Welcome!

I am a teacher and aspiring writer, and keep a blog to keep up with writing and document the daily moments that make up my life. Working with my students & travel writing are my biggest passions. People, art, food, wine/spirits, and culture are other writing interests. Thanks for coming by!

Monday, December 27, 2010

On Being Brave


Back in mid-October I had two moles removed from my left shoulder area. Getting the minor surgery for the biopsy proved to be pretty hard on me, mostly because it was an unexpected surgery, and also because I'd never had stitches. When I got the biopsy results, it turned out both moles were precancerous. I didn't take the news too well, and got really stressed out and depressed. So once I got my stitches out, I decided to give myself a break before committing to get further surgery.
Well, my sleepless nights of worry have returned, and I realized this morning that going through with the surgery is actually preferable to living with the dread of it and the constant worry. No matter how bad it could be, it couldn't be worse than living in constant dread of it. And not doing it all is not an option either, because clearly I can't leave the worry behind, and if something is precancerous, why take chances?
I am pretty much the least brave person in the world, so to commit to further surgery is about the bravest thing I've ever done. I am especially afraid of medical procedures. Shots alone used to terrify me as a child. Add surgery, and the unknown element (I have no idea exactly what will happen or exactly how much more tissue they will take, or how many stitches I will have to get) and as you might imagine, it's kind of a recipe for a nervous breakdown for someone like me.
But I am going to go through with, because I can't keep living with the dread and fear of it. I do dread the surgery worse than anything I've ever dreaded in my entire life, but the dread I feel toward getting the surgery done pales in comparison to one day potentially getting cancer because I didn't follow through on this procedure.
Different things are scary to different people, but being brave is so scary. However, there's no price on peace of mind, as they say, and getting surgery is my only path to getting there.
There's a quote that says, "Courage is not the absence of fear, but being brave in the midst of fear." In France, when someone is facing a big challenge, they will say, "Courage." That's exactly what I'll be needing in the weeks ahead.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Christmas!

It's Christmas Eve morning, and although this holiday season has had its ups and downs for us, it has also been filled with wonderful moments and memories.

I'll list a few of them here:

1. Decorating our tree.
2. Helping my sister and niece decorate theirs.
3. The Prottungs Ugly Christmas Sweater party.
4. Getting Christmas cards in the mail.
5. Having dinner with Karissa & Co. the other night.
6. Making this year's ornaments.
7. Cozy fires.
8. Avoiding the malls!!!
9. Seeing my Aunt Maggie.
10. Making limoncello and getting to share it with friends.

Tonight we will go to my parents house to exchange one gift, then tomorrow morning we will go back to my parents to do the family gift exchange, then to my aunt & uncle's house about an hour away.

I never thought Christmas was about the gifts (well not since I was REALLY little,) but this was the first year that I really felt a deep sense of gratitude about getting to spend time with loved ones. More and more I am aware of the fact that none of us is going to be here forever, and this year I am especially grateful to get to spend the holiday with my parents and grandparents. Being together with family is definitely the best part of Christmas for me. I am remembering those I love today, and those who I have loved who are no longer here. I always spent Christmas Eve at my Grandma's house. I miss her. Happy holidays and Merry Christmas to those near and far, may your holidays be warm & bright.

Monday, December 20, 2010

What I'm Lovin'

1. Torrontes, an Argentinian white wine. So far I've tried it made by both Fantelli & Crioso. Both were excellent.

2. Shutterfly books. Rob & I made one of our trip to Kauai that my parents took us on last February, and we are giving it to them as one of their Christmas presents. It's a great way to say thank you and preserve memories.

3. Jogging, although it is always an ordeal motivating to get there. Once I'm there, more than half the battle is already over, and I have a sense of accomplishment that I rarely experience for any other reason.


4. Limoncello. We have been giving it to friends over the holidays, and it's been fun giving it, and drinking it too! I'm also really excited to interview the Limoncello maker in Sonoma early in the New Year.

5. Seeing friends, family, and going to Christmas parties. We are feeling full of holiday cheer.

6. Getting Christmas cards. Our friends all have such adorable kids, and the Christmas cards are so much fun to get in the mail and hang up on the mantle.

7. SNL. I feel like it's gotten a lot better again lately. They actually have funny people/skits again.

8. Making Amazon wish lists. It's fun to peruse all the great books out there, and see all of the great new titles they have that I am looking forward to reading eventually. Also, more and more titles are showing up as available on the Kindle.

9. Bucket lists. Lately I've been adding a lot to my bucket list. I'm sure there will be a bucket list post pretty soon here. The latest are snorkeling in Fiji, and visiting hulaus in Tahiti.

