Wednesday, December 22, 2010

J-O-B: Day Fifteen

I'm too tired to blog.

For the last week or so, it seems I come home from work each evening with my mind rebelling ferociously against any activity that requires actual thought. Seriously. I'm having a really hard time right now just composing these few sentences.

It's about halfway through a straight ten-hour-plus shift (no breaks, mind you) that I begin to motivate myself with the thought that as soon as I get home I will crawl into bed with Netflix. Netflix and nachos. Definitely nachos.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Wrap Wars

A few days ago, as I was passing by the family Christmas tree, I noticed that my sister Lindsay had already wrapped and placed a few packages 'neath its branches.

What? And Christmas still nearly two weeks away? I hadn't anticipated seeing her fall into formation so early. Armed with saved scraps of paper, yarn, and jingle bells, I immediately retaliated with a few maneuvers of my own.

After that, there was a long period of silence. No new parcels were placed under the tree. It seemed my tactics had prevailed. Then, without warning, Lindsay broke out the heavy artillery.

I threw up the white flag and retreated to my craft box...I mean, regroup for next year.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Little Bit of Christmas Spirit

The two weeks before Christmas are a hectic time in the life of this blog's author. I'm stretched thin enough as it is at my current job with UPS, and this week most of my free time is focused on preparing for my dramatic and musical roles in the upcoming Christmas program at my church. Unsurprisingly, the various demands of the season have left me feeling a bit...stressed.

Dear friend Ashley tipped me off to this lovely musical track the other day. As I listened to it, I was momentarily reunited with that "true spirit of Christmas" that all the Hallmark Channel original movies are striving so earnestly to put us back in touch with.

Light a candle and enjoy.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

J-O-B: Day 5

My blisters have blisters.


Friday, December 3, 2010

J-O-B: Day 3

Phew. So ends my first week as a seasonal driver helper for UPS. I haven't worked this hard at a job since, well, ever. And I'm loving it!

I realized today that perhaps part of why I feel so amicably toward my job is that it reminds me in many ways of backpacking, which is an activity that I happen to enjoy more than just about anything else. The physical exertion required in this job each day is similar to that required during a day on a backpacking trip. Both on the trail and in the delivery truck, I keep my energy up by munching on CLIF bars. In both situations, I use a headlamp to see at night. In both situations, I get nasty blisters on my toes. Basically, my body thinks it's on a backpacking trip right now and that translates into happy feelings in my brain. Sure, there's no camp food or campfire, I don't get to sleep under the stars, and the scenery would never make it on a postcard; so, there are a few significant differences. But don't tell my body that.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

J-O-B: Day 1

At 10:30 this morning, it seemed fair enough to assume that UPS wasn't going to call me in to start work today. Faced unexpectedly with the prospect of lots of free time, I decided to lie in my bed for a while to think about how best to spend my day. Thinking time naturally evolved into nap time, and when my ringing cell phone interrupted my dreams at 11:45, it felt as though the day had already progressed much later than it actually had.

On the phone was a someone from the UPS distribution center, offering me a job: at 12:45 I would meet a driver at a designated location on her route and assist her with the rest of her deliveries for the day.

I gobbled down lunch, pulled on my uniform, and drove to the meeting place. At 12:53, I was pulling out my cell phone to call the distribution center and make sure there was no misunderstanding, when a familiar brown delivery truck rolled up to the stop sign in front of me. I waved to the driver and she pointed me toward a place where I could leave my car for the day.

Upon boarding the UPS truck, I received a warm greeting from the driver, Carolina, a small, pretty Latina in her early thirties. Showing me the rear cargo area of the vehicle, she exclaimed, "I was able to clear a lot of space from my morning deliveries so now we have some dancing room!" She threw up a pair of enthusiastic jazz hands to emphasize her point. I knew then and there that we would get along perfectly.

My first day on the job was fun, educational, and completely exhausting. My body is in pain right now, and I'm not eager to find out how it's going to feel in the morning. But I am looking forward to another day of work. Despite the breakneck pace and a couple of minor mistakes made on my part, it was the best first day of a new job I've ever had.


At one stop, I had dropped a package by the front door and was heading back to the the truck when the resident opened the door. Continuing down the driveway, I waved to him and called out, "Thank you!" The man did not reply or return my wave, and something in his countenance indicated displeasure. He raised a finger, as to indicate that he wanted a word with me. Hurrying back toward the house, I apologized. He shook his head and pointed to the large black cat that was sitting on his shoulder. "No. You some people have a...a parrot that sits on their shoulder. Well, anyway, I was thinking that I was gonna scare you when I came to the door with this cat on my shoulder were already gone."

People are weird.

At another stop, a girl approached the truck, holding an envelope with a postage stamp on it and asked if she could give it to us. I kindly directed her to the nearby blue USPS box. Back on the road, I asked Carolina if that sort of thing happens often. She rolled her eyes dramatically, "Oh my god, girl, all the time!"

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I got the browns.

After sitting through five hours of paid training this morning, I was issued a company regulation uniform, to be worn in my service over the next month as a seasonal employee of the United Parcel Service. Swimming in my men's uniform, I look and feel unusually tiny, and worry a bit that, should I meet my driver/supervisor tomorrow, he or she will take one look at me and wonder, "Is this little tiny person really going to be able to assist me in delivering heavy packages at a fast pace during the busiest time of the year?"

My position title: driver helper. Of the thirty new hires who attended the employee orientation at the UPS distribution center with me this morning, I was the only female. This didn't make me feel insecure or discouraged, but it did have the effect of drawing my fuller awareness to the fact that this is a job with a reputation for being highly physically exacting. In the event that I do start work tomorrow morning (my start date being determined by the current demand for driver helpers in my area), I will be riding in a UPS truck, helping the driver to make hundreds of deliveries within a highly constrained slot of time. This job has a potential to be extremely stressful and almost certainly completely exhausting.

So why do it? Though a paycheck is always helpful, living with my parents puts me in a position where I could very easily continue to live off my savings for quite some time. Why work if I don't have to?

For starters, it's part of the Plan (the full extent of which I am still emotionally unprepared to disclose). And yes, sitting around the house watching old shows on Netflix day after day has been wearing on me for well over a month now. But, most importantly, it's a new experience, a new opportunity to learn and see and do things outside my normal realm of existence. And, if I'm really going to "live twenty-five to the fullest," I want to have as many of these types of experiences as possible.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Breaking Code

A few days I reread the self-stated mission of this blog and felt a sickly sense of malachievement. Somewhere along the line (undoubtedly, it was when I realized that some of my friends were actually reading and keeping up with my posts), my focus shifted and I became less concerned with the task of pounding out my best writing for the day every day regardless of how I feel about it, and more concerned with the task of not disappointing my readers with my incapacity for consistent pizazz.

