Tuesday, July 28, 2009


I have never been drunk. Not only that, but I've never been buzzed or had more than a sip of an alcoholic beverage. Does that make me a loser? A serious fart? A difficult person to understand? I guess it makes me a little bit of all those things.

Choosing the sober route in life isn't easy—let me rephrase that...it's easy not to drink, it's just not easy to convince other people that it's easy not to. I don't go around touting the fact that I don't drink but when people find out, they look at me like I just told them I don't need to BREATHE, and they follow up with a game of 20 questions: "Wait...you don't drink? Ever? You're telling me you've never been drunk? Ever? Why? What is wrong with you!?"

It would be easy if I just had a good excuse, but I don't. I just don't want to. My Mom blames D.A.R.E. (gosh darn those programs when they actually work on a kid), but I think I'm just an old soul and I have no desire to whatsoever. That explanation is not acceptable to most people. "Okay, so you must be religious? You're Mormon? You're in AA? Your parents will kill you?" No, no, no, and no. The other person goes silent. I hear crickets chirping. Then, suddenly their eyes light up and I become the ultimate challenge: "Oh, man, I am going to get you SO wasted!" My friends laugh: "Good luck," they say, "we've been trying for years."

It took me years to convince my friends that I wasn't going to drink and that I was still going to be "cool." At first I was not. I was upset that my friends needed to drink to have a good time, and they were upset their friend had become Queen Killjoy. But as time went on I learned tolerance; I learned how to have fun with people while they drank; I learned patience; I even learned how to lose inhibition while being sober (this last one is like performing a magic trick...the only negative is I have no excuses for the things I've done). Honestly, it took me years to strike a good Libraic balance between being an overachieving goody-two-shoes and an accepting and fun person to still be around. While the serious side of me still outweighs the carefree side that I'm sure a tall glass of wine would help bring out, I like not drinking; it makes me different.

There are people who get angry with me at bars, people who don't trust me at parties, and others who just don't accept me...but I understand. Since "everybody" drinks, I had to learn tolerance a lot earlier and faster than others had to learn how to tolerate the lone sober girl. But I have to say, for every person who hates me for sipping a Sprite on the rocks, there is another who finds it intriguing, admirable or cool that I can be independent. While staying sober does inhibit me from enjoying five straight hours of karaoke (sorry, Eva), it does not stop me from finding the situations I get in to be interesting, enlightening and entertaining. On my great sober quest I've had a blast with friends, I've had adventures with my crazy sister, met a lot of characters and smooched a lot of strangers (all stories for another time).

My mission was/is not to convert people to soberism (I know I'll die with 20 more stress-related ulcers than people who do drink), but I do try to show that a loser who doesn't drink can still be social and funny, can still go off her rocker, can still be cute and outgoing, and that it's not such a bad deal...after all, you never have to share your beer and you can always get a ride home.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

McCourt's Memoirs

Frank McCourt, a very talented memoir writer, passed away on July 19th. He was best known for his novel "Angela's Ashes"—a memoir about growing up in poverty in Ireland and the troubles of his family. Maybe because I tend to like things that don't get as much hype and because I like writing, I actually liked his other, lesser known book most: "Teacher Man"—about McCourt's teaching career in New York where he taught English and writing for 30 years. McCourt's stories about his sassy students and what he learned during his time there is written with the kind of self-deprecating humor I appreciate. So, if you enjoyed "Angela's Ashes," I suggest you check out McCourt's other works...and if you haven't checked out anything by him, I of course, would encourage that too.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Grass Is Greener

This is the Long Hill property in Beverly, Mass. which is owned by the Trustees of Reservations and open to the public for free. The trustees own a lot of great parks, properties and land in the area, which is lucky for us since that allows the public to enjoy these beautiful locations (www.thetrustees.org).
This estate, built and originally owned by the publisher of Atlantic Monthly magazine, is the perfect daytime retreat. It has walking paths in the woods, gardens, a mansion with an impressive yard, and it was quiet. Without meaning to, we ended up spending the entire afternoon here: picnicking, walking and eventually sitting on the bistro chairs and lawn in front of the mansion while Maya chewed on sticks. I mentioned multiple times that I could live at this place. Maya, overhearing this, seemed to think we had in fact decided to move there because by the end of the day she began to growl at an old lady walking down "our" new front lawn.

Alas, at the end of the day we had to go back to our peasantry lives, but the estate was a great find and the perfect place to make believe...if only for a day.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Where Are Her Legs?

On a recent walk through Ravenswood Park, Maya saw a spaniel puppy approaching and crouched down on the ground to wait in play stance. When the puppy got closer, Maya stood up to wag her tail and greet it. The owner, seeing Maya come towards her, looked surprised and exclaimed, "Oh, she has little legs!" She had thought Maya was a big dog. Looking at the photo above, it's easy to see why people assume this. Maya has the head and muscles of a big dog, but as someone jokingly asked us once, "Where are her legs?"