10. Cool websites like these: http://www.spoonflower.com/welcome

11. Researching the travel writing world. I found this great site:
http://www.thetravelwriterslife.com/

12. Having a 5K to look forward to in January. I am planning to start the new year off right!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Couch to 5K

I was thin in high school. No, I swear, I was. I started college equally thin, but gained the Freshman 15 my freshman year. By sophomore year I lost some of that weight, mostly because I wasn't eating at the dormitory cafeteria anymore. (That food was awful!)
When I see photos of my 21st birthday (at the beginning of junior year), I still looked pretty thin, although maybe a smidge chunkier than I was in high school. But that was before I went to study abroad in France - second semester, junior year. Forget the Freshman 15. In France, I think I gained 30. I literally passed a croissant bakery every day on my walk to the university. You might deduce that more often than not, I could not resist stopping for a hot, freshly baked chocolate croissant. On top of that, there were very few fresh greens available at the grocery store, and baguettes and cheese, although delicious, were not exactly diet food.
I returned from France quite the chunky girl, but got into a workout routine pretty quickly and lost quite a bit of the weight I'd gained. However, the weight I lost didn't stay gone for long because my girlfriends and I were 21 now, so we could all go out anytime we wanted for live music and....beers, of course. And it doesn't take too long for all of those beers to add up. By the time I graduated from college, I looked like a pufferfish. No, seriously, my face was literally swollen from all of the drinking we did. I'm not proud of it, but it's true. We decided to start celebrating graduation at least a month before we actually graduated, and it showed.
After graduation I moved to Hawaii, and being poor in Hawaii - I only made $6.30 an hour as a tour guide - actually helped me lose some weight. Next was a move to San Diego where I learned to surf and probably got into the best shape I'd been in since high school. Again I was poor (this time making $8.00 an hour at the bookstore) so this kind of helped too. I liked good food, but just couldn't afford it. And Top Ramen works pretty well for diet food when it's all you eat.
I moved back to Sac from San Diego and just stopped being as active as I had been been in SD. I eventually got into swimming, which was great, but I never lost much weight with the swimming. And so the pounds kept sneaking on, one by one until, until now, and the buck stops here. My health is now being affected, not to mention my self-esteem and general quality of life.
So two of my friends and I are training for a 5K on January 23, and already I've made some progress. On Day 1 I couldn't jog for more than a minute without gasping for breath. Now, 2 weeks into it, I can jog for up to five minutes without stopping! My goal is to be able to jog the full 3 miles by January 23, but if not, I will be happy just to jog most of it. After all, it's a great improvement from what I was doing, which was....nothing. And that was going to get me.....nowhere. Also, I just feel better about myself now that I am making an effort toward a change. This is so much better than feeling horrible about myself, but not doing anything about it. I heard recently that gratitude is great, but action is better. As blessed and as grateful as I may feel about my life in many ways, there are also a lot of things that could be better, like my health. And talking about it isn't going to change anything. So I'm taking matters into my own hands and making it happen. Because I'm the only person that ever will.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Making Dreams Real





All of my life I've dreamed of being a travel writer. It was what I wanted to be since I was 10 years old. My real father (who I only saw on rare occasions) was always taking trips to exotic places and sometimes brought back little tokens from those places that completely sparked my imagination. Growing up I was never jealous of the girls who had the perfect outfits, makeup, and shoes. I was jealous of the authors on author's bio pages in the magazines. "They did WHAT?" I'd say to myself in disbelief. "They went WHERE?" I'll never forget the author's bio page one month a few years back in Islands magazine. Islands magazine sent this female photographer to Sea Star beach in Panama to take photographs of the sea stars on the beach. What a life!
I've been writing in my journals since I was 10 years old, and was serious enough about writing to major in Journalism in college. I wrote for and copy-edited my college paper, and even got an internship at the Sacramento News & Review after college, but finding a "real job" with a journalism degree proved to be more challenging than I expected, so my writing dreams took a nosedive. Fast forward 10 years, and I am giving writing another shot.
Toward the end of my internship at the News & Review, I wrote a book review, which the arts editor (figuratively speaking) tore to shreds. I was crushed.
It took 10 years to submit anything again, and the only reason I did is that my husband encouraged me to. That, and my friend Brea's sister's husband was an editor at a local publication. Still after contacting him with an article idea, he said he'd look at it but he wasn't making any promises about publishing anything unless the material merited it. So, on pins and needles, I submitted my first article to him, about our favorite restaurant, Sushi Cafe. He not only accepted it, but put it on the cover! We were flying to Kauai the day it came out so we had to wait a week to find out, but we were ecstatic! My husband took the photographs we were equally thrilled. All in all, I've written 4 stories for Valcom News, and 3 were cover pieces!
So all of this takes me to the present, where I am wanting to take my writing to the next level, but haven't been exactly sure how to. Enter a family friend, Diane Covington. A nationally published magazine writer herself, she has been encouraging me to pursue my writing dreams. (THANK YOU DIANE!)
A couple of weeks ago, she emailed me, saying, "I think you should apply to BATW," (Bay Area Travel Writers)...."Who knows, they might even let you in!" So I applied thinking, "Ok, this is the longest shot ever." People in this group write for places like Islands magazine, the San Francisco Chronicle, and other highly competitive publications like that. I sent in my application with my little local schmocal article links and waited a couple of weeks.
Then, the other night, I got a phone call. It was from an 805 area code. Who might this be? I wondered. I picked up the phone and it was none other than the Membership Chair, Tom Wilmer, calling to congratulate my on my acceptance to BATW! I was beside myself, I couldn't believe it!
This organization doesn't guarantee me writing assignments. But it is a doorway for having writing opportunities I almost certainly would have never had otherwise, because I wouldn't have known about them. It might have taken a lot longer than I'd ever imagined, but finally, I feel like I'm really moving toward making my writing dreams real. When you've put off such important dreams for so long, it kind of eats away at you. I can't possibly express my joy at finally taking a step toward my life dreams. I can't even find a word for it. But now, maybe I'll need to.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Becoming Abby's Godparents






