2018: Next Step

When it comes to aspirations, it’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen. What’s your next step?

In 2010, it was about dream making. In 2011, it was about sticking to my boundaries. In 2012, it was about being true. In 2013, it was about embracing fear. In 2014, it was sitting my butt down and writing. In 2016, it was about leading. In 2017, it was about persistence.

I look at the lights that we put up in the office. It’s the same set of white lights that I had acquired (craigslist? garage sale?) when I first moved into this apartment. I had gotten it as decoration for the housewarming ugly sweater party. During that party, I put it underneath the table which provided a nice light for everything.

Growing up, I had always wanted a house decorated with Christmas lights. Although I don’t quite remember what we did in the first two houses in Hercules, I know for a fact that the house from 1991 in Lafayette never had any external lights. It’s a house far removed from the main street, up a long driveway, hidden from sight. Perhaps, matching my mom’s desire to be out of the spotlight. So far from the spotlight. And the fuss that it would require to decorate the house. We rarely had any visitors—family or friends. Christmas lights would never done around the house (although there was a Christmas tree of sorts).

Yet, interestingly, my parents created a game that my sister and I would play for years. Every time we saw Christmas lights (aka a house decorated with Christmas lights), we would count. At times, we would go over one thousand as we drove around the neighborhoods. (We could count the same houses on different days as new numbers.) It was a counting game at its core, yet it made me admire Christmas lights.

So when the holidays rolled around, now that Chris finally lives here and I don’t need to share the office/small room with anyone, I demanded that we decorate something. Especially when I can see the windows in the fancy condo building across the way has Christmas trees hanging in the window with lights emblazoned everywhere like they’re taunting the everyday commoner who doesn’t want to have the holiday spirit.

So we put up the lights, twisting them around the window blinds, across the desks, and plugging them into a wemo so that they would turn on after sunset and turn off before sunrise.

The lights are at the right level for the office at nighttime, making it feel like a moody bar.

But here, I see that a few bulbs are out. Dark and burned. But these modern lights don’t mind them. No other lights are affected. The current is not disrupted by these dark bulbs.

The string of lights cast a glow that I adore. It’s the big picture that matters.

What I mean by all of this is the intention to see the bigger picture. The fact that perfection isn’t always determined by the details. The big picture matters. Did I reach my goal? So be it. Nobody notices the smaller details except the creator. And I must question myself, does it matter? Look at the big picture. Look at the intention. Look at it all and judge appropriately.

2018: Moments

Imagine you will completely lose your memory of 2018 in five minutes. Set an alarm for five minutes and capture the things you most want to remember about 2018.

2017 5 minutes, 2016 5 minutes, 2015 5 minutes, 2014 5 minutes, 2013 5 minutes, 2012 5 minutes, 2011 5 minutes, and 2010 5 minutes

  • Visiting my sister in Arizona just over a month before her due date
  • Visiting New York City and eating all those desserts, viewing the immersive show As She Fell, watching Max Richter, visiting Storm King, having fancy dinner with non-alcoholic pairing
  • Staying in a BnB in Tahoe as we went to ski at Squaw Valley at the end of the season
  • Writers Camp at Big Sur in Esalen, meeting all these people but realizing how very white it all was
  • Doing hot spring one time at Esalen and deciding that truly it wasn’t for me
  • Going to the Brave Magic thing at 1440 Multiversity
  • Staying at Joy’s place with the family in Los Gatos and doing all the assorted things with the boys
  • Playing pokemon go with Chris
  • Setting up the apartment with Chris. In a better way
  • Hosting not one, but two BBQs in the backyard
  • Setting up the backyard for the above, particularly the jade plants and the failed things that we should have not gotten from Buy Nothing
  • Watching Chris haul more things from Buy Nothing, some good (like router) and some not great (like foot spa)
  • That washer/dryer discovery thing
  • Attempt to do laundry at my parents’ place
  • Getting my novel in progress critiqued by an editor, a real one
  • Reforming my people of color writing group and actually having litcrawl
  • Having a writing retreat up in Ukiah with that group and meeting great people
  • Hot springs at Orr Hot Springs and that incident of dropping the car key into the water
  • Letting Chris actually enjoy his time in the hot baths of the hot springs

2018: Making

What was the last thing you made? What materials did you use? Is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some time for it?

