Guest Post: The Surprising Benefits of Reality Television

Hi everyone! Oh my goodness, T-minus two weeks until my wedding day and I am a jumble of excitement, nerves, gratitude, stress… mostly excitement!ūüôā

I’m sorry that I haven’t been able to post nearly as much as I would like this summer. Wedding-planning combined with teaching summer camps, tutoring my regular clients, travel plans and trying to squeeze in some writing projects has kept me busy “on all burners” as a friend of mine says. Anyway, I want to thank you for your patience during this super busy season of my life! I have a few posts in the pipeline that I am working on finishing up for you sometime soon. In the meantime, one of my blog readers reached out with an idea for a guest post, and I am delighted to present it to you today!

I must admit, when I first read the title of this post, I wasn’t sure I would agree with the writer’s views… I am not much of a TV watcher myself, and I think of “reality TV” squarely in the “guilty pleasures” realm! However, after reading it, my views have broadened. I think this guest blogger makes excellent points and definitely leaves you with some food for thought. Enjoy!

reality tv

The Surprising Benefits of Reality Television

Looking across the television channels, from lifestyle and cooking to educational, reality shows are clearly monopolizing the televised entertainment landscape. Despite the wide range of subcategories, the genre is often regarded as trash TV, offering very little to educate or improve our daily lives and leading most people to focus on the negative aspects of reality television. Contrary to popular belief, plenty of good can come from a daily dose of this guilty pleasure, more than you would think.

On the surface, the only apparent positive effect of reality television is its power to help you unwind from a busy day. One of the keys to letting yourself relax, according to Psych Central, is by figuring out what works best for you, and while MasterChef may not have the same meditative effects as simple breathing exercises or a yoga workout, reality TV gives a sense of escape that allows us to disconnect from our daily stresses. For a moment, the only thing that you focus on is whether or not your favorite contestant is going to make it through to the next round.

But there’s more to game shows and other reality series than just its relaxation benefits. Positive influences have actually stemmed from this TV category. One of the finer examples that prove that TV can be very useful to viewers includes the show Hoarders, as How Stuff Works say that it has increased public awareness on a behavior that many don’t realize is a mental health issue. These documented cases of real people and real problems has made us socially aware and accepting of others, and even supplied us with the tools to make changes in our own lives and help others in need.

On the less serious side of things, talent contests such as The X Factor, which is now at the peak of its popularity with The X Factor Games and other related ventures, expose us to a world of unique and extraordinary abilities that inspire us to explore our own faculties, as well as support the contestants that hope to make a better life for themselves and their families. Weight loss competitions supply us with the guidance to lead a healthier lifestyle without the risks of extreme dieting. Segments that highlight teen pregnancy have encouraged the public to be more cautious with reproductive health, as Benefits of explains that teen pregnancy rates have declined since the premiere of shows like Teen Mom.

They say that television is only good in small doses, but it all depends on the content. Reality TV as a whole may not have the same educational caliber as the likes of National Geographic, though the average Joe and Jane stories are circumstances that we can all relate to, motivating us to become the best version of ourselves.

Questions to think about:

  • Do you watch any reality television? If so, what shows are your favorites?
  • Do you feel motivated by reality TV shows?

Aloha! from The Big Island & Chobani Flips GIVEAWAY!

Hawaii pool view

Aloha, friends!! I am typing this from a beautiful, breezy outdoor patio overlooking the pool at our vacation place in Hawaii… it is my first time to ever visit Hawaii, and I have been utterly blown away! Allyn’s grandfather has rental property on The Big Island, and when it worked out for Allyn and I¬†to join his family for a short vacation in paradise, we jumped at the chance.¬†June was a total workaholic month for me — between teaching summer camps for kids and keeping up my usual tutoring work, celebrating the release of Dancing With The Pen II, taking on¬†some weekend literature classes for high school students, planning my ninth annual¬†Summer Writing Camp, spearheading¬†a screening of the Minimalism documentary in my hometown {seats still available if anyone is interested!} and preparing to marry the love of my life in less than two months… life has been quite a whirlwind!

Which is all to say, this vacation has come at the perfect time. Sun, sand, snorkeling… sunset dinners, hikes, lazy mornings… lots of relaxation and interesting conversation with people I love… it has been the “recharge” I needed!

me and al jungle selfie

An unanticipated perk of this trip is that it introduced me to Chobani Flips, a new product from my favorite yogurt company! The past month or so, I have been trying to eat yogurt every day to help keep my gut happy with probiotics, and I am a big fan of Chobani because they use real ingredients, natural sweeteners, and are always non-GMO. They also have such a wide range of flavors and taste so rich and creamy — I love having yogurt for dessert!

When we arrived at our vacation home, the fridge was stocked with some products that the previous renters had bought and left behind… one of our previous renters must have been a BIG Chobani Flips fan, because there were five containers stacked there, waiting for me to pounce on them!ūüôā I have been having them for breakfast AND dessert. My favorite flavor is the Almond Coco Loco: a¬†delectable blend of tangy coconut, mini chocolate chips, and nutty almond pieces.

