Wednesday, December 31, 2014


It's that time of year again: a time to make new year's resolutions. If you believe in that stuff. I just read an article entitled, "100 Inspiring New Year's Resolutions" - that's right, 100. I'm not going to have even ten resolutions this year, let alone 100. That seems extreme to me (and with a high failure rate, something I don't like to experience).

I have had the same one resolution every year for the past five years. I think it's a good resolution. I am mindful of this resolution most every day. It's a small, manageable resolution. Every year I resolve to eat fruit every day. I honestly try to eat some form of whole fruit (fresh, frozen, juiced, blended) every single day. And, most days, I complete said resolution. I like attainable, small goals. The ones where I don't feel bad about myself if I don't complete them. Instead, I simply feel a little better (and healthier) if I do complete them. Simple enough?

But back to these 100 resolutions. Some of the resolutions on the list? Practice an instrument more (or take up a new one). I'm going to absolutely pass on this one. As much as I love music, it's not in my plans for 2015. Maybe that'll change, but I'm not setting myself up for a resolution on the last day of the year I am not simply not feeling. Only 99 resolutions left to go. Go on a blind date. Should it be with someone I don't know? Can my significant other attend as well? I think I might skip this one as well.

When did this whole resolutions nonsense begin? I'm assuming it's because many people like to wipe the slate clean on the first day of a new year. But what happens if you mess up on January 1? Do you throw in the towel and consider the entire year a failure? That's 364 days you must endure knowing you are a failure. Not striving for that broken resolution, living sad and broken. And what if the same thing happens again the next year? Another 364 days of sadness? This vicious cycle sounds awful to me.

Instead, I think day one of a "resolution" starts on the day you want it to begin; on the day of your choosing. Maybe I've been watching too many diet and exercise shows, but I know that the race training begins with your own personal day one, whenever that might be. For many people, I guess it starts January 1. For me, it will begin when my Vitamix blender arrives. That'll be the day I begin juicing. Unless it's not. Because maybe the item will sit unused on my kitchen counter for a month. But then one day I'll use it. And voila, thus will being my day one. With a specific activity. use Vitamix machine every day. This is actually no longer a resolution; I plan to develop a habit. A resolution is "use vitamix," but a habit is "use vitamix one time daily." There's a slight difference.

I've heard it takes 21 days to form a habit. I'm not sure this number makes sense to me. I definitely did not run for 21 straight days before I made running a habit. I cooked a lot more than 21 times; I read a lot more than 21 books. I took a gym bag with me to work about three times before it became habit. Maybe I'm ahead of the curve on this one activity?

The web is now filled with 21 day habit apps. The funniest to me is the web app 21Habit

There's nothing wrong with writing down your goal. I also like how the day one starts when you decide it will (good minds think alike.) And I don't even disagree with the next part of the app, where you pay $21 at the beginning of the month and for every day you do said activity (or not do said activity if you are trying to quit) you receive $1 back to you. 

I have heard pretty strong evidence (and seen it myself) that human behavior is stronger when a financial commitment is involved. Even if it's just $1 (although I've never seen it work for less than $5, it just might), it's frequently enough for a person to commit and follow through. What I don't understand is how the accountability works. 

In my experience, accountability makes all the difference. If you don't have to answer or pay a price for something, you will (or won't) do it. It's a completely internal compass you possess. You know right from wrong (or at least you should) and will act the way only you can control. So would I use this app and then lie to get my $21 back? Depends on how badly I want to a. achieve my goal, b. have the money, and c. not feel guilty about cheating. I would venture to say that the majority of the world's population would lie and get the money back. Haven't we all fibbed once or twice before to cancel an unwanted hotel reservation or get something for free? I know I have.

But back to the 21 days. Thanks 21Habit (and, and Go F#^ing Do It) for organizing my resolutions and turning them in to habits. I don't think a single one of you will work. But at least Go F#^ing Do It uses accountability in its metrics.

The projected likelihood of continuing a behavior, such as meditation

But I'm back looking at the beginning of my 21 days. Okay, I'll give it a shot. 21 days of Vitamixing. But I'm not starting on January 1. I'm starting when I decide to start. I just don't know when that will be exactly. But once it is, I'm sure to form a Vitamixing habit. 

Because 21 days is all it takes, right?

Tuesday, December 23, 2014


Life is a balance of holding on and letting go.

Meaning different things in different contexts, balance is an interesting word. Imagine yourself on a balance beam. Then think about your bank account balance. Then start thinking about the always present "work-life balance." Already this word is all over the place, infiltrating itself into everyday life.

There are a few instances in which my balance is right on. I'm great at balancing my checkbook. I love spending time with my friends and alone. I'm slowly getting better at the tree pose in yoga. Maybe some day I'll be able to hold a headstand or walk a tightrope.

But there are other places where my balance is way off. I often get my diet out of balance; I'll eat whatever is in front of me. And my work can overpower my personal life; my habit of working evenings and weekends throws my personal life well off balance.

But nowhere am I more out of balance than when there's movement involved. Inevitably, I'll get motion sickness. I have found that most people fall somewhere inside one of two categories: those who suffer from motion sickness, and those who do not. I know a few people who have no motion problems. They're happy to sit backwards on trains, read in the car, and rock on any boat (even in the most choppy of waters). To these people I say the following: you have absolutely no idea how lucky you are. Try, just try, to think about what your life would be like if every time you moved you felt queasy. Doesn't sound fun, does it?

Because it's not; in fact it's debilitating at times. And, unfortunately, most of the people I know fall somewhere on the motion sickness spectrum. I would venture to say that growing up I was probably at about a 5 on the motion sickness scale from 1-10, 1 being mild, infrequent sickness, and 10 being daily all consuming sickness. When I was a child, I thought I had it bad; I had to sit in the front seat, facing forward, looking out the window. I had to chew mint gum and once in a while take dramamine. But I could (and would) travel no problem, taking a plane, train, or automobile without giving it a second thought. I could enjoy a good roller coaster ride just fine, depite having a few motion sickness limits (like no reading in the car.)