In 2010, I made xmas photo. In 2011, I made metaphorical things—that were intentionally symbolic of relationships and history. In 2012, I made ice cream. In 2013, I made design. In 2014, I made “my room”. In 2015, I made the last line of Ice Cream Travel Guide, literally. In 2016, I made my annual holiday video. In 2017, I made another annual holiday video.

Yes, I did make another holiday video. Which was an one-year-delayed reaction to my uncle’s comment during Thanksgiving in 2017 about kneeling in the NFL. “Don’t you think that employees should be fired if they don’t listen to their boss?” he said.

It’s very likely that I said something that rejected his answer. It’s also very likely that my mom being who she is probably interrupted with an obtuse topic, distracting me from answering. But it’s also very true that I held my displeasure. That is, until my aunt suggested to the entire family that we share a video / slideshow about our life in the past year.

But what did I make? It’s a mundane answer for this entry. I don’t want to answer making design. But rather the latest, always, it was making food. Specifically tartine-like scones.

For the last 5 years, ever since a moment of inspiration during a Halloween book club, I have been falling back to the biscuits idea as a way to make something homemade, but also tasty.

Because Chris insisted on buying the 2 lb bag of cranberries from Costco for my Thanksgiving cranberry ice cream, I had too much cranberries. Yet, what could I do with them? After some brainstorming (keeping in mind with my ample cupboard of ingredients and past skills), I fell back to the idea of biscuits. Particularly scones.

The last time I had made scones was a slightly disastrous attempt at making fancy scones from a fancy cookbook. Many recipes don’t mention certain techniques like cubing the butter or creaming the butter. Instead, it makes assumptions that the baker knows.

Because I am self-taught, I know absolutely nothing.

And the cookbooks that I love? Or even the recipe blogs? Are the ones imbued with the sensibility of a home cook.

And I have found my perfect recipe. One that has been a cookbook that I have owned for more than 10 years. The Tartine Cookbook. Specifically the recipe for buttermilk scones (usually mixed with berries).

I made it for myself 2 weeks ago, sharing it with nobody except for Chris and myself. I had one everyday on the way to work.

I even had trouble eating my coworker’s scone when she made it for tea time.

Then as a present for my sister, I made buttermilk scones with blueberries. Dashed with Hawaiian sugar with lilikoi (passionfruit) infused sugar mixed with bits of lemongrass.

Although I probably shouldn’t use my (warm hands), I enjoy the process of mixing all the dry ingredients together (flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, sugar). Then mixing the dry ingredients with the butter, making sure that pieces are only as big as a pea. So I push and rub with my fingers until the mixture resembles a coarse grainy result. It takes me at least 30 minutes to do it, but I find it meditative. Then after that, I pour in the buttermilk, mixing it with a spoon until the dough holds generally together. Then pulling it out to a working surface, I mold it into a rectangle, cutting it into triangles.

Then very important! Freeze! Overnight so that the dought can get that crackly texture.

Before baking, brush with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake at 400° for at least 20 minutes. Or at least golden brown. For some reason, I don’t know how to estimate this correctly since the recipe doesn’t give instructions on how to extend the time if the dough is frozen.

And done!

Always fantastic results.

I hope to make this for the new year’s brunch!

If nobody eats it, I will eat it every day. Perhaps this will be a thing. A Sunday bake. For the every day of the week.

2018: Moment

Moment. Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail.

In 2017, it was the moment (or moments) that I deeply connected with a group I had just met at a conference where I thought I would have been antisocial (or just horribly socially anxious). In 2016, it was the moment that I felt in the flow in telling the story of Ice Cream Travel Guide. In 2015, it was the moments after my hat was “stolen” in Rio. In 2014, it was a moment in a writing workshop that I had achieved greatness. In 2013, it was talking to Yasar Usta in Istanbul. In 2012, it was using the ocean as a “big toilet” while floating outside Palawan. In 2011, it was my birthday moment. In 2010, it was the success in Journey to the End to the Night.

Right before I started a new job, I decided that Chris and I should do a getaway somewhere. But unlike my attempt to do something in 2017, which ended up this expensive trip to Las Vegas that only seemed fun to some people, but definitely not us, especially in the heat of the summer. For some reason, I typically have started new jobs in the summer, so not many great destinations were in mind.

This year though, after going to a writers retreat at an airbnb in Ukiah and hearing about nearby hot springs from a writer there, I was instantly intrigued. And also having spent a whole week at Esalen where I lamented that the hot springs weren’t that interesting to me, but how it would be great to share with Chris.

