WO: Weekly Obsessions

Just when you think reality can’t get any scarier, something like the Manchester bombing happens — at a freaking Ariana Grande concert. And we all stop… and maybe we post about how terrible it is; maybe we donate money to help the victims (conversion chart here); maybe we put others before our own needs for a few minutes… and a day or a week or even a month may pass. And then something insane happens — again — to innocent people. Whether that’s as senseless as a terrorist attack or as critical as ensuring healthcare coverage, how are we ever able to feel like the future isn’t futile? If you have an answer, please do let me know. Here’s what’s helping me cope in the meantime:

Image Credits Listed Below

  1. Mister Rogers: I read this series of tweets last night and promptly cried my eyes out. Happy tears, but tears nonetheless. Entertainment Weekly writer Anthony Breznican recaps the time he happened to meet Mister Rogers in an elevator, then proceeded to have a neighborly conversation about loss. It’ll pull at all of your heartstrings, and hopefully remind you how light can be found in the depths of darkness.
  2. Service Dog’s Yearbook Photo: I couldn’t possibly talk about coping without including some four-legged friends. Alpha is AJ Schalk’s service dog, and 10/10 would recommend him for being a good pup. AJ asked his high school’s yearbook staff if Alpha could be included, since he’s clearly a vital member of the student body, and they happily obliged. Is that not the happiest lil’ fella you’ve ever seen?
  3. 25 Hilarious and Wholesome Tweets: Are you sensing a theme here? Whatever your stance on BuzzFeed as an information source, I will forever appreciate the site for its ability to make me smile. These tweets are each sweet and simple, and should bring a smile to your face as well. If not a smile, then perhaps some Chloe side-eye?
  4. “Here Comes the Sun” – The Beatles: I can’t think of another song that almost immediately brings me to tears each time I hear it. Again, they’re happy tears, and sometimes it’s just a glimmer of a tear, but something about the melody and uplifting lyrics puts me in a bubble-wrapped glass case of emotion. It reminds me of my dad; it reminds me of hope; it reminds me there are better days ahead.

Images courtesy of: BuzzFeed, and again, once more, Tumblr

30 Before 30

In honor of my upcoming 30th birthday, I’ve researched countless “things to do before 30” lists. And while there are plenty to choose from, I kept coming back to “Thirty Things Every Woman Should Have and Should Know by the Time She’s 30.”

The List was originally published in Glamour by columnist Pamela Redmond Satran in 1997. Over the next 30 weeks, I’ll be tackling each item on The List and reflecting about it here… publicly (gulp). I hope you enjoy and we can grow together. After all, turning older is a privilege denied to many.

By 30, you should know…
25. That your childhood may not have been perfect, but it’s over.

Wow, Lisa Ling. Way to hit a girl right in the feels.

The journalist, author and TV hostess narrates this week’s challenge. She explains — with her ever-present grace and poise — how her parents divorced when she was just seven years old. She jumped into a maternal role for her younger sister, and thus began a decades-long pattern of tackling challenges head-on.

This perspective is priceless, particularly as someone whose life also changed overnight at a young age. After our dad’s stroke, my brother and I were told we’d be “growing up fast” and took on respective responsibilities to help around the house. Our childhood didn’t suffer, per se, but it certainly changed our perspectives and family structure more than many of our classmates could empathize with or understand.

As Ling explains about her own experience, “I was teased a lot for being different and I never invited the friends I did have over because I was embarrassed that our house was a disaster on the inside.” She speaks both as a first-generation Chinese-American and as a child of divorced parents, but I think most children seek that comfort and value and security of popularity + perfectionism. What we often failed to realize as kids, though, is how unrealistic those aspirations are.

Courtesy of WeKnowMemes.com

Our experiences are all relative — that is, my absolute worst experience may “pale in comparison” to yours, but that doesn’t make mine (or yours!) any less valid. Whether it’s death; poverty; abuse; or yes — ”even” being unpopular — we’ve all struggled with our own demons. We’ve all wished to walk in someone else’s shoes, daydreaming about what it’d be like to be them for a day. And while I fully support the creative lens and imagination, I hope we each can find things in our own lives to be thankful for; to appreciate those unique experiences only we can say we did.

