One day in August while at work, I was particularly frustrated about something. I went to visit my friend who sits at the opposite corner of our suite floor. I grabbed a thick black sharpie from his desk and scribbled a tangled mess of lines on a page of his legal pad. Bewildered, he asked me what I was doing.
“I’m drawing my feelings.”
We laughed about it and I walked away.
The next day, still frustrated about the same thing, I turned the page of his almost done legal pad and scribbled an ugly stick figure with an grossly over-sized head wearing a frown.
I did this a couple more times until his legal pad was filled and it dawned on me I could make this a daily routine and spend about 5 minutes to visit my friend during a work day and doodle. I love happy rituals in relationships and I enjoy filling up notebooks and journals. So I now have an established corner of his desk that houses my Doodles About Feelings sketchbook, colored pencils, an eraser and circle stencils. The project grew to two physical volumes of sketches that make us giggle when we flip through them and serves as another catalog of memories. I even started an instagram account for it.
Turns out there’s a lot of benefits to doodling. It can improve your memory and focus, provide another way to express yourself when your words fail you, and provide cheap comic relief to the mundane happenings in your everyday life. Read “The Power of the Doodle” for more about the benefits of doodling.
It was a monumental year. I turned the dreaded Thirty, ended a long term relationship, fell in love with Paris, and faced tiny and giant fears.
I rang in the New Year with Alan and the same friends I’ve celebrated New Year with for the last 6 years. I treasure traditions. Little did I know this would have been the last year of our six year streak. More on that when you get to December.
Sometimes being a food blogger affords me some awesome opportunities. In February I had the opportunity to be a tasting judge for That Takes the Cake for the second consecutive year. I also visited the little rescue zoo in Austin for the first time with my little from Big Brothers and Big Sisters.
Alan and I celebrated five years together. We did not make it to the end of the year. Our relationship has shaped a lot of who I am today and for that I’m grateful.
I celebrated being matched with my little from Big Brothers and Big Sisters for five years by going to the new racetracks in Austin and watching the MotoGP Races. I can’t believe it’s been almost six years with this not so little little of mine. I worry about her a lot because I find growing up in today’s society is a lot harder for young people now than it was before technology has changed how we interact. That said, it has also been a pleasure to see her become a young lady. I realize I’m talking like an old person.
May was such a life changing treasure. I visited Europe for the first time since high school. Kim and I spent almost a week in Paris, a couple of days in Amsterdam, a day in Brussels, and a night in Istanbul. When I think about this experience my heart aches with bittersweet longing.
I spent a lot of this month acting as a silent auction chair for a charity event that the Austin Food Bloggers Alliance hosted in July. It was a lesson in rejection as I cold called businesses requesting donations. When I skim my Instagram feed in June I see a lot of food. I went to a lot of restaurant tastings, cooked and plated many dinners, and tried 16 pizzas from four restaurants in just a day.
I scratched off Oregon on my states goal by spending the weekend in Portland at the World Domination Summit with Anita, Treavor, and Jennifer. It was a magical and inspiring weekend that still makes me smile when I think of it. We had one of the best Thai meals I’ve ever had and delightful cupcakes and saw so many great speakers. I ended the month by celebrating my 30th with a birthday potluck party centered around ball shaped foods. It was a ball!
We had a Cookbook Book Club meeting and actually cooked. We are all busy women so our Cookbook Book Club meets more like every two-three months and every other meeting is so late on a week night we sometimes opt to eat at a restaurant instead of cooking. I have loved getting to know these ladies over good food.
I spent a weekend in the country outside of Dallas with Kim and her friends. Anita and Treavor joined us during the day. We rented a darling cabin and roasted marshmallows over an open fire. It was romantic and evoked feelings of autumn nostalgia. I then spent just a day in Miami painting my friend’s new house for hours and hours on end. I did manage to steal ten minutes of beach time on the way to the airport. It made me think of my dad.
A month of loss. I lost two friends to illnesses and with a heavy heart walked away from my almost six year relationship with Alan. October was also the first month of a new year of attempted monthly projects. For October I took at least 10 shots with my new DLSR.
I blogged every day in November. It was a difficult month. I moved out of the apartment I shared with Alan and cried for hours on end for days straight. It started to look up when I self-medicated with lots of dates with friends, including a third annual Thanksgiving potluck picnic pictured below.
I called December my Fear Factor December and I tackled my fears almost daily. I took a bee keeping class, spent an hour in a sensory deprivation chamber, started to release anger I’ve hung on to for four years, used a blow torch, boiled a live lobster, donated blood, and went on a police ride-along all in an effort to face my fears. December was hard, fun, and amazing. I scratched out three new states in two days and met a couple of my Internet friends. For the first time in six years I will not be spending my New Year’s in downtown Austin dolled up. I decided to honor the life changes that occurred toward the end of this year with a change of scenery. Instead of of heels and sparkles, I’m going for comfort and sparkles with a night in with my best friend, Kimmy. We will have our New Year’s tradition on the actual first day of the year for the first time in a few years.
