April On and Off Instagram

April was a flurry of activity. I looked at my calendar and only had 4 nights at home. There were food tastings, food events, a bachelorette party, a subsequent wedding, birthdays, happy hours, a trip to Houston, and filling in for absent players in intramural kickball games. The crush I alluded to in my March Instagram recap didn’t feel mutual. I distracted myself with friends, family, meeting new people, and delightful bites. Not pictured in these photos from April is my raising over $1500 for Make-A-Wish and securing a spot to rappel down a 38 story building in June (I’m still fundraising so please consider donating to a great cause). Also not pictured, booking airfare to Greece for August and buying Oprah tickets for October. Despite the discomfort of unrequited crush, April was delicious and love-filled and I planted seeds for an exciting 2014.

Oh, did you see? I breathed the same air as Andrew Zimmern, truly a dream come true.

Sous Vide Steak

Pork Belly

Whip It





Ming Tsai


Odd Duck

Odd Duck

Japan Festival





Life Lessons Learned Through Improv

A couple of months ago I went on an awful first date. There’s not much of a story there except that I found him too much of an intellectual elitist. I hate wasting my time and always enter every experience (especially the bad ones) with searching eyes. Looking for treasure in the guise of a new hobby or lesson learned or a good story. As I was sitting over coffee with this pompous man, I tried to learn something. Anything. It was such a difficult endeavor since I was so turned off. Finally, he mentioned that he was a serious comedian and also dedicated a lot of his time to improv. He said anyone could take a free introduction class at any of the clubs in town. Ding, ding, ding! Treasure! After we parted ways, I shook off the icky feeling he gave me and went home and signed up for a free two hour introductory class. I went to the class and loved every minute of it.

I walked away from this class with a new conviction. Everyone should take a free improv class. Even if you have no interest in pursuing it further than just one free class. Not only will there be fits of laughter as you play, there are skills in improv that are useful in everyday life. Let me share three of them.

Failure Bows

During the intro levels of improv, we are encouraged to yell out, “I failed!” and then take a bow every time we failed to come up with the perfect line, let the ball drop, tripped either figuratively or literally, broke the rules of a game, zoned out, or do anything that made us feel like we failed. When someone yells out “I failed!” and takes a bow, the rest of us are to applaud them. The life lesson of the Failure Bow is two-fold. We should be proud for taking chances that lead us to our failures. We should react with admiration when we see people take chances and fall short. Our failures are our badges of courage.

Yes, And…

Improv is a live collaboration. Connecting with the audience and making them laugh hinges on how you work as a team. Enter the “Yes, And…” rule. When someone suggests something to you or invites you to play along with something, for the scene to stand a chance, you have to not only validate what your partner is saying to you but add to it. “We should get in this boat” should be met with an enthusiastic “Yes, and we should pack a snack!” There’s a beautiful openness and acceptance in the interactions during improv that could enrich our everyday life.

Be Present

To have a really great improv session, you have to be present. To really validate your teammates, you have to see and hear what they’re doing instead of withdrawing into your own mind and planning out your lines. The only way you can naturally and seamlessly move forward a scene is to be completely present. This means no live tweeting or instagramming. I’m the queen of preserving my moments live through my social feeds and yet that night I published nothing. I was too busy listening.

And there you have it. Three life lessons I gleaned from a bad first date.

Questions: What’s the best thing you have happened because of a bad date? Have you ever tried improv?

March on and off Instagram

I know this sounds cheesy, but looking back through your photos over the past few months, your smile has changed and it’s for the better. It’s a very “at peace with yourself” kind of change and it’s physically showing.” – Friend

I see life as chapters and big changes. Moving, birthdays, births, deaths, break-ups, new relationships, job changes, all serve as chapter endings and beginnings. My last chapter or pivot point was in October with both a physical move and break-up and two deaths. So much can change in such a short amount of time that it feels like a life time ago. March was a good month. These instagrams show good food, good friends, and a couple of trips that involve two beaches in two different states and a canyon. There’s a hint and homage to a future trip being taken soon to Greece. Not pictured on instagram from March was my first crush in years. I’m skeptical the crush will blossom into a new relationship but it was such a lovely surprise to feel butterflies that I smile at the memory and experience. March, you were a gem.

