Ode to My First Grown-Up Home


For my entire college career (and then some), the longest I stayed in one place was 12 months. The timeline was roughly:

September 2004 – June 2005: Cal Poly’s dorms (Yosemite Tower 10!)

June 2005 – June 2006: Two-bedroom apartment off campus

June 2006 – August 2006: Back with my parents

August 2006 – May 2007: An adorable little room in a kollegium in Copenhagen

May 2007 – September 2007: Back with my parents again

September 2007 – June 2008: House off campus (I loved this place. It was originally a little two-bedroom cottage, and at some point a master suite that almost doubled the square footage was added on to the back. Both my roommates graduated in 2008, so my plan was to move from one of the small front bedrooms to the master and find two new roommates. Alas, the owner sold/may have nearly foreclosed on the place and the new owners wanted to move in right away, so we were essentially evicted.)

June 2008 – June 2009: Another house off campus (There was drama with this one. One of my roommates, who also just happened to be the owner’s son, had severe OCD, did a lot of recreational drugs, and really needed to be in a more controlled environment. Also we got in a fight once because I asked him nicely to please not leave his giant bong in the kitchen sink for days at a time while he was “cleaning” it. He eventually moved out, and a couple months later, the owner decided to sell, and the next door neighbor bought the place and he turned out to be a jerk who wanted to get at least six people in there—instead of four—and jack up our rent.)

June 2009 – June 2010: Yet another house off campus (More drama, but not as bad. Mainly stemming from the fact that we took turns, each week, cleaning the kitchen, and one roommate thought that had to be a full-day activity and I saw no need to clean the fridge coils every single week.) (Also, I was never informed of this, but eventually I figured out that I wasn’t allowed to have a single personal item in the living room.)

June 2010 – May 2011: Moved back with my parents once again, for what was supposed to be only three months but turned into almost a year while I figured out my employment-while-moving-to-San-Diego situation.

All this to say that by the time I moved down here, I was more than ready to find a place where I could see myself staying for several years. And, after living with all sorts of roommates, I wanted a place that was mine. (Of course, I moved down here because of my then-boyfriend-now-husband, so most nights we at least had dinner together at either his place or mine.)

I remember looking at an apartment in a professionally-managed community. It was already on the high end of my price range, and on the tour, the leasing agent kept pointing out all planned and in-progress “community upgrades” they were doing, and all I heard was we’re gonna increase your rate in six months!

I looked at another one that was nice and pretty cheap, and the owner/landlord seemed like he’d be easy to work with, but it was small. Another one that I really liked—it had a built-in bookshelf in the living room—but after touring, the landlord stopped returning my emails.

Then, I was doing something for work that required me to be up in Vista, and I stopped in a Starbucks to check email and pulled up Craigslist.

“One Bedroom Apartment for Rent”

Ground floor. Nice patio. Really nice kitchen. Affordable. Close to work.

I emailed the owner and set up a meeting for the next day. She told me they got my email maybe 20 minutes after posting the listing.

I won’t say that angels sung or a heavenly light was shining from above when I walked in, but compared to everything else I’d seen—I couldn’t sign the lease fast enough. The master bedroom was huge, it had a ton of closet and storage space, even a dual vanity (which seemed excessive at the time; now, Husband and I are already planning to add a second sink to the bathroom in our new place).

The patio was basically a concrete slab and dirt; the owner said the previous tenant had a puppy, so they never bothered trying to landscape it or anything. I mentioned my grandfather was a retired landscape architect and maybe he’d help me put some plants in or something.

The walls were this ugly yellowish-beige that made it seem dark, especially in the afternoon when there was no more natural light, but I figured I could live with it, or approach the owners about painting later.

I rented a Penske truck, and flew back to the Bay Area. My dad helped me load it up with all my crap and we drove down together.

Two days later, I walked down the street to a coffee shop with Wi-Fi so I could schedule an appointment to get internet and cable set up. On the way back, I stopped in a yoga studio and signed up for their introductory two-week package.

My commute was under 15 minutes and didn’t require getting on a freeway.

I found the closest grocery store. I joined a running group that hosted runs all over the city every day of the week. I found my “regular” running routes around the neighborhood (I now have two 3-milers, two 4-miles, a 5-miler, a 6-miler, and two 10-milers). 

I had the same basic platform bed I’d had in college. It took me a full month to buy a couch (and I really only did it then because my brother and some friends were coming down for a weekend and basically all I had in the living room was this giant old TV I’d somehow inherited at Cal Poly—I think it came from my husband’s fraternity—some bean bag chairs, a desk I’d had since high school, and a high top table and coffee table that had been my aunt’s and my grandpa was desperate to get them out of his garage).

I bought a little bistro table for the patio. I took pictures and measurements and sent them to my grandpa, who sketched out a beautiful plan to landscape it.

We finally completed that plan a full eight months after I’d moved in.

I asked my brother if he could make me a set of custom bookshelves. He did—eventually (he finished the first one in April 2014 and the second one last September).

Husband proposed in April 2012. We decided he’d officially move in after his lease was up in July. He brought over his flat screen and I gave the giant old TV to my brother.

That June, I casually suggested we check out a street fair in South Park. I didn’t mention I wanted to go mainly because I saw that a dog rescue organization would have a booth there. I subtly dragged him over to the temporary enclosures they’d set up. Onyx was hiding all by herself under a chair.

We called the owners that day and asked if they required an additional deposit or anything for pets.

She moved in a couple weeks later and slowly made herself at home.

We painted over the awful yellow-beige. Now the walls are an off-white cream, with a soft reddish hue in the kitchen.

At first, we crated Onyx when we weren’t home and at night. Because I worked so close, I came home most days at lunch to let her out. In October, we came home one night and her crate was opened and I freaked out. She had forced her way out of the crate and was just chilling next to the couch. We stopped crating her at night and within a month, abandoned it entirely.

Once Husband moved in, the place started to feel a lot smaller. We made multiple trips to IKEA, buying dressers, bookshelves, baskets.

Honestly, if he hadn’t moved in, I might still have cardboard boxes of stuff I’d only partially unpacked in the bedroom.

We registered for wedding gifts. We gave away the dining sets I’d gotten with my mom at Target sophomore year.

We had a storage unit for awhile. Then, focused on saving for a wedding/honeymoon/house, we ditched it, decluttered somewhat, had a garage sale at a friend’s house.

We planted tomatoes on our patio. We waited patiently for our lime tree to start bearing fruit.

I got laid off. I found another job. I bought a new desk. I don’t remember what we did with the old one (sold it on Craigslist or gave it away, I guess).

The place kept feeling smaller. We met with a broker and real estate agent to get pre-qualified and figure out what our home-buying budget might be.

Every day, I hated my job more and more. Husband finally convinced me to quit and give freelancing a try. I fell in love with working from home immediately. Onyx eagerly accepted her role as my office manager.

We rearranged the living room to give me a more defined “office space.” Our landlords installed a new dishwasher, and then replaced that one after the third or fourth service appointment.

I bemoaned the lack of natural light in the apartment, especially in the winter. Husband had trouble sleeping in the summer because we don’t have air conditioning.

We danced in the kitchen while making dinner and chased Onyx from the bedroom, through the living room, to the patio, and back when she had too much energy at 10:00 at night.

Husband started a new job that’s much closer, ending his soul-sucking commute to and from North County. He finally, finally took his last exam and became a licensed architect.

I discovered that sometimes, when you’re on a ground floor of a three-story building that’s at least forty years old, gross stuff sometimes shows up in your bathroom sinks and you need to call a plumber who spends upwards of three hours cleaning gunk out of out the main pipes.

Our neighbor got roped into joining the HOA board and Husband, who’s well-versed in various building codes, became his “secret weapon” during debates about whether or not people on the second or third floors could install hardwood flooring (answer: yes, if they also use an appropriate-rated sound-dampening floor pad or something something multifamily building codes something something).

If I was still single, I’d probably be happy in this place for years and years. (I’m sure I’d eventually buy my own furniture. Probably.) With another person, with plans to start a family, it’s just not feasible. Over the past few months, as we house-hunted, looking at places farther and farther from our current neighborhood (which is seriously one of the best San Diego can offer), I tried to stay focused on what we’d gain by moving and not think too much about actually leaving this place. It’s not perfect—it gets hot AF in the summer and there’s not enough natural light and we can’t get a cross-breeze and there are some unbelievably loud and inconsiderate neighbors and parking is a nightmare—but oh man, this place has been home.

Tonight is our last night here. Boxes are already stacked in our new place and tomorrow, my parents are flying in and we’re picking up a U-Haul and we’re moving everything else. I’m picking every decent-sized lime off our tree and taking them with me. Sunday we’ll probably do a final clean and I’ll turn the keys over on Monday.

I’m so excited to settle in to our new place. I’m excited to explore the trails and running routes in that new neighborhood, to meet new neighbors, to find new hangouts. I’ll still be visiting this neighborhood a lot—work assignments will bring me back, and my yoga studio is still here.

But I’ll still cry a little when I walk out of the building, keyless, on Monday.

A Somewhat Ridiculous Roundup of Writing Prompts


I’ve been collecting writing prompts…at least since middle school.

At the moment, I have literally thousands of writing prompts—everything from fiction prompts like “Write a story about…” to blog and journaling prompts like “What’s in your dream home?” And they’re scattered all over—in my Bookmarks folder, on Pinterest, in my email, somewhere in my hard drive.

(Also, for awhile, I kept an Evernote…um…note of random ideas and snippets and thoughts I came up with. I came across that note while researching for this post. Some of the entries include:

“Something about a chef…”


“The caterers forget the white zin for the bride’s grandmother. Chaos ensues.”

Make of those what you will.

Actually, if anyone writes the white zin story, please send it to me. I think that would be a killer short story compilation.)

(AND. Also when reviewing my Evernote archives, I found ALL SORTS OF STUFF. Blog posts saved from 2009 and 2010 – before Pinterest. Most telling? At least a dozen posts and articles about freelancing that I saved back in 2009 – 2011. Why the hell did it take me so long??)

(Final note on Evernote. I had a notebook titled “Wedding” with exactly ZERO notes saved or added after I got engaged. So. I don’t even know.)

So! The reason for this post is a little selfish, to be honest—I wanted to collect all those prompts, or as many as I could, in one place for my reference. I decided my blog is the best place to do that.

Why do I incessantly “collect” these prompts? After all, there’s no possible way I can write all these stories.

Which isn’t the point. It’s not about writing all the things. And it’s not about only writing using prompts. To me, writing prompts have two main purposes:

They get you out of a rut.

When you’re really struggling to come up with anything to write about, when none of your ideas sound remotely exciting or interesting, it’s an excellent practice to pull up a prompt of some kind, whether it’s specific or vague, a character question or a plot twist, a first line, whatever, and set a timer and just get something out.

They get you in a different creative headspace.

If, say, you’re always writing YA short stories, it can be really fun to scribble out a romance scene, or come up with a character for a western. Sometimes it can be good to answer a journaling question instead of trying to get in a character’s head, or make up something crazy and wild instead of trying to write another personal essay.

The ways I use prompts has shifted over time. I’ve gone periods where I have a dated list of prompts and I will go through and write about each one each day, whether it’s “calling” to me or not. Other times, once a week or so I’ll skim through a dozen or more ideas until I find one that gets me nodding my head and I’ll start writing on that.

I almost always use prompts in conjunction with some sort of timed practice. A warm-up, of sorts, to get my “creative writing mind” going before I turn to a larger project—or just to keep the rust from building up during the (too often, too long) periods when my mental energy is focused elsewhere (work, usually).

I very rarely try to write a complete story from a prompt. A blog post, sure, but there are some listed here that specifically challenge you to “write a 1000-word story about ____” and I don’t do that (yet).

