In the final WO of 2018, I think it’s only fair to reflect on the past 52 weeks and how much has changed.
I traveled thousands of miles for various trips between SF to Minneapolis, Cabo, Tampa, NYC and Kenya. I navigated new challenges at one job and earned a new role with my dream company. I forged new friendships, let go of some others and started learning to say no to things more.
And beyond me (or I, I, I), the world still turns despite scary headlines, and turmoil between family and strangers, and all of the nuances that make up this crazy thing called life.
I hope you find peace and joy this holiday season, especially if you are struggling. Whether it’s publicly known or privately fought, you matter to me — and likely a whole other slew of people out there.
Sending you warm holiday wishes and blessings for a prosperous 2019!
The holiday season is in full swing, and as if I needed another reminder of it, today was the FOURTH White Elephant I’ve participated in this month. Over-commit much? I’m rocking my special sweater, tree earrings and festive fur so you better believe I’m trying to ward off my usual Grinch-y tendencies and embrace the season wholeheartedly.
- SF Ballet’s Nutcracker: Thanks to a monster group discount and the Junior League of San Francisco, I’ll be enjoying tonight’s performance of this winter classic for a nominal fee. Sugar plum fairies and pirouettes await to fulfill all my wildest prima ballerina dreams. I have no doubt my intro to the SF Ballet will be a memorable one.
- Suppenküche: A dear friend hosts an awesome annual dinner at this SF staple during Hanukkah, and this year’s celebration was no exception. From dreidel spin-offs to giant potato pancakes and banana beer, it’s a tradition I remember fondly every year. Who knows? Maybe one year I’ll even break tradition and go twice.
- The Exploratorium: Despite living in SF for 4+ years, I hadn’t yet ventured into this museum of curiosity, adventure and education. My department holiday party was here last weekend, though, and I thoroughly enjoyed the activities at every turn. The food and photo booths helped, too, but I’d happily revisit on a “normal” day.
- “All I Want for Christmas Is You” – Mariah Carey: Duhhhh. I can’t help myself and refuse to apologize for it. Between last week’s viewing of “Love Actually” and Carey’s always entertaining holiday antics, this is about the only seasonal tune I can listen to more than once a day. Don’t @ me, you knew it was coming at some point.
It’s been an absolutely packed week and isn’t about to slow down anytime soon. From holiday happenings to dogsitting and #shuttlelife, I got a lot going on:
- Cafe de la Presse: My favorite hangover cure entails four beverages and runny eggs (not together). A Bloody Mary, a coffee, a Coke, a water + eggs benedict are just the trick to get my 30-something self back in fighting shape after a night out. Even though this spot is close to the touristy Union Square, the food comes out fast. My eggs were over, but it didn’t matter in the wake of a wicked headache.’
- A Raiders Win: Praise be, the Raiders had their third win of the season on Sunday and I was there to witness it! As expected, Steelers fans are just about as insane as Raider Nation, but I stayed out of the arguments and focused on the game. And what a game it was — for a scoreless third quarter, it still stood out as one worth watching.
- “Love Actually” at the SF Symphony: Expanding my cultural horizons, I finally experienced the phenomenon that is a live orchestra accompanying a movie screening. Unexpected front row seats, talented tunemakers and the best holiday film (don’t @ me) made for a magical evening. Some commented about how it doesn’t quite hold up in the “Me Too” era but I believe it’s actually rather indicative of 2002 culture and how far we’ve come — in some cases.
- The Grove: Simple, approachable sandwiches and soups are the staples of this SF mainstay. I prefer the Hayes and Fillmore locations for their proximity to the Symphony Hall and my ‘hood, respectively. The SOMA and Design District ones are decent work-week options if you’re tired of sad salads or lackadaisical lunches. And don’t get me started on the desserts… YUM.
Now that I’m back to being a working woman, I’ve had considerably less time to read. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve still read 1.75 books since last Wednesday, but my pace has slowed a bit. Fair trade-off for gainful employment, don’t you think? In any case, here are some more I devoured during my free week:
- “The Rosie Project” – Graeme Simsion: This book has been on my Goodreads “Want to Read” shelf since I joined the site on Jan. 1, 2016. I finally checked a digital copy out from the library and raced through it in record time. Don Tillman is a particularly enjoyable narrator, and you can guess how smoothly his quest to find the perfect wife through a questionnaire goes. 4 /5 stars for some superfluous parts — though that could be my speed-reading bias speaking.
- “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” – Mary Ann Shaffer: Can you say that title five times fast? I’ve yet to see the hit Netflix adaptation of this fictional World War II story, but the book was quite captivating. It’s structured unlike anything I’ve read before, entirely from letters between characters. An extra-special touch: Before Shaffer died in 2008, she worked with her niece, Annie Barrows, to piece this together. The result is nothing short of stunning. 4 / 5 stars because I predicted a few of the twists, but I enjoyed it immensely.
