08 January 2017

New Year's Resolutions

It's so cliche, but as K can attest, I am someone who loves setting goals. Last month when we went to see The Secret Garden - a lush production full of gorgeous voices and overflowing with personal nostalgia - I declared smilingly that "We should set a goal to attend a play or concert every month." K groaned, good-naturedly, and reminded me that I always do that. It's true - I find something I life and try to set a goal to add it into my life more often!

So in the officially-sanctioned season of resolutions, I am in my element. I revel in it. I try to think hard and carefully before making the commitment, but couldn't stop myself from spewing out goals and breaking them down into SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound) objectives.  Okay, I didn't go that far. But that just makes me more ambitious for next year!

As part of my accountability, here they are:

Contribute to my community
  • Educate myself on issues that people of color face and amplify their voices and perspectives
  • When I hear racist/sexist/homophobic/ableist and other unacceptable language, I will speak up whenever I am safe to do so
  • Participate in at least one march or rally about a cause that is important to me
  • Engage with people who voted differently than me in order to exchange ideas, build empathy, and find common ground
  • Practice ways to recharge, stay safe, and take care of myself and make a list of what works best for me

  • Play the piano once/week minimum and memorize at least two entire pieces
  • Join a choir
  • Listen to a new music playlist or a new album once/week
  • Listen to the weekly classical playlist on Spotify

Art and Culture
  • Attend at least 10 plays or concerts in 2017
  • Attend the State of the Arts concerts whenever possible
  • Take more photos - and - extra credit - take a photography class (yes, I’m giving myself the chance for extra credit here!)

Professional Development
  • Attend at least three lectures/discussions about work topics per month to gain fresh perspectives and meet people working on the same issues
  • Meet with someone outside of my office at least once a week to build networks and learn about different ways we are all contributing to solving problems
  • Travel to Morocco and Algeria at least once this year
  • Take refresher Arabic lessons and practice/study for at least two hours/week outside of lessons

Read more books
  • Goal is 25
  • Choose fiction books written by people of color or women 
  • Non fiction books on five topics - Middle East/North Africa, New Zealand, Marriage/Relationships, Having a Baby, and Race/Class divisions in America  - make a concerted effort to choose books that are written by people from diverse points of view (not just white native-English-speaking men)
  • Read one book in French

Fitness and Weight Loss

  • Take off 20 pounds
  • Reduce body fat percentage 
  • Increase body water percentage 
  • Track every day, even if it’s just one meal. Try to stay under 40, ideally maximum 37/day
  • Walk a minimum of 10,000 steps on work days and 7,000 on non-work days
  • Work out a minimum of 30 minutes 5 times a week

31 December 2016

Money money money

I've been listening to a great podcast called Death, Sex, and Money recently and it's inspired me to both think about and talk about these topics more. They are so integral to our lives and yet so taboo!

Today's blog is about financial integration!

Hooray for home ownership!

Okay, I'm not really a homeowner, but my partner is and I'm doing everything I can to share those responsibilities.
We agreed that since K put in the downpayment on the loan, I would make an equal contribution and be added to the deed and loan. So I am purchasing the furniture and then will make a payment on the loan capital equal to K's downpayment minus said furniture.
I really like having such open financial discussions - it helps us both feel positive and clear on our mutual and individual responsibilities. I highly recommend a frank, regular money chat with your partner (or boo as some people prefer).

This podcast, Death, Sex, and Money is produced by WNYC Studios and hosted by Anna Sale and covers the "big questions and hard choices that are often left out of polite conversation." Every episode is beautiful and tough and touching and leaves me feeling both a little awkward and relieved at the topics covered.
It's definitely been a learning process. I never tried to consolidate finances with a partner before. It feels like a huge step - a big commitment to one another. K was worried about taking on my student loans; I was worried about her different spending habits.

