The mathz

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I’m on a long flight from LHR-SFO, reading a great book called The Divine Proportion, by H.E. Huntley, published in 1970. It’s about the relationship of aesthetics and mathematics, so of course if focuses a lot on the Golden Ratio.

In the first chapter, the author describes how he fell in love with mathematics. It was at a lecture, during his freshman year at Bristol University and the lecturer, Peter Frazer, wrote a theorem on the chalkboard and became enamored by the simple elegance of the set he had drawn. He paused, then proclaimed how exquisite it was, becoming animated in his exaltations of the theorem’s beauty. The class laughed, but the author was moved.

I get it. I had a similar experience in my freshman calculus class, when Professor Zukowski, who most mornings reeked of alcohol, wrote on the board the first differential equation I’d ever seen, and proceeded to explain how calculus could explain so many parts of our world…it was like I had received a decoder ring for the universe. I had loved trigonometry in high school, mostly the graphing of the curves, but this was adding a new dimension, literally.

In the book, Professor Huntley gives advice to those who might be reading it and thinking of pursuing mathematics as a career. One bit of advice struck me as sad, yet true. He writes, “You may be lonely. Scarcely anyone will understand your work because few will be capable of understanding it.”

I feel that deeply. Perhaps my greatest failure as a parent has been my inability to stir in my children the same love I had for math. Granted, I didn’t fall in love with math until I was in college. And friends will tell you that it wasn’t math I fell in love with, but David Carpenter.

I’ll explain… I was in NROTC, so I had to take calculus. And in my calculus class was a cute, suntanned, shaggy-haired boy with awesome dimples, named Dave Carpenter. He kept to himself, which added to his mystique. One day, he came to class in an Air Force ROTC uniform and I about died…my secret crush was also in ROTC! I finally mustered the courage to ask him about it, and we struck up a conversation. He had dreams of becoming an astronaut, so he was enrolled in AFROTC. I started researching the space program. Most astronauts were former military test pilots who had technical degrees. So I switched my major from art to mathematics. My friends accused me of wanting to become an astronaut so I could have sex with David Carpenter in space.

After the second month of school, I didn’t see him in class. I never saw him in a uniform on campus again. His enthusiasm for the space program had apparently dissipated, or maybe it transferred over to me. I went on a field trip to a few naval air stations over the holiday break and fell in love with flying, too. David Carpenter had been replaced.

It’s funny, I was reading this book about numbers, and then the in-flight TV show I was most drawn to was a show about online dating and algorithms. I took a few notes; my next exercise after writing this blog post is updating my dating profile. On the show, the host mentioned the mathematical formula about rejecting 37% of options and then dating the next suitable person (also detailed in this article). I’ve been keeping a list of the dates I’ve been on; I think I’m around 28, so I feel like I have extra incentive to hop to it and get out on some more dates.

I was also super inspired by the images and figures in the book. I cannot wait to get my art studio in order so I can start a mathematically-inspired series of paintings. I want to do a bunch that are inspired by the golden ratio, and also a series of chessboards. I love that math continues to inspire me in so many ways, which gives me hope that maybe my kids will also eventually learn to appreciate it.

Life lessons from yoga

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One of my goals for 2017 is to establish a more regular yoga practice (along with a more regular writing practice – so far, so good!).

I’ve been practicing yoga regularly for six years. My first yoga class was in grad school, 15 years ago. I had held the typical military sterotype of yoga that it was too “soft and squishy” of a workout, and I thought I’d be chanting instead of working up a sweat (which is my qualification of a good workout). But a friend of mine convinced me to go to a yoga class he had taken and he promised it would be a great workout.

He was right; it was an ashtanga class. For the unfamiliar, ashtanga is hindi for “ass kicking.” Just kidding, but I loved that it was a serious workout. I wasn’t intimidated by the super yogis in the class who could bend themselves in ways I didn’t think possible. Instead, I focused on what I could do that day. I began going to the ashtanga class fairly regularly, as many times as I could on my grad student budget.I loved the muscles I was starting to feel on my shoulders and abs.

