There is a Japanese word, mieppari, that means a person hung up on maintaining appearances or caring too much about status and wanting to impress others. Keeping up with the Joneses, if you will. Ah, keeping up with the Joneses…are you immune? I am not. I still vividly remember feeling mortified whenever my dad drove up in our jalopy of a Chevy Nova to pick me up from one middle school event or another. I even asked him to park at least a block away so no one would see me duck into the back seat, which actually had no real seats if I’m recalling things correctly. Classy.

Things have a way of coming full circle, and one day when I went to fetch K and a couple of her friends for a playdate after school, I heard K apologetically explaining that our car is very old and that a lot of things don’t work. She sounded painfully embarrassed, and I felt the pang of shame from my youth in her tone of voice. I might have been projecting. We have only one car in our family and it is a truly beat-up, thirteen-year-old Honda Civic. The average American college student has a better car than we do. When K was three, she proudly showed me how she etched her name on the external side of the back door with a stick. Oh, her glowing, tell-me-I-did-a-good-job-face! Her name is still emblazoned there today. I was conflicted, I tell you. I was so delighted that she knew how to write her name, but she obviously needed to learn a lesson about respecting property.

M and I actually didn’t even own a car until K was almost two-years-old. We’d been living in Seattle for nearly six years at that point, but finally realized that the carless life wasn’t working for us. We bought it used at a bargain price, and because the previous owner lived a stone’s throw from a golf course, it sports quite a few golf-ball-shaped dings. Within a year of purchasing the car, the stereo — which was the only nice thing about the car — was stolen, and the thief left…poop on the passenger side as a parting gift. It’s true. So very disturbing, though mercifully, the offending matter was in a plastic bag and we just needed to air out the vehicle for about a week. What’s even weirder is that our neighbor had the same thing happen on the same night. Anyway, I am digressing in a very wrong direction. I should point out that I scrupulously disinfected every inch. The car has been through a lot.


Similarly, our house is tiny and fairly run down, and it’s one of the main reasons I don’t show much of it here. Almost every piece of furniture in our house is secondhand, and I just haven’t gotten that decorating thing down, even though I absolutely love voraciously pinning beautiful interiors. I’m pretty comfortable with my sense of style and think that I have a decent eye, but it doesn’t seem to translate well to home decor. It’s not even about having an endless budget; I’ve seen plenty of amazing interiors put together with little or no money. I just don’t have the decorating gene. Believe me, I’ve tried. I have many friends with magazine-worthy homes styled to the nines, and I’ve always been a touch embarrassed of our humble, shabby (but not chic), ragtag abode. When I think about it, it’s less about comparing against other people and more about the disparity of reality vs. how I envision it in my mind’s eye, but that’s neither here nor there.

The gorgeous flowers are from a good friend of mine who left them at my doorstep yesterday. I can smell the freesias as I type this, and it makes me happy. She is the embodiment of kindness; I have big book deadlines this week and she sent them to wish me luck. So sweet! Recently, she went on a trip to Honduras and with her husband and young daughters in tow, they immersed themselves in the Honduran local culture via a community enrichment program. My friend was one of the group leaders, and it sounded like a life-altering experience. She told me that there are exactly two balls for thirty children in the village. Two. And one of the balls was sort of flat and didn’t really bounce. Her daughters marveled at how happy the children all seemed, unaware of what could be perceived as severe lack. Perspective, right?

In the affluent neighborhood that I live in, yes, our house is closer to a shanty. But it’s a comfortable house, and M, K and I fill it with goodness and heart-warming memories every day (we also fill it with anxiety and tantrums and craziness, but that’s for another time).

I was picking up a different set of girls and K for yet another playdate yesterday, and I overheard this conversation:

Friend 1: “Have you been to K’s house before?”

Friend 2: “Yeah, it’s super fun, right?”

Friend 1: “So fun! I love going over her house!”

In the rearview mirror, I could see K smiling contentedly, and I’d like to think that she understood it was her own personality that made our house so fun and had nothing to do with how it looks or what’s in it. I want her to know that she’s enough as she is. Our house is enough. Our monogrammed, dented-up car is enough. Our every day, in all its ragtag-ness, is more than enough. I find that when things aren’t going swimmingly, which unfortunately is too often, it’s hard to remember that. But think: two balls for thirty Honduran village kids, but no shortage of games or creativity or joy. In fact, there may be more games, creativity and joy because they have so few toys. As I glance at my daughter avidly watching a show of her choosing on an ipad, I’m grateful to be reminded of what matters. And now, I must go wrestle that ipad away from her.


