The Colorful Crooked House

adulthood, Community, culture, Home, photography

One of the not-so-joys of living in a neighborhood that was once quiet and up-and-coming, and is now a petri dish of dual-income millennial hipsters is the rage that comes with driving. In the past year speed plateaus and extra speed limit and stop signs have been installed around my apartment, which has thankfully slowed cars down, making it less a game of Frogger to get to and from my home by foot. But the biggest addition was designing this triangular shape in the middle of the road to basically make cars slow down, veer left, and stop at this new intersection. I find it entertaining. It’s like a driver’s education obstacle course. Others hate it with a passion. Bicyclists have a nice little cut out they can zoom through that can separate them from the impatient drivers. The middle of this little triangular jut-out (I don’t know what to call it) has been filled with planters, chalk drawings, a LA-Z-BOY rocking chair with a dummy sitting in it, and now this crooked little house.



Freaks and Geeks and Affairs

adulthood, family, television, therapy

I’m watching an episode of Freaks and Geeks where one of the kids sees his friend’s dad hugging a woman who isn’t his friend’s mom. The poor kid is crushed because he always thought this dad was cool. It made me think of how affairs don’t just affect the immediate family. The trust a child has in a friend’s parent is huge, and when it’s broken it’s confusing and sad.

In 4th grade, my best friend’s mom was having an affair while her dad was deployed – ouch! Her mom was nice, fun, and cool. But it all changed when she and another neighborhood mom started dating these other guys. I saw enough (nothing bad) of the affair that I kept my distance. I did mention it to my mom and my mom told me I couldn’t hang out at her place for a while. Months later, when my friend’s dad got home from duty, I biked over to her house and noticed everyone had been crying. In fact, I may have just arrived when all the shit went down. My friend told me her parents fought, and that was why there was a hole in the closet door. It was rough. And at some point, the other neighborhood mom (who lived across the street from my house) definitely got into it with her husband.

So, the point of all this is that affairs have a huge blast radius. It breaks up families and messes with kids ‘heads.

Fighting Reality

adulthood, anxiety, art, creativity, empowerment, Health, Learning/Education, life, mental health, Motivation, photography, process, therapy

As you get older, the questions come down to about two or three. How long? And what do I do with the time I’ve got left?

-David Bowie

The death of a celebrity is a time when the world gathers to talk about how someone lived, and how that person’s existence changed their lives in some way. It’s a time of mourning, but can also become a time of self-reflection.

In 2014, as the men’s World Cup was coming to a close I thought about how the next one would be in four years. I’ll be 40 when that happens. 40. 4-freakin-0. So many thoughts have been running through my head since then:

Where did the time go? What have I been doing  with my life? Why am I still “figuring it out?” How is our 20 year high school reunion is just around the corner?

But if there is anything you cannot dodge, it is the passing time. So what do you do? You may have read about how I found a book that inspired me to quit my day job and pursue photography. I did indeed do that. And I was successful in achieving my first goal of showing work at a coffee shop in the 8-week course period. It’s been encouraging. I’m lined up to show work in Feb, June, and July!

However, it has not always been smooth sailing. I have been managing a constant level of anxiety for years now, and it rears its ugly head in times of transition and daring. On great days, the existence of it is barely there. On bad days, my body can shut down to the point where I can’t leave the house and don’t know why. And when that happens, the squirrels in my head start running around and judging me. They ask similar questions to the ones above, but with awful, shaming tones. Read them again like it’s a bully yelling at you, and change instances of “I” to “you”:

Where did your time go? What have you been doing  with your life? Why are you still “figuring it out?” Your 20-year high school reunion is just around the corner! Yeah. It sucks.

One night the self-shaming tone that lodged into my head was “You’re getting old.” I had been told I was getting old when I was 21-22 and living in Hong Kong (different standards). Back then, I could ignore them. It was easier to see that my life was ahead of me. I had years before I needed to “figure it out” and “find myself.” At my current age it is difficult to make that statement without a hint of heavy-handed cynicism.