But now, I can definitively say my motion sickness level is at a 10. Yes, that means it's a daily disability. If you were to ever travel around with me, you would notice the following: I drive. Always. I take dramamine every day, if my driving is not a possibility. I don't go on roller coasters, let alone boats. I have to sit forward on the train, at the front of the bus, and will throw up if I'm not able to control the motion sickness. I won't even go to a 3D movie. I have prescription motion sickness medication, both pills and skin patches. I even have those sea calm bands, although they don't even work for me on BART. You're lucky if they work for you.

The scopolamine patch pictured here causes blurred vision. 
I learned this while traveling in Cambodia.

Why do I have such horrendous motion sickness? As much as I want to blame my inner ear, I only put the blame squarely on my parents. Both my mother and my father suffer as severely as I do. It's a running family commentary about the places we have thrown up, which between us covers just about everywhere. Some of my top motion sickness travel destinations include Peru, Alaska, Israel, and even on my way to work (in the car driving down 280).

As I previously mentioned, I often get my diet out of balance as well. I think this is somewhat related to my motion sickness issues. If I'm eating too much rich, fried, heavy food, I'm much more likely to get ill while moving. If I eat unhealthful food for more than a day, I'll feel ill. If I drink alcohol, I'll get sick and throw up. Perhaps this is my body's way of keeping me healthy; because I don't drink. And I try to control the amount of junky food I consume (even though I love it so much). I'll never understand how my friends can have alcohol while flying. Alcohol is the most potent cause of my vomiting I've ever experienced. And then you put those two together? Talk about a toxic cocktail. The only thing I want while on an airplane is a little ginger ale and to crawl up into a ball, throw up, and get myself off the plane as soon as possible.

The other kind of balance that comes to mind when using this buzzword is the "work-life balance." I'm not sure who coined this term, but it's come up in a few (or all) recent job interviews. I always answer with honesty; that I'm always working on my work-life balance. I still believe in something I discovered in college about human beings; we are always managing work, love, and housing. And at least one of these always seemed to be in flux, needing my full attention. Plus, I only felt I could tackle one at a time. As I've gotten older, it's become more about the balance between work, family, and money. And I thought I had it rough when I was in my 20s. I had no idea. I feel like I am always focusing on these three items all at once.

Here are some interesting statistics from the OECD better life index that make me feel a little better about the fact that I don't have my work-life balance set.

  • People spend one-tenth to one-fifth of their time on unpaid work.
  • Women spend 248 minutes per day cooking, cleaning or caring. 
  • Evidence suggests that long work hours may impair personal health, jeopardize safety and increase stress.
While I see that life balance is a struggle for most people, especially women, I don't know how to not work every single day until the job is done. I don't, "work hard and play hard." I work hard and play at a normal level. I don't know any other way.

A new colleague told me she keeps normal work hours by accepting that, "there will always be work; but there will always be tomorrow." I don't have such discipline. But I'm trying. Because I love work. And I love life. As long as work and life aren't asking me to drive a train or man the sails. I prefer to stick to solid ground as much as I can. It helps me with my balance.

Sunday, December 7, 2014


My unemployment by the numbers

- 1 lay-off

- 7 months unemployed

- 1 month severance

- 3 trips to Mexico

- Hundreds of job applications submitted and cover letters written

- Rounds and rounds of interviews

- 1 visit to the unemployment development department

- 4 consulting gigs

- 2 phone calls from the EDD to explain my consulting income

- 3 family visits

- 2 seasons of Criminal Minds and House of Cards completed

- 1 matinee (Rosewater - see it!)

- 1 hair donation

- 5 references (and 1 thank you lunch)

- 1 scholarship awarded

- A handful of days spent in only my pajamas

- 1 major house cleaning completed by yours truly

- 1 bout of gastroenteritis (stomach flu)

- 1 garage sale

- 1 marathon training plan nearly completed

- 1 SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) diagnosis

- 30 blog posts written

- Numerous books read - too many to name (and not nearly enough)

- 1 freelance writing gig completed (and 1 story published!)

- 1 dinner at State Bird Provisions

- 3 Bingo nights

- 1 social media campaign launched

- 1 laptop purchased and repaired

- 1 iBook written

- 2 races run

- 2 serious job offers

And, finally

- 1 job offer accepted

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

what time is it?

During my last trip to Mexico, I had the privilege of experiencing a yearly time change; the end of daylight saving time in Mexico. It wasn't until the night before my 6:30am flight out of Mérida that I realized this one and only daily flight to the U.S. was leaving really really early. I'd have to get to the airport at 4:30am (two hour standard early airport arrival time), which would mean leaving the house at 3:30am. Even if you are a morning person, you have to admit that's really really early.

I had heard daylight saving time was approaching (technically the switch off of daylight saving time, on to regular time) pretty soon in the U.S. We do "fall back" after all, and it is the fall. I guess at first I just assumed the U.S. would be gaining an hour the same night as Mexico. But, of course, I was mistaken. Once again, I found myself unsure of what time it was, when the time had changed, and crossing from timezone to timezone over a period of less than two weeks. 

Mexico always changes its clocks at 2am on the last Saturday/Sunday of October. The U.S. typically changes its clocks after Halloween. So, this year Mexico fell back on October 25; the U.S. on November 2. Normally these facts don't matter. Except all of a sudden they mattered to me. Because I was traveling internationally during one country's time change, I started questioning what it would mean logistically. Would I get an extra hour of sleep or would I end up missing my flight? How could I be sure just what time it was?

What I experienced last week in Mexico was a small reminder of the chaos I experienced during an entire year of "daylight saving" time in Honduras. One of my favorite all time Peace Corps stories I referred to as, "the year I had no idea what time it was." I'm not exaggerating. Honduras has become a prime example of many things gone wrong, including telling time.
 I will explain the horribly confusing time change a little later in this post. 