All that said—there are, of course, no rules and no limits to what can and can’t be done with writing prompts. So if you’re inclined, enjoy.

This is one of the few you’ve gotta pay for, but I’ve been working through Laurie Wagner’s 27 Days e-course (slowly) and so far I’m loving it (edit: this version no longer available, sorry!). I will probably order the “27 Wilder Days” when I’m done. Less about writing fiction, more about self-exploration.

Last year, Death to Stock issued writing prompts on their Medium page. I imagine you can still write something down and respond directly, though they’re probably not actively reviewing responses. Or just look through the archives and get a jumpstart (there are 26 total).

Doesn’t look like this is updated anymore, but there’s almost 700 prompts in the archives.

Decent archive of themes and “first lines.”

The Write Practice shares daily articles with writing tips and advice, and they all have some kind of writing practice/prompt at the end.


(Also, if you sign up for email alerts for the Write Practice blog, you’ll get a PDF of 14 prompts that are expanded versions of some of the popular exercises.)

Of course, Writers Digest: sign up for their email list for a “Writing Prompt Boot Camp” ebook, and then they have weekly writing prompts. I also like their weekly poetry writing prompts (which don’t have to be used for poetry, do whatever you want).

Not so much fiction, more journaling/personal/essay/blogging: I’ve seen other bloggers share “8-minute memoirs” and I kinda love the idea of delving into memories based off a random object. Explanation/overview here and frequently updated prompts here. (Also, you can always turn a journaling prompt into a fiction one by writing it from the point of view of a character, just for fun.)

One of my favorite things to do, when I’m really stuck, is go to a coffee shop or a park or restaurant or somewhere people gather and talk, and I just write exactly what I see. I start with physical, objective observations, like two men sitting at the corner table. Both middle-aged. One with salt-and-pepper short hair and one with longer blond hair, like a stereotypical surfer. The blond is wearing… They’re talking about… Eventually, I move away from the empirical: The salt-and-pepper guy in the Hawaiian shirt is named Ralph and he’s a history teacher. He separate from his wife last summer. He likes to read Tom Clancy novels and adopted a dog after his wife moved out. These “storytelling exercises” also start you in the real world and help you move from there to your imagination.

I love visual writing prompts. Not all of these are great, but they’re definitely designed to challenge your creativity by thinking about bizarre scenarios.

Okay, I also have a ton of saved prompts that are specifically for blogging (and journaling, but mostly aimed at bloggers). I have mixed feelings about these because they’re so damn repetitive. There’s thousands of lists of “show us your workspace” and “what’s your morning routine?” and “your top 5 beauty tips” (for the record, mine are: floss at least 5 times a week, wear sunscreen, almost never put product in your hair or heat-style it, and…ummm…okay, I’m out). But, while there are still a lot of cliche prompts here, there are quite a few good ones too.

However, if you’re looking for non-cliche blogging-type writing prompts, look no further than Alex Franzen:

Again, “conversation starters” (and again: instead of answering as yourself, write your response as a character).

If you really want your standard list of “things to blog about,” this is the best I can find.

More blogging/journaling prompts, again, some cliche, but a lot are actually pretty good—and if you’re using it for blogging, several of these prompts could spur multiple blog posts. Like “What are you a ‘nerd’ for?” could get you writing a handful of posts about different passions or interests. Or the things you were really really into when you were [insert age]. Or the things you tried to get into but couldn’t hold your interest. See? Five bucks but well worth it.

Alright, if you’re just dying for blogging prompts, here and here. Sarah also doesn’t stand for “what’s in your purse” posts.

Still want more?


Storymatic. I freaking love this thing. It’s the tool I’ve used most frequently as of late.

Writer’s Book of Days by Judy Reeves

In-person writing groups. Search for “writing groups” in your area on Meetup. I’ve just started going to one that meets weekly at a local coffeeshop that has a private separate room for groups like this. The group leader provides a prompt—in this group, it’s usually a short phrase—and we write for about 15-ish minutes, then we each get a chance to read what we wrote. Reading aloud is totally not terrifying. I was shocked to discover that. The first time I went, I was determined, oh no way in hell am I reading anything today. I wound up being the very last person to read. The next time I went, I volunteered to go, like, third. And it was fine. It was even kinda sorta a little bit fun. Really.


What’s really a shame is that, in researching for this post, I dug through archives on my external hard drive. Somehow, I have shit from high school on there, guys. I have attempts at God-awful fanfic. I have horrific poetry. I have old college essays. Thank God I’d had a couple glasses of wine before opening those files.

Anyway, the actual shame is not the writing I found in my hard drive. It’s the pages and pages of prompts and exercises and ideas I’d copied into Word docs, screenshot from blogs probably long gone now, scanned from old school assignments. Stuff I can’t share because if there’s a way to attribute it, there’s no way I’ll ever figure out how.

What I can do, and might do, one day, is start sharing prompts or exercises based on some of the “fiction” I’ve got stored away. I mean, some of those files…weren’t terrible. I could share a line or two as a “getting started” prompt, or somehow turn a half-page start of a story into an exercise. Or something. We’ll see.

Dear High School Graduate


I have a cousin who graduated from high school over Memorial Day Weekend. This post isn’t necessarily for her, because she’s smart and active and kind and beautiful and will absolutely crush it at college. This is for 18-year-old Allison, more than anything, and for anyone else wondering what lies ahead in the next four (ish) years.

People like to claim they have “no regrets.” That they always “live life to the fullest” and “embrace the moment” and “enjoy the journey” and are “grateful for where they are right now” and “wouldn’t have gotten here if I’d done anything different.”

That’s nice.

It’s also bullshit.

I don’t know, maybe in your case it really is true. Good for you.

For me, though?

I have tons of regrets.

I regret not taking more journalism classes in college.

I regret not at least trying to get on the cross country team as a walk-on.

I regret not joining more clubs and organizations.

I regret not finding more part-time jobs when I was in school.

I regret not going to a single career fair.

I regret not taking on more creative challenges or projects.

I regret not spending more time talking with my professors and faculty advisors.

I regret not reaching out more to classmates who seemed cool and potentially could’ve been really good friends.

I regret not staying in touch with more than a few people after we all graduated and moved on from SLO.

I regret giving up on my first attempt at a blog after a little over a year.

I regret not having face-to-face conversations about my feelings with any of the guys I liked before my husband (actually, I had one of those conversations. It didn’t end well and I took myself out for ice cream after, but at least I gave honesty a shot).

Notice a trend here?

All my regrets are things I didn’t do. The things I wish I could change about my college experience all involve times when I was lazy or passive. When I let things happen to me, convincing myself that things were “fine,” when I went along with things because my friends were doing them. When I was too scared to try something new or different.

The fact is, I’m grateful for and happy with my life right now. But I look back and can see so many places where I could’ve done something and my life, especially my career, might be better.

I want to be clear here—I’m not saying I wish I’d made a *different* choice. I’m saying I wish I’d made *a* choice. Instead of, say, just checking off my graduation requirements, I wish I’d pursued minors or even double majors in subjects like journalism or statistics. I would have had different career paths open to me when I graduated, and even if I’d ended up in this same spot, I would have additional skills, experience, and contacts, so I’d be further along in my career.

So to high school graduates, whether the next step for you is college, or vocational school, or traveling, or an internship, or the workforce, or whatever, my advice to you is to just DO something.

Take note, whenever you sign up for a class or make weekend plans or go out with friends—what are you actually getting out of this? Is it really, actually making you happy or are you going along with something because people are telling you to or because you feel like this is what you’re supposed to do?

It is an unimaginably rare 18-year-old who knows, completely 100% no doubts sure, exactly what he or she wants out of life. This is your chance to discover it. Don’t lock yourself in a box until you’ve explored as many as you can.

If something sounds even the slightest bit interesting, whether it’s a gender studies class or the triathlon club or swing dance lessons or joining a sorority or a study abroad opportunity in Argentina or slam poetry or volunteering with a crisis hotline, you lose absolutely nothing by checking it out.


Go to one class, one lesson, one informational meeting or orientation. If that makes your stomach flutter even the tiniest bit, even if it’s partly from fear, even if your friends don’t get why you’re bailing on them in Flip Cup, keep going. Pursue it.

My Existential Running Crisis


I ran a half marathon last weekend.

It was, I’m a little surprised to say, my first half marathon since October 2014.

I registered for the Beach & Bay Half way back in December because the early bird fee was relatively cheap. It was one of those “flat and fast” courses, along the Mission Beach boardwalk and around Mission Bay, and I thought, hey, maybe it’s time for a new PR. I had ordered a Compete training journal and I was making grand plans to get back into racing and reach a new level of strength and fitness in 2017.

I’m not entirely sure what’s been happening with my running this year. For the past few years, really. Oh, I’ve been running. I’ve even been running hard from time to time. I decided I wanted to get familiar enough with Mission Trails Regional Park that I could drive to any park trailhead and just start running and make up a route as I go and not get lost in the park.

(If you’ve ever been to Mission Trails beyond Cowles Mountain, you know that their trail maps and wayfinding signs are kind of a huge joke. I once mildly panicked when I got there to run 6 miles and realized my phone was already down to 20% because I rely heavily on my AllTrails app to keep me from getting hopelessly lost.)

And yet, it felt like my running/training wasn’t really building to anything. I’d have a great week where I nailed all my workouts and mileage goals and the next week I’d get out for three or four runs, maybe, and run barely 15 miles. I wasn’t building a strong base or tracking improvement or following any sort of structure. And then all of a sudden it was the beginning of April and I was like oh shit, that half is less than two months away and I haven’t run more than 8 miles at once all year.

Also on April 4th, I registered for Wharf to Wharf for the first time since 2012 and was a little surprised that I got in.

Suddenly, my focus flew from the half marathon to the end of July. To bagpipes and high school marching bands playing Jimmy Buffett songs. To six miles instead of 13. To a race with no expo whatsoever, one that mails bibs to all participants in advance and hands out cotton t-shirts to finishers after the race (one of the many things that make me roll my eyes is when race shirts that are handed out before the race say “FINISHER” on them. Like, there will be a handful of people who go to the expo but then don’t show up race day for whatever reason. Or will show up but won’t be able to actually finish the race. If you’re gonna wear a shirt that says “FINISHER” you should have actually finished).

I hadn’t even done any double-digit long runs and I was already resenting them. I wanted to run intervals and focus on speedwork, not slog along for 10-12 miles on a Sunday morning. I eyed my road shoes suspiciously and grinned when I laced up my trail shoes. I took Onyx on runs that were partly boulder-scrambling, jeopardizing my whole race with a potential sprained ankle or worse. I pushed my way through a couple “long” runs in late April/early May, but my heart wasn’t in them.

So I showed up at the start line Saturday morning feeling ambivalent. I didn’t want to just take it easy and phone it in, but I knew I wasn’t in shape to go for my original sub-1:45 goal. My options, as I saw them, were to start with the 1:45 pace group and see how long I could hold on, or to just run by feel and see what happened.

Now, I hate sounding like a bitchy buzzkill, but there’s a lot about road races today that just really don’t work for me. Mainly the whole “let’s make this a fun party!” atmosphere. I think it comes from running cross country and track in high school, where races were races, and I miss that. We didn’t care about getting PRs as much as beating someone from another school. We might be playing music on our own, but the people with the loudspeakers were yelling at us to line up because our heat was next, not exhorting us to “make some noise!” and “high-five the person next to you!”

I’m sorry, but 6:30 in the morning is just way too early to be that damn psyched about anything.

I found the 1:45 pacers and stood behind them, wishing—for literally the first time ever since moving here—the May Gray had stuck around a few more days. Corral 1 wasn’t too crowded and it seemed like, for once, people were respecting the corral system. My Garmin found a satellite almost immediately and finally we were off.