Then I moved to California, got pregnant, and stopped practicing yoga. The demands of raising two small children, running a house and managing full-time jobs in tech took up all of my time and fitness fell to the side.

Fast forward eight years to 2010. I was super stressed out at work and my marriage was falling apart. I needed to do something, anything to find some inner peace. I remembered a few co-workers from a previous job who were really into bikram yoga and had recommended it. “Bikram” is hindi for “hot and smelly feet.” Just kidding, but it is conducted in a heated room, which, if not cleaned properly, can get pretty darn stinky. It’s a series of 26 poses, each done twice, first for a minute and then for 30 seconds. The whole series takes 90 minutes, and by the end, you are drenched in sweat and feeling pretty wiped. My kind of workout.

Over the past six years, I’ve improved my flexibility and strength. I progressed to power yoga, which involves inversions and balances – a new challenge for me. One pose in particular had been my nemesis for a long time: bakasana, or crow pose. It’s a balance on ones’ arms, using arm and core strength. I could put my knees on the backs of my upper arms, lean forward and lift one foot off the ground, but I was afraid to lift the other foot because I was sure I would fall forward on my face.

I spent months in class balancing on one toe, so afraid to let that toe leave the ground. See, I’ve never been able to do a pull up. I’ve never had great upper-body strength, so I kept telling myself that I shouldn’t be able to do anything that requires it. But bakasana requires not just physical strength, but mental power.

I finally got tired of not trying and one day, decided to lift up that toe. I balanced for two seconds and then my toes came back down. It was super short, but it was air time and I held the balance for those two seconds.  I was elated; in all those years I’d always leave that one big toe on the floor to balance and support myself. I’d never trusted myself enough to do the full pose. I’d always think, “What if I fall on my face?” and finally I thought, “What if I DON’T fall? What if I can rock this pose and I’ve been wasting all this time doubting myself?” So I did it.

 

The lesson for me? I’m stronger than I realize. And who cares if I fall? I will keep trying, and get stronger, and balance longer.

Yes, sometimes I wipe out:

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but I just don’t GAF about that anymore. Because I’ll get back up and try again. I know I can do it now.

Amélie

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Yesterday, for New Years, the Facebook page for the movie Amélie posted a video of the scene where Amélie anonymously reconnects Bretodeau with his childhood treasure box. Upon seeing his emotional reaction, she decides to devote her life to helping the people around her. The quote with the post was, “New Year’s Resolution Amélie style – change the lives of those around you for the better.”

It’s one of my favorite scenes from the movie, and Amélie is one of my all-time favorite movies. It brings me to tears every time I watch it. I love the beautiful piano soundtrack, the scenery (Paris-sigh!), the characters’ quirkiness, the editing, the cinematography…I could go on and on.

My favorite scene is towards the end, when she’s in the kitchen, fantasizing that her love is about to surprise her. She imagines him sneaking in, and gently rustling the beaded entrance to her kitchen, when suddenly, she actually hears the beads rustle, so she turns around but it’s only the cat. She begins to cry, feeling devastated and sad, thinking that love is just a fantasy for her and it won’t happen. And then she hears her door buzzer – her love really has come for her.

I adore that scene because it reminds me to not give up on finding love. I am hopeful that my love will gently rustle those beads and my dream of finding my partner will come true. Until then, I’ll be baking in the kitchen, singing along to my Awesome 80s Songs playlist on Spotify.

 

Choose wisely in 2017

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I’m reading a book called Presence, by Amy Cuddy – a gift from my manager (thanks, Giselle!). I was inspired by reading about Cuddy’s discussion of power. I used to think of power in the same way I thought about sales…in a negative way. I felt that power was only sought by those who wanted it in order to dominate or take advantage of others. Her book helped me realize that what I used to think of as power is social power, but there’s an inner version, called personal power, that is about self-confidence. Personal power is limitless, unlike social power, which is gained at the expense of others.

If you think of power as being binary, then not feeling powerful means you feel powerless. Cuddy discusses how the feeling of powerlessness causes people to physically withdraw. She cites several studies about subjects who physically collapse into themselves when they don’t feel like they have any power, vs. powerful people, who stand tall, with their chins lifted and chests puffed out.