Criticism and How I Got a Book Deal

birch-treesI started and stopped several light and easy posts for today, but I’ve been stuck on this idea of criticisms so I decided to just go with it even though it’s neither light nor easy. It’s also not a short read, so I’ve inserted random illustrations I’ve been painting these days to break up the text.

When I was in my early twenties, I quietly mentioned to someone I respected — a much older woman — that I might want to be a writer or a “creative” of some sort. She leveled her world-weary eyes upon me, and told me in a matter-of-fact way that I should never try to write or make art as a living because I cared too much about what other people thought. She meant to be kind, and was certainly honest. I’ve always been a people-pleaser and overly sensitive to external input and it struck a nerve that she called it out so bluntly. “People will try to crush you, you know,” she said, and I nodded meekly. I tucked that information away in the recesses of my mind, and applied for graduate schools that year. As much as I hated to admit it, her words had resonated. Oddly enough, I didn’t take her statements as a putdown about my thin-skinned-ness. I had grown up with an artist mother; I knew the uncertainty of that life intimately and because of that I’d fought hard against my artistic grooming. Even though a part of me wanted very much to make things, a bigger part of me wanted to be responsible and I was accepted into several graduate programs — I felt smug that I had evaded the tortured artist’s life, that I was carving out options of the practical variety.

I also remembered that when I first started this blog, I was at a coffee shop as usual and ran into an acquaintance who is a marketing guru. He accidentally got a glimpse of my screen and asked what I was working on. At the time, I only had about four posts, and I was pretty embarrassed, but I admitted that I started an illustration blog (sewing was still a few months away). “Huh,” he said, “it’s very…accessible.” Not a criticism per se, but definitely not an enthusiastic response and I almost shut down my WordPress account. It was very uncomfortable to see such a lukewarm reception to something I’d put so much care and thought into.


Last week, I remembered these words as I worked feverishly on the cover art sketches of my book that is slowly taking shape. I tentatively showed the sketches to M, and though I was proud of them, I was also scared.  His job description as my husband requires that he be encouraging, of course, but he was also curious. “What are you going to do when you get criticism?” he asked. That nerve twanged yet again. I don’t handle negative comments well, but I’m not sure that anyone would say “I love me some criticism!”

Criticism is unavoidable. Someone’s gonna hate, no matter how much heart and soul you pour into your…whatever. Graphic design. Music. Sewing. Your faith. Your new pet grooming business. Whatever you identify as your truest you. Sometimes the harshness won’t even be about you, but what the other person is going through (inadequacy? jealousy? a bad taco causing an upset stomach and foul mood?). Sometimes the criticism will be genuinely constructive, given from a compassionate place. And sometimes all you’ll get is indifference, which is horrible in its own way. I’ve been incredibly lucky that so far, I’ve been floating on positive and supportive vibes here in this space and with all the new ventures I’ve been trying of late. I’ve found the sewing and creative community to be warm and accepting. But the flip side is coming. I know it. And I am ill-equipped.

As a preemptive measure, I started googling articles and watching a lot of youtube self-help videos on how to handle criticism. I’m a little bit ashamed of this. I’ve always been wary of the whole “self-help” genre, despite my obvious love of the topics commonly covered in the self-help section. I guess I feel like I should know how to deal with this sort of thing by now, since I’ve been on this earth a long time. That I should blast forth my sunny, unshakeable belief in myself and poo poo the naysayers without catchphrases and “experts” telling me what to do.

I think it’s safe to say everyone wants to be healthy, financially comfortable and fulfilled in their work (however you define work) and relationships. And most of all, we want to feel okay about ourselves. No one likes to be reminded of their shortcomings or mistakes or general uncoolness (very few people, I’ve discovered, actually think they’re cool). Because of these very basic human wants, there is a thriving and explosive “personal development” industry. My goodness, there seems to be a direct correlation between life coaching and yelling — I had to keep turning the volume down. Most of the videos left me feeling puzzled or confused, though I did find a few that I liked.

In my helter skelter research method for how to deal with criticism, I came across this series by Jonathan Fields called the Good Life Project. I saw that he interviewed Brené Brown, who is fabulous, and I wound up watching about 15 GLP interviews. Not all of them hit the mark for me, but I loved the basic premise of his project. Don’t we all want to live a good life? And what does that mean? Jonathan Fields talks with people deemed successful in various fields, though he’s partial to entrepreneurs with a spiritual bent. From fashion designers to venture capitalists and artists and writers and bloggers and academics, the stories were eclectic but all involved overcoming a personal struggle and taking some sort of risk. He always closes his interviews with the question, “What does a good life mean to you?” He assumed that he would get the same answers repeatedly but discovered that everyone defined a good life differently — and that made me evaluate what I consider a good life.