There are actually two different time issues I've been referring to: one is the topic of time zones. The other is daylight saving time.

Look at this map of the world. What are the world's largest (and widest) countries? Do they have more than one time zone?

Furthermore, should some of these larger countries have more than one time zone? Look at China. What do you think?

What is my view on time zones? I'm pro. Here's why. 

There were a few questions I was always asked while living in Honduras. How old was I? Where was I from? How many children did I have? What time was it in the U.S.? 

Yep, I was constantly asked what time it was in the U.S. My answer? Well, that depended. Was I going to give the simple answer or the complicated answer?

The simple answer was, "the same time as here." I mean, Honduras is on CST, which is the same time zone as my parents' home (aka the last place I lived before leaving for the Peace Corps). The complicated answer was, "it depends." Because in reality it does depend; on what time zone you're referring to.

I had a giant world map on my living room wall (and a U.S. map on the other wall). If I found myself in a "teachable moment" as I often did, then I would casually escort my inquisitive guest over to the living room wall and explain about the many time zones in the U.S. It was also helpful in answering the additional questions I was frequently asked, such as, "what's the weather in the U.S.?" or, "my cousins live in Miami, is that nearby?" Geography for the win.

According to World Time Zones, "in order to efficiently use and measure time, everyone in the world would like to fix noon as the time at which the sun is at its highest point in the sky (i.e. when it is crossing the meridian). However, this seems to be impossible without the use of time zones."1 Well said. I think I'll keep subscribing to the time zone concept.

Which actually brings me to the second issue I mentioned earlier; daylight saving time. Currently, the U.S. is not on daylight saving time; i.e. we are not currently saving daylight. 

In a nutshell, the sun goes down early in the afternoon, so we spend many more hours using lights until we go to sleep; non-daylight saving time is significantly less energy efficient. If I go to bed at 11pm year-round, using 2 hours of lights (from 9pm-11pm) is much less wasteful than using lights for 6 hours every night (5pm-11pm). It's simple math. So, I'm liking daylight saving time so far.

But what happens when a country doesn't have much electricity? Well, I can tell you this from experience; when you don't have electricity, you wake up when the sun comes up and go to sleep when the sun goes down. It honestly does not matter what time the clock says; you can call it any time you'd like. You will still wake up when the sun comes up and go to sleep when the sun goes down. I don't know the last time you lived in a town without electricity, but I can also tell you that when it is dark out, it is dark. Pitch black to be exact. And it is not safe to be up and out after dark. There's nothing left to do except head to bed.

Which is why the Honduran government's (pre-coup government, mind you) decision to institute daylight saving, while grounded in energy efficiency, in reality only led to constant confusion. For example, when I lived in the village without electricity, I woke up naturally when the sun rose at 5:30am. The bus into town also came by at 5:30am. But was the bus (since it was run by a "company" and went into "town") now on daylight saving time? Would it come by at 5:30am sprung forward? How was I supposed to know? 

What time is it where?

Imagine this scenario: not knowing what time (the new hour or the old hour) each individual business was using. Honestly, not only did I have no idea what time it was for an entire year but I arrived everywhere an hour early in case they were on the new time. Was the bus going to leave for home at 1pm new time or 1pm old time (12pm new time)? I had no choice but to show up at 12pm and even then the bus drivers themselves wouldn't be sure what time they were leaving. It was awesome. Because I would just take that bus back to the village, where there was no electricity, and just head to bed when the sun went down (which was either 7:30pm new time or 6:30pm old time). Then I'd wake up when the sun came up (which was either 6:30am new time or 5:30pm old time). How are you doing with all this? Does your head hurt yet? Imagine living this way for 365 days. 

I also want to point out something about the sunrise and sunset times I have listed; they are real times. What I'm getting at is that Honduras is almost on the same latitude as the equator. This means that over the course of a year, I knew, to the minute, what time the sun would set and the sun would rise. Honduras always has between 11-13 hours of sunlight every day and 11-13 hours of darkness every day. Honduras didn't exactly need daylight saving time; it seemed run by the sun.

Here's how the internet describes equatorial latitude: If you live near the equator, day and night are nearly the same length (12 hours). But elsewhere on Earth, there is much more daylight in the summer than in the winter. The closer you live to the North or South Pole, the longer the period of daylight in the summer. Thus, Daylight Saving Time (Summer Time) is usually not helpful in the tropics, and countries near the equator generally do not change their clocks.2

I also want to mention the outcome of Honduras' little energy saving pilot. In the end, the program did not save any money or electricity. All it did was create confusion. And let me know that, despite my preoccupation with being on time, it really doesn't matter what time it is. It just hurts your head a little if you try to think about it too much. It also probably means that in order for Honduras to keep up with the rest of the world, most (if not all) of the country should have reliable electricity. But I'm pretty sure that's a different blog post completely.


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

got friends?

I recently found myself in the middle of a sociological experiment. And I'm thrilled it turned out to be an actual empirical experiment, complete with controls, data collection, and results. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The Competition:

Because I can't divulge the details, I'll explain what happened like this: I promised to help a company get votes. This has actually happened to me a few times in the past year. Social media presence is becoming more and more prevalent in our work environments.

If you spend any amount of time online, you've probably also seen ads asking you to vote for an emerging small business trying to win BIG money from any number of business grants. These contests are neat ideas; they have launched some super awesome businesses (as well as some less than stellar ones).

But getting people to vote for a company is not easy. I knew it wouldn't be, but I also had no idea just how hard it would turn out to be. I quickly made my way through all the people I know personally and individually asked every single one of them vote (as many times as possible). And they did. I am honored to call these people my friends. Hundreds of people stepped up to the plate simply because I asked them too. Incredible, yes, but unfortunately not good enough. So next, I tweeted about the vote. I posted it on LinkedIn (and made ALL of these posts public). Yes, I even used Google+, which I'm honestly still not sure how to use.

