivation. Gotta keep it up!

Kicking off the Year of the Snake

Though things on the career front are slow, this weekend was pretty spectacular.

First of all, this happened:

Photo by thelsdj
That's Cheeto, basking in the sun and sporting her cone of shame. She's fenced in because company was over and she has a habit of trying to eat them. C'est la vie.

Muse and I ended up having family over Friday and Saturday evening and had far too much fun playing Heavy Rain, Rockband, and Cards Against Humanity, watching bad rom-coms starring Ryan Reynolds, and eating delicious things. My family can cook, y'all. :) Waffle pizza made the menu, among other tasty things.

On Sunday, I woke up late, took Cheeto for a nice, long walk to make up for all of that fenced-in time, and grabbed some tasty items for Chinese New Year. I skipped the moon cake in favor of some jin deui (sesame balls), and the super-not-traditional coconut, cream cheese, and red bean filled buns. Oh! And Senorita bread! It may not look like much, but heated up that stuff is heaven. Sugary, buttery, carb-y heaven. I followed all of that up with Chinese takeout from J's Garden paired with lazy person rice cooker rice.

Cheeto finding the scent. Of noms, I presume.
Imagine my surprise when I weighed myself and found I'd lost another three pounds in the past week. Woo! It seems the Couch to 5k and all the walking have been paying off. I just finished week three of this version of the program. Seven minutes may not sound like a lot of continuous time running to anyone, but to me it was hell. My short achilles tendons and wonky ankle make it all the more challenging, but I'm incredibly pleased to have made it this far. I managed a small self-reward of some light gloves to keep my hands warm on walks without overheating, as well as a headband to keep the wispy layers of my hair out of my face while working out. Hopefully I'll get smart and get back to doing those tendon lengthening exercises from my ballet days. I'd love to get back to a point where 30 minutes in slightly flexed snow boots won't cause severe calf cramps, but we'll see. Gotta finish the small stuff first.



More pictures of food BECAUSE I CAN.

Besides the lemonade, I ended up making cranberry orange scones and chicken cacciatore. I wish I liked the act of baking and cooking more - if I could just research recipes and have the food magically appear, that would be GREAT. Tonight's food project is crockpot beef stew. I'm hoping to find more tasty vegetarian recipes, but most of the ones I've tried thus far just aren't that satisfying. :-( Oh well.

Good news is I'm down 6 pounds since January 1st, despite all of this eating I've been doing (the Bestie was in town earlier this month and MY WORD did we eat. That was basically the whole visit - waddling from one food adventure to the next.). The walking has been wonderful and I am finally at a point where pushing myself physically feels rewarding instead of like I'm trying to torture myself. Hopefully I'll get to a point where I'm not waking up every few hours from muscle soreness. But with the Couch to 5k thing, I doubt that will be soon.


When Life Gives You Lemons


This, my friends, is a glorious glass of cold lemonade. Maybe not so great for those of you dealing with winter storms, but to me it is divine. It represents all of the best things about working from home. The fact that I feel stronger than I have in ages and therefore had the emotional energy to make something from scratch. When insomnia strikes, I can stay up and squeeze lemons rather than freak out about needing to be up at a certain time. I happened to be home in the middle of the day when a friendly neighbor stopped by to deliver the lemons. It's also incredibly tasty. My goodness.

Unfortunately, my primary client had to pull way back on hours. Here's hoping I can fill up my time with some new design work, rather than go back to the 9-5 grind. *raises glass*


Goals for 2013

I've decided to slightly shift my goal lists this time around - instead of framing things as successes and failures, I'm going to try and incentivize the more difficult to achieve annual goals.

1. Improve my health. 
I've been walking for 45 minutes to an hour five days a week with Muse and Cheeto. It's gorgeous here, so it's not hard to maintain - as long as I keep making it a priority. To this I am adding the Couch to 5k regimen, Wii's Just Dance 3, Dance Dance Revolution, and my Planet Fitness membership. My plan at the moment is to essentially pay myself for keeping up with moving more. If I finish the Couch to 5k plan, for example, I intend to treat myself to dance classes. With the gym, if I go X number of times in Y period of time, I will reward myself with Z. So far I'm thinking some kind of foot massage will be in order. Essentially, I'm giving myself cool experiences if I'm more physically active, and if I happen to lose any weight with this increased activity, I'll treat myself with various material gifts every N number of pounds (budget permitting).