I am not a spring chicken. My 20s are gone, and my 30s are nearly behind me. When someone tells me I’m getting old, it is very easy to just nod and agree and accept that my knees periodically do not want to do what they used to (like flex without pain). I’ve never seen one’s 40s as a person’s prime (MANY have proven different). As I pursue a career to sell my photography, it is very easy for me to see myself as having showed up really late in the game. I worry about how I appear in gatherings when the sea of people around me are in their 20s. They are vibrant, endearing, and have a childlike curiosity others just eat up. And let’s not forget that they probably look super hip and fashionable. I recognize that there are overly-eager ones who visibly can’t keep their cool,  but my brain can only see how everyone else is probably better than me at everything. They are more in-the-know, are well connected, have been invited to fabulous parties, and have a higher alcohol tolerance (getting older really sucks in this department).

But therein lies the danger of accepting the generalization that once you reach a certain age there isn’t much reason to try so hard. The scary state of mind when you start to believe that what you do is aesthetically pleasing at best, and bland and uninspiring at worst. With a little more thought, you’d think that it makes more sense to haul ass and get your life going given you might have less time than others. Then there is the thought that age really is just a number and a state of mind. I believe that we were born into this world with pure joy. And even though that joy took a bruising throughout the years, as long as you’re breathing there is still time to nurture it and bring it out to shine again and again.

Now, I know that I have to acknowledge setbacks, physical and emotional. But I want to use the awareness I worked so hard to harness and exercise, and turn toward my challenges, and change the messages that are coming at me to ones of courage, love, patience, hope, and faith. I can be whoever I want, whenever I want. I can’t slow down time, so I need to think about how I can take advantage of what I can do with what time I’ve got left.

Not convinced success can’t be achieved after 40? Check out Richard Feloni’s post in Business Insider UK titled 24 People Who Became Highly Successful After Age 40.

Do you have ideas you want to manifest into awesomeness but don’t know how to start? Here’s the 8 Weeks to Badass DIY coaching program I mentioned earlier by Jen Sincero.
Others who charge my mental energy. No Surprises here.

Brene Brown – Renowned researcher story teller who opened my eyes to the power of vulnerability and shame.

Elizabeth Gilbert – Who didn’t read Eat Pray Love? Her TED talk on creativity was a way to shift how I looked at creativity as something that wouldn’t kill me.

Debbie Lacy – I’m still getting to know her work, but think Lunch Challenge: What do you want?, a short talk she gave at TEDx Olympia was insightful.

So it begins

adulthood, humor, life, Uncategorized

I am not too far from 40. It’s a little hard to swallow this fact. It’s made more difficult when your partner finds these on your head. It’s not surprising. Having given this only a smidgen of thought I’m thinking it’s alright. When I hit 40 I’m going to not pull or dye my white hairs as its pattern right now would have me rocking a shock of white bangs. Here’s to hesitantly walking toward and luke-warmly embracing the big 40.


adulthood, history, Home

9th grade was a big time for me. I attended three high schools. The longest part of that year was spent in the Bay Area, when I lived on Treasure Island. I went to a school in the city. I made friends, but I mostly hung out with other kids who lived on the island. Two of them were my closest friends at the time. One died a year or two after I moved away. The other has started a family in another part of the country. They were good friends. I was definitely a nerdy kid. I was in band and jazz band. But being nerdy doesn’t mean you don’t have hormones. Nothing happened in that department, but “crushing” was had. And as much as I want to get into all of the various emotions that filtered through me in my early teen body, I won’t. Instead, I’ll just say that it was a huge moment in my life with lots of drama – good and not so good.

For some reason, that time in my life has taken up a huge space in my chest. Mysteries after my friend’s death, not knowing where the other moved off to, and for some reason my thought that it was all a dream. Luckily, I found one of them five years ago after a lot of internet searching. We’ve emailed a few times, but we’re in different spaces with different lives and families now. But he does remember that time and knew about our friend dying. A huge weight was lifted off my shoulders after hearing from him and validating that what I know was not fiction.