Knowing that Chris always enjoyed hot baths (but to me, I find them to be a waste of water), I thought that this would be a good bonding experience. Especially coming from a writer who I trusted and appeared similar to me.

So we decided to drive up to Orr Hot Springs and spend a night. I spent time researching it and understanding its layout/intentions. Although I had misjudged how much stuff we should bring for meals (yes, you have to bring all your condiments including spices and butter and pretty much anything you need to make food), it was still quite intimaite.

But the moment actually was with our prudish style. Although I really don’t have a problem with nudity, I am a bit more private. Chris is too. So our last dip to the hot springs, we decided to do with bathing suits since the darkness couldn’t mask us anymore. By this point, we had to check out of our room (a really cool wooden yurt in the woods!) and pack the car. Our plan was to do one dip before driving out of the resort and back to San Francisco. Back to reality (note: not cellular reception here nor access to the internet). I had some optional social event in San Francisco at 6 pm. But because we’re prude and private, Chris left the car keys in his swimming trunks. He realized that he had the keys after 5 minutes into the bath. But by then, it was too late. In the hot sun, we thought that the key would dry quickly. But it didn’t. The car didn’t start.

Soon we begged to use the phone to call tow trucks, but there was something wrong with the insurance and the closest car dealer was more than 50 miles away (so it would cost extra if we went that route). Then there was an issue of no callback number, because it would have gone directly to the voicemail. The resort staff refused to allow us to have the number called. So we were stuck. Surpremely stuck. Not only that the insurance company didn’t understand the issue so there was a long wait and they didn’t understand why there couldn’t be a callback number. At the last moment, we decided that we could call someone to pick us up. But of course, nobody in the right mind in 2018, would pick up a number from an unknown destination. Until of course, I called my parents who immediately freaked and said absolutely no. But then again would I have wanted my parents in their late 60s to drive a windy road for 3 hours?

In all of this, Chris figured out how to open the key with the lack of tools we had—our bare hands and possibly a pen. Resort staff was completely nonchalant and unhelpful. With that, I was able to dry out the key. The sun sucked up the water. And soon, in our constant repetitive desperate attempts, Chris tried the car again.

The moment is this: I was trying to keep calm as this was my last hurrah before a new intense job. Also, I was of the mind that I would drop $1000 to fix things, but Chris (fortunately) disagreed. With that last dry, he found that the car actually started and he drove quickly out of the parking lot, left the car running and ran into the lodge where I was happily reading Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere and declared “LET’S GO. It’s working.” We said our thanks to the no good, slightly helpful lodge staff and jumped in the car, driving within rules to San Francisco.

We stopped at In N Out so that we didn’t have to stop the car in case things died.

The lesson: to work as a team and believe. Well, the latter part at least. Or simply, just sit back and let the sun do its real work.

2018: Letting Go

Let Go. What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why?

In 2010, it was a person. In 2011, it was an idea. In 2012, it was a symbol represented by a person. In 2013, I let go fear. In 2014, I let go of humility (or the desire to appear humble). In 2015, I let go of perfection. In 2016, I let go of expectations. In 2017, I let go of things and people I don’t need.

This year? I thought about the past year and realized that I had already done lot of carving out of things/people that I didn’t need. I am a less stressed out about things hovering around me (minus the actual physical things around me).

What I did let go was constant discovery. The need to try and discover new things. When I first moved to San Francisco, strapped with an expensive apartment, I felt compelled to do something every day, to prove to myself that I was not wasting my time living in San Francisco. I was out each night, always busy every evening, seeing a new person, building friendships. But in the past year, especially after Chris moved in, I am rather content to do the same thing every day and every weekend. Those “netflix and chill” days? Works for me. Eat dinner at the same time every day? Go to sleep!
Sounds good!

I can tell that I am falling into a consistent routine. Part of me worries that all my days will blur together and I’ll become a robot, unaware of the days. So I’ll have to be checking that regularly so that I don’t lose sight of the curiosity and excitement. It’s not that routine means that I can’t be curious or want to try new things. It’s more that now I really want to know that it’s worth it to go beyond my routine.

Perhaps the reason is that I didn’t have something better in my routine. Now I do. The new things often are disappointing and I know that. So if there’s a chance for something interesting and new, prove to me first.

Otherwise, I am thrilled with the routine. The sameness. The contentment of being okay with the way things are.