You can find me on instagram doing the best I can to linger on the special moments in my life at curiousnotions.


Having Adventures Without Traveling

Local Turtle Pond

Local Turtle Pond

Some time ago a nomadic soul who recently planted roots asked me how I managed to keep the explorer in me fulfilled when I’m not traveling. There are infinite amount of experiences to be had which means you don’t necessarily have to get on a plane to start exploring. As much as I love traveling, it’s not always feasible to hop on a plane or jump in the car with an out of town destination.

Be a sponge for local news and events. I am always on the lookout for things to do in Austin and Houston, my home-bases. Even if my schedule isn’t free, I’ll mentally bookmark the local gems. Just last week I finally checked out a rooftop telescope that has been open to the public at the University of Texas for decades. I saw Jupiter and four of her moons. I’ve had access to this building for thirteen years and still just manage to experience its roof and peer at Jupiter for the first time. Examples of some of my local gems? In Houston there’s an obscure museum called the National Museum of Funeral History and in Austin we have the Cathedral of Junk. What does your town have? When was the last time you checked out your local tourist spots?

Be deliberate. I’ve been consciously looking for a new experience at least once a week since the summer of 2005. I have not missed a week and it comes so easily to me now. It can be as small as trying a new restaurant or cooking with a new ingredient or finally taking that dorky Segway tour of your city. Scan your Livingsocal and Groupon emails for new experiences in your town. That’s how I found myself taking a bee-keeping class and rolling down a hill strapped inside a plastic ball. All of these experiences required no booking of airfare or lodging.

Have friends with adventurous spirits. I recommend being friends (and dating) people who aren’t afraid of looking stupid. People who don’t mind making fools of themselves as they learn how to ride that Segway or who are brave enough to be in that plastic ball with you. These like-minded friends will also be in the know of all the unique nooks and crannies your town has that most locals take for granted.

Be open and say yes. I’m willing to bet that a lot of us are so comfortable with the familiar that we make excuses. Excuses are dangerous stories we tell ourselves on why we can’t have or do something. Adventures aren’t limited to faraway places. Be open. Next time something strikes your fancy, google it along with your city. See if your city has a sensory deprivation chamber after you hear about it on the Joe Rogan podcast. If your friend invites you to a reading party, even if it’s easier to just read in your pajamas at home and not suffer the social anxiety you get from meeting new people, say yes.

Traveling is an easy gateway into the feelings you’re bound to feel when your horizons are being stretched and you are seeing things for the first time. I get it. I can never get enough of travel. But it’s still possible to feel awestruck anywhere you happen to be.

Now that I have you here. I need your help fundraising for Make-A-Wish and fulfilling one of my local adventures. If I’m one of the first 200 people in Austin to raise $1500, I get to rappel off a 38 story building. Help me raise money for a good cause and scare myself silly?

Grand Canyon

I usually plan my trips around metropolitan destinations. However, I hadn’t spent time with Ashley Riordan, Nicole, and Ashley D as a foursome since we went to Vegas almost two years ago. I also never visited a National Park before and still need to scratch off Arizona on my 50 states list. So when Ashley Riordan expressed an interest in visiting the Grand Canyon, we all jumped aboard and had a reunion trip. I’ve never experienced nature so breathtaking in person. I landed back in Austin with such an ache in my heart. The views and backdrops of our weekend there were unreal and being around girls I love so much felt like finding a long lost beloved sweatshirt that still fits. I newly resolve to travel with them at the very least once a year.

If you want a more thorough recap of our trip, might I suggest Ashley Riordan’s? But first take a look at my favorite photos.