Almost immediately, I knew that 1:45 was nowhere near where I’d be finishing. The pace felt controlled but far from easy, and if I know one thing about distance pacing, it’s that the first couple miles should feel ridiculously slow because all the adrenaline and people around you can make a pace that’s 30 seconds per mile too fast feel like a breeze.

When I checked my watch, I was sort of encouraged but also annoyed to see that the pacers were holding at a 7:45 – 7:50 pace, not the 8:00/mile pace they should be at. Give it a few miles and see if they ease up, I told myself. Try to stay with them until mile 5 or so.

I started to drop back at mile 3. That was how long it took for us to get on the nice, flat boardwalk path—before then we were on roads, which I hate because the slight slant tends to jack up my hips or knee. I was irritated at the pacers and generally questioning all my life choices and settled in for a long run up the boardwalk with plenty of time to think.

(Side note: this was only the second time I’ve run with a pace group. The first time, in the Carlsbad Marathon in 2015, it was a fantastic experience not only because it’s so much easier to just follow someone and run without having to constantly check your pace, but also because the women leading that group talked to us, encouraged us, shared tips, and really showed that they cared about how we all finished. In this race, the pacers just ran together silently. If you’ve run with a lot of pace groups, or led them yourself, what tends to be normal? Does it just depend on the race or the pacers?)

I thought about what I want out of running, out of competing.

I thought about why I still feel this need to run road races and go after PRs, especially in half and full marathons, when I’m so much happier running trails and shorter races.

I thought about how truthfully, I’d rather be running around Lake Hodges or through Penasquitos Canyon or Rose Canyon with Onyx than up the boardwalk with thousands of other runners, most of whom with blaring headphones.

Was that just because I knew, once again, I hadn’t trained well enough to expect a “good” result? And why have I never truly had a “successful” training cycle for anything longer than a 10K? Is it because deep down, training and running that way isn’t what I really want? Why do I still want to race? Can I be happy and fulfilled as a runner without these benchmarks showing me how good I am at certain times? Would I be able to keep pushing myself to run faster and harder if I didn’t have a start line to get to? Or would I settle into week after 15-20 mile week of easy runs? Would it be so bad if I did?

I know I want to get stronger and faster and fitter. I want to lose a couple pounds and tone up some muscles, but more than that…I know I’m running out of time, fast, to reach my peak physical ability (at nearly 31, I’m probably already past that potential peak). But I still want to find out what I’m capable of. I feel like I haven’t really pushed myself physically since I tried desperately to PR in the mile when I was a senior in high school. I’ve kept running and I’ve kinda sorta stayed in shape, more or less, since then, but I’ve always felt like, if I really tried, if I gave it my all, if I really pushed myself, I could reach some higher level of strength and fitness.

Also, my goal is to still be out there running races in 60+ years, God willing, so I want to lay the groundwork now for a long and active life. No canes or walkers or nursing homes for me.

I know that I feel alive on trails and they serve me in a way that roads just don’t.

I know that while I hate the time leading up to speedwork, I love the feeling afterward. Even if the feeling afterward is almost throwing up and feeling slightly dizzy.

I know that as much as I prefer running to any other form of exercise, yoga and strength training need to be regular and significant parts of my fitness routine.

I know that I want to focus less on the longer distances and more on speed. I think the 10K might be my happy distance, the perfect combination of endurance and speed and guts. I know I would love to see a 5K PR that starts with 1 instead of 2, but that would most likely involve lots and lots of road racing instead of time on the dirt so maybe I’m more ehhh on that? We’ll see.

I don’t know how or when or where or what I want to race. I currently have about six tabs open to different races for later this year—all trail races (and one beach race on packed sand), none longer than 15K. When I got home on Saturday, I told husband, “don’t let me sign up for any more road races and no half or full marathons for at least a year.” I’ve got Wharf to Wharf and another half marathon next April (again, suckered in by the “cheap” early bird registration fee. And it’s in SLO, one of my happy places). I will add at least two more trail races this year.

When it comes to training, I’m trying to find some structure to my weeks, especially for the next two months leading to Wharf to Wharf, without going all in on a regimented training plan (which never works for me; I tend to rebel against prescribed tempo runs and long runs at precisely X pace).

I’m trying to get to at least two studio yoga classes each week and adding a couple home practice sessions.

I’m trying to find a simple yet effective strength training routine that I’ll actually do on a regular basis. I have a year subscription to Grokker because they had a 50%-off sale around Christmas and I’ve been trying different videos and instructors and series/challenges. My favorites so far, if you’re also on Grokker, are Kelly Lee’s HIIT Club series, but doing those every single day isn’t sustainable.

I’m trying to figure out what running and competing means to me and what goals will make me happiest and proudest to pursue. And I’m going to keep running while I figure that out.

An Incomplete List of Things My Dog Dislikes


The slow cooker

The waffle iron

The quesadilla maker

The blender

The vacuum

People who come within 20 feet of our property without getting her authorization first (so pretty much everyone but me)

Most German Shepherds for some reason

When people can see her

Having to walk to and get in the car (she’s fine once we’re driving though)

Getting left at home when we go on trips

When service professionals (mainly plumbers and dishwasher techs) come into the apartment and she has to stay outside while they work

Public patios at cafes and coffee shops

When anyone besides me or my husband try to pet her

When our neighbor clips his rosebushes

When our upstairs neighbors are on their patios

Getting her picture taken

When I make her stop eating grass and weeds

When other family members misinterpret her willingness to take food from them as a willingness to be petted

Literally anyone who tries to get close to me (besides my husband, and even then, sometimes she’s iffy about that)


When I try to pick up her front legs to make her dance

Having to sit and lay down to get treats (she thinks it’s beneath her)

Walking in the rain

Her raincoat

When I put her in a Minion costume for Halloween two years ago


On Starting


I plop to my butt in the snow and secure my boot in the binding. To get up, I do this awkward maneuver that involves pressing my hand down behind me and lurching forward with just enough momentum to stand up but not enough to fall on my face.

I stand poised at the top, my board perpendicular to the run extending below me. I’ve done this before. It’s been a year, but I’ve done this hundreds of times. I’ve done this very run dozens of times, at least, in my life.

And yet, I need to take a deep breath and convince myself to start.

This is unnatural. I’ll lose control. I can’t do this. I’ll fall. I’ll go too fast and hit something. My thoughts run loose in my head.

Shut up and do it. I shake my head, wiggle my toes, do this weird little hitch-hop to get momentum, and go.

I’ve been snowboarding since I was twelve or so—almost twenty years now. Most years, I get on the slopes just one or two days. A couple years in college I went on weeklong trips—four or five solid days of shredding (sort of). I’m not great at it, but I can get down pretty much any blue run and (sometimes) some easier black diamonds.

And yet, every time I strap in and scooch through the lift line for the first time, every time I less-than-gracefully slide off at the top of the lift, every time I check that my bindings are secure and gaze down the mountain, I have the hardest time pushing myself up and starting that dance with snow and gravity.

Within half a second of starting that first run, though, muscle memory takes over and my hips, quads, glutes, calves, whatever do their thing, and I turn and curve my way down. I watch the ground in front of me, keep an eye out for slower riders and skiers ahead, try to stay aware of how close I am to the trees, and constantly remind myself to “tell the board where to go,” as my friend once implored me during an impromptu lesson in high school. It’s easy and hard, simple and complicated. I’m focused on the big picture while my muscles perform the instant-by-instant tasks necessary to keep me upright.

Throughout the day, each time I get off a lift, it’s easier to just strap in, jump up, and go. My confidence returns with each ride and as I go down the same run three or four times, I learn about how it moves, the slow spots, the areas I can safely pick up speed, the icy patches to avoid, the bumps I may or may not be able to handle. After a couple tries, I take a certain turn harder, I know to watch my speed before approaching a steep drop, I feel more comfortable picking up speed during that drop, I scoot far to the side to attempt a small jump that’s been built up.

The first ride is just about getting down safely. The rides after that are about having fun, building confidence, and pushing my limits. And the couple times I’ve been lucky enough to go out more than two or three days in a row? The first ride of the second, third, fourth, fifth days feels like I’m just picking up where I left off the previous day.

How I wish it was the same with writing.

Every day, I open up my laptop and check either Gmail or my planner for the day’s tasks. I might be working on a nonprofit’s email newsletter or drafting a preview of a beer fest or trying to sound like I know what I’m talking about when describing a home’s architectural details.

It doesn’t matter what I wrote the day before, or even, in the afternoon, how much I wrote that morning. Opening up a new document and starting a new assignment is fucking hard and terrifying and almost every time, I just don’t want to do it.

It doesn’t get easier.

It’s not like I “warm up” and then pick up momentum and confidence as I go through my day.

Sometimes, when deadlines aren’t imminent, I’ll decide that my time today is better spent sorting through email or rearranging the piles of papers on my desk or tweaking my blog design. Anything, absolutely anything to not have to make words appear on the screen.

With snowboarding, the panicked mental chatter goes away as soon as I show myself I can still do this weird and crazy and exhilarating activity. With writing, I’m telling myself to shut up and do it from the first word to the very last word, every single day. That initial gut check, the terror that maybe I can’t actually do this, never seems to go away. And I can’t do anything but face it down, deal with it, and do my work.

Every single damn day.

What's in Your Bag?


My current purse is on the small side — it’s far from being the bottomless pit other women seem to favor. So I try to keep it to the necessities:

Wallet, iPhone, sunglasses & case (though I really need a smaller case), Burt’s Bees (after the apocalypse, my will to survive would last about as long as the world’s supply of lip balm)

A pack of those oil-absorbing sheets that’s at least four years old and still over half full

Some pens, usually a small notebook, earbuds unless I left them on the bathroom counter again

Crumpled receipts I may or may not need to hang on to for tax purposes

A tin of breath mints (I’ve started favoring these over gum because they don’t get stale), a few hair ties

A couple tampons (those aren’t even for me so much as to have on hand for when another woman approaches me with that look)

A case that’s meant for carrying pills but I use it to tote around extra earrings and necklaces, one of those slick business card cases, hand lotion, and hand sanitizer

Currently there’s also a couple ticket stubs from Spring Training games and a loose Starbucks gift card that I’m pretty sure has been used up.

Oh, but what should I have in there? Or in my truck, which I really see as an extension of my purse?

I’ve started keeping an old yoga mat in my truck, along with an old beach bag with a towel, bikini, and spare flip flops.

As the Boy Scouts says, always be prepared.

For the record, there’s also a first aid kit with most of the components missing or expired.

And a road map book of California that’s nearly 15 years old, but I figure it’s better than nothing when our GPS and communications satellites go out.

I try to keep a few reusable grocery bags in there, too, but then I use them all at Trader Joe’s and forget to bring them back out.

What I’d like to add includes:

Running shoes. And extra socks, obviously.

My Undress would probably be useful. (Seriously, that thing is the greatest invention ever.)

A handful of tea bags and some honey packets. A couple mini-fridge bottles of wine and whiskey. A water bottle and maybe some sort of means of water purification.

Deodorant and sunscreen. Can’t risk getting stinky or sunburned.

Snacks. Preferably the kind that can’t go bad or melt. Plus dog food for Onyx, because she goes where I go.

A phone charger. Not necessarily so I have GPS and Yelp, but because my phone is my camera.

A legit journal, not just a notebook. There’s a difference.

A paperback or two.

Contact solution and a case, out of real, actual necessity.

And a hat.

All this go where?

A place where I can see the stars. Or one rich with the scent of pine trees. Preferably with a body of water nearby. Someplace full of single-track trails and summits and slot canyons.

