Friday, May 27, 2016

Vitamin D: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Get Some Sunshine

I have a weird goal this summer. Maybe not a weird goal for you, but a weird goal for me: get a little more sun.

I am a pale person. I gave up “tanning” years ago, mostly because I don’t really get tan and also because when I was 20 I got sunstroke laying out on a roof like a dummy. I have accepted that the best I can do is freckle-merging to create tan areas.

As a consequence of avoiding the sun, dunking myself in vats of sunscreen, affecting a parasol betimes, wearing swaths of protective clothing, plus hats, I’ve been concerned I’m not actually getting enough vitamin D. I’ve been looking at vitamin D studies, which show that vitamin D can help prevent breast cancer, diabetes, colon cancer, and reduce depression, hypertension, and more. Our bodies creates vitamin D when it absorbs sunlight. I KNOW. No pills. I mean, you can take a pill, or drink some milk, but also you could literally walk outside into the sunlight.

Me with a hat in the sunshine on a St. Maarten beach. It was a lovely day.

I’m a writer; we habitually do not get enough sun. I work inside all day. It’s probably time to change that: take me to a beach, get me on a hike, out on an amble in the late afternoon, someplace where the sun can touch my skin and merge those freckles.

What do you think? Want to get some vitamin D? Let's get down with National Sunshine Month.

Disclaimer: GrassrootsHealth asked if I would share my thoughts on getting more vitamin D for National Sunshine Month, and I was like, write a post about sunshine? Um, OK. This post is brought to you by the nuclear fusion of hydrogen nuclei into helium by the sun which you and I then use to make vitamin D.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Oh HAI blog

So it's been more than a year since I posted on my own blog. That's...that's...a long time?

Blogging isn't dead, it's just that I blog for other people now instead of for myself. Only now it's called "content" and I get actually paid to write, as opposed to this, which I do for the love. Or for the pain. Or when I am bored.

But it turns out I am not bored, and wasn't bored for the 6 years after I left my office job for the greener, free and cloudless pastures of self-employment. Working around the clock, day and night, weekends, never taking a holiday, precludes boredom; it is the opposite of boredom. And then, one day, late last year, I started slipping down a hole of exhaustion and had the ganas to change. Working mostly from home is wonderful, and there is also never a break. And the pressure you feel when if you don't work you don't bring home utility payments, it was a lot.

So I said BYE to all that and got a new job. This new job was written for me, doing what I love, with cool people, and for cool software product. It's kind of amazing. They brought me on to launch a product, build a community, and content strategy for customer marketing. I got bored writing that so we'll cease this recap and move on to the more important things...


How has your style evolved in the past years? More yoga pants? Less boot-cut jeans? I'm going for modern with an edge of sport lately. It's important that you know this for no good reason. Old Navy black medium rise rockstar skinnies with 77% cotton, 21% poly, 2% lycra are life.

What do you love at Costco right now?

The most important question I was asked in my job interview was, "What shows are you watching right now?" and then I was like, "You are my people. I will work here. I will accept this rose." What are you watching on TV? Do you miss Trading Spaces? I feel so bad for Cat Deeley and the So You Think You Can Dance crew with this kids edition that I can't even watch the show. My DVR is at 89% and I am severely behind on all my stories. I'm for sure going to watch that NOVA special on Petra. No one erase it.

I want to remodel my house which also terrifies me. The horror stories! The money! I will be crippled by faucet indecision and existential lighting crises.

The kids are fine, thanks for asking, they are giants who barely love me and are way too tall.

Remember blogging, guys?

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Mandolin

I've only wanted to play the mandolin for twenty years.

I don't know why I didn't ever pick one up. Maybe it was 14 years of piano lessons, or 10 years of viola lessons, but I didn't even think learning the mandolin was a real option. No one I knew played, how would I even go about learning? I'd pick up a guitar every once in a while thinking I'd try my hand, but it didn't stick; my heart wasn't in it. I'd hear the mandolin on the radio, double tinkling in a solo, or in the background, and think wistfully, "I wish I played the mandolin."