Happy As I Am

In between the two big relationships of my life which cumulatively lasted almost ten years, I was single for most of two years. I remember I really came into my own during this time. I actualized facets of my personality and my identity that laid dormant between the ages of 18 and 22. My sense of adventure and wanderlust no longer was hidden within me but became a manifestation of how I live my life. I cultivated gratitude, joy, and self-reliance. I learned so much and had so much fun doing it that I almost feel sorry for those who never get to experience the self actualization that comes with living on your own and as an untethered person. I have friends who have never been single in their adult lives and I can’t help but wonder how much they might have missed out on their self-knowledge.

This is who I am when there’s no one to come home to. This is who I am without the context of a romantic relationship. I am someone who likes to read and doesn’t like watching football. I am someone who can eat ramen three times a week because I much rather cook for people than just me. I plan things out and leave slots in my calendar to “rest” but when it’s time to rest I use those pockets to make spontaneous plans. I kill time at the library or book store when I don’t want to come home to an empty apartment. I love to travel. I’d love to do it with a significant other but if he is not around because he doesn’t want to be or because I’m not in a relationship, I will go without him. This is just a fraction of what I learned my first time as a single adult.

I’m not saying there isn’t a lot to learn when I’m in a relationship. I learned what kind of communicator I am and what my needs are from a partner. I learned about boundaries and nonnegotiable after testing them out in relationships. I reinforced my values within the context of being someone’s girlfriend and I know I will go through that again if ever I become someone’s wife or mother. I am just thankful for the time I’ve spent truly on my own. I value the security and connection and love that comes with romantic love, but if I never fulfill that again, I can be happy and fulfilled as I am.

And that feels like power.

Questions: What have you learned about yourself while you were single? While you were in relationships?

A Walk Down Valentine Lane

Since childhood, Valentine’s Day has always been my favorite holiday. When I share this information, the most popular criticism I receive is, “It’s because you’re usually in a relationship.” Sure, since the age of 18, I’ve been in 2-3 relationships that lasted a cumulative ten years. Ironically, I chose men who didn’t share an inkling of my enthusiasm of red and pink candy and cheesy cards. I’ve managed to still carry on with my festivities with or without them. It was always a week of celebrating relationships with family and friends and spreading cheer. The last couple of years my enthusiasm for my favorite holiday started to die. I think intimately sharing a life with someone who couldn’t get behind a holiday that was invented by the greeting card industry finally took its toll.

This year I was going to take a break from my usual Valentine’s Day fanfare with intentions to throw heart-shaped confetti at my friends next year. Luckily for me, I have good friends who either share my past enthusiasm or play along for my enjoyment. Stephanie asked me to have a Valentine dinner with her on Friday and Anita came over last weekend and we crafted Valentine’s Day cards together. They inspired me to not completely ignore something I used to love. On that note, I am sharing my favorite Valentine memories.

♥ At my previous job, my coworkers knew my that it was my favorite holiday and that I have an obsession with chips. They taped bags of chips on my door and a computer print out of flowers.

♥ My brother and I had a Valentine Date at Build-A-Bear and crafted each other stuffed animals. I still sleep with the pink teddy bear he made me.

♥ My friend Thomas and I organized a card making party and made cards to personally deliver to the residents of a nursing home.

Cindy sending me flowers!

♥ Jennifer and I buying McDonalds for dinner and watching Love Actually. Our dessert was chocolate fondue.

♥ My high school made it mandatory that juniors and seniors left campus on Wednesdays to serve the community. One year Valentine’s Day fell on a Wednesday which was also the day the McDonalds on our street had 40 cent cheeseburgers. We were gifted candy from the school we were serving so my co-volunteers made Valentine’s Day lunches of cheeseburgers, fries, and candy for the homeless panhandlers.

♥ Instagramming Bob last year.