A place that makes me feel small and vast at the same time. Somewhere that reminds me that some things are smaller than I think and others are bigger. Where I can feel disconnect and re-connect all at once. A place where I can yell and laugh and dance with joy and no one (save my husband and Onyx and whatever higher power is out there) can hear or see me. Someplace wild.

This is in response to a prompt from Death to Stock.

To My Future Kid


First: You don’t exist yet. Not even close.

Ten years ago, I thought you never would exist.

Five years ago, I thought you’d at least be closer to existing by now.

You’re coming eventually. Probably. I hope. (Hopefully after we move to a place that actually has room for a baby. Or rather, a baby’s stuff. If your dad and I had you now, you’d be sleeping in a box next to the dog’s bed and you’d have, like, three onesies and one blanket and that’s it. There’s no room for anything else. Sorry.)

I work myself up now and then, thinking about how by the time my mother was my age, she was well on her way to having her third (and last) kid. She’d been a mother for four years already. I haven’t even had our dog for four years yet.

Here’s the truth: You scare the ever-loving crap out of me.

Weirdly, very few of my friends have kids of their own already, and the ones who do seem to really enjoy the whole parenting thing. Which should be reassuring, and sometimes it is. Sometimes I look at other parents or pregnant women and think, Oh, I can’t wait to have a family! I mean, your dad’s going to be a great one (although for the love of God, “crayon” is NOT pronounced “crown.” YOU WILL NOT LEARN THAT FROM HIM). I’m literally dying for when you’re old enough to start reading Harry Potter together. I get so happy when I see couples out hiking with those baby backpack things (that hopefully aren’t as complicated as they look) and picture us all having little adventures together.


Then I go to the zoo and watch parents, like, yelling at kids to get close to the cage so they can take a picture and the kids aren’t even into it because they’re still too young and it’s past their nap time and they’re hungry and I shudder. Or I go to a restaurant where a kid is having a tantrum and everyone’s trying so hard to ignore and not judge the parents. Or I see a baby carrier at the Southwest gate and everything in my body clenches and I’m pretty sure I could poop a diamond within 10 minutes.

It’s like that scene in Father of the Bride II after Steve Martin and Diane Keaton have found out she’s pregnant and they’re driving home and on her side of the road, there’s all these perfect little families prancing down the sidewalk, but on his side, it’s all kids throwing things and yelling and parents begging them to behave. Only I see both. Constantly. It’s like my uterus is forever switching between sealing itself up permanently and doing gold medal-worthy gymnastics routines.

You scare me, kid, because no matter how many moms say that the love they feel for their child makes it possible to do, tolerate, endure things they never thought they could handle, I feel like I’m still too selfish to be a mom. Mommy & Me classes sound like absolutely terrible ways to spend my time. Ditto most kids’ birthday parties. I dread losing the already precious time I have to run or practice yoga or work out. And my radio in the car? Don’t touch it. Please don’t make me listen to cheesy Barney songs or kiddie versions of awful pop songs instead of Zac Brown Band and Led Zeppelin.

I know these are minor, temporary concerns and complaints and no reason to continue to delay your existence.

It goes deeper, though.

Boy or girl, I’m terrified you’re going to be the risk-taker your dad was and I’ll look up one day to find you climbing — or worse, falling from — the roof or a tree or something.

If you’re a boy, how will I teach you to respect and love women? How will I get you to honor both masculine and feminine strengths? Make you strong enough to tell your friends to cut it out when they make a sexist joke, or shrug it off when someone tries to insult you by calling you gay? What if you’re playground bully and not the one standing up for the kid no one wants to play with?

And a girl? Oh, Lord. Literally everything in pop culture and the media has me convinced that raising a girl is an impossible task. All I know for sure is that when you come to me crying because a little boy pulled your hair or whatever on the playground, I will never say “He’s just being mean because he likes you!” Instead, I’ll tell you that he’s not a nice boy and you should ignore him and play with people who are nice to you, and hope you remember that as you get older.

Will you be confident and assertive? Will you not listen to people who tell you that girls shouldn’t bother with science? What if you just love, love, love princesses and Disney movies and fairy tales? I mean, I grew up on all that stuff and I don’t think it caused permanent damage, so it should be okay if you want to be whatever current princess Pixar is shoving at us for Halloween, right? Am I supposed to call you beautiful or smart more? Will I be able to model healthy eating and exercise habits and positive body image so you grow up fit and healthy without risking an eating disorder?

I hope you like to read like your mother and can easily talk to anyone like your father. I hope you’re active and find at least one sport you love, either for the experience of competing or the thrill of challenging yourself or the joy of being on a team. I hope you’re better at trying new things than I was. I hope you love animals and the environment and believe in the humanity of everyone and stand up for equal rights. I hope, as you grow up, we have at least one thing we both love, some common ground that’s just ours to share together, whether it’s running or hiking or baseball or reading or photography.

I hope you’re not a picky eater (but I know I totally deserve it if you are). I hope you love traveling and exploring the world. I hope you’re bright and a hard worker and good at school. I hope you find many things you’re interested in and pursue those outside of the classroom. I hope you recognize that family is always first. I hope you associate Ella and Louis and Ray Charles and Nina Simone and Frank Sinatra as “dinner making music.” I hope you fall in love with Lake Tahoe and San Luis Obispo like I have. I hope you’re a crazy dog person like your father and me.

I expect that you’ll develop a love for Billy Joel and the Eagles and Zeppelin and Tom Petty and Aerosmith and Fleetwood Mac and Elton John and James Taylor. I expect that you’ll be able to tell me who was on the mound for the final pitch in each of the Giants’ World Series wins since they moved to San Francisco (Wilson, Romo, and Bumgarner), who was the first Giant ever to pitch a perfect game (Matt Cain), and Buster Posey’s batting average at any given point in the season. I expect you’ll be able to quote SandlotField of Dreams, and Caddyshack well before your 10th birthday.

I wonder what technology’s going to be like by the time you start kindergarten. Will your preschool have iPads? Will Google Glass be more or less required by the time you’re in middle school? Will I even get to drive you to school, or will we have driverless cars by then? I’m going to do my best to not share photos of you online until you’re old enough to make your own decisions about it, but — oh my God, will you be savvy enough to use social media safely? Will you even be able to unplug or will you be on Snapchat, or whatever’s replaced Snapchat by then, endlessly? How many fights we will have over when you get an iPhone or how much you’re allowed to use it? What will I do if I find out you’re sexting people or have some creepy social media stalker? Will I even be aware of it happening, or will I be too much of a hands-off mom who lets her kids exist in their own little bubbles and don’t realize something’s wrong until it’s too late?

We haven’t even gotten into how we’re going to be able to afford you, or how I’ll handle mom guilt or “mommy wars” or just generally feeling judged for every decision I’ll have to make while raising you. Whew.

But I guess we’ll just have to trust we’ll figure that out together when you get here. Whenever that is.

(Please don’t take too long coming out when I’m in labor with you, by the way.)

The Running Man


Like many bloggers, I subscribe to Death to Stock Photo’s monthly free photo pack and at times use their photos here or on my professional site. A couple (few?) months ago, they started offering some additional goodies for their subscribers — I think they asked for an additional opt-in because they didn’t want to bug anyone who just wanted the photos. So I’ve also been getting their (weekly? every other week? I honestly haven’t been paying that much attention to when they come in) writing prompts. Most of the prompts, so far, are actually pretty good ones, and I’ve been tagging and saving them in Gmail to come back when I need a little inspiration/have more time to dig into them.

Last week’s prompt was:

Is there a stranger you never met but still think about from time to time?

I remember I read that and thought something like “oh, that’d be great for some story brainstorming or something” saved it and promptly forgot about it.

Then today, I got another email from those lovely folks with a “featured response” (subscribers/followers are invited to respond to each prompt on Medium). I skimmed the first two lines of this particular response and instantly, this image tumbled into my mind.

The running man

The year I lived with my parents, after moving away from SLO, I commuted across the Bay every day for work.

You know when you have a morning routine and commute, eventually you have things timed down to the second? Like, your alarm goes off and you know you have 46 seconds to crawl out of bed and get in the shower, which takes exactly 8.2 minutes, and so on?

You know how over time, you start picking up little “signs” from the outside world that tell you whether you’re early, on-time, or late?

Like if you’re in front of the UPS guy at Starbucks, you’re good. But if the lady with the Dalmatian has already passed your house by the time you leave, you’re a couple minutes behind.

I was never that exact, but as I drove down the main road to the freeway each morning, the running man was an indicator of whether or not I had a chance of making it to work on time.

He was an older Asian man. He could’ve been 60 or 80 or anywhere in between. He had thin, graying hair. He was probably pretty short, five and a half feet maybe, but I never saw him “up close” or when I was out of my car, so I can’t say for sure. He wore these faded orange running shorts — classic, vintage, authentically retro, the same shorts he’d probably worn since the 80s or so — and a white tank top. And he carried a stick. A thick one, one you could wrap your hand around in a good grip, maybe 12 to 18 inches long.

Every single day, wearing the exact same clothes, carrying that stick, I saw him running up the street (unless I was really late, or more rarely, really early). He ran in the bike lane, facing oncoming traffic. He seemed to have a slow but steady gait, with decent form. I was impressed because this street had hills. Constant, rolling hills.

And he was at it every single day.

I used to wonder about the stick. Was it for protection? A lucky charm? I don’t think I would’ve have noticed him without his stick. A runner in the morning isn’t usually someone who catches your eye, unless there’s something distinctive about him or her.

I liked to think that maybe he ran some precise distance — 4 miles exactly — to a nearby park to meditate or practice tai chi or yoga, and maybe the stick played a role in that.

I’d look for him each morning, in part to reassure myself that I was on time, in part because it just made me happy to know he — someone like him — was out there.

Dear You: When You're Not Inspired


Dear You,

I know. Sometimes, the well just seems to be sucked completely dry. Like the Sahara Desert, or like the exact opposite of you 5 minutes into a hot yoga class (or any yoga class, really). Sometimes it seems like the well’s never going to have even a tiny drop in it ever again, even though this has happened before and it always fills back up…eventually.

You know that this happens, that it’s just part of the process, that sometimes that gap just dips lower than you ever expected from time to time. You know this, and yet, some little voice in the back of your mind is whispering but what if this time is the last time? What if this time it lasts forever?

So what are you going to do?

Are you going to just give in and stop even checking the well periodically? Every day, at least? Are you going to wander off, slink away, try to forget the well even existed?

That sounds tempting, doesn’t it?

Except you know you’ll never be able to truly leave the well, or forget it. You know if you walk away now, you’ll always wonder. And you know that the longer you try to leave, or the farther you go, the harder it’ll be if and when you come back. You know, even though it sucks in the moment, that the best course is to stay close and keep trying. Day after day after day.

So you faithfully keep it up, every day. You squeeze out the bare minimum, see if you can get the tiniest of drops. Then you move on with your day. You try other things, other creative practices, to see if that sort of parallel activity triggers something. You try to find just the right soundtrack to help your thoughts flow smoothest. You look around your space, trying to figure out what you should move or take out or add that might get things going again. You find new podcasts to listen to, blogs to read, books to skim, anything that might spark anything.

You keep putting in the work. The bare minimum. You move around. You get fresh air. You drink tea. You try new recipes, wonder if by improving your diet, maybe you’ll improve your creativity. You try to get enough sleep. You read different books. You try journaling. You come up with new goals, new benchmarks, new ways to keep yourself on track. You even give meditating a shot.