The condition is exacerbated by my recent development of a merciless case of writer's block. I simply can't seem to have a single original thought that is interesting enough to write down. I blame it on the generally uneventful nature of my life at the moment. It's all too easy to blame the former condition on the latter. And yet, when life is eventful, I excuse myself by saying that I am too busy to write.

I find myself dancing precariously close to being in violation of one of my self-imposed regulations regarding this writing project--the prohibition against berating myself in a manner that could be interpreted as "pessimistic drivel." That isn't what I want to do. It is so much contrary to what I want to do, in fact, that I just spent the last hour trying to use this paragraph as a springboard into a much more optimistic exploration of the beauties and joys of life. I wrote several paragraphs toward that effect, but, upon reading what I had written, felt immensely unsatisfied with it and forced myself to stop.

What happens to a blog when its author has writer's block? I guess we'll just have to see.

Disappearing Days

"What did you do today?"

It's the most anxious moment of my day. My mother sits behind the family computer, eying me with half-interest. It's the part of the day when I must make an account of my idleness. Another uneventful day. I usually respond with something like, "I did all the dishes. And I read." But today, when my mother asked me that dreaded question, I drew an unexpected blank.

"I can't remember," I told her. "It seems like the whole day just evaporated."

It did seem that way.

Today I read a little. I practiced the piano a little. And I...I...

I lost a day.

And so I approach the second most anxious moment of the day--writing time--with a tinge of regret.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Nabe Flop

According to the cookbook, Japanese Cooking: Contemporary & Traditional, by Miyoko Nishimoto Schinner (from which I derive most of my Japanese recipes), nabemono (hot pot) dishes "are designed for communal eating" (120). Indeed, in light of my experiences eating nabe in Japan, it never would have occurred to me to think of it as a dish that could possibly be enjoyed without a group. Everything about the way it is prepared and served indicates that it is meant to be partaken of communally. So, to me, the very thought of eating it by oneself is laughable.

Yesterday, as it drew near dinnertime and the hour for my family members to begin returning from their respective jobs, I enthusiastically began to chop vegetables and tofu in preparation for a dish I was sure would truly impress. Nabe is the perfect autumn meal; the entire process of preparing and enjoying it warms the body and the spirit. Typically, all the ingredients are cooked together in a large earthenware pot over a portable burner that sits in the center of the table and continues to warm the soup throughout the meal. Generally, this meal lasts a couple of hours.

I don't own a nabe pot, nor do I have a portable burner that can be used indoors. But I figured--no bother--I would simply prepare the soup in a ceramic pot over the stove and bring that to the table. My family and I could keep a lid on it to retain warmth and even reheat it on the stove intermittently, if necessary.

However, much to my dismay, each member of my family, upon returning home, informed me that he or she had a prior engagement that that evening and could not stay for dinner. And so I was left to eat my nabe by myself. Nobody in my family could understand why this should make me laugh and shake my head so much. They, never having partaken of an authentic nabe experience, could not possibly grasp the absurdity of the present situation.

I ate my nabe alone. Kimchee nabe: The best kind. It tasted good, yet everything about it was...wrong.

I need some San Diego friends.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Best Day

But it didn't start off that way. I awoke at 7:30--a good two hours earlier than my unemployed self has lately become accustomed to--feeling groggy. I was up late the night before, turning my room upside down in search of a manila envelope that contained the important personal documents I would need to have on hand for my job interview this morning. I lost a good hour and a half of sleep and was ready to call off the search before the obvious place finally occurred to me. All that for a tiny little piece of paper with my social security number written on it? I went to bed in a foul mood.

This morning, I was assembling my usual breakfast of yogurt, granola, and raisins, when Lindsay, running out the door on her way to work, explained apologetically that the dog had "puked his guts out" all over the living room and, though she'd tried to clean it up a little, she didn't have time to finish the job. I looked at the clock: I was intending to head to my interview in half an hour, but I still needed to eat, get dressed, blow dry my hair, and write down directions. "Okay," I told her, "I'll do my best to clean it, if I have time."

I cleaned up the dog's vomit (which resembled, much to the misfortune of my gag reflex, the granola I'd just eaten), slipped into a half-ironed shirt, skipped the blow dry, jotted down what turns to take after the freeway exit, and dashed out the door about fifteen minutes later than I'd intended. I made it to the interview location exactly on time.

Fortunately, it was a group interview and the group was large, so nobody took much notice of my lack of punctuality. It was mostly an information session for a seasonal position with UPS, which, as it turns out, I may or may not qualify for on account of the area where I live. We'll see.

Gloriously, however, the interview location was in Kearny Mesa, a part of San Diego that is a veritable heaven to a recently repatriated former English teacher in Japan (like me). Immediately west of California 163, off Balboa Avenue, is a more than satisfying conglomeration of Japanese shops and restaurants, including a discount variety store and a used book shop that also had locations in Moka, Japan! Immediately after leaving the UPS warehouse, I headed down to Daiso, where I simply basked for about an hour in the familiar foreignness of it all, reading labels in Japanese and listening to small children speaking to their mothers in a language that I am remorsefully rapidly forgetting.

I left Daiso without purchasing anything and headed next door, to a Japanese market. After perusing the aisles, my mouth literally watering the entire time, I concluded decisively that tonight is definitely going to be a nabe night. I bought the soup base, tofu and vegetables I would need--including five kinds of mushrooms--and went across the street to lunch on fresh authentic hot udon noodles at Kayaba in the Mitsuwa Marketplace. As I headed back to my car, I couldn't help but dance a little through the parking lot from the utter joy that this noontime excursion had brought me. True, it's not the same as a trip to Japan, but, for a fraction of the cost, it comes delightfully close.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Best Hummus Recipe Yet

After years of trial and error, at last: a hummus recipe worth sharing. I've yet to perform a side-by-side taste taste to gauge whether it's as good as my favorite store-bought brand, but if you were to throw a few toppings on there--say, some pine nuts, roasted red peppers, and chopped parsley--it would likely surpass the competition.

The main problem with a lot of hummus recipes that I've experimented with in the past is that they call for crushed raw garlic--an ingredient that gives the finished product a flavor that I personally find too intense and spicy. And if I, a devout garlic lover, feel that way, imagine how a picky eater like my mom would respond to it. I've tried substituting fresh garlic with powdered, or using garlic salt instead of regular table salt, but it seems the end result lacks a certain dimension in freshness and texture.