Serendipitously, Chobani just reached out to me with a neat flow chart quiz that you can answer to determine what flavor combo will be up your alley. And, because I love Flips so much, I decided to sponsor a giveaway to give one of you a $10 grocery store gift card so you can try out Chobani Flips for free! {Note: this giveaway is NOT sponsored by Chobani, it is sponsored by me, and all opinions are my own.} To enter, leave a comment on this blog post letting me know your favorite flavor or what you would most like to try. You can also follow DaybyDayMasterpiece on Facebook, Twitter, and/or subscribe to the blog for entries into the giveaway!

chobani_flowchart_x2_v09

Chobani_myflavor_card_sweetnspicy_v03 Chobani_myflavor_card_sweetnsalty_v03 Chobani_myflavor_card_sweet_v03

Enter below! Good luck! :) The giveaway closes on Saturday, July 23rd.

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dear amber rubarth

Hi. I’m one of the people who came up to you after your concert in San Francisco this past Saturday night and asked you to sign my copy of your CD. I was nervous, and I don’t think I even remembered to tell you my name. I did tell you that I first saw you play at Zoey’s in Ventura years and years ago, and that your music has meant a lot to me. But it is impossible in a one-minute conversation to feel like one is¬†able to say anything that really goes below the surface. I just felt like any other fan, asking to get a picture with you. You were so kind. And then it was the next person in line’s turn and I said goodbye and Allyn and I walked out into the night. And I felt buzzing with happiness at what a wonderful evening it had been, but I also felt a keen layer of frustration beneath my skin. Because I didn’t feel like I expressed myself clearly to you in that one-minute conversation as you signed my CD.

amber rubarth concert sign

Here is what I wanted to tell you.

When I first saw you play, at Zoey’s Cafe in Ventura, I was feeling a little lost and uncertain. I had just graduated college and moved back in with my parents after my grad school and fellowship plans had ended in nothing but rejections. For my entire life up until that period, my identity had been built on structure and over-achievement. Suddenly, I was floundering. I wanted to be a writer, but I didn’t know how to build a career out of it. I felt like everyone else I knew had “real jobs” and paychecks and responsibilities and exciting lives in new cities. Meanwhile, I was¬†back in time, living once again in my childhood bedroom, unsure what the future held. And I had broken up with my college boyfriend, someone I had loved very much but had realized was not the love of my life. I felt confident it was the right decision, but I missed him. And part of me worried no one else would ever love me again.

I went to your concert at Zoey’s as part of my attempt to get out more and meet people. Zoey’s owners, Polly and Steve, had always been kind to me — they had even hosted a book signing for me back when I was in high school and released a collection of short stories — and I would check their website often for live music shows. Usually, I would go by myself. I went by myself to your show, and sat at the bar because there were no other seats available, and tried not to feel like a loser amidst the crowd of couples and families. Was I the only one there alone? But as soon as you started singing, I forgot to feel self-conscious. I felt myself in your songs. I felt understood. I listened to your beautiful, fragile, strong voice sing bravely and vulnerably about love and hope and healing, and for the first time in quite some time I felt excited to fall in love again. I felt like the world was indeed a wondrous place and that there was magic out in the future waiting for me.

That night, I went up to you after your show and bought both of your CDs and listened to them on repeat for months, driving around in my car, trying to find myself again. I particularly remember listening to You Will Love This Song on repeat and repeat and repeat. The details felt so true. Your song helped me get over my ex, while still remembering with bittersweet fondness the love we had shared, and taking in what it had taught me, and what I was looking for in a future love.

I got into grad school for fiction writing and moved halfway across the country, from my native California to a small college town in Indiana. If I thought I had felt lonely and uncertain before, I was on a whole new barometer of loneliness now. For the first time, I lived in a one-bedroom apartment by myself. I missed my family with aching fierceness. I felt overwhelmed with my new responsibilities and making friends had never seemed more difficult. I wondered if there was something wrong with me. I dreaded Fridays because it meant an endless weekend stretched before me; sometimes, a trip to the grocery store was my entire social interaction. It snowed and snowed. I wrote epically long emails to my friend Holly. I read and read and tried to write, authentically, for myself, even though criticism from my peers in workshop resounded loudly in my head. I went on a couple of unsuccessful blind dates and developed one or two hopeless crushes and listened to your song 23. I learned to cook for one. I listened to your CDs as I drove around in my same old car in this unfamiliar new town. Your songs made me feel a little bit less alone, a little bit braver. Especially Chrysanthemum Song.

I eventually met a guy, and we were together for a little while, and I was so grateful to have someone that I lost a lot of myself in the relationship. When everything fell apart, suddenly and irrevocably, I found myself again in the rubble. My brother came out to Indiana to help me regain my footing that first week, and he is also a fan of yours and he would put on your music. When I was sad, I listened to In The Creases and cried. But I simultaneously felt washed anew in a bright, sure happiness. That summer, I listened to your song The Edge and felt like you were speaking directly to me, to what I was feeling, to this new life that I was standing on the crest of, looking out across the landscape.