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I’ve had too many moments this past year of feeling powerless. I’ve felt socially withdrawn. I was often quieter than I should be at work and chalked it up to being new in my role. I know that powerlessness is not doing me any favors.

I’ve also had moments when I felt more powerful than I have ever felt before. I’m at a new company in a job that I absolutely love and that I’m great at. I love my team and they inspire me to be the best manager possible. My kids are healthy and happy. I bought a home all by myself thanks to years of working hard and saving money (and a fairy godmother of a real estate agent who found an awesome property off-market). I’m healthy. I am so fortunate and I fully appreciate that. Yet sometimes, I still let fear creep in. I don’t let it stay for long, and I am much better at recognizing it when it approaches. As much as I can, I choose to push past the fear.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about choices, especially the choices in how I live my life. Last month at work, I wrote a vision statement for 2017 to delineate what I want to accomplish over the next 12 months. It was helpful because it gave me a reality check about how much I can actually do in that time period, and I had to prioritize what was most important for me to accomplish in 2017. I’ve come to realize that I feel better and more productive, accomplished, etc. when I schedule my time and make a plan. And what better time to make a plan than on January 1st?

Many times last year, I’d think about getting up early and practicing yoga or going to the gym, but then I’d stay up too late, looking at social media or reading, and then when the alarm went off at 6am, it was too easy to hit snooze. This year, I’m going to get to bed by 10am so I have a little buffer for reading (but not online!) and I know (through months of sleep tracking) that I need 6.5-7.5 hours of sleep a night. So, if I can get to sleep by 10:30pm, I can get up at 5:30am and feel rested. My body naturally wakes early, often before my alarm goes off, so now I just need that impetus to get out of bed. I need to choose to get out of bed rather than going back to sleep. I will help myself make that choice by putting my alarm on the other side of my bedroom. 🙂

I feel motivated to get it right this year. I’m celebrating a milestone birthday and so I’m re-evaluating how I’m living my life.  I’m pretty happy overall, but I do feel like I could be doing more, especially more for others. Last year, I made too many excuses for myself, instead of realizing the power I have to make better choices. In 2017, I’m going to kick some vision statement ass.

Here’s what I’ll be writing on December 31, 2017:

Work
My team continued to have great impact. We ended the year with a new Help Center, where customers can go to easily get information about our products, find support and become more successful. Our new support experience has been recognized externally and the team has been invited to speak at industry conferences.
We deflected a record number of cases from 1:1 teams and are considered a strong partner to our sales and support teams. We’ve delivered many insights to our product and marketing partners, who also view us as a valuable feedback mechanism, and we’re included in more upstream conversations. The team is happy and feeling fulfilled.
I am leading leadership development training for women at our company and continue to coach co-workers.
I am considered a leader in our company and a valued contributor to my org’s leadership team.
I visited our remote teams once a quarter to help them feel supported and connected.

Family
My kids are now both teenagers! We took a fun family vacation together to Europe and a couple of long weekend trips to Carmel and Hawaii. During the weeks they’re with me, I am able to leave the office in time to pick them up from school and we cook dinner together a couple of times a week.
We welcomed a dog into our family.
I finally met the partner I’d hoped for and we are building a life together. He’s appreciative of all the thoughtful things I do for him, and he delights in and encourages my personal growth.

Friends
I’ve been able to finish furnishing and decorating my house and have hosted get-togethers for my friends.
We did a get-away together trip and celebrated our friendship. And of course, we went to several concerts together this summer. My friends helped me ring in my milestone birthday this year and I am grateful to have them in my life.

Community
I continued my involvement in veteran support groups and helped host a VetsinTech hackathon at my company.
I volunteered at my kids’ schools.