♥ I used to work in the medical field. We had a patient who liked to doodle on his urine sample cups. He brought in a red marker and drew hearts on his cup. I know this is gross but I find it kind of a funny memory.

♥ Wrapping presents to send in the mail for my parents and gal pals.

♥ Making Valentine’s Day cookies with a roommate and inadvertently using wax paper instead of parchment paper causing our apartment to smoke up and our heart-shaped cookies turn into broken heart cookies.

♥ The Valentine Week on Totes Awesome Channel where we were actually in the same city.

Okay this trip down memory lane is pulling me out of the Valentine funk. I hope if you’re feeling grumpy about this holiday that you are reminded that there are people around you who love you.

Question: What are your favorite lovey friendship memories?

Truth at the Edge

In high school, I really enjoyed my bioethics class. So much I took it again for another year. Then I pursued both a biology and a philosophy degree in hopes to create a bioethics background by combining the two studies. I had my head down through college and pursued both degree plans. It wasn’t til my last semester of college that I blinked, looked up, and said to myself, “I actually don’t want this.” It took getting very close to graduating undergrad to realize I did not want to get a graduate degree in Medical Ethics.

Some years and two jobs ago, I walked away from a career without a back up plan. I had worked at it for so long with blind abandon. I found it fulfilling. I loved the relationships I was building with my patients as a clinical research coordinator. There was room to grow. But I ignored the gnawing that this wasn’t for me. After I finally was brave enough to acknowledge that three years was a good amount of time to know when something doesn’t feel right, I walked away without a back up plan. I exhaled, jumped, and flailed all the way down.

On my way down from that leap of faith, I grabbed the next job path that came to mind. I reflected that I liked my previous work during college as a program leader for a summer camp for at risk children. I did a great job commanding attention from the kids and thrived. So again, I put my head down, threw down money, and started to get certified to be a teacher in Austin. I studied, went to classes, tested, and got my certification. It wasn’t until then that I looked up and thought, “No, this isn’t it either.”

Sometimes it takes me getting to the very edge of something, my nose nearly touching that goal, before I finally open my eyes and acknowledge an inner truth. This isn’t it. Walk away. I’ve never regretted walking away. I’m not one who walks away lightly when it’s something I’ve actually committed myself to. I put blinders on in my commitments. I suspect it’s a mixture of love and dedication but also the fear of facing a scary truth. I didn’t want to look up during college, because if not bioethics then what? I didn’t want to look up mid-career because if not this career, then what? I didn’t want to leave my last relationship, because if not this man, then whom?

I’ve been hard on myself for not reading the signs in my life until I get to the very edge. But today, I decided to exhale. And be glad that I’ve always managed to walk away before losing myself. Even when it’s scary. Even after all I’ve invested. Maybe it’s okay to get as close as I can to the edge. Maybe that’s when the truth is the clearest.

photo credit: Thomas Chen Photography

2014 Resolutions

In 2008, I made 17 goals and completed 14.

In 2009, I made 17 goals and completed 7.

In 2010, I made 20 goals and completed 14.

In 2011, I made 18 goals and completed 13.

In 2012, I made 17 goals and completed 12.

In 2013, I made 16 goals and completed 8.

That’s an average of 17.5 goals a year. In the last 6 years, I’ve always had my goals mostly drafted up by November of the previous year. After ending such a long relationship, I’ve unmarried myself to so many projections of my future that I feel pretty rootless right now. It surprises me that I’m relearning who I am because one of the biggest facets of my personality is that I’m very goal driven. This free floating existence I’m living right now is surprising me.

This year, I’m going to strive towards only five. I hope to learn how to relax and how to breathe. I will channel the butterfly and see what pretty flowers I land on with the space I cleared out.

(In 2014, I resolve to go to Greece, visit four new states, save some money for parents’ retirement gift fund, pay down almost one half of my student loans, and read fifty books.)

photo credit: Thomas Chen Photography