In short, 2013 was both so hard and so lovely and I don’t know what to expect of 2014. But I’m ready.
A decade ago, I was dating my first serious boyfriend. We were fighting. I can’t remember about what but he fell asleep during it. I was still hot with anger with no outlet. So I wanted something soft and warm to eat. Food that requires little chewing often brings me comfort. I wanted something I didn’t have to cook and would fit my college student budget. So I drove around and saw the Church’s light was still on and ordered myself a medium tub of mashed potatoes. I sat in my car and ate it. It was the only comfort I found that night. That was the last time I had Church’s.
A year or so after that fight, we were fighting again and he fell asleep again. I was still seething and upset and needed an outlet. I grabbed a book of his that his parents gave him. The Five People You Meet in Heaven. I read it from cover to cover while sitting in the floor of the walk in closet.
I completely forgotten about these two memories for years. I am reminded of them when I was wondering what I’d eat for dinner and all of a sudden I felt an urge to eat Church’s mashed potatoes.
This week on Totes Awesome Channel, we’re chatting about small talk. I actually love small talk but I’m not sure if I’m any good at it! Regardless, I never shy away from an opportunity to talk to people.
I got back from Portland and World Domination Summit late Monday night with Anita and plan on writing at least two recaps. It was an amazing weekend that included breaking a world record and prancerising with Treavor. He came down from Seattle with my college mate, Jennifer and we had a lot of fun being kids together. More on that next week! For now, here’s the World Float video.
I’m acting as silent auction chair for Austin Food Bloggers Alliance’s charity event, Cupcakes and Cocktails. I had never done anything like this before so it was kind of a culture shock how much of a pest I had to be and how much energy and time it takes to wrangle items. My free time has been devoted to picking up items, following up with commitments, and uh, episodes of Pretty Little Liars. (I just discovered this show a couple of weeks ago after Ashley D vlogged about it on Totes Awesome Channel.)
So if you’re in Austin and would like to contribute to a great cause, come to Cupcakes and Cocktails next weekend. Tickets are only $35 and all proceeds from ticket sales and silent auction will go to The Arc of Capital Area, a local nonprofit who work with the intellectually and developmentally challenged. It’ll be on July 19th, Friday, 6pm -9pm at Le Cordon Bleu. You can bid on these little guys too.
This week’s moments of bliss: ♥ scratching off a state in my 50 states goal ♥ prancerising with friends ♥ visiting the animals at Oregon Zoo ♥ really really delicious ice cream ♥ a delicious and fun night at Kenichi’s sake media event ♥ punching the air randomly while walking down the street with friends ♥ live emailing Ashley D my reactions to Season 2 of Pretty Little Liars ♥ late night browsing Powell’s Books after a dance party in Portland ♥ Alan and I had date night at the grocery store this week ♥ surprising my mom with a delivery for her birthday ♥ I ate a lot of noodles this week
Question: What is something you want to learn more about?
I was reminiscing about high school recently and remembered something I rarely think about. In high school, I took a graphics class the first year it was offered (thirteen years ago) and afterwards wanted to take a more advanced class. The school did not have another course to follow the very first introduction to graphics so they offered me an opportunity to design my own independent study and call it Graphics Design II. I was amazed at the prospect of designing my own curriculum, being self-taught, and grading my own assignments! I was interested in Flash so I picked out a text book and my final project was to complete a Flash website comprised of all the tutorials in the textbook. The school worked the course in my schedule so that when it was time to go to Graphics Design II, I basically showed up into a computer lab and worked on my own.
As a sixteen year old, I was just thankful that I didn’t have to deal with a lecture and really enjoyed the opportunity to be independent. What power for a teenager to decide what her grade was! I didn’t know it at the time and only just realized it recently, but taking an independent study course at such an impressionable age influenced me to be the person I am today. I learned to not only set goals through designing a class, but I learned how important it was to have a specific idea what achieving the goal looks like (a complete Flash site), how to grade myself (successful implementation of all the tricks and lessons I learned in the book), and set a timeline or deadline (one semester). I see the manifestation of this way of living most prominently with how I treat the bulk of New Year’s Resolutions. I keep progress reports on this blog to track my progress. I quantify my goals. Instead of stating the big picture as the goal, I state the manifestations of that goal. For example, instead of making “learn how to cook Vietnamese food” my goal, I made “make 10 Vietnamese dishes” as my goal. I’m just realizing that this formula for goal setting was first ingrained in me by taking that independent study class.
