This week has been a week.

It really took me by surprise, that this week’s events would hit me with such force. That a man in Atlanta, who went on a shooting rampage targeting Asian women, would make me afraid, living in my suburb of Seattle.

Afraid. I lived in DC during 9/11 and the DC sniper. And this, for me, is scarier.

I am only part Japanese. But it’s visible enough that many an Asian stranger has asked me about it, asked me if I was part Asian. And their excitement when I said yes! They had found one of their own! I was welcomed into their family.

But I am mostly white, living in white spaces. With white people, who did the “polite” thing, were color-blind, and never commented on race. And so I thought I passed as white among white people.

Then I lived in Texas! I assumed that people who noticed my non-whiteness would chalk it up to me being part hispanic. Because … Texas. Boy howdy, guys, I do not pass for white or hispanic white among white people. And … for those of you that know me, you may be laughing. Because you know my face and its features, and you know that it is Asianish.

So this week, that brought a brutal assault against Asian women in America: that shook me. Because I have that face. Because somebody else’s “bad day” might target me. For something that does not deserve targeting.

There have been so. many. feelings.

Fear. Being in public with a mask on means the only thing visible about my face are my eyes. My most Asian feature.

Confusion. Do I get to feel this way? I am only a quarter Japanese: does that count? Is it enough to be a part of this?

Outrage. That I am JUST NOW learning that this rise in violence against Asian Americans? Nearly 70 percent of it is targeted at Asian American women. Why has the media failed me? Why are they so hung up on 6 Dr. Seuss books that are no longer going to be printed?

Sorrow. For not really getting it before. Like really, really getting it, this fear that too many Americans have for existing non-whitely.

Loneliness. I am surrounded by whiteness. White people. Who feel outrage at the events that have been happening, but who don’t feel this fear.

Jealousy. That my siblings, who are just as Japanese as I am, don’t look it.

Shame. For wishing I could remove my non-whiteness, even if just for awhile, even just until this danger blows over. Because if I were completely white, I wouldn’t have to feel this way. If I were completely white: I would be safe from this.

Recognition. This desire for less otherness, for more whiteness: that is white supremacy at work in my own heart. I have been doing a lot of anti-racist learning these last 6 months and it is hard, at times, to see what living in a systemically racist world has done to me. Being steeped in something so insidious and pervasive, none of us are immune from it. I am glad I have the words now to describe what this is inside of me. I am glad I can understand it. Hold some space for it. But ultimately, get to work on rooting it out.

Anger. For being afraid. For wanting to undo such a rich part of myself. For wanting to be invisible. When being visible: has meant so many relationships that I would not have otherwise. Because existing non-whitely in white spaces can be a little bit scary. And, well, we kind of gravitate to each other (consciously and unconsciously). There is a safe harbor that we find together in our otherness.

Hope. For all of the outpouring of support to Stop Asian Hate.

Love. For my fellow Asianish and Asian friends and family. I see you. And I stand with you.

This week has been heavy and confusing and hard and hopeful. Change is possible and it is happening, and as for me: I plan to be a part of it.


Assemble your team

After a week and a half of being very deeply not ok, I realized I was in way over my head.

I needed a team.

I didn’t know it at the time – I wouldn’t have believed it at the time: but I DESERVED a team. If you are reading this, I want you to know: You deserve a team. You deserve people who have your back, you deserve people who will push you forward, you deserve people who will sit with you in a closet, you deserve people who will be there to help you out of it.

Here’s the crazy thing about anxiety: it’s way too easy to look ok to the rest of the world, when you are super not ok.

It’s way too easy to look ok to people you live with, when you are super not ok.

I mean: the husband knew I was having a rough go of things, on some level. But I had a brave face and was still moving forward and all of my worst, inconsolable breakdowns: they happened in a closet behind closed doors.

He did not know how not ok I was because I was not showing him how not ok I was.