Me
I continued my hobbies in 2017 but stretched myself a little more this year.
Painting: I set up my art studio and completed 20 paintings, enough to sign up for Open Studios in 2018. I have posted my paintings to my art website, encaustech.com, and have sold a few. I’ve begun talking with my company about doing an encaustic installation on one of the walls at work.
Design: I completed a web development course and was able to use what I learned to redesign encaustech.com, which I am now using to both exhibit and sell my artwork.
Writing: Speaking of blogs, I am regularly posting on rendipi.com and stretching my writing muscles. I signed up for the 500words a day challenge and I finally completed the first draft of my first novel.
Music: I continued my guitar lessons and sang at an open mic night.
Fitness: I got serious about yoga and am practicing at least 3X a week. In 2018, I will get my 200-hour teaching certificate and will start volunteering to teach yoga at the VA (both are stretch goals for 2017).
Travel: I enjoyed a solo vacation and visited some places I’ve never been to (Montreal, Vancouver, Prague, Barcelona, Copenhagen, Costa Rica are candidates)
Half-year bonus goal: If I’m progressing well on my vision statement by the end of June, I will get current in a Cessna 172 so I can take my kids and friends flying.

Hope

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I saw the latest Star Wars movie, Rogue One, this past Tuesday. I loved it and felt it stood on its own as great entertainment, and even better as the prologue to Star Wars Episode IV, A New Hope. I felt all tingly when I saw the X-wing Starfighters onscreen. I remember watching the original Star Wars movie in theaters in 1977 and thinking the X-wings were the coolest things ever. That was probably my first exposure to “aviation” (is there a space version of that term? Spaciation?) and it certainly planted the seeds for my career as a pilot.

The movie also struck me in a different, non-nostalgic way. In the last scene of Rogue One, a CGI-enhanced Princess Leia receives the plans for the Death Star, thanks to the sacrifices of the rebellion:
Captain Raymus Antilles: [after handing Princess Leia the Death Star schematics] What is it they’ve sent us?
Princess Leia Organa: Hope.

I choked up at this scene – Carrie Fisher had died that morning. I felt like she was speaking directly to me through the completely coincidental timing of my viewing of this scene.

Let me back up…I’ve been recovering from a broken heart…from repeated heartbreak at the hands of someone I was deeply in love with but who had strung me along, who wouldn’t commit to a monogamous relationship with me. I’d been feeling down lately; wondering if I’ll ever find a similarly deep connection with another person, if I will be able to trust someone with my heart again. And then, unexpectedly, this scene in Rogue One reminded me about Hope.

Hope is “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.” For a long time, I had hoped my former love would choose to build a life with me. He gave me every expectation that it would happen…”eventually.” He asked me to respect “his process” and give him time.  I certainly desired a partnership with him, and I thought he wanted one with me, too. He told me he had never loved a woman as much as he loved me, but after years of waiting for him to choose a life with me, I realized those were just words, and the love I had hoped for with him was never going to happen, even though he would tell me he loved me “always.”

For a while, I made the mistake of giving up hope on finding love, not just with this one person, but with any partner. I didn’t think I could ever be so lucky again. But fortunately, by getting back on the dating circuit and some pep talks from friends and family, I’m feeling better. I’d like to believe the scene with Princess Leia was another nudge from the Universe to not give up. I find inspiration in many places, from Instagram to music to art. All these serendipitous reminders help to convince me that hope is not lost.  I know that I will find love again, and this time with someone who is ready to be loved and treasured. I have hope, and I’m happy to live with that until I have love.

 

Back in the Saddle. Week 1.

I’m taking an online writing course to help me create a daily writing habit. Each day, we read a short poem or piece of writing that is used as an inspirational writing prompt.

Here’s Week One’s output.

Day One: Ten questions, biographical or in character. I chose the main character from a novel I am writing about a girl whose family relocated to Hawaii in the mid-80’s.

1. When I was ten years old, I thought that I’d grow up to be a veterinarian. I loved animals and always wanted a pet, but we move around a lot because my dad is in the Marine Corps, so my parents won’t let me have a dog or cat or any pet, although I usually adopt some local creature as my own whenever I can. During second grade, I went on a camping trip with my scout group and found a huge snail, so I smuggled it home and kept it on my windowsill. I’d steal pieces of lettuce from my dinner plate and feed it. I didn’t think it would move mooch but the next day when I cam home from school, the snail was gone. I like to think it crawled down the wall of our apartment building and I rationalized its absence as that rather than it being plucked from the windowsill by a bird.

