killing the idealist in me

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Chattanooga’s waterfront, where the Chattanooga’s first Ironman took place

When words fail, what do I have left?

This past week Jon and I went back to Chattanooga for his Ironman. It was Chattanooga’s first, and Jon’s, too, and was something he’d been looking forward to since before we met. And…

It was good to see his friends and family, and good to be able to help him reach his goal. His training hadn’t exactly been what it should have been (for a lot of reasons), and I was proud of him for finishing. But… then…

Why was it so hard for me?

Why is everything so hard for me?

My favorite professor in college once said, “Idealists will always be disappointed. Nothing in this world is ideal.” That saying has stuck with me. I am an idealist, and I am hardest of all on myself. While Jon was out swimming and riding and running last week, all I could think was, That should be me. I should be out there with him. I’m not good enough because I’m not out there with him.

I was taking a situation that had nothing to do with me and making it all about me. (I couldn’t have signed up for the Ironman if I’d wanted to. It was full long before I knew about it, and, truthfully, I needed to be there for Jon, anyway.)

The same, though, goes for my writing and daily routine. The reason I don’t post more frequently is that I don’t make it a priority. Sure, life is crazy, but whose isn’t? If I spent less time worrying about keeping our apartment perfect and making sure I’m perfect and that Jon’s lunch is perfect — if I put those things in their place — then maybe I could start writing more regularly again…

Except every post must be perfect, too. As a writer, I must choose topics and write well and in such a way that I touch you — all of you. Anything less is… Well, I might as well not try.

I allow my perfectionism, and my fear of my perfectionism, to control me. Hence, the very things that I am trying to control are, in fact, controlling me.

And I’m not meaning to complain or seek advice or sympathy. I just want to be a better writer and better girlfriend and better person. I want to reach out and touch you and tell you that you’re special and that we’re all more similar than different.

But how can I do that when all I’m concerned about is me?

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Little Debbie sponsors Ironman? Irony, anyone?

*Note: This entire post has been written on my iPhone. Please forgive any mistakes. I am trying to, too.

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the fire in my heart

It may be old news to some, or too distant to matter for others, but for me, the King Fire hits home.

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Placerville is my hometown. Pollock Pines is just up the road. I can’t count the number of times I’ve driven past this sign on my way home from Lake Tahoe.

Smoke from the King Fire as seen from Main Street, in Placerville

The King Fire started September 13, just east of Pollock Pines. It is believed to have been started by arson. This picture shows smoke from the fire as seen from Main Street, in Placerville. The smoke has shifted as far as Nevada and, this past Saturday, September 20th, forced officials to cancel Ironman Lake Tahoe just minutes before the race was supposed to begin.

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smoke2(The above two images were taken over Lake Tahoe by Kristoffer Pfalmer. All other images in this post have been taken from the World Wide Web.)

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Nearly 8,000 fire personnel have been fighting the fire since its inception.

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Thus far, the King Fire has consumed more than 93,000 acres (or 145 square miles/375 square kilometers) and destroyed twelve houses and many other small structures. To gain some perspective about how big that really is, take a look at this picture from NASA:

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If that still isn’t registering, take that fire scar and put it on top of San Francisco.

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The devastation this fire is going to leave behind is unbelievable. People keep telling me that, “Isn’t that part of life and nature’s cycle? Fires burn down trees so forests can rebuild.” But my heart hurts when they say such things. A fire started by arson has nothing to do with nature, folks. This is thousands of acres of beautiful — and I emphasize “beautiful” — forest that is being destroyed for no reason and which will take hundreds of years to regrow. It has been propelled by the already dry conditions caused by California’s horrible drought. Much of the drive to Tahoe along Highway 50 will be ash and dust and skeletons of trees for years to come, not to mention the loss of habitat for wildlife.

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And all I can say is, how on earth could someone be so cruel to ignite such a monstrosity? And, thank you, firefighters. Your heroism will not be forgotten.

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my prayer

San Ramon, California

San Ramon, California, where I work

Sitting in my darkened apartment, listening to the hum of traffic on University Avenue. It’s Saturday evening and my weekend has (finally) officially started. I’ve had thoughts all week about what to write right here. And yet, now, when I finally have the time . . .

the words,

the topics,

seem . . .

Misplaced.

Like me.

This past week, I met a new student at work. His name is Kaustubh, and his family moved to California from India this past year. Kaustubh is a quiet boy, and eager to please, but it wasn’t until I read his self-introduction (hand-written in perfect cursive) that I fell in love with him.

My name is *Kaustubh. I am 11 years old. I will go to 6th grade. I am born in India. All my family members are living in India. I am the eldest child in my family. I like to read books, especially non-fictional ones. I like to swim and skate. I like to play with Legos. I like to learn new things. I have very few friends. I like to eat pasta and french fries. I don’t like to fight . . . I thank my parents, my teachers, and my elders who taught me good things and made my life easier.

I like to read books, especially non-fictional ones. I like to swim and skate. I like to play with Legos . . . I have very few friends . . . I like to eat pasta and french fries.

