Saturday, February 16, 2013


I’ve learned, through a series of scientific experiments, that bosses prefer for you to get to work on time.  They don’t usually like it if you show up around 8:30; they want to see your butt in the chair at 8:29.

I don’t want to talk about it.

Anyway, Tuesday morning I was on track to be in the office on time when I rounded the corner in view of Lake Michigan and a gust of wind tried to knock me over.  There was a tiny little lady standing at the top of the driveway to the apartment building next to our office, and she waved me towards her.  I walked up and asked if she needed help.  She wordlessly reached out for my hand and grabbed it tightly.  I supported her as she walked down the driveway and expected her to release me; instead, she motioned for me to turn left and she shuffled forward, occasionally pointing where she wanted me to go, keeping a wiry grasp on my hand the whole time.  She spoke a little English so I got to know some of her background as I walked her to Metropolis Coffee where she let me go, pointed at the door, and said, “I go here.”  We had spent fifteen minutes walking to the coffee shop and I was very late for work, but I didn’t feel the least bit guilty about it.  Instead of being frustrated, my heart was warmed by the demands she made of me.  That is the second time in a month an old lady has stopped me and asked for my help walking, and as I walked back towards work I thought about what I would have done had I been her.  I almost certainly wouldn’t have asked a stranger for help.  Or even a friend.

I’m so proud.  I would have tried to make it on my own, even though the wind would have probably introduced my face to the sidewalk.  Just two weeks ago I carried a 50lb air-conditioning unit across town by myself, even refusing help when a stranger stopped and offered it.  My back hurt for a week afterwards, but I couldn’t allow myself to ask someone for assistance.  When I do, I feel as though I shouldn’t.  I think I must do everything on my own.

Is that really the healthiest society?  One in which each person is capable of achieving only what they can achieve alone?  Weren’t we meant to give and receive help?  It may just be my personality, but I’m never happier than when I’m helping a friend.  So why do I feel as though I’m a burden when I ask for help myself?  What is this disease that makes us think we are islands, though we are surrounded by land?

“Sometimes, reaching out and taking someone's hand is the beginning of a journey.

At other times, it is allowing another to take yours.”
―Vera Nazarian

Sunday, November 4, 2012


A couple of weeks ago I had one of those days.  One of those days that make you wonder if humans are capable of goodness.  One of those days were you can’t remember what beauty is.  One of those moments where, because someone you trusted has turned out to be the complete opposite of what you thought, you wonder if all other relationships are false too.

The day followed me, leaving traces of itself on each day after and I realized it wasn't going to go away on its own.

So I decided that each day, I am going to find something beautiful.  I am going to look for the thing that brings tears to my eyes because it’s so wonderful and that day won’t bother me anymore.
Here is today’s:

That's definitely beautiful.

Monday, April 2, 2012

To a mouse

"Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face."
-Mike Tyson
I'm allergic to planning.  Usually when I go on a trip, I don't care to decide ahead of time at which restaurants I will eat, which buses I will take, or even which sights I will see.  I find it infinitely more enjoyable to be enticed by the smell of garlic to a tiny restaurant with better food than I'd ever dreamed of, when I didn't even realize we were near Little Italy, or even the awfulness of a tripe-filled hot-pot I hadn't planned on trying, but had to laugh about for years after.  I've always enjoyed the unpredictability of traveling without an agenda.

Since certain shocks have left a bitter taste in my mouth, I've had a recent attack of pragmatism.  I've tried to wipe away any uncertainty.  I don't want any more surprises. Ever.  So I've begun planning my life, including my trip to New York City last week.  I had every minute of every day planned.  I bought travel books, did research online, and printed off subway maps, itineraries, and necessary tickets for my traveling companions.  There were to be no surprises.

Those "best laid plans" lasted about fifteen minutes into the trip.  Our flight was delayed 3½ hours due to the kind of thunderstorm that only March in the Midwest can produce.  We missed our second flight but all in all it was a minor speed-bump.  I've done enough traveling in situations where delays are the norm rather than the exception, to let that faze me.  We adjusted our schedule and got ready to go to Broadway.  The carefully planned schedule grew hazier with each passing hour.  Rather than being delighted with each new scene, I was frantically trying to figure out how to get us back on schedule, back to the place we were supposed to have been.  I didn't enjoy anything when I had mapped out exactly what the day should look like and it didn't resemble my dreams at all.