Roasted garlic to the rescue! Yes, roasting the garlic beforehand requires additional time and preparation, but the outcome, I believe, is well worth the effort. This recipe is excellent as is, but it also works well as a canvas for additional flavors and mix-ins.

Triumphant Roasted Garlic Hummus

• 4-6 cloves freshly roasted garlic
• 1 can chickpeas or 2 cups cooked chickpeas
• 1/2 cup liquid reserved from can or cooking pot
• 2 tbsp tahini
• 2 tbsp olive oil
• juice of 1 lemon
• salt and pepper to taste
• paprika and additional olive oil for garnish

Allow roasted garlic to cool before proceeding so that you don't burn your fingers. Combine all ingredients through salt and pepper in a blender or food processor and pulse until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and garnish with paprika, olive oil, parsley, pine nuts, roasted red peppers, jalapeños, or what have you.

Enjoy immediately, with some nice crunchy carrot sticks. Or, cover and place in the refrigerator for a few hours. I don't know if this is really a thing; but, in my head, this allows the flavors to "set."


I was just updating my blogger profile and noticed that my location was still set to Moka, Japan. I changed it to San Diego, United States, and instantly felt less interesting.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

An Evening with the Janssens

It's a quarter to seven. Mom just got home and she's sitting in front of the computer. I'm in the kitchen, carefully watching the clock. Dad walks in the front door, carrying the tell-tale bags from Grocery Outlet ("I can't not stop by when I'm in the neighborhood, because they've always got insanely good deals on cheese and outstanding prices on vegetarian meat analogs."). If Grocery Outlet were a human, my dad would leave my mom for her, no doubt about it.

Now that both parents are present and accounted for, I swoop in and immediately begin administering the finishing touches to the dinner that's been in process for the last hour or so. Dad comes into the kitchen, reaches for the roasted pumpkin seeds from the night before that are in a plastic container on the counter and munches on a few. I tell him, "Don't snack! Dinner is in the process of being served!" He looks up at me sheepishly, throws his hands in the air, and backs away from the seeds.

The table is piled with grocery bags, so we eat on the couch. I can tell my mom is pleased with dinner, because she tells me I should open a restaurant. This is what she tells me every time I cook something that she likes. Tonight I made sandwiches, so she says, "You and your dad should open a sandwich shop!" Then she and my dad agree, as always, that owning a restaurant would be an overly time-consuming enterprise, better left to those who are truly passionate about it. I bring out dessert, and it is greeted with further exultations of entrepreneurial potential.

I suggest that we watch a movie together. I make popcorn. Dad watches the first two minutes and then goes to the other room to watch hockey. Mom watches the first eight minutes and then begins to snore. I watch the next hour of it by myself until Lindsay comes home from work and watches the ending with me.

After that, Lindsay and I retreat to our respective bedrooms. I round out the night with a few TV comedy episodes on Netflix and, if I'm up to it, some light blogging.

I feel like I'm stuck in a rut. I'm keeping an eye out for ladders.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Dear Meghan teacher,

I’m sorry that it took me so long to write a letter. Meghan sensei, how are you? We are all fine. How is it being back in your hometown? In Japan, it’s the season of beautiful maple leaves. And, it’s becoming cold. What is it like now in America?

Do you remember me?

[purikura of Eri and some of her friends from school]

We all miss you, Meghan sensei. I’m sad I can’t see your
cute smile in English class anymore.

At Yamazaki Junior High School, we just had Rindosai
[the school festival]. All of the classes did very good in the chorus competition and at “Yama-chu LIVE[the afternoon talent/variety show portion of the program] and, altogether, everyone was able to make good memories.

And that’s what’s happening here!

I’m waiting for a letter from you, if it pleases you to write one.

From Eri Genta

I received this letter in the mail on Saturday and it certainly succeeded in making my day, if not my week.

Friday, November 5, 2010

To Barbie, or not to Barbie?

Back in our day, my little sisters and I used to play a mean game of Barbies. And, between the three of us, we had quite the collection of dolls and accessories. There was an unspoken agreement that the most handsome Ken doll was Baywatch Ken (although, in my opinion, Aladdin could have taken the prize if it weren't for the annoying fact that his fez was permanently attached to his head). As far as which female doll was the prettiest, I think we each held our separate opinions. My favorite was Camping Barbie, whose dishwater blond hair and tan skin set her apart from her more generic platinum blond counterparts.

In life, there are few occurrences more irritating than when a well-intentioned adult attempts to join in your game of Barbies. This is due to the fact that adults, when they play "make believe" games with kids, tend to assume that the make-believe world is more innocent than it actually is. They try to make the Barbies behave like little kids; Barbies, clearly, are not little kids. At six, seven, eight, or nine years old, my sisters and I recognized that the dolls we were playing with represented adult people, and we, accordingly, imagined adult scenarios to place them in. Our Barbies would fight and even kill each other. They would get drunk. They would have sex. Of course, none of our enactments of the aforementioned events were at all realistic, but they were our speculative attempts to make sense of the befuddling grown-up world. And we enjoyed it immensely.

Of the various games and scenarios we would continuously revisit in our playtime with Barbies, one stands out to me in particular on account of its absurdity as well as its especial popularity: weddings. Our Barbie and Ken dolls would get married all the time. We were constantly partnering them off with new people (hey, it was only fair that all the ladies should get their own crack at Baywatch Ken). We had two wedding dresses and plenty of other formal gowns that would be appropriate for a bride in a pinch, but, alas, we only had one tuxedo; so, our dolls were constantly performing costume changes throughout the duration of our play in order to accommodate the multiple couples who were being paired off that day.

But even more interesting than the wedding wardrobe was the marriage ceremony itself, particularly the last part (and, more interesting yet, what happened after the ceremony). Follwing the officiant's pronouncement of Ken and Barbie as "Man and Wife," he would always, always, declare conclusively: "You may go and get naked!"

At this point, Barbie and Ken would fly (yes, you read right, fly) off into the air together to another end of the room where they would be stripped of their clothes and left alone to do as they pleased. This was the formula for make-believe marriages that we stuck with, and we stuck with it because it worked: it gratified our need to make two wedding dresses and one tuxedo satisfy the fashion demands of half a dozen couples, and it complied with our firm knowledge (gleaned from a ubiquitous comment made by our mother) that men and women saw each other naked after they got married.

Last Sunday I found myself engaged in a riveting conversation about Barbies with two friends whose ideas and opinions I always respect and enjoy. One of these friends has a baby girl and considers carefully the possible concerns of permitting or not permitting her child to have or play with certain types of toys. The other friend was not allowed to play with Barbies when she was growing up. The three of us agreed that, in retrospect, we find the practice of little girls playing with dolls that have adult bodies to be somehow troublesome, if not downright distressing.