So first team member: I recruited the husband.

My primary care provider had retired, and so I found a new one. Luckily I already had a recommendation from a friend, and luckily, she had openings.

Made an appointment with my gynecologist. Hormones can be brutal.

Found a therapist. Who was TERRIBLE. Found a new therapist.

Who gave a recommendation for a dietician. (That whole not eating thing? I was in a really bad place. The dietician was a God-send.)

And the new therapist also gave a recommendation for a psychiatrist. (I know drugs aren’t for everyone, but – especially if you have a family history of mental illness: consider drugs.)

I reached out to family.

I reached out to friends, especially friends who had BEEN there.

There are people who are part of my team who had no idea I had recruited them. And my team: it was bigger than I could have ever imagined. And they KEPT reaching out to me, even after I found my footing and was in an okayer place.

And I recognize how fortunate I am to have access to health care: I have 5 medical professionals on my team. That should not be a luxury, but somehow it has become one in this crazy world we live in.

Get yourself a team. It is terrifying. There are people who won’t join. But there are people who will! We are not meant to live these lives of ours alone.

You deserve a team.

And once you’ve got your team? Get working on that toolkit.


Assemble your toolkit

This is where the work really comes in. Want to see change? Then … there’s gonna be some work. Hard work. Fun work. All kinds of work, but for the best reason: You.

I tried so many things to find what belonged in my toolkit. So here’s what’s worked for me:

TIPP skills: These are super helpful when you are in full-blown panic meltdown. But: you should practice them before you get to that point. (If you google ‘DBT TIPP skills’ you can find all kinds of good resources.)

The skills:

  • Temperature – change your temperature (i.e., ice pack on the face)
  • Intense exercise – even just 30 seconds of jumping jacks
  • Paced breathing – slow, focused breathing
  • Paired muscle relaxation – work through your body, tensing a pair of muscles (i.e., both hands) for a few seconds, then relaxing those muscles for a few seconds, before moving on to another muscle pair.

My favorite is the paired muscle relaxation. And if you find yourself getting lightheaded doing the paced breathing: breathe out just a bit longer than you breathe in. Ask me how I know.

Quit Stuff: Ok, so maybe this isn’t a tool, per se, and maybe it’s a given. But yeah, clear your plate. A lot of the stuff that is adding extra stress? Even some of the stuff that you usually love? You don’t need to do it. You need to eat; you need to sleep; and you need to shower every couple of days. I’m lucky, in that the husband was able to run a lot of interference for me.

And yeah, it sucks to quit stuff. People will ask you about it. And that sucks.

I quit teaching Sunday school. There were a lot of weeks I just wasn’t there, because, well, uh, I was too busy falling apart in my closet. But then there were weeks I was able to venture outside, so I did! And I would be at church, trying to hold it together for 2 hours … and some people told me how much they loved my Sunday school lessons! And that was really nice to hear.

But then: one Sunday, I was asked point blank: “You are such a great teacher! What happened?”

So, yeah. That … was not my favorite moment. There is stigma around mental health. And around being a quitter. And I was still a very hot mess. I smiled and mumbled something and got outta there.

But today? Today I wish I would have said: “What happened? My anxiety exploded and I needed to scale back.” Because people need to know: it’s ok to scale back when we need to. It’s ok to quit stuff.

Meditation: yup, it works. It takes practice!! If you have a smartphone, get a meditation app. And if you’ve got room in your budget for it, I highly recommend Headspace or Calm. Calm is my preferred option, but you can’t go wrong with either one. For me, the benefit of a paid app is the organization of everything. I downloaded a few free apps, but they were just sooooo disorganized, I found it stressful to dig through it all to find what I was looking for.

What it does: it helps create a distance between your overwhelming emotion (anxiety, worry, loneliness, etc) and your self. There is a huge difference between being worry, and in watching myself be worried. One is drowning; the other is awareness of a wave that will pass, and in being able to ride it vs. resisting it.

