Another rainbow week in October

Not just the leaves, which are gorgeous, but my calendar. Oh, what would I do without you?

Less, maybe?  :P

It makes me look crazy, but I color-code my calendars so I can look forward or backward and understand at a glance whether I’m actually spending my time the way I want to be spending my time. There’s a whole separate spreadsheet with quarterly goals and approximate hours/week in each area. Notice the light blue: “be well” and red “my loves.” I’m lucky; these colors are actually underrepresented since they tend to overlap with a lot of the rest of my life. I work with people I love and do what I can to treat myself and my body kindly even while working.

It’s kind of like these two juicy bits, via the ever-inspiring Maria P.:

How to live. How to get the most life… . How to extract its honey from the flower of the world. That is my every-day business. I am as busy as a bee about it. I ramble all over the fields on that errand, and am never so happy as when I feel myself heavy with honey and wax.

– Thoreau

and this:

Dividing the day between “work” and “leisure” and then measuring how many hours is spent at each activity doesn’t provide us a reliable guide to what we really care about, which is how much of our time we get to spend doing things we find rewarding and fulfilling. It turns out that many people have only a limited appetite for “leisure” in the sense of spending their days at the beach or on the golf course. Rather, they’re interested in pursuing creative or philanthropic activities that, when pursued in earnest wind up looking a lot like having a job.

Timothy Lee

I’m thankful for my privilege.

October 21, 2012   No Comments

Writing to Learn

When I look at the list of months in my blog archive, it strikes me just how little I’ve written over the past 2 years and a bit, especially compared to my time in Cambodia and on the farm in 2008 and 9. I suppose writing varies inversely to the amount of stuff filling my days.

I’ve noticed, though, that I need write (and talk) to learn. Life over the past couple of years has been so so full of experiences, people, places. I’ve been on the move, constantly changing to the point where it’s hard to describe to people (or sometimes even know myself) who it is that I am and what exactly it is that I do.

Thankfully, I have incredible friends in my life who humor me and listen and help me untangle the sometimes frenetic thinking and doing into something that’s more comprehensible and sometimes even beautiful. They make sure I don’t take myself too seriously (it’s a flaw!) and that I pay attention to the things (usually people) that matter the most.

Even so, with all that reflection in real time, sometimes I feel like I could retreat somewhere and simmer in the sum of life til now… like I could keep myself occupied and become wiser just by being quieter. I’m hoping a 10-day silent retreat in May gives me a little piece of this, and I’m planning something longer — maybe three months — sometime in the next four or five years. A time for silence and ripening.

In the meantime, for the summer, I’m going to hold myself to a stricter schedule of writing. I’ve been trying to maintain a radical openness since coming to Detroit, but recently I’ve been thinking I need to focus in more and process things I’ve heard and overheard, passing thoughts, feelings, into something more coherent (not static or final, but connected… like a mind map, a network of connections).

I guess this is a reminder that this particular blog space isn’t a place where I intend to preach, influence or educate, but to have a conversation with myself and people who care about me who happen to be far away and others who resonate with the questions I’m asking about food and equity and relationships and change in the world.

Making space to actually write things down won’t always be easy, but I think it’s worth it if I can learn something new.

Some things I’d like to take on…

  • Social justice and entrepreneurship — tensions between the individual and the collective. Does the fact that a tension is unresolvable mean that the mechanism is flawed, or perhaps even more important?
  • Brokering roles & the role of social structure in unlocking creativity
  • Arne Naess and the ecological self — is this possible? desirable? true altruism?
  • Does creativity require limiting someone else’s capacity to create?
  • How do we remind ourselves that every story is incomplete? Is there a prayer? A song?
  • Emergence  versus scale?
  • Does financial sustainability in a “social enterprise” have to be based on markets as they exist today? (Must we achieve “profits”? What about grants? Unpacking the financials of that biodynamic farm on Lopez Island)

And some more mundane things about day-to-day life and cooking and some creative projects that I’m working on.

I’m getting more excited as I write about it. That’s a good sign :)

April 20, 2012   1 Comment

What’s in a week

The air is hushed between going and coming.
It’s still.

A chill 

trips down my spine and hangs
on the air.

It’s heaviness 
off my fingers,
 my blue suede moccasins
into a puddle under the desk
where I would be working
if it weren’t for

the big space
one thing and another.