Remembering your childhood without letting it define you is likely a work in progress for us all. A song or movie sends us back; a conversation triggers our memory; a repeated offense transports us to another place and time.

But, if we can heed Ling’s advice and make peace with our pasts first; then be grateful for them, we can begin to appreciate how those experiences shaped our adult selves… without that damn existential dread setting in.

Courtesy of Imgur.com

WO: Weekly Obsessions

As much as I love seeing my family and friends back East, I absolutely loathe the time difference and trying to readjust midweek. I got home this morning around 1am, then of course had to shower and unpack a bit before passing out. Good thing the A Team at Starbucks is on today, as I’ve had more caffeine than I normally do in an entire week.

Image Credits Listed Below

  1. A Curious Co-worker: What’s a surefire way to ensure you’re awake at your desk? How about returning to the office to find a heart-shaped, glittery necklace with Nic Cage front and center? I have no idea who left it — or why — and am too embarrassed after asking a handful of co-workers to pursue any more. If only Robert Stack were still around for this unsolved mystery. I’ll be sure to keep you all posted with updates. I know you’re waiting on pins and needles.
  2. A Week in Florida: The past week was filled with countless laughs and special moments. From celebrating one talented cousin’s Disney revue to another’s college graduation AND graduate school acceptance; to silly songs with my nieces; heartfelt Mother’s Day moments; beach and pool time with loved ones; long-awaited reunions; oh and that unmistakable humidity; it’s a visit I won’t soon forget. It never feels like enough time, though I can only do so many sleepovers with a certain kicking niece before I long for my own bed 😉
  3. A Nice Neighbor: This is going to sound absolutely ridiculous, but I needed the reminder that there are still genuine people in the world. My new home is coin-operated laundry, so when I moved out of my former place, I left my card in the laundry room with a note: “$7, Venmo Wittyburg if feeling generous.” I figured it was a lost cause but received a payment last night and couldn’t believe my eyes. So thanks to Drew, from God-knows-which-apartment-number, for being a kind neighbor.
  4. A Friend-filled “First Dates”: I’ve been watching NBC’s “First Dates” all season in anticipation of this Friday’s episode. I know two of the featured daters, and they happen to be in the very same episode (although not dating each other)! While I know the outcome of one date — no spoilers, don’t worry — I can’t wait to see how a real-life college friend and NYC friend make their television dating debut. Look out for Matt and Justine; I’m sure they won’t disappoint! Check out the preview here.

Images courtesy of: Me, Me, Meee, NBC

30 Before 30

In honor of my upcoming 30th birthday, I’ve researched countless “things to do before 30” lists. And while there are plenty to choose from, I kept coming back to “Thirty Things Every Woman Should Have and Should Know by the Time She’s 30.”

The List was originally published in Glamour by columnist Pamela Redmond Satran in 1997. Over the next 30 weeks, I’ll be tackling each item on The List and reflecting about it here… publicly (gulp). I hope you enjoy and we can grow together. After all, turning older is a privilege denied to many.

By 30, you should know…
24. That you can’t change the length of your legs, the width of your hips, or the nature of your parents.

Actress and model Portia de Rossi provides this week’s perspective on something all women should know — hopefully well before 30. It’s primarily about body acceptance, given de Rossi’s personal experience with body image, an eating disorder and being scrutinized endlessly about what she “should fix.”

While I’m positive every single human being has poked and prodded themselves, finding flaws and wishing they looked different, I agree that women in particular are taught at a young age how they “should look.”