Exercise: One thing about anxiety – it can cause a build up of all those fight-or-flight chemicals in your body. And if you never fight or flee … then they just hang around creating mayhem. So exercise! A walk around the block, a full-on kickboxing class, whatever it is: get up and move.

I love the Down Dog apps – if you’ve got the budget for it, and you are a person who loves being told what to do when you exercise (fitness class junkie? fitness dvd user?), then these apps are great. I can vouch for the HIIT, Barre, and Yoga apps. One subscription gets you access to all 3. You set your workout length (as low as 2 minutes, even, I think) and difficulty, and then it just tells you what to do. Every workout is made up on the fly, so its different every time. I love living in the future!

One thing I really like doing is a workout with all 3 apps: 5-15 minutes of HIIT, 5-15 minutes of barre, then 5-15 minutes of yoga, depending on how much time I have. 15 minute total workout? Nothing wrong with that.

Yoga: this one works, too! Yoga with Adriene is free on YouTube. Or the Down Dog app, as mentioned above.

One warning: yoga brings clarity. I’m not sure what it is about all the breathing and the movements and the concentration, but doing yoga breaks loose all sorts of stuff in your head. Clarity is good, but you may need some time to work through it all. So I suuuuper recommend pairing yoga with:

Journaling: There’s just something about pounding out your thoughts, on the keyboard or on paper, that helps focus and shape everything. Some days, it feels like all my inner truths are really held in my pen, and I just need to keep moving it to get them all out. Yeah, I write a whole lotta nonsense. But there are those nuggets that pop out that really make me stop and realize I need to make a change – or that perhaps my changes are actually working.

Bullet Journaling: So along with my journaling, I’ve started using a bullet journal to track my mood and habits. It has been illuminating, to say the least. Being a hormonally-driven lady, after a few months of tracking my mood, I found that there are 4-6 days a month that are low days. And they are suuuuper predictable. So now I mark those days on my calendar, and all those horrible things I tell myself during those days? they are nonsense, I can just put those on the shelf and look at them in a few days and make my decision later. Just the awareness that I have garbage days has made so much difference. I have permission to pause, permission to ignore. And I pause! And I ignore! Mindfulness … there’s a reason everybody is talking about it. (Now I don’t ALWAYS pause and ignore; I’m still a work in progress.)

Meal planning: I have a lot of bad eating habits. But: if I plan ahead, buy food, meal prep, and the meals and snacks are just THERE? Already taken care of? Then I am MUCH more likely to make good choices. And when your body is FED, everything is just so much better. So, so much better.

Medication: The brain is an organ, just like any other, and can malfunction, just like any other. Work with medical professionals to find the right answers for you. One word of advice: if you can possibly not be alone while you work through drug options and doses, don’t be alone. They can have wacky side effects. (They can also have dangerous side effects, luckily for me I just got the weird ones.) Also: TRUST yourself. If something isn’t working, you are the best person to know. Your doctor? works for YOU. If you need to stop and try something new, then your doctor should work with you to find that something new. There are a LOT of options available. Working with a psychiatrist (they are the experts in the brain meds), I found my drug and my dosage. Will I be on them forever? I don’t know. But for now, they are a vital part of my toolkit.

THERAPY: This shouldn’t be a luxury, but … it is. I am so grateful to have access to it. How do you think I found out about some of this stuff I keep in my toolkit?? I mean, I know there’s google … but, there are also experts who can provide specialized direction for you. And also: I am a person who needs to be held accountable. If I know I’m talking to Jenn once every two weeks, then ya better believe I meditate, exercise and do yoga at least once every two weeks …

Experts: There are so many experts out there! Some of them are bound to resonate with you. Keep watching TED talks, falling down internet rabbit holes, reading books, till you find your people. Here are some of my favorites:

Self care alarm: I have an alarm on my watch that goes of Sunday through Thursday evenings at 7:30 pm. (I take the weekends off.) And yeah, sometimes I ignore it. (Sometimes I try to ignore it, but the husband doesn’t let me. Get yourself a team!!)