To look at him, Kaustubh seems . . . different. In his button-up shirt and pressed blue jeans (smelling of curry and spices), with his jet-black eyes and neatly-combed hair, with his thick Indian accent and shy demeanor, it’s easy to tell: he’s not from around here. But there’s an excitement in his eyes, a glitter I can see. Different or not, Kaustubh is yet a boy. He’s a boy just like any boy who likes Legos and pasta and swimming and french fries. And Kaustubh is hopeful. America was once a foreign land of dreams — and now? It’s his home.

And I pray. Deep inside, as I hear his chatter and watch him shedding his shell, “The teacher’s are nicer — they don’t yell at you! The weather is better. The food is good . . .” I pray. Please, God. Please. Protect Kaustubh. Don’t let life take the wind out of him . . . Please.

‘Cause some days it sure does take the wind out of me.

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* name changed

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Note: I started this post two? three? weeks ago? I am just now publishing it . . . Currently in Northern California a terrible blaze is threatening to destroy the forests I grew up in. Since it started a week ago (by arson?), the King Fire has consumed more than 81,000 acres and destroyed several homes. Some of my friends have had to evacuate their homes and are waiting with baited breath, hoping to return. My heart is aching. A follow-up post to come soon.

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when i grow up (or, discouragement)

Teaching in Taiwan

Teaching in Taiwan

Do you know what you want to be when you grow up? I mean, really?

I don’t.

I’m thirty years old, and I don’t have a clue. I used to joke that I wished I could get paid to write and read and exercise. Now I wish the same, only I’d add “travel” and “work with kids” to the mix. And you know what kills me? I can do all of these things, and I likely could get paid for them, except . . . Except I don’t have the degree.

Every job description I’ve looked at lately (I’m looking for a new job) requires a CDE or an EDE or a TESL or a PhD or an M.A. or . . .

All I have is a B.A., in English.

And I know from experience that the best way to learn teaching is by teaching (not to mention by caring) . . .

The results of Friday's surgery -- no riding or running for six weeks!

The results of Friday’s surgery — no riding or running for six weeks!

But no one cares about that . . . No one cares at all . . .

No one cares that I’m a talented, passionate, caring individual who just didn’t know at 23 that I would need those degrees. No one cares that I have bills to pay and thus now have no way to obtain those degrees. No one . . .

And so I’m discouraged. Bandaged and discouraged. I know that things turn out in unexpected ways, but, at the moment . . . In the meantime . . . Perhaps I’ll be at your next take-out window. “Ketchup with your fries, mam/sir?”

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remember . . .

xray2How many drafts can I write before finally finishing a new post?

Seriously. I think I’ve written at least fifteen.

There have been posts about crazy people, posts about jobs, posts about love, posts about war. I’ve had thoughts on Robin Williams, thoughts on poetry (I haven’t written any in a while) . . . My most effective writing comes from what is closest at hand, closest to my heart.

I’ve had this week off and expected I’d get something written — anything. But then last weekend I broke my collarbone on a ride in Napa, and now tomorrow I’m having surgery. And now I’m no longer sure I can write at all: my mind is so scattered.

But here’s to never giving up — and to the people we love. Here’s to Jon for wiping away my tears when I’ve been frustrated; for putting my hair in a ponytail for me because I can’t. Here’s to my dad for being the best dad and surgeon ever. And here’s to you for being the wonderful person that you are –

Because whether you’re facing Ebola, or brain cancer, or a broken arm, or high bills . . . Whether depression, or job dissatisfaction . . . Whether bombs, or terrorists, or starvation, or natural disasters . . . Your struggles are valid and important. YOU are important.

But remember to be thankful for the little things. Don’t ever forget to be grateful for what you have. When you raise both arms above your head to slip on your shirt this morning, say “Thank you, Jesus!” because, honestly, some people (like me) can’t!

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teach them to read

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Thought for the day, and week, and month, I suppose, at the rate I’ve been blogging:

If you want children to write, teach them to read. If you want them to read, show them reading is fun. As a kid, I was a bookworm, but it wasn’t until I became a teacher that I realized how much reading had impacted my understanding of the structure of the English language. No one cares about adverbs and subjects and predicates and helping verbs. No 8-year-old wants to break that stuff down. What they want are action and adventure and ideas. What they want are the things of life.

Except for that one student. If you really think “will” + “not” = “willn’t,” we may have a problem . . . Except that, there, the study of grammar failed you, too. You wouldn’t have said “willn’t” in day-to-day speech. You were following a pattern, and “won’t” breaks all the rules.

– Miss Jess

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fate?

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Writing Camp, Summer 2014

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My favorite professor in college used to tell a story. As a young man, he’d been in a jazz band and then the army. He’d traveled solo around the world, dreamed of being a pilot, gone to flight school. After receiving his pilot’s license, however, he couldn’t find work. Times were desperate; money, scarce. One day, in a moment of frustration, he cried out, “Lord, please . . . What do you want me to do?!”

