a year of living simply: week 10

Hello, friends! It’s been way too long since I’ve checked in with you guys. I took an unintentional blogging break when I traveled down south to visit my brother and my parents for a long weekend. My brother organized this fantastic event about girls education for USC’s “EdMonth” and I did not want to miss it! Thanks to an inexpensive flight on Southwest, I was able to rearrange my tutoring schedule and travel to L.A. to attend. Greg is passionate about women’s rights and his enthusiasm shined throughout the evening! He recruited amazingly impressive and eloquent panelists to talk about “The Girl Effect: From Why to How.” It was such an inspiring event and I am SO proud of him for putting it all together!

greg edmonth panel

greg edmonth panel

I took advantage of being down in Southern California to visit my parents in Ventura before I headed back to the Bay. It’s always so relaxing and happy to spend time with my parents. On Sunday we went to a talk by Garth Stein, author of the wonderful book The Art of Racing in the Rain. I am fascinated to hear other writers talk about their process, and Mr. Stein was as insightful as he was humorous! I also ate way too many strawberries {Mom bought an entire flat from a local farm}, visited with Gramps, and played many rounds of fetch with crazy-eyed Mr. Mur-dog. Soaking up time with my family always makes my soul feel refreshed.

me and greg

Now, onto the simplicity…

year of living simply

Last week’s challenge was to get rid of some paper clutter in your life. I cleared out my box of old receipts and also organized my tutoring folder, which had become a mess of worksheets and assignments. Now I have everything organized based on age/grade level. Moving forward, my challenge will be to take a little time each week to do inventory and KEEP the folder organized. I am motivated to do so, because I feel much more prepared going into each tutoring session — I know that I will be able to find what I am looking for to engage my students!

This week’s challenge is related to paper clutter… time to tackle the magazine clutter in your life! Magazines pile up in my house so quickly, especially The New Yorker, which comes weekly. They tend to grow into a pile that I tell myself I will read “one day…” {Sound familiar to anyone else?} This week I’m going to take a hard look at my magazine subscriptions, decide which ones I don’t need to renew any longer, and donate all the magazines I honestly don’t plan on reading.

Do you have magazines to get rid of, too? Don’t just toss ’em — donate ’em! I’ve donated magazines in the past, and libraries have always been grateful to receive them. You could also consider donating magazines to nursing homes, hospitals, or community centers.

Before I go, an update: I have become a podcast junkie! I especially love This American Life, RadioLab, and Invisibilia. In the past few weeks I’ve learned about:

Questions for the morning:

  • Do you listen to podcasts? If so, what are your favorites?
  • What paper clutter did you get rid of?
  • Do you subscribe to magazines?
20150326_203634

My new teaching mantra!

fabulous friday #46

Happy Friday, everyone! I don’t know where this week has gone. Crazy that we’re approaching the weekend again already. Hope you’re having a terrific day, and if you’re back East dealing with the crazy weather, please stay safe!

Here are 5 things I’m loving right now:

1. My care packages love continues. I have such amazing, loving people in my life! This week I received Valentines from my parents, a wonderful card from Julie, and a card and poetry books from my friend Carand.

julie card

carand poetry books

2. My butternut squash chili turned out really well! It is so hearty, savory and warm. I have been enjoying a bowl for lunch the past couple days and it is the perfect midday comfort food.

butternut squash chili

3. My friend Peter Yobo has released an amazing ebook, The 7 Steps to Creating Your Masterpiece Day, now available on Amazon. Here is a brief synopsis:

“Peter shares the 7 steps, that, when implemented daily, will create true life transformation. If you share Peter’s passion for living fully and achieving greatly, then you’ll have a blast reading The 7 Steps to Creating Your Masterpiece Day.”

masterpiece day peter yobo

4. My grandma was going through old photos this week and she found some adorable ones of my mom as a little girl. Too cute! I also love when I can see glimpses of myself in old photos of my mom. 🙂 I think she is the most beautiful woman, inside and out, I have ever met! I love you, Mama. ❤

Mom first day of kindergarten

mom little girl xmas

5. Tonight I’m meeting up with Allyn in San Francisco for a really neat event co-hosted by his MBA program: a screening of the documentary film Girl Rising and a panel discussion about “Girls, Women and Sustainability” with experts in the field, including a producer of the film. After first watching Girl Rising with my brother a couple years ago, I was inspired to seek out books on the topic such as Half The Sky, which I detailed in this post. I have become more and more passionate about women’s rights and girls’ education around the world. I’m super excited for the event tonight!