But: it goes off, and I have a few hours before bedtime to focus on me. Exercise? Journal? Yoga? Buy groceries so I can meal prep the following evening? Pedicure? Blog? Organize my yarn? I don’t have to do all the things all of the time. But I can do one thing, some of the time.

Because I am worth it.

YOU are worth it. Build yourself a toolkit.


Happy Anniversary!

12 months ago today, I fell apart.

Into a million pieces.

I was inconsolable.

I lived in my closet.

I used up all of my vacation time.

I took out a vacation loan. And I used up all of that.

I stopped eating.

And that was all before 2020 really brought it! So … it’s been a rough 12 months. I know it’s been a rough 12 months for all of us, and not to brag or anything … but I really got a running start on it all.

I live with anxiety. That is a thing about me. I have spent 40 years holding it together. When a chink fell off, I picked it up and fit it back in. There were always chinks falling off. But always, always, I held it together.

Turns out: that is not the best way to handle anxiety. Focusing on the superficial means you never really get to the source.

Falling apart is not something I would wish on my worst enemy. Being untethered is terrifyingly lonely. But …. but …

When you are unmoored and broken into a million pieces, with all your bits around you on your closet floor: you get to see yourself.

You get to see what you hold at your core.

And … for me at least: it is no wonder I am an anxious mess. At my core, at my center, the foundation I built everything on top of, I held the ideas that: I am not worth loving. Not worth listening to. Not worth knowing.

No wonder chinks kept falling off! That is not a solid foundation to build on.

It feels absurd typing those words. It felt absurd admitting to myself that I felt that way about myself. Because: those things are not true about any other living soul on this planet, THAT I know. So, as a logical person, I also know that it is highly, highly unlikely that those things are true about me.

The first step to change, to growth, is to really and truly SEE that thing that you want to change. But, oh, there are so many steps to take after that.

Luckily for me, I am a woman of action. When I have a problem, I need to DO something. When I am relaxing, I like to DO something. When I am learning: more DOING.

So, after a week and a half of being the most not ok I have ever been in my life: I started DOING something about it.

I assembled my team.

And I assembled my toolkit.



I’m not a romantic at heart – I don’t believe in soulmates.

I also don’t think you need a partner to be a complete and fulfilled person.

What I do believe, though, is that some people are better suited for each other than others. And that a partner can open up the world in ways you might not have done all on your own.

I needed someone who shared some common ground. Some common interests. Someone who laughed at my jokes. And someone who, first and foremost, respected me as a fellow human being.

Those common interests are what brought the husband and I together. A shared industry; a shared nerdiness; he’s only 8 months my senior, so a shared childhood experience, even if we met after we were very much grown adults.

And so that is what initially joined us – but no two people are exactly alike. (And seriously, how boring would the world be if we all were. Nobody would read my blog, as they would have already written the exact. same. thing. themselves.)

But then, after you have joined: there are the things that are different. The things that have the potential to pull you apart. The things that strain and stretch – the things that are uncomfortable and foreign.

I’ve found that having a counterbalance helps me experience the world in a more, well, balanced way. Turns out, I really do need someone to urge me to spend when all I want to do is save. Someone to pull me back and show me the big picture when I get stuck on one very tiny – and often inconsequential – detail. Someone to help me put down roots when I’m always dreaming about the next place. Someone to remind me to eat when I’m caught up in a project. Someone to push me to make a decision when I want to gather just one more idea, just one more bit of information. Someone to remind me to breathe, and to shower, and to just do the next thing when I’m drowning in anxiety.