You take a different route when you walk your dog, hoping it’ll get you thinking in new ways. You try to keep your phone in your pocket. You stop yourself from mindlessly checking Instagram and Pinterest — or try to, at least. You find yourself seeking out list after list of prompts “guaranteed” to get you writing when you’re stuck. You read everything you can find about what other writers, writers you love and admire, writers you’ve never heard of, writers you haven’t really read but want to, what all of them do to beat “writer’s block.” You think about how many (but not all) of them seem to agree that what amateurs call “writer’s block” is really just laziness or lack of discipline. You wonder if you have what it takes to go from amateur to professional.

You keep writing. Every day. You take a deep breath and turn to a fresh page or open a new document and close your eyes and get something out. Most of it isn’t good. Most of it is pretty bad, and you know that. Every day, you turn the filled page or close the document and move on. You trust the process and keep the faith.

I Have Conversations with My Legs (A Running Update)


Is this just a runner thing? An athlete thing? I don’t think “talking” to your body that unusual. In yoga, teachers frequently tell you to “check in with” or “scan” your body to pay attention to how the different parts are feeling. And you go “oh, wow, my hips are kinda stiff” or “there’s a weird pain in my shoulder. Huh” or “hmm, my calf itches. Can I scratch it even though we’re in savasana?”

I guess it’s one thing to occasionally really focus on how your body feels, both holistically and each individual part.

But then I go and have full-on conversations with my legs during runs. Usually when we’re not getting along. Take an attempt at a tempo run back when I was marathon training…

Me: Okay, we’ve got six miles with a three-mile tempo run today! Let’s do this!

Legs: Yeah…no.

Me: Wait what? What the hell?

Legs: Eh, we’re just not feeling it. See?

Me: But…come on, we’ve gotta stay on the training plan! I don’t have time to reschedule this workout later in the week. Let’s go.

Legs: Nah.

Me: Okay, fine, buttheads. What if we just do a two-mile tempo?

Legs: Nope.

Me: A one-mile pickup?

Legs: You could try, but it probably won’t go well.

Me: What if we just do some fartleks for a couple miles?

Legs: Hahahaha, nice try.

Me: Fine. Screw the speedwork. Can we just do six easy miles?

Legs: Six miles seems like a lot.

Me: Five miles?

Legs: When’s the last time you got new shoes? These aren’t feeling too good.

Me: They’re not that old.

Legs: Really?

Me: Stop being babies. We haven’t been working that hard this week. It’s only week three. We can’t start skipping workouts this early.

Legs: Meh.

Me: Fine. Three miles. Can you suck it up and handle that?

Legs: Fine. But you still won’t like it.

Me: …sons of bitches…

Then there’s my knee. The one I had surgery on seven and a half years ago. The one that took nearly a year to stop bugging me and feel normal and let me run on it again. The one I babied for several years, avoiding running more than two days in a row, wearing a knee brace, icing it religiously after workouts. The one that got me into yoga.

When I finally decided to ditch the knee brace and just run like I used to, five, six, even seven days a week (sometimes), with the occasional speed or hill workout, my knee responded brilliantly. Every so often, though, it still twinges — usually not from running, I think, but from some combination of running + other activity. Like recently I’ve added more strength workouts and weight lifting, and even though strengthening the muscles in my legs should, theoretically, help my knee by providing more support for the tendons and ligaments (my brother’s almost done with med school. I totally know this shit), there’s an adjustment period where everything’s sore and tight and angry with me and letting me know it via pain in my knee.

Actually, now that I think about it, I’ve also been incorporating HIIT workouts once or twice a week. HIIT workouts typically including a buttload of jumping — jumping jacks, plank jacks, jump squats, jump lunges. Jump squats and jump lunges are the fucking worst. I think I’m in decent cardio shape until I’m told to jump more than five times in a row. Anyway, one of Cal Poly’s track and field trainers once told me that running isn’t bad for your knees, but plyometrics — jumping — is what will tear them up. So maybe I should just stop with the stupid jump squats.

Anyway, usually, nowadays, when my knee tries to get in on the conversation, I tell it to suck it up and move on. “You’re fine,” I’ll say. “Stop being a little bitch. Remember? You don’t hold me back anymore.” My knee isn’t as talkative as my legs. It’s (thankfully) much more stoic — it might whimper a little, but it soldiers on with the run.

But a couple weeks ago, when it started acting up on what was supposed to be a six-mile run with a massive hill and got shortened to a three-mile run with a massive hill, I tried a different tact.

“Hey buddy. What’s up? You’ve been through a lot lately, huh? Yeah. I get it. Sorry I haven’t been great about yoga and stretching after runs. I’ll work on it. You wanna foam roll tonight? How would that feel? Good, right? Okay, just keep it up — you’ve got this — and we’ll foam roll when we get home. I can even ice you if you want, a little. Yeah? Cool. Just a little over a mile to go, okay? Hang in there. See? You’re already feeling better. There you go.”

I’m telling you, it totally worked.

For a week.

Then last week, something twinged in my hip/hamstring/IT band area and a few days later, the pain started quickly spreading to my knee and then, weirdly, the spot on my inner calf that’s sort of between my Achilles tendon and where I’d feel shin splint pain. So I started easing up on my runs (both intensity and mileage — I’ve barely clocked 10 miles this week) and foam rolling every day, twice a day when I do lace up (or trying to, at least). I’ve determined I need a new, larger foam roller that has one of those trigger point grid things (like this one). I’ve been favoring YouTube yoga classes that focus on the lower body (classes that are heavy on hip openers or promise to help you progress to the splits tend to be good bets — I’ll probably never fully get into the splits, but the process leading up to them involves hip and hamstring openers from all directions, which feel fantastic).

It has gotten better, but I have a feeling the first long-ish or fast-ish run I do will make it flare up again. If that happens, I’m (for once) not going to screw around and put off getting professional help. I tried ART (active release technique) in the past and it was a freaking (painful) miracle cure, so if insurance allows, I’ll probably go that route again.

I’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime, my legs say hi.

Minding the Gap


When I was 18, I broke my ankle. I had a cast and was on crutches for…about four or five weeks? Then for another week or two, I still had the same cast but got to wear a walking boot that strapped onto it.

Getting the cast off, Easter, and Spring Break all coincided nicely that year, so I spent my first week “fully healed” and cast-free at my grandparents’ house with the rest of my family. My left leg, especially my calf, had withered away — it was half the size of my right — and my ankle was so stiff. I remember lying in bed, trying to flex it back and forth, and not being able to move it more than a couple inches. I remember telling my mom, on the verge of tears, “It’ll never feel the same again!”

But of course, I got back to school and saw my doctor for a post-op check-up, and he promptly wrote me a prescription for physical therapy, which I went to dutifully for another six or eight weeks.

I started running again by the summer. Slowly, awkwardly, clumsily. I resigned myself to perhaps never regaining the speed or agility I once had, and tried to accept that. But within months, my ankle was barely an afterthought when I ran.

The spring of my fourth year in college was when I hurt my knee and had surgery. (Side note: it’s super fun when I tell doctors about my medical history and past surgeries. When I say “I’ve had surgery on my left ankle and left knee,” they raise their eyebrows and ask something like “at the same time?” or “my goodness, what did you do?” and I hastily explain they were over three years apart and very separate incidents.) Three months later, I was sobbing to my boyfriend about how I might never be able to run again, at least not the way I used to. But just over 18 months after the surgery, I finished my first half-marathon.

Both times, post-surgery, I now see that I dropped into something similar to what Ira Glass calls “the gap.” A physical state, in these cases, where I wasn’t performing the way I wanted and expected to. Both times, I genuinely believed, for various periods of time, that this “underperforming” was my new normal, the level of performance I was now destined to. Improvements, if I noticed them at all, seemed small and slow. Not until I was “out” of it could I look back and realize that of course recovery was a temporary stage.

But what made it so damn hard was the not knowing. Both times, there were very real possibilities that maybe, there was a chance that my ankle or knee might not fully heal, might continue to nag and bother me for years, decades, the rest of my life. It was entirely possible that upper limits of my abilities or potential had been permanently lowered.

Both times, the much more likely possibility was that I’d recover and be totally fine, save a couple scars (and a metal plate and screw in my ankle). But I couldn’t know that for sure. All I could do was go about my physical therapy, do my stupid stretching and strengthening exercises (I’m pretty sure that’s why I hate exercise bands to this day), and be patient and wait and hope.

It fucking sucked. The not knowing. The waiting. The wondering “when” or “if.”

In a lot of ways, it’s the same as writing — or any other creative pursuit, according to Ira. It’s where I’m at right now in a lot of my writing and personal projects. I’m deep in the gap and it fucking sucks. I’m fighting every day — to find inspiration, to stay inspired, to get the work done when I’m not even the slightest bit inspired, to find some improvement no matter how infinitely small it is, to keep the faith that I’m not just “shoveling shit from a sitting position.” To believe the fight, the journey, is worth it.

(Especially when my usual M.O. when something gets hard is to drop it and go find something easier. #realtalk)

Because the unfortunate fact is, even if we rationally know a certain state is temporary, if we don’t know precisely how temporary — if we don’t see a specific or close-to-specific end date — it’s so easy to start thinking that state is actually permanent.

So if you’re in that gap with me, here’s to us. To keeping the faith and minding the gap.

Your Mind Needs Marathons


In college, I took a course called Existentialism in Literature. I mostly loved it, except when we had to read Nietzsche. I hated that. Actually, hate isn’t strong enough a word to describe this liberal humanist’s reaction to the vile filth that is Nietzsche and his philosophy.

One of the most common pieces of advice people give to those who say they want to read more is to stop trying to finish books. They say it’s totally okay to put books down without finishing them if you find them boring, if you don’t like them, if you don’t agree with some part of them, if you find it distasteful or not perfectly mirroring your world view. They say to give a book 50 pages, or 30, or two chapters, or whatever arbitrary measure should be “enough” to judge whether or not a book is good or interesting or worth your time.

On the one hand, I don’t mind this advice. It’s hard for me personally, as a former English major, to follow — I’ve been trained to finish things whether or not I’m enjoying them. But if the idea of “having” to finish every single book you start is honestly preventing you from ever reading one, then please, heed that advice and get your ass to a library and play fast and loose with their checkout limits. Read one page out of every single book on a shelf until you find one that makes you want to keep reading. Read the first page and the last page only. Find 10 books and open each one to a random page and only read that. I don’t care. Just read something without feeling like an intimidating English teacher is standing over you going “and what does the river symbolize?


I also feel like this advice just feeds our cultural phenomenon of “ENTERTAIN ME NOW YOU HAVE 15 SECONDS NOPE BORING GOOD-BYE.” The idea that our time is so limited and precious that we shouldn’t waste a second of it on something that isn’t absolutely hysterical and interesting and extremely easy to digest.

I think this advice also comes from the idea reading should be fun! all the time! a leisure activity only! something you do on the beach while the sun slowly melts your brain! That once you graduate high school, you’re no longer “required” to read anything and therefore reading should never feel like “work” again.

And I think those lines of thinking lead to all the people I see today reading nothing but YA books or books they’ve read already or books that Oprah and their book club and bloggers and Instagram told them to read. Books that may be really good, I’ll happily grant, but books that, on the whole, are easy. Books with vocabulary that wouldn’t challenge most eighth-graders. Books with characterization and plots so straightforward and simple that you’re not left puzzling over a character’s motivation, or haunted by how relatable the villain was. Books that don’t suddenly offer more meanings once you understand the author’s background or culture or social situation or historical time period. Books that don’t have nice happy endings with all the loose ends tied up neatly. Books that don’t really make you question anything — anything real, at least, I’m not talking about “Do you think Rachel ever got her life together after [GIRL ON THE TRAIN SPOILERS HIDDEN, but seriously, if you haven’t read it yet do you really care if I spoil it?]?”