Five minutes later, he heard a knock on the door. A classmate needed help with an English assignment: Could he . . . ?

Over the next few weeks and months, *Dr. I’s reputation as an English tutor grew. People seemed to be coming out of the woodwork for his help . . . Suddenly, the answer was clear: Dr. I went on to get his masters and, later, doctorate in English and has been teaching and inspiring lives ever since.

I can relate to Dr. I.

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In my classroom in Hong Kong

After college, I thought I wanted to go into journalism. I loved to write, and journalism was a way to write, right? I got a job at a publishing company, and I enjoyed it — sort of.  Deadlines got old quickly. I couldn’t write about things I cared about. My perfectionism killed me. After a year and a half, I quit and moved home to California — and couldn’t find work. I ended up working as an ophthalmology assistant for a year and cried every day on my way to work. I hated it. But it was exactly this set-up that led me to teaching in Taiwan and Hong Kong for three years. And it was exactly that set-up that led me to where I am now — working with kids and loving every minute of it.

You see . . . If people are people, kids are even more so. I don’t care what their nationality, or where they were born, or what kind of food they like, kids are kids. Kids are eager, enthusiastic, curious, open. They’re excitable and impressionable. Kids love to love and be loved. They don’t understand hatred and meanness and bigotry: These are things we teach them.

Over the past two weeks, I had the privilege of teaching a writing camp in the mornings before my regular afternoon classes at an after-school learning center in San Ramon. I only had seven students, but it was an absolute blast to share what I love with those seven eager faces. We wrote stories, created skits, did How-To presentations, and a whole lot more. And even better? The kids loved it. Here is some of what they said about the class:

Wow… I must say, my expectation was far exceeded at writing camp this year . . . I feel like Ms. Jessica taught us so many things and she did it incredibly well. I was able to have fun and learn plenty all at the same time. Her feedback was incredibly honest and I was excited to improve from it. I’ve grown to love writing in only two weeks. Through creativity and imagination, I learned how fun writing can be.

– J, 9th grade

I really liked sharing our stories. At first I didn’t like the idea of reading what I’d written to others, but it got me out of my comfort zone. I’m really proud of myself for actually reading out loud to others.

– D, 9th grade

Writing camp was really fun. Miss Jess was really nice. My favorite part was doing the skit! I learned more about dialogue because I didn’t know much about it before.

– A, 5th grade

What I liked about the summer camp was seeing and making new friends, and of course, the writing. Miss Jessica was really doing her best to help us enjoy writing. I mean, who would’ve known? Writing is fun! . . . Making new friends and meeting friends again — that is fate.

– M, 5th grade

I loved acting and writing in our jornals! I learned what is a metafor and simile. I also liked writing storys and planing the show thingy.

– K, 2nd grade

I liked everything about English. I liked the journal a lot, but the part I liked best was the “How To.” It was fun learning how to do certain things. This is probably the best summer camp I’ve had. If I could, I would redo the last two weeks (including this one)!!

– G, 5th grade

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Miss Jessica, writing teacher. Fate?

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*Name changed for privacy

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no excuses

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Do you struggle with perfectionism — like me?

This is the first time I’ve opened my laptop in more than a week, the first time I’ve looked at my blog in more than that. The last two weeks have been busy. I’ve been teaching a writing camp at my new job, where I’m an instructor at an after-school learning center. Camp has been in the mornings; regular classes, until 7 or 8 at night. It’s been fun — tons of it — and has given me a lot of ideas about what to write right here. But when it comes to actually sitting down and finding the time to write? When I’m not exhausted?

And the thing is, I don’t want my blog to be all about me, or, worse, less than my best work. The key to successfully engaging an audience is to have something interesting to say, and to say it well. But great writing requires a fresh mind and time to follow through. It seems like every time I sit down to write, I’m in a hurry. Today I’m headed out to meet Jon at the marina where he is tootling around on the bay in our new kayak. It’s something we’ve been wanting to do together for a while now, but, well, when has there been time for that, either?

The good news is that this next week I have a little time off, and I intend to utilize that time to do some of the things (write and ride, and maybe swim) I’ve been putting off. I also know that many of the world’s greatest writers have finished their best works while working other “real” jobs, however. A busy schedule is no excuse.

So stay with me, please. Soon to follow are letters from students, thoughts on homelessness, thoughts on futures, gay pride (the San Francisco Pride festival is being held in the city this weekend; it feels weird to live in so liberal a place when both Jon and I come from much more conservative backgrounds), and much, much more.

I hope you are all having a wonderful weekend!
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See that head poking out of the water? That’s me swimming. :)

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outshine the stars

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Riding the Berkeley Hills (Dad, me, and my brother)

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Today is Father’s Day. Well, was. It’s almost over now — 10:30 p.m. here on the West Side.

My dad and brother came to visit us today. We rode our bikes, chatted, got Thai food. Overall, it was a great day — except for my dad and brother who spent more than two hours driving in traffic . . .

But . . .