But, in the end, what is the real impact of allowing one's daughter to play with Barbies? Or of withholding them? A child in contemporary society will still be exposed to plenty of unrealistic adult bodies on television or screaming from the magazine racks at the supermarket. How much of a difference does it make if the unrealistic adult body is not just in an airbrushed photograph, but is that of her own plaything? Would I have a different self image today if I'd never met Camping Barbie and Baywatch Ken? Would I have a healthier understanding of my own body in relation to others' bodies? Would I have healthier views on sex?

I just don't know. But what I do know is, I can't wait to get married.

Wedding Shower Invites

These are the postcard invitations that my sister Ashley and I created for Lindsay and Mike's wedding shower. Ashley and I devoted nearly the entire day to gathering materials for and then assembling the cards. Was it worth it? The jury is still out.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Bad Habits: A Food Confession

In her book French Women Don't Get Fat: The Secret of Eating for Pleasure, author Mireille Guiliano invites her American readers to adjust the cultural lens through which they view food in order to acquire a healthier, happier, more "French" way of thinking about eating. Recently I read Guiliano's self-purported diet book that is not a diet book, and her words had their intended effect of getting me to think more intentionally about the food I consume; lately I’ve been creating diverse and well-balanced meals for myself and my parents and enjoying wine and cheese with greater titillation and joie de vivre than usual. However, as per the opinions of Professeur Guiliano, I also seem to have adopted a rather supercilious disapproval for anything that could be labeled as “American” cuisine or food culture. And it's clear that I'm in need of an attitude adjustment.

This has sort of been a problem of mine for a while now: I believe my views on food are ethically and gastronomically superior and I have a bad habit of scolding close friends and family for eating fast food or buying tomatoes out of season. I realize that I certainly don’t need someone like Guiliano--who clearly feels that the French woman is socially and culturally superior to her American counterpart--egging me on. Sometimes, when you sense that your beliefs and values are truly good and that the actions of your loved ones directly conflict with those beliefs and values, it’s tempting to assume that it’s your duty to educate them.

I never want to give the impression that I view others' beliefs and actions as inferior to my own. And creating divides between us and others over food is a tragic offense because perhaps nothing in the world has greater power to bring people together than food. As L. Shannon Jung says in his book, Sharing Food: Christian Practices for Enjoyment, “Eating together is one antidote to individualism; sharing is a school of sociability” (42). The way we relate to and share with one another around the table is a microcosm for the way we relate to everyone, from our close inner circle of family and friends to our much broader global community. The things we eat with one another and the manner in which we eat them (for example, a home-cooked meal or a microwaved one; around the diner table or in front of the t.v.) speak volumes about the nature of our relationships. The foods that we choose to purchase may have direct impacts--either positive or negative--on the people who produce those foods or on the countries where the foods are produced.

How can I spread love through my food choices? According to Jung (and I wholeheartedly agree), one of the ways we are able to eat with the greatest amount of pleasure and satisfaction is by knowing that no people have been mistreated or taken advantage of in the process of bringing that food to our table. We might achieve this by purchasing as much of our food as possible directly from local farmers or by growing and preparing it ourselves. These, certainly, are important practices that we should all, to the extent of our ability, strive to adopt.

But, for me, I see especial importance in always reminding myself to spread love among those I am sitting down to share a meal with. And that is inevitably going to mean toning down this food-snob persona I've recently come to identify so strongly with. It means saying thanks to the people who provide, serve, or sell me my food--regardless of what that food looks like or where it came from. It means saying a blessing before each meal that reminds me to pass the goodness I have received on to others. And it means sharing meals that I have prepared out of a spirit of generosity and sociability rather than out of a desire to indoctrinate or impress.

My bad food habit may not look the same as the bad food habits of many Americans: I don't consume soft drinks or Big Macs and I'm not addicted to sweets. But, nevertheless, it's a nasty habit that I'm determined to break. Eating is an inextricably social act, and insisting on furthering one's own personal agenda in any social arrangement may eventually jeopardize the community. If the dinner guests in the film Babette's Feast had succeeded in their pious resolve to ignore the taste of the rare delicacies and expensive wines that were placed before them, then they would have missed out on the relationally redemptive and unifying joy the feast! Food is love and love is food. Let us never attempt to separate them.

*** If you want to know more about either of the books referenced above, you can read my reviews of them here. If you haven't seen to movie Babette's Feast, rent it now! Or, even better, check it out for free from your local public library! ***

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Plan

How I feel about the fact that I haven't updated my blog for a while:

About two weeks ago, I discussed my intention to attend Prospective Student Weekend at Fuller Theological Seminary in order to learn more about their Master of Arts in Intercultural Studies. I prayed eagerly before attending event that my experience that weekend would instill me with a strong, unequivocal feeling of either "Yes!" or "No!" Instead, however, I walked away from the weekend with an enlightened yet unsatisfying sense of "Maybe..." It was the inconclusiveness of my emotional response to the experience that contributed to my hesitancy to report about it on this blog. I resolved, instead, to take some time to think about it.

Today I spent a couple hours at the San Diego Zoo. I love the zoo. Yes, certainly, seeing wild animals in cages can be a bit depressing. But knowing that the revenues collected from park entrance fees go toward benefiting wildlife conservation projects helps to alleviate some of those ethical concerns.

The polar bear exhibit is one of the most potentially discomforting (giant predatory creatures, who in the wild range hundreds of miles hunting seals along the rim of the polar ice pack, here confined to a relatively minuscule enclosure where they bake all day in the relentless San Diego sun); but it is perhaps my favorite place to visit in the park. Standing nearly face to face with the world's largest land predator is, in any respect, existentially impressive. Even gazing through several inches of glass, one can't help but pause and marvel at the construction of this beautiful, enormous killer, and feel a little nervous quickening of the pulse as you imagine, without intending to, just how quickly you would be dead if this creature were to take a swipe at you with one of his colossal paws.

Today's visit to the polar bear habitat was the best one I've ever had. Kalluk, the zoo's male polar bear, was standing up in the water, gnawing intently on a cow femur bone when I arrived. As I stood gazing through the glass, he gave up on the bone and launched himself full-tilt into a game of swimming energetically around the enclosure and playing with a large purple ball. As I stood there, I put the normal anxious chatter of my brain on hold and allowed myself to simply be mesmerized by the movement of his giant body in the water, the graceful rippling of his dense fur coat, the powerful thrashing motion of his great, terrifying paws. For about half an hour, I was fully engrossed in the activity of watching Kalluk play.

