Monday Wisdom

This morning a friend was telling me that her friend had lost 60 kilos.

He’s been talking about losing weight for years, but he’d rather take shortcuts. You know those pills that make it so your mouth burns when you eat?


Anyway, he finally just started eating less crappy and doing some exercises and he’s lost 60 kilos.

So much of a good life is just doing shitty things we hate.

This year I resolved to do the things that bring long-term happiness, and a few days later Gretchen Rubin said this, “Don’t do something to make yourself feel better that in the long run is going to make yourself feel worse.” And that’s what I’m trying to live by.

Because it’s never the fire pills that work.

It’s always the broccoli.

This is a curated blog that goes off-roading

Did y’all have a good holiday season?

Actually the hus and I aren’t technically through with ours. We were too busy and Christmas was too crazy so we moved it to January 6th. The house is still decorated, and we’re still busy, and lacking in both a plan and gifts.


That’s okay. And if we don’t exchange gifts or have a fancy feast or stockings; if we don’t get anything for anyone else or bake or cook or do anything, really, other than observe–on our time, in our own home–a little moment for our second Christmas together; and if “we always have next year” doesn’t apply because we die before then, let it be said here that that’s okay, too.

There are a lot of rules and expectations around the holidays, a lot of demands, a lot of stress and entitlement and money. You can get caught up in it and miss the whole beautiful point. We didn’t want to do that.

So we didn’t.

More to come this gorgeous, new year of 2016.

Stay tuned!

Forget lessons! Make (up) music with your child

Jamming with your toddler: how music trumps reading for childhood development

Simple and fun musical activities can have enormous power in developing numeracy and literacy: try improvising a counting song, or making up new rhymes to familiar tunes.

But the true power of musical play lies in the unique blend of creativity, sound and face-to-face interaction; the learning is strengthened by its basis in a positive, empathic emotional relationship.


Long before conventional music lessons start, jam sessions with your toddler (not of the messy sticky preserved fruit variety) can be an enormous developmental asset.

You might even find it a two-way street – if children can teach adults anything, it’s how to play. So take the time, play with your child, and “play” music together.

Three Pieces for A Wise Life

To ponder: What do you do when you have nothing to do? And other questions taken from a mini-course for college students designed to help them decide their majors and the lives they want to lead. But really they’re good questions to consider at any age.

To hear: The RobCast

My uncle once told me that you have to have something to look forward to each day because if you don’t, it’s going to be a crappy day.

Happily for all of us, the RobCast is released every Monday morning.

Rob Bell, creator and host of RobCast, is a pastor, and I am not in the habit of listening to pastors in my free time (or, really, my church time). But I dig Rob Bell. His stories are often straight from the Bible but though you may have heard them a thousand times, you may as well have never heard them before.

#14 You Are Always With Me And Everything I Have Is Yours
This iteration of the Prodigal Son isn’t about sin and repentance, but transactional faith, inherent worth, and the stories we believe about ourselves.

#45 Grief Loss Joy
This is an interview with an expert on grief but, in a year of loss, I found this interview comforting and insightful.

Putting the Fun in Funding

putting the fun in funding happy baby in air

This American Life AND Serial on Pandora!

Not only is this uncharacteristically awesome news for a Monday afternoon, but this is also what makes This American Life (TAL) so compelling: it is constantly pushing the boundaries of radio.

Ira Glass pretty much invented the sound of modern radio; early last year they announced they’d be parting with their long-time distributor PRI to distribute it themselves! They taught us all how to listen to podcasts, a tutorial which we’ve no doubt to thank for the wild success of their spinoff show Serial (they launched a spinoff show! ) which went on to set the record for first podcast to reach 5m downloads  and, according to the above-linked NYT article has been downloaded over 100 million times(!) making it the Most Popular Podcast Of All Time.

The most interesting part of all this though is the business behind it. TAL has been innovative in funding practically since their inception. Ira Glass tells in this interview with The Public that in the program’s first year, they made these funny little radio spots for stations to play during their pledge drives–but if the station accepted the spot, they had to accept the show. He says about half of the stations that carried them the first year did it because of those spots.  So, TAL doesn’t do pledge drives. Once a year (if necessary, which it wasn’t last year) they take a minute of air time to ask their listeners to contribute to the show. That’s it! Just once! And it works incredibly well. Serial came into being because of a surplus of TAL money, and is able to continue thanks to its listeners.