So, on my recent trip to San Francisco, I took a bus out to Treasure Island to see what it looks like and reminisce about old times. It is no longer a military base. The Government sold it to the city, and the units are still being lived in (at least the ones that haven’t been torn down to make way for new development). It’s quite different, as far as how it feels. It feels civilian and evacuated. The view of the city, though spectacular, lends a feeling of sadness and longing. What brightens it is Bliss Woman, a statue from the 2010 Burning Man. She was such a stark contrast to an area that looked like sprawl-in-transition.

I wanted to walk the Sea Wall one more time; a stretch of walkway that wrapped around most of the island. My friends and I used to climb the fence to get to it because it separated it from the housing units and didn’t have doors in the middle. Unfortunately, most of it was closed off to construction. So instead, I walked down streets wondering if that’s where I used to play. It’s been over 20 years since I lived there. I looked closely at housing units wondering if that was one friend’s house or another’s. I remembered where I lived and walked further into the neighborhood and found my family’s unit. It was the only one on that street with a tree in front of it. I remember looking out of my bedroom window past the tree’s branches and out to the Richmond Bridge that you could see in the distance between two other buildings. It was boarded up halfway. No one lived in it. I stood there quietly and took it all in. Inhaled. Exhaled. Took pictures. Remembered. Cried. So much happened in such a short period of time. So much that left deep grooves inside me filled with a plethora of memories – ones I cherish and ones I’ve learned to accept happened. It was quiet except for the whoosh of the breeze in my ears that whipped my hair around, and lifted the scarf off my chest.  I walked away and caught the next bus off the island. From a pier on Embarcadero I looked across the bay to the island and said “goodbye”.

Bliss Woman

The view from my old room.

View from my room. 1993.

The view from my room in 1993

9th grade cursive.

What’s in the box?

adulthood, life, Loss, Love, photography, therapy

I brought home one of the many boxes my parents have been good enough to keep stored in their home.

I found this poem from Sherman Alexie’s book Reservation Blues that I wrote out on a large piece of paper that I remember having taped to my wall when I was 23. Knowing more about Alexie now, this poem means something completely different to me than it did when I wrote it on this piece of paper.

Dancing all alone
Feeling nothing good
It’s been so long since someone understood
All I see
Is why I weep
And all I had for dinner was some sleep
You know I’m lonely
I’m so lonely
My heart is empty and I’ve been so hungry
All I need for my hunger to ease
Is anything you can give me please


Yoga and Movies: A self-prescribed therapy

adulthood, creativity, Health, life, Motivation

Change is hard to get used to. I guess I didn’t realize how hard it would be for me, personally. So, professional advice brought up the fact that physical activity helps bring balance to my life. You know, like, exercise. Now, I can’t say I’ve run a 5K or even jogged around the block. My daily form of exercise is running to my car to move it before the 2hr limit is reached.

So what would work? I looked back on when I was working full time, was reminded that I did really well when I was practicing yoga. Yoga was a time to calm the heck down, go inward, do ONE thing at a time, and just breathe. I found a place to go to, signed up for a few sessions and find myself in an amazingly centered state of being (well, as centered as I can get). The classes I’ve been going to are purposely for me to focus on myself and just be quiet. Yoga is a Yin that is very much needed for my very much Yang personality. In addition to the calm it brings to me mentally, I’ve also learned new stretches that help with the parts of my body that need attention because of the work that I do (photography works my shoulders, wrists, neck, and fingers). So, finding time to not only quiet my mind, but also breathe out tension in my body is very beneficial when I do it for an hour or more. I’ve made the decision that yoga needs to be a life practice. I will sign up for classes as I can afford and will practice at home as much as I can.

