Thinking on 2015

Disconnecting from my regular routine right before the New Year has given me the time and space I needed to think about shifts I want to make to my daily life and my thinking throughout the next year. Depression and anxiety have become companions of mine, and it takes a lot of mental energy to keep them at a respectable distance so I can fulfill my responsibilities.

I felt rejuvenated like this twice before in 2014, each time when I went to Utah for photography workshops. What was it about those trips that meant so much to me? I think those are the things I need to focus on bringing into my life more often after the New Year in order to avoid the depressive bouts I’ve been dealing with.

1. Less time in front of the computer. I need to work more efficiently, and set firmer boundaries for when I stop working. Send more emails saying “I didn’t get to this today. I’ll try again tomorrow.” I’m shooting film more for this reason, because it slows me down and means less images to process.

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30 Before 30

Mission: Complete all bolded items before I turn 30
Deadline: April 15, 2015

Chowder in a sourdough bread bowl and crab louie salad at Barbara’s Fish Trap in Half Moon Bay

I thought about going to Boudin and eating on the pier, but it’s a bit of a tourist trap and I have Half Moon Bay on my list of places I’d like to visit. This way I get to eat my sourdough bread bowl while sitting on the beach, though I’ll have to go before mid-summer if I want to eat my crab in-season.

It’s It

I plan to buy an It’s It, Big Daddy, Super Sundae, and Chips It, and then invite some friends over to do a little tasting party with me so we can choose our favorite of the line.

Burrito in the mission district, The Little Chihuahua

I chose The Little Chihuahua because it has the Fried Plantain & Black Bean burrito. That combination of savory and sweet it calling out to me. I plan to bring the kids, get our food to go, and then walk over to the Golden Gate Park playground so T1 can ride down the concrete slides.

Chez Panisse

I’d like to dine in the restaurant on a Monday night, when the menu is more rustic and regional. Or maybe the cafe, which serves similar food but isn’t as pricey.

French Laundry

Saving up all my pennies for this experience (Alinea taught me that it’s not just a meal, it’s a performance).

Oyster farm tour at Hog Island Oyster Company

I fell in love with oysters on my honeymoon, where I was able to eat several from different bays and understand the way the environment affects the taste. For $10 I can visit Hog Island and see how they’re grown, then buy some to-go and shuck them myself.

Jelly Belly factory tour

The website pitching the tour says it takes a week to make a single bean. The tour only takes 40 minutes though. Continue reading

30 Before 30, Brainstorming

I’ve seen a lot of 30 Before 30 lists that have very grand and exciting goals – but I learned my lesson with my 101 in 1001 list and didn’t want my 30 Before 30 to become a source of stress or anxiety as my 30th fete approaches. I want it to be filled with goals that I love and will enjoy prioritizing.

Inspiration struck one day and I realized I want my list to be about food! Specifically, 30 food experiences unique to the San Francisco area. Growing up I knew two things about San Francisco – it had a huge bridge, and it was a place where you eat chowder out of sourdough bread bowls on the pier. My version is going to include restaurants, items, and experiences. If I launch it in the new few weeks I’ll have 15 months to eat my way through.

Below is what I have put together so far. What do you think I should set out to eat between now and April 2015? Suggestions in the San Jose area are greatly appreciated because getting up to San Francisco can be a lot of work with the little ones!

Sharing one of my favorite Chicago food experiences with T1 – eating local treats at the Green City Market

Chowder in a sourdough bread bowl, (Boudin)
It’s It
Burrito in Mission, (La Taqueria)
Chez Panisse
French Laundry
Oyster tour, (Hog Island)
Jelly Belly factory tour
Anchor Steam Brewery  tour
Bakesale Betty chicken sandwich
Irish coffee at Buena Vista
Roast chicken at Zuni Cafe
Wine tasting in Napa
Mushroom hunting (TH’s Christmas present, we’re going in January!)
TCHO Chocolate Factory Tour


My College Graduation

I resisted going back to school for a long time. I didn’t have a life plan that included utilizing a degree, and I really disliked the online course experience. Over time my life plans changed, and finishing my degree became much more appealing. As TH started his second year of his MBA program and we had a clearer understanding of what the next year would be like, I realized that I had the perfect window to return to BYU and finish my degree in-person, instead of online. That Husband would move in with my parents and work for my dad to fund this little adventure of mine, and my parents would get to spend time like never before with their favorite grandchild.