So I’m really pleased with the announcement that these two amazing, creative, innovative, thought-provoking, compelling, interesting shows are going to be widely available. I’m even more pleased that those geniuses at TAL have devised yet another way to make public radio not just sustainable but profitable. It means they can devote more resources to producing more amazing work.

There’s a greater application here, and it’s one I hope we see more and more of: creative people getting paid their worth. We’ve seen it over and over again with This American Life. I’ve seen it with vloggers like Hank Green and his numerous spinoffs. I love seeing people in industries–especially creative, but also philanthropic–coming up with clever ways to make their work profitable. Maybe one day we’ll figure it out with education.

How To No

It’s Monday! Again!


Well as we do around here, let’s start off with some Mondayspiration to start your week off right.

How To Say No When It Matters Most by Tim Ferriss 

Tim Ferriss is one of those people that you either love or hate. I fall into the love camp. Not for his podcast, which I only sometimes listen to, nor for his books which I’ve never read, nor his TV show, nor for any of his investing.

I love him  for his terribly brilliant, fascinating blog. It’s just so interesting. Where I just like to live and enjoy life, he deconstructs his life, analyzes the data, then optimizes it for efficiency. The closest I’ve ever come to that is sleeping with my fitbit.

So this may be the most analytical piece of writing on the subject of saying No that you’ll ever read, and it might be the longest. But at least skim the whole piece.


All of my biggest wins have come from leveraging strengths instead of fixing weaknesses.

-The marginal minute now matters more to me than the marginal dollar.

-Are you squandering your unique abilities? Or the chance to find them in the first place?

“From 2007-2009 and again from 2012-2013, I said yes to way too many “cool” things. Would I like to go to a conference in South America? Write a time-consuming guest article for a well-known magazine? Invest in a start-up that five of my friends were in? “Sure, that sounds kinda cool,” I’d say, dropping it in the calendar. Later, I’d pay the price of massive distraction and overwhelm. My agenda became a list of everyone else’s agendas.

“Saying yes to too much “cool” will bury you alive and render you a B-player, even if you have A-player skills. To develop your edge initially, you learn to set priorities; to maintain your edge, you need to defend against the priorities of others.”

See what I mean? Smart guy.

Related Recommends: I really love his posts on language acquisition. Super interesting and helpful!
I’ve been on his email list for a while and it’s fine–just blog posts, mostly–but. You sign up because the signing bonus freebies are awesome. Excerpts from his book, 4-hr Chef audiobook, and lots of really cool links.
Speaking of his email list: I look forward 5-bullet Fridays.


BONUS: Sh*t nobody says

Because I think we need a post-Halloween Monday pick-me-up. And I am still not tired of this video.

We should move to Oakland!
Hey, does anyone know how I can make papyrus my default font?
I’m hoping he asks me to help him move .

Be vulnerable. Be terrified. Beyonce.

“I feel very vulnerable when I perform a song for the first time. I may not say it, but I am terrified. Oh my God what am I doing? Why am I here? What am I doing? Why did I do this?
I like that nervousness. I don’t like it in the moment. But I know that it just means that I want it and it means that it’s challenging to me and I’m doing the right job.
You can’t be too comfortable and too confident.”

I think that all of Beyonce’s success comes down to that quote. She can sing and dance and go platinum with no hype, but it is her ability to create in the face of fear (alongside fear?) that makes her Queen.

Also of note:
The bit at 5:00 when he says, What’s your name? And she says, Beyonce. Bet she hasn’t had that experience in a while.

Did you watch to the end? That moment made me cry too.

Insight: She couldn’t get the look, the dance she wanted so she had her people find the dancers in the video. Which took four months. And then she flew them in from Africa, for a routine that lasts less than a minute. A routine in which not only is Beyonce the focal point, the center stage, the only dancer you can see with any clarity, but in which the dancers heads–the ones that took months to find and then were flown halfway around the world– are not fully visible(!).

And yet, the video would not have been the same without them. They brought something that no one else could bring. It’s subtle, and it’s the kind of attention to detail that has put her at the top.

That, and the real live lion she brought on to set for a four-second shot.

Motion Pictures 2015


Remember in Harry Potter how cool I was that photographs in the wizarding world moved? And, in some cases, were interactive? And that it kind of blew us all out of the water, that in 1999 (was it 1997?) someone had even conceived of moving snapshots.

Tonight my husband called me on his way home from work and told me to press and hold a live photo (the post-click world is weird)–any live photo–and watch what happens.

I found a picture I’d sent him yesterday. I put my thumb on it for a few seconds.

Okay. Um. What am I supposed to be seeing?