It is really nice having someone to split the chores with. Someone to go on adventures with. Someone to share your popcorn and peanut m&ms with (put the m&ms in the popcorn! Salty and sweet, it is divine! You’re welcome … oh, from the husband. I never knew do to that before I met him, now that I think about it …)

But it is even better to have someone to grow with. Someone to pull you to the middle when you’re falling off the edge. Someone to point out another part of the picture when all you can see is one side. Someone to show you that maybe – just maybe – your way isn’t the only way.

Don’t find a soulmate.

Find a counterbalance.

favorite things knitting life texas

Yeehaw and Darn Tootin’: End of an Era

When we moved to San Antonio 8 years ago, it felt like a forever decision. It felt like we were putting down forever roots. We had a house built! I had even thought out how we’d turn the top floor into an apartment for our live-in caregiver. You know, for when we got old and couldn’t handle the stairs anymore.

Funny thing about life, though: you can’t always predict where it will take you.

When we arrived in Texas, we owned two cars. But at some point along the way, with the husband working from home, we decided maybe we’d be a one car household. And so we sold a car.

And after living in our home for several years, we realized: we aren’t the kind of people who enjoy owning a home. There’s so much to take care of on a daily basis – and then when anything breaks, you gotta figure out how to fix it. And: we aren’t the kind of people who enjoy doing our own yard work … or our own house cleaning …. or our own handyman work. Houses get A LOT more expensive when you outsource all the not-so-fun parts.

And so we got rid of half our stuff and moved into an apartment.

You know what comes with apartments?? Free pools and gyms. And a handyman who stops by whenever you put in a work order. I highly recommend it.

But, I digress: Texas. I was talking about Texas.

You guys: this place is hot. Every May, it hits 90 degrees. And doesn’t let up till October. And even well into November, it’s not exactly fall weather. (November 9: it was 84 degrees today. Which is wayyyy better than 94, so I’ll take it, but … eighty four degrees, y’all.)

You can take the girl out of Washington, but you can’t take the Washington out of the girl. I melt, every summer. I get out into that heat, and just turn into a sad puddle.

The winter months are fantastic, though! That is the trade off for the brutal summers, a wonderfully mild winter.

When I arrived in Texas, it was a pretty big culture shock, not gonna lie. Texans take friendly to a whole ‘nother level. I have never talked to so many strangers in my life! At the grocery store. In waiting rooms. In elevators. Standing in line at the movie theater. And neighbors! There’s this thing here, actually meeting your neighbors. Cul de sac parties with the neighbors. It’s pretty wild.

And everybody at church wanted to be my friend! And in the knitting groups I joined, they just all loved me and invited me to stuff! It was … weird. I spent way too long trying to figure out what their end-game could possibly be …. before it dawned on me that it was probably friendship. Probably they, uh, wanted to be my friend.

And the driving! I drove for 10 years in the DC area, so I thought I knew how to drive in traffic. But: I didn’t know how to do it all at 70 miles an hour. Or how to change lanes 4 at a time. (My family all came out to visit one fine March, I rented a mini-van and played tour guide all week. They all thought I WAS NUTS with my driving. B2 swore he’d never move here because of the insane traffic. Where does he live now you ask? Oh, pretty darn close to here …)

I have lived in a few regions in this fine country: the PNW, Utah, DC, and now Texas. And they are all so incredibly different. I know it’s all the same country, with mostly the same language, but there are new things to learn everywhere you go.

In Texas? I learned how to talk to strangers. Me! Talking to strangers! I was the girl in college who talked to no one. In any of my classes. Like ev-er. Unless they spoke to me first. Or we were doing a project together.

In Texas? I learned to drive like a madman. Ok, well, maybe I didn’t quite master it – but I am way less timid on the road than I used to be. And my parents find it terrifying. (It’s fine. My driving. is. fine. I’m perfectly safe out there on those roads.)

In Texas? I learned to let people in. I learned to let friendships grow. I learned what it is to be loved by so many, so easily.