Having that time to clear my mind was helpful. Though my discussions with friends and family over the past two weeks have been pointing me slowly toward the formation of a short-term plan for my life, it wasn't until today that I at last mustered up the will and soundness of mind to take a pen in hand and write out a rough plan for the next five months. And it is a good plan. Every aspect of it not only makes practical sense, but also congeals beautifully with my personal interests and long-term goals.

All that being said, I'm not going to tell you what The Plan is. At least not yet. Because, knowing me, as soon as it's been "officially" announced, I'll start to doubt myself and the silent expectations of others will drive me to anxiously overhaul everything I've been scrupulously and prayerfully working out. But it is a good plan. I'll just have to tell you about it later.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Cute little box --> cute little pincushion

Inspiration: tin can pincushion.

a cute little box I had but didn't know what to do with
a small scrap of fabric
polyester stuffing
hot glue gun


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Poor Kitty

Last weekend, my parents' cat, Socrates ("Socks" for short), got in a fight with a neighborhood cat. She walked away from the tussle with a pair on incisor-shaped punctures in her hind quarter, which, according to the vet, threatened to fester. In order to prevent infection, she was prescribed ten days' worth of antibiotics, the fur around the wound was shaved off, and she was fitted with a heavy-duty plastic cone around her neck. Poor kitty.

So, until the wound heals, this mostly outdoor pet and top-notch mouser is confined to life as a house cat. I watch her meander meaninglessly down the hallway. She stops in the living room and stares straight ahead for ten minutes. She stands up and walks around again. Restrained. Uncomfortable. Helpless. And I feel a pang of sympathy.

She is me.

For the last twelve days my life has been less than thrilling. I returned home from a great two weeks on the road, seeing new places and visiting old friends, and now I'm back to the drudgery of living with my mom and dad and having no job, no friends, nothing to look forward to. Like my feline invalid friend, I spend a considerable portion of the day walking aimlessly around the house. I check facebook obsessively. I make dinner for my parents. I watch shows on Netflix until I fall asleep. This can't go on much longer.

Soon, Socks' wounds will heal and she will be allowed to go outside and live her life as usual. As bad as I feel for her, her situation gives me hope: it reminds me that we all have "blah" moments in life, but that these moments inevitably must pass. Though I may feel anxious and unsatisfied now, I know I won't always be unemployed and living with my parents. Things change. Eventually, the cone comes off and it's back to pooping in the garden, killing birds, and breathing the sweet air of freedom.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Progress Report

One function and purpose of this blog is to keep me accountable to the cyberworld in regards to my progress on certain aforementioned goals for the year. Of these goals, perhaps the most potentially significant (and, thereby, also the most psychologically daunting) is the purported intention to set myself in--or on the path toward--graduate school.

That being the case, it is my duty to you, readers of this blog and citizens of Infinity, that today I registered to attend "Prospective Student Weekend" at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena for this upcoming Friday-Saturday-Sunday. There, I will have an opportunity to interact with current students and faculty and get helpful information about Fuller's Masters program in Intercultural Studies*.

*This is me feeling anxious about having been out of an academic setting for the last four years and now having to prove myself to new people.

I'm happy to be finally taking baby steps toward furthering my education. It is a desire that has been shifting about impatiently within me for quite some time. And, by golly, it feels all sorts of good to finally be doing something to move me in that direction.

Monday, October 18, 2010

We're going to slice a face on his belly!

The grass is always greener on the other side. Unless, of course, you live in San Diego and the grass is insipidly lush all year round. But in Japan right now, I know that the leaves on the ginko trees are turning a stunning yellow. And that knowledge, paired with the gloomy-rainy weather we've been having in Southern California the last few days, puts me in a happy, autumny mood.

It was in such spirits that I took a paring knife in hand this evening and went to work on a lovely sized pumpkin with a perfectly gnarled stem. Lindsay sat beside me at the kitchen table, working magic on her own bulbous gourd. The results were two gnomish visages, appropriately reflective of Lindsay and my respective styles. Dad was able to guess whose is whose right away. Can you? (*answer below)

And now I sit, enjoying handfuls of freshly roasted pumpkin seeds, the delightful aroma of which has filled the kitchen and living room. The only thing missing from this picture is a mug of steaming mulled wine, an omission which is scheduled to be remedied tomorrow evening.

Happy autumn, all!

*Jack-o-lanterns: the aghast one on the left is mine; the inanely pleased one on the right is Lindsay's.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Could it get much better? Do you wanna dance?

I just finished listening to a 25-minute song and found myself wishing that it were longer. It's probably not since the release of Sufjan Stevens' Illinoise in 2005 has an album left me feeling so immensely satisfied. I'm starting to feel giddy with excitement in seeing Sufjan play at the Wiltern in Los Angeles a week from Saturday.

I heartily and confidently recommend The Age of Adz to anyone who might be reading this. I was lucky enough to snag the full mp3 album download off Amazon yesterday for only $3.99! You can still buy it from Amazon for $6.99 today, which is currently the least expensive option for just the mp3 download (as opposed to purchasing the CD or LP).

And while I'm on the topic of things that leave me giddy with excitement, I was so pleased to learn that my dear friend Danica just opened up an Etsy shop, featuring her very own hand-crocheted organic cotton cephalopods!

I was honored to receive my own adorable set of octopus, squid, jellyfish as a birthday gift, and I get a warm feeling inside knowing that these cuddly ocean critters are now available to be enjoyed by anyone in the world!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

That's hat.

As I finished up the somewhat disappointing third season of Heroes on Netflix (I haven't surfed the Nets to gather common sentiments on the subject, but the story line is starting to feel a bit bumbly; that whole story about Angela's sister was boring and mostly pointless), I also finished up another little crochet project that I've been slowly working on for the last few weeks, this banded, buttoned, crochet hat.

The pattern I followed can be found here, though I did end up making a few minor adjustments on account of the fact that I was running out of yarn. Nevertheless, I'm very pleased with the results and hoping to make some further modifications that will translate into a line of Christmas gifts.

I've just remembered that I had some library books due today and I'm presently dashing off to return them!

Praise for "twenty-five"

Danica says, "Your blog is darling, darling! Please don't stop!"

Ashley says, "this is great!"

Returning from a nearly three-week hiatus, I'm proud to share a recently completed creation, this "beary cuddly iPod case."