I moved back to California, this time to the Bay Area. I fit the pieces of myself back together again, trying on some new pieces too: zumba, yoga, green smoothies, long hikes, online dating. I met my sweetie in late January and falling in love with him was like nothing I had ever felt before: swift and yet not rushed at all; patient and trusting yet filled with surprises; gentle and passionate and balanced and consuming, all at once. As you sing in When It Fits, when it fits just right, it takes no time to know.

We spent that¬†summer apart because he moved to New Orleans for three months for an internship. I went out to visit him and we spent three glorious weeks together, eating beignets and walking around the French Quarter and snapping photos of alligators during a swamp tour. The morning I left, I gave him a mix CD I had made for him. We listened to it as he drove me to the airport. I remember rolling down the window and breathing in the cool morning air — it was still dark out and the streets were deserted — as your Song to Thank the Stars played from his car stereo. The rest of the summer, whenever I was missing him too much, I would listen to that song and the ache inside me would ease a little into gratitude.

When one of my best friends died in a car accident, music and books were two of the only things that brought me any sort of comfort. The first six months, I was in a daze. I felt like I was living underwater. I remember listening to your song Pilot. The lyrics from that song run still through my head sometimes, on days when I feel in need of a spark.

Five months ago, my love¬†proposed by serenading me with a Jason Mraz song on the guitar: Quiet. It seems fitting that one of my favorite duets is a song by Jason Mraz and you, which¬†also makes me think of my sweetheart; I’ve been listening to it on repeat lately, as I plan our wedding.

A couple months ago, Amber, when I saw you were going to play a concert in San Francisco, I was so excited. I told Allyn that was all I wanted for my birthday: to go to your concert. So he bought tickets, and I circled the date on my calendar, and we went. When you came out onstage and began to sing, I felt transported back to that night six years ago at Zoey’s cafe. So much was different then. So much has changed. I think back to that shy, nervous, uncertain girl I was, and she seems so young and far away. And yet — hearing you sing your older songs made me feel connected to my previous selves. Sitting in that concert beside¬†Allyn made me feel like I got to share those memories with him, in some osmosis¬†sort of way.

Your concert was beautiful. Your joy was contagious. The audience adored you and we cheered and cheered until you came back out and played us an encore. My breath caught in my throat when your final song was A Song To Thank The Stars. I held Allyn’s hand and felt filled to the brim with grace and love.¬†When you signed my CD, I told you how happy I was that you played that song. You confided that it was the only song you performed¬†that was not on your set list, that you felt compelled to play it at the end of the night for some reason. “You must have been sending¬†lots of¬†mental vibes for me to play it!” you said, laughing. The song felt even more like a gift after hearing that.

me and amber rubarth 2

I guess what I’m trying to say with all of this, Amber, is that your music matters. You don’t even know my name, but your music has mattered immensely in my life. It has helped me feel less alone in my lonely times, and more grateful in my joyful¬†times, and it has made me think and made me feel and helped me to be braver and kinder and more attuned to the tiny details of the world around me.

Thank you for your music. I hope you always keep making music. I am so excited to hear what you create next.

Love,
Dallas

year of virtues, month five: resolution

Hi everyone!¬†Since we are already midway¬†into May {how did this happen??} I wanted to write a brief post about my focus for this month from Ben Franklin’s List of Virtues. During the month of April, focusing on industry was very helpful in moving forward on some important projects that had sort of stalled-out midway through.

  • I completed and submitted a short story that challenged me {in a good way} and that I think is one of the best pieces I have written since graduate school. It ended up being a much longer piece than I had originally envisioned, and it felt SO rewarding to complete it!
  • I also made a whole bunch of headway on the publication of Dancing With The Pen II, and organized a book launch pizza party for the Bay Area contributors.
  • And Allyn and I made lots of¬†progress in the wedding planning arena. Proof:¬†our “wedding corner” is slowly taking over our apartment!

Wedding corner

I really want to continue this momentum, so for May’s focus I decided to go with number four¬†on Ben Franklin’s list: resolution.


RESOLUTION: Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.


To me, this is a virtue that requires two steps:

  1. First, figuring out the most important things you wish do to {perform what you ought}
  2. And secondly, resolve to perform these tasks without fail {make it a habit}

May seems like the perfect month to look back at those resolutions we made in the shiny potential of January 1st and re-evaluate them. Which resolutions are working for you? Which ones are not? Are there any resolutions that you made with the best of intentions and have since let drop to the wayside? Maybe this is a good time to re-commit to those activities or goals.

At the same time,¬†you might have made some resolutions that were more based on your “fantasy self” than your real self. Gretchen Rubin talks about this on her podcast “A Little Happier.” We all have ideal versions of ourselves, but these self-images can¬†be based more on fantasy than on reality. For example, maybe you like the IDEA of being someone who does CrossFit, but in reality a long solitary run or a low-key exercise class like Zumba¬†is much more up your alley. If your resolution was to join a CrossFit gym and go three times a week, and you have yet to make much progress or have stalled out, perhaps it is because you like the idea of being “someone who does CrossFit” much more than you enjoy the actual activity of CrossFit. In that case, it may be time to tweak your resolution to fit your ACTUAL self and the activities you actually enjoy or find the most meaningful.