On Saturday, my niece Abby was baptized. She was baptized at St. Mary's cathedral, and it was a small ceremony with our family and another family. Abby was the one who decided that she wanted to be baptized Catholic, and my sister asked my husband Robert & I to be the Godparents. We were thrilled and honored. Although I hadn't been to St. Mary's in years, being there brought back a flood of memories from my childhood, but that's another story.
Abby wore a beautiful white and pink dress, she looked so sweet. She is growing up so fast. I felt very sentimental, and remembered the day she was born and the first time I ever saw her precious little face. She loves to draw, and wants to be an art teacher when she grows up. Her favorite color is purple. She loves animals, especially dogs. She is always very affectionate and runs to hug me when she sees me. I feel so happy to have her in my life, and be a part of hers.
Rob is excited about being a Godfather too. This is his first time being asked to be a Godfather, so it meant a lot to him. As her saint, Abby chose St. Abigail from Ireland, so Rob decided to give Abby his golden Celtic cross that he got the last time he was in Ireland. Abby loved it.
All in all it was a very special day for all of us. Being Abby's Godparents is a gift that we will treasure for the rest of our lives.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Inspiration


Where do you go to find things that are visually delightful and inspiring? I found this set of owls online, (no artist credit listed,) which for some reason, inspires me. Maybe it's because I like owls, and they remind me of my late grandmother who I loved very much, my "Mum." She loved owls and had a collection. Maybe it's the colors. Sometimes hearing foreign languages inspires me, even if I don't know what is being said, which is usually the case. Art museums often inspire me, but it's not all that often that I go to art galleries. Trying something for the first time definitely inspires me, whether it's a new food or drink, activity or outing. Tasting lychee sake about a month ago for the first time at Sushi Cafe was a perfect examples of this. Travel inspires me. Making things inspires me. San Francisco inspires me. Seeing kindness & generosity inspires me, and reading good books inspires me. Once many years ago, I was with my mom one evening in Sausalito and it was Christmas time. We looked out at the harbor, and all of the sailboats were lit up with Christmas lights, bobbing up and down in the waves. That inspired me. And my love for my husband, dog, family & friends inspires me.
What inspires you?

Monday, November 22, 2010

My College Roomie

Shannon, one of my best friends in college & college roommate stopped by today. It was so good to see her. Her husband had a medical appt. in the same office building as my doctor, who happens to be around the corner from me. I was there too today. I told her she had to stop by. We had a great visit, and I finally got to meet her adorable baby daughter, Fiona. I also got to see her son Sammy, who's 3 now, and has grown so much! We used to talk about everything: our latest crushes during college, our classes, and plans and dreams for when college was over. We rode our cruiser bikes everywhere together, cooked together, and definitely partied together. We came of age together. When I moved to Hawaii, and then San Diego after college, we sort of got out of touch for a little while. When I had my bachelorette party, she couldn't make it because she was pregnant with Fiona, but she made me the sweetest photo album with words and photos from every single one of my friends. That's the kind of friend and person she is. Shannon is like a sister to me, and it was so comforting to see her and catch up with her. I miss her but feel encouraged to make more of an effort to stay in contact and be a good friend. Sometimes seeing a friend's face is the only reminder you need to remember how much you care about someone. I want to be a better friend to her from now on, like we were in college. I love my Shanny girl.

Here's a few photos we took today.



Saturday, November 20, 2010

Making Limoncello

I made myself a promise that I'd make an effort to start trying new things - to broaden my horizons, and generally enrich my life - so when recently invited by my friend Julie to make limoncello with her, I jumped at the chance. Limoncello is an Italian liqueur made primarily of lemons, sugar, and Everclear,that many Italians make around the holidays. My friend Julie is Italian, and lived in Italy until she was 6. I wanted to take photos of HER making the limoncello, but she was camera shy.

So, today was Day One of our limoncello making.

We began by rinsing about 90 organic meyer lemons, drying them off, and setting them in a big bowl.



Next we got our zesters out, and we each zested about 30 lemons. We used 15 lemons per batch of limoncello, so it will yield about 6 batches.




After each batch of 15 lemons, we scraped the zest into a big jar, then added two bottles of Everclear to each jar. We shook up the mixture and covered it. The zest will marinate in the Everclear for 2 weeks. Then we will add the milk and sugar to make the Limoncello Crema. Stay tuned for part 2 in 2 weeks!