It became apparent to me that this was no way to travel around day 3 of New York City.  We arrived in Central Park with three specific goals.  The first was the literary walk section of the Mall, the oldest and prettiest pathway through the city's enormous haven lined with statues and quotes from literary masters.  Upon approaching the beautiful literary walk, we were halted by large white vans, bright lights, and two scrawny guys standing in the middle of the walkway.

     "Excuse me, but we're filming right now, so we have to ask that you turn around."

Normally, this would have delighted me.  I would have asked countless questions and been immensely interested in the TV show being made right before our eyes.  Instead, I was frustrated that I wasn't going to see one of the things I'd researched and looked forward to.  I considered my options:  if I ignored the guys and walked right past, I was pretty sure I could out-muscle either one in a scrap.  I was also pretty sure my sister and roommate wouldn't want to explain to the police why I had gotten in a fight in the park.
We turned around dejectedly and searched for Strawberry Fields.  At least we would be able to pay our respects to John Lennon.  Strawberry Fields wasn't hard to find, since there was a crowd gathered around the mosaic where a man in a Hawaiian shirt with too few brain cells was explaining his carefully crafted shrine of flowers, an apple, a hand-sewn strawberry, a walrus, and a variety of other chintzy knickknacks.  He had made an intricate peace sign over the "imagine" mosaic with roses, and was telling stories about the late Beatle that grew less believable with each breath he took.

This was an interesting fellow—a fascinating specimen of humanity I should have been entertained by.  Instead, I was fuming that he was ruining yet another of my plans:  a picture with the artwork.
In an even worse mood than before, I turned towards my last hope for Central Park:  the Great Lawn.  When we approached the beautiful lawn upon which so many artists had performed concerts, so many New Yorkers had lounged in the sunshine, I was looking forward to settling down for half an hour with one of my newly-purchased books and feeling the bliss of soft green grass.  Instead, a fence encircled the entire lawn with a warning sign that the grass was freshly planted and couldn't be walked on for a few more weeks.
It was after I left the park in a foul mood that I realized none of this would have upset me if I hadn't built up expectations in my mind.  The way I normally live, I just let things drift to me and enjoy them as they come.  
There's a certain poetry in finding life to be a pleasant surprise rather than a disruptive deviation from your careful plans.

Certain areas of our lives must be planned.  Without goals and dreams, we would wander aimlessly and accomplish little.  That does not mean that I should hold rigidly to those plans as though they are the only possible way to enjoy life.  An unexpected turn of events can bring with it joys I'd never dreamed of, even if it completely ruins the careful map I'd drawn.  Thank you, New York, for reminding me to be flexible.  Just because I didn't get the job I thought was the only possible avenue to happiness doesn't mean an equally wonderful opportunity isn't out there waiting to be discovered.

Saturday, February 11, 2012


Fully furnishing an apartment without spending a dime of your own money is not an easy task.  I challenge anyone to do a better job than Sam, Rachel, and I have.  So what if our kitchen table rocks so much that setting a drink on it could be hazardous to your clothing?  I maintain that the uneven kitchen floor is the culprit, not our rickety table.  So we only have one chair to use at the table?  We sit on the floor around the coffee table and eat family style, like the happy Egyptian family we are not.  Free coffee table with only one leg?  Easiest of them all.  Behold: the majesty of the stack of books.  It's functional and cute.  Adds a whimsical touch to our apartment.  What happens when you break two legs off the microwave stand in the process of sweeping the kitchen floor?  Why, books are the answer to that question as well, just as they are the solution to nearly every problem in my life.  I use books to prop up my table and I use books to prop up my broken spirit when I cannot stand.

"Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them."
-Lemony Snicket

Thursday, February 9, 2012


I don't make new year's resolutions.  I think they are doomed from conception and can serve only one purpose:  that of a guilt-factory.  I was once told by a very dear friend of mine (one of the three blessed people who happen to read this blog) that this is a character flaw and something I should focus on immediately.  Perhaps my new resolution should be to make resolutions?

I justify my disregard for the collective starting-over period by saying that I do decide to make changes whenever the need for one happens to hit me in the face, no matter what time of year it arrives.  The problem is that whether it be on January 1st or August 20th, the intended change usually fades within about the same period of time.

Until now.