Then the company searching for votes decided to put some money into the project. It paid Facebook to sponsor the vote getting posts. This means Facebook will put the post on the walls of your friends' friends. Supposedly over 1500 people saw our ads on their Facebook walls. How many votes do you think this got us? I bet you can venture an educated guess.

At the end of a long vote getting day my boyfriend saw me struggling. I had exhausted every personal relationship I had. Who else could I turn to? I'd have to rely on the virtual kindness of strangers. But I kept circling back to the why; why would an online stranger help our company? The truth is, he or she won't. 

So that led me right back to reality. To real people. And then my boyfriend came up with one hell of a "get the vote out" campaign. After giving me his own long-winded explanation of human behavior, his point was that he thoroughly believed a quid pro quo campaign was where we'd get those final votes to come in. So we decided to give his plan a try; we'd offer something back to actual complete strangers.

So first I baked cookies. Then I went out in public and asked people to vote. At the same time (or usually after speaking with a passersby) I was handing out cookies to anyone who wanted one.

I had NO idea if this plan would work. Or if I would get thrown out of the park. Or possibly even arrested. Would strangers actually accept a cookie baked in a total stranger's home? Perhaps I should have brought store bought cookies instead. In the end, I ended up baking snickerdoodle and oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. I made a sign. I generated a QR code. I made stickers. And I placed each cookie in an individual cupcake holder (Costco sample style). I had a stack of napkins. I was going to give it a shot.

The Results:
In the end, we spent $15 promoting the competition on social media sites. 
Conveniently, I also spent $15 buying the raw ingredients to bake the cookies.

Thus, I found myself facing an equal opportunity investment plan with differing strategies. Lining up the digital world vs the real world, which one do you think came out ahead with procuring votes for an unknown company?

According to The Fundraising Manager, "relationships matter." And never have I realized just how much they do matter until I had to reach out to every personal relationship I have.

How did the marketing fare? By the numbers, the promotion of the site to 1500 strangers led to zero votes. Yep, no additional votes.

Standing on the street for 4 hours led to 20 votes. Yes, 20 votes! It doesn't seem like a lot (I got hundreds by asking people I knew), but when you're looking at the amount of votes received by unknown persons, a human interaction makes a difference. 

So there you have it. Go out and bug somebody. They might just listen to you. And if you're lucky, they'll even cast a vote for you. Don't sit at home sending generic requests out into cyberspace. Unless you want to have exactly no more friends than you did before you started. 

This Forbes article is so helpful! Here's why asking for votes while handing out free cookies is more effective than just asking.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

my eleven

When I'm running my weekly long run (we're talking anywhere from 10 to 20 miles these days), my guard drops and the truth of who I am and what I can accomplish comes out. I have heard too many times that running is 10% physical, 90% mental. I have found this to be the case if running conditions are optimal and I can focus on each step I take; counting as I breathe, envisioning myself making it over the hill, adjusting my gait to try to hit heel first once and a while. So yeah, every so often I find myself in ideal running conditions and I feel incredible. But most of the time, runs are hard and my body starts to physically break down. Frequently, running is just as physically challenging as mentally challenging; it's more 50/50 for me. I find myself having to push through the pain just to make it through every run.
Since there is a lot of physical strength involved in running, I take my distance run training seriously. I follow a plan. And because there is also my mental toughness being developed, I read A LOT about running. I read at least five running articles a day, covering everything from the most common mistakes runners make to how to pace yourself while training for your next long race. When it comes to running articles, I don't discriminate; I read them all. But they are all, to a degree, saying the same thing; they are giving the same tips. A friend appropriately pointed out to me that these articles are being published online as pieces from commercial enterprises; basically I need to take what they choose to write about with a grain of salt. The ultimate goal of Women's Running Magazine is to sell magazines. It's not a hidden agenda; it's actually clear and appropriate. So they post clever articles about the ten best running gadgets (really?) and what to eat the week before a marathon. And it can be helpful. But so is actually putting on your shoes (they'll tell you how to pick the best shoes for running, too) and hitting the pavement. 

Typically, a running magazine/blog/article/website will have something super generic, like this article from Active entitled, "10 tips for injury free running."

But by learning to run miles around my town several times a week, here is what I have learned (and some of it isn't pretty).

1. Sprints work. A year and a half ago I started lifting weights with a trainer. I became, and still feel, strong. One of the first and best warm-ups my trainer showed me was running sprints. Run 45 seconds on the treadmill or the pavement as fast as you possibly can, walk fast for 90 seconds, while waiting for my heart rate to drop about 30 bpm (to around 140 bpm). And then once again sprint for 45 seconds again, walk for 90 seconds, repeating this for as long as you like, for no more than 30 minutes. I typically run 1.5 miles in 15 minutes at this pace and I love it. It may at first be hard to make the full 45 seconds (30 seconds is fine, or work your way up from 20 seconds to 45 seconds with time and practice), but it has helped my race stamina tremendously. I ran a 12K three weeks ago and I was so prepared for the shorter distance race that I ran the last half mile in a full on sprint. And I crossed the finish line with a huge smile across my face. Sprinting works for me.
2. Every part of me can sweat. And it does. My elbows sweat. Okay, my elbows probably don't technically sweat, but there is a constant stream of sweat beads forming on and then shaking themselves off of my elbows. I now know that I sweat in places I didn't think possible. And you will too. My hair drips water out of my ponytail. My boobs sweat soo much they chafe. Trust me, NO ONE told me in any article about boob chafing. But it's true, we will all chafe at some point. So run out and buy yourself some body glide and don't be afraid to cover yourself with it. Because it works. "Chafing" is no longer a part of my running vocabulary. No more covering everything with band-aids - I've evolved.

3. My hip hurts when I run. Okay, this I actually did read about in a running magazine. But it's also something important that affects me. Because only my right hip hurts. But wow does it hurt. It has ALMOST caused me to stop every long run I've ever attempted. But it hasn't yet. Instead, my hip just hurts and I deal with it, typically starting mid-run. But it's only on the right side. Go figure.