Questions of the day:

  • What are you loving right now?
  • What are your plans for the weekend?

fabulous friday #45

Happy Friday, everyone! I haven’t felt like doing one of these posts for the past few weeks… but I was thinking today about how Celine was an incredibly fabulous person, and I think she would like the idea of all of us recognizing and celebrating the fabulous things, large and small, that we are loving in our lives each week. So, I am happy to be back this week with a fabulous friday post for you. 🙂

Here are 5 things I’m loving right now:

1. Care packages. Tania sent me three books that she thought I would like: A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle; Painted Prayers by Jodi Uttal; and We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler. Reading is such a comfort to me, and I am already working my way through these good books.

books from Tania

And my dad sent me a beautiful card:

typewriter card

2. Another book arrived in the mail this week — Every River On Earth, a book that I have a short story in! It’s been at least two years since my piece was accepted for this collection, and it was so exciting to finally hold it in my hands. It is a beautiful book and I am proud and grateful to be a part of it!

Every River on Earth

3. This inspiring post from Nicole at Life Less BS with some concrete tips for achieving any of your goals using a simple, little-by-little approach. I especially liked this quote:

“Change doesn’t have to be huge in order to be hugely impactful. If you’re sitting there waiting until you have ‘enough time’ or the ‘right circumstances’ to make a big change, you’re making it too hard on yourself. Who says big changes are the only way? Who says it has to be all or nothing?”

4. I baked some delicious sunflower butter cookies using this recipe, adding in both dark chocolate chips and butterscotch chips. They turned out great! Definitely a make-again. Plus, they are gluten-free!

sunflower butter cookies

5. Valentine’s Day! This has always been one of my favorite holidays, whether I’ve been single or in a relationship, because it is all about letting the people you love know that you love them. If you’re looking for some sweet, inexpensive Valentine’s gift ideas, here are some ideas! My favorite way to celebrate is with cards. I still have the cards my parents sent me last year up in my room:

valentines

This year, I’m teaching during most of the day, and then Allyn and I are going out to dinner and to a movie. You can bet I already have my outfit all picked out and am going to bake some red velvet crinkle cookies tonight! 🙂

red velvet cookies

Questions of the day:

  • What are you loving right now?
  • What are your plans for the weekend?
  • Are you doing anything to celebrate Valentine’s Day?

fabulous friday #44

Happy Friday, everyone! It’s been a while since I’ve done a fabulous friday post around here… excited to get back to it!

Here are 5 things I’m loving right now:

1. Being home and soaking up time with my sweet family. Greg heads back to USC tomorrow {for his final semester of business school… craziness!} and we are going out to dinner as a family tonight. We’re going to try out an Indian restaurant downtown that Greg has been eying for awhile. I haven’t had Indian food for a looooong time, and I’m looking forward to some quality time with three of my very favorite people!

Irish pub fam

murray

{And Murray knows he is my favorite pup!}

2. My sweetheart made it safely to Kenya, and he and his group successfully summited Mt. Kenya! They only have sporadic Internet access, so I haven’t been able to communicate with him very much, but one of his group-mates posted this photo on Facebook of them all at the peak of Mt. Kenya. {There he is, second from the right!} I’m really proud of him, and excited to hear about all his adventures when he returns home in about a week!

mt kenya

3. Allison Williams. We watched her interview with Jon Stewart last night and I was completely charmed. I only knew her from the Peter Pan Live special, but now I’m seeing her everywhere — including on the cover of the Glamour magazine!

glamour allison williams

I loved what she said about the importance of knowing yourself before looking to others for outside validation:

“I’ve just figured out who I am. I am now rarely confronted with a feeling, physical or emotional, that I can’t place. … Part of getting to know yourself better means that all the relationships in your life improve: friendships, family, fiance, all of it.”

