a year of living simply: week 8

Hi there, everyone! Hope your week is off to a great start. I had a nice day yesterday… before tutoring, I met up with a sweet woman from my church who has been checking up on me since Celine died. She is a wonderful listener and a very warm person, and she brought me this beautiful Calla Lily as a little surprise. So thoughtful! When she had to leave, I stayed at the cafe for another thirty minutes or so, reading and sipping on an Earl Gray tea latte called “London fog” that was absolutely delicious.

calla lily

My grief process has been filled with shock, disbelief, sadness and anger, and yet I also feel intensely aware of all the loving people I am so fortunate to have in my life, who have taken care of me and checked up on me and sent me nice cards and notes and text messages. My profound grief is inextricably linked with profound gratitude.

year of living simply

Last week’s challenge was to be five minutes early to every appointment you have. As I mentioned last week, while I always have the best intentions to be on time early, I had a hard time actually getting out the door when I planned. After some reflection, I realized this was due to my impulse to try to squeeze in “one more thing” before I left the house, and also my tendency to underestimate how much time I will need to get ready, make breakfast, etc.

This week, I did a few things that all combined to helping me actually arrive not just on time, but EARLY, to my various appointments and responsibilities–even during my crazy-busy Saturday, and even with some unplanned traffic.

  • I set the clock in my car three minutes fast {and am trying to forget that it is fast and act like it is the correct time!}
  • When I determined what time I would need to leave the house to get somewhere on time, I set my “goal time” to leave a full ten minutes before the actual time I needed to leave. That way, even if I was running five minutes late… I was still five minutes early.
  • Instead of trying to cram in “one more thing” I forced myself to step away from the computer and get ready to leave. I realized that I used to neglect to build in time for little things I need to do before hitting the road: brushing my teeth, filling my water bottle, and going to the restroom. These things only take a couple minutes, but still–that’s a couple minutes I need to build into my schedule so I can leave on time!

This week’s challenge is to do something to simplify or improve your commute. I am fortunate in that I don’t have to drive to work each morning and home each evening in rush hour traffic, but between driving to teach and tutor — not to mention to see my sweetheart or meet up with Dana — I do spend quite a bit of time in the car.

charley!

My poor PriusC Charley can quickly become a bit of mess, especially the back seat. I usually just drive myself, and hardly ever have passengers in the back, so it is mostly used to store various things I am taking somewhere or bringing home… and a few things that I just haven’t bothered to do anything with. So this week, in addition to thinking up ways to make my driving time a bit more fun, I am also going to simplify my car environment and get rid of the nonessential clutter!

A timely reminder from my Yogi green tea bag! Happiness comes from being contented with what you have.

A timely reminder from my Yogi green tea bag! Happiness comes from being content with what you have, rather than always wanting more.

Bonus challenge: this month my friend Julie is participating in The Minimalism Game {hosted by The Minimalists} and invited me to play along! The game is to get rid of one thing on the first day of the month, two things on the second day, three things on the third day, etc. I’m doing a slightly less intense version where I am trying to get rid of one thing every day in March. We’d love for you to join us!

Questions for the morning:

  • What helps you leave the house/arrive to things on time?
  • What brightens up your commute?

fabulous friday #47

Happy Friday, friends!

Here are 5 things I’m loving right now:

1. I was feeling really sad earlier this week about Celine… just missing her a lot. My sweetheart surprised me with beautiful flowers and took me out to dinner. He is simply the best.

flowers from allyn

2. Speaking of flowers… the amaryllis that Allyn’s stepmom Laurel gave me three weeks ago is finally blooming! It’s so pretty. And I’m thrilled that I’ve kept it alive and haven’t accidentally killed it! {I don’t have the greenest thumb…}

amaryllis

3. One of the little girls I tutor is selling Girl Scout cookies, so I bought a few boxes from her… and she delivered them to me in the sweetest decorated bag. How cute this this?

decorated heart bag

On the subject of Girl Scouts, Holly reminded me of something really awesome that Celine used to do: when she saw Girl Scouts selling cookies at a table, she would buy a box of cookies and then GIVE the cookies to the Girl Scouts so they could enjoy them while they worked. Such a simple, thoughtful act of kindness that brings SO much excitement and happiness to the girls! It is also the perfect solution for those times you want to support the Girl Scouts, but don’t particularly want a bunch of cookies hanging around your pantry.

20150227_121147

4. My thoughtful friends Shane and Lauren sent me cards this week. Always brightens my day to receive love in the mail!

wild things card

5. In the mail this week I also received copies of North Dakota Quarterly, a beautiful literary journal. I am honored to have my work published in the current issue, 80.2. You can read my short story online here.

north dakota quarterly

On my agenda for the weekend: tonight Allyn and I are going to dinner and to a play — a production of Part I of Angels in America, a powerful play I read and loved in college. I’ve never seen it onstage and am very much looking forward to it! Tomorrow, I’m teaching all day and then in the evening Allyn and I are meeting up for a double-date with Dana and Brad at this new-ish adult arcade place called Plank that looks really fun. I’m excited!