Hopefully, it was worth it. I made pound cake, which we ate after dinner. Jon had everyone laughing with his stories about growing up in Alabama. And I . . .

Remembered my poem from last Father’s Day, which I’ve decided to post again, here. I hope you don’t mind . . . I hope you enjoy . . .

Happy Father’s Day, everyone!

 

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Let’s dive! (My dad on the right as a little boy.)

Path to Immortality

We start out mere mortals,
’til “Father” turns son.
It’s then our potential
“forever” is won.

We live through our children,
and they on through theirs.
So what will we show them?
How say, “Daddy cares”?

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Lub-dub. Lub-dub. Two kids in a tub.

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It’s here I’m no expert,
but look to the best.
My father’s my hero—
he far passed the rest!

With love and compassion,
through fire and through ice,
he gave with devotion,
and never thought twice:

My dad as a baby with his dad

My dad as a baby with his dad

He did what he had to,
and then he did more.
No matter the duty,
’twas never a chore.

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“Da-ddy. Da-ddy. A spider!” my plea.

From start until finish,
from dawn until dusk,
pushed past human limits,
he still wasn’t brusque . . .

But rather was patient,
and kind without end.
All people who knew him,
his worth did commend.

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“Lo-vely. Lucky!” they always told me.

Swimming in Lake Tahoe when I was a kid

Swimming in Lake Tahoe when I was a kid

But of my dad’s story,
they only knew half.
I wasn’t just lucky:
My dad’s off the graph!

For me and my brother,
he’s always been there.
‘Twas never a question:
“Does our daddy care?”

Love you. Love you. I know that it’s true.

From cycling, to skiing,
to talking in depth,
my father has shaped me,
and that is a breadth!

So Daddy, I thank you,
for all that you are.
You’re no longer mortal:
You outshine the stars.

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Jon, me, and Derek

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Sour cream pound cake — my dad and brother’s favorite. :)

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thrive

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It’s funny how it hit me: Tonight, I had to write.

I’ve been putting it off for ages, trying to find my voice. Writing is my passion, but there is never time, never the place. There are always things in the way — things of higher priority — and there are bills to pay. Blogging doesn’t help much with bills.

And then there’s topic. What on earth do I want to say? My little brother got married a few weeks ago. I cut my finger so deeply I could see the tendon. I started a new job working with young kids. Traffic is insane in the Bay Area. The weather is different here. Homelessness is everywhere here. And, and . . .

People are people. It’s what I keep coming back to. Here in Berkeley the population is incredibly diverse. There are black people and white people and red people and yellow people. There are people wearing saris and turbans and skullcaps and blue jeans and pant suits and rags. We are all so different, and yet . . . forever the same.

And that’s why I love you . . . and you and you and you (especially you, hatted boy). I love you because I am like you. I breathe and cry and laugh and try and fail and try again just like the rest of you. I am sick when the world is evil but thrilled when love calls my name. (Thank you, sweetie…)

I am human, and I will thrive. Until my dying day, I will thrive.

And you will, too.

I know it.

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leave it to me . . .

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Sometimes I feel like this guy: bumbling along, never knowing what trouble I’ll trip into next . . .

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To build my blog and then abandon it because life has just gotten too dang busy.

To finally get a job I love but for that job to only be part time.

To get a part-time job I love and for that job to be more than thirty miles away. (Gas is more than $4 a gallon.)

To get a ticket for talking on my cell phone in my car for two seconds. Why can’t you go after the real trouble-makers, cops? (My co-worker’s bike was stolen from right in front of our office the same day.)

To have a clean apartment but never spend time relaxing in it (writing my blog) because I’m too busy cleaning (thinking) and exercising (thinking).

To break my boyfriend’s beautiful glass thermometer because I was trying to clean it.

To cut my finger so deeply (I could see the tendon) that I need stitches because I broke my boyfriend’s thermometer.

To cut my finger so deeply I need stitches on the weekend my brother is getting married in Tahoe. (Love you, bro!)

To be lucky enough to have a dad who’s a doctor who, it just so happens, will also be at the wedding in Tahoe this weekend.

To want to clean my car because I just can’t take the dirt anymore, despite the fact that I need stitches and my car is just going to get dirty this weekend, anyway. (We’re driving it to Tahoe.)

To want to ride my bike today because that’s just what I love to do, even if I do have a cut finger!

To beat myself up for the mistakes I’ve made, and then to just make them again.

To never give up despite making the same mistakes over and over again, because that’s just how I am — stubborn as hell.

To have just written an entire draft of this post and not saved it, then pushed save, and for it to have been deleted.

To miss reading your blogs and connecting with you (you know who you are) but to be unable to catch up with everyone right now.

To miss you all and know that someday soon I’ll be back — blogging regularly, loving endlessly.

Promise.

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Pictures from my brother’s wedding to come. I hope you all have a beautiful weekend!

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why we write

writer….
Tell tell a story.

To tell our stories.

To share our hearts.

To fall apart.

To pull ourselves together.

To communicate.