For my resolutions this month, I am resolving to continue my healthy habits of drinking a green smoothie every morning, going to yoga at least once a week, and working on my creative passion projects for at least half an hour first thing every morning. I am also resolving to continue last month’s momentum by completing my work on Dancing With The Pen II¬†and officially release the book into the world! I can’t wait to share it with you guys when it is available on Amazon.com. Stay tuned!ūüôā

Questions of the day:

  • What does resolution¬†look like to you?

goals + meal plan for the week of 5/1

Hi there, everyone!¬†Happy Monday! My little windowsill plants are starting to sprout… I am waaaay too excited about these little seedlings!

sprouting plants

Highlights of this past week included going to a very inspiring fair of student environmental projects at Allyson’s high school; going out to dinner in San Francisco with Allyn’s dad and stepmom; and seeing a local production of this very cute and funny play, I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change! {Though I told my sweetie of course that title does not ring true to the two of us! Haha.}

love you you're perfect show

We also finished watching a terrific TV series we have been enjoying on DVD {a Christmas gift from Allyn’s brother Colin} called Slings & Arrows… any fans of literature, theater, Shakespeare, or quirky dramedies with interesting characters, I would highly recommend it! Also, in the first season, a young Rachel McAdams stars… she’s perhaps my favorite actress. Love her!

My favorite new recipe I made this past week was a shrimp & veggie pasta dish from a cookbook that Holly gave me, Healthy Cookbook for Two. It turned out great! Light and perfect for the warm weather we’ve been having.

shrimp pea pasta

Tonight, we are heading into San Francisco for a special event at the Museum of Modern Art! I have not been there before and am so excited. Plus, it’s a fun excuse to get a little gussied up.ūüėČ {Very exciting for a writer who spends a lot of time in yoga pants and pj’s!}

Time for goals… please feel free to share your goals and/or meal plans in the comments below!

weekly goals

Here’s how I did on my goals from last¬†week:
– submit¬†Dancing With The Pen II to publisher {…almost there!}
Рschedule Dancing With The Pen II events {made headway on venues!}
–¬†publicity for Summer Writing Camp
–¬†complete Presidio Q&A article
–¬†meet with prospective wedding hair & make-up artists {reached out to some people, but have not nailed anything down yet…}

Here are my goals for this upcoming week:
Рsubmit Dancing With The Pen II to publisher
Рschedule Dancing With The Pen II events
– complete and submit new short story
–¬†complete second Presidio¬†interview
–¬†meet with prospective wedding hair & make-up artists

Here is my meal plan for the week:
Monday: Curried butternut squash, chickpeas & spinach {subbing butternut squash for sweet potatoes}
Tuesday: Leftovers/on our own
Wednesday: Out to dinner
Thursday: Pizza and salad
Friday: Slow-cooker minestrone
Saturday: Taco salad
Sunday: Leftovers!

Questions of the day:

  • What are your goals for this upcoming week?
  • What recipes are you drooling over this week?

MPM-Spring
This post is featured on Menu Plan Monday!

on saying yes

I’ve written on this blog before about the importance of saying no. Of creating boundaries in your life, and respecting them. Of refusing to run yourself ragged trying to be everything and do everything and please everyone around you. Of saying no to what is not important, so you can make room for what is¬†important.

And this is all very true, and {as a natural people-pleaser} something I continue to work on in my life.

But I was thinking this morning about how saying no is just one side of the coin–how, if we want to create happy and fulfilling lives, it is important to be aware of saying yes, too. Saying yes intentionally. Saying yes thoughtfully. Saying yes joyfully and lovingly.

Saying yes to things that fill us up… and saying yes to things that fill others up, too.

I was thinking this morning about our upcoming wedding, and how loved it makes me feel that the people in our lives are celebrating joyfully with us. All the people who took the time to send us congratulations cards {displayed on our bookshelf; they make me smile every day!} How Dana and her mom made a special effort to take me out to lunch to celebrate. How much it means to me that Allyn’s mom and sister are throwing me a bridal shower up here in the Bay. I mean, everyone is busy enough with their own lives. Everyone surely¬†had reason to say no, to refrain from adding one more task or commitment to their lives, to focus instead on the hundreds of other things going on around them. No one had to do any of this for me and Allyn.

But do you know what? It matters. It matters so much to me.

When I look back on this period of my life in ten years, I am sure there are many details I am not going to remember. But I am going to remember the cards people sent, the lunch with Dana and Lynn, the bridal shower that Barbara and Allyson are throwing for me. These memories are gifts that I am going to take with me the rest of my life.