Last Thursday I returned to San Diego after a two-week road trip up to the California Central Coast and Valley. Coming home after spending so much time in the constant presence of good friends is a bit of a bummer. I found myself in love with every place I visited, planning out how I could move there and what type of apartment I would try to rent. San Francisco, Napa, Davis...even the "Cowboy Capital of the World," Oakdale...all charmed me beyond expectation. Some photos from the trip can be viewed here, but below are a few of my favorites from the road.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Something I'm Happy About

<a href="">Too Much by Sufjan Stevens</a>

Friday, September 17, 2010

Amigurumi Inspiration

The Christmas after I learned how to crochet is one I still feel a bit embarrassed about: it was the year that all my friends and family got ugly, ill-fitting hats as gifts. I was nineteen.

With time and practice, my crochet skills improved and I got a little more imaginative with my creations, but everything I made was rather functional; I never dabbled in the construction of toys.

This amigurumi panda inspired me to change all that. I started a project yesterday and, though I'm unfortunately not ready to post a picture of a finished product quite yet, I'm sure that that photo, once it does come, will be darling. Though, regrettably, probably not as darling as this panda, because my bear actually doubles as an iPod case (I'm sorry! I can't seem to get past the notion that everything I make must be functional!).

Maybe if my friends would just have more babies, I would be inspired to make some toys. Meanwhile, I'm sort of fixated on all these iPod case ideas I've come up with in the last couple days. Spoiler alert: many cute pictures of unique, adorable iPod cases are coming soon.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Goods & Bads

Bad news: I had to get up very early this morning to take my sister to the airport.

Good news: I (usually) like getting up early. From the airport, I went to Starbucks, ordered a soy latte and a zucchini muffin, and read my book for an hour.

Bad news: My car is having problems. I took it into the dealer for a checkup and to diagnose the reason for the "Check Engine Light" turning on. They found several things wrong, and quoted me over $1000 for everything, parts and labor.

Good news: I called another mechanic in the area and he estimated a much lower price for the labor. So I drove my car to his shop.

Good news: One of my favorite restaurants ever, Ranchos, is just a couple blocks from that auto shop.

Good news: Their soy chorizo torta is just as delicious as I remembered it.

Bad news: I didn't have a car now, so I had to get around using public transport.

Good news: I love using public transport! Especially when I'm not in a hurry. I can relax and read a book!

Good news: I took the bus downtown to a movie theater and saw Toy Story 3! And I liked it!

Good news: I had a lot of free time to go shopping.

Bad news: I didn't find anything that I wanted to buy, a situation that always leaves me feeling sort of relieved but mostly just anxious.

Good news: I had frozen yogurt from the best frozen yogurt place (where I used to work).

Bad news: I didn't feel like writing.

Good news: I did it anyway!

Bad news: The writing I did was in the form of a list of daily events categorized as either "Good news" or "Bad news," which is definitely a cop out, not to mention cheesy.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Missing Moka-shi

I just finished watching the 2008 Japanese film Departures. I did not see it when it first came out, which was a source of much embarrassment to me since, as I was living in Japan and as I have many hip friends in the States who watch a lot of foreign films, I felt even more than usually out of sync with the trends of the times when folks back home would ask, "Oh! Did you see that Japanese movie that won the Academy Award for best foreign film?"

Well, enough about me and my social insecurities. I thought Departures (おくりびと) was lovely. The story line was so well crafted, it was humorous in all the right parts, and best of all, the film demonstrated in both its form and function the acute attention to aesthetic detail that is so much a part of Japanese life and society. Even the ritual of preparing a dead body for burial, in its care and precision, is imbued with meaning and beauty.

I miss Japan so much. The feeling hit me hard and out of nowhere yesterday as I was walking down the street, on my way home from the mailbox. I felt sad and cried a lot the last few weeks that I was in Moka, but yesterday was really the first time since coming back to California that I truly felt the pain of loss. Japan is a marvelous country, and I really didn't start to grasp just how special a place it is until I was no longer living there.

I don't really feel remorseful or depressed about it. My job there wasn't great; often it was terrible. And I have a lot more friends in America than I ever did in Japan. But Japanese culture and society found a permanent place in my heart. I'm grateful that I can continue to learn about Japan and about myself in the context of my association with that nation, even when I'm in the States. And I'm grateful that when I do go back some day, to visit or maybe even to live, it will already be my home.

Monday, September 13, 2010

9,999 hours to go...

"In the face of frustration, your best tool is a few deep breaths, and remembering that you can do anything once you've practiced two hundred times. Seriously."
--from page 1 of The Daring Book For Girls
When I read it a week ago, this quote was a healthy reminder of a concept that I've encountered elsewhere before: that progress is the product of repitition. And though practice--in my experience--doesn't usually make perfect, practice almost always does make passably decent.

I listen regularly to the podcast published by WNYC's RadioLab. It's pretty entertaining and consistently fascinating stuff. On the 07/26/10 short episode, "Secrets of Success," one of the show's hosts interviews Malcolm Gladwell, who discusses the idea that in order to be good at something, you must practice at least 10,000 hours. According to Gladwell, geniuses, from Bill Gates to Mozart to Wayne Gretzky, are not so much people who have been endowed by fortune with superlative skills or talents, as they are people who possess "an extraordinary love for a particular thing." Because of their love for whatever it is they do, they are so consumed by it that they only can devote themselves and their time fully to it.

Today was the first day (of, I'm sure, many to come) that I considered not updating this blog. I just didn't have anything interesting to write, and I couldn't think of any good stories from my past to transcribe, either. I wanted to just let it slide, shrug it off as one day lost, and get back to finishing season one of Heroes.

But I couldn't.

Remaining faithful to this 365-day blogging program is not just about integrity or proving a point. I'm really trying to improve myself here. And I don't honestly think that, if I spend 10,000 hours writing, I'll be able to write the Great American Novel; but I do believe that I'll be a better writer.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Naked in Nippon

This morning, as I sat beside the fire ring with three friends who had accompanied me on a weekend camping trip, I told a humorous story from my experiences in Japan. The telling of it reminded me that it's a tale I've yet to set down in writing. Though the punchline might seem anticlimactic to Japanese readers, my own compatriots are likely to get a kick out of it.

Earlier this year, I went hiking in Nikko National Park with my American friend Josiah, my South African friend Marius, and my Japanese friend Atsuki. It was a very pleasant hike, about four hours along a fairly level path, ending at a train station where we could easily catch a ride back to the trail head, where Atsuki's car was parked. Also near the end of the trail was a large, slightly famous and rather upscale hotel, with a proportionately famous and upscale onsen attached to it.