I’ve also remembered that I love watching movies with the director’s commentary on 🙂 I put in Newsies by Kenny Ortega, a classic from my childhood with wonderful music, acting, singing, and dancing. In the behind the scenes footage, Mr. Ortega fostered a sense of family and provided ways that the actors (who were all young boys) could relate to the characters and the time period (1899). I listened to how much effort went into making that film from costumes, setting, dealing with 90-100 degree weather while dancing, and the challenges they faced like small time frames to complete scenes, etc. Yesterday, I watched a 4-hour documentary on Woody Allen and what went into making all those movies he’s made for the past 40 years. Hits or not, Mr. Allen cares more about making a movie he likes and wants to make and not movies he thinks others will like. What does it matter what other people think? He just wants to make movies.

So what does this have to do with me? Well, as I’ve found out, the yoga helps me center and give myself the time to be kind and patient with myself. The movies help me realize that creative projects, or art, are efforts. A whole lot of resources, collaboration, compromise, and limitations stood in the way before they could even get a glimpse of what they really envisioned. It reassures me that their creation didn’t just fall from the sky and look perfect. For me, it helps me be patient with myself if I don’t get the results I want with my photography. The most I can do is show up and do what I do. If I like it, I like it. And it shouldn’t matter what other people think. We are in a world where everything we do, for some reason, has to amount to making money or making a name for ourselves. That thought to me is completely overwhelming. The more I think about it, the more I wonder where I’m going, the more I get lost. I just need to concentrate and focus on the present and be there for myself. I won’t be able to nurture my soul if my attention strays in hundreds of directions all at once.


adulthood, life, Motivation, therapy, work


What I listened to the year after I left a serious relationship and decided to be independent in Berkeley.

I may have posted this poem before, but it’s from when I was in that transition. Somehow, I feel similar to this time, but in an adult way. After all, I’ve learned from that time and have lots of resources to get me through so much, but there is still that feeling of feeling a little lost and questioning my path. Anyhow…


    24 wanting to be clean
    to be smart
    to make decisions wise
    hearing the shit fly in my face
    brutal honesty flashing “bling bling”
    “you gotta be smarter than that, girl.”
    “how are you going to…”
    “what are you going to do…”
    “have you figured out…”
    hands to my head, I close my eyes
    take my deep breath
    … [inhale]
    1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10
    … [exhale]

    Can’t I make a mistake
    Someone understand!
    My insides unfold exposing everything I am
    the shell breaking
    the skin peeling
    Can you see me now?
    Can you hear me now
    can anyone understand?

    “I’m not hear. This isn’t happening.”

    A sponge I am to the world that surrounds
    I soak up caffeine, nicotine, and bad pick up lines
    But I do not fall
    my roots so strong, my character unyielding
    my mistakes are my lessons
    my trips become rolls
    I pop back up, ready.

    -August 2002

Cat Stevens

adulthood, life, Loss, Love, music

When I started a fairly serious relationship toward the end of college, my life just got difficult. Not in a bad way, but in a “I need to break free” kind of way. I wanted to leave the comfort of the poster-clad walls of my room, the fact that food was always cooked and ready to eat, that I had my parents to fall back on. I wanted to have my own place, make my own decisions, pay rent, work a job that left me exhausted, experience the world. My person I was with shared this song with me and it very clearly spoke the emotions that I felt about my life and relationship with my parents. These words are harder than maybe what I was feeling, but the idea that there was a standard path that was safest to take instead of taking my own unique one resonated strongly.

Father and Son:

So, I left my parents home. I left it for my relationship. I moved across the globe thinking that was my destined path. But after just over a year, I realized that that path wasn’t mine to take, either. The relationship ended (in the best way a relationship could end, with mutual feelings that we had “died”). And with the end of this, he shared this song:

Wild World:

And after all of that, as I wore my own path in the dirt of life, there was this song that always leaves me free to believe that my destiny is my own:

The Wind:

And such is life. There is a time to fight for what you want, realize that you are getting into something bigger than yourself, and taking charge to know and accept who you are and be what you want to be. I’m probably over simplifying it, but…