Thanks to Julie for teaching me to make limoncello, and to Julie's friend Amantha for so generously letting us use the lemons from her tree, and make the limoncello at her house!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Sea Ranch



Over the weekend, we went to Sea Ranch, a little coastal community a couple of hours north of San Francisco, with my family. The trip was so relaxing and wonderful with stunning sunsets and sun-filled blue-sky days. The salty sea air was so refreshing, and the sound of the waves crashing so comforting. On the morning we were leaving, we even saw a whale feeding right out in front of the house we were staying in! It was super close, what luck! We also saw adorable white spotted seals, and all kinds of sea birds. On the beach we found lots of driftwood, all shaped so beautifully. All in all, an incredible weekend! I'll let the photos do the rest of the talking.






















Write Gratitudes. Walk. Meditate.

These are three things that I am promising myself to do every day. What are three daily things that you are doing to improve your quality of life? I am curious to hear about this from people, (that is, if anyone is reading this!)

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Beautiful Piece about Gratitude

This is a wonderful article that my mom showed me, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

It's called, "Full to the Brim," by Carrie Grossman.

http://www.thelightinside.org/documents/CG_gratitude.pdf

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Embracing life (and overcoming fear.)

To be completely honest, I have accumulated a lot of fears over the years. I'm not sure how or why, maybe I got my fear of flying from the mind-and-heart-numbing events of 9/11. And maybe fears about car crashes came from my own experiences, having been in a few myself. Either way, it's a slippery slope, and it's easy for those fearful thoughts to really take over.
In a rare moment of clarity one day, I saw that this road isn't headed anywhere good. To be fearful is to be afraid of life. Life is full of taking chances, and perceived risks are often less risky that real risks anyway. Flying, for example, has less risk than many other things, but we don't think about the other things we do like crossing a busy intersection, or other mundane daily activities like that.
A few years ago, back in 2007, I had been so paralyzed by my fear of flying that I hadn't flown in 3 or 4 years. Then I had an opportunity to go to Cuba with my friend Karissa to visit our other friend Brea, who was in med school there at the time. Brea had emailed me and said, "Are you coming to Cuba? Time is running out. It's now or never." I called Karissa in a panic, telling her the news. I'd been looking forward to Cuba, but putting off scheduling a trip due to my fear of flying. Karissa, an intrepid traveler who's traveled all over the place, was like, "Well, you heard what she said. It's now or never, what do you think?" So despite being terrified of getting on another plane, we booked the tickets and took the trip. It took a lot of courage, but now I am completely overwhelmed at the the thought of what I would have missed, had I not taken that trip. However, I wouldn't have known what I was missing. This is another huge point to consider. If you don't go, you don't see just how amazing the experience waiting for you just might be. You will never know what you missed out on, but that doesn't mean that you didn't miss out on something amazing, wonderful and life-changing. Someone once said, "Life shrinks or expands according to one's courage." This couldn't be more true. I knew that if I skipped that trip to Cuba, I'd always regret it. It wasn't easy getting there and back (8 flights round trip,) but the memories I have of that trip are some of the closest to my heart. Some of the most wondrous and joyful moments of my entire life happened on that trip: seeing the Caribbean Sea for the first time, drinking coconut juice straight from a coconut on the beach, staying up all night laughing our heads off with our new Italian friends, meeting Yariem and getting to have dinner with two precious little old Cuban ladies who told us their life stories, swimming in the warm ocean waves, and being serenaded at breakfast (at breakfast!) by Cuban musicians playing the most beautiful music I've ever heard.
These are the things I would have missed if I'd missed out on the trip to Cuba due to fear of flying. Not worrying or being fearful is so much easier said than done, but in the end nobody knows how long they've got anyway, so we should really all just enjoy the time we have, and embrace the wonders life has to offer. Being too afraid to take chances and participate is like letting life pass you by. And a life not fully lived is the worst fate of all.
We are so lucky to be here, walking the Earth. Let us be grateful, and seize the moment.
Carpe Diem.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Neat Things that Neat People are Doing....

Since the world is full of creative people doing all kinds of interesting things, I thought I'd make this a weekly or monthly topic. Last night I picked up a copy of Ode magazine while I was at my mom's house, and found quite a few good stories of good things people are doing around the globe. Ode magazine is dedicated to good news, and I think we all need to hear more good news. I sure do.

1. There are the two Dutch artists, Dre Urhahn and Jeroen Koolhaas, who are helping out in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, by repainting hundreds of apartments in the neighborhood. They are getting locals involved too, which is helping the locals to build their job skills.

For more: www.odemagazine.com/favelapainting

2. The Green School in Bali is an inspiration to everyone wanting to "go green," and proves that even schools can do it. Made of bamboo, the students learn about respecting the environment, and how to build a sustainable world. They also learn to harvest rice, and take classes in music, dance, theater, and Indonesian, in addition to other core subjects. Source: Ode Magazine

3. Another great Ode story: wanting to take the world media back into their own hands, a group of African journalists has created a website about Africa, by Africans. For one things, they want to give their perspective on things going on locally, but also they want to balance the good news with the bad, and are tired of the world media only reporting about the AIDS epidemic, or the latest news on Darfur. In addition, A24 is 24 hour news, so it's constantly being updated.

For more: http://www.a24media.com/

4. Last but not least, Ode magazine reports on a new organization called "By Art We Live," an org. dedicated to letting children create art for art's sake, and not as a means to an end, or something to be incorporated into another subject. They have photographed and interviewed children around the world doing art.