An onsen is a Japanese-style communal bath house. Traditionally, they are built around the offshoot of a natural geothermic hot spring, but many present-day onsen simply pipe in heated tap water. Though these bathhouses vary significantly in size, quality, and style, the system for visiting an onsen is fairly uniform.

The standard onsen is divided into two sections: one for men and one for women. After paying the entrance fee, men and women go through separate doorways, usually concealed by a blue curtain for males and a red curtain for females. After passing though the curtain, the customer enters a room in which she undresses completely and leaves her clothes and personal items in a locker or basket or cubby. Next, she proceeds to a room where she washes herself very thoroughly with soap. After completely rinsing off, she enters a steaming hot bath for soaking. Depending on the onsen, there may be just one bath or there may be multiple baths of different styles, temperatures, or even aromas. Some may have massage jets or bubbles, and there might even be waterfalls, saunas, and beautiful outdoor (but still appropriately private) settings. The visitor to the onsen will probably find the intense heat a little too overwhelming to stay in the baths more than an hour or so and, after completing her soak, will once again wash herself thoroughly with soap before returning to the locker room. All of these steps are done in the company of fellow same-sex bathers and, though potentially awkward for the unseasoned foreigner, make for a deeply relaxing experience.

I love onsen, and, on that day in Nikko as my fellow hikers and I made our way down that scenic path, the four of us agreed to visit the hot spring at the hotel before taking the train back to the trail head.

As we neared the end of the hike, the conversation was about on the different types of onsen that exist in Japan and Atsuki mentioned something I had heard of only once before: that there are, in some places, "mixed" onsen--called konyoku--where men and women bathe together in the same area. Atsuki said that such establishments, however, were very rare these days and he had never actually seen one.

We came to a bridge that marked the end of our hiking trail. The bridge stretched over a wide river. As we walked across, we could see, about eighty yards away on the opposite river bank, the back of the hotel. And there, along the back of the hotel, was the onsen.

"Oh my gosh, guys, look."

It appeared to be only the men's baths that were visible from the bridge, but there the men were, in full view of anyone who happened to pass along this public space. Given, we were too far away to really see much beyond the obvious fact that they were naked, but we all giggled and agreed that, of the three nationalities represented in our party, Atsuki's was the only one that would find such a setup completely acceptable.

We crossed the bridge and would have to walk along a path and cross another smaller bridge to reach the hotel. We walked up some steps and Atsuki, who was in the lead, suddenly stopped and turned around to face the rest of us. "Guys," he said, "the kind of onsen that we were just talking about--the one with men and women together in the same bath--konyoku--this sign says that there's one right here!"

We were all amazed by the improbability of the coincidence that had just taken place, and prodded one another jokingly about whether we would be willing to give it a try. But, rather than proceed straight forward toward the entrance, we turned the corner there to cross the smaller bridge. I stepped out onto the bridge, glanced to my side, and nearly screamed in shock.

It turns out that the konyoku had an outdoor bath overlooking the riverbank, too. But this time, rather than far enough away to prevent the unassisted eye from discerning any details, the baths were RIGHT THERE, and old naked men sat lounging without a care not fifteen feet from where I stood.

Oh, my. I instantly diverted my eyes. My hiking companions struggled to stifle their shocked laughter and teased me about my bright red cheeks. "That," even Atsuki felt, "isn't normal."

In the end, our perceptions of normal and abnormal are deeply ingrained in our own cultural backgrounds. Living in Japan taught me to reconsider many of my earlier assumptions about what is natural or universal in regards to common human behavior. It was a good learning experience. But there are certain images and situations that, at least for me, will perhaps never cease to be shocking.

To get to the train station, we had to come back across the same bridge and, though I tried to be polite, I admit I got another eyefull in spite of myself.

As much as I love onsen, I don't think that konyoku will ever be my thing.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

An Apology and a Rant

It's a quarter past nine in the morning and suddenly it hits me: I completely forgot to update my blog yesterday!

Something must be done. The temptation to watch Netflix must be conquered. This blog must be a priority.

I am sorry.

Yesterday, I went with my sister to try on wedding dresses. She and her boyfriend of one million years are tying the knot on January 30, 2011. With my moral support, she was able to find a dress that she is really enthusiastic about. One more item officially checked off of a very long to-do list.

Being around all this wedding business lately, with both my little sisters getting married within six months of each other, has certainly abstracted me further away than ever from the notion that I have much in common with my siblings. I just can't seem to connect with the mindset of The Bride--the compulsory veneration of dresses and engagement rings. After she picked out her dress, Lindsay told me about a wedding gown shop in La Jolla, California where, after a bride decides on a dress, they uncork a bottle of champagne. Brilliant customer relations ploy but, seriously? And, okay, maybe they are doing it a bit ironically, but c'mon...there's something very weird going on here, an enchantment that has collectively flourished in the minds of millions of young couples across the nation. Somehow, hoards of soon-to-be brides (and the friends and families who support them) have espoused the notion that a few hours of one day are not only worth pouring thousands of dollars into, but also that the mundane details of said hours must, accordingly, be regarded with both enthusiasm and respect by all parties involved.

I'm not trying to be cynical here. I'm not anti-marriage, or even anti-wedding, for that matter. But I, at this point in my life, seem to be incapable of mustering the enthusiasm for the particulars of the wedding ceremony that seems to be expected of me. This public confession is sure to come back to haunt me. Humbly I submit that maybe I'm just immature and I'll change my mind about all this once it's my time to get hitched. For the time being, however, I'm inconveniently aloof.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Hi, my name is Meghan...

I'm addicted to Netflix.

There was a period in my life, up until about--oh--one month ago, when I really didn't have any interest in being completely engrossed in a sitcom or TV drama. It's not a superior "I don't waste my time watching television" thing, I swear...or, at least, it isn't now: Now that I, too, have fallen so far.

Oh god, it's exactly the same as it was with The Sims.

It's like, there were all these TV shows out there that your friends were always talking about but you'd never actually seen yourself. You just figured you already had all these other things going on in your life and adding new distractions wasn't a high priority. But now you finally sit down and watch these programs and...dang...they're actually pretty good. Like, really good. Like, I can't stop watching them and when I get tired of one show because I've watched, say eight episodes in a row, I just switch to another show because, thanks to the miracle of instant streaming, I now have at my fingertips EVERYTHING I'VE EVER WANTED (or didn't actually want but, hey, it's not like I've got much else better to do).

In the last three days, I've watched the first one and a half seasons of 30 Rock and half of the first season of Heroes. Plus a couple of movies.

If I can't save myself, then who can?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Today I accomplished one of my life goals.

It is on this day, September the eighth, two-thousand-and-ten, that I, Meghan Elizabeth Janssen, have, for the first time in my very own kitchen, made cheese.