Once we talked about it, we found some easy and effective solutions. Because I had the chance to save up while I was in Beirut, I was happy to keep my student loans to myself and not lump them into family debt. And to deal with spending habits, we agreed to create a joint account for the house, food, bills, and vacations, then individual accounts for our personal spending - makeup, clothing, gifts, computers, snowboarding equipment, books, etc.
We haven't implemented the plan yet - I've only gotten one paycheck so far so starting up a joint account didn't make sense yet! But I know that with the dialogue we've already started; we are in a great place to set ourselves up for 2017.

In fact, just last night I made a big move and paid off one of my student loans! Only one to go now :)

17 December 2016

I'm back!

I was not successful with my goal to post every day in November but I did learn a lot.

1. I discovered that I have something to write about every day.

I thought that this was going to be the hardest part - finding a topic to talk about every day. But in fact, and especially with the low minimum word count, I found that I didn't get to the pre-planned topics. Instead, I wrote about what had happened during my day, things that I was thinking about, news, etc. I was surprised by the fun and discovery of my every day life and delighted that I had thoughts to share about it.

2. I realized that I really need to take more time editing before I post.

This was partly a side-effect of the low bar I set when I decided to blog every day. My minimum word count meant that as soon as I met that count, I felt finished. Even if I was in the middle of a thought or hadn't carefully explained the experience or story. When I re-read some of the posts I was disappointed in their abrupt endings, poor layout, and bad readability

3. I decided that blogging every day is unnecessary.

I'm not trying to sell something to you. In fact, the number of daily emails that I get from sellers makes me quite certain that sending content *new* *you've got to see this* *everyone on your block has one, why don't you* every single day doesn't actually work from a marketing point of view. Plus, if you're a subscriber, you don't really want to see my blog popping up in your email every day - we all have email overload. Consistency but not overkill is what I'd like to have.

4. I need to set a specific time of day to write.

Too often, I would get to the end of the day and realize that I hadn't written anything; hadn't even thought about a topic. This stressed me out at the end of the day and ultimately reduced the quality of writing too.

5. I would like to spend more time on the aesthetic of my blog.

I focused just on the content and didn't create a look for the blog. Most of the 'also read' blogs are years out of date. Just in general, I need to update what the blog looks like and links to in order to make it a happy place with fun and interesting ideas to explore.

So I've decided:

I'd like to set a new goal of updating once per week, I'm aiming for Tuesdays. I'm keeping the word minimum to 200, but with a goal of at least 500.  I don't have many subscribers just yet, but hopefully once I'm consistent, I will find like-minded people who are interested in what I'm saying.

In truth though, I think what I really want out of this blog is a record and a memory of the beauty and fascination of life and all the amazing things I get to experience.  I'd like to be able to look back and find joy in memories made clearer because I put the time into writing about them.

Listening to: Best of Star Wars playlist on Spotify
Feeling ⛸⛸⛸ - This freezing rain makes me ice skate on my back porch!

01 December 2016

Rabbit rabbit rabbit

Happy December 1st!

Can't believe it's already December.
My big news is that I started my new job on Monday!!!

I will be coordinating, monitoring, and doing strategic planning for assistance programs in Morocco and Algeria.
I am so excited and happy about the opportunity. The team is great, the work is interesting, and I feel that as soon as I get my feet under me, I'll be able to make a solid contribution.

In the mean time, I'm reading and listening and having meetings and asking questions.

Also, I'm doing all the important mundane tasks like adjusting my desk chair so that it doesn't tip me backwards when I sit down in it. I'm setting up hanging files to keep the reference documents I'd like to have a hard copy of. I'm running around getting badges and computer logins.


It feels so nice to have a job again.
Don't get me wrong - I know that at some point I will be tired of being in the office and wish for a vacation - but for now, it is great to have somewhere to be everyday. To get out of the house for a purpose, not just a whim. Doing 10,000 steps a day is a breeze when I'm working. When I was at home, sometimes getting 5,000 steps was a struggle! (Alphabetizing the spice drawer just doesn't require walking around very much)

23 November 2016

having a hard time doing once a day!