To inform.

To breathe in.

To exhale.

To forgive.

To forget.

To remember.

To hope.

To kill hope.

To grieve.

To understand.

To apologize.

To express.

To think.

To garble.

To worry.

To cry.

To laugh.

To sigh.

To hurt.

To heal.

To give.

To receive.

To send secret messages.

To laugh.

To learn.

To love.

To fight.

To die.

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We write because we have no other choice.

Because writing consumes us or we consume it.

Because it gives voice to our tears, wind to our wings, air to our everything.

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We write because we are alive.

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Why do you write? Do you?

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“If I don’t write to empty my mind, I go mad.”

– Lord Byron

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nature has it

After writing about writer’s block the other day, I did my usual. I cleaned my apartment (surprise, surprise), did laundry, responded to emails, hung out with Jon, and decided to “man up” and get over my dislike for riding in the city. I took off on my bike (Jon wanted to go for a run instead) and rode thirty miles up the Berkeley hills — to here.
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View from Grizzly Peak

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On the backside of the mountain, I saw these guys:

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Looking at San Pablo Reservoir. California has happy cows!

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And then on my run down by the water last night, I saw this:

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The Bay

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Nature really does have it, folks.

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writer’s lament

writer's blockI’ve been trying to write a post all morning. Trying to reach deep within and pull out something deep and meaningful to which you might all relate. I’ve been thinking about black and white and gray and how I don’t believe in gray and how that is why I know religion doesn’t matter: We all know right from wrong. But instead of flowing like a waterfall, my thoughts are congested spillway blocked by matters of immediate importance: I’m stressed. Interviews and new tutoring positions (I’ve recently been signed on as a kids’ tutor at several companies in the Bay Area) are on my mind, not to mention bills and dreams and exercise things. It’s harder to ride my bike in Berkeley. I miss it.

And so I reach and fall and try and bail and am reminded of a poem I wrote more than a year ago:

I’m reaching and falling.
I’m hemming and hawing.
I’m trying and failing.
I’m rowing, now bailing.
Stop.

Another day.

And I wonder if this ever happens to you? And I wonder how authors do it? Writing comes so easily to me when my subject is on my mind. But when it’s not? Writing is like pulling teeth, only worse, because I want SO badly to do it, and do it well.

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the post i’ve been avoiding

templeDo you ever struggle, no, not with what to say, but how to say it?

My whole life I’ve been a pleaser. A goodie-goodie. A teacher’s pet. No, not on purpose. I’ve never taken a teacher donuts, but I have always done my best. I studied hard and made good grades. I never partied, even in college. I’ve never smoked a cigarette, and the only piercings I have are single holes in my ears.

I was raised Seventh-day Adventist, and Seventh-day Adventists just didn’t do those things.

The only area in which I’ve ever been a “rebel,” really, has been in my thought patterns. At fourteen I fell in love with a young man who would eventually choose to become a Catholic priest. Talk about challenging your faith. The Adventist church preaches that the Pope is the Antichrist predicted in the Books of Daniel and Revelation. How could an Adventist date someone who was leaning towards such an “abomination”?

. . . But, then again, who decided what books were included in the Bible in the first place?

Randy challenged me to think deeply and hard about what I believed and to not just accept viewpoints that were thrown at me as fact. Although our relationship was, in many ways, extremely painful for both of us, I have no regrets and will always be grateful to him for the vantage point he gave me. In college my questions about my childhood faith were only compounded by a rigid system (I went to a private Adventist university) in which worship and religion were forced and felt fake. I stopped going to church because I no longer saw the point. What was the value of an hour’s sermon on Saturday when all you were doing was preaching to the choir?

And then I went to Taiwan. And then my mind was blown.

Less than two percent of the population in Taiwan is Christian. Most Taiwanese are a combination of Taoist-Buddhist and worship deities and observe traditions that, to a Christian, seem crazy. You burn paper money to pass on to your dead relatives in their next life? Really?

But it was here that I came to understand how greatly my early years shaped everything about the way in which I viewed religion and the world. The Bible is the Word of God, right? There is only one way to salvation — through accepting the name of Christ, right? Right?

avoidBut would I believe the same if I’d been born in Outer Zambooblia? Even the questions I was asking were from an entirely Christian viewpoint!

And that’s when I began to see that God is bigger than religion — He HAS to be. I have good friends in Asia who are wonderful people who know about God but, for cultural and other reasons, will likely never accept Him. According to the teachings of traditional Christianity, this means they are doomed for hell.

I don’t believe that. I can’t. Salvation and access to truth can NOT be dependent on where you were born.

Today, as a blogger, I have readers from all over the world. The pleaser in me is very aware of how everything I say and do might be received by every one of my readers. So you’re an atheist. You’re laughing at me for believing in God at all right now. So you’re a Muslim. You don’t believe in the Bible; your holy book is the Quran. So you’re an Adventist. You’re upset that I’d challenge the wisdom laid down by the founders of the Seventh-day church. So you’re a Catholic. You’re offended that I’d challenge the authority of the universal church.