2. Instead I grew up to be …well, I’m not quite grown up yet in the sense of graduating college, getting a job and all that grown up kind of stuff. I am working at our local pizza parlor, if that counts, but I’d like to think I will advance beyond food prep work.

3. The worst thing I ever did was in 5th grade when I told one of the girls in my neighborhood about where babies come from. She was only 8 years old at the time but I had just had “the talk” at school and she asked, so I gave it to her straight. I liked feeling like I knew something special and I didn’t want to seem like a snob with my newfound knowledge, so I described the mechanics of the act. The next day, when I cam home from school, I saw The Look on my mother’s face. Apparently my description of sex had completely freaked out the girl and she hadn’t slept most of the night. I had to go over to her house and apologize to her and her mother. I was mortified.

4. I used to think the Bible was true, but every since my experience at my Catholic high school now I believe it’s just an epic novel.

5. The accomplishment that I am the most proud of is beating Claudia Elden in the 1981 spelling bee. Echinacea. What the hell?

6. If I could have a superpower, it would be the ability to know if someone is lying.

7. In my purse/bag, I always carry a brush. Damn irish genes.

8. One thing I’ve never told anyone about is that last summer, I went on one of those amusement park rides with a dark tunnel and I kissed my cousin. With tongue.

9. I typically express my creativity by decorating my room and drawing. I also really enjoy acting. I get a lot of practice every time my family moves and I have to show up at a new school and make friends.

10. If I were to run away, I would take my Sony walkman and stow away in an airplane and go back to the mainland. But I would never do that.

Day Two: Bullet to the Brain, inspiration from “Bullet In The Brain,” by Tobias Wolff

She didn’t remember the slamming of metal onto metal and how her body was thrown violently against the harness straps of her ejection seat when the jet she flew stopped cold in 60 feet on the aircraft carrier. She didn’t remember the deep feelings of loss when friends were plucked from existence, seen one morning before a mission but never to return. The birthdays, Christmases, Easter baskets, summer BBQs…none came to mind as the bullet pierced her skull. She didn’t recall graduations, First Communion, confirmation, her wedding, the final signing of her divorce papers…no rites of passage in her life which at the time had felt heavy and electric.

She remembered sweat and pressure and pain and the overwhelming desire to push a baby out of her body. She remembered her first: stuck in the canal, hesitant to emerge. She thought he would never come out, and when he finally was suctioned free, she saw his gray pallor and held him for a second before he was whisked away by nurses to be resuscitated. She remembered her second, a girl, who gave her a damnned difficult pregnancy but popped out with three pushes. Her daughter was pink, warm, soft and sweet. She remembered holding her for the first time, and as the bullet completed its path and introduced her to her mortality, she remembered that she had brought life into this world and would never truly leave it.

Day Three: Obsessions/Complusions. Inspiration from A Plague of Tics, by David Sedaris

I can’t buy it anymore. I think that I’ll be able to moderate my consumption, but if there is a jar of Nutella in my house, it will not last more than a day. Despite earnest attempts at willpower, I simply cannot resist. Maybe it’s because it tastes so damn good on just about everything. You can spread it on bland delivery devices like bread or crackers. Dipping something salty like a pretzel yields nirvana. A spoonful on a scoop of vanilla ice cream elevates the dessert to divine. Jamming a spoon into the jar and pulling away a glob works fine, too, until you find yourself with the very last traces, wondering how the creators of this magical creme could design a jar that does not enable you to scrape out the remnants and you are forced to test whether or not your tongue is long enough to lick the sides. I have learned my lesson and accepted that I must refrain from purchasing the jars I see at the grocery store and deny myself the pleasures of Nutella, lest my jeans start straining from the rapid consumption of 2,000 calories. And don’t get me started about those assholes at CostCo, with their 2-pack of 33.5 oz jars of my Kryptonite. They mock my pain.

Day Four: Pillow Book. Inspiration from the The Pillow Book of Lady Sei Shonagon, an observational notebook written over 1,000 years ago.