Some time ago I stumbled upon a wonderful little website,, on which you can type exactly one page, which it will save for you.  If you haven't written yet when the reminder fairies wake up, they send you an email called your "gentle reminder" to write your page that day.  Those emails are very easy to delete.  If they stack up in your inbox and you suddenly have fifteen of them, there is a magical button which blocks them from ever showing up in your inbox again.  New year's mumbo-jumbo defeated!  Then I remember that I asked them to infiltrate my inbox, so that I would actually be productive with my otherwise wasted life and I beg their forgiveness.  This new-found discipline lasts another couple of days until I get annoyed with the "gentle" reminders yet again.

That cycle might continue indefinitely if I hadn't made the mistake of telling that same nagging (and very beloved) friend that I was going to write a book.  Now, for some reason, he keeps asking me how that book is coming.  It's not that I don't want to write a book--I very much do.  It's that working 40 hours a week has got to be the surest way to suck all the creativity out of a person and leave them a dry shell of a human.  By the time I get home I'm so tired of listening to the insane ramblings of our needy clients that all the creativity I can summon is depleted when I add a jalapeño to whatever I'm cooking for dinner.  That little addition is all I have left to contribute to the world.

Peer pressure is a lot harder to resist than an electronic reminder, so I've begun writing my book for the third or fourth time.  If it lacks the spark of humanity that makes literature worthwhile, I blame this system of slavery we expect adults to join in order to be considered "responsible."

"Each person's task in life is to become an increasingly better person."
-Leo Tolstoy

Thursday, April 14, 2011


"Sometimes decades pass and nothing happens; and then sometimes weeks pass and decades happen."

I'm in love with adventure.  I've spent most of my life chasing recklessly after it, and it's led me all over the world.  In the last nine months; however, adventure been conspicuously absent from my life and I'm almost grateful.  Since I got back to the States my days have become somewhat monotonous and for the most part I've been glad for the respite.  Adventure itself is a wonderful thing, but it can be synonymous with turmoil.  It's good to have a rest from the whirlwind that the last two years have been.

I'm still enjoying my job more than I imagined I would, but in the last few weeks I've felt the familiar stir of restlessness reawakening.  I need to have a goal, a purpose, something to bend my life towards.  So, I have started taking steps towards getting myself in grad school in the next few years.  I signed up for the GRE this week, and am researching schools and programs related to English.  While on OU's website trying to learn about their Master's program, I clicked on the link to Frequently Asked Questions.  Check out the answer.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Here is my blog post for the asking

Americans are good at being everybody's friend.  They want to talk to you, even if you're a complete stranger. From the waitress bringing their steak, to the cashier at the grocery store, they will always ask, "How are you?"  I love this about Americans.  We want to be friendly to everyone we meet.  What I never realized before I left, was that it often only goes ¼ inch deep.  I can talk to a stranger for 10 minutes about the movie that came out last week or the crazy weather we've been having, but I'd better not start to tell them about about the year I've had.  The look on their face turns to fear if they think they'll have to emotionally invest.  Keep it casual folks!

I just came from a place where you don't smile at people you don't know.  You don't stand politely back and let them go ahead of you--you shove them out of the way and jam your elbows into ribs in an effort to give yourself the 30 second advantage.  The difference is, when you break past those barriers and get to know someone, you go straight to the heart.  Once someone becomes your friend, they are there for life--whether you like it or not.  It is not a casual thing.  Soon they're coming over uninvited, eating your food, asking you all kinds of personal questions you never wanted to answer, and borrowing your things.  They are no longer your friends, they are your family and it's forever.  I love the deepness, and the closeness those relationships contain despite the lack of personal space or privacy.

It came as a shock to me that the American way seems so foreign.  I grew up in this land.  I should know how it works.  Yet I was annoyed and surprised as people asked, "How are you?" as they walked past without pausing to hear the answer.  I am used to my friends coming over without calling, when I'm in the middle of eating dinner, plopping down on my couch, and not leaving. They spend 6 hours finding out how I am, instead of 3 seconds.  They know all my quirks, from my habit of using hyperbole in every sentence to my crazy need to be better than everyone else at speaking Chinese.  They know that "How are you?" can't be answered simply.   It can't be boiled down to 2 words.

Great relationships take time to build.  So though I reminisce about the deep friendships I left behind, I need to keep in mind the fact that it was almost a full year before those friendships were born.  But like Tom Petty said, "The waiting is the hardest part."

"How poor are they that have not patience!
What wound did ever heal but by degrees?"
William Shakespeare