2018: Writing

Writing. What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing — and can you eliminate it?

In 2010, I said everything. In 2015, I said fear. In 2016, I said that it’s sitting down and doing it.
In 2017, 2017, I said that it was work.

I would like to say that it was the lack of true support. Or more specifically, the lack of support from writers of color. I did change that as much as I could during the year in creating my own writing group, but because there’s less of us, it was not as much I wanted.

And so I would like to say that is to blame. But it’s a certain amount of accountability and trust. So again, it’s the support of a community, a community that I want for myself. At times, I find myself at a disconnect with other writers. I have a day job with an ample salary that pays well. I had at one point thought that I would not want to do it, but the investment that I had put into it (grad school, building connections) and the fact that I didn’t hate it…wasn’t enough. With a community of people who I could trust, I believe I would naturally write more.

In brand new areas, especially an unknown network of people, it’s completely scary to me. I need an introduction. I need someone to guide me through it. At least initially. I am considering joining the Ruby although I don’t really need the space. But the women there I hope could be people to bond. I hope that they will respect that I am just a burgeoning writer. I hope that they’ll take me seriously. I hope that I can just be more than this writer on the side.

I hope that it’s so much more than that.

Maybe next year, I can do so much more. Keep on writing. Keep on chugging. Keep finding that community.

2018: One Word

One Word. Encapsulate the year in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word. Now, imagine it’s one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2018 for you?

From years past: 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011 and 2010

The one word that captures this year:

Decision

Last year, I hoped that the word would be Diligence, but Decision is the word that makes the most sense. Or even Decisive makes the most sense. When faced with choice, I move ahead with an option even if I need to deviate later. Perhaps this year, more than ever, I don’t want to be stuck in ambiguity, wallowing in indecisiveness and uncertainty. I believe that movement is better than immobility.

Although akin to moments in 2016, I knew exactly when something wasn’t working for me. I knew what I wanted and what I needed to do to achieve it. I changed the job. I said my piece. I strived to be better. I continue to self-evaluate at every turn.

But perhaps this is more reflective of an ingrained nature. I know when something feels right and trust my intuition more than anything—90% of the time it is right. I am okay with the 10% where I am wrong, because even when I am wrong, I may be close or there’s a benefit of learning a lot.

Next year, I hope the word is Comfort or some sense of satisfaction. Will there be a year where I can sit back and enjoy the harvest from all the hard work? Or perhaps I never will be quite satisfied and enjoying the harvest will input the future activities?

2018: Travel

How did you travel in 2018? How and/or where would you like to travel next year?

In 2017, I traveled to Minnesota for work, LA twice for “fun”, Las Vegas for a not-so-good fun, and Thailand/Myanmar! Also somehow forgot to mention Cincinnati for MidwestUX! And did I forgot to mention Phoenix? In 2016, I traveled to Finland/Sweden for my first big speaking gig, Portland for a “bachelorette” party, road trip to LA for my sister’s wedding, and Minnesota for work. In 2015, I went to Brazil for a conference, multiple work trips, and a midwest trip. In 2014, I went on multiple weekend trips, increased business trips, and found a destination for ice cream and writing. In 2013, I finished off the bulk of the travel for the Ice Cream Travel Guide. In 2012, I started the journey of a life and went to what I thought was unfathomable (in my life) — six domestic destinations and eight international destinations — for professional and personal reasons. In 2011, I went on one international trip, one domestic…and one super local. In 2010, I went on one international trip and multiple domestic trips.

In 2018, I traveled to:

  • Tahoe trip to Squaw Valley. We made it work! And stayed in this “romantic” bed and breakfast. Although technically, it didn’t even come with breakfast.
  • Some ridiculous last minute trip to San Diego for work, which was more of a meet and greet than anything useful. I expensed an expensive dessert meal after the meeting.
  • Big Sur! Which wasn’t really a trip as much as a 3+ hour drive for Writers Camp at Esalen. The roads were repaired! Yes, amazing, but wouldn’t do it again.
  • Twice to Ukiah, one for a writers retreat and another with Chris to the hot springs.
  • Scotts Valley for a “writing retreat”.
  • Then this crazy 10 day trip to Chicago and NYC. Which I have to admit was fun, fancy, and cool. Not only because the weather was acceptable by our standards, but because I didn’t need to do any of the Bell and Whistles. Also I wasn’t overburdened by seeing people as I have in the previous times. (But I was irritated by the overly grammable foods all over the city. We did the best shows. Oh yeah and in Chicago, I spoke at a conference!