Also, while watching the Jon Stewart interview last night, my dad said, “Hey Dal, she kind of looks like you!” Maybe I’ve finally found my celebrity doppelganger?

4. Alexandra Franzen included a link to this amazing singer-songwriter, James Bay, in her latest newsletter. I can’t get enough of his soulful voice and lyrics!

5. This past Wednesday, I went to the book launch party for Jennifer Niven’s new YA release, All The Bright Places. It is a really wonderful book — like The Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor & Park meets The Perks of Being a Wallflower — and Jennifer could not be nicer or more gracious. It was so exciting to meet her!

all the bright places

BONUS: I have some writing-related news to share with you!

  • My YA romance ebook, “How I Became a Coffee Addict,” is available for FREE through January 10th on Amazon! Grab your copy here.
  • My short story “Receiptless” was recently published in the literary journal The Literati Review; you can read it online here. Hope you enjoy! 🙂

Questions of the day:

  • What are you loving right now?
  • What are your plans for the weekend?

a year of Wooden: week 37

Hi there, everyone! Allyn’s mom just returned from a 3-week trip to China {Allyn was house-sitting for her, and I occasionally stayed over as well}… it sounds like she had an amazing trip, and we are very happy she’s home safe! She also solved the mystery of my disaster pumpkin pie last week — apparently her oven takes a really long time to preheat, and the broiler stays on for the entire time it’s preheating. So I definitely did NOT let the oven pre-heat long enough, and the broiler explains why the pie formed that weird burned skin on the top. I’m relieved that there wasn’t something wrong with my recipe 🙂

Now, time for this week’s year of Wooden challenge!

a year of wooden

  • January: Drink deeply from good books
  • February: Make friendship a fine art
  • March: Help others
  • April: Build a shelter against a rainy day {financially}
  • May: Be true to yourself
  • June: Give thanks for your blessings every day
  • July: Love
  • August: Balance
  • September: Drink deeply from good poetry
  • October: Make friendship a fine art {new friends}

Our October challenge is a reprise of our February challenge, from Coach Wooden’s 7-Point Creed: Make friendship a fine art. For October, we’re focusing on nurturing new friendships.

Last week’s challenge was to reach out to a friend of a friend you have always wanted to get to know better, and invite him or her to do something fun. I reached out to a young woman friend of my Aunt Annie’s family, and I also sent an email to the wife of one of Allyn’s MBA friends, who happens to be a writer too! Here’s hoping I hear back from them and we get together sometime soon. I’ll keep you posted!

This week’s challenge is to ask a stranger out on a “friend date.” Rachel Bertsche did this all the time during her journey to make new friends in a new city, which she chronicles in her fabulous book MWF Seeking BFF. I find her bravery and positive outlook very inspirational!

I actually used this approach when I met my now-friend Emy, who is a fellow teacher at my Aunt Mary’s school — I met Emy in the teacher’s lounge when I was teaching a creative writing lesson for my aunt’s class. After Emy and I chatted about books for a couple minutes, she had to head back to her classroom. I blurted out, “You seem super nice and I would really like to be your friend. Do you want to meet up for coffee sometime?” {Note to self: zero points for smoothness, gold star for earnest honesty.} Emy sweetly agreed, we met up for coffee that weekend, and later I became friends with some of her other friends, too! PLUS, Emy is the friend who I signed up for online dating with, as a mutual-support thing, and that was how I met my sweetheart… just another reminder that you never know what will lead to what!

The point is, there are potential friends everywhere, as long as you have the guts to put yourself out there and make a connection. This week, why not strike up a conversation in line at the grocery store, or while you’re waiting for your drink at Starbucks, or in the locker room of your gym? Take that first step and see what happens! Maybe you’ll make a new friend!

Question for the day:

  • What new friend will you reach out to this week?

fabulous friday #37

Happy Friday! I’m off to my favorite morning yoga class, then hoping to get a good writing session in at Starbucks before lunch, and then this afternoon I’m tutoring some really sweet kiddos. The rest of the evening will be spent hanging out with my grandparents and resting up for my crazy day tomorrow!