For more: www.byartwelive.com

Monday, November 8, 2010

My New Favorite Breakfast

My friend Becca made this for me this morning after a nice early morning walk and coffee. It was delicious, and is my new favorite breakfast. It's also perfect for the cooler fall weather and pretty healthy. I wanted to share it because it is so so good! It is oatmeal with dried cherries (cooked with the oatmeal,) and vanilla extract. For the entire recipe, see the link below.

And thanks again to my friend Becca for sharing it with me.


http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ellie-krieger/cherry-vanilla-oatmeal-recipe/index.html

Happy Monday Everyone!

Friday, November 5, 2010

What I'm Lovin'

1. The song "You and Your Heart," by Jack Johnson! I love it!
2. The film "Ultimate Wave Tahiti" in 3D at Imax theatres. Tahiti is definitely on the bucket list.
3. "I love you Bora Bora," is the first song I want to learn on the ukulele that I got for my b-day.
4. Drawing seahorses. I drew a few last week, it's easier than I thought if I have a model to look at.
5. The book I'm reading, "Chasing Dreamtime: A Sea-Going Hitchhiker's Journey through Memory and Myth."
6. My husband's winter soups. He's been making some great soup creations since the weather cooled down. So yummy!
7. A website that several of my students subscribe to called "Brainpop." This site is awesome!
8. My new geography teaching guide, so I can supplement some of my students' curriculum with cool geography projects. I have a lot to learn about geography myself still. It's all so fascinating.
9. Cool new place I'm learning about: Aitutaki, an "almost atoll" in the Cook islands. More info here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aitutaki
10. Favorite new recipe(s): Moroccan Lentil Soup, (you can look it up at allrecipes.com), and another soup recipe that our friend Harvi Dearie gave us that is also so delicious! It includes carrots, turnips, and potatoes, squash and lots of other vegetables, and savory spices.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

More Gratitudes

I got to marry the most wonderful person in the whole wide world. That's lucky.
We have such incredible friends and family, that's lucky too.

We got to get married in an incredibly beautiful place with our beloved lifelong friends as our ministers. Lucky.
I feel beyond blessed to have Abby (my niece), and Sophia (my goddaughter) in my life.
I feel very lucky, and incredibly grateful for my blessings.
May these blessings continue to pour forth and multiply.
Thank you God, for everything.

Mahalo

I feel so lucky that I got to live in on the North Shore of Oahu for six months. I even got to live right ON the beach, and for "work" I gave tours of tropical botanical gardens to people who came from all over the world, and ecstatic to be in Hawaii touring the beautiful gardens. I rode my moped to work every day (3 miles) and when I wasn't working I was beachcombing for shells, snorkeling, or catching the sunset. I will treasure those memories for the rest of my life.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Lucky Me

My life has felt like a roller coaster ride lately, and my surgeries and recovery time took a big toll on me. But my stitches come out tomorrow, and everything is going to be ok. The past couple ofweeks have given me an opportunity to reflect on how lucky I've been in my life, and how I've taken a lot of my blessings in life for granted. I want to say thank you right now to God, and the universe, and all the powers that be for everything I've been given. There's nothing like a health scare to put things into stark relief.
So right now, I want to take the time to go back in time and remember the moments that I feel very very lucky for having lived, and I look forward to so many more.



Kissing Minchu, one of the most special creatures I've ever met.

Playa del Carmen, Mexico ~ July 2010

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

When Life Throws You Curveballs

Last week everything was going so well. I was walking my 10,oo0 steps a day, work was getting into a good groove, and I was feeling (dare I say it?) happy. Things were finally starting to fall into place with my work routine, I started the walking-with-pedometer obsession, and things were going pretty well.
Then I went to routine check up last Thursday afternoon, only to be told that two of the moles on my back had to come off, like, "right then." Being terrified of needles and scalpels didn't help (although who's NOT terrified of those things?) but most of all, I just wasn't psychologically prepared to be getting surgery that day, even if it was outpatient surgery.
So I was brave, and I let them go ahead with the surgery. The shots numbed the pain, but I will tell you that there is NOTHING more creepy than feeling a doctor dig into your flesh with a scalpel, it's beyond a nightmare. In addition, although I didn't feel it at the time, the local anesthesia in my back wore off within a couple of hours, and I was in a whole lot of pain. The doctor didn't give me a pain med prescription, for that matter, he didn't give me much advice on taking care of my wounds whatsoever.
Either way, what felt like the longest two hours of my life finally ended and we got to go home. For about two days, the wounds were still really painful, and just in the last day or two, it's been a little better. I still have the stitches for another week and a half though.
So anyway, the point is, all it took for me to fall off the exercise wagon and fall off track in general toward making positive life changes was this unexpected surgery. Being in pain makes it hard to focus on anything else, but now that the pain has lessened, morale is still just really low. I still have to get the biopsy results of those first two moles, which is very nerve-wracking, and then as soon as I get the stitches out from the first two moles, I have to get another one taken off, which is bigger and will require a more in-depth surgical procedure.
How does anyone ever succeed in life with goals and aspirations when life is full of these kinds of obstacles? It's the really resilient people who succeed. The people who don't let anyone or anything get them down. I wish I was that kind of person. I want to be. But life can be hard sometimes. :(

Neat Things that Neat People are Doing....