I’m still in touch with a good number of my high school classmates. There has been a lot of talk through the years of all the ways our high school failed us. Still, I’m grateful for the many small lessons in living the tiny Catholic school have bestowed on us. I may do few more posts about the other lessons. One such way of living was to always be learning . To treat life as a school even if there is no official professor teaching, to track your progress, and be critical of yourself in the spirit of betterment. How cool is that for a high school to teach you that?
Question: What life lessons have you learned from high school?
Travel I managed to schedule five trips this year: road trip with Treavor to Little Rock, Pittsburgh to see my sister, Seattle with my BFF and to see a couple of other girlfriends who reside in Seattle, Marfa with Kim, and Vegas with Bloggers in Sin City. All meaningful trips to me. I climbed a mountain with Treavor and ate purple ice cream. I met my niece and nephew for the first time in Pittsburgh. I was able to see an old friend during a hard time in Seattle. Had quality time with three of the Totes Awesome Channel girls in Vegas and finally took a trip with Kim. Romantic moments with my friends. In 2013, I hope Alan and I will take time for a romantic trip of our own.
Reunion with my sister
For a big portion of my life, I often wondered if I’d ever speak to my half siblings again. I knew my sister got married and had no idea what her new surname is. Now it’s been a couple of years since we’ve rekindled a relationship and I had the pleasure of meeting her family and seeing her this summer. Seeing her and her family remains one of my most cherished memories of 2012.
New job As much as I had grown to love the academic research lab and my previous coworkers and employer, it was a not a particularly challenging position nor was there any real growth opportunity. I am digging my place here and opportunities to learn some marketing. I also get the joy of working with an old college mate. It makes me feel younger!
Buying myself flowers I am perpetually on a budget and never felt like buying myself flowers was justifiable. I made a resolution to buy myself flowers since I’ve always liked receiving them so why not be the source of my own happiness? It has been lovely the last couple of days to wake up to pink flowers on my nightstand.
Patient dog model Bob lets me put anything on him for a treat.
Likely once in a lifetime experiences It is doubtful that I will ever sleep in a teepee again in my lifetime. Helicopter rides is likely not to happen again either given the price and other things on my bucket list waiting for some attention. I SLEPT IN A TEEPEE IN 2012!
This year is the third consecutive year where I argue over what I should blog about during National Blog Posting Month with my BFF. It is the third year I’ve cranked out a sketchbook for Sketchbook Project a couple of weeks before it was due. It was my third year uploading a video every day in August. It is the fourth year, Brandi, Jessica, and I went to Texas Renaissance Festival and in just 11 days, Kim and I will be our end of year tradition for the sixth consecutive year. These traditions make me so happy.
Culinary adventures A chef in Houston designed a meal around bone marrow just for Kim and me. Austin finally has delicious ramen. I waited three hours for the best fatty brisket I have ever eaten. I moonlighted as a Dishcrawl Ambassador, sharing my love for progressive meals with town locals. It was a good year for food. I hope to be better about documenting the delicious eats on my food blog in 2013.
Awesome themed parties Uh, I went to a reading party. How awesome is that? I’m a huge fan of themed parties. I think they provide a great way to break the ice with new people with built in conversation starters. It gives you a mini project to fixate on to alleviate social anxiety and makes for great photos! Honorable mention to Anita’s pink and gold birthday brunch!
Staying in touch with friends
Oddly, most of my friends are spread out in the state and country but most times I feel really connected to them. I email Kim, Ashley, and BFF every work day. They keep me sane during work. I also am fortunate to have friends who stay in touch via GChat, quarterly phone dates, sending mail and packages, and if we’re lucky, we see each other in the flesh once a year.
There’s this journal that I gave my dad a few years ago. I asked him to record his story for me since I knew it was an important one and I had a hard time piecing together the vignettes he had shared. He finished the journal in 2008 and I retrieved it from him so I could transcribe it. He needs it back so he could write the second volume. It’s the only copy and it serves as references and triggers for his memories. I have to shamefully admit to you that I started to transcribe but had forgotten about the project all together for years now. It proved to be harder than I anticipated because though, Vietnamese uses script lettering, I cannot read my dad’s handwriting. I can read his English well because I know the language but not knowing how to read Vietnamese makes it next to impossible to decipher his squiggles.
I am making the complete transcription of this first volume (with highlighted marks and post-its bookmarking the words I can’t decipher) a resolution in 2013. I’m sharing a small snippet of what little I already had archived.
My dad was worried about Viet Minh (Vietnamese Communist). At night after the French army retreated to their base, the Viet Minh guerrillas would come to whoever could speak French or had served the former government. They would tie the victim and lead him away mostly to a river to “mo tom” (shrimping). The victim was tied to a rock covered with a cloth bag and thrown into the river. Every night, after pulling some bamboo trees to barricade the front entry, my dad stood inside the house peering through the crack of the window and planned to run through the back if the guerrillas ever came.