My Saturday = a full day of teaching + an evening reading in San Francisco for Arroyo Literary Review as part of the awesome Litquake events going on throughout the city + meeting up with Allyn and his MBA classmates for a “dare-e-oke night” fundraiser for their humanitarian trip to Kenya. {Any good karaoke song suggestions??}

Here are 5 things I’m loving right now:

1. This wise message on my green tea bag this morning, which reminds me of the namaste principle in yoga class:

tea message

2. The new NBC romantic comedy sitcom A to Z. You guys, it’s only been three episodes but this show is already something I look forward to in my week! If I were to write a TV show, I have a feeling it would be something like this. The show centers around Andrew and Zelda {get it? A to Z!} and chronicles their relationship from when they first meet. The episodes are organized by letter, for example the first one was “A for Acquaintances.” It’s a really clever and funny show, and I love the characters! I even got Allyn to watch an episode with me the other night, and he laughed out loud a couple times. My brother texted me after watching the first episode: Oh sweet Jesus this is a Dallas show! Haha. What can I say? I love love!

3. The pumpkin-pie fail that happened in my kitchen this week. I’m not exactly grateful for this disaster of a pie — something happened and it never really set, but the top layer sort of burned and peeled off the pie! Has that ever happened to anyone else? I followed my favorite recipe the same as I always do, but obviously something went wrong. The only thing I can think of is that I made it in a different oven than I usually do {I made it for Allyn at his place}… but other than that, I’m clueless! I need to make another one soon to make up for this pie.

gross pumpkin pie

However, the thing I LOVED about this pie was my sweetheart’s reaction. It was my first time ever making him a pie, and it smelled so good baking in the oven, filling the kitchen with spice and autumn. Anticipation was high! But then I took it out of the oven, and there was a huge air bubble on the top — the pie was like a dome, and as it cooled the dome deflated. It reminded me of that scene in Christmas Vacation when they cut into the delicious-looking turkey and it immediately shrivels up. Anyway, I knew right away that something was not right with this pie. I peeled off the top burnt layer and the insides were this mushy texture. So disappointing!

I’ll be honest: I was upset. And embarrassed. And confused. I was about ready to pitch this pie out the window! But Allyn just hugged me and said, “It’ll be fine! It’s still gonna taste delicious!” And when the pie cooled, over my protests, he cut himself a big slice and finished every bite.

We spent the rest of the night laughing about this pie. Now it’s actually a funny memory, and yet another reminder of why I feel so grateful and happy to be with this man.

4. This quote and beautiful photo from Courtney Carver at Be More With Less:

5. For my birthday, my friends Allyson & Henry got me a subscription to a superb and innovative literary magazine, McSweeney’s. Yesterday my first issue arrived! This issue is designed as a bunch of small pamphlets so it’s easy to just grab a story and slip it into my purse when I’m on the go. I’m so excited to dig into it this weekend!

mcsweeneys

mcsweeneys

Questions of the day:

  • What are you loving right now?
  • What are your plans for the weekend?

mid-week meditation #14

Good morning, everyone! Hope your week is humming along nicely. I woke up this morning feeling a little sore, but still on a high, from last night’s yoga class! We had a substitute instructor who was alllll about the chair pose. I was definitely feeling the burn! But it also felt like an accomplishment to be able to hold the pose for so long. It made me realize that I really have come far in my yoga practice since I began practicing in earnest at the beginning of the year.

It’s been a cloudy, gray couple days here in the Bay Area, which I’ve actually been savoring because it finally feels like autumn! I love cozy autumn weather. It makes me so happy to curl up with a book under a blanket, or open up my laptop in the morning to write with a hot mug of tea while the wind shrieks outside.

That’s pretty much my schedule for today: write in the morning, teach in the afternoon, and have a bajillion cups of tea in between. 🙂 This evening, I’m planning to head to church for a class our ministers are co-teaching on Science & Spirituality. I’ve heard great things about it and am excited to check it out!