4. There are runners who race. But there are other runners who don't. I race every once and a while (once or twice a year) because I love the actual race. I race to see the city in the morning. I race to experience the joy of running with total strangers. I race to push myself to my limit. And, as a novice, I race to figure out my pace; to get a sense of just how long and how fast (or slow) I am actually running. But there are many people I know who are true runners that don't ever race. Racing is not for them. But they are more dedicated to running than I have ever been. Non racers run several times a week, and have been for years. And they will continue to run long after I've given up.

5. I do the Gu. At first, I was skeptical of using gels and goos. I can still not need any pre-race prep. Sometimes it's okay just to tie on my shoes, go outside, and run 7 miles. No problem. But on longer runs, I found I was always hitting a half-marathon wall at mile 11. The last two miles were always evil, and felt torturous, and were in the end just too much for me. Until I started running with Gu. Gu helps. Sugar helps. The best long run I've ever had included 2 cookies and coffee pre-run, two Gus during run, and a Gatorade post-run. This got me through my longest run ever. The Gu definitely helped.
6. And cookies help too. Before a long run, I eat cookies and coffee. I have tried all other recommended breakfasts, from bananas to dry toast, peanut butter on bagels, and energy bars. I've even tried salad (an ultra-marathoners go-to breakfast), but I'd find myself throwing up by mile 8 if I hadn't eaten anything. Until I found cookies. A cookie (or four) pre-run has enough sugar to get me through the first few miles happily and don't come back up during the last few miles. It's not the advice any magazine would recommend, but it's what works for me. So I'm going to stick with it. (Runners World actually slightly agrees with me; Eat 2 Run and everyone else does not).

7. I foam roll religiously. This little piece of PVC pipe covered in foam is one of the best investments I have ever made. I love it. I foam roll almost every day. It's not necessary, but I also can't remember the last time my quads and calves have been sore post-run. Foam rolling helps with lactic acid in my legs and helps my muscles recover faster. Foam rolling hurts, at first. But then it's wonderful and I love every minute of it. I foam roll post-run and sometimes even soak my legs in an Epsom salt bath. I have skinny little legs with almost no muscle; my pencil stick legs used to hurt every single day. Now my legs (especially my quads) never scream. Well, almost never...

8. I don't run with an iPhone. And I am in the minority. Because I run outside several times a week, I typically run laps around San Francisco and I end up passing a lot of fellow runners. 90% of those running have their iPhones on them. I, on the other hand, do not. For many simple and personal reasons. The main reason is that it's heavy and bulky. The iPod nano 6th gen (with the clip and Nike+ tracking) is a runner's dream device. I use it every day. It also has incredible battery life; my iPhone does not. It holds 10,000 songs and my iPhone most certainly does not. My iPod Nano doesn't require holding it in my hand or require me to attach a giant armband (that honestly breaks every time) to my arm. So I leave my iPhone at home. Because I do this, you also can't reach me when I'm out on a run. While no one really cares that I'm unavailable for a few hours every week, I also won't post pictures taken during a run. I'd probably like to, but not enough that I would try juggling an iPhone on my arm during a 16 mile run. I only carry my iPhone when I am in a new place, like going on a random run down the beach in Mexico, getting lost on a jog through Lima, or running in the dark (its flashlight is awesome).

iPhone 6s vs iPod Nano 6th gen
Which would you choose to carry on a 10+ mile run?

9. I do run with a safety net; I carry my clipper card. I bring my bus pass with me on every long run just in case. To date, I have never had to stop mid-run nor been stranded miles from home. But in the event that I do have to stop for any number of valid reasons, I know I can always hop on a bus and be home shortly. I did this after my 12K a few weeks ago. The race ended miles from my home and since I didn't have my iPhone with me, I couldn't call a friend or even a cab. So I took the bus. And I was home in a snap. It was awesome. Because going out on a 14 mile run is difficult enough for me, knowing that if I'm having an off day or a bad run, I can always get home. This makes me feel okay. And that takes a load off my already jumpy nerves.

10. I wish all my toenails were gone. Currently, I've only got about seven remaining. And there are another one or two that are so badly bruised they should be falling off soon. The remaining toenails I wish would just hit the road. Currently, having toenails only adds to the pain. If I didn't have any nails on my toes, they wouldn't rub in my shoes and wouldn't cause any pain. And, thus, life would be better (don't worry, you don't have to see my nail-less toes; I don't typically wear sandals). If the first thing that comes to mind when I mention removing my toenails is torture, you would technically be correct. While the ripping off of toenails has been used as a mechanism of torture, simply allowing us runners (or maybe just me) to remove our whole toenails would actually make us very happy.

11. I love to talk about running, but it's not my whole life. I also talk about the book I'm reading, the trip I'm taking, what's new with my family, how things are going with my start-up company, and some of the new volunteer projects I've got going on. But I do talk A LOT about running. I'm not obsessed, I'm just in new territory and I'm scared. It's always in the back of my mind; what does this week look like? When will I fit my long run in? What will I do for my shorter runs and sprints and cross-training? Do I have everything I need to run my best run? What are my goals for the week? These thoughts (and more) are constantly running through my mind. So yeah, I may seem a little running obsessed lately. But I'm new to the run-life balance. I'd like to think I'm getting better at it every passing week.

So that's a look at what running is like for me. We all feel differently about running. But hopefully you too have wondered HOW your elbows manage to sweat. Or perhaps your loved ones also think that when you foam roll you're simply inflicting unnecessary pain on yourself and they will never enjoy doing it themselves. Or maybe you love taking mid-run selfies and I'm nuts to run without an iPhone (it certainly appears that way). Whatever gets you from mile 0 to mile 1 and all the way to mile 26 is what matters. For me, it involves a heavy amount of toe bandaging and dozens of sugar cookies. And lacing up my shoes for yet another 2+ hour run. And loving (almost) every minute of it.