My friend Nancy picked up the ukelele last year, playing solos on her porch on warm summer nights, teaching herself after her children went to bed. It was important, she said, to do this one thing for herself.  "I always wanted to learn how to play the mandolin," I told her.
"Why don't you!?" She said, her enthusiasm radiating, making the whole world seem possible.

Stepping into a local music shop, I saw the mandolins in the back corner. I picked out a matte model and put it on layaway. You'd crow to hear that it was a replica of models from the 1950s--something I didn't know until I picked it out from the crowd and brought it to the register. I wanted to prove to myself I could earn it slowly: paying for the instrument over months, carefully setting aside the money, deliberately anti-instant gratification. I couldn't just walk in and out with a mandolin, I needed to be sure.

I brought a Gretsch mandolin home on a Tuesday night, in a snug case with a learn-it-yourself spiral book. Every night, after the kids are in bed and the evening slows, I pull out my mandolin and teach myself how to play. I practice the chords and learn the fingering, finally understanding how to fret and strum.

My mother dropped by the house on a Friday afternoon. She noticed the mandolin case on the couch. "What's that?" She asked.

"Let me show you," I said, unzipping the case and pulling out the satin wood New Yorker Gretsch, "It's a mandolin. I've always wanted to learn how to play, I don't know why, so one day I decided I would."

Her eyes started shining.

She told me about growing up in Spain, how her uncles, aunts, and cousins played the mandolin. Gathering on cool nights of coastal Galicia, singing traditional folk songs and entertaining their families. They all played, she said, recounting the names and memories of those long ago nights, in kitchens and around the fire. Smoky and salted fish on worn wooden tables. Fog rising outside. The high, clear, old songs echoing from the mandolins.

Maybe the blood wants what it wants, perhaps our DNA passes along tiny codes for music, tradition, and connection, just like it did our dark hair and loud voices. Who can say?

One thing I can say: I play the mandolin.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Get Ready for Giving Tuesday - December 2nd

Are you ready to join the world in giving more this year? December 2nd is this year's Giving Tuesday, a global day of generosity and giving.

What I love about Giving Tuesday is it's not about any one organization, charity, or need, it's about supporting the causes you feel are most important, regardless of the cause. After several days of wanton shopping (ahem,) Giving Tuesday is my reminder to contribute in a way that resonates with our family.

There's something about being grateful for our plenty enough that we share it. A few years ago I discovered how the practice of gratitude can change the way I see the world. In short, what you put into the world is what comes back to you. If you help others, you will have help when you need it. It's not a tit-for-tat thing, it's a more abundant way of seeing how much you already have and sharing it--because so many of us have resources regardless of circumstance. Giving Tuesday is a day that you can join with me, and the entire world, to share your plenty with those who are in need.

I'll be back on Giving Tuesday with a few of my favorite organizations and I'd love to hear from you about causes that you love to support--it would be great to share them!

Help me get the word out about Giving Tuesday! Giving Tuesday is coordinated by the United Nations Foundation with a presence on every major platform. Follow Giving Tuesday or just post your own Giving Tuesday ideas.

Giving Tuesday on Instagram:
Post an #UNselfie
#GivingTuesday tag

Giving Tuesday on Twitter:
@GivingTues and the #GivingTuesday tag

Giving Tuesday on Facebook:
Post any update and tag #GivingTuesday
You could also upload an #UNselfie

Giving Tuesday on your blog:
Post a blog telling your network about Giving Tuesday, use the #GivingTuesday tag when you share your post.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

When the Wall Fell

Can it really be 25 years?

I tried to explain to my child why it still blows my mind.

You see, the world used to be in two pieces. There was our side and their side. There was a West Germany and an East Germany. And there were two Berlins. One half was free. The other half wasn't. A wall right down the middle of a city. It was taller than anyone on earth and deeper than you can imagine. The guards on the wall used to shoot people--they shot above our heads--who tried to cross. And then
One day
There were people on the wall
There were people over the wall
And then there wasn't a wall

Eine Deutschland and one world and everything we knew about dropping the bomb or not wasn't anymore.

It still feels like a miracle.

A messy, messy miracle new world that's sometimes scarier now because there aren't any walls where there once was a wall.