Should be a great weekend. 🙂 Hope yours is wonderful, too! Have fun and be safe out there, everyone!

Questions of the day:

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

a year of living simply: week 7

Hello, friends! I’m coming at you a little late with this week’s year of living simply post… I can’t believe it’s already Thursday! I meant to post yesterday, but it was a busy busy day. Tutoring, teaching for Communication Academy, and then last night I went to see my former Purdue professors, Porter Shreve and Bich Minh Nguyen, give a reading at San Jose State. It was wonderful to see them and they both did a terrific job reading from their books.

porter and bich's books

Moving onto living simply… here are a couple simplicity-themed blog posts that really resonated with me this week:

year of living simply

Last week’s challenge was to identify one project or task that you have been putting off, and DO it — or, if it’s a bigger project, do the first step. The goal was to get this task over with and not let it take up any more of your life!

One project I FINALLY DID this week {after transferring it from one to-do list to the next for the past three weeks… does anyone else do that?} was get my application for a renewed passport in the mail. It wasn’t too time-consuming, but did require filling out forms online, printing these forms, taking a new passport picture, and waiting in line at the post office. It feels really great to not have this task taking up any more of my brain space!

passport

This reminded me of something my brother and I have talked about before: how much less stressful tasks are when you do them way in advance of deadlines. Even though getting my passport renewed was a bit of a pain, I still have plenty of time before it expires, so I didn’t feel stressed about it. In fact, I felt like I was “on top of things” for getting it done so far in advance, so this task actually boosted my self-confidence. On the other hand, it would have been enormously stressful had I waited until the last minute {plus I would have needed to pay more for expedited shipping!}

I’m trying to give myself time and space to complete tasks ahead of deadlines, in all areas of my life.

Speaking of giving yourself time… this week’s challenge is to be five minutes early to every appointment you have, whether that is work, a lunch date with a friend, a doctor’s appointment, whatever! My sweetheart is really really good at this. He is always early, and it is one of the first things I noticed about him; being early for things shows his respect and consideration for other people’s time and commitments. Dana is excellent at this, too! Whenever we meet up, I always know I can count on her to be there at the time we’ve set.

Then there’s me. I have the best intentions, but it seems like I’m always headed out the door five or ten minutes later than I planned to. As someone who is perpetually trying to squeeze in “just one more thing” before I leave, this week’s challenge is a really important one for me. We’ll see how I do!

Questions for the morning:

  • What task did you finally get done this week?
  • Do you tend to run late, or are you an early-arriver?

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?

a year of living simply: week 6

Happy Wednesday, dear readers! I hope you are all doing great and enjoying this “short” week after the Presidents’ Day holiday. This morning I’m cooking up a batch of chili but instead of using ground turkey, I’m subbing in roasted butternut squash inspired by this veggie chili recipe I found. I’ll let you know how it turns out! I’m bringing dinner to Allyn’s tonight after I teach my Wednesday afternoon classes for Communication Academy.

Before we get into this week’s simplicity challenge, I wanted to share with you this outstanding fundraising project The Minimalists are doing to build a school in Laos. They’ve partnered with Jhai Coffee, the world’s first completely philanthropic coffee roaster and cafe, started by Tyson Adams. Here’s a brief excerpt from their blog post:

Today, under half of the population of Laos has access to clean, safe drinking water. So Tyson decided that perhaps he could focus less on his material possessions and instead find ways to help.

Since 2013, Jhai has partnered with the Lao Government; Jhai Coffee Farmers Cooperative (JCFC); and a private water-filter company, TerraClear, to serve 23 schools—helping 3,277 children along the way. In less than two years, they have provided 25 water purification filters (filtering up to 99.99% of bacteria, parasites, and suspended solids); completed 21 WASH programs (Jhai’s Hygiene program); installed seven Unicef-manufactured water pumps at schools that previously had no access; built a coffee storage warehouse for the JCFC where farmers house their coffee in a safe, climate-controlled environment, which increases profits for each family; and given organic-coffee training to fifteen member villages for increased quality and future earning potential.

All of this because one man said no to the status quo and yes to contribution.

You can read more here. Check it out — I was so inspired! And now… on to this week’s simplicity challenge!

year of living simply

Last week’s challenge was to get digitally organized and simplified. I’m going to be honest and admit something to you guys: my computer was a disorganized mess. I had set up file folders at some point, but many of them hadn’t been used in ages. For a while I’d been saving most documents to my Desktop, which was so cluttered with .doc files that you couldn’t even see the faces of me and my brother in my Desktop photo. It was overwhelming to even get started, but I told myself just to do a little bit every day and see where the end of the week got me.

Now my computer isn’t completely organized, but I’d say I’m about 80% there. It is SO much better than it was before. I set up a system of file folders for different projects I’m working on, and broke up my .doc files into different categories so now I can find things easily. Speaking of which… I found a bunch of beginnings of stories and essays that I had started at one time and then forgotten about, and I’m so excited to get back to them! It felt like discovering hidden treasure.