Maya is not a proportionate dog and she seems to defy the laws of nature (much like the way a bumblebee can fly) when she sprints in the park on her stumpy legs as fast and as hard as a horse.

Later that day, a woman saw me walking Maya and said, "Oh cute; that's my daughter's favorite kind of dog!" I didn't know what to say...maybe this woman knew something I didn't about my dog. "What part of her is your daughter's favorite?" I asked. The woman had thought she was a chocolate lab puppy. Nope. Maya's full grown, and based on people's guesses so far, she might be part lab, pit/staffordshire, dachshund, corgi, jack russel, ridgeback, badger, sea otter, baby bear, seal and pot-belly pig.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


About a month ago, I received word that the magazine I previously worked for in San Diego had folded. Only one month before, I had been tracking down articles, updating databases and putting together detailed instructions for my replacement (as I was leaving my job to relocate). While the magazine was directly related to the mortgage industry, and so had been struggling for quite some time, I didn't expect such a sudden end.

It's strange to have worked for something that disappears all together. Thankfully, I had saved PDFs of my past articles before I left, but even so, they now stand alone as the magazine they appeared in is no longer being published. Today I noticed the Website is no longer available. All traces of my last job have been erased aside from some hard copy relics I have stored in moving boxes.

I spent 2.5 years expelling A LOT of energy into the magazine. I joined the editorial team at the tail end of their successful period (the end of the real estate boom and the start of the "mortgage meltdown"—great timing, right?). Every day something shifted...more online content, a more modern layout, less ads, more employee layoffs...and I had to shift with it. I kept plugging away, always trying my hardest to make it work.

I learned so much about the publishing industry while I was there and I'm very thankful for that experience. I got to excel at tasks I never thought I would (Website management, tradeshow coordination, writing articles about mortgages when I barely new what a mortgage was!). I also learned about corporations.

The magazine was founded 20 years ago by two people (my boss being one of them). As time went on, the magazine enjoyed the success of a booming real estate market, and from the stories I heard, those were fun times. Then the magazine was bought. People view being bought by a bigger company as a good thing most of the time: it means your business is successful, worthwhile and profitable...but it also means you are going to lose your autonomy. The more high-ranking people who become involved, the more you have to try to please them over yourself and your staff. As the success of the magazine grew, that company sold it to an even bigger corporation. While my boss called the shots on the content of the magazine, its fate was no longer in his hands. Something he created and labored over for 20+ years was ultimately ended in a matter of minutes by a group of strangers.

I think this knowledge has something to do with my hesitancy and indifference during my current job search. While I am grateful for the experience I gained at the magazine, I can't help but wonder why bother when if, in the end, something you worked at for two years or twenty can be instantly sacrificed for the bottom line? We should all better invest our time and energy into trades and careers that give back to us in the end; places that care about each of us reaching our individual goals as much as we are supposed to care about the company reaching its goals.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Blank Canvas

"The tension is here between who you are and who you could be, between how it is and how it should be." —Switchfoot

Before our big move back across the country, I had every little detail planned. I was working at the magazine up until the day we left California for Massachusetts and I used every spare moment to plan our migration. When we finally got here it took me a while to realize I was here for the long haul. I felt fuzzy and nostalgic. After a week or so passed, I realized that while I had planned every little detail of our trip, I hadn't actually planned what I would do once I got here. Aside from the place we're staying (downstairs from family), which to me was a necessary part of the plan, I left the rest open.

Giving a Libra a blank canvas to work with is not the best idea. We (and I am generalizing here) are indecisive and cautious by nature. Give us an inch and we won't take the mile
for fear it will be in the wrong direction. I have enough trouble choosing what artist to listen to on iTunes, let alone what direction to take my life.

At the same time, we are creative and can be quite the dreamers. While I keep applying and interviewing for jobs at corporate publishers or to serve as an assistant to people making three times what they will pay me, I haven't had my heart in it. I know I need a job; I know I need money. I want to save up for a car, a house, my independence, but there is something else inside me, tucked behind my practical side, that feels like it could just explode with all the wasted ambition I have to do something worthwhile—something I really want to do; something creative; something that runs parallel to my dreams.

I know part of the solution is to strive for those things myself, but I am afraid of taking risks, I admit it. I'm afraid of choosing the wrong path. Maybe I already have. The freedom and uncertainty of facing a blank canvas is scary to a Libra and probably to others who are, at this time, struggling to figure out their next move because of hardships. The same part of me that is all but bursting with the urge to do something I actually want to do, something against the "norm," is sitting inside a lot of other people who see the way the world is headed and just don't want to go with it.

Being a cynic, I have little faith I'll be able to break free of the idea of searching for and working a typical job, and I think my soul will most likely go on working 9-5 for other people's dreams that have turned into cold corporate realities. I am prepared to accept this for now, and I will be "happy" when I land a new job—any job—I'm prepared to work for my dreams, but I'm not prepared to put out that fire in my soul that yearns for something greater.