Let me be clear, though: I’m not coming at you like some high-minded literary critic who reads every issue of The New Yorker cover to cover and prefers Raymond Chandler to Philippa Gregory. I’ll happily spend a weekend re-reading The Princess Diaries, I’ve enjoyed most of Rainbow Rowell’s works, and if you haven’t read any of the Harry Potter books, go sit in a corner. Against my better judgement, I’ve found myself absorbed in The Girl on the TrainGone Girl, and more Dan Brown and Tom Clancy books than I care to list.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with easy, quick reads. I’m not saying that in the slightest.

But if those are all that you read, when it comes to books, I would really, strongly recommend branching out. Read something that seems boring or hard or intimidating. Try a classic or one of the “literary” books reviewed in The New Yorker. Read some really weird short stories that make you go “huh?” when you finish them. Revisit that book you couldn’t stand in high school, or the one you only skimmed the Cliffs Notes of. Fahrenheit 451 or 1984 or Animal Farm or anything by Emerson or Walden or The Old Man and the Sea or Crime and Punishment or Emily Dickinson or Vanity Fair or Lord of the Flies. Read something that espouses a philosophy that goes against everything you believe in, like Atlas Shrugged or Nietzsche.

When we discussed Nietzsche in class, I raised my hand and said, “I kept wanting to throw the book across the room.”

My professor instantly said, “Good! You’re supposed to react strongly!”

See, reading Nietzsche was hard because I believed so strongly in the opposite of everything he said, yet his reasoning was sound enough that I struggled to hold on to my beliefs. Reading Heidegger and Hegel in that same class made my brain literally hurt because their language and the concepts they discussed were just so out there. Reading 1984 and Brave New World in high school brought me into a mild depression (sort of. not really clinically depressed).

And yet it is so important to read those and books like them. We shouldn’t leave the stuff that’s hard or complex or “literary” or “highbrow” to the academics and pretentious critics. We need to read them because just as the body responds to marathon training or an Olympic weightlifting regimen and becomes stronger, the mind gets stronger when stressed with the exercise that is reading A Tale of Two Cities. Just as the body slumps and gets soft and decays without strenuous, challenging physical activity, the mind grows soft and dull without the occasional challenging idea to wrestle with and debate.

Opening Anna Karenina can feel like registering for marathon that’s six months out. You are making a commitment. It will be hard. It will take time. And when you finish, you will be a different person and that’s scary because maybe, okay, you’re not thrilled with where you’re at now but at least it’s comfortable and you know what to expect from your life and what will I do when all that’s challenged?

Running a marathon is hard. It takes time. It takes a commitment. It may not be an enjoyable journey. But you’d be hard-pressed to find a runner who, upon finishing her first marathon, won’t admit that it was worth it, no matter what the outcome.

Which is why I’m reading Moby Dick. And after that, a whole host of books that I feel like I should’ve read but somehow never did — BelovedSlaughterhouse-Five, Things Fall Apart, One Hundred Years of Solitude, something significant by Dickens, Flannery O’Connors short stories, Hemingway. And books I haven’t read since high school or college that I want to revisit — Huckleberry Finn, The Great Gatsby, Lord of the Flies, Fahrenheit 451, 1984, Crime and Punishment. I’ve mostly loved my reading habit over the past few years, but it’s time to flex some brain muscle and challenge myself again.

What’s the most challenging book you’ve ever read? What books or authors intimidate you or seem hard or boring?

A Little Blue Fish in a Big Red Pond


A week and a half ago, I accomplished a very momentous first. It’s something that’s probably on quite a few bucket lists.

I went to a NASCAR race at the Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama.

This was not on my personal bucket list, just to be clear.

I went with my husband to celebrate his father’s 60th birthday (which was actually in the summer, but this particular race was the one he chose to see/worked with our calendars/was “easy” to get to compared to other tracks (I have my doubts about that last bit).

Honestly, I’m not sure how I forgot to include NASCAR in my “list of things I dislike or used to dislike because of my parents.” My dad thinks NASCAR is one of the most boring sports on earth (I say “one of” because I just realized I’m not sure of his thoughts on curling). And this is a man who will happily spend all Sunday watching golf. And I easily accepted this line of thinking. The way I see it, the only “exciting” parts of a NASCAR race are the crashes, and if you’re really sitting there rooting for those to happen, you’re kind of a horrible person. That’s like rooting for a horse to break his leg during a horse race.

Also, I’m really the last person who NASCAR fans would want anywhere near a NASCAR race. I’m not into talking politics and such here, but let’s get it out of the way: I’m a liberal environmentalist who strongly believes in gun control and laws banning smoking in public. I hate macro brews — not just the taste (or lack thereof), but everything they represent as businesses. I don’t believe in standing and removing caps when they sing “God Bless America” at sporting events (it’s not our national anthem, people). Oh, and I was raised Catholic but currently feel uneasy about organized religion in general.

So my mindset leading up to our trip switched between that of a naturalist about to study a group in its natural habitat to a writer doing research to genuine curiosity and attempts to keep an open mind. Obviously, this was for my father-in-law’s birthday and we hadn’t seen Husband’s parents since last year and I was determined to maintain a positive attitude and not be a selfish, immature brat.

I have some social skills, people. Or at least some “don’t be a complete jerk” skills.

But I was still confused when I was up at 6:00 am Sunday morning to get on a bus at 7:30 so we could get to the race track around 9:00 for a race that started at 1:30 in the afternoon. And that’s where our story begins…

(I’m now referring mainly to the massive group text I had going with my dad and brothers to keep them informed on the events of the day).

9:00 am

Best I can tell we are in the middle of nowhere, except for a small airfield and a field of RVs that literally stretches as far as I can see. People camp here all weekend for the race.

9:20 am

We approach the track entrance. I’m told that there’s lots of “activities” and things to see and do leading up to the race. I’m about to find out that most of those things are in the infield section, which requires an extra $50 ticket. Husband and his dad are offered those tickets for free from a kind gentleman. He only has two extra, though.

We walk by a line of huge trailers selling souvenirs. They’re dedicated to different drivers and I get the idea to pick up a Christmas gift for my aunt, who’s a legit NASCAR fan. I ask my dad (via the group text) if she’d want a purple Danica Patrick t-shirt or a pink camo Jeff Gordon hat (she hates both of those drivers, so this inquiry is mostly in jest). I’m pretty sure my dad isn’t awake yet.

I’m informed that Jeff Gordon is still driving and this is his last season. This truly is news to me.

9:30 am

My brother in Chicago is the only one texting me back as he is the only one awake. He asks for a report on the beers people are drinking. I see mostly Bud and Miller signs, some Coors signs. Quite a few Shock Top stands. There’s supposed to be a beer garden somewhere with taps from two Alabama craft breweries. We also packed in our own soft-sided coolers with plenty of local brews. (Husband and I got some six-packs from Back Forty Beer.)

I gotta say, if NASCAR gets anything right, it’s allowing people to bring their own food and drinks — including alcohol!! — into their stadiums (race tracks? speedways?). We were allowed one soft-sided cooler per person that would fit under the seats. We just couldn’t bring glass or hard cups or “things that could be thrown.”

9:37 am

First Confederate flag sighting! It’s actually a two-fer — an older guy wearing the flag on both his hat AND his tank top. Side note, he really couldn’t pull off the tank top. For that matter, most of the men here wearing tank tops should have taken an extra minute or two in their closets this morning.

10:00 am

Husband and his dad make use of their gifted infield passes. His mom and I spend the next hour walking the entire length of the concourse. There is nothing up here but food/drink concessions and souvenir stands.

10:45 am

My mother-in-law and I are still walking the concourse. At one point, a golf cart drives past us, clearing a path for an SUV. A few minutes later, we walk up to a crowd gathering around that SUV. I assume maybe someone got hurt and the SUV is a medical vehicle. Assuming this, I think poorly of the people holding their phones out to take pictures. Instead, the door to one of the luxury suites opens and some security guards walk out. The crowd presses closer and more people hold up their phones.

Then Jeff Gordon walks out and is escorted to the SUV.

I have to admit, that’s pretty cool. And no, I didn’t get a picture because I didn’t react quickly enough. ::hangs head in millennial shame::

Also, right after this my dad wakes up and finally joins in on the group text. I’m pretty sure he had upwards of 70 texts to read through. And I see my first (and, surprisingly, only) Trump 2016 shirt of the day.

11:00 am

My mother-in-law and I realize there’s a whole area outside the track that has some of the “activities” we were told about. Plus the “Super Fan Shop” which is about a dozen huge tents of souvenirs. Husband and his dad meet us and we go down there. Luckily we have in-and-out privileges with our tickets.

11:15 am

My dad tells me to buy a Dale Earnhardt Jr. souvenir for my NASCAR-loving aunt. He’s also requested “the most redneck souvenir they have” for himself, so I’m keeping an eye out for that.

12:07 pm

So. Many. Jorts. Husband and I have a fairly in-depth discussion over whether or not people are rocking the “jorts and cowboy boots” look as a stunt or if that’s how they actually like to dress.

12:34 pm

We finally find the beer garden. I get to try a Raspberry Berliner Weisse from Trimtab Brewing and it’s tart and fruity but pretty tasty. And pink.

12:40 pm

There’s a huge Chevy display area. I get to sit in a Corvette for like seven seconds. That’s pretty cool.

1:00 pm

We go back in and head to our seats. I confirm what I noticed earlier, which is that there is not a single drinking fountain anywhere to be found. We no longer feel so smart about bringing reusable water bottles. Husband and I debate whether or not businesses and stadiums and such are required to provide free water.

1:15 pm

A reverend prays before the national anthem. Confirmed: I am definitely not in California anymore. The race is dedicated to Jeff Gordon and we’re told to cheer for him. I wonder if he can actually hear any of this in his car. They also fly a stealth bomber over the track after the anthem, which is the third pretty cool thing of the day.

1:16 pm

They start doing laps around the track. I ask Husband if they’ve started already. He says no, they’re just warming up. They play, appropriately, “Sweet Home Alabama.”

1:32 pm

Now they’ve started. We’re sitting 18 rows back, sort of in between all the pits and the start line. As they start, what seems to be ash and flakes of campfire debris fly over us. I think someone behind us is smoking and blatantly disregarding the “SMOKE FREE” zones (like most of the smokers here today), but no, it’s debris from the tires and track itself. It’s very loud and smells like diesel and rubber.

1:36 pm

It’s really loud about once every 50 seconds or so. We can’t see the cars at all while they’re on the far side, then they come by again and it’s really loud and then we can’t see them and they come by again. According to the video screen, Gordon’s in the lead. They keep turning left.

I’ve been texting with my mom about what redneck souvenir to get my dad. We settle on one, and after about 50 laps, I go up to the concourse to get it. At some point, Joey Logano takes the lead. I have no idea who that is.

2:15 pm

Husband and I get up to go to the bathroom and get something to eat. The line for the ladies is shorter than the mens, which is nice. I have to go to an ATM in order to buy pizza (love that they can put up hand-drawn signs saying “ORDER HERE” and “PICK-UP” over the two windows but not one that says “CASH ONLY”) and the young bro in front of me is really excited to have a positive balance in his account.

3:30 pm

They’re over halfway done and driving under a yellow flag. This means they keep going but drive a little slower. Which means the race keeps going but gets a little more boring.

3:47 pm

Dale Earnhardt Jr. pulls into the lead. People get really excited. I notice that when drivers are in the pit, they rev their engines and speed off while their crew is still pumping gas. This seems really unsafe. They also seem to purposefully lock up their back wheels so they skid out a bit as they leave the pit.

4:30 pm

They’ve put up, like three, more yellow flags in a row. I can’t figure out if they still count laps when they’re under a yellow flag. I can’t figure out what calls for a yellow flag. I can’t figure out how many more laps to go since they’ve exceeded the 188 that I thought was the total. I’m pretty sure they’re just going to keep putting up yellow flags and not let the race actually end until Jr. or Gordon will win.