Annoying things

Being awakened from a deep, comfortable warm sleep by the jagged, blaring bleats of one’s alarm clock.
The reckless driver who speeds through a parking lot of stationary cars and exposed people.
The distracted driver who plods along in the left lane of the highway, drifting sporadically towards the slower lane but never pulling into it.

Wonderful things
Sliding the USB cable into a port with the correct side up so it easily engages and you don’t have to flip it over and try again.
The first bite of a warm, sugary malasada…slightly crispy on the outside but doughy and soft on the inside.
The moment when your daughter spots you in the crowd of parantparazzi at the school band concert and knows you made the effort to be there to support her.
When your young children wrap their chubby little arms around your neck and hold on to you like they’ll never let you go.

Day Five: was a long week at work and I punted this assignment.

The Recital

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First Guitar Recital

My daughter had her first recital this weekend. What started as a total disaster ended up being a moving experience. I had no idea what to expect of a two-hour recital of children playing guitar, but it turned out to be one of the most enjoyable live music experiences I’ve ever had.

First, the recital (near) disaster of 2013.

A couple of weeks ago I received an email from her music school with information about the recital, such as time, location….and dress code. Suggested dress code was semi-formal/formal, so last week I took her shopping for a black blouse and pants. She did not want to wear a dress or skirt and was not happy about being forced to dress up in anything.

Fast forward to the recital. She was with her dad last weekend, so he arrived early with her and I showed up about 15 minutes prior to the start time. As soon as she saw me enter the building, she stormed up to me and announced with exasperation that she was the ONLY one dressed up. I peeked inside the concert hall and indeed, every single other kid holding a guitar was dressed in jeans and t-shirts. Wtf?

I showed Julia the email but that didn’t help. She was starting to panic..a combination of embarassment of looking different and fear of getting up on stage. Her dad tried talking with her while I sat down with my son and started watching the performances.

I got a text message from her dad: “We are behind the stage. Not looking good for her performing today.”

I sighed. Part of me wanted my daughter to learn a valuable lesson about not caring what others think and facing one’s fears. The other part of me really wanted to see her perform.

I texted back: “I can run home and get another outfilt”

“Jeans and boots, please.”

I literally ran the three blocks home and grabbed a suitably casual outfit, then ran back. When she saw me enter the side hallway with the bag of clothes, she lit up and ran to me, grabbed the bag, and ran to the restroom to change.

Having avoided a nuclear meltdown, I settled in for the long haul of listening to other parents’ children perform. I looked at the program…19 songs. Ugh. I prepared myself to daydream, but then the funniest thing happened.

I absolutely loved listening to these kids. And watching them. I would see the same progression for each kid almost every time. First, they would make the loooong journey to the stage and walk up the stairs – sometimes glancing timidly towards the audience, other times completely focused on getting to the chair. Once on stage, most of them would sit, almost frozen, as Teacher Vincent ensured the guitar was in tune. Most wouldn’t look at the audience, they were laser-focused on Vincent. He’d hand the guitar back, and then go stand on the side of the stage. All the young profiles followed him as he’d walk off, and then he’d nod and they’d turn toward their sheet music and start playing.

The program mostly went in order of skill, so the first few performers played very short, basic pieces. It was *awesome* watching them focus so hard. Some bent over their guitars, clutching them like a life ring buoy. Others stared at their hands as they played. You could just see the gears turning and the mind whirring. It was beautiful.

As soon as they finished, it was almost a shock…like, oh…I’m done. I’m DONE! You could see the realization and relief wash over their faces and what had previously been a study in palpable focus suddenly became joy and pride.  The applause of the audience helped to snap them out of their concentration and their shoulders would relax and then they’d stand up and take their bow with a huge smile. Every single one of them exited the stage much more quickly then they entered.

While I enjoyed watching the younger kids perform, the teenagers were the ones who really moved me. They were so talented and calm and actually looked at the audience, so there was much more of a connection.

I teared up listening to the heartfelt singing of a young man who played “Volcano” by Damien Rice.

A blonde teenage girl brought to mind what my daughter might look like in 6 years or so, and I giggled when she sang Fun’s “Some Nights” and instead of singing “what the fuck” sang “What the f?” to keep it family-friendly.