I am going to miss this place. I am excited for the new adventures that await (and for so very few 90 degree days), but I am sad to leave Texas behind. I am so glad for everything I learned. I cherish the friendships I have made here, and I am glad for technology that will enable us to keep in touch. And I am so forever grateful I learned this new ‘friendship’ skill that I can take with me wherever I may find myself.

You can take the girl out of Texas: but you’ll never be able to take the Texas out of the girl.

confession favorite things life tv/movies

What’s in a name?

Dr. Akemi  Togawa

This weekend, the husband and I had a monster movie double feature of a couple of childhood favorites: The War of the Gargantuas and Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend.

I was really impressed this time around with our childhood tastes! Both of these movies are actually a decently good time, even if you aren’t 5 years old.

So the War of the Gargantuas: I remember watching this movie as a child. This is where I learned that monsters live in the mountains. This is also the first and only time I saw someone with my own name in a real-life movie. My parents tell me that I was very worried about Dr. Akemi Togawa. Apparently, I was glued to the tv until I knew she made it out ok.

This time around, as I settled into the movie, I found it odd that they don’t mention the lady doctor’s name during the first half of the movie. It’s all just a bunch of “Dr? Dr.”

And then! And then she falls off a cliff and is hanging on for dear life when the American doctor finally says her name.

As someone who never randomly hears my name unless someone is talking to me: it’s jarring. It’s jarring to hear ‘Akemi!’ yelled from the tv.

And from then on out, it was constant yelling of her name. Pronounced a myriad of ways, but all very recognizable as, well, my name. It caught me off guard every time. Every time!

I have to say, I really am quite used to being an almost-only. It used to bother me, as a kid, when I could never find my name on a keychain. But now? Now, I couldn’t be happier to be one of a few. It’s a small club, but it’s a good one.

favorite things food life travel

Getting to Japan

October the 6th dawned bright and early, after we got on our first leg of the flight to Houston. Very quick hop.

At the Houston airport, we got some yen at a terrible exchange rate. Got breakfast … I seem to recall the first one didn’t work out … we may have eaten two breakfasts? Just pulled up the google maps of the IAH international terminal: Custom Burgers took a really long time and gave us random breakfast sandwiches we didn’t order. So then we headed to Pappasito’s Cantina for breakfast tacos … which I think we quite enjoyed. Google rates Custom Burgers at 1.9 stars vs. Pappasito’s at 4 stars. Checks out.

At any rate, back to the trip: we had premium economy seats! Premium economy on United, so, eh, but the husband wasn’t completely sardined in. The seats were arranged in a 3/3/3 configuration, so we picked D and E in the middle: an aisle and a middle seat. With no one to climb over us, because seat F is also an aisle. (These are important things to consider when on a 12 hour flight.)

Plane food was mediocre. (Seriously, United: other airlines give their premium economy guests the business class food. Just saying.) We arrived in one piece! Yay!

Made it through the checkpoints in our bleary eyed state, found our luggage, then on to find our driver.

Ok, so weird thing about Japan: you don’t book tickets for things on the internet. Like, there’s no e-commerce. Most technologically advanced country in the world, and there’s no e-commerce.

So to get transportation from the airport to our hotel, first I looked at the Airport Limousine Bus, as it came highly recommended by the dad. Their website is … well, not super helpful. They do list some hotels on their site, but apparently not all of them. I asked b2 to take a look at the Japanese version of the site and he confirmed, he did not see my hotel on the list. (Which they TOTALLY cover, I saw their bus at our hotel later. So *shakes fist*.)

Ok, so that was a bust. I then tried to google private car transport in Tokyo and … didn’t really find what I was looking for. I happened upon a message on Trip Advisor recommending this place. Where you enter your ‘massage’ in their contact form.

So … I filled in the form. Expecting a quote? I guess? Got an email back with a confirmation. Also a quote. But a confirmation? And … I never gave them any money. But they promised a driver who would be holding up a sign with my name on it.