This week’s challenge is to identify one project or task that you have been putting off, and DO it. Or, if it’s a bigger project, do the first step. Often we put something off because we think it’s going to be a chore, but the irony is that it becomes so much more of a chore the longer we put it off because it continues to take up our brain space. Don’t let this task take up any more of your life — get it over with this week!

Questions for the morning:

  • How did it go getting your computer organized?
  • What tasks do you tend to put off?

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?

a year of living simply: week 5

Hello everyone, and happy Wednesday! Hope you are having a great week so far. My week has been a mixture of “grown-up” things like getting my tax stuff in order and scheduling doctor’s appointments and going shopping to keep my fridge stocked with veggies; and restorative time reading, journaling, talking to my family, and soaking up time with friends old and new. I also met with two wonderful women from my church to talk a bit about Celine and how much I miss her. Sometimes I feel the need to cocoon myself, but other times it just feels good to talk about her.

As I mentioned in last week’s post, I’ve been thinking a lot about this last sentence of my simplicity challenge summary: We’ll reflect on what truly matters to us, and why, and what we hope to do with that knowledge.

year of living simply

Celine’s sudden death has shifted my attention to the big-picture things. I’ve been asking myself:

What do I want my legacy to be?

I want to brighten the lives of other people. I want to spread joy and kindness. I want to write books and blog posts and stories and articles that make people feel comforted, supported, inspired, and understood. I want the kids I teach and tutor to feel more confident and proud of themselves. I want to plant the seeds of trees that will provide shade for future generations. I want to help causes greater than myself. I want my loved ones to *know* how much I love them, and to always feel like I have time for them. I want them to know, always, without a doubt, how important they are to me. I want my legacy to be a ray of sunshine that makes other people smile.

Last week’s challenge was to do some free-writing or journaling about your WHY for simplifying your life.

  • What do you want to make room for?
  • What do you want to get rid of {physically and emotionally}?
  • How do you want to feel?

I want to simplify my life to make room for what’s most important to me: namely, my passions and the people I love. I want to feel like I have TIME, like my days aren’t just flying by mindlessly. I want to notice and savor the everyday moments of beauty in my life. I want to feel energized and excited and FREE.

Since writing is my passion and a major vehicle I use to spread joy and connection in the world, I realized I need to set aside some time to simplify and organize the backbone of my writing life: my computer files.

This week’s challenge is to get digitally organized and simplified! Delete unnecessary files; clean out your Downloads folder; organize your Word documents into folders; clean up your Desktop. Even if you’re not a writer, I’m willing to bet you use your computer every day and it contains files important to your life and your dreams.

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?

merry christmas! mid-week meditation #16

Happy Christmas, everyone! I hope whatever you have in store for today, it is a celebration filled with joy and love!

In that spirit, here is one of my favorite quotes for this Christmas season:

grinch xmas quote

Sending so much happiness your way on this blessed day!

Question of the day:

  • What are you doing to celebrate Christmas?

goals + recipes for the week of 11/16

Hi, friends, and happy Sunday to you 🙂 Sorry I’ve been a bit MIA this week… it’s been unexpectedly busy! On Friday night, I went to Arianna’s high school play that she has been working on for months as the Assistant Director. I’m so proud of her! The set alone blew me away with its intricate attention to detail.

Arianna play

Yesterday, after teaching my rambunctious classes of kiddos, I took BART into the city and met up with my sweetheart for a fun sustainable foods event his MBA program was hosting. I noshed on a delicious spinach dish from a Jamaican restaurant, and Allyn had the jerked chicken and shared some of his dirty rice and plantains with me. It was nice getting to chat with his classmates and catch up with some people I hadn’t seen since Allyn’s surprise birthday party back in October.

Work-wise this week, some exciting developments have been happening that I hope I’m able to share sometime soon. In the meantime, I can tell you that I was really happy to get an acceptance this week from North Dakota Quarterly, the literary magazine out of the University of North Dakota, to publish my short story “Dirt” in their forthcoming “Slow” themed issue. Hooray! It’s been a motivating reminder of the importance of perseverance in pursuing your dreams, despite the inevitable rejections and disappointments — every “No” is one step closer to a “Yes!”

In that spirit… time for goals!

weekly goals

Here’s how I did on my goals from last week: 
– finish writing that one short story that’s been half-finished for months
– prepare tutoring worksheets through the end of the year
– update my website
– go to the gym three times
finish reading Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
connect with two friends

Here are my goals for this upcoming week:
– finish editing/preparing manuscript for submission
– update my website
– set date for Winter Writing Camp
– go to yoga class
– connect with two friends

And here are some recipes I’m drooling over this week:
pumpkin cookies w/cookie butter via The Coupon Project
kale & brussels sprouts salad w/butternut squash via Two Peas & Their Pod
vegetarian chickpea curry via Food Friends
fiesta frittata via PB Fingers
chaider {chai + hot apple cider} via The Pajama Chef
– my grandma’s curried butternut squash soup

Questions of the day:

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

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