4:37 pm

They announce the race is over and that Joey Logano is the winner. I’m not sure how or when it ended and people seem unhappy about the result. I understand why we weren’t allowed to bring in hard or heavy things that could be thrown.

Apparently another driver may or may not have wrecked on purpose to end the race so Logano would win. After Husband explains the end of the race to me, I compare it to a baseball game ending on a replay review call of a balk. As in, the most random and least climactic way possible.

I am still not a NASCAR fan.

The Doing Is the Thing


Everyone loves the line “Good for her, not for me” from Amy Poehler’s Yes Please.

And with good reason. I love that line. I repeat it to myself several times a week. But that’s not the line that stuck out most to me when I read the book. I fell for a line that I think resonated with a lot of other people, but for some reason I haven’t seen it discussed/mentioned/quoted as much.

Actually, it was this whole passage:

And then you just do it. You just dig in and write it. You use your body. You lean over the computer and stretch and pace. You write and then cook something and write some more. You put your hand on your heart and feel it beating and decide if what you wrote feels true. You do it because the doing of it is the thing. The doing is the thing. The talking and worrying and thinking is not the thing.

The doing is the thing.

The doing is the thing.

And her brilliance continues:

Because what else are we going to do? Say no? Say no to an opportunity that may be slightly out of our comfort zone? Quiet our voice because we are worried is it not perfect? I believe great people do things before they are ready.

Yes. Yes!

Lately — most of the summer, I’d say — I’ve spent a lot of time talking and worrying and thinking. Planning, too. But not doing. And the stuff I have “done” has been half-hearted, at best.

And I know, at least in part, why that is. I’m scared — terrified — that I’m not good enough.

That I don’t have it in me to succeed as a freelancer.

That I’ll always be stuck doing the same types of projects for the same clients. (Just to be clear, I love the clients I have right now, and I enjoy the work I do for them. But that doesn’t mean I want to do that and only that for the rest of my career.)

That I’ll forever be spinning my wheels and just barely staying afloat (and mixing metaphors).

That my writing just isn’t that good.

That I don’t have the discipline or persistence to get better.

In the beginning of the year, I signed up for this online course on writing for magazines. It was pricey, for me, but taught by two really successful and respected freelancers and I thought, hey, I don’t really have any training in journalism or that style of writing and a lot of people say it’s fun and can be lucrative. They had weekly (bi-weekly?) assignments and a private forum/message board for the course where we’d submit our homework and it would get reviewed by actual magazine editors.

I only completed one lesson.

I told myself it was because I got really busy in January and February. Because I was focusing on other projects. Because I probably don’t really want to pursue magazine writing, anyway. Because online courses just aren’t my thing. Because I could still download all the course materials and go through them on my own time, eventually.

But come on. I was scared that I’d submit my work and these real-life, big-time editors (and fellow writers!) wouldn’t like it. That it wouldn’t be any good.

And rather than face that fear and get some feedback and instruction that would help me get better, I chickened out and didn’t do anything. It was a huge disservice (and expense!) to myself, my business, and my writing.

I didn’t do the thing.

I’ve realized and been thinking about this a lot recently. My big 29stories project has sputtered and basically come to a full stop. I hit some major “blogger’s block” and got frustrated because I’m not taking the steps I know I need to take to grow this blog because I don’t really know what I want it to be. So I spent the better part of August trying to “brainstorm” and “plan” and “taking a step back” and “evaluating” which are all a bunch of fancy words for not really doing anything.

I made plans and goals to land some guest posting opportunities and send out pitches and letters of inquiry and queries to drum up some more business and potentially new clients…and spent two hours making this big spreadsheet of all the businesses and publications I want to contact. When I did send out some pitches, they were formulaic and half-hearted and barely got any responses, so I got frustrated and scaled back to “re-evaluate” and realized hey, I need to re-do my website before sending any more pitches! And I started…planning and brainstorming on how to do that. My website has yet to be touched.

Instead, I’ve been updating old blog posts with re-sized photos and typo corrections and double-checked links. I’ve been avoiding writing the posts I really want to write because I don’t want to screw them up. I’ve been putting off doing things like buying ad space or editing my website copy or sending out legit, polished letters of inquiry or pitches for actual, developed guest posts. I’ve been trying to keep my Feedly unread list from getting out of control. I’ve been building spreadsheets to track my income and expenses or time per client or project. All things to keep me busy and feeling accomplished without doing the thing.

And I’m writing this now — and feeling downright terrified, again — to say that needs to, and will, change. That I am committing to doing the thing — to writing, to blogging, to growing my business, to improving. To facing my fears and trusting the worst outcomes I imagine actually won’t happen. To stop giving myself excuses.

Because the doing is the thing.

Things You Learn When You Date an Architecture Student


I had this list, which I originally wrote back in 2009, posted here for awhile last year. Then I took it down because I wasn’t doing anything with it. Now, I’m posting it again because my husband is (fingers crossed) just a few short months away from completing his Intern Development Program (IDP) and getting his architecture license.

A little background first: Husband and I started dating toward the end of his 3rd year at Cal Poly. Cal Poly’s (very highly-regarded) architecture program is a five-year program heavily geared towards the actual practice of architecture (unlike, say, UC Berkeley’s very theoretical four-year program). The pro of Cal Poly’s program is that when you graduate, you are more than qualified to work in almost any architecture firm. Students from Berkeley* (or most other four-year programs) pretty much have to get a two-year Master’s degree before they’re really prepared to work in the field.

The con of Cal Poly’s program is that, as an architecture student, you make some very serious sacrifices, mainly of your social life and sanity, in order to complete the program. Put it this way, of the architecture students I got to know through my husband, I can only remember one having a successful relationship with someone outside of the major. So I started jokingly referring to “dating an architecture student” an “extreme sport.”

*I’m not picking on Berkeley; that’s just the school my dad — also a Cal Poly architecture grad — always compares Cal Poly’s program to.

Things You Learn When You Date An Architect (Or Technically, An Architecture Student)

  1. The difference between concrete and cement. Turns out cement is an *ingredient* of concrete, and if you mix them up, you will get laughed at. Especially if you are another architecture student giving a presentation about your design and say you want to have a nice “cement facade” on the building.

  2. Architecture professors are all a little nuts. Or space cadets. Or have crazy accents and are obsessed with “beautiful trellises.” (bootiful twellis…) Or begin EVERY. SINGLE. PHRASE. with “mmm-yeah.”

  3. The holding strengths of various types of glue. It was a very sad day when I learned that my beloved krazy glue was, to put it bluntly, crap.

  4. It is entirely possible to survive for five days on approximately 12 hours sleep, 12 gallons of coffee, frozen burritos, Wheat-Thins, and stale Albertson’s chocolate chip cookies. I wish I was joking.

  5. Architecture students understand more than most the importance setting back-up alarms and enlisting a friend to call them before their final presentations are supposed to start. It’s best if that friend is not another architecture student, because in that case, he will either also be sleeping through his alarm or drunk because he’s already given his final presentation. Unfortunately, odds are they don’t have many friends outside of architecture, at least none who understand the VITAL IMPORTANCE of making sure they don’t miss your presentation and can be trusted with such a task. Seriously, it is an amazingly common occurrence for people to rush into the studio, tucking in their shirt and tying their shoes and praying their teeth aren’t coffee stained and there aren’t any wayward bits of their model in their hair, about 10 minutes *after* their presentation was scheduled to start.

  6. Architects don’t operate on regular 24-hour cycles like you and I. They see time more as a countdown, as in “How much time is left before this project is due?” They schedule their sleep on a weekly basis. If it weren’t for 7-11’s and late night or 24-hour fast food joints, many of them wouldn’t eat. If you want to try being friends with one — or if you’re really extreme like me and want to date one — be prepared to shift your schedule accordingly.

  7. If you ever need pretty much any kind of software for your computer, an architecture student can get you a pirated version, no problem. Unless you have a Mac, and then you’re screwed and will probably be laughed at (to my laptop: it’s okay, buddy, I still love you). Apparently all the really cool modeling and rendering programs available only run on PCs.

  8. Frank Gehry = architectural masturbation. I don’t fully understand this, I’ve just heard it repeated in one form or another too many times to count.

  9. Starchitecture = architecture for architecture’s sake. I.e., those buildings that look really cool but don’t serve an actual purpose, or at least not well. See Frank Gehry, above.

  10. That random office building/bank/parking structure you pass every day without thinking twice about? That’s probably the lifetime achievement of some really famous architect and represents a major milestone in design, and you’re just not cultured or sophisticated enough to know it.

  11. Jørn Utzon designed the Sydney Opera House and he is Danish. (Actually, I learned this when I studied in Denmark. The Danes are very proud of this fact.)

  12. Thankfully, getting drunk at thesis shows and exhibits is very much encouraged.

  13. In general, architects “know a lot about nothing and nothing about a lot. We are smart, but a lot of it is bullshit.” Direct quote from my husband.

  14. Architecture incest is bad. This is when an architecture student hooks up with another architecture student. It’s especially bad when they’re in the same studio (or firm, I guess, after they graduate).

  15. When an architecture student cuts herself with an X-acto knife, instead of stopping the bleeding, applying first aid, and finding the missing chunk of her finger, like a normal person, her NUMBER ONE priority is making sure no blood gets on her model.

  16. The history of pencils and straight lines is so fascinating it actually warrants an entire college-level course.

  17. Earthquake? No biggie. Fire? Pssh. Tornado, tsunami, alien invasion? Whatevs. The coffee maker in studio’s broken? Oh my God, EMERGENCY, people! Sound the alarms! THIS IS NOT A DRILL!

So There's This Dog


Sometime in June of 2012, I convinced Husband to go check out a street fair in South Park. We were just about to start wedding planning and he was getting ready to move in with me. I didn’t tell him, but I’d heard a local dog rescue organization would be there and I wanted to see if he’d be tempted by any of the dogs up for adoption.

We walked past the rescue group’s set-up and of course I stopped and awww-ed at the pups they had. One or two puppies and a bunch of small dogs (chihuahuas and terrier types). In the back of their booth, under a table instead of a pen, another dog was sitting by herself. I slowly walked towards her and knelt down, holding out my hand. She barely looked at it.

They told us she had been neglected, just left in a yard pretty much her entire life. She’d just had puppies (which were also being fostered by the group). She was extremely shy and skittish — downright fearful — around people, especially men.

They let us try to take her for a walk. We got maybe twenty yards from the booth and it was clear the poor thing was just freaking out. We took her back. “Nope, she’s not having it.”

We wandered through the rest of the street fair and then to a nearby bar for lunch. We talked about the dog we’d seen. Husband thought we should adopt her. I wasn’t sure. She seemed sweet, and obviously in need of a good, loving home, but man, she’d need a lot of time and work. We’d both had family dogs our entire lives, but this would be the first time we’d be primarily responsible for one. Maybe we should start with an “easier” dog, I thought. One past the puppy stage, but decently socialized and trained, or at least, trainable.

Husband convinced me and we went back to fill out an adoption application. We had some travel coming up in the next couple weeks, and I needed to clear it with my landlord, so they gave us the contact info for her foster family to make arrangements in early July.

They brought Onyx to our apartment, along with a crate, bed, a couple toys, bowls, and a bag of food, on July 7th. I was nervous — to the point of wanting to back out a couple days earlier.

But she came, and we took her for a walk that night and started teaching her to “wait” before we crossed a street. That is now the command she responds to best.
Because my commute at the time was all of 15 minutes and Husband’s was at least 45, I was the one who started walking her every morning and evening. I was also able to come home for lunch most days to let her out of her crate and just hang out for about half an hour. So within a month, I and I alone became her human.

