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:

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.