We escaped from our village one day to go to Thai Binh, the main district under the protection of French Army and Vietnamese non-communist government. I remembered my dad carried me and my sister followed behind. I was wearing my mom’s light sweater and the clay road was zigzagged with deep trenches that the communists had dug to slow down the French tanks.
I didn’t remember where we stayed in Thai Binh, and for how long. Must be a short time, two or three weeks. First time I ate fried noodle in a restaurant! And loved it so much. Unfortunately, one time we were eating there, and one young man came to our table and cleared some dishes away. That made my dad angry and we never came back. I missed that noodle.
My dad fought for South Vietnam in the Vietnam War. After the Fall of Saigon, my parents married right away. My dad was worried that the new government would take away some of his rights as punishment for fighting on the opposing side. Soon after, he was issued papers instructing him to report to them with 10 days worth of clothing. He was to be reeducated on new policies. This happened in May and my mom’s birthday was in July. He promised her that he would be home by her birthday. My mom didn’t even hear from him til 6 months when they finally allowed him to write letters. My mom told me that on her birthday a couple of months after his detainment, she made his favorite meal and waited. That still makes me choke up.
He was finally released almost three years later. My mom, my half siblings, and my dad soon attempted their first escape out of Vietnam. Escaping Vietnam was pretty difficult. Not only is there a government not wanting you to leave and will punish you severely for it, but Thai pirates often preyed on refugee boats. Still, my parents wanted a better life and Vietnam was no longer the country they knew. So my dad along with a few other men planned an escape. They were to play the part of fishermen while underneath their wooden boat there were friends and family sardined silently. Mothers with their hands over their babies’ mouths.
With good fortune, my parents’ boat made it to Indonesia where there were refugee camps. They stayed there for a few weeks and bartered with soda and cigarettes. My parents carried nothing except for the clothes on their backs and one gold necklace. The necklace was given to my dad by a Chinese friend who wanted to give him jade and gold for good luck. The Chinese believed jade to keep away evil spirits and bring them good luck. It was the only thing of value my dad kept.
I can’t remember when he gave it to me but I never took it off for years. I showered and slept in. I took it off once at twelve years old because I was having major surgery for scoliosis. It wasn’t until college and when I started accessorizing that sometimes I took it off. Very rarely though. You can often see them in my photos and in my vlogs. I still showered and slept in it.
I received a lot of inquiries and compliments about the necklace through the years. I usually gave the short story. “This is the only thing my dad didn’t sell before coming to the states. I’d die if I ever lost it.”
I lost it. I haven’t worn it in about a week or a little over a week. I looked for it the last two days. I still haven’t stopped looking for it but I know I will utterly be heartbroken if I don’t find it.
Update: Necklace found! You guys are awesome for the concern and sweet notes.
In digging up entries to share for the vlog, I noticed that most of the journal entries I found in early years of college consisted of me choosing the guys who didn’t really like me over the guys who would surprise me in my dorm room and serenade me with N’SYNC songs while doing their dances or the guys who made me John Coltrane CDs for Valentine’s because they accurately guessed that my boyfriend at the time would not get me anything for Valentine’s Day. Or guys who dedicated Coldplay’s Yellow to me. There were so many sweet guys who did so many sweet things, and I repeatedly picked the guys who canceled on me or insulted me or even threw things at me. Younger Linda was so incredibly stupid!
Valentine’s Day is just a few days away! This is the first year in I can’t remember how long that I’m not sending love notes and pink socks to my single girlfriends. I’m saddened to break my own tradition but I’ve just been so focused on other things like paying for Bloggers in Sin City, car bumpers, speeding tickets, and anniversary presents. I will just have to do a better job celebrating my favorite holiday next year.
In less than a week, Nicole, Ashley, and Treavor will be in Austin for the weekend! I can’t wait to share martinis, eat Nutella stuffed cookies, and watch Ryan Gosling with the best company.
My sister bought me a plane ticket to see her for an entire week this summer! I was still in junior high the last time I saw her so this trip makes me equal parts happy, excited, and nervous. What do you talk about after all that time has passed?
This week’s moments of bliss: ♥ BFF got her Masters! ♥ reading all 99 tiny stories in this article ♥ acing my first tomato basil soup ♥ bringing chocolate cake with my favorite icing for lunch ♥ finishing my 7th book of the year ♥ my Sketchbook Project has officially been received and cataloged in the Brooklyn Art Library ♥ volunteering at the food bank with lovely food bloggers ♥ chocolate ♥ puppy cuddles ♥ puppy doesn’t need to be taken out so much anymore ♥ emailing my reactions to Mad Men and One Day to Kim ♥ banh mi ♥ so much coffee
Question: What is your favorite Valentine’s Day memory?