Having a hard time recently keeping up with the once a day posts that I promised. It will be a relief to go to once a week starting in December.
I'm planning to do updates on Tuesdays - fresh from the weekend, but enough time to write up on Monday and edit on Tuesday. One thing that has definitely been lacking in this once-a-day stream of consciousness writing has been any kind of editing.

I usually write it once, spellcheck it, and post it immediately.
It's quick, relatively painless, and often ends up being pointless.

I found that I stopped right at the 200 word mark and didn't finish a complete thought, didn't take the time to fully explain or explore the topic that I introduced.

Hopefully going with a weekly post at 500 word minimum will help a lot with that particular phenomenon.

One thing that was interesting and I didn't expect is just how much I have to talk about!

There's always something interesting, or at least interesting to me - it may not be my own life, but perhaps a news story or a new podcast that I've gotten into. In fact, it has sometimes been difficult to choose one thing to write about!

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving - and that's really exciting in so many ways :) gobble gobble

21 November 2016

Flu shot

I got a flu shot today!

That's about the most exciting thing in my whole day. I've been feeling a bit down and low energy and couldn't even get myself outside for a run. The cold certainly contributed, but it's still a little worrying.

Another thing I did today was buy a new pair of jeans, in a size larger than I'm currently wearing. I just need to realize that I am too big for my britches. haha. I will be very glad to have them but the process of buying them was put off, delayed, and painful because I've been trying to take weight off so I can get a size smaller, not larger.

It's days like today that I have to remind myself, sometimes verbally and out loud that I need to treat myself and speak to myself in the same way that I speak to my best friends and my sisters. This inner monologue that only finds fault and lack is mean. I would never be so mean to anyone I called a friend; there is no need to be mean to myself. Taking the words out of my head and into a new context really helps. I can look at the words from an outside perspective and recognize their negative impact. And then consciously make the choice to use other words.

I learned some of this from my therapist and realize how wonderful and life-giving it was to have someone actually be that external voice to give me perspective and tools.

It doesn't always work, and when it does, it doesn't always stick. But if I'm going to hold others accountable for being kind, using appropriate vocabulary, promoting those who are vulnerable, then I certainly need to hold myself accountable.

20 November 2016

musing about theatre

Back in DC!

It was a beautiful whirlwind of a trip to California. I was so happy to be able to see two of my siblings perform - one at his music residency, and one in a college production. In fact, C had the opportunity to play a much bigger part than she originally had because her friend fell ill and wasn't able to perform this week. So C stepped in at the last minute to learn the lines and blocking.

She did a wonderful job with an interesting part in a totally bizarre and thought-provoking piece of theatre called Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play

***spoiler alert***

If you are not familiar with the show and would rather not know the details before seeing it, you should probably skip this entry.

Wikipedia does a commendable job of summarizing the play in a comprehensible way:
"Shortly after an unspecified apocalyptic event, a group of survivors gather together and begin to attempt to recount the episode "Cape Feare" of the television show The Simpsons. The second act picks up with the same group seven years later, who have now formed a theatrical troupe that specializes in performing Simpsons episodes, with commercials and all. The final act is set an additional 75 years in the future. The same episode of The Simpsons, now a familiar mythos, has been reworked into a musical pageant, with the story, characters, and morals repurposed to fit the artistic and dramatic needs of a culture still reeling from destruction of civilization and the near-extinction of humanity decades earlier."

I found the production itself occasionally hard to watch and follow. Partly because a large part of the dialogue was written out verbatim from an improvised exercise where actors tried to recount the Cape Feare episode. It involves a lot of thinking patterns that are inherent to speech but don't necessarily translate as well when put into another actor's mouth and then performed on stage.

That said, the themes that the play explores - loss, loneliness, entertainment, how we find meaning when the things that we rely on daily are gone - are profound and disturbing. At its best, I would say that this production explores the importance of narrative. As one reviewer of a Chicago production said, the play "tells us that the worse things get, the more we need our stories." And not just the stories, but the pieces that surround and enhance our stories - like music, and even commercials. 

18 November 2016

Being LGBTQ at Notre Dame

I participated in a positive art project to support LGBTQ young people today. If you are in L.A. and would be interested in learning more and getting involved - comment, message, or email me and I'll get you in contact.