I am constantly blown away by the incredibly creative things that people are doing out there in the world. This is something I came across this morning, and I just love it. I won't go into a ton of detail, the artist describes her project better herself. Check it out, these kinds of people inspire me endlessly!!!

Xo, Jeneka


http://swirlygirl.typepad.com/swirly_girl/2009/04/100-books-project-launch.html

Monday, October 18, 2010

A Wondrous Day in San Francisco

Yesterday we went to the de Young museum in San Francisco to see the current exhibition, "Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cezanne & Beyond." I can't even remember the last time I saw a really great collection. Anyway, a museum day like this was long overdue, and we weren't disappointed. We saw some new (to us) Van Gogh paintings, which was a thrill of course. Rob & I have both been to the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam, but since Van Gogh is Rob's favorite artist, he was pretty excited to see some more of his original paintings. We especially liked a still life he did of a simple vase full of flowers. The flowers were diaphanous orange, just glowing. The painting was an inspiration.
My favorite artist is Gauguin, I love his Tahitian landscapes and his other Tahitian studies. Although his collection on exhibit was not especially broad, it was still exceptional to get to look at the very paintings he painted while he was there. A couple of his Tahitian paintings were there, which was cool. I might like his Tahitian landscapes best of all though, and there weren't many of those there at all, if any. I liked how Gauguin used unusual colors, it gives some of his paintings a somewhat surreal effect.
What a life these paintings have led too, being shipped from city to city around the globe for the last 100 years or so. One my favorite things I learned from this exhibit was that Van Gogh and Gauguin spent about 9 months working together in the South of France near Arles. I knew that they were contemporaries, but I had no idea that they'd actually spent time together, working together. I'd like to learn more about their friendship, what that time was like, and maybe about how they inspired each other (or drove each other crazy.) Either way, I wonder so much about what that time must have been like.
Many other French impressionists and post-impressionists were included, including Pierre Bonnard, who, strangely enough, was the artist I was assigned to do a presentation on in French in my art history class when I was studying abroad in France. He had some really cool paintings which were large enough to adorn an entire wall. I read that he wanted to expand people's notion of art, and wanted to go beyond the traditional sized canvas and paint larger and smaller works. I guess he also liked painting furniture and other items that people didn't necessarily associate with art or painting mediums.
Renoir was also included in the collection (I'm not a big fan), and a Degas of a ballerina running up the steps toward ballet class.
Cezanne had a series of landscapes included in the collection too. They were dreamy, colorful depictions of the South of France near Aix-en-Provence. When I was back in France in the summer of 2000, I went to his atelier in Aix-en-Provence to see where he painted. It was such a sublime setting, nestled amongst lavendar and sunflower fields. It was a wondrous feeling to think that I was looking out at the same vistas that he saw when he painted those beautiful paintings.
We ended our day in San Francisco by going to Yummy Yummy's in the Sunset district for some steaming bowls of pho. It was a special day. I felt lucky to have lived this day.

Monday, October 11, 2010

My first day of meeting my goal - 10,000 steps!

Today I finally met, and (and even exceeded!) my goal of walking at least 10,000 steps a day. I ended up walking 11,600 steps, which equals about 4.4 miles. Wow, that's a lot of walking! It felt really good to finally reach my goal today, now comes the hard part: doing it every day after this. :/
Wish me luck!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

What a great surprise!