Fill the room 
with belly laughs to keep from sighing.

My virtue is not patience, 
but what is good just
won’t be rushed.

May 10, 2010   2 Comments

All stopped up (oh no! another whiny post!)

I have so much to say that it’s all packed up inside there and I can’t figure out a good place to start. I could draw this out into a really gross metaphor, but you get the picture.

Got back to Orange County and have been feeling dazed. I have a bunch of random projects that I’m working on: applying to graduate school, taking an econometrics class, planting a garden, working for my dad’s startup, hanging out with the fam, reading articles, writing articles, cooking, trying to start this new blog, trying to exercise, looking into farms for next season.

But going in all these different directions, I’m not sure I’m getting anywhere at all.

Toys “R” Us by Andreas Gursky 1999

My general mood these days is like this Andreas Gursky photo. Bad, huh?

Last night, I went to listen to this farmer at the Fullerton Public Library. He talked about a lot of things that made me happy like picking ripe peaches and treasuring family and driving down roads that blow up so much dust that you have to turn your windshield wipers on. He talked about the number of frost hours that peaches require, and he talked about

continuity: the idea of being connected to a place in a deep way,

in turn nurturing and being nurtured. He was talking specifically about his family’s farm in Fresno, but I kept thinking about much I feel out of context and how much I want to put down roots, make a home, invest in land, invest in community.

I heard a great show on the Canadian Broadcasting Network by a neuroscientist who studied the development of children’s brains. She talked about how infants are taking in new input 100% of the time — they are in constant learning mode — open to new ideas, testing out theories, but not particularly good at focusing on a task. Not very good at letting go of some things to attend to one thing in particular.

I remember specifically that she said it could take up until a persons mid-to-late 20s for their brains to fully develop the capacity to focus in. I’m 24. Perhaps there’s time (?)

All this moving around and jumping from this to that has given me an amazing breadth of experience to draw from, but now I’m ready to build something.

October 9, 2009   1 Comment

Buscando Trabajo

This evening I’ve been writing cover letters and resumes and sending them off into the internet ether. I’ve been mildly stressing over what to do when I leave here in September and to that effect, have put together a detailed spreadsheet of options. Top contenders include:

  • Applying as an Americorps Vista volunteer at one of many food and ag-related organizations… Sustainable Connections in Bellingham, Farms for Families in Montana, and Laurel Valley Farm in Eugene.
  • Putting together mish-mash of part-time work in the Bay, including Farmers Market managing for the Pacific Coast Farmers Market Association, an unpaid internship with the Chez Panisse Foundation, work with Free Range Productions, tutoring, part-time field work at random local farms…
  • Working on a slightly larger organic farm that has more than 200 CSA shares, more than 30 cultivated acres and some value-added production.
  • Getting a job at a farm/non-profit like this or this or this that combines farming and education/non-profit programming

All are exciting. All are making my heart sing, but my brain hurt.

Thank goodness my personal savior, made a delicious dinner tonight and forced me to take a mini break:

Check out my girl’s pockets. Now that’s class!
Romantic, methinks.

And yes, another ridiculously yummy mish-mash.

Friends, farmers, countrymen… what do you think I should do?

May 19, 2009   6 Comments

Do you feel the urge?

I read this article the other day that suggested that the recession might provide an opportunity for folks to pursue personal dreams that they might otherwise put on hold. The author makes a clear distinction between things that we’re kinda interested in, and

“real creative urges, those we are meant to express, [which] don’t go away. If ignored, they bother us, affect our health, fester and eventually turn us into the living dead.”

Is this true? Do we all get these urges? I didn’t think so. I know very few people that have these undeniable passions. I’ve always tended to think that this pervasive, and not-necessarily-so-helpful sentiment — that most people have a passion that they just need to follow to be happy — that has always bothered me and made me feel like I’m missing something, like I’m incomplete and inferior.

But now I am a month deep into this farming thing and I love it. I love being outside and being so, so tired at the end of the day; I love the smell of soil, and the way the knees of my jeans get caked in dirt. Plus, it excites me to think of eventually handling the business side of things, handling my own operation, searching out a market, getting into value-added food production, making business decisions, constantly improving and innovating…

I’ve had some rough days here on the island. I haven’t found too many kindred spirits; there’s a closed-mindedness about certain things and a religious zealotry to the love-of-small-towns and cerain ways of life that makes me feel uncomfortable and unwilling to open up to people, but that said, farming itself — the work — is probably the closest I’ve been to this “real creative urge.”