Friday, October 17, 2014


"To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism; to steal from many is research.”
― Steven Wright

I recently began applying for jobs, and I've gotten pretty good at it. I have gone through all the motions, from meeting with a career counselor, to networking myself through everyone I know (and may know) thanks to LinkedIn. I have applied for too many jobs to count, but I'm getting responses. Over the past four weeks I have averaged four interviews every week. I'm talking about all kinds of interviews, from informational to in-person.

This is a very time consuming process, mostly because each interaction requires scheduling, research, and time. I take each interview pretty seriously. Until I don't. Because, inevitably, something in the process will rub me the wrong way. No longer being interested in the position, not being able to come to a consensus on salary, or not wanting to work with the staff are all very solid reasons not to take a job. I have used all these reasons to withdraw my candidacy from consideration. But I have also come across one more reason to run away from any given job opportunity. And that is when I'm given too much homework.

I know it has been a few years since I've set out to seek full time employment, but since when has it been okay for employers to take advantage of candidates? I am actually shocked at the amount of work I have been asked to complete throughout various stages of interviewing.

Two recent instances have stuck in my craw. The first was an interview granted with a wonderful educational organization. Before I even spoke to anyone about this position, I was sent a letter (in the mail) with two items. One was a parking pass for my scheduled interview date and time. And the second was a request to give a one-hour presentation to a board of representatives at the organization. The presentation topic? A complete proposal for a multi-year $250,000 grant, based on the type of programming the organization runs. But I didn't know what type of programs the organization runs. It's not apparent on their non-existent website. I hadn't even spoken with anyone at the organization about the position, let alone what would be beneficial to it. I was extremely frustrated.

But that's not what upset me the most. The most ridiculous part of this assignment was for me to do the work for the organization. If I were to write an incredible multi-year grant proposal under any other circumstances, I would be appropriately compensated. Actually, I have been compensated for this type of work for over ten years now. I am not going to give away my secret grant-writing formula for free, no matter how much I want the job. In the end, I called the organization, left a voice-mail, and bowed out of the interview process. Mostly because I don't want to write grants full time, so it's clearly not the right position nor the best fit organization for me. But also because I was not going to do the work they inappropriately asked of me.

The second homework assignment I received recently was to plan an event for an organization I had been currently interviewing with. I understand the idea of raising the expectations for a candidate in a second round of interviews. But asking me to present my complete event proposal for an event that will be happening early next year is just an absolute abuse of power. Again, asking for all my ideas and taking them to plan an event is not an ethical way to work. It's not how I work. And I wouldn't work for an organization that treated others this way.

What is acceptable is the following: arrive at said interview with a few concrete ideas to discuss, Then, the organization hires me, and I complete said ideas. Sounds like a pretty awesome plan. On the other hand, for me to present to the organization's entire staff for over an hour, lay out how I'd secure each vendor and contact each vendor for an upcoming event is the very definition of work. Again, I'd expect to be compensated. This is true event planning/consulting work. And it is usually accompanied by a large amount of monetary compensation. 

In the end, I wanted the position at this second organization, so I did the work. I presented my event plan, complete with budget templates and event checklists. But the truth is that my heart wasn't in the proposal. No longer did I hope for a job offer at this organization. The idea of free labor is what I expected to provide over twelve years ago when I was an intern. A decade later, I've got two degrees and a world of experience.

Let me make sure I am clear about one thing: I am not saying every time I use my skill set, I should be compensated. I'm not saying that at all. Anyone who knows me knows that I use my knowledge, experience, and passion for good. I am currently writing grants, raising money, designing websites, planning events, and even training a student on the grant-writing process, all for free. I am a volunteer. I am happy to help. But there is a very distinct line for me between being a volunteer and being taken advantage of. When I'm working, there is the expectation of monetary compensation. When I am volunteering, I receive a reward of the non-monetary kind. And that works for me. But I'm not talking about the volunteer part of my life. I'm talking about my livelihood, the money I use to pay my rent, and eat, and pay the internet bill so I can afford to post this blog online.

Plus, it's not an all or nothing job interview homework mentality I'm holding. For instance, I am not against skill set exercises. One company asked me to complete a data merge and collate said data, drawing conclusions based on the data. This exercise took 20 minutes and I was happy to do it. Apparently my Excel skills passed the test, because I was asked to come in for a second interview. Score!

But what surprised me about this data collation activity was the simplicity of the exercise. Granted, I needed to use equations across multiple spreadsheets, but in the event that I wasn't sure how to do this, I could have always used Google. It is common practice for most people I know; if you don't know something, or need to fix something, or have a general question about how anything works, you get on your computer (or phone, or tablet) and Google it. Then you have your answer. I suppose a better test of my skills as a potential employee would have been to ask me, "if we asked you to create pivot tables in an Excel document and you don't know how, what would you do?" I could quickly answer, "I'd Google the question and teach myself the answer." There you go. Clearly I can learn anything I don't know how to do. I am industrious. I will make an awesome employee.

I have used this tactic before. Haven't we all? During a phone interview I actually said I knew how to create pivot tables. The night before I went in to the in-person interview, knowing I'd have to speak specifically on the pivot table topic, possibly even tested on it, I taught myself pivot tables. I know how to use the internet, a skill which will, no doubt, help me secure my next full time gig. In the meantime, just don't ask me to solve your company's issues for free. You'll have to hire me first.

Here is Forbes Magazine's approach to job interview homework:

Thursday, October 2, 2014

read on

“Lovers of print are simply confusing the plate for the food.” 
― Douglas Adams

I've been long overdue for a post about digital books. I don't know why I haven't written about this hot topic yet. Digital books, e-books, i-books. Whatever you want to call them, they are now an integral part of my everyday life.

So why have I been avoiding the topic? Because I don't have any hard set opinions on which is better. 

Here is where I'm coming from (and what I'm debating).