I logged onto my computer this morning, and noticed that I had a comment on my last post. As it turns out, Gretchen Rubin, the author of "The Happiness Project," wrote to me, saying that it was nice to see the positive things I had written about her book! Oh my goodness, I can't believe it! That is so incredible, especially for someone relatively new to blogging, I never expected anything like that to happen! My sister already bought the book and my mom is getting it too. I would have lent them my copy like we usually do, but since mine is on my Kindle, they have to get their own. :)We did the same thing when we read Eat, Pray, Love. It's always fun to share good books.
So, to give an update on my own "Happiness Project."
1. I did get the pedometer from my sister and walked twice this past week, each time I walked about 7,000 steps. Clearly there's a lot of room for improvement there, considering my goal is to walk 10,000 steps each day. But I have plans to walk today, and am going to make it a priority to walk every day this next week. In addition, I am going to incorporate at least one other class this week, and swim at least once or twice. The other class will be yoga, zumba or weights. I want to get a weekly routine down that I really stick to.
2. Clutter is still haunting me to some degree, but I have been making some progress. I donated two huge bags of clothes, and still need to donate more. I cleaned up my office area, but the area instantly became cluttered again due to several shipments of student books and materials. Although I've been delivering the materials as they come, as soon as I deliver some, I get more, so the boxes are a bit of a problem. I am working on finding a solution to this. I may just start putting the boxes in my trunk so they are ready for delivery.
3. Pursuing my creative endeavors: the first thing I did was start blogging again, and then I get a message from none other than Gretchen Rubin, the writer that inspired me to make these changes! If that's not a good sign, then I don't know what is! I've also been in touch with a friend of my mother's, Diane Covington, who is giving me guidance on getting back into writing. She said that Rob and I should join BATW, which stands for Bay Area Travel Writers, but first we need 4 recently published pieces. We have 4 so far, but not all would qualify as travel pieces, so we are working on that. I think we are going to review Orphan, the new breakfast place, and finally do our piece on OneSpeed as well. Since we'll be moving to Monterey in June, I'm sure we'll be inspired to do a lot more writing, with so many new places to discover and explore.
4. Making more of an effort at being a better communicator, and being a better friend. With work, my standard is that I return all emails and phone calls within 24 hours. Why is it so hard to do that in my personal life? After all, my friends matter more to me than work connections. However, I have decided that I will make every effort to return phone calls and emails within 24 hours and already, it is paying off. I am reconnecting with old friends, and feeling more connected to people. I feel very happy about this.
5. Showing gratitude. I'm not sure I included this in my last post, but I have a goal to write out gratitudes every day and tell at least one person what I love about them, or what I am grateful for about having them in my life. This may be in the form of a letter, an email, a phone call, or a face-to-face conversation, but either way, I am determined to do this.
6. Don't give up. I'm not sure that this was a focal point of my last post either, but I have made a difficult self-observation: I give up too easily. I gave up on my hula classes, which I absolutely loved, but the schedule was becoming too demanding. I have given up on countless diets and exercise routines. I have been giving up on things for too long. Now I see that there's a huge price to pay for giving up things you a) love or b) need to do. So I am making an effort to hang in there, and stick around to reap the rewards of not giving up on something, even when the going gets tough.
7. Drinking tea instead of coffee. This might be petty thing, but coffee has been incredibly hard to give up. However, I just feel better drinking tea instead. I don't get quite the energy boost from tea that I get from coffee, but I feel more calm, clear thinking, and my long term daylong energy is more evenly distributed instead of a huge energy boost, then a huge crash.
I still have many more "projects" to work on, but I feel inspired that I am off to a great start!
Yours truly,
Jeneka

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Mental Time Capsule - October 3, 2010

So many things on my mind. Today is Birdie's birthday. Also known as Piper Bobo Lacy, she was my best friend in college. She was kind of like a twin soul. She is in Denmark visiting her dad right now. It's her favorite place.
I just finished a new book on my Kindle. It was called "The Happiness Project." I'm not usually big on the self-help books, but I liked this one. It got me thinking on changes I want to make. The author spent 12 months working on making different changes in her life. Each month she worked on something different, things like tackling clutter, money issues, marriage, parenthood, exercise, writing, unfinished tasks/business, etc.
She was pretty methodical about how she tackled her projects, she had spreadsheets and charts of everything. Although I don't imagine I'd be quite as organized as her with all of the charts, etc., I do like the idea of making lists of projects.
The projects I'd like to tackle are:
1. Clutter. I spent all day yesterday organizing my office and creating student files. Just a few hours of work and such a huge sense of relief at knowing where every single important piece of paper is for each of my students. An extra added benefit: I inadvertently came across some of the things coming up with work that I was wondering about and had questions about, like our upcoming student portfolios which are due in December. It does pay to be organized, and just feels so much better.
2. Exercise. I was going to start an expensive diet this week but we can't afford it at the moment as we are still paying my grandmother back for some wedding debt we got into. So I am going the old-fashioned route and starting an exercise routine. My sister got me a pedometer, and I have a goal of 10,000 steps a day, which is supposedly the magic number of steps (or so) that it takes not to gain MORE weight...so I guess I should probably walking a lot more than 10,000 steps a day, but it's a start. I will continue swimming (my average is two or three times a week) and I want to add zumba and yoga into my routine too. But I will start with the 10,ooo steps a day, and see how that goes first. My friend Meghan has volunteered to be my walking buddy. So far we have walked once and plan to walk again in the morning.
3. Taking care of my health.
I have had so many health worries for so long, something which has been exacerbated by the fact that I haven't had health insurance for the last few years. It been incredibly stressful for me to be uninsured for all of this time, and I couldn't afford to get check ups out of pocket, it was too expensive. So tomorrow I am finally going to the doctor to get caught up on all of my routine check-ups. It's such a huge relief to finally be tackling all of my health concerns.
4. Stop putting personal dreams and goals last. Start bringing the things I love and enjoy back into my life. Finding balance in life and finding time for everything that's important to me has been something I've always struggled with. A lot of times the things I love to do are pushed aside for more pressing tasks. Work is important, and needs to be a priority, as it has been. So does cooking and cleaning and daily appts., errands, emails, phone calls and other tasks. However, it shouldn't be at the expense of doing the little things I love to do, so I am making these things (or some variation there of) a priority for at least one hour a day: writing in my journal, reading one of my favorite books or magazines, writing letters, blogging more often, taking photos, walking Coco, connecting with friends by phone or in person, and doing more handmade crafts like handmade cards, etc.
5. Making time to see my nieces and friends and family. We had my parents for dinner last Wednesday, and I think we are going to make a tradition of having family over for dinner on Wednesdays. I want to have Rob's dad German and his stepmom Dina over next. People are so busy on the weekends that I think weeknights are better.
6. Start writing articles again. Rob and I have been on hiatus with our writing/photography gig with Valcom news, but we want to get back into it to finally do the review on One Speed, and next, a great little breakfast place that just opened up called Orphan. We need one more article in our current portfolio to be able to apply for BATW (Bay Area Travel Writers), which is a network of freelance writers in San Francisco, and a great place to find out about new writing opportunities, especially in the travel writing genre, which is our passion and most exciting prospect.
7. Learn the ukulele. My dad and stepmom just gave me a ukulele for my birthday, and I am really excited to learn a few new Hawaiian songs.
That about wraps up my thoughts for the moment.
Onward and upward,
Jeneka