But am I a fickle lover? How long will my passion last? Summer will be hot. I will sweat and get weird tans and 40 hours a week of work when the sun is shining and the swimming holes beckon is going to be tough.

For now, though, I am going to quash my pessimistic tendencies and see if these seeds I’m planting germinate into something good.

May 9, 2009   7 Comments

New Toilet Feelings

It’s 4:50 am on December 12. I’m in a lovely hotel room at the oh-so-trendy Blue Lime in Phnom Penh and I can’t sleep because I’m too hyped up about flying home today.

My mum calls me “new toilet girl” after a Chinese saying about the type of person who has to be the first to use the new latrine hole once it’s been dug. As much as I want to be sad about leaving, my predominant feeling is excitement. Not excitement to leave, but a deep thrill thinking about moving on to WHAT’S NEXT.

December 11, 2008   No Comments

Good Advice, Good Mentors

Lisa — educational consultant extraordinaire
Lisa and I have actually never met in person, but she’s been a fantastic sounding board over the past few months as I’ve been adjusting, coping, learning here.

“No matter what you do, I am certain that you will be contributing, so become an advocate for yourself. If there is something else you want to do within the organization, ask them how you can make that happen. [...] Maybe it’s time to be a little selfish and think about your own goals… I said, I am certain that when you are doing what you want to be doing, you will probably be contributing even more.”

Chris — brilliant education innovator & co-founder of the African Leadership Academy
Chris and I met in 2005 working on a project with Linda Darling-Hammond in the Stanford School of Education. A personal hero.

“If it makes you feel any better, I spent 5 years after college with basically no idea what I was going to do and chalking up random experiences – and then all of the sudden it came together and made sense and I have relied on each of those experiences in my current capacity. So. . . I think you will be fine.”

Yoli — passionate advocate of youth and overall awesome person
Yoli took me on as an assistant in 2005-06 on a project called ADAPT at McClymond’s High School in West Oakland. Beautiful, authentic and passionate and completely inspiring.

Diana — social entrepreneur in Cambodia; founder of Bloom Bags
I’ve never met Diana, but my half-Singaporean self feels a strange kinship :) My dream is to start a social enterprise as well, but back in the States, and I love her ideas and her passion.

first 7 tenets of her Bloom Manifesto:
“1. We believe in the right of all people to a decent life, free of poverty and with access to education
2. We believe you will be enriched helping the poor
3. We believe workers should always be paid a fair wage
4. We believe if you knew the truth, you would not be an accessory to the exploitation of workers
5. We believe exploitation is evil
6. We believe in the power of good over evil
7. We believe in the power of the individual to bring about change…”

Barbara — Kingsolver, that is. Author of (among other things) Small Wonder
Perhaps it’s just the case that my open mind’s just the perfect size and shape at the moment, but her essays struck a timbre in me and shook me down in a way that will definitely shape the next few steps in my life. Oh, to write like that.

September 14, 2008   No Comments

Life ADD

8:54 p.m. this Monday night, it’s post-shower and I’m slathered with skin-so-soft, sprawled out on my bed like a beached porpoise.

Despite an unfortunate interruption of my shower — suddenly no more water from the showerhead, or the faucet, or in the other bathroom, OR THE KITCHEN SINK — I was finally able to rinse off some of the suds by emptying out my water filter. I guess all the effort put me in a contemplative mood.

The brief period of mourning over losing my friends is coming to an end and I’m starting to get busy again. I realize that my habit of wanting to do everything (KAPE work, BSDA, this new American club, photography, cooking experiments, parties, travel, blogs, emails, reading tons, figuring out what to do with myself post-December) often means the peanut butter gets spread too thin. I, for one, HATE my bread with too little spread. Yet (to draw out the analogy in an agonizing fashion) I not have figured out how to achieve a balance — more peanut butter (energy! motivation! passion!) spread over a smaller slice. (I could go on to talk about cutting empty carbs, but that might be going too far).