The funny thing is, especially with sending cards or letters, that sometimes we don’t even remember sending them, weeks or months or years later. But you never know what will be priceless to the recipient. What words will come at just the right moment. My Gramps has kept a condolence letter from John Wooden in his briefcase for the 24 years since my grandmother passed away, and he still takes it out and reads it all the time. Those words on that folded piece of note paper have brought him comfort for decades. It is likely that Coach Wooden did not even remember sending that letter, but it has meant the world to my Gramps. I feel the same way about cards and Facebook messages I got from friends and acquaintances after Celine died. Lines from those messages have become touchstones for me, memorized and recited in my head when I am feeling lonely or sad or discouraged.

I guess what I’m saying is, when it comes to saying yes, it is always worth it to take the ten minutes out of your busy day to send a card or email or Facebook message. Even if you haven’t talked to the person in years. Even if you’re not sure what to say. Make the effort. Say something. Reach out.¬†Because it¬†matters.

Being thoughtful matters. Taking time for other people matters.

It mattered that my parents came to every one of my track meets and basketball games and school plays when I was growing up. I can vividly remember the comfort and calm I would feel when I looked up in the bleachers and saw their smiles. It mattered. Every single one of those days mattered. It would have been easy for them to say no. It would have been easy for them to be too busy with work. They certainly both had many other things on their to-do lists. But they said yes. Again and again, they said yes. They came. And that feeling of comfort and calm and support has stayed with me, all these years later. It mattered then, and it continues to matter now.

My parents said yes to big things, too. Always without resentment, without martyrdom. They said yes and meant it. My mom was President of our Youth Track club for many years, organizing volunteers and running track meets for hundreds of kids {and this was back in the days of dirt tracks and manual timers clocked by humans, not computers} and all this on top of her full-time job. As a young girl, I got to see my mother as a leader in public. She was a woman in charge, running things, making decisions and finding solutions. She was an example for me that you can be kind, yet also strong at the same time. This mattered.

When I was in second grade, my dad came to every single performance¬†of my school play, even though it meant missing covering the NBA finals for his job as a sports¬†columnist. Many people would have made the opposite decision; but to my dad, he¬†was saying yes to what was most important. His actions were¬†his message, loud and clear: my family¬†is more important to me than anything, even my work. It mattered to me then, and¬†as the years pass it matters to me more and more, because I realize how easy it would have been for him to say no. How easy it would have been for him to be too busy to come to a single performance, much less every single performance. The same is true for when my dad surprised me and drove up to San Jose for my Steinbeck Fellows reading, just to turn around and drive right back home that same night {to take care of our family dog Murray.} There were¬†dozens of reasons for my dad to say¬†no to making that 10-hour trip. There were dozens of reasons why it was a hassle, why he didn’t have time, why he had too much else going on. But he said yes anyway. And it mattered. Boy, did it matter. That memory of him walking into the room is one I will treasure for my entire life.

From personal experience,¬†many¬†of my sweetest and most satisfying¬†memories are those times when I said yes even though¬†it would have been easy to say no. That time my friend Janet and I flew across the country for a weekend to surprise our friend Lauren for her birthday. When I¬†took time off work to travel to my brother’s Girl Effect panel and spend time with him in the final days of his MBA program. Planning a bridal shower for my cousin Amanda from halfway across the country¬†in the midst of writing my graduate thesis. Dog-sitting for my parents for two weeks so they could take the trip of a lifetime to Ireland to celebrate their anniversary. Throwing a surprise birthday party for my sweetheart in a San Francisco restaurant. Making a few hours’ detour on a road trip to see my friends Xun and Hai while they were in town. Making the effort to go the book signing, attend¬†the baby shower, throw the party, drive the extra distance… it has mattered, every time. I have been grateful that I said yes, every time.

Which is all to say that we should¬†strive for balance. Saying no is important, of course. I am still working on strengthening my “no” muscle. And it is always better to say “no” than to say “yes” with strings of resentment or bitterness attached.

But I think, just as it is important to say no with intention, it is also important to say yes with intention. Whether I am saying no or yes, I do not want to say either out of selfishness. I do not want to hoard all my time for myself, nor do I want to give all my time away to others. I want to say both no and yes out of my innermost generosity: a generosity towards myself, recognizing that I can only be my best self when I have time and space to breathe and recharge; and a generosity towards others, purposefully going out of my way and choosing to take on more responsibility and effort for those who matter to me. Because they are worth it. Because the memories are worth it. Because acting out of love is what makes life so worth living.

goals + meal plan for the week of 4/24

Hi there, everyone!¬†I know today is Monday, but it has felt like Sunday all day to me… I have a few tutoring clients on Saturday, so Sunday + Monday have become my “weekend” of sorts. Today was filled with typical Sunday-ish tasks: laundry, grocery store, dishes, cleaning the kitchen and bathroom. I also was very excited to go back to my favorite yoga class this morning, after a few weeks away. And I finally planted a little windowsill herb garden I have been wanting to do for a while. We’ve got little pots of basil, rosemary, and garlic chives. They look so hopeful lined up in the sunshine! Last but not least,¬†meal-planning happened today. {One day late, better than nothing!} My trusty crock-pot has been¬†cooking dinner all afternoon. It smells good! After this post goes live, my sweetie and I are going to dig in.

crock pot dinner

I noticed last week that doing this goals + meal plan post really helped me feel motivated and organized throughout the week. When I would feel overwhelmed or unfocused, I would refer back to my goals post and it helped me re-energize. Sometimes I tend to want to do ALL.THE.THINGS at once, so goals posts are helpful because I can only set so many intentions for each week… it’s a reminder for me not to get too far ahead of myself, and to just worry about the piece of the puzzle that is in front of me in the moment.