1. I am completely undecided about digital books vs actual books. Because I read both. I know this may be hard to believe, but I currently have two hardcover books checked out from the public library, along with an audio book (which I refer to as a "cd on tape"), and at least a dozen e-books on my iPad (by way of the Kindle app). Yep, I've got books in all formats. So which is my preferred method? I still don't know. I read them all, with no major problems. +0

2. I do not believe there are any long range studies that conclude without a doubt anything about the use of e-books. How can there be? The internet/e-book world hasn't been around long. I'm not saying I don't see any studies posted. I do. It's just that every week a new study comes out, typically contradicting last week's study. How about we hold off on any e-book "conclusions" until significance has been taking into consideration? +0

3. The data does show, however, that reading online does not damage your eyes. I heard this rumor throughout college, as my classmates found themselves needing glasses more and more. This is not the fault of reading on computer screens. This is a result of aging and lots of reading in less than ideal circumstances (too close, not enough light). And I speak from experience: in the fifteen years that I have been reading 8+ hours a day on screens of all shapes and sizes, my eyesight has never gotten any worse. I will need "reading glasses" in a few years, but that's from the decrease in elasticity in the crystalline lens in my eyes, not from a lifetime of reading online. +1 digital reading.

4. I had a horrible first experience reading online. It was in the form of the GRE exam I took my senior year of college. I didn't know until I went to register for the test, but the only way the test could be taken was on a computer. Not a huge deal for the vocabulary section, but a horrific way to attempt to answer the questions about the passage. This was over a decade ago; reading online was not interactive at all. You couldn't touch the screen, let alone highlight a word, see the whole passage alongside the questions, or go back to the passage. You had no choice but to read the passage as it was printed on the screen, half at a time, and then answer the questions on a new page. No exceptions. No underlining, no going back, no fun. It turned me off to reading online for a long long time. +1 actual reading. 

5. The book writing and publishing industry seems to be doing okay with the mass switch to digital books/reading. Unlike the music industry, it's a lot harder to pirate copy a book than a song. I have yet to unlawfully obtain a digital book. It's not a battle I see being waged. If anything, we are seeing more books because of digital publishing. Case and point: Fifty Shades of Grey. Sigh. Not a selling point for digital books. +1 actual books.

Is this what the library is starting to look like?

In summary, the digital world has yet to win me over. But it's not because it's bad for me or my eyes. It's more a behavior change. I mean, eventually my computer went from my desktop, to my lap, to my hand. It appears books are following this same course. I have found that e-books travel well. Although computers/phones/tablets eventually run out of power. And they are hard to take to the beach. And I can't exactly read them in the bath. But they're portable. And they contain entire libraries of books in one single click. So, I'll give digital reading another go around. But for now, nothing beats turning the pages of an actual book.

Final count: 
Actual books/reading: 2 points
Digital books/reading: 1 point

Conclusion: Reading always wins

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

ojo rojo

My last morning in Mexico I woke up with tears in my eye. After wiping them away, they quickly returned. I ran to the bathroom to see what I knew was inevitable; an eye infection. Was my eye going to be red, pink, or white? It was white. Phew, I thought, at least I won't stop traffic with my clearly infected eye. Plus, there was still time to wait before officially declaring myself with pink eye, since it wasn't puffy or pink.

I have had conjunctivitis (pink eye) in more countries than I care to count. If you are not prone to eye infections, they can be scary entities. Many people don't like touching their eyes. And an eye infection scares the sh#* out of them.

I am no such person. I've been getting eye infections my whole life. I've also worn contacts (on and off) since middle school. Sticking my fingers in my eyes is common practice for me. I have been known to put a contact back in during the most precarious of situations. Because, believe it or not, the most dangerous place for me to be in is the one where I have no way of seeing. Without prescriptive lenses, I can't see. I'm not exaggerating. My prescription is in the negative double digits and I have never met a person with worse eyesight than mine. I can't even read the clock on my nightstand without lenses.

What the world looks like to me without corrective lenses.

So what does one do when she finds herself with an eye infection in a foreign land? Oh yeah, to make matters more complicated, I was on a small island off the Caribbean coast of Mexico.

I casually went down to my hotel lobby and told the lovely desk agent, "Umm... fijense que estan infectados algunos ojos." (Translation: Umm, I think some eyes might be infected). She quickly told me about a doctor with morning hours, whose office could be found above a pharmacy three blocks away. She gave me good directions (rare in Mexico), and I headed out.

I found the pharmacy, but I was too early. Doctor hours didn't begin until 10am. I had two hours to kill. No problem, I'd be back. But just out of curiosity, I asked the pharmacist how much the doctor visit would cost me. $35 pesos ($3). Yep, $3 to see a doctor without an appointment. I would definitely be back.

This incident reminded me of one particularly silly bout with pink eye while in Peace Corps training. As I mentioned, I have gotten pink eye about once a year my entire life. Sometimes it's bacterial and sometimes it's viral. I used to get pink eye so frequently, I'd travel with my own bottle of sulfa drops - a miracle cure, depending on the type of pink eye you've got.

I had pink eye during field-based training in Danlί, Honduras. One thing we like to tout about the Peace Corps is the free health insurance. So, I was taken one morning via Peace Corps white van to a doctor's office. The Peace Corps staff member with me thought my "ojo rojo" (red eye) was hilarious and everyone else was pretty much freaked out. I was calm. Another bout of pink eye. Would it be bacterial or viral this time? This particular bout of pink eye left my eye red, puffy, and oozing pus. I know, gross. But it was quickly treated.

Honestly, the worst part about pink eye in a tropical climate is not being able to wear contacts. During my normal life in perpetually cold San Francisco, I can wear my glasses every day. But when I want to swim, or even run a long distance, glasses just don't cut it. And I'm not about to go without. So I put in my handy contacts. And I'm good to go. Until I'm not. Because inevitably, I will get an eye infection. I know I will. And I do.