Once we had that lined up I started into the process of figuring out what classes I would need to take in order to finish, and how the process worked. I stumbled around a lot, but got in touch with the advisors for the English majors and emailed back and forth with her several times to make sure I understood exactly what I would need to do. The process was a bit complicated because I needed to do a few petitions, including getting special permission from the English department to substitute a Statistics course instead of finding an equivalent for Italian 202 (I had worked through several Italian semesters before I got married, but couldn’t find an affordable option that met the requirements in Chicago), but it all worked out in the end.

Once I had in writing from the advisor “Everything looks correct”, meaning “Yes, the detailed plan you wrote out for me means you will graduate in August” I dove right in! My plan was to take British Literature and Statistics online between November and May, and then start courses at BYU in June. We found a babysitter for T1 and I trudged through Statistics (accompanied by lots of tears, as my math-related skills were poor when I graduated from high school and had eroded considerably in the almost-a-decade since graduating) and my Brit Lit class, finishing just in time to take one last final when I arrived on BYU’s campus. Everything was going exactly as I’d hoped!

And then I walked into the advisor’s office to check up on my graduation plans and was told that I was short a course if I wanted to walk. At BYU the max course load (without special permission) for a semester is 18 credits, and since this was a term that was half the length the max course load was 9 credits. I had already signed up for 9 credits, preferring to do as many courses in a real classroom as possible. The idea of adding on yet another class (so 12 credits total, or the equivalent of a 24 credit semester) was exhausting, but I knew I was having a baby and that this might be my last chance to finish in the way I wanted. I was very, very lucky because the last class I needed was an elective course, so even during Summer Term I had a few options. The next day I went from classroom to classroom trying to find a professor who would take me on knowing that I was signing up for a heavy course load (the first professor turned down my request for his signature immediately), but my pleas of “I’m pregnant and moving to California and this is my last chance to graduate” won over the professor for Short Story and so I made one last trip to the bookstore to buy yet another backpack full of novels and textbooks in order to graduate. I was determined to make this graduation happen, no matter what. LESSON LEARNED: Double, triple, and quadruple check your plans when making important life decisions. No one else cares about your future as much as you do.

A few days into the term, I got really sick. My first trimester with T1 was relatively easy, but this time around I was exhausted, weak, and shaking all day every day. (Oh yeah, and I ran a half-marathon during all of this. Let’s call this the summer of “I put in months of work to prepare for this and nothing is going to hold me back from achieving what I’ve been training/working toward”.) My life revolved around making it through my shower, through my breakfast, through the walk uphill to campus, through my classes, through my homework, all so I could crawl back into bed and be kept up half the night with pregnancy-induced insomnia and half-dozen trips to the bathroom each night. I can’t remember anything more miserable than those 6 weeks.

But you know what? That walk across the stage is worth it. It’s worth any and all amount of work and sacrifice. I think the only other time I’ve ever felt this proud of myself was when I birthed a baby. Months after graduation I would wake up in the morning and my first thought would be “I have a bachelors degree. I actually graduated from college!”

Since then I’d been ducking my head a bit when people congratulated me for finishing (I feel like I’m surrounded by people with master’s degrees and doctorate degrees so a bachelor’s degree felt silly), and then I saw on Wikipedia that only 30% of people in the United States have a Bachelor’s Degree. What!?!? Go me! And go everyone else who has one too. Maybe someday I’ll try to join the 8% in the US who have Master’s degrees.

Thanks to my family for coming down to support me! Shay when you graduate I promise my whole family will be there cheering you on as well!

That feels good! And now both of our children, no matter the gender, will know that graduating from college is not optional in That Household.

The following photos were taken by Aubrey of Every Little Moment Photography. She emailed me asking if I’d be interested in a photography swap and I was so excited to be able to get some family photos when all of us were together in Utah! I went to her studio and did pictures of her family, and several weeks later she showed up after I walked across the stage and did family photos for me. Outside of my family she and her assistant were one of the first people to know about my pregnancy. Thanks Aubrey!

My new favorite family picture.

You’ll see I have my hand under my belly in almost every picture. I felt like I looked huge! I wanted to make sure there was no mistaking that I was pregnant and not just a bit tubby from too many visits to the vending machines during class breaks.

This brings our total degrees in the family to four: two bachelor’s degrees and two master’s degrees. Too bad I only hold one of them :).

While we finished up pictures, T1 led Nana around and let us know how how “over this” he was.