Highlights of this past week were the Zyzzyva reading on Thursday evening in San Francisco! I have loved and admired this literary magazine for years, so seeing my work published in their pages is a surreal and amazing feeling, and getting to meet the editors and other contributors in person was such a treat. Allyn came with me and made me feel like a superstar, taking pictures of me in front of the building and during my reading. Afterwards we went to Burger Bar for dinner. It was a very lovely, special date night!

zyzzyva reading

Wedding-planning wise, this past week we were on a ROLL and I really hope to continue the momentum… in addition to making huge strides on our registry {something that I am so grateful for, but also find very overwhelming because I feel the need to research every item extensively before we put it on our registry} we also designed and ordered our wedding invitations and thank-you notes, made lots of headway on reception decorations, and decided on a bakery for our dessert. Things are coming together, slowly but surely! Also, on a random side-note: this is the first week where our wedding is truly starting to feel near. I know that time is going to fly and it is going to be here so quickly! I am trying my best to savor every step of the process.ūüôā

Now, you’re all caught up on my life!¬†Time for goals… please feel free to share your goals and/or meal plans in the comments below!

weekly goals

Here’s how I did on my goals from last¬†week:
finish lay-out of Dancing With The Pen II
–¬†publicity for Summer Writing Camp
–¬†send out AWP thank-yous
–¬†complete Presidio Q&A article {the person I’m interviewing had to push back our interview to this week}
–¬†complete registry for bridal shower {this was huge!! AND we got our wedding invitations ordered, too!}

Here are my goals for this upcoming week:
Рsubmit Dancing With The Pen II to publisher
Рschedule Dancing With The Pen II events
–¬†publicity for Summer Writing Camp
–¬†complete Presidio Q&A article
–¬†meet with prospective wedding hair & make-up artists

meal plan week of 4-24-16

Here is my meal plan for the week:
Monday: Crock-pot thai peanut chicken and rice
Tuesday: Leftovers/on our own
Wednesday: Soup and corn muffins
Thursday: Dinner in Fremont with Allyson
Friday: Mustard roasted fish¬†{from what I read in a magazine article, this is one of T.Swift’s favorite recipes!}
Saturday: Shrimp & fresh pea fettucine
Sunday: Leftovers!

Questions of the day:

  • What are your goals for this upcoming week?
  • What recipes are you drooling over this week?

MPM-Spring
This post is featured on Menu Plan Monday!

goals + meal plan for the week of 4/17

Hi there, everyone! Happy Sunday! As I was sipping my tea this morning and checking my email, I started thinking about my goals and plans for the week ahead… and I had the urge to bring back my¬†Sunday goal posts here on the blog! I always find it inspiring when other people share their goals and action plans, especially on a bite-sized, small-step basis. Plus, sharing my goals on here helps keep me accountable — and helps me recognize when perhaps I am setting a goal that is related¬†to my “fantasy self” and not to my real-life actual self. {For example, when a goal keeps showing up week after week and I never seem to find the time or motivation to complete it… a definite sign that maybe it’s actually not that important in my life!}

I’ve noticed these goal posts tend to fall away when I get swamped with outside commitments or extra work projects. But I am going to make a real effort to¬†continue¬†them consistently, even as life promises to get extra busy in the next few months with travel, birthday celebrations, teaching summer camps, and wedding planning! I have found that setting aside¬†15-20 minutes on Sunday to intentionally set goals and map out a meal plan for the week makes me feel more charged and excited going into the week. It keeps me more focused and less stressed. So here goes! Please feel free to share your goals and/or meal plans in the comments below!

weekly goals

Here are my goals for this upcoming week:
– finish lay-out of Dancing With The Pen II
–¬†publicity for Summer Writing Camp
–¬†send out AWP thank-yous
–¬†complete Presidio Q&A article
–¬†complete registry for bridal shower

Here is my meal plan for the week:
Sunday: Dinner at Allyn’s mom’s
Monday: Sausage, potato and veggie bake
Tuesday: Leftovers/on our own
Wednesday: Tortellini & salad
Thursday: Dinner out in the city {I have a reading event for Zyzzyva magazine!}
Friday: Spaghetti squash burrito bowls {substituting acorn squash because it was on sale!}
Saturday: Crock-pot thai peanut chicken and rice

Questions of the day:

  • What are your goals for this upcoming week?
  • What recipes are you drooling over this week?