This week’s meditation is a quote that my brother sent me:

john gardner quote

 Question of the morning:

  • What do you have to give that you have never given before?

fabulous friday #36

Happy Friday, friends! I can’t believe it’s the start of another weekend again already. Although, Saturdays are actually my heaviest load teaching-wise — four classes back-to-back-to-back-to-back! — so Fridays for me are spent prepping and gearing up for a whirlwind of energetic kiddos! My “weekends” actually fall on Mondays and Tuesdays right now {those are the only two days when I don’t have any teaching or tutoring commitments.} However, even though teaching can be exhausting, I love it and I love my students. Plus, Allyn is taking me out to dinner & a comedy show tomorrow night, so I’ll be looking forward to that all day!

How is your day going so far? Mine is flying by! I slept in a little later than I intended this morning {guess my body needed it! I’m all about following Robyn’s advice and listening to your body, which means sleeping in if you are able to when your body craves more rest} … so I downed a quick smoothie breakfast of banana + pineapple + mango + bluebs + spinach while getting ready this morning. Then I scurried off for two private tutoring sessions. The students are out of school today for a teacher workday, so I was able to schedule my tutoring sessions for the morning instead of the afternoon as I usually do. Sometimes the kids get {understandably} a little tired or cranky in the afternoon when I see them after they’ve already had a long day of school, so this morning they seemed extra-energetic and ready to write! {By the way, if you’re a parent or teacher or looking for some fun writing activities to do with kids, check out this post I wrote for Parent Grapevine with some tried-and-true ideas I use frequently!}

On my way home, I popped by Safeway in an attempt to get my flu shot, but after waiting in a long line I was informed they no longer take my insurance, so I have to go to Walgreens or Rite-Aid instead. It was a little frustrating, but I also am petrified of getting shots so I will admit a part of me was relieved to put it off for a little longer 🙂

Now I’m back home, hoping to get some productive writing done this afternoon. Before I get down to work, time for Fabulous Friday!

Here are 5 things I’m loving right now:

1. Honeycrisp apples! They’re baaaaack! As my cousin Makena said in amazement when we split one the other day, “These things taste like CANDY.” Yeah they do! My favorite snack of the moment is a sliced honeycrisp apple, half topped with pb and the other half topped with Justin’s maple almond butter. I could eat this allll daaaaay.

honeycrisp apples

2. On Wednesday night, I gave a reading in San Jose at the Flash Fiction Forum event. It was so much fun! Such a warm, engaged and welcoming crowd. I always get nervous before giving a reading, but my nerves melted away as soon as I looked out at the crowd and saw all the interested expressions and smiling faces. I wore what I refer to as my New Orleans dress, because I got it for my trip to visit Allyn in New Orleans this past summer.

nola dress

Another thing I love about attending public readings is meeting other writers! I was excited to get a signed copy of fellow reader Kevin Sharp‘s YA novel After Dakota… I’ve only finished the first couple chapters, but I’m already hooked!

after dakota book

3. When kitchen fails actually turn into something yummy. Earlier this week, I was intending to make butterscotch chocolate-chip oatmeal cookies, but when the oven timer sounded I was greeted with these monstrous things… much bigger and thicker than your ordinary cookie! After trying one, I realized they are not cookies, they are scones! So I’ve been enjoying them for breakfast. They’re delicious plain, with nutbutter, or with jam. I’ll be sharing the recipe soon, after I test it out again!

scones

4. This is a stunning blog post — beautifully written, heart-rending, brought me to tears: http://witandwhimsy.onsugar.com/Watching-Dad-Watch-Flames-6584225

5. When I was at the grocery store, I was not able to get my flu shot, but I WAS able to score some pumpkin baking ingredients on sale! I wanted to load my basket down with cans and cans and cans of pumpkin, but I restrained myself. Can’t wait to bake a pumpkin pie and to try out some of the fantastic pumpkin recipes on Two Peas & Their Podpumpkin snickerdoodles, perhaps?

pumpkin

And, that’s a wrap! In addition to dinner with Allyn tomorrow night, this weekend I’m also looking forward to family time, helping out with the church service on Sunday, a much-anticipated long-overdue catch-up date with Dana, and cozying up under a blanket with some tea and a good book.