And all I can say is, “I’m sorry, but I’m not sorry.” I can’t say what you want to hear because I can never please everyone. God knows my heart, and in the end, the most important thing is staying true to is myself.

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Images: TheAtlantic.com and Pinterest

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thoughts on god

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I couldn’t think of a post today. Honest, I tried. I’ve been getting into something of a rhythm lately, finding a theme. I know you haven’t been able to see it yet, but it’s there. It’s coming. But then Easter came and sort of plopped down in the middle of it, and . . . I couldn’t think of anything to say.

What is there to say (without sounding preachy) about a religious holiday to an international audience? I learned in Taiwan how greatly perspectives can differ.

And so I hoed and hummed. I typed things and erased them. I went for a ride and cleaned my apartment and tried to forget that I wanted to write a post. But I couldn’t. I do believe in God. I do care . . . And then I got an idea.

Below are a few quotes about God and religion. Can you sense a theme? Guess which one’s my favorite? What’s yours?

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“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

C.S. Lewis

“I think God, in creating man, somewhat overestimated his ability.”

Oscar Wilde

“God has no religion.”

– Mahatma Gandhi

“God save us from religion.”

– David Eddings

“Without God all things are permitted.”

– Fyodor Dostoyevsky

“God is the same everywhere.”

– Leo Tolstoy

“I have to believe much in God because I have lost my faith in man.”

José Rizal

“The men who really believe in themselves are all in lunatic asylums.”

G.K. Chesterton

“God is a circle whose center is everywhere and circumference nowhere.”

Voltaire

It matters not the path on earth my feet are made to trod. It only matters how I live: Obedient to God.

Clark

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my thai lullaby

I was trying to write a blog post tonight — I have so many on my mind — but, to be honest, it’s been a long day. I write best in the morning. I should know better.

And so I decided I would log out of “Shift,” check facebook, log out of that, and head to bed . . . And then on facebook I saw this. And I just had to share.

This, my friends, is what life is — or at least should be — all about.

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The news clips call this a tear jerker. Why? Why is that? Should it be? Should tears form when, universally, we recognize what we all should have been doing in the first place? Interesting how emotions know no cultural lines.
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fifty-word lament

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You were right. I never should have followed my heart. I should have been a doctor, or a nurse, or a dentist, or a teacher. Doing what you love means nothing in the world of commercialism. Proving you have talent is impossible when no one will give you a chance.
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A moment of discouragement. I’ll be back soon with happier thoughts. Promise.

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Image: Berkeley Walking Bridge. Mine. All rights reserved.

 

 

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my fear

parismoon..

Sometimes I lie awake at night, terrified.

I’m scared of:

Being the right girl.

Being the wrong one.

Being a good girl.

Being a bad one.

Holding on.

Letting go.

Abandoning dreams.

Creating new ones.

Thinking too much.

Not thinking enough.

Being too rigid.

Letting things go.

Holding in.

Speaking out.

Staying in one place.

Never settling down.

Going broke.

Making ends meet.

Growing old.

Dying young.

Dreaming too little.

Dreaming too much.

Being understood.

Being misunderstood.

Letting you down.

Filling you up.

Moving forward.

Moving backward.

Asking questions.

Not asking questions.

Seeing the world.

Not seeing the world.

Loving too much.

Not loving enough.

Loving you.

Loving myself.

Posting this.

Not posting this.

Taking the risk.

Not taking it.

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on the road to a new life

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Already tired but ready to get this show on the road.

When I was 18, when most of my friends went just two hours away from home, I drove 2,500 miles for college. It was a scary time, and an exciting one. I’d lived in the same small town in Northern California my entire life. I was ready to see something new.

In many ways, that decision was a turning point and a defining moment in my life. This small town girl was exposed to a whole new world — Chattanooga, Tennessee was nothing like Placerville! You see . . . Where I came from, a “hog race” would indicate a pig race not a Harley race. Thunderstorms happened only rarely (and only during winter) at home. “Y’all” and “you’uns” were not in the dictionary. And grits? Fried okra? Sweet tea? Huh?

In many ways, it was like being in a new country, with the only difference being that English (albeit Southern English) was the written and spoken language, and I didn’t stick out everywhere I went — that is, until I opened my mouth.

In embarking on our recent journey from Tennessee to California, Jon and I created something of a reverse culture shock for him — and taken it to a whole new level. If Placerville was nothing like Chattanooga, Chattanooga is on a different planet from Berkeley! From rural Signal Mountain where Jon could recognize friends by the sounds of their cars passing on a two-lane highway, we’ve moved to busy University Avenue, where traffic never stops and our closest friends live several hours away!