Apparently only domestically! Sadness. I never made it to Minsk for work (yay!), but that also meant that I never made it to Budapest or Paris to visit Callie. No film festival. It’s a hope, but not sure if it is something worth a trip.

But this coming year? Well there’s a quick trip to Phoenix to see my sister before she pops a baby. Then I wouldn’t be surprised if there were additional trips that I would make to see the new nephew. If I get into a conference, then I’ll also be in Phoenix too. Then I have booked a trip to Japan in February for the snow festival in Sapporo and of course some time in Tokyo! Also hoping to get into a writing workshop in the east coast, which would mean a trip to New York. Who knows what else may come? Would I be going to Grand Rapids if I get convinced again for MWUX? I am not entirely that interested, but we shall see! See Callie in Paris? Go to Vancouver for eats? Maybe go to Nashville for the conference? Maybe maybe.

2018: Entertainment

I recounted the most impactful entertainment pieces for me in 2014. Then I did it again for 2015, 2016, 2017. Now 2018.

Movies I Saw

  • Blindspotting
  • Sorry to Bother You
  • Crazy Rich Asians
  • Searching
  • Eighth Grade
  • TV Shows I Watched

  • Barry
  • American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace
  • Atlanta
  • Killing Eve
  • The Good Place
  • Books I Read

  • Little Fires Everywhere
  • An Excess Male
  • Playing Big
  • Factfulness
  • Ice Cream Travel Guide (obviously!!!! again!)
  • Ways to Pass the Time

  • Cleaning and reorganizing randomly in the household
  • Always reading news on Twitter, but putting more attention to long form and thoughtful pieces
  • Finding writing workshops or classes to apply
  • Planning foods for an upcoming social event
  • Checking on Chris
  • Technology

  • Bespoke clothing! Or really just anything that I can thinkin of—there appears to be some savvy business out there already
  • Google Drive
  • Google Assistant and Home
  • Pixel
  • …and also I realize that it is Google dominant, more because I am less interested nowadays in exploring new technologies, but grounding myself in real things
  • “You’re spicy!”

    Last year during Thanksgiving, after hearing an uncle’s comment that was clearly a rant against kneeling—”shouldn’t employees be fired if they don’t follow their bosses’ request?”, I was incensed. Before I could start an all-out debate, my mom unknowningly intervened with some obtuse topic. The conversation was forgotten, but I didn’t forget.

    For this year’s Thanksgiving, my aunt sent an email requesting a list of dishes that each family would bring (as it was always potluck style) and a suggestion that we share a 2 minute video of what happened in the last year.

    That was my chance to flex my creative muscle. AND speak to the unspoken topic of last year. People should disobey their employer if it doesn’t fit their moral standards and build up a movement within. Because that’s how society changes.

    With a subtle nod to the recent Nike commercial, I created a 2 minute video of snapshots from Chris’ life and my life in the last few years where we defied expectations and most importantly, spoke up against hate in a way we never had. Beyond the fact that it was particularly self-serving, I wanted to send a message: I disagree with what you’re saying about Kap.

    Then time came to present it as each family cast through the Apple TV. First my uncle and aunt showcased their recent experiences through a photo slideshow—people they met, being grandchildren, and everything else. Then my cousin did a photo slideshow of his kids and wife all against a default Apple music. Then my dad showed photos from his trip to China, highlighting the photos he took of his childhood home and his father’s home. Then I offered to show ours. Sensing the atmosphere in the room and a slight tinge of regret, but an urge to make a stand, I said, “My video is a bit different. So be prepared.”

    In silence, my family watched my video (albeit with one buffering issue). When the last screen fading to a “Just do it”, my mom declared that the theme of videos should be “just do it” without being aware that was Nike’s catchphrase. My cousin declared that I got an A for the effort in the vieo.

    In the moments that followed, I realized that nobody got the reference. I felt disappointed, but almost partially relieved. I wasn’t sure how I would respond to people disagreeing with the sentiment.

    But in the following days, perhaps in an attempt to get approval, I showed it to trusted friends. People who would know the Nike commercial. To my surprise, most people didn’t even know. I showed it at work while I described why I did it. To which end, I received a reply that probably validated everything with a “You’re spicy!”