- “Into the Water” – Paula Hawkins: Author of “The Girl on the Train” is at it again with another twisty-turny tale. At least, that’s how it’s billed. While I love a good thriller, I didn’t find this one particularly thrilling. There are countless references to the water women are found dead in — so many, I literally said aloud, “We get it. There’s water.” I expected every turn and didn’t find this nearly as well done as Train. It’s one I felt I had to read, though, and I’m glad I could judge the hype for myself. It gets 3 / 5 stars.
- “The Death of Mrs. Westaway” – Ruth Ware: My peers rave about Ruth Ware, and this one (they claim) is some of her best work yet. It’s no wonder I took a break from the genre after this novel — I didn’t anticipate every single twist, but I also didn’t enjoy the core story nearly as much as I expected. An inheritance and big secret are usually enough to hook me, but I remained unimpressed. Again, so many references to the cold, I wondered if the editor ever read the story all at once. Chill, cold, freezing, icy… thank you, Thesaurus! At the risk of sounding bitter, this one gets 3 /5 stars because I wanted to read it and didn’t hate myself afterward.
I’m in between jobs this week and have zero FOMO about using it to read, relax and recharge locally before I throw myself into my next gig. I could have escaped to the beach or mountains, but I think my body and brain needed more of a staycation vibe. It’s no surprise, then, I’ve got some recommended reading this week:
“China Rich Girlfriend” – Kevin Kwan: The second book in the “Crazy Rich Asians” trilogy gives us a deeper look at the characters introduced in book one. I preferred this plot, probably because it didn’t have to spend so much time explaining familial connections, and Kwan really shines in his detailed descriptions of the ultra-lavish lifestyles. 4/5 stars, because I still crave more realistic dialogue (less “Har-har!”) between Rachel and Nick.
“The Woman in the Window” – A.J. Finn: This one has been all over my Goodreads suggestions and friends’ lists, and I’m a sucker for all of these “girl,” “woman,” “lies,” etc. titles. The main character is a recluse who witnesses a terrible crime nearby… or does she? I anticipated most of the twists but still enjoyed the storyline and characters, so it also gets a 4/5 stars.
“Fates and Furies” – Lauren Groff: Another one feverishly favored all over reading lists, this book is one I actually don’t recommend. I found the two main characters extremely unlikable and the writing so contrived, I couldn’t wait to be done with it. The Florida and New York connections were somewhat redeeming, as was the final third of the novel. Still, not enough to redeem it, so it’s a 2/5 stars from me.
“The Best Way to Save Someone from Suicide”: And finally, the holiday season is no stranger to suicide, particularly as the conversation around mental health continues to grow. But how do you help someone? This piece is heartbreaking, enlightening and well worth the read. As always, there are resources available (including me!) for anyone suffering.
It’s only fitting on Thanksgiving Eve to share a few things I’m thankful for — I know it’s cliche but I have to do it.
The last few weeks have been quite the whirlwind. From traveling to Kenya and experiencing another world to the devastating fires in our backyard, it’s only natural to count your blessings and pray for those who are still fighting their battles.
We don’t always see it from smoke or impoverished communities. We don’t always hear it on the news. We aren’t even always listening.
But I’m grateful for the privilege bestowed upon me to help those in need, the values my parents instilled to put others first, and the opportunities granted to donate my time and money to worthy causes.
However you’re spending the Thanksgiving holiday, I hope you find peace, joy and comfort in the days ahead. And if you’re on the Island of Lost Children like I am this weekend, don’t hesitate to reach out.
By now, you’ve no doubt heard about the wildfires devastating both northern and southern California. We watched the news from Nairobi to Frankfurt and the smoke is still far from cleared.
As of this morning, The Camp Fire in Butte County has destroyed 135,000 acres and is 35% contained. The Woolsey Fire in LA and Ventura Counties has decimated 97,620 acres and is 47% contained.
While area businesses and organizations are scrambling to provide relief, I’ve pulled this list of reputable resources you can donate to, thanks to Inside SF:
- “The North Valley Community Foundation in Chico is raising money for shelters. Donate here.
- The Enloe Medical Center, which is also based in Chico, is raising money for caregivers and patients who have lost their homes. Donate here, and see its ongoing list of other area foundations raising money for victims here.
- The California Fire Foundation is providing short-term financial assistance for those who suffered “catastrophic losses.” Donate here.
- The California Community Foundation has an ongoing wildfire relief fund you can donate to here.
In addition, Curbed SF has enlisted San Francisco disabled rights activist Alice Wong to focus attention on the plight of the mobility impaired, many of whom are left behind in disasters like the Camp Fire. Scroll down to see her list of agencies focused on helping marginalized groups affected by the disaster.”
I can’t imagine the turmoil these thousands of people are experiencing, whether it’s losing their homes or not knowing where their loved ones are. Anything you can spare will surely help these people in need — particularly as we head into the holiday season.