So what does all this have to do with getting a book deal? I’ll get there, I promise. I’ve been trying to figure out how to talk about it because it’s the number one question I get when I mention I’m working on a book. “How did it happen?” And the subtext is, so often, “How can I get one too?” Because I’ve been there. I’ve thought the unasked question.

The short version would be: I knew someone who became an editor for a local publisher and she asked me if I was interested in publishing a book. How lucky, some might think. How unfair, others might mutter.

But that’s not the whole story. I’ve known the woman who would become my editor for over seven years. T, I’ll call her, is friendly and vibrant and absolutely lovely. She worked and still works at a small independent book store, and through the years, she became my go-to bookseller — her specialty is in children’s books, but she reads everything. Her house is filled to capacity with books. Every Christmas I send books to my in-laws, and every year, I would roll into the store during the holiday season, seeking her out for recommendations. T has never failed me and her recommendations are always spot-on. With her help, I selected the first books with which K learned how to read. We gushed over young adult novels (a deep love of mine), and T and the shop represented everything good and right about a local book shop.

Now, I keep yammering on about how little I talk about this here blog to people in my day-to-day, but back in the old days when I had my first blog (RIP), I barely told my family. Very few people knew about it. It was truly out of character for me to tell T about it, but she’s the sort of person you can tell these things to, so I did.

The store, sadly, closed in 2012, a couple of months before Christmas. I was bereft (who would help me choose books for the in-laws??) and remember desperately and ridiculously buying 10 books at once in the small hopes that it might help the store keep their doors open just a little longer. But it was the fate of independent bookstores everywhere; big online retailers gobbled them up left and right. The writing was on the wall. However, in a stunning reversal of fortunes fit for an inspirational Lifetime movie, the neighborhood rallied and found new owners, re-hired the employees and the doors re-opened in 2013.

I didn’t know this. I had gone through my traumatic job loss, I had finally gotten my health under control, and I was on a mission to save money so had cut down on buying books. But one day, I passed by the store and saw the new sign and how could I not go in? T was there, and she said, “I’ve been thinking about you!” She told me about her new job as editor and asked if I’d be interested in illustrating books. Then she asked if I had any book ideas of my own to write and illustrate — I nearly fainted.

It wasn’t as though I automatically got a book deal though. I still had to go through the proposal process, create a storyboard, and work with T to pitch the book idea. There was no guarantee that the idea would be accepted. It took many months. It was hard work, and I didn’t sleep much while working on the storyboard. When I finally got the email from T with the multiple exclamation marks, it felt as though I had been working on the book for years already.

So at the face of it, it seems simply serendipitous and yes, there’s a bit of that. But I think it’s important to remember that I went out of my comfort zone to share my old blog (which literally had two readers) with T many moons ago, and that, for my fragile, criticism-averse nature, was a huge risk. Also, for years, I’d been dreaming and secretly accumulating ideas for children’s books, and I had been unwittingly preparing. I was ready for the serendipity. And every day, by posting something personal and wholly about me or made by me on this present blog, I am continuing another kind of risk – of collective public eye-rolling or criticism or who knows what other terrifying things. It is also a training of sorts for me, a new kind of preparation for projects I haven’t even dared to articulate yet.

What’s that quote everyone always cites? The Nelson Mandela one: “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” After all the awkward self-help videos and myriad of articles I read about coping with criticism, it essentially boiled down to realizing that I will never handle criticism well. I’ll always want to please people and will care too much what others think. Yes, there will be dream-crushers and hope-killers. But there are also people who will buoy and uplift you, providing the balance and support you need. Unlike my younger self, I’ve stopped ignoring the part of me that wants to make and make and make. Most of all, my fear of criticism doesn’t mean I’ll stop plugging along, or stop putting myself out there or stop seeing if I can make unimaginably wonderful things happen. In my own way, I am trying to create my version of a good life.



And Then There Was Love

constellation-loveIt’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow and I have love on the mind. Let me start by saying that I’ve always been a late bloomer. I didn’t have my first kiss or boyfriend until I was seventeen (I somehow managed to miss out on the requisite pre-adolescent spin-the-bottle games). The other stuff came much, much, much later.

I was angst-y in my twenties, and I’m certain that I emitted a “stay away from me” vibe for most of that decade. It was terribly confusing to me that I sailed through my prime dating years without anything resembling a real boyfriend. My friends were befuddled as well and tried to set me up with their male buddies. I adamantly refused, citing extreme pickiness. Of course, I had a short-term relationship or two, but they were of the forced variety and I found true amor elusive.