An Indian teenager sang the beautiful and sweet song, “Begin Again” by Taylor Swift and she performed it with such heart that you would think she had written the song herself.

This is Silicon Valley, so of course there was the kid who played a duet with a track on his iPhone, which was his pre-recorded melodic death metal version of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.

My daughter enjoyed the recital but wants to take a break from lessons for a month or two. I’m seriously considering taking her lesson time!

Just keep paddling…

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Yesterday was one of those days that makes me appreciate the wonderful, happy days even more.

Because yesterday sucked.

I should back up and preface the suckage by talking about a couple of things that happened earlier this week.

Three days ago, right before I was about to leave for my first of 3 networking meetings of the day, my nanny stopped by….and gave me her letter of resignation. Fuck. She was distraught….literally on her knees begging me to forgive her (I’m not sure if that’s a Filipino thing or a Catholic thing). I was shocked by the resignation, as we have a great relationship, but my kids are getting older and we could only give her afternoons since the kids are in school for the first half of the day. I completely understood why she took another offer that was full-time.

The thought of telling my kids that she was leaving was almost too much for me to bear. Two years ago, it was “your dad and I are getting a divorce” last year it was “we’re selling the house (the only one you’ve ever lived in)” and now we’re kicking off 2013 with “your beloved nanny of 6 years needs to go to another family because they can offer her full-time work which she needs because her rent is being raised by her landlords (who, btw, are Google millionaires living in a 6-bedroom house next door).” The kids’ dad and I told them, along with our nanny, who sobbed just as hard as my daughter did. But that night, my daughter called me to let me know she was ok. Such a sensitive heart, that one. My kids’ resilience continues to amaze me.

Part of me is elated…maybe now I can be the one always picking up my kids and helping them with homework and doing fun projects, etc. etc. It’s what I’ve wanted to do since my kids were younger – stay home part-time and take care of them (one of the contributing factors to the breakup of my marriage: he didn’t want to give up the salary I could command). Then the brain steps back in and reminds me that I am divorced and no one is going to pay my rent for me while I’m busy being super Stay-at-Home Mom.

In a strange way, I guess I finally did get what I always wanted…I suppose I could pick up the kids everyday and be with them in the afternoons if I could find a job that only went until 2:30pm every day. So, maybe the universe is delivering…but asking me to meet it halfway.

The other thing that sent my heart to the dumps is that I had to end a relationship with someone I cared about deeply. This person was someone I’d consider a soulmate, except for the constant promises and failure to keep them. I can’t deal with dishonesty in my life. I’m a very open and honest person and when someone continuously tells me they’re going to do something but then finds excuses for not delivering on their promises…it just wore my heart down and I realized I could no longer trust this person. It was (and is) extremely painful to think of the emotional investment I had in this relationship and what the end result was. I feel like I was taken advantage of.

So, back to yesterday. After 5-months of a sabbatical, I still don’t know what I want to do with my life. My brain is telling me to find a job in a big company so I can have some financial stability but my heart is telling me no no no but I don’t know what I should do to start generating income. The proceeds from a house sale (even in overly-priced Silicon Valley) can only last so long. I’m afraid of settling for something I don’t really want just for the sake of stability. I made the mistake of doing that in my marriage and in going to business school, and I’ve been trying to evolve from both of those over the past two years. It’s scary to be in this position and yesterday was one of those rare days when I take a step backwards and start beating myself up. Lots of tears and teeth gnashing, wondering how I could have screwed things up so badly. Fortunately, night eventually falls and I can go to sleep and start another day.

This morning as I made my daily walk to my local coffee shop, I passed by middle school students riding their bikes to school and I wanted to stop them and scream, “DON’T SETTLE! Do what you love! The rest will figure itself out. STOP SUCCUMBING TO FEAR or what your parents think you should do!”

As much as I want to impart this wisdom to these young adults, they would probably start calling me the crazy lady of Starbucks, and I’m pretty sure that position already has a waiting list.

8 things I noticed this morning before 8am

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1. Upon waking, the amazing way the morning light in the corners of my bedroom casts itself in different shades of beige and gold and begs to be painted.

