Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017: A Year in Review

Things happened. So much happened that I quit blogging because it seemed like too much to capture. But now that it's the last day of 2017, it's easier to highlight just the top moments in summary. This only covers things that happened in my world (as it is my blog).

January
I quit my job on the last working day of 2016. I spent a good hour debating what the subject line of my resignation letter to my boss should be. I can't remember what I landed on, but I do remember mildly panicking after hitting "send."

Then I started my new job. I realized that I hadn't been in the presence of so many humans in a long time, and I came home every day overwhelmed.

February
I turned 30 and had a banana-themed birthday party. There were banana craft and illustration stations, a smoothie spot, plantain casserole, banana desserts...it was a very banana day and my friends were so great to go all-in on going bananas with me.

Mark and I went to Spain. We ate a lot of things and that was fun. My favorite spot was Street XO, an Asian-Spanish fusion spot that was totally worth the wait. We tried a good portion of the menu and it was all wonderful.

March
What happened in March? I think the most notable thing I can think of right now was getting assigned to the shared mobility project at work.

April
Ho Etsu had our Rotations CD launch party at Township in Logan Square. My new manager came which really touched me, since we'd only known each other for a couple months. She brought her husband and their good friend.

That same weekend, Mark and I started breaking up and by the end of the weekend we were broken up. I learned about heartbreak and I learned about heartfelt support from wonderful friends and wonderful Melodie.

May
The Tang family went to San Francisco for the Fei Show. All in all, it was a good time. Even the part where Mom had a slow dramatic fall in the hotel room when she sat on a broken chair while eating dim sum from Oakland Chinatown. We also met the Midwife and Baker who makes my favorite levain in the world.

June
Ho Etsu went to Michigan for a combined concert with Raion Taiko. We stayed at Ryan's uncle's house which is a mansion sitting on its own lake. Highlights included when Emily fell into the water before we left with all of her clothes on.

July
Joy came for an extended July 4th sister weekend. Melodie's doodle for this weekend was packed because we did and ate a lot of things.

I went to Austin and remembered that Texas is truly hot. We ended up spending most of the weekend lying on April's living room floor because that's all the energy I could muster up in that sweltering heat. I met Susan's Austin home, her chickens, and learned she was expecting!

August
I think this was the month I dedicated myself to going to bed by 10. I felt awesome, but it was short lived and I have fallen by the wayside and I'm back to the land of too-little-sleep. Oh well, you try sometimes.

Ginza Festival is always a highlight. In addition to the regular warm fuzzies of Ginza, it was especially fun with all of our new apprentice folk joining the Midwest Buddhist Temple family. Cleaning up a parking lot has never been so fun.

September
I started digging in to networking and practicing my new industry jargon. It was around this time that I felt like work really started to meld from all directions in cool ways. Life and synergy are cool like that.

October
In October, things really started going on the up and up. There was a ton of taiko stuff still with Edo Bayashi workshops, playing a SoFar concert, and learning new pieces for November shows. I went to a conference in Detroit that really started linking things and people together for me at work. I met new people that impacted my perspective on relationships. I appreciated being and feeling connected so I could enjoy so many facets of my new life.

November
Melodie and I went to Brooklyn for a fun sister weekend. We hadn't been to NYC in a while, and I'd never spent much time in Brooklyn either. Williamsburg is their Logan Square, and I didn't mind rubbing shoulders with the beautiful hipsters of New York. Our favorite spot ended up being Butler Coffee in Williamsburg, with their cute house-made bakes and lovely coffees. Jenny ended up being in Brooklyn that weekend also as a happy coincidence, so we got to meet up with her too.

We played a show at The Hideout with On Ensemble, which was a ton of fun. We got a lot of good footage that we're enjoying now. We also performed Emily's new piece Poston at the Alphawood Gallery which went really well too. Learning and playing that piece really helped me appreciate Emily and her artistic mind even more. I truly know a lot of talented people.

I decided to stay put for Thanksgiving. I turned down going home, and I turned down going to Breckenridge with Melodie and Lius even though that sounded fun. I ended up with several days of so much me-time and it was awesome. I read a really dense existential short story by Jose Luis Borges out loud to myself. This took me 2 hours. Then I ate Bonci pizza. That's some of the finest luxury you could ask for.

The month ended in going to the Automobility LA portion of the LA Auto Show. I test drove a couple cars which reminded me I haven't touched a new car in a really long time. They've changed since 2005 - this is my detailed review. I stayed at the LA Athletic Club which is like an older-school version of the SOHO House, and I loved every minute of my king-sized bed and full- length lap pool and hot-buffet breakfast. Leaving was kind of sad. Oh, the conference was great for me too.