I decided to roll with it. Worst-case scenario, there’d be no one there and we’d just get a taxi once we got there. No biggie.

The day before we left, I got another email with our driver’s name. Seemed like it might actually work!

Sure enough, once we were headed out of the airport with our bags, we indeed passed “a low fence where people are waiting. Our drivers & guides wait there also, with the passenger’s name on a board.” Ms. Kisugi was there, in her white gloves and sensible pumps, with my name on a board. And so we followed her to a car.

I had a brief panic that this was some kind of scam, that she’d charge us twice as much once we arrived.

But, nope, we arrived at the hotel, paid her with a credit card, and it was even a few yen cheaper than we were quoted.

So, yes: in Japan, you totally book things via email, and then pay for it later.

Checking in at the Tokyo Prince Hotel was a bit of an adventure. In Japan, people are very polite. But also: there is no customization. No “the customer is always right” philosophy. Our guided tour started at that hotel, and I tried to add on an early arrival through Gate 1, something they usually do. But … not so for this trip. So, eh, I booked my own room through, and figured when I checked in, I’d get them to put us in the same room that we’d be in for the guided tour portion.

Not so. They would have none of that. But they did offer to transfer our bags to our new room for us while we were out and about sight-seeing. And so we took that option.

And then, they took us to our room with our bags! Which was a highly confusing affair.

First confusion: Our room had a main door, then a little vestibule? with a door to the bathroom and also a door to the bedroom. I know shoes inside in Asia is a huge no-no, and so I thought perhaps this was where the shoes needed to be removed? But also, the vestibule was tiny, not meant for two Americans and a Japanese lady, so as I paused to ask if I needed to take my shoes off, I really slowed down our progress. Some back and forth later: no, no I did not need to remove my shoes. So I continued into the room, she brought our bags in and explained the tv remote (there’s a language button! To switch all the shows into English? It’s magical!)

Second confusion: the tipping. I tried to tip. She was … embarrassed? Refused the tip. So I apologized, kept the money, she left, and we had the evening to ourselves!

Dinner was from Lawson’s in the basement. Yes, a convenience store. But don’t knock it till you try it! Conbini’s are all the rage, and their food is actually really good. Seriously. You are gonna hear a lot about conbinis.

Surely I forced the husband to stay up till 7 or 8 pm? That’s the typical travel-fight we have: I can sleep on the plane, he never can, we make it to the hotel and I force him to stay up till bed time. He’s always glad the next day, but man, that first night is pretty rough for us, not gonna lie.

favorite things life nerdly texas

Writer groupie extraordinaire

When I was little, I dreamt of growing up to be a librarian.

To spend all my days in a building of books?! What could possibly be better?

I read my first real-live chapter book the summer after my second grade year. I had moved mid-year, and my second grade teacher had given me “Tee-bo the Talking Dog on the Trail of the Persnickety Prowler.” For real. That’s a real book.

And. It. Was. Awesome. It opened a whole new world to me, this idea that reading was so fun! I had been a very diligent “read to your parents for 15 minutes every week” kind of reader. But, those weren’t real books. Tee-bo the talking dog? Now that was a real book.

And so it started. I devoured all the books, as fast as I could. If it had one of those medals on the cover? Even. Better.

I read everything and anything through elementary, middle and high schools. Our house was always full of books. (Funny story: many of the books came from garage sales. We had a whole collection of sci-fi that must have come from one sale: Arthur C. Clark, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Ray Bradbury. There was no Philip K. Dick. None. I had NO IDEA who Philip K. Dick was until like 3 years ago. All because that one guy either really hated Philip K. Dick, or else really loved him and wasn’t giving up the books.)

And then college hit. With so much reading of the not-fun kind, I lost my reading mojo. For years – it was probably like 5 years after graduation before I really started reading again. (I did pick up the Lord of the Rings books because, hello, movies, but that was probably about it.)