Writing seems to be essential to keeping my sanity; emails, to keeping my connection with the outside world. KAPE work’s necessary for the salary, plus the experience I’m now getting with the video stuff. Cooking/travel/hanging out/taking pictures/reading are all just fun.

But where am I supposed to fit in my “life’s work”, my big project that will define my life and change the world? I’m always taking on these new small projects: Learn Khmer, make a video, keep a record of the books I read… but I seem sort of short on the follow-through. My attention span wavers after about 3 mos (maybe 6 mo to a year for things that are less monotonous) and I’m on to something different. I’ve been searching for something to inspire me, so I can dedicate my life to its pursuit, but it seems to me that life is just so full and varied that I’ll always be distracted by something new.

Not that I pretend these feelings are original, I know a few 20somethings of my generation with similar angst, but that only makes me feel marginally better.

In this respect, seems like I need to lock myself into some pattern (med school?) that forces me to stick with something for awhile. Perhaps passion at first sight of my true life’s path is a bit much to ask and I need to stick things out a bit more rather than hope for an instant “click” and quick gratification.

On the other hand, what better time to explore than when you’re young? I only feel like I’m losing time — like I should have done more exploring and less “achieving” when I was still in high school and college. Alas, something to think about when I have children of my very own.’

August 26, 2008   1 Comment

Here we go!

March 29, 2008

So this is it, here we go.

I’m sitting on the plane on my way from Taipei to Phnom Penh. There’s about an hour to go until landing, and I’m feeling pretty well-rested, thanks to my trusty sleeping skills. I sometimes worry that my ability to sleep most anywhere, anytime verges on narcolepsy, but I can’t complain when the same ability allows me to sleep through a 14 hour flight.

I’m looking out the left side window near the front of the plane and can see a coastline, and the outlet of a river — perhaps the Mekong? We’re getting closer to landing and I’m getting a little more nervous — I still know so little about what to expect when I land; it’s scary, but also exhilarating to live so much in the moment, taking things one thing at a time.

Mum and dad dropped me off almost 20 hours ago at LAX. I have many friends and family to thank for their love and support in the past few weeks, but especially mum & dad for helping me get ready for this trip and being excited and proud for me to go off and try something a little off the wall.

After I woke up from my first mini-nap on the flight from LAX to Taipei, I started to panic a little:

“Wait, what?” I thought. “Where am I going? And why? I had a beautiful apartment in a city I love. I’m going away from a loving boyfriend, friends, family, and a well-paying job for what again? Am I running from something? Am I chasing a romantic notion, am I trying to prove something, and if so, what?”

I guess I’ve gotten a lot of questions lately about what I’m going to be doing, why I’m going away at all, and why to Cambodia in particular. I’ve thought a lot about it, and written about it a little, and I guess if this is going to be the start to a log of my adventures over the next few months, it makes sense to talk a little bit about the impetus for the whole crazy thing.

Here’s a little snippet from my original Fulbright application:

My whole life, I’ve excelled at things that were relatively familiar and comfortable. Google opened my eyes to what’s possible when you push the envelope and translate big ideas to action. Psychologists have shown that people can become addicted to success, and risk less because they are afraid of failure. I don’t want that to be me. Just applying for this grant has already pushed me in ways I’m not accustomed to – reaching out to strangers, independent study outside of a formal academic setting – and it’s not difficult to imagine how much more I would grow in 10 months.

As most of you know, I didn’t convince the Fulbright folks, but even so, I think this was the most sincere part of my application and the fundamental reason why I’m on this plane.

I could go on and on about my particular selfish reasons, but staying true to my nature, I’ll just write a couple down in a little list

– Want to do something I care about (e.g. education)
– General travelust — particularly, liking the feeling of being a foreigner in a place and the exhilaration (and exhaustedness) of learning everything over
– Want to test my boundaries; can I do this on my own?
– Find out what’s really important to me — what do I need to live? In the end, not much I think
– Like the idea of being somewhere where my skills and experience and time are relatively much more valuable
– Want to get a little closer to understanding what life can be like in a “so-called” developing country and try to understand more about this morass that is development
– Want time to think and not just be busy busy busy, without a real goal in mind
– Though it can be lonely, I like “starting over” in a place with no expectations of what kind of person I am, what I should do, who I should be

March 28, 2008   No Comments