December
December passed in a blur. I went to Austin again to attend Susan's baby shower. It was really lovely to spend time with her and her family. It gave me the chance to reflect on how special it is to have people in your life for decades, and how special it is to remain friends through many life-changing events. Being friends with Susan really shaped a lot of my interests and principles that continue to impact who I am today.

Mochi-tsuki was wonderful. I committed to going so I wouldn't flake out this year, and again I got to appreciate the wonderful community of MBT. I brought my good work friend which made it even more fun, to experience it like it was my first time again.

Christmas happened. Mom's tree had a bumper crop of kumquats, reportedly because she and Allen gave it extra fertilizer last winter. I ate about 50 kumquats a day and tried to clip off all the kumquats on my tree. But, the tree won and I couldn't get to all of them. I'm still eating kumquats that I brought back.

And now it's the last day of the year. I'm going over to my work friend's house in a little bit to hang out with her and her friends. I've made so many friends at work this year, it's incredible. It will be a nice way to end the year - by celebrating with one of my new friends from one of my new communities I've gained in 2017.

Hopes for 2018: continued growth, more trips with April, at least one international trip, more learning, and more participating in the outcomes.



Sunday, November 13, 2016

Masters Forever

In August, I started swimming with a masters swim team at UIC. A number of things led me to go back to swimming, mainly body aches and boredom with workout routines. 

It's been truly wonderful to be the almost-slowest in the pool again. I think swimming gave me the good quality of being able to laugh at myself. Because sometimes, try as you may, you are just going to be slower than all the other 60 year olds in the pool. 

My favorite lane mate is named Dave. He's 59 and I'm positive he was hyperactive as a child. He's so fast, and he makes fun of me by calling me a "fitness swimmer." Not infrequently, he passes me up and has to be the lane leader, and then he makes me count down the seconds until the next interval since he can't see the clock. It delights me every time. 

I admire his energy and enthusiasm at 59, and I swim faster when he's there. I want to be a cool old person who's still killing it in the pool in 20 years. 

I also signed up for a masters swim meet in Munster, Indiana in November. It was a good goal to work towards, and it was fun to see what adrenaline could do for my race times. It turns out I'm still slower than when I was 23 which was slower than when I was 17, but I guess that's normal and I was pretty happy with my times considering I'd only been swimming 2-3 hours/week vs 20 hours/week. 

Also cool at the masters meet was that there were people of all walks and ages there to compete. College kids, mom's and dads, 70 year olds! No matter your time, everyone was happy to cheer you on for just being there. That 68 year old who finished her 50 free more than a lap behind everyone else was amazing. She finished and didn't care. Or maybe she did, but I couldn't tell and she was my hero. 

Anyways, I suppose it's now time to enter into my swimming era part 2. Maybe one day I'll figure out how to be faster but I won't count on it. 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Chicago's Historic November 2016

Last week I said that I didn't care about baseball, but I cared about history.  Then the Cubs won the World Series! For the first time in 108 years! The ultimate underdog story -- the notoriously losing team winning the National League and qualifying for the World Series, then recovering from a 3-1 loss-win to come from behind and take it all, in a 10-inning 7th game with a dramatic rain delay after the 9th inning.

Chicago went wild. Every window was filled with silhouettes of people jumping up and down, people ran exuberantly in the streets, whooping and cheering could be heard across the city in every neighborhood. Everyone walked with excitement and confidence in every step, congratulating each other on "our" win. Everyone felt united and together! The Cubs did it for us! We were part of history! Everyone at work was zombies from celebrating too hard for too many nights in a row!

And up to this point, I'd say that I don't care about politics. But again, we made history. Trump also represents an unbelievable win, unexpected and unprecedented in American history in many ways.

Chicago went quiet. Every face in the streets, on the bus, and on the train felt blank. Every conversation I passed in the street was about the election -- commentary on this year's divisive campaigns, speculation on what the future could look like, how his win could represent "our" country. We were part of history. Everyone at work was zombies from wondering too hard how this happened.

Leading up to the election, a lot of people kept saying that they "couldn't wait for it to be over." I'd respond that it was actually just beginning, but I didn't know that I'd be so right either. I don't have a big agenda for calls-to-action or justice, but I stop and think about how this is history and that anything and anyone is always a possibility. 

And I suppose it's that thought that I should remember to motivate me to stay involved and pay attention to things I haven't cared about. Because we are part of history.


Monday, October 31, 2016

Fall Firsts

Had a freshly-fried apple cider donut at County Line Orchard. It was amazingly hot and crisp and fragrant and tender. 
Took another winning photo with Mark, first one in a pumpkin patch.
Decided Halloween was OK and rocked generic-mostly-Wonder Woman with my sidekick Robin.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

A Letter to Kendra

A dear friend from Austin show choir passed earlier this year. Her death was sudden and tragic, but she has beautiful family and friends who have honored her in wonderful ways. One way was to take her ashes to the west coast and read letters written by loved ones before sending her out to sea. I got to write her a letter to bid her farewell for now.