Questions of the day:

  • What are you loving right now?
  • What are your plans for the weekend?

on love, faith & truth: the legacy of dr. king

Hi there from a beautifully drizzly morning in the Bay Area!

drizzly morning

We are in the midst of a huge drought right now so are beyond happy for any rain or mist at all… waking up to the pitter-patter of rain on the roof was a truly delightful sound. Fingers crossed for more rainy days around here!

Now I’m sipping on green tea & a green smoothie for breakfast. I wanted to share with you some of the notes I took during the powerful and inspiring talk by Tavis Smiley that I was fortunate to attend yesterday in San Francisco at the Commonwealth Club… {it was actually recorded and the entire talk and Q&A session will be available here in the next few weeks.} The talk was centered around Tavis’s new book, Death of a King, about the last year of MLK’s life.

Death of a King

Tavis said he wanted to write a book “that everyday people can devour and enjoy and get to know Dr. King.” He explained, “I want to do my small part to make the world safe for the legacy of Dr. King: justice for all, service to others, and love that liberates people.”

Indeed, the main message that Tavis shared about MLK {or as Tavis called him, just Martin} was his belief in LOVE above all else. “Everything he did, he did in love.” Here are some more of my notes from the talk:

  • We are too often engaged in monologue and not enough in dialogue. Let’s engage in more dialogue with each other. That means, listening to each other.
  • Sometimes, silence is betrayal.
  • No matter what, MLK always stood in his truth.
  • What happened to LOVE in our public discourse? You can disagree with someone, but still approach them from a place of love.
  • Everyone is worthy just because.
  • MLK knew that he did not have a monopoly on the truth and that he was not right about everything {for example, his views on women were at times a little sexist or patriarchal.} But he was willing to learn.
  • Like water, he was able to go everywhere and relate to all different types of people.
  • Tavis’s definition of leadership: “You can’t lead people if you don’t love people. You can’t save people if you don’t serve people.”
  • Every day you get up, and you get another chance to get it right.

Tavis talk

Tavis always signs off his broadcasts on PBS with by saying, “Keep the faith.” During the Q&A, one of the audience members asked him how he defines faith. I really loved what he said:

“Faith is climbing up a dark staircase, where you can’t see the next step in front of you, but you step forward and trust that it is there.”

Afterwards, there was a book-signing and I went up and introduced myself and asked Tavis to sign two copies of his book: one for me and one for my dad. He gave me a big hug and, echoing MLK’s message — and Coach Wooden’s message, too — signed an inscription to my dad with the word “love.” It was the perfect ending to a really inspiring afternoon!

tavis inscription

Now I’m headed off to the gym, then back home for a quick shower before I meet my sweetheart for a lunch date. Have a love-filled day, everyone!

Questions for the morning:

  • What books are you reading and loving right now?
  • Have you ever gone to a speaker event or book talk before? What did you think of it?
  • What does “faith” mean to you?

mid-week meditation #11

Happy Wednesday, everyone! Oh man, I went to yoga last night for the first time in for.ev.er and I am sore today! It’s the good kind of sore, though. I’m already looking forward to class tomorrow! It’s nice to be getting back into my regular routine after such a busy, travel-filled summer.

When I got home from yoga last night, there was this gorgeous cake sitting on the kitchen counter. Apparently one of our neighbors saw my grandma walking with her walker and learned about her hip operation. So she baked this homemade lemon cake as a get-well gift. Such a thoughtful gesture! It warmed my heart {and my belly — delicious!} Next time I see her, I’m going to ask for the recipe so I can share it with all of you.

lemon bundt cake

Last night, my fave contestant Tavis Smiley was voted off Dancing With The Stars. 😦 But I’m happy to be heading into San Francisco today to hear Tavis give a talk about his new book about MLK, Death of a King, at The Commonwealth Club.

Death of a King

Then I’m off to teach my first class of the semester for Communication Academy — I’m excited to meet my students and get started! Tonight I’m heading over to my aunt Annie’s house to watch the season premiere of Nashville with her and Arianna… the other show I watch on a regular basis in addition to The Good Wife. Any other Nashville fans?

Before I go, here’s a September-inspired meditation to add some calm to your week:

September quote

Have a beautiful day!