Hold your thumb there. Are you holding your thumb there? 

I’m holding my thumb! Maybe it wasn’t a live photo? I flicked to one I was sure was alive. Nothing is–and then I saw it! Our selfie swirled into a mini film. I held up my phone and could see myself mouthing “ready, set, go” and then a quick pose followed by our laughter as I brought the phone down to review the photo.

It was so candid. Our photo was clearly posed, and not all that well (judging from our smiles I snapped it a moment too soon) but that two second moment? It’s so fleeting and funny and light.

I keep replaying it over and over, wishing it were the moment I could post to instagram.


Things I would do with lots of time and money and will and energy and

Relocate pictures from living floor to living room walls.

Fix the clothes in my To Alter pile.

Buy some killer winter boots.

Put up some bookcases. Fill with books.


Read more blogs.

Sort through our pictures from the past three years and get them printed on wood.

Get the others framed.

Figure out gallery arrangement.

Hang photos.

Find gorgeous, perfectly-sized, reasonably-prized mirror for dining room wall.

Figure out which artifacts to display on new bookshelves, arrange around dining room mirror.

Repaint the trim from off white to proper white (sigh).

Replace the bulbs in my kitchen. Actually, I could do that tomorrow….


Hire someone to replace the bulbs in my kitchen

Hire someone to put up the pictures in my living room, and pick out three good bookshelves for me to choose from.

Choose best bookcase, send person to store to buy, bring home, and assemble.

Hire same person to hang above-mentioned ideal mirror.

Can that person wash and fix my leaking car, too?

And act as my body-proxy so that my clothes can be altered by an actual seamstress(/-ster) that they might hang correctly when finished.

Embiggen our walk-in closet to accommodate my growing boot collection.

Clean the dirty white carpets upstairs.

Replace with hardwood floor….

…while we’re on vacation.

Plan dinner for in-laws.

Host dinner.

Attribute credit for delicious food, gorgeously decorated, perfectly-lit home to me. Me, in my well-fitting clothes as I regale my company with tales of my travels abroad.

Me, of money, of time, of enormous energy, willpower, and—



Another Year Closer to 30

In my last year of college I shared an apartment with two roommates and together we had a blog. I blogged more frequently then than ever in my life and they remain among my favorite posts ever. The fun of that time in my life shines through all my writing. Which is funny because I remember it being a time of heavy thoughts; of pondering the big, wide, messed up and beautiful world, and how I fit into it; of fear, and of restlessness.


I turned 28 yesterday. Summer birthdays are great because you don’t have to go to school! But they’re not great because everyone is gone on vacation. Or, you’re gone on vacation and so you don’t get to have parties with friends, or celebrate on your actual day with loved ones. Or maybe you did, but I spent every birthday from 10-17 at summer camp, and a whole bunch of birthdays after that in all different places….Actually, a whole lot of different places. Look at this:

18 Stockton, California. Friends.
19 Provo UT. Roommate/best friend.
20 Stockton, California (though this birthday fell the week before my sister’s wedding and I don’t recall actually celebrating it). ?
21 Salt Lake City. Roommate/still not quite friend.
22 Amman, Jordan. Miranda, who didn’t even know it was my birthday because we weren’t really friends. But we ate at my favorite Chinese restaurant and watched Pirates of the Caribbean 3.
23 Prague, Czech Republic. Fellow conference-goers.
24 New York City. My BFF Joe, and then two guys I didn’t really know that well but who drove up from Philly to eat Thai food and fro yo with me!
25 Dubai,UAE/Payson,Arizona). I think my actual bday was in AZ, but I’m counting Dubai here because it’s the first time I celebrated with friends in years, and it was my very first surprise party! And we put on my favorite movie and I promptly fell asleep. Ah, to be 25 again. This one was also notable because my beloved now-husband flew out to AZ and celebrated with my parents and grandparents, whom he had never before met. And also I had only known him 6 weeks, but that’s another story.
26 Nizwa, Oman. Only one student knew it was my bday, and she bought me a box of cereal. It was a completely dull birthday, but I really loved the cereal. (Thanks, Nelle!)
27 Houston, TX. My then-fiance and I cleaned out his closet, then went out to dinner.
28 Houston, TX. My now-husband was in Kansas City, but my dear in-laws bought me cake (2!) and sang me Las Mañanitas and Joyeux Anniversaire and Happy Birthday and I blew out imaginary candles. The hus and I destroyed an ice cream cake. And I helped my friend pack up her kitchen.

What a list, huh?