The best example I can think of regarding the difference between living in a small town versus a big one, however, occurred while waiting in line at Comcast the other day. Jon and I were waiting to pick up our Internet modem when a large African American woman began a loud telephone conversation in line behind us. “. . . Hey, yeah. Yeah, I’m jes’ out payin’ bills. Yeah, I know. Jes’ remember we can’t affor- no f***-ups. I . . . Yeah, I’d like to see you, too, but I’ve jes’ been so bi-sy . . . Nobody gives me no respect. You hear that? No-body. Everybody is always disrespectin’ me and the way I raise my keeds and trying to tell me what to do. And so you know what? I’m gon’ re-move myself from the situation. I’m jes’ gon’ go away so there ain’t no one can find me no more. If they don’t respect me, I’m jes’ gon’ go away . . .”

Oh, boy.

Below are pictures from our road trip across the country. We drove the northern route, through Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah, and Nevada. It was a beautiful drive, but man am I glad that it’s over. I cannot stand sitting in a car for hours on end!

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At Jon’s before we left — that’s a scooter and three bikes on the back of that truck!

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Hello Illinois!

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Can’t forget the St. Louis Arch.

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Because my friend Jeff lives in Nebraska, I’ll go ahead and say it’s an awesome place. Otherwise, I’d just say it’s flat!

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Old barn somewhere along the way.

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Jon contemplating our truck’s sagging hind end at a gas station. That scooter was heavy!

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Hello, Wyoming.

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Light at the end of the tunnel.

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I heart clouds.

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Electricity.

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Somewhere in Wyoming.

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Snow-swept.

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Boulders in Wyoming.

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Snow!

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Salt Lake City area.

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Salt Lakes, Utah

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Wind-blown and worn out

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She’s still holding up!

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Sky meets salt.

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Jon was excited about this.

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Getting closer.

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Driving, driving, driving.

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Almost home.

 

 

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the stipulation

child African..

“And so what is there to regret if, seeking good, we misjudge and stumble and fall?”

Seeking good.

I don’t often talk religion on my blog — I have too many questions about it (the man-made institution, not God) — but one thing my Christian upbringing impressed upon me is that mankind in inherently evil. We are sinful by nature (thanks, Eve) and must fight our selfish tendencies every day.

This is something I have struggled with. When I see pictures of small children all over the world, “evil” is not the first that comes to my mind. And yet I have seen, too, how my friends have had to teach their children to “share” and “be nice” to others. I myself told my mother I hated her when my little brother was born. I was not even three!

And certainly there is evidence of mankind’s potential for cruelty around us in the world every day. A single glance at the new headlines would indicate that I am crazy for saying “our hearts are good.” How can that be?

And here’s where I think it can. I think it starts early. I think it starts with a choice. Even in the worst possible circumstances, with the worst possible role models, children (we) have the ability to recognize right from wrong. And we have the ability to choose what to do with it. Will we choose what is easiest and what seems to have the most immediate advantages? Or will we choose what our hearts are telling us — “Go! Run! Stop! Do it!” — which may or may not be to our liking?

The minute we choose to stop listening to our hearts, our entire lives can become reason for regret. Because it’s all downhill from there.

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Note: I am taking off for Tennessee tomorrow! Jon and I will packing up his stuff and driving across country, so I may be absent from the blogging world for a short time. I miss you all already!

Image: africanliberty.org

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the only regrettable thing

beachedboat“Never regret thy fall,
O Icarus of the fearless flight
For the greatest tragedy of them all
Is never to feel the burning light.”

Oscar Wilde

“What is your biggest regret?”

It’s a question often heard but rarely analyzed. Regret. What is it, really? And how does it affect me? Should it affect me?

I don’t have any regrets. I’m not kidding. As I look back on my life, I see a path of overturned obstacles and a little girl and a young woman. My childhood is over, and my course thus far has brought me to where I am — 30 years old with a love for life that years of heartache have only helped ignite: My passion is stronger because I have seen the “other side.”

I have seen the pain of loneliness and of trying and failing and trying and failing and trying and . . . I’ve seen love come and go, families fall apart, children in streets, cultural seats . . . I’ve seen faraway shores and looked through others’ eyes . . .

(That’s all this world needs, is to look through others’ eyes.)

And the times I’ve misstepped have been the times I’ve learned the most. The year I gave up going to Austria for a boy (we didn’t work out) was the year I met one of my very best friends. (Love you, Gwyn!) I learned a lot from that relationship and am a better person because of it:

My heart smiles when I think of him — and of you.

Because deep down I believe we all have a heart, and that our hearts are good. We may be selfish by nature but can choose how we cultivate our natures. The wise person sees: Selfishness gains nothing; selflessness, everything.

And so what is there to regret if, seeking good, we misjudge and stumble and fall?

The only regrettable thing is when our hearts cry, “Go!” and, silently, we watch, wait, think, wish, say, “No.”

“To regret one’s own experiences is to arrest one’s own development. To deny one’s own experiences is to put a lie into the lips of one’s own life. It is no less than a denial of the soul.”

Oscar Wilde, De Profundis

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For a dear hatted boy.
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Image: Pinterest (Artist: M.C.)

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listen to your heart

trolley

What is yours telling you?

I’ve been starting blog posts in my head all week.

“Looking back, I should have stormed out of his office.”