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Our Wedding Day



This post is going to be short on words and more about the photos, mostly because there are no words to describe the beauty, meaning and pure euphoria of the day. Our wedding day was truly a dream and exceeded my expectations in every way. It was undeniably the best day of my life. I was never one of those girls who was waiting for my wedding day for my life to start, and never will be that kind of girl. However, meeting Rob has added so much richness, love and other dimensions to my life that I am reminded that happiness shared can be happiness doubled.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

I want to be like HER!

My friend Brea sent me the link to this blog, Here is Havana. Brea lived in Cuba for six years while in medical school at University of Havana, and met Conner Gorry, the woman who writes this blog. I love this woman's blog for many reasons. For one, she has a great sense of humor and a great sense of irony, two things I love in a writer. For two, she's an expat in Cuba, so she lives somewhere that constantly gives her great material to write about. Three, she's a travel writer, which is my dream of all dreams to be! When she's not blogging about Cuba, she writes travel guides to various countries in the Caribbean, and Central and South America.
I am inspired by people like her that aren't just talking about it but are living the dream. She reported on Haiti after the earthquake and also writes really knowledgeably about medicine in developing countries. Although I don't have much interest in going into medical writing myself, she's written some really fascinating stories on her experiences in writing about medicine.
Anyway, it's great to have people out there reminding me that it is possible to go for my dreams, because other people out there, like her, are doing it.
Thanks Conner Gorry, you are something to aspire to.

http://hereishavana.wordpress.com/2010/02/01/cuban-psyche-2010/

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Sea Mail Art

There is an artist by the name of Elizabeth O'Donnell who lives on a tiny island off the coast of Alaska. The way she stays connected to the rest of the world is through mail art, and right now she is requesting that people send her mail art of the sea. All of the mail she gets will be posted on her blog, and will also be in a small showing on Kodiak Island. I think I'm going to send something in. I'm not much of an artist but love to do collage. Maybe I will do a sea-inspired collage and send it in. I love projects like this, art for the sake of art. She's been getting mail from all over the world. Some pretty great stuff too. What a fantastic idea.

http://theseamailart.blogspot.com/

Point Reyes







The weekend before last we went to Point Reyes for the first time. It was not only our first time there but also Baby Camden's first camping trip and her first time at the beach! Some highlights were exploring the lighthouse, coastal hikes, a beach picnic on a beautiful day, and good times camping out with friends. All photographs were taken by Robert Ossa, except the one of he and I, which was taken by Brian More.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Incredible

So I was on one of my favorite websites, Papaya, an art and stationary/print online store and blog, and they were highlighting this crAzy amazing booklover's site below. I was blown away. Hope you will enjoy it too, it seemed worthy of being passed along!

http://www.book-by-its-cover.com/

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Rob's first trip to Santa Cruz





After not having been to Santa Cruz in ages, I ended up going there twice in one month. The first time was the bachelorettte, and the second time was with Rob, who was going there for the first time. The reason for the visit was to go over our vows with our ministers who are friends of my family that I have known since I was six years old.
The meeting went really well. It was apparent that Rob hit it off with them, and we had a really good time discussing all of the details of the ceremony, and catching up with them.
When we left their house, I took Rob for a walk on West Cliff Drive, a long sidewalk that winds along the ocean. We took a two hour walk along West Cliff, enjoying the sunshine and the views.
From there we checked in to our room and made some rum and cokes, then walked to dinner downtown at a Mexican restaurant called El Palomar. We walked around a little after that, then called it a night.
On Sunday morning there was a light rain which was a bummer because we wanted to take a walk on the beach, but the rain didn't last too long. We went to Capitola because I thought Rob would like to see the colorful casitas there. I guess it was our lucky day, because there was a group of ukulele players playing on a little stage in downtown Capitola, and they were playing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," the song that we are getting married to.
After watching the ukulele music, we took a little walk on the beach and took some photos of the famous Capitola casitas, then headed to San Francisco to meet my mom to celebrate mother's day.
I didn't get to show Rob as much of Santa Cruz as I would have liked, but I think it was a good start. I want to go back and see more of the Pleasure Point neighborhood, it looks like it would be a great place to live. And Rob wants to go back and ride the roller coaster! So we will be back. Oh, and Coconut wants to go to dog beach there. Although we may not be able to afford to buy there, I could see us being very happy there for quite a while. Surfing at Steamer's Lane, riding my cruiser along West Cliff drive, taking Coco to the beach, and catching the sunsets would be pretty amazing. I'm keeping the dream alive. We will get there eventually.