Dear Kendra,

How are you? We've missed you since you've been gone. As a believer in after-lives, I like to think that you're just onto many new and exciting adventures. You're probably singing even more now than you were before. Everyone there is really lucky.

But you're not here with us, and that makes us sad. I still can't believe you're gone, honestly. I also couldn't believe how hard I cried at your "Tribute to Kendra" party as I call it -- it's amazing that everyone you know also felt you were such a wonderful and strong, beautiful, spirited presence. I thought about how long I knew you, and it was only 2 short years there in Austin. But I realized that knowing you impacted me so much, more than I even realized.

I love your sparkly eyes and the bounce in your step. You're so energetic and cool like that.

I love how you're an "older" lady, AND you're just as silly as I am. I love seeing older people that are wonderful and energetic and cool and funny -- something I only realized is possible more recently.

I love that you're smart and unashamed to make your voice heard.

I love that you're patient and want to help people grow, at their own speed.

I love that you helped me choose my little Ohana ukulele. She sings for you.

I love that you were far more musically talented than any of us at show choir, but you never made us feel that way. You just wanted to sing and dance, and you let us come along for the show too.

I love that your husband loves you so much -- it's really cool to see a strong bond and deep love like that.

Thank you for being you.

I joined a karaoke league, and the league manager reminds me of you. She has curly hair, sparkly eyes, wears glasses, and obviously loves the silly in singing just like you. It makes me happy to see her and think of you while I get my weekly dose of mini-show-choir time.

We miss you a lot, and I hope the ocean takes care of your heart and your songs.  I'll think of you the next time I see the ocean.  Maybe you'll have the ocean wave back at me. ;)

See you soon, Dear Kendra.

With love,
Alexa

Sunday, October 2, 2016

A Napa Photo Essay, AKA the most productive anyone's ever been before a 5 PM wedding

Went for a cold morning run and saw the sun rise from the hills of Glen Ellen. 
Met a goat who came up and said hi to me when I walked up. 
She wanted to jump over the fence. I said, you stay there and then ran away. 
Rented a bike at Napa Valley Bike Rental and bikes through Yountville.
We sang a made-up song while biking 14 miles of beautiful scenery.
Stopped by a vineyard and winery and practiced taking selfies on a bike on the isolated path.
 I asked this man, "Should I wait in this line for Bouchon Bakery?"
He said yes. And he was right even if they were out of the sandwich I'd originally wanted. This is the ham & gruyere (tuna nicoise was out).
Then I got ready in a hurry to make it to this lovely wedding. I cried, because I'm a woman now.
Then Mark and I practiced expressing feelings of love.
It was one of those sparkly kind of days.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

AT on KW of the West

This is Kaye. 

She is determined, endlessly curious, a seasoned botanist, a true woman of the West, has a photographic memory, and a true Christian and loving heart. She would also win the Hunger Games without blinking an eye. 

Kaye met my mom at Utah State in Logan in the 70s. Their chance meeting is one of the many polished stories Kaye loves to tell over and over again. Fei was sitting in the front row of the class furiously trying to take notes while the professor only lectured in a low voice facing the board. At the end of class, Fei turned around with tears running down her face, muttering, "I no can do." Kaye offered to let her borrow her notes after each class and their friendship began. 

Their college stories cover all the best-of topics that a newly immigrated FOB could learn from a true American: lime jello with bananas, how to celebrate Thanksgiving, learning to go to the university cheese factory to collect free cheese samples and then recruiting all the foreign Chinese students to do the same, demanding a copy of that "golden Mormon bible" from across the classroom, and surviving the cemetery as a shortcut without ancestor ghosts following them out (so we think).

Fei loves to ask questions and Kaye loves to give answers. Neither of them can ever stop talking, and sometimes that leaves both of them talking without anyone to listen to them, except me. The simultaneous monologue is not the kind that merits or asks for a response -- a scientific tour guide of all the names of the wildlife we're passing from Kaye, and commentary on how fascinating that baby trees can grow on the sides of rocks from Fei. They talk just as easily as most people breathe, or fart and then leave you to deal with it. 

I've had almost two full weeks to spend with them this year, and I've nearly gone crazy from it. But at the same time, they are hilarious to observe and it's very precious to see how a friendship can continue to give 40 years later. 

Kaye, we are lucky to benefit from your endless love, and District 13 proudly supports you in the Hunger Games. We know that you will return our victor without a doubt.