“I got a job offer. I didn’t take it.”

“What does ‘meaning’ mean to you?”

“Does everything have to be a lesson?”

Instead of finishing them, though, I’ve been writing things like this:

“Hi!

My name is Jessica. I am contacting you regarding your ad for a one-bedroom apartment listed on Craigslist. Currently I live in the Sacramento area, but I need to move to the Bay Area very soon . . .”

I’ve then been driving to and from Berkeley (about two hours each way) every day looking at places and realizing that finding housing in the Bay Area is IMPOSSIBLE. Even if you have money (I don’t), the housing demand is so great that no sooner does a person put up an ad on Craigslist than twenty business professionals/students/etc. are banging down their door.

It is a cut-throat fight to find anything around here.

And so days have passed since my eventful “working interview,” which turned out to be a total sham, and which proved to me once again that any time someone is rushing you about something important, it’s time to RUN.

The company was a “direct marketing” firm for big names like the Oakland A’s, supposedly, but what they really were were door-to-door salesman who’d been fooled into thinking they were on a fast-track to management. While they were working tirelessly in a field they hated, another man was reaping their rewards and getting rich. I could go on, but when the CEO tried to make me feel bad for asking questions and indicated that money should be my biggest motivating factor, I knew something wasn’t right.

I left the interview exhausted and upset. I knew I needed a job, and needed it soon, but could I compromise who I am and what I believe in to do a job I hated, not to mention didn’t feel right about?

My answer came that night when I got home. I checked my email for the first time in more than 48 hours, and what did I find? A response from a job I’d applied for weeks earlier and given up on. I won’t say too much more about it right now, but I will say that my first interview went well. In fact, I’ve had three exciting interviews since the marketing interview disaster . . .

And so it really is true: We should always listen to our hearts.

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Image: Pinterest

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here’s to adventures

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Drove two and a half hours to Walnut Creek today to look at apartments and interview for a job. Planned for a one-day outing (I wasn’t even sure what I was interviewing for, honestly — it ‘s a marketing firm; I’m not in marketing!), but then, towards the end, the lady said, “I’m doing short interviews of thirty people today. I can only invite five of them back for working interviews. Why should I invite you?”

Umm . . .

“I’m the hardest worker you’ll ever meet. Right after college, I took an internship that turned into a job, and when I left, they begged me not to go . . . Uhh (I was really fumbling here), I’m a great writer and have experience writing marketing materials. I could convince people that the bottom of their shoes taste good (okay, not really, but) . . . I’ve worked in customer service and like dealing with people (I really have — I’ve been a server and worked in retail). Umm . . . I adapt well to new situations and am a fast learner. In Asia I managed large classrooms of 9- to 14-year-old students, and I didn’t even speak their language!”

While I was talking, the lady wrote a large “B” in red ink on the top of my resume. B? Gulp. Was that my grade? This was not looking good.

Imagine my surprise, then, when a few minutes later she said, “So does tomorrow 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. sound good?”

Say whaaattt?!

“Umm, sure. Yeah, great. Thanks so much!” Meanwhile, my mind was racing. 8 a.m.? Tomorrow? How am I going to pull that off?!

So here I am, several hours and several more apartments crossed off my list later ($900 a month for a ROOM? Are you kidding me?), in a hotel room at Motel 6. I have my disposable toothbrush and travel-size shampoo and conditioner, a new shirt (so I won’t be wearing the same clothes two days in a row), I’m writing this post on my iPhone, and here we go!

Life really is an adventure. Like my friend John said, “Hands on the wheel at all times!”

Wish me luck!

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the trouble is

buddha“I turned thirty today. Wondered where the years have gone. I was never going to be thirty — ever. And here I am.”

After reading my birthday post, my Uncle Russell told me: “And now you think you’ll be in your thirties for forever! LOL!” And while he said it to be funny, it hit me suddenly — “By God, he’s right!” Every year seems to go faster than the last. Can you believe 2014 is already almost a quarter over?

And then I started thinking about my last post. We all have so many dreams, and so many people put them off for so long. “When I get that promotion . . .” “When the kids are grown . . .” “When I quit my second job . . .” “When the time is right . . .” We wait and wait and wait to go after the things we love. Often we wait so long that we forget what we are passionate about.

Recently, my sweet friend Carol told me:

“Don’t waste the years ahead. You are the creator of your future.”

You are the creator of your future. I love that. But we love to make excuses, do you know that? “I can’t because . . .” “I didn’t because . . .”

Of course this life isn’t all about us. Throughout life, sacrifices must be made. We have responsibilities, lovers, children, mothers . . . The best things in life are the ones that aren’t about us. But then another dear friend, Tony, reminded me that, while it may be terrifying to [go after what you love], going after what you love is “not as terrifying as approaching the end of your life and thinking, What if I had [fill in the blank]? Why didn’t I at least have the courage to try?”

We all have one life to live. What are you doing with yours?

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Image: Google

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P.S. Happy Birthday to an old friend. I always remember.
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