We took pieces of that wall and we threw them all over the world, in classrooms and cities, carried away in pockets from Potsdamer Platz and Checkpoint Charlie and to everywhere there wasn't a wall. Because once upon a time it divided the world and then we broke it into a million rocks that had one colored side and one gray side, the bright and the absent, and the world took it back.

Because you can't keep people from people. It won't work no matter how high and long and reinforced.

Something there is that doesn't love a wall.

And that something was us.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

#1 Most Important How-to-Write-Killer-Content Answer

I've been asked how to write content.

This is how it works:

  1. Daft Punk is Playing at My House
    LCD Soundsystem
  2. Cool Kids
  3. Safe with You - Single Mix
    Alex Metric, Jacques Lu Cont
  4. Pumpin Blood - Nox Remix
    NONONO, DJ Nox
  5. A Real Hero
    High Highs
  6. Cheap Sunglasses - Two Friends Remix
    RAC, Matthew Koma
  7. The Best Thing
    Electric Youth
  8. Dream of Bombay
    Viceroy, Chela
  9. Flesh and Bone - Jacques Lu Cont Remix
    The Killers
  10. Silver City
    Hey Champ
  11. El Pito (I'll Never Go Back to Georgia)
    Joe Cuba
  12. A Song That Will Help You Remember
    Slow Dancing Society
  13. Just Another Girl
    The Killers
  14. Lessons in Love (All Day, All Night)
    Neon Trees / Kaskade
  15. Coming of Age
    Foster the People
  16. Grand Prize
    Can't Stop Won't Stop

Friday, September 05, 2014

There and Back Again (Spanish Edition)

Should I dye my hair a crazy color? Go on a fasting cleanse? Crawl into bed and pretend I am sick? Put on another layer of very dark liquid eyeliner? The world is my neurotic oyster.

A friend asked me if I am in my post-holiday crash, the one where you feel like throwing your life overboard and going on permanent vacation. Where will the funds come from for this vacation? Who knows, who cares?! I'm on vacation until the money runs out!

(It will run out real fast, Calamity Jane.)

I took my heart, and my nest egg, in my clicking hand and bought tickets to Spain last month. Just me and the children--also my sister and her two children, and perhaps my parents. It was scary (I hate spending money,) and also something I felt like we had to do.

It's been 11 years since my last trip to Spain to see my mother's family. I was pregnant with my oldest at the time and so, so sick. I spent the train ride back to Madrid from Galicia regularly vomiting as the diesel fumes wafted back to smack me in the face. With our family complete, and no more babies, it was time to return to the motherland, no matter what.

Isn't this worth it?

(The view from the kitchen window of the flat we stayed in.)

And also this?

I mean, as far as trips go, Spain will do.

The terrible jet lag there, the brutal jet lag when we returned, it was all worth it. Except maybe the part where I dragged my kids to Spain. 

I hope they remember it when they grow up and praise my name. A 10-year-old, a 7-year-old, and a 3-year-old aren't traveling companions to sneeze at; they are to be managed, cajoled, and forced to experience culture. My parents forced culture on us, it's high time my children also experienced the sore feet, dehydration, and exhaustion that comes from looking at a set of royal china in a royal palace in some European capital. Tradition!

My kids even got off easy. Since it was just me and my sister (and our combined five small children) with only occasional help from my parents, we skipped some of the major cathedrals and attractions. Next time, my pretties, we'll learn about Baroque, Rococo, Neo-Classical, Gothic, Velazquez, Picasso, Matisse, Monet, and El Greco until your feet fall off in the middle of the Prado. How we do.

Now we are back and my life is resting uneasily on my shoulders. Where is my tiny, manual transmission car? Why are the streets here to wide and accommodating? Where is my daily visit to the bakery for fresh bread and pastries? Where is the beach with crystal waters and the sunsets that go on for forever?

Instead I'm back in my real life, with 7:00 am wake-ups, homework every night, dinner and the dishes, demanding work commitments, with terrible Fanta, and absolutely, positively, no beach.

It's no wonder my Jet Set heart pines for more impossible vacations from my real life.

But really, should I dye my hair?