MPM-Spring
This post is featured on Menu Plan Monday!

taming the excuse-monster in my mind

As I’ve mentioned before,¬†I recently moved to a new apartment. Habits researcher and author Gretchen Rubin writes, in her book Better than Before, that an excellent time to adopt new habits is when undergoing a shift or change in your life: a break-up, a new relationship, a new job, a home renovation, etc. Moving to a new place, it turns out, is actually the #1 time to successfully adopt new habits! So I leaped upon the opportunity to try cementing some new healthy habits that I had been wanting to fully integrate into my life.

{Image source}

One of these habits is going to bed earlier, so I can wake up earlier feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the day. Another is to focus on simplicity; I did a huge purge of clutter and papers before I moved, and I want to keep these nonessentials from slowly re-accumulating in my life, as they so often do. Also, I now begin every morning with two big glasses of water and a green smoothie. I try to write at least a couple hundred words on my creative work-in-progress each morning before I even check my email or work on projects for other people. And I am trying to set in stone a regular routine of going to the gym.

I belonged to a gym close by where I used to live, and I would go there fairly regularly, but it was never something I especially looked forward to. I could never figure out why. It was a nice gym, with lots of classes available and fancy amenities. I realize now that I did not fully feel comfortable there; the atmosphere was a bit competitive and intense, and I prefer my gym time to be low-key and low-stress. This new gym I joined by my new apartment is much less fancy, but much more my vibe: like me, the people who go there seem friendly, a little rag-tag, and much more interested in exercising for good health than for looks.

One of my favorite classes is a Monday morning gentle yoga class. The instructor is funny and upbeat, and the class always flies by and is the perfect way to ease into my week.

Lots of other people must think so, too, because the class is pretty much always filled to capacity. Classes work on a first-come, first-serve basis; when you arrive at the gym, you can ask for a pass to get into the class, and if they have any more available the person working the front desk will hand a pass to you. If not, you’re out of luck!

{Photo cred: tricsr4kidz, Flickr Creative Commons}

One week, I was a little late getting out of bed and, even thought I arrived to the gym ten minutes before class was scheduled to begin, they were all out of passes. Rats! I thought, but it was not a big deal. I stashed my yoga mat in the locker room and worked out on the elliptical machine instead.

When I was leaving, about twenty minutes before the class was scheduled to end, another woman was standing by the front desk holding a yoga mat of her own. She spotted my yoga mat and summoned me over. “Were you kicked out of the class, too?” she asked.

“Well, I wasn’t kicked out… there just wasn’t enough room when I arrived.”

This woman shook her head angrily. “It’s not fair! They should have two classes! I got here at the time the class was supposed to start, and I wasn’t able to get into the class! They kicked me out! It’s not fair!” She was like a toddler having a tantrum, blaming everyone else but herself for her predicament.

The manager behind the front desk met my eyes with a helpless expression. I realized this other yogi had probably been angrily complaining to her for the past half hour. And now she was trying to get me to gang up on the manager about the completely fair gym policy.

“It was my fault,” I said, shrugging. “I should have gotten here earlier. But I still had a great workout anyway!” And then I smiled at the manager and headed out the door. I could still hear the other woman sputtering.

This woman, with her countless loud excuses, reminded me of someone familiar: myself, at times. Especially when it comes to my BIG goals. Which, for me, pretty much all center around writing. The truth is, as much as I want to spend my days writing up a storm, on a minute-by-minute level it often feels like writing is the last thing I want to be doing. Because writing is so often difficult! It requires so much thinking and feeling, so much honesty and bravery, and so much willingness to fail, to deal with uncertainty, to feel like you have utterly no idea if what you are creating is going to ever come together at all.

Usually, I find it is especially difficult to begin. To climb back into whatever I am working on. To bridge the gap between the shining potential of the idea in my head and the stark lines of words marching imperfectly across the page. And the act of beginning is often when my excuse-laden self pops up and brightly says:


Oh, you can’t possibly write today! Look how beautiful and sunny it is outside! You don’t want to waste a day like this. Go make a picnic! Go for a hike! Now, now, now!


Oh, look how rainy and dreary it is outside. Why don’t you curl up with that new novel you’ve been wanting to read? Reading a couple chapters will be good for inspiration. Go on, just for a bit. … Oh, why not read for a bit longer? Reading is important for writing, after all.


Oh no, you woke up late! You’re completely behind schedule! No time to write today!


Oh, you woke up early! Aren’t you feeling a little groggy still? Why not get a jump on some other projects, and you can come back to your creative writing once your cup of Earl Grey has kicked in?


Shouldn’t you clean the bathroom? Wash the dishes? Put in a load of laundry? Vacuum the carpet? Your desk is looking quite messy — probably best to organize it first, before you start writing.


Don’t you have a little headache? Your back is feeling kind of sore? Maybe you’re getting sick. You should go back to bed. You should rest. Is that a pain in your gut? Maybe you should eat something. Drink something. Go put on the tea kettle. Go make a sandwich.