Yes! I made cheese! The procedure basically followed the instructions outlined on the website, Food Wishes, with the small exception that I used goat's milk instead of cow's milk and plain yogurt instead of buttermilk. Pretty good, eh?

The recipe and method for making this type of cheese is relatively quick and simple. Still, after having heard laments of disaster and disappointment from friends who had dabbled extemporaneously in fabrication du fromage, I was prepared for my first attempt to end in utter failure. And yet, miraculously, as I stood above the pot observing, the curds separated from the whey and formed a soft, mild, very fresh and yummy cheese (yes, I am gloating a little)!

Perhaps the next step is to mailorder some rennet or live cultures or something and try my hand a something slightly trickier. Maybe I will try to find a home cheesemaking class to attend. Either way, today marks a momentous baby-step toward another one of my (tentative) life goals: owning goats.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Vegan Raspberry Chocolate Muffins

Once upon a time I imagined that I was some sort of superior cook. This was mostly just because I tended to spend a lot of time cooking. Then I come back to America and suddenly it seems that all of my friends have been spending a lot of time cooking, too. And they all seem to be pretty good at it. So, oh well, there's one more reason why I'm not all that special, but I made these vegan raspberry chocolate muffins tonight and they were delightful.

So delightful, in fact, that I didn't even think to take a picture until after I'd already eaten two of them.

Monday, September 6, 2010


Do you ever take the time to really think about alive? Not life, but alive. I know I don't. I spend tons of time thinking about life--the things I did or am going to do and why am I wasting so much of it--but it's very seldom that I pause and reflect on the fact that I am alive.

I've been spending the last week and a half or so trying to sort though the boxes of stuff that I left behind when I left for Japan. It hasn't been going well. I'll unpack and consolidate and organize for an hour or two, find a few small things to throw away or take to the thrift store, then take a three-hour break to watch multiple episodes of The Office on Netflix. When I come back to the task later in the day, I feel completely overwhelmed: there's just so much stuff here! If I got by without it for two whole years, then I probably don't need it at all, right? But once I begin to take guilt and thrift and sentimental value into account, it seems impossible to part with a single middle-school diary or postcard sent from a foreign country.

This afternoon, between finding a place for my stationary collection and finally deciding to get rid of all my VHS tapes, I came across a manila envelope containing my important personal documents. Among them was my birth certificate. Meghan Elizabeth Janssen, born at 1444 on September 4, 1985 in San Diego, CA to Nancy Jo and Wesley Lawrence Janssen. Beyond the specific numbers and names, there's nothing in this set of facts to set me apart from every other person on the face of this planet. And yet, there it is: the public record that I am alive. Alive.

Suddenly, all my anxiety about the details of my life is put on hold. Alive. Whoa. That's cool.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Changes (Turn and face the strain)

In just the last year or two it has begun to occur to me: the things that came naturally when I was a teenager just don't come natural no more. Which is not to say that I can't have a strong fit body at twenty-five. But I will have to work harder for it than I did ten years ago.

While I was in Japan, I rode my bike everywhere. I didn't have a car, so my 4.7-kilometer commute to work in the morning and home in the evening was by bike. Trips to the grocery store were by bike. When I went out for dinner, it was usually by bike. For out-of-town excursions I would sometimes get rides with friends, or else take public transportation; but, otherwise, I was getting a lot of sustained aerobic exercise almost every day, simply because it was my primary means of getting around.

Since coming back to the U.S.A., I've begun to take notice of a definite change taking place in my body. I have not been putting on weight, but I have been getting...softer. Several days in a row pass wherein the most physically exerting thing I do is wash dishes. After a few days likes this, even if I've been eating well and getting healthy amounts of rest, I just feel sorta icky. In order to truly feel my best, I need to be moving around and getting some blood pumping through my limbs.

So I've settled on another goal for myself as I begin a year perhaps already a bit overloaded with ambitious goals: to begin and sustain a regular exercise routine. Running has served me well in the past, mostly because--minus the startup cost of a reliable pair of running shoes--it's absolutely one hundred percent free! I think I'll give running another go.

A necessity for successfully implementing and staying faithful to any exercise plan is accountability. And now, thanks to the Internet, I have the whole world keeping me accountable.

Saturday, September 4, 2010


There's no way for me to pass this off as something other than what it is: a self-gratifying means for me to exercise my writing skills and discipline myself to regularly translate my thoughts and the daily occurrences of my life into words.

I'm a writer. But I'm not a very good one. And, by that, I mean that I'm not very dedicated to being that which I claim to be. I don't really deserve to rank myself among those who call themselves "writers," because I don't write on a consistent basis.


On this day, as I round out a full quarter century of existence on this planet, I begin a project--embodied and allied in this very website--to think more deliberately and actively about whatever the hell it is I'm supposed to be doing with myself now that I guess I've basically made it to adulthood. Every day, for 365 days, I will compose and post a new entry that attempts to reflect on my current situation in life and thereby assists me in assessing my progress toward creative, professional, and relational goals. But, because this is not a private diary but a public weblog, I will not, for the sake of my readers and my own reputation, allow myself to dwell in self-berating and pessimistic drivel but to comment positively and progressively on whatever topic is at hand.

To catch everyone up to date: exactly one month ago I returned to my childhood home in San Diego after having spent two years living and working abroad as an assistant English teacher in the small city of Moka, Japan. Since this seems to be the first item people always inquire about once they hear where I was: Yes, I can speak Japanese now, but not very well. I enjoyed living in Japan, but life there was also very difficult. For lack of a better word, I "grew" a lot while I was there. If you want to know more about my time in Moka, I recommend taking a peek at this blog.

Over the past month, I have not begun the search for a new job. And I do not intend to begin it quite yet, as there are still quite a lot of fun things I want to do and places I want to visit before I once again submit myself to the yoke of employment. It is possible for me to live like this for the time being, since I was able to save up quite a lot while working in Japan; but, in a couple of months, it will be time for me to start seeking a consistent means of income.

A goal I have set for myself this year is to enter graduate school, or at least set the course to do so. At this moment, I desire to pursue a Masters in Intercultural Studies, and I have a fairly good feeling that I will continue to desire as much for as long as is necessary for me to carry out that goal.

Though both these items fall under the category of "vocational" goals, they promise to have significant influence on the more personal, emotional, and creative aspects of my life. I am grateful to anyone who is willing to accompany me on this ambitious attempt to "figure it out," and to construct myself into a writer in the process.


(Free coffee because it was my birthday! Woohoo! This year is off to a good start!)