The best example I can recall is from Tina Fey’s Bossypants: “Now every girl is expected to have Caucasian blue eyes, full Spanish lips, a classic button nose, hairless Asian skin with a California tan, a Jamaican dance hall ass, long Swedish legs, small Japanese feet, the abs of a lesbian gym owner, the hips of a nine-year-old boy, the arms of Michelle Obama, and doll tits. The person closest to actually achieving this look is Kim Kardashian, who, as we know, was made by Russian scientists to sabotage our athletes.”

The beauty standard is, obviously, impossible. Even if you possess one or more of these “ideal” features, you can’t possibly have them all without some extreme alterations. And isn’t perfection boring? If we all looked the same, what on earth would we read about in women’s magazines? 😉

In all seriousness, I’m grateful to have had parents who didn’t define my self-worth on my appearance. Maybe it’s because they knew it’d be hopeless for a fair-skinned, freckled, chubby, redheaded, clumsy, big-chested, four-eyed, brace-faced adolescent to find much to adore in the mirror. (At least I had the blue eyes going for me, hidden behind those glasses.)

Instead, they focused on work ethic, affirmations and kindness… although that last one took awhile, as I figured if I could bully others, they wouldn’t bully me.

Courtesy of FB

The flip side of all of that positive parenting is that I haven’t always embraced what’s in the mirror. I have friends who can’t pass a mirror without stopping and “fixing” something, but I’ve also envied at times how comfortable they are staring themselves in the face.

So the past few years, I’ve been working on a balance of both: I smile at my reflection and might have some negative thoughts, but I’ll push those away to focus on what I love.

The nose I hated for years and years has a “sparkle” (my niece’s wording) and calls attention to how similar it is to my mom’s and brother’s.

The freckles i loathed provide texture and stories of sun-filled days I’m fortunate to enjoy.

The stomach I still don’t love shows I’m not shy about embracing different cuisines — and carbs— and no workout regimen can hide it.

I spend my energy focusing on a balance of nutrition and physical activity, indulging when I want and not beating myself up too much when I go overboard. I’d rather just live and accept my features, rather than worry about what magazines and pop culture tell me are flaws. The skin I’m in is mine alone — and I wouldn’t change it, even if I could.

Courtesy of FB

WO: Weekly Obsessions

Yesterday, I neglected to mention one place I go when my soul needs soothing. It’s particularly on my mind as I sit in the Milwaukee airport, awaiting my connection. Florida will likely always be “home” to me, whether it’s because I spent 25 years there or because my entire family is there or because I will fiercely defend it against all of the alligator and Florida Man jokes. (I can make those jokes, but a non-Floridian can’t; you get it.)

So after 9 hours of travel tonight, I’ll spend the next six days with my family back home. We’re celebrating my baby cousin’s graduation — and while I know he’s a genius, he’s not actually an infant; he’s 22 — plus the bonus celebration of Mother’s Day. I’ll catch up with hometown friends and squeeze my nieces and try new beers with Brother and watch my SIL in awe as she parents #likeaboss.

And while I don’t have a formal WO collage for you to peruse, I thought you might enjoy my favorite song about home. It was the first dance at my hometown friends’ wedding five years ago, and it still rings true.

30 Before 30

In honor of my upcoming 30th birthday, I’ve researched countless “things to do before 30” lists. And while there are plenty to choose from, I kept coming back to “Thirty Things Every Woman Should Have and Should Know by the Time She’s 30.”

The List was originally published in Glamour by columnist Pamela Redmond Satran in 1997. Over the next 30 weeks, I’ll be tackling each item on The List and reflecting about it here… publicly (gulp). I hope you enjoy and we can grow together. After all, turning older is a privilege denied to many.

By 30, you should know…
23. Where to go—be it your best friend’s kitchen table or a yoga mat—when your soul needs soothing.

Something I’ve noticed many of these List items have in common is self-awareness. After nearly three decades of life, after all, you’ve likely learned a lot about yourself: what you like, loathe, want, need, crave, and so on.