Two months after getting her, we went to Santa Cruz for a wedding and left her with her former foster family. She escaped from her steel crate and got out of their garage through an air vent the first night. It took us about five days to find her, during which I was the definition of “complete wreck.” We can’t leave her alone anywhere but our apartment and my parent’s cabin in Tahoe. She has escaped (slash caused property damage) at my grandparents’ house and uncle’s house and chewed through two leashes so far. The vet says she’s damaged her teeth from chewing on metal. She’s broken welds on that steel crate (obviously, we no longer bother with it).

We were told she’s a Shepherd-Chow mix (the dark tongue is the Chow giveaway) and that seemed reasonable. But we met a trainer at the dog park once and he said she looked more like a Kelpie to him. Once I looked up “kelpie” on Google, it seemed so blatantly obvious that’s what she is — in looks and personality.

Around October or so I started taking her on short runs with me. When I first tried that, in July or August, she’d lag behind and look at me like “why the hell would you run if you’re not being chased?” But after getting used to me, I guess, she warmed up to the concept. Now I’m pretty sure “run” is one of her favorite words.

The rescue group gave us a couple squeaky toys that terrified her at first. Over time, she’s collected a little gang of five stuffed “friends,” as we call them, three of which squeak and one of which grunts (the fifth one used to squeak, but she chewed out the squeaker). She freaking loves those things.

In October, I took her with me to Little Lake for my grandpa’s birthday weekend. This is a cabin in the absolute middle of nowhere, with miles of open space all around. I remember taking her out for a walk in the morning, before anyone else was up, and letting her off-leash. She took off and started sprinting through the scrub brush, back and forth, running up to me and jumping, spinning around and running back through the brush. When I got home, I told Husband (who wasn’t able to make the trip that year) “I’ve figured out how she plays!” Her favorite way to play is still just running around, chasing us or letting us chase her. She’s happiest when allowed to run and hike out in the open and off-leash, with no other people around besides me and Husband.

She used to run and hide when someone came to the apartment or even knocked on the door. Now she guards her space fiercely — and “her space” extends to about ten yards beyond our apartment and patio. She especially does not like when our neighbor trims his rosebushes along the fence he shares with us, or when the people in the next building do their laundry, or whenever any delivery person walks by.

She is one of the three best things that have happened to me in the last three years.

Second Chance Dog Rescue is the organization that rescued and fostered Onyx. They do amazing work for thousands of dogs throughout SD County and Baja Mexico primarily by getting dogs out of shelters before they’re killed and placing them with private foster families until they’re adopted. If you’re looking for a dog in the area, I highly recommend starting with them.

How to Be an Asshole Yogi


Wait outside the studio impatiently for the class before your’s to finish. As soon as the teacher says “namaste,” rush in and start setting up your mat. Roll your eyes and glare at everyone in the previous class who’s taking their sweet time clearing out of the studio.

When your class ends, however, take your sweet time coming out of savasana. Sit in lotus and continue to meditate while students for the next class file in. Congratulate yourself on not letting their noise and movement distract you from your inner peace.

Always proclaim your disgust for yoga trends, like brewery yoga, acro-yoga, yoga pole dancing, dog yoga, and the like. Make sure to complain about the Westernization of yoga and never miss a chance to explain to people that asana is, like, the least important limb of the eight limbs of yoga (then go on to enlighten them about the other seven limbs they’re clearly missing out on).

Correct people’s pronunciations of Sanskrit words and phrases with more superiority than Hermione correcting Ron. It’s AD-ho MUK-ha-sva-NA-sa-na, not ad-HO muk-HA-sva-na-SA-na. 

Go to a beginner class, set up your mat front and center, and start “warming up” with advanced poses like headstand, full splits, and king pigeon. You’re inspiring all these newbies!

Loudly complain to your friend before class about all the newbies who show up right after the studio offers a Groupon deal.

Insist that your preferred style of yoga (Bikram, ashtanga, whatever) is the best form of yoga and, really, the only kind everyone should be doing (just not at your studio).

None of your yoga pants should cost less than $75.

Eat vegan, drink nothing but water, kombucha, and green juice, and lecture fellow yogis on ahimsa when you find they eat meat and sugar and drink alcohol.


On Not Going to My 10-Year Reunion


My 10-year high school reunion is (semi-officially) this weekend. I’m honestly shocked it’s happening at all, and was the result of a last-minute effort on Facebook by a former classmate I have absolutely no recollection of.

Anyway, I’m not going.

Three main reasons:

One, this weekend also happens to be my and Husband’s first anniversary, and I don’t feel like spending that with a bunch of people from high school.

Two, flights are expensive, yo. Then, assuming we stay at my mom and dad’s, there’s the whole “how would we get to the city and back” (the venue is in SF) thing. Actually, I probably could’ve convinced my parents to drive us and hang out on their own somewhere while I…reunite.

And three, my best friend (read: the ONLY person from my class of 460 I’ve actively kept in touch with) isn’t going. She’s on a cruise in Europe with her grandma, that lucky bitch.

(Am I also reluctant to go because I’m not as “successful” as I thought I would be or feel like I should be? A little. But we’re focusing on the reasons above.)

Instead, I will be spending Saturday hiking and singing loudly and badly at the Blake Shelton concert, and Sunday watching the Niners-Cowboys game (and then trying to stay married for 366 days…).

But I was feeling all nostalgic for some reason, so I pulled out my old yearbooks and some high school-era photos and came up with 10 thoughts/reflections to mark the occasion. (Or I was looking for blog post fodder. You decide.) (At least I didn’t go so far as to pull out my journals from high school. Yikes.)

10 Reflections 10 Years After Graduating High School

01 | Joining cross-country and yearbrook were two of the best decisions I made.
About 85% of my fondest memories are from those two groups. I even wish I had joined Yearbook earlier, instead of waiting until senior year.

02 | I totally do not regret skipping Senior Ball.
We had Junior Prom and Senior Ball, because one super expensive formal dance just isn’t enough. I went to Junior Prom and realized it was literally just another high school dance, only it wasn’t in the gym and came with way too much stress and planning and costs. After that, I was not excited at all for Senior Ball and since the guy I would’ve wanted to go with had a girlfriend, or at least another date, I was and am not bummed about skipping it.

03 | I am so glad I didn’t go out with the boy I had a crush on for most of junior and senior year.
I think it started towards the end of the sophomore year, actually. He was on the cross country and track teams. I thought he was sooooo cute. He might’ve even liked me back, at some point. But we never went out. We became friends though, pretty good friends, despite all the teenage angsty stuff we were both going through. While I go back and forth wondering if I would’ve been better off going on dates and having a boyfriend in high school, obviously my love life worked out, so at least when it comes to this, I’m grateful.

04 | I wish I had been more grateful for what I had.
I wasted so much time wishing my friends and I were cooler, that we did different things when we hung out, that I had the kind of friends you see on TV or in movies. And I missed out on maybe making way better connections with those girls who were, of course, pretty damn awesome, and absolutely did not need to conform to the stupid standards and ideals I had in my head.

05 | I wish I had taken more photos.
Like I said, I dug out some boxes and photo albums earlier. There weren’t really too many of me in high school. I was really insecure about my looks and spent most of those years avoiding being in front of the camera as much as possible. That was stupid. (Also, this was obviously before Facebook so maybe people have pics of me I don’t even know about and never will. Le sigh.)

06 | Some things never change.
The Ataris, Something Corporate, Third Eye Blind, Goo Goo Dolls, Dave Matthews Band, Counting Crows, Jimmy Eat World, old-school Britney? Dancing all night with friends? Driving around just for fun and because we have nowhere else to go? Still fucking awesome.

07 | Some things do.
Writing awful, angsty poetry, bragging about not sleeping (instead of complaining), thinking my parents are soooo lame? Over.

08 | The coolest people in high school were the ones who knew who they were and did their thing.
i.e., definitely not me. Whether they were popular or nerds or somewhere in between, looking back now, the people who were just happy with whoever they were — those were the ones I should’ve admired the most. Or, really, I should’ve been like them — just me, and cool with that. Instead I spent so much time trying to be different, smarter, wittier, more outgoing, more fashionable, prettier, someone I’d never be. And that was what caused a lot of my stupid teenage angst.

09 | “This too shall pass” is some of the truest shit ever.
I can barely remember most of the stuff I was so freaked out and having breakdowns over in high school. I remember two of the dumbest mistakes I ever made, I remember my “most embarrassing moment” (when I almost made my car stall as I drove past a bunch of guys from school, including the aforementioned crush), I remember crying right before junior year started because my brother was going to be a freshman and I was convinced he would be cooler and do high school “better” than me (he was and did. It didn’t matter). I remember how upset I was at not living up to my goals in track and cross-country senior year. That’s…about it.

10 | I am so not Mission anymore.
It’s weird looking at my yearbooks, because obviously my high school played a big part in who I am today. But looking at the photos, reading the little articles (realizing that writing some of those was my first experience writing “copy,” sort of)…my actual memories of those events are fuzzy. I looked at pictures of people I used to see every day and I barely recognized them. I read articles about senior trips and football games that I went to and wrote about, and I feel almost no connection to them. All this stuff that was such a huge part of my identity just…isn’t anymore.

If you read all that, you’re a saint. Seriously. If I had a prize I’d tell you email it to me and I’d send it to you. But I don’t (sorry), so you can just leave a comment instead and I’ll respond with something grateful and heartfelt.

When I Wanted to Be an Astronaut (conclusion) (finally)


Over a month ago, I started writing a post about how my career aspirations have changed and evolved over the years.

3,250 words and five posts later, here we are.

I’m a freelance writer and editor. That’s what I tell people now when they ask what I do, and then if they seem interested, I may launch into a long-winded explanation of how I recently left my job and I’ve got a few clients and this little blog and I’m definitely looking for work, if they know of anyone who needs anything written, and…

You get the picture.

Now, while I never thought I’d end up writing SO. MUCH. about wanting to be an astronaut, a novelist, a marketer, I’m glad I did. Because the process of doing so, of thinking back to the different plans and goals I used to have, really drove something home to me.

While everything I’ve done, and everything about what I’m doing now, is the result of the choices I made, many of them weren’t activechoices.

Notably, I “fell into” marketing because it was the first job offer I got after college. I got assigned some social media tasks and that became my area of “expertise.” I took my next job with the agency because they were the first to offer me something after about two months of looking and I needed a paycheck.

Then I saw my future — my most-likely career path in the marketing industry — which would happen to me if I kept working hard at what I was supposed to do in my job. Six months ago, I was desperately miserable, staying in a job I couldn’t stand because we were trying to save money for a down payment. Next it would be mortgage payments. A baby. An addition to the house. Another baby. A bigger house. Retirement.

The further I went down this road, the fewer choices I would have. And they’d get harder and harder to make.

So I (with the help and encouragement of my husband) made an active choice. To take 100% control of my career. To have more freedom with more choices down the road. To figure out exactly what the hell I really want to do with my life.

While I don’t regret where I am now or what I’ve done, it’s hard not to look back and wonder if I was wrong when I chose to find a “real” job instead of fighting harder to do what I needed to pursue neuroscience. Or if I should have gone to a small liberal arts college typically favored by English majors — if that would have opened more doors and pushed me more writing-wise. If I’d minored in Statistics when I was a freshman, would I have found a corporate job that actually fulfilled me in a way that marketing didn’t? What if I’d tried out for the cross-country or track team at Cal Poly? Would I maybe be a coach or trainer now?

But the fact is — I didn’t do any of those things. For better or worse, I made different choices, and they’ve led me here. Three months ago, I wasn’t happy about that. Now, I am.