2. How quiet my house is in contrast to the school mornings when my kids are with me.

3. On my walk to get my morning coffee, how the sky and clouds look like they were painted in watercolors.

4. The sparse berries left on the trees by the train station signal that we are definitely in the middle of winter, even though the few berries that are left are bright pink.

5. I don’t notice the train noise anymore.

6. I wanted to pick up a penny I spotted in a crosswalk, but there was a big truck coming and  even though he had the stop sign, I didn’t think tempting fate for a penny was worth it.

7. I had a 3-minute internal debate while in line about what coffee I should order this morning. The Vanilla Spice sounds really good but I need to lose the five pounds I gained over the holidays (thanks, Mom!). I should probably get a tall nonfat latté but I feel like kicking off my year with a little something extra. What to get, what to get…

8. I am excited for 2013. I am looking forward to the adventures that await me this year. I know they will make me stronger, just as last year’s did.

I love that this morning I felt the urge to write and I have the time to do so.

I ended up ordering a grandé peppermint latté. And I am savoring it.

My first movie review blog post: Les Miserables

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You should know, I’ve seen the stage production of Les Miserables 4 times and listened to the soundtrack about 537 times, so I consider myself qualified to write this review.

This must not have been an easy production to adapt to the screen, and I thought Tom Hooper, the director, did an amazing job. Much ado has been made of the fact that he had the actors sing live on camera, rather than the traditional method of lip-synching to a pre-recorded soundtrack. His approach paid off in the acting performances – the emotions are fully expressed and the performances feel much more intimate than those experienced by an audience watching the musical on stage.

Unfortunately, the singing takes a small hit.  I would imagine it’s more difficult to deliver a technically strong *singing* performance while hauling in a naval vessel with a rope as a slave (hello, Jean Valjean) or running through the streets of Paris, chasing after aforementioned slave (bon jour, Inspector Javert).

Speaking of Javert, I take issue with with the casting of Russell Crowe in that part. While Mr. Crowe looks great in a uniform and possesses a surprisingly lovely singing voice, it is not the powerful baritone one has come to expect from a Javert. It’s like getting a chocolate easter bunny then biting into it and realizing it’s hollow – wtf? and what’s with all that air?

I loved the actor who played Marius, although in his early numbers his head would start shaking like it was about to explode a là Scanners and his freckles were a bit distracting (when I think of French revolutionaries, I don’t think of them as having freckles). However, he more than made up for that with his performance of Empty Chairs, which broke my heart.

Amanda Seyfried as Cossette? She has the largest pupils, ever. She also has a pretty voice, but it felt too closed and fluttery during her high notes.

Les Miz fanatics will recognize the Bishop as Colm Wilkinson, who originated the role of Jean Valjean on Broadway and in the London stage production. He was excellent, although he constantly had a bemused expression that seemed to say, “I can’t believe my part is being played by Wolverine!”

Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter were well-cast as Monsieur and Madame  Thenardier, but a lot of the slapstick humor that plays well on stage for those characters is lost on screen, and the quick editing makes it tough to follow all their shenanigans.

I’ve never heard of the actress, Samantha Barks, who played Eponine but I loved her, even though it looked like her waist had been carved out by CGI.

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Anne Hathaway. O.m.g. (which stands for Oscar, My God.) She was amazing. I heard people in the theater sobbing during her scenes. I managed to suppress the ugly cry, but it was tough.

And finally, Hugh Jackman. He really was excellent, even though I thought his voice was a little nasally. But when he tore up his parole paper and nailed the high notes on “2…4…6…oh…ONE!” and the two veins on his forehead popped into 3-D, I knew he had that Oscar nomination locked.

Finally, I’d like to know if there’s a makeup category for dental special effects because the teeth on those actors were gnarly. You could even see the bloody stump from Fantine’s missing tooth. Every actor looked like espresso grains had been painstakingly applied to their gums. If there is a category for Best Tooth Grime, Anne Hathaway won’t be the only one from Les Miz walking away with gold on Oscar night.

With the minor dings for some of the singing, I would give Les Miz an 8 out of 10….stars? I don’t know what my rating system is. If I were you, I’d go see it.

And bring kleenex.