The stock photo that they take right before you walk cross the stage is soooo cheesy. I’m really glad Aubrey was there to take these.

This last one is cheesy, I know, but it does a great job describing how graduation made me feel. Even though I don’t have any immediate plans to get a job or further my education, finishing this step opens up a whole new world of possibilities that I didn’t previously have at my disposal.

Some thanks are in order.

First, to my dear husband. He encouraged me every step of the way, but gave me the space to come to this decision on my own. It means a lot to me that despite the messages embeddedMormon culture, he believes that education for women is just as important as it is for men. This is one of the many ways you’ve changed me for the better.

Second, to those of you who gently and respectfully encouraged me to consider finishing. Erin, in particular, comes to mind. And thanks to all those on Twitter who helped keep me entertained during Short Story this summer, AKA Worst-Class-Ever. Couldn’t have survived those 2.5 hour mind-numbing lectures without you.

And most importantly, to my parents. Thank you. Thank you for funding my education, for your patience as I bounced form major to major (and failed a few classes in the process), for agreeing to take on the responsibility of caring for my child so I could focus on my degree, and for driving down to Utah to cheer me across the stage as I celebrated this major accomplishment. I love you guys so much.

Really Listening to Others

Listening Is The Better Part of Speaking – Sarah Kay

Sarah Kay’s Ted talk titled “If I Should Have A Daughter” was worth the 30 minutes it took for our dinosaur-age-speed internet in Chicago to load it. I also enjoyed the discussion she had with On Being’s Krista Tippet, particularly her thoughts on choosing our words with care, and the weekly exercise she does in her workshops. During this exercise she urges each of the participants to come up with a list of things that they know to be true. The example she cites in On Being for this exercise is that her name is Sarah, and that she was named for her grandfather, named Stewart. She urges each person to think of things that are not only true, but interesting and unique.


This was my favorite part of the interview because as of late I have been thinking about how I’d like to improve the ways I connect with people. I am really, phenomenally good at talking about myself. Because of my tendency to over-share, you can ask me questions all day long and I will keep reflecting my answers back at you. I can think of so many instances where I have walked away from a conversation realizing that I spent so much time reflecting and pontificating, but I didn’t spend any time absorbing. The person I just spent time with knows more about me than they might ever want to know, but I can’t remember a single thing about them, sometimes not even their name.

I don’t want to make it sound like I greedily talk about myself, overpowering anyone who tries to take a moment to share. It’s more that I don’t know what questions to ask them, or I feel a bit anxious about silence and want to fill in the spaces. The problem has been exacerbated over the years with my blog, as I interact with people who know far more about me than I do about them, which provides them an opportunity to ask specific questions that strangers would never think to ask each other (or if they did it might be considered inappropriate or strange to do so). I am better at holding mutually beneficial conversations when it is with someone I know, particularly when we have an extensive shared history, but I still often feel like I did far more speaking than listening.

As with all things, the first step to fixing this character flaw is acknowledging that it is a problem for me. When making phone calls or spending time with family members and friends I can take a moment before our conversation begins and remind myself that the goal is to learn more about them than they learned about me. The area I’d like to most focus on though, is when I meet new people. I have a friend who was a pharmaceutical rep (I hear she was the best of the best) and I always in awe whenever we get together in social situations, particularly cocktail parties hosted by That Husband’s work. She is a master at conversing with everyone, from the wife of a new hire to the partner of a prestigious firm. I want to be just like her.

Unfortunately I freeze up a little bit when meeting new people. Once we get past their name (which I often forget as soon as it’s said, despite my efforts to lock it deep in my brain) I’m out of ideas. On my Just A Mom post we got into a great discussion about how some people feel frustrated that their profession is sometimes used to define them (particularly when our culture places great importance on specific professions and those in certain fields feel discredited), and so I want to get in the habit of using some alternative phrases in order to get to know people. Some of the fabulous suggestions proffered up include:

How do you spend your time?

Where are you from?” (This is my contribution to the brainstorming, it’s the least risky and inventive)

What are your hobbies?” and “What are you passionate about?” from Kayla

and my personal favorite from JanssenWhat do you like to do?


I’m writing this on June 7th, and as soon as I hit schedule I’m heading out to dinner with some people I haven’t met in real life. I’m going to make it my goal to work some of the above phrases into my conversations.

Does conversing meaningfully with strangers and acquaintances come easily for you? How do you make meaningful connections with those you don’t know well? If this wasn’t a natural skill for you, how did you develop it?