I'm being deliberately vague about the project in order to protect the creativity and intellectual property of this idea and I don't want to jump ahead of the launch!

Doing the project made me think about my experience when I first came out as a young LGBTQ person. I was at Notre Dame, an excellent school. Great academics, strong student focus, but also a pervasive macho culture and very conservative social values.

The editor of the alumni magazine asked me to write about my experience as an LGBTQ student at Notre Dame. It was scary - trying to represent a huge diversity of experience with just my own voice - and to do so in a format that would reach an audience that was potentially very hostile.

The writing process itself was very cathartic as I had the chance to look back and reflect on the experiences that shaped my coming out. (I'd also like to say that my article is very rambling and not great writing, so forgive my 21-year-old self if you choose to read it!)

The response...

Well, it was as expected.
Alumni wrote in saying that I should never have been admitted to the university. That I should choose celibacy. That they were withdrawing all financial support to the university because it chose to admit me and feature my story.*

On the other hand, the issue, which included several articles about LGBTQ concerns, received a first place gold medal award from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education for its special issue.

I believe that my four years at Notre Dame, a conservative midwestern college, made me into the LGBTQ feminist activist that I am. Being forced to define and defend my identity shaped my values and priorities. It led me to choose education and a career path where I could provide support for people seeking recognition and justice.

I hope that the four years in the Trump administration will serve as a similar catalyst for activists, youthful or experienced, to take up their values and push for them. It won't be easy, many people will push back, but let's take this as a wake up call.

*When I went back to the comments section in order add a link to this blog post, I was genuinely surprised by the number of positive comments I found. I had forgotten about the positive and affirming comments and only retained the negative ones. I am so glad that I looked up the comment feed again. There are still many comments that are frightening (for example, the Navy man who was "lost at sea" after aberrant homosexual behavior) but they do seem more balanced than I'd originally felt.

17 November 2016

my brother the resident artist

Last night I finally got the chance to see my brother perform at the Vampire Lounge, where he is the resident artist on Wednesday nights. He and a friend with a cello entertain the crowds sipping the "blood of the vine" from about 9pm to 11pm.

M, that's my brother, is a very talented musician. And just like Malcolm Gladwell suggests, he's put in those 10,000 to get where he is now. He not only sings, plays guitar, bass, piano, and drums, but also has taught himself to produce, mix, and edit the music he creates. It's so impressive how dedication and sheer time put in can yield such wonderful rewards.

Last night he brought along two guitars, a ukelele, and a keyboard. My favorite songs were his collaborations with the cellist. With the anchoring notes from the cello counterbalancing M's tenor voice, the sound flowed over us fluidly and was mesmerizing. I can see why a vampire-themed bar would love to have his music fill the space.

It also made me think about my own music and how I miss making it. I've decided to try to join the choir at the UU church and see where I go from there.

Plus... we're going to make a Lindgren family holiday album ... coming soon to a soundcloud near you.

To hear some of M's music that he plays at the Vampire Lounge, check out this youtube playlist, and this live recording , and this one that includes both ukelele and cello!

16 November 2016

Making music in California

I'm in California!

I booked a last minute trip out to California since I'm only funemployed for another 2 weeks and probably won't make it out here again until May for my sister's graduation.

As my Dad and I talked while we were waiting for my bag to show up I realized it has been nearly two years since I've been to California! The last time I was here was for Christmas 2014. I've seen my family in the interim - at cousin's weddings, packing up my house, and in Paris, of course.

But I hadn't actually been back to the house where I grew up in 23 months. It still feels like home :)
I love the wooden porch facing the park, the lovely wood floors, the walls filled with art and photographs. Even the smell of the linen closet is the same.

Best of all, I had the chance to hang out with B and M all day and we decided to lay down some tracks for Christmas songs! I learned a piano riff for Rockin' around the Christmas Tree and we've got that recorded. And tonight I'm off to the Vampire Lounge to see M play - he's the resident artist on Wednesday nights.