Grown up life doesn’t quite allow for all the reading, all the time that I would like, and as an obliger (got that from a book!) I found that joining book clubs is really the push I need to keep me reading. And a plus: you get to talk about books with other people that love books!!

But with the husband’s new writing career? Now I get to hang out with actual writers. And I get to read their stuff before it’s famous! Sometimes, even before it’s launched out into the world!

A year ago, I had the opportunity to crash a writing retreat the husband was on. An adorable little Texas town, impossibly far away (seriously, I live in Texas, how can I drive for 9 hours and still be in Texas??), and friend of the arts.

And it was awesome!! I didn’t attend classes, but I caught meals and evening keynotes with the attendees. I hung out with actual authors and publishers. (Seriously, they were so awesome, halfway through I realized I needed to stop monopolizing their time so that, uh, actual writers could get a minute of their attention. Oops, I just wanted to convince Jaye that she also needed purple hair. Which totally happened a few weeks later. Squee!)

And the attendees? All aspiring writers, some with books out. And so I bought all the books.

That conference is where I found my true reading passion: as a writer-groupie.

Writers have so much working against them. First of all, they have to, ya know, WRITE a BOOK. That’s hard, y’all. Takes a lot of dedication. A lot of practice and skill.

Then, they have to endure 53 people telling them that they do not want their book. I can barely handle a stranger on the sidewalk giving me side-eye, but to actually have someone tell you that your blood, sweat and tears aren’t worth their time? Beyond soul-crushing. That hurts. Every time.

And then! If you are so lucky as to find a publisher! Your editor tells you all the things that are wrong with your baby. All the ways in which you failed to produce a perfect manuscript. Ouch. A gut-punch after the high of landing a publisher.

And then! When the book comes out! A 1-star review on Amazon. That’s enough to ruin a day.

And I just … I love books. I love the windows into other worlds. I love the windows into others’ souls. I can only be me, living my life, but books … books let me get a peek into others’ lives.

And so by extension: I love writers. There was a world where their book did not exist, and then they willed it into existence. That’s magic.

I love this place I have arrived at, where I can rub shoulders with the magic-makers! Where I can beta-read things and be a tiny, tiny part of the magic. And where I can be a voice of encouragement, because the writer-life is hard enough, man. And the reader life … well, I for one, don’t ever want to run out of books.

favorite things life money

Married? You might need an allowance

It may sound silly, but allowances are a great way to ease financial strain on a marriage.

Allowance. Sounds so restraining. So … childish.

But: Hear me out!

When you have combined finances, there’s a lot of work involved in managing it. No matter what two people are involved, there’s always going to be be a differing opinion on what the money should be spent on. It takes a lot of work to figure out that compromise. A lot of ongoing work.

But for the fun stuff? Everyone should get to do some fun stuff! Without judgment from others. Without guilt that the money could be going to something more useful.

Before we instituted the allowance, I did much of the money management. And whenever the husband asked me if he could buy something, my answer was yes! Unless the money wasn’t there, and then the answer was, not right now, but in a few months. But … I rarely gave myself that same permission. My default setting is to save. To feel guilty for being too indulgent.

And the husband often expressed doubt that we had the money for the things he wanted … and then guilt for buying them. Especially because he could see me doing a whole lotta not buying stuff for me.

It was not a healthy dynamic I was creating. We stayed in our budget, sure, but I was breeding inequality. Totally my fault.

Enter the allowance! Every month, we have two allowance “bills”. One for me, one for the husband. Each for the same amount of money. We used to use separate savings accounts to keep the money in, but now we use ynab to do it virtually.

And this allowance pot we each have? No rules. No judgment. No guilt. Spa days and yarn I’ll never get around to knitting? Go for it! The husband wants gaming laptops and xbox games? Why not?

It may sound silly, but it’s so freeing to have a little pot, all your own.

Give it a try. You might just that find you like it.