Oh, and you should definitely check your email and your cell phone! Can’t miss any messages! It could be something important!


Does this sound familiar to anyone else? I’ve grown to recognize the sabotaging excuse-monster in my head for what she is: afraid. She doesn’t want to sit in the discomfort. She doesn’t want to risk failure. And so she tries to veer me off course. And, on those days (thankfully, becoming rarer and rarer) when I give in and I don’t get the writing done, and I feel guilty and angry for not writing, she always pops up on those days, too. She is filled with those same excuses for why I did not put time into my most meaningful work. She always wants to blame everything else in the world but my own decisions. She is like the other woman who did not get a pass for yoga class.

She has taught me: only by taking responsibility for my own actions, can I change them. Only by recognizing when I am making excuses can I put the brakes on the excuse-train. And only by truthfully assessing my old habits can I build new, better habits.

In a recent podcast with Arch Street Press, Dr. Douglass Jackson, founder of Project C.U.R.E., says, “Figure out what gets you so excited that it gets you up out of bed, puts your feet on the floor, and you just can’t wait to get back to it.”

Writing has always been that something to me. Now, my habits are reflecting this, too.

Ever since that week when I was too late to get a pass, I arrive to yoga class half an hour early. That early, I always am able to get a pass. I walk into the yoga room and lay out my mat on the smooth wooden floor. I have my pick of places in the room. And then I go ride the exercise bike or run on the elliptical machine until it is time for class to begin. Instead of feeling guilty and upset, I feel empowered.

I think that is one of the best ways to feel in our creative lives and our work lives and our personal lives and our whole lives: empowered.

And the best part of all? It is in our power, every single day, to create that feeling for ourselves.

year of virtues, month four: industry

Happy Monday, everyone! How was your weekend? I am back home from a whirlwind AWP conference in Los Angeles, where I got to attend so many helpful and thought-provoking workshops, snagged¬†a whole bunch of new books I can’t wait to read, and connected with some dear friends I had not seen in quite a while. By the end of the conference, I felt filled-to-the-brim with a strange combination of brain-dead exhaustion and recharged motivation in my writing life.

My brother, coincidentally, had to work a conference in Berkeley the same weekend, and got a couple days off work following the conference. So my parents drove up from So Cal with me and we spent three lovely days together in the Bay Area as a family. Allyn called it my “staycation” and that is exactly what it felt like — a little relaxing mini vacation right at home! It was wonderful to all be together, and we lucked out with absolutely gorgeous weather. I joked with my family that San Francisco was showing off for them, because immediately after they left, the weather turned gray and rainy! It matched my mood — I miss them! It is always hard saying goodbye.

view from coit hike

 

fam in sf 2016

Today, since we are already a week and a half into April, I wanted to write a brief post about my focus for this month from Ben Franklin’s List of Virtues. It was a bit difficult for me to choose what I wanted to focus on this month, because I am feeling a bit scattered and pulled in many different directions. Summer and our wedding are just visible on the horizon, but not close enough to touch yet. And yet at the same time, I feel like the new year just began an eye-blink ago and I have so many projects I want to make more headway on before the busy summer begins.

I decided to go with number six on Ben Franklin’s list: industry.


INDUSTRY: Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.


To me, this is a virtue that must¬†be dealt with carefully. It reminds me of Gretchen Rubin’s Secret of Adulthood that many things in life are good servants, but bad masters. To let industry rule your life would mean you become a productivity robot, and nobody wants that. I have written on this blog before about my quest to make time for what really matters to me and to value myself and my day not just on the number of things I check off my to-do list. I think we need to be careful with industry that it does not become a barometer of worth; that we do not multitask our lives to the detriment of deep thinking and intentional listening; that we do not speed through our days on auto-pilot, constantly rushing from here to there, constantly checking our email and social networks and newsfeeds. {After all, when Ben Franklin wrote these virtues, there were no such things as smartphones or¬†Google!}

This month, I am focusing on industry with the perspective of being employed in what is most useful to me — what I most want to make headway on in the forthcoming weeks. I have a couple big projects that I really want to move forward with and that I have not been giving the attention they deserve of late. Also, I want to make little-by-little progress on our wedding planning while we still have plenty of time until the big day. As I learned during my year of living simply, taking care of tasks far in advance takes SO much stress away!

My brother shared this graph with me that I thought was very interesting: Steven Covey’s Time Management Matrix. Here is a great article explaining it in depth. Basically, “urgent” tasks mean tasks that you need to get done for someone else; “important” tasks are those that are important to YOU for achieving your larger goals.

This month — and beyond! — I want to focus more on important tasks, rather than defaulting into giving most of my time to the urgent column. And, interesting to note, in the important column Covey lists “relationship building” and “recreation” — two items definitely not on the to-do list of a productivity robot. Yes, perhaps¬†it is possible to be industrious AND have a balanced life!

Questions of the day:

  • What does industriousness look like to you?
  • What quadrant on Stephen Covey’s matrix do you spend most of your time in?