I was thinking today about a bucket list I made when I was 21 and itching to get out of college and explore the world. I reviewed it a few years ago and remember being impressed with the progress I’d made, but couldn’t remember the list or the progress! So, here we go. Another list of my life:

1. Graduate May 2009.

2. Anna, don’t fail math.  Worked my butt off. Earned my B+. Graduated on time! Yay!

3. Make it back to Yemen. Ah, one day Inshallah :/

4. Master Arabic. In retrospect, this was rather an ambitious goal. Maybe I’ll modify it to: gain a level of proficiency sufficient for professional use. 

5. Read all the books on mah list (which has grown to include Hemingway’s For Whom The Bell Tolls and Wicked. Thanks, Megan! 🙂 I haven’t re-read any of the books I included, but I did read Hemingway (or most of it?) and started Wicked (weird. didn’t want to finish.) and got to all but two of the books i intended to read. Remaining: Loser’s Guide to Life and Love (what even is that book?) and Peace Like a River (another one I started and didn’t finish. Still have it on my bookcase.

6. Go to Grad School, ya bum! Applied 3 times, accepted 2 times. Still haven’t gone.

7. Go Skydiving. Should have gone before leaving Dubai. D’oh!

8. Get SCUBA certified I may have to amend this too as I’ve heard that people with crappy sinuses aren’t allowed to do the course due to exploding heads?

9. Then dive in the Red Sea and Australia. Still haven’t made it to the Red Sea. Did cruise the Nile twice, though, and spend a few days in Queensland, Australia. 

10. Make it back to Guatemala, Egypt, Italy, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman (Salalah), Turkey and Mexico. Not bad, eh? Still want to make it back to all of these places, and Fiji. 

11. And while I’m at it, see North Africa (Morocco, mostly), Russia, Hungary, Switzerland, Spain–aw heck! All of Europe, Kenya, Australia (some of), Brazil, Honduras, Beliz, CUBA so that I can be just like Matt. We’ve got tentative plans for some of these. Also: Belize*.

12. Live in New York. One day, Anita. 

13. Spend some time as a professional writer of some sort. Or have writing be part of my job. OR! Just make some sweet moolah for blogging. Really, any combination of money and writing would be *great*. Link coming soon.

14. Spend an extended period of time (read: more than two weeks)traveling abroad solo. 3 weeks in 2011 mostly solo. Lived abroad solo for 4 years. Spent a combined total of much much more than 3 weeks traveling abroad solo.

15. Maybe stop talking so much about travel. Yeesh. So for #15: develop new interests! Today the cable guy asked me what I did for fun and I said, I don’t have fun. But still, I’m giving myself credit for this because interests I have that I didn’t before: podcasts. Yoga. Cooking…Spanish?

16. Work in DC. For a human rights organization. Tried that route in 2009 to no avail. Don’t care that much about this item any more, but would be happy to do a stint in DC.  

17. Live outside the country! For a few years. Done and done.

18. Hike all around Southern Utah (Canyonlands, ZION, Bryce, Arches). So on my list still. Did manage arches. Will accept visiting the above places as fulfillment of item. 

19. Take up surfing. Even for a day. Yes!

20. Oh yeah, um, get married. TDH, that’s all I ask. Okay, and smart and funny and interesting and adventurous, too. But that’s a topic for a different post 🙂 Oh, all of the above and more. You did so good, college Anna. You’d be thrilled at what’s in store. 

21. Eat lunch at the top of Half Dome. No, but did finally visit Yosemite!

22. Watch the sunrise over the Empty Quarter. Why did I make these so specific?

23. Eat Nutella on French Bread while looking up at Mt. Rushmore. Mmmmm. May change the food items here, but definitely must see Mt Rushmore. 

24. Road Trip the entire length of Highway 1–So Cal to Canada. Woot! (hey…sounds like a good post-grad vay-cay! Huh huh?) Okay, maybe not to Canada. But all the way up the California coast, then Oregon and Washington and ultimately wind up in BC. Totally great idea. Also, college Anna, you spend a beautiful week in Vancouver for a conference in 2011 (you’re a paid traveler!), an enriching and enlivening weekend in Portland in 2012, and one of the most amazing weeks at Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California. You do still have to make it Seattle. I’m thinking that that road trip is a little long, but spend more time on the California coast? Definitely. 

25. There I go with the traveling again. Um, maybe I should take a break and think things over when I’m not ITCHING TO GET OUT of this great little city I call “home”. Hokay, see ya next time! I had a very different writing voice in college. Also, this is 24 things before 30.