2. Take steps toward performing again.
Dance class counts. Perhaps voice lessons. Maybe acting lessons. Maybe auditioning for something. If I'm cast in something, anything, I plan to take myself and some friends out for celebratory bowling.

3. Travel.
It's a reward in and of itself, but I'd like to pull off a road trip to Montana and spend at least a few hours in Canada. This will require me finally sucking it up and getting my passport photo taken. Muse and I also need to get to Boulder to visit his amazing/wonderful/fun/awesome/fabulous sister and hopefully see his niece (maybe in Chicago?And if Chicago, see family, family friends, and friends who are family). Bonus life points if I go someplace beyond that.

4. Read.
I hit my ten book goal last year because I started reading on my mobile devices. I've very mindfully created more free time for myself, and I need to figure out how much of it I want to devote to pleasure reading. As long as I finish whichever book I acquired most recently, I'm giving myself an unlimited book budget.

5. Be selfish.
I'm not going to get into the Phoebe debate on whether or not any act can every truly be unselfish. But, I do have a tendency to spend too much time worrying about other people's impressions of me. I want to do things for myself, for my reasons, to further my own end-goals. The reward here, I believe, is peace of mind.

6. Write.
I *will* use this space for whatever the hell I want. I've spent too much time worrying that I should reserve my blog for a limited number of things or focus it to "increase traffic," etc. Forget all that - I'm just going to post about what's on my mind, what I'm doing, what I'm not doing - what*ever*. :) For this I will have the pleasure of looking back at this space to see who I was during this time. That's ultimately what this blog has served as for me, so I may as well be true to that.

7. Focus. Or not.
I see myself as an aspiring Jane of all trades. This makes directing my career efforts difficult, as generalists don't seem to be valued much. I intend to spend some time reflecting on what I really want out of a career, out of life and moving forward from there. Perhaps fragmentation can be the right path. Or not? As with being selfish, my reward here is potential peace of mind.

8. By the end of the year, have at least one moment where I have felt like I was exploding with joy. 
Because I want at least one spectacularly gleeful moment this year, if not a whole long string of them. 

How'd I do? 2012

1. Up the ante and read ten for-fun books. (Up from last year's five.)
Status: Success! 
The Opposite of Fate: Memories of a Writing Life - Amy Tan
The Joy Luck Club - Amy Tam
Punished: A mother's cruelty. A daughter's survival. A secret that couldn't be told. - Nonna Bannister 
The Wild Things - Dave Eggars
Big Girl Small - Rachel Dwoskin
Yellow Wallpaper - Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power - Rachel Maddow
Red Azalea - Anchee Minn
Bossypants - Tina Fey
Inheritance - Christopher Paolini (my god, will this author ever stop using the word "fingering?! Please.)

2. Climb a wall. Status: Failure.

3. Apply to grad school (minus the beard). Status: Failure.

4. As a carry-over from 2011, travel outside of the U.S. Status: Failure. 

5. Stay true to my Weight Watchers plan. Despite their creepy video. Status: Failure.

6. Go bowling. I love bowling*, but never go. Status: Failure.

7. Run a mile without dying. No matter how fit I've been, I've always hated running - however, it lends itself to my plan for #8. (Also sans beard.) Status: Failure. I did decrease my mile time though. :)

8. Operation: SUPER OMEGA TOP SECRET. You'll see. Status: 0.25. Can't tell you yet.

9. Sing more. Way more. Status: Success! 

10. At 11:59 p.m. on December 31st, feel like this: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=jKlxjbhB9HEStatus: Success! 

A lousy 3.25 out of ten. But it was ultimately a good year.

It happened

I've been told by a few people in my life that there are two topics I never go a day without mentioning: dogs and San Francisco (I'd argue that we need to put food planning on that list, but I suppose it's not my list).

Well, I already have my darling terror of a terrier, Cheeto - so I moved to the Bay Area. It may not be the city-city, but it's close enough in the East Bay. I got here in September and it has been amazing. Truly amazing.

I feel good, connected, like I'm actually in the moment and living a life. Let's not dwell on how rare that feeling has generally been for me.

I've made major strides in improving my physical health (not to mention the emotional benefit of being here). I haven't been this happy in a long time.

Here's to a prosperous 2013!

Much love,