Something I’ve struggled with, though, is asking for help. Or even admitting I need help. I’ve fumbled through school assignments, rarely daring to wave the white flag and request another’s perspective. I’ve drowned in work assignments, only to learn how much asking for help would have benefited me (and my sanity). I’ve considered independence a surefire sign of maturity and looked down my nose at those who allowed themselves to be vulnerable or lean on others for anything.

I spent so much time flailing solo, I didn’t learn how to fly with support.

And then I moved to a new city.
And my dad died.
And I moved to another city.
And I got dumped.

And through all of those experiences, I couldn’t possibly fight the icky feelings off on my own. I couldn’t cope with my tried-and-true combo of sad playlists and movies, sponsored by comfort food. I couldn’t shut myself away and refuse to face my fears.

I needed help.

I had to admit I didn’t know it all, nor could I handle it all by myself. I had to be OK with not knowing the perfect solution right away, and instead try different approaches until I found one. I had to accept (gasp!) that I’m not always right.

Courtesy of OdysseyOnline.com

Now, I know where to go when my soul needs soothing.

If I had a tough day at work, I call a friend.
If I need unequivocal love, I FaceTime my nieces.
If I just got dumped, I go to a friend’s… and then to a bar.
If I need to zone out, I meditate.
If I want to feel good, I go to the gym or read a book.
If I need fresh air, I take a walk outside.
If I want to laugh, I watch baby videos.
If I want to cry, I watch puppy videos.
If it’s Friday at 230pm, I see my therapist.
If it’s Friday at 330pm, I call my mom. 😉

Sure, I still have my sad soundtracks and shows, and comfort food on deck as needed. But I’ve learned how to be vulnerable and open and allow people other than Papa John’s and Mark West to console me.

It’s a work in progress, but I’ve even had new friends and co-workers comment on how open I am. Gone are the days of closing myself off from others, for fear of judgment and persecution.

Getting closer to 30 has given me a lot more confidence to be unapologetic for my range of emotions. We’re all human, and if we can allow ourselves to show more compassion, humility, humanity… I think we’d all be a bit more forgiving of ourselves and each other.

Courtesy of Viralscape.com

WO: Weekly Obsessions


3 days in a row of posting, who’d a thunk? I won’t tease you and make you think I’ll be continuing this streak tomorrow, but I certainly couldn’t leave you hanging from loving up on these four finds:

Image Credits Listed Below

  1. You’re Not Going to Believe What I’m about to Tell You: Matthew Inman, AKA The Oatmeal, does it again. His latest comic is about the backfire effect, or why we often ignore evidence that contradicts our core beliefs. It’s especially fascinating given the political landscape we’re in, where most are shouting into a vacuum and refusing to listen. Please, enjoy.
  2. Salt & Straw: Portland’s very own addictively awesome ice cream shop made its debut in San Francisco a few weeks ago. Never one to jump on a bandwagon, I reluctantly agreed to wait for about 40 minutes in line this past sultry Saturday. Wanna know how good it was? A friend and I returned Monday night — pro tip, grab a pint to share and skip the line! — to indulge in the signature Sea Salt with Caramel Ribbons. Deeelish, particularly when SF is seeing temperatures in the 80s!
  3. “How to Get Away with Murder”: Here’s how reluctant I am to join aforementioned bandwagons: I know probably 20 women who absolutely love HTGAWM and rave about it every week. I finally caved and started Netflixing a few weeks ago. And now I’m almost through season 2. So yeah, you could say Annalise Keating and the K5 students have me hooked. I still can’t unsee Bonnie Winterbottom (hehe) as Paris Geller, but that’s a personal problem.
  4. “Gonna Hurry (as Slow as I Can)”: Thanks to my recent Patreon support of A Song A Day, I recently received a monthly playlist containing this little gem. I hadn’t heard of Chicago-based band Whitney before, but I had heard of the original artist (Dolly Parton). Something about the upbeat and high-pitched crooning of heartbreaking lyrics really speaks to me. I hope you’ll feel the same.

Images courtesy of: The Oatmeal, Salt & Straw, Logopedia, Whitney Chicago