So why didn't I get LASIK all those years ago? Somewhere in between all that travel, everyday life, and eye infections, my eyesight was still getting worse (along with my pesky astigmatism). My eyesight has since tapered off, but now the years are numbered before I'll need reading glasses too. I know many LASIK candidates who wear glasses for driving now. A few years without glasses? I didn't necessarily need that.

Plus, glasses have become a part of who I am. They are me. Just like having brown hair and brown eyes, I wear glasses. It took me many years to be okay with wearing glasses in public (I worshipped my contact lenses for the 10 years I wore them). And I'll still wear them when playing sports. But I've become okay with wearing glasses. And I've noticed many women have as well. No girl had glasses in middle school. Everyone was getting contacts. But now, I have several friends and even an aunt who got married wearing glasses. After all, we don't expect men to get contacts, even for their weddings. So why should women have to?

The answer is we don't. Despite ridiculous websites like this one, a Wikihow entitled, "how to look good in glasses (for women)." Totally absurd. Just wear your glasses. You'll not only look good, you'll also see well. It's win-win.

I am proud of my decision to wear glasses, even if I'll never be able to wake up and see clearly without them. Even if it means sleeping with a watch to be able to read the time while in bed, or wearing glasses in the shower so I can see where I'm walking (and also find the shampoo). And yes, my glasses break. And contacts dry out my eyes. And my eyes get infected. And I'll never have cool sunglasses (I have prescription ones, but because my prescription is so strong, the lenses are in super small frames which looks silly). But, I'll look like me. And that's what makes me the happiest.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014


During my last trip to Mexico I had the privilege of attending a traditional cultural event: a Quinceañera. Having been to many bar/bat mitzvahs (including my own), I figured I knew a little something about teenage coming of age parties. But having never been to any party in Mexico, let alone a large party in a small Mayan village, I guess I really did not know what I was getting into.

Here are the logistics of a modern day Yucatec party.
1. Party starts at 11pm. And everyone attends (including babies, children, families, grandparents, and even dogs).
2. Dinner is served at midnight. There is nothing to drink except Coca-Cola. Nothing else.
3. Dancing (and music so loud your ears can't stop ringing) gets going around 1am.
4. Party ends anywhere from 6am to 8am.

I left the party at 2am, having to drive half an hour home via dusty dirt roads. I was the first person to leave the party. Eating dinner at midnight left me feeling icky and itching to get home to bed.

Being a novice in regards to Mexican party rules, I was warned ahead of time, "these parties are hard to handle if someone is not used to the hours." So in a sense I knew ahead of time about the late hours. But there was absolutely was no way I was going to miss attending this once in a lifetime Mexican cultural experience.

But did I mention the actual event started at 7:30pm with a Catholic Mass? Oh yeah, I went to that too (to take pictures for the family).

Family photo with the Priest

I also consider myself extremely blessed to have been welcomed in to such an important milestone for this humble and religious family. I haven't known the family long, but they immediately invited me in and treated me like an extended member of the family. This is typical of the Yucatec hospitality I have come to know and love.

But almost nothing else about this 
quinceañera was typical. Beforehand, I decided to read a little about the significance of a 15th year party for a girl. I assumed the importance was because turning 15 indicates the girl is ready to marry. Turns out I was correct. Not too difficult to figure out. And, fortunately, no longer a modern day practice.

I found a lot more about quinceañeras that I didn't know. A quince, "constitutes a ceremony on a girl’s fifteenth birthday to mark her passage to womanhood, to give thanks to God for his blessings, and to present a young woman to the community."
1 Sounds about right. There's more. "The young woman’s fifteenth birthday begins with a Misa de acción de gracias, or mass to give thanks for a completed childhood."1 Check. Next, "around the celebrant are seated her damas (maids of honor) and chambelanes (escorts)."1 Check. But then, traditionally, "the festejada, or adolescent woman celebrating the birthday, is seated at the foot of the church altar resplendent in an elaborate pink or white formal dress."1 Did I see this? No. Pecque wore a turquoise dress.

Pecque and her attendants post-mass

At the Quinceañera I was frequently asked, "do you have this kind of party in the U.S.?" My answer was always, "Yes. There are quinceañeras in the U.S. But we also have additional types of similar coming of age celebrations, depending on the culture. And some people even celebrate the 16th birthday more as a custom than a religious celebration."

Which led me to think about Pecque's turquoise dress. "The origins of [the Quinceañeraare shrouded in the history of the Mexican people. As with so many things Mexican, it combines both Spanish-Catholic traditions with a rich indigenous heritage."1 But there was nothing Maya nor Yucatec about this party. 

For example, men in the Yucatan typically (and often) wear shirts called guayaberas. Women wear white dresses with embroidered flowers called huipils

Lucy in a huipil and her escort in a quayabera              Young Pecque in a huipil with her sister Lucia in a huipil

Five years ago, at her sister Lucia's Quinceañera, Pecque's sister wore a huipil. So did 10-year-old Pecque. Lucia had a traditional Quince, which consisted of a Catholic Mass, family photos, and a small reception on site at the church.

What Pecque had last month was a glamourous party. And not a traditional quinceañera. 

Pecques' attendants, cakes, and gifts

Not traditionally Mexican. Nor Mayan. "Every region in Mexico [has] added their own local traditions and customs to the European-derived balls. Regional and local traditions as well as the economic status of the celebrating family exert an influence on the ceremony, determining the atmosphere of the religious service and the party."1

But this not a wealthy family. They do not travel, don't wear new clothes, don't needlessly spend money. In other words, I have no idea how they could afford this celebration. It was an expensive affair; one in which the tiny little town of Ixil (try to find it on a map) found its inhabitants out dancing at the municipal building until 6am. What was this humble family trying to prove? That they could throw an expensive party for their town? It was a fun event, but at what price?

The morning after Pecque's quinceañera, the sun rose; everyone packed up and went home. And Pecque awoke to find herself no longer the center of attention. Her turquoise shoes, turquoise dress, and turquoise eye shadow were now gone. But at least I was there to take the pictures.