Then one day, as my twenties were coming to a close, I had a revelation. I discovered that I had this soundtrack in my mind that kept repeating, “no one is ever going to love me.” It was so ingrained, I hadn’t noticed it nor had I realized how I was making it come true. I don’t know how it started, but it was there all right. How uncomfortable to see self-fulfilling prophecies in action. How sad. So I did something that was radical for me: I decided to throw away my impossible criteria for a mate, and just be open. If someone was foolish enough to ask me out with all my baggage and crazy self-talks, I would go out with him, dammit. I figured that at the very least, I’ll have a good yarn to spin.

And you know what? It was nuts. I clearly had a neon, blinking sign announcing “available” on my forehead, and guys started to ask me out on dates non-stop. One man actually ran after me in the streets of San Francisco, panting out a request for a get together. I said yes. And I finally agreed to be set up by those well-meaning friends (disaster, disaster-er, and disaster-est). I even took the plunge and initiated the asking on a few occasions. There was the investment banker, the lawyer, the writer, the sous chef (a fabulous tale I’ll have to share some time). The New Yorker illustrator, several businessmen, the co-worker, the academic, the buddhist who decided he was gay after dating me — my resolve faltered a bit after that one. There was a particularly sweet, much younger engineer who was so romantic and effusive in his sentiments for me. I thought he might be the ONE. Even a woman invited me out to a non-platonic rendezvous, and I considered it, but I decided that would be misleading since I’m decidedly heterosexual.

It’s a phase I think of as my “Rom Com period gone wrong”. The comedy of errors kept my friends in stitches during the recaps. I spent one date riding the bus aimlessly with an artist even angst-ier than I was. Think Before Sunrise with less attractive people and really boring, totally unphilosophical conversations. Another man kept telling me I had beautiful ankles.


These men were far more than their job titles, of course, but it was the way I thought of them. In most cases, I went out on only one date with each man. Chemistry is a pretty obvious thing, and not a lot of sparks happened. Over a period of about one year, I sampled amazing food at various restaurants and went to more bars and movies than I had in all the prior years combined, and though these dates were often uncomfortable, they were also undoubtedly fun. I suppose I should have been more cautious — given my uninhibited free-wheeling policy, one or more of them could have turned out to be a murderer. That would not have been fun.

In the midst of my harem-building, I met M. It’s one of my favorite stories. I was at my regular coffee shop haunt in San Francisco, writing in my journal as usual. It was a bustling and busy Sunday at the cafe, and I sat cozily next to a young-ish couple. After about an hour so, the woman asked if I would be around for awhile. “This guy,” she said, “he asked us to watch his laptop while he made some phone calls, but he’s been gone forever. Would you mind watching it?” I agreed, and they left. The laptop sat unattended for several minutes longer, and then the guy came back. He slid into the seat next to me looking annoyed that the couple was gone. Clad in a bright red floral hawaiian shirt over a yellow Che Guevera t-shirt, he was a muscular, good-looking man. Ken doll on steroids. I immediately dismissed him as batting for the other team; besides, I favored skinny, awkward, Jewish men in general, so I went back to my journal after informing him that I had been guarding his laptop. My suspicions were confirmed when one of the baristas, a friend of mine who happened to also be gay, solicitously started to wipe Hawaiian Shirt’s table, hitting on him in an oh-so-obvious way.


As it goes in coffee shops, Hawaiian Shirt and I began to talk, and I found out that he was an art major turned graphic designer turned start-up business owner opening up a new office in S.F., expanding his Seattle-based operations. This was during the dot-com era and everyone was opening offices everywhere. He was funny, but in a sarcastic way I wasn’t accustomed to. He talked ceaselessly of his business partner, who I assumed to be his boyfriend. So when he asked me for my phone number, my first thought was, “oh hooray, we’ll go shopping together.” I shopped a lot with my gay BFFs, and this being San Francisco, I had many. Imagine my surprise when we had our coffee date a week later. The rest, as they say, is history.

This is — in a rather convoluted way — a love letter to my husband. Who knows if our encounter was destiny or some star-crossed affair? Most likely not. All I know is that if I hadn’t decided to recklessly accept all incoming invitations at that very specific time in my life, I wouldn’t have learned what it feels like to unconditionally love and be loved. To see beyond the assumptions, to leap! Because that’s the life we’ve created together: one based on jumping into the unknown and trusting that we’ll turn out all right.

I hope you, too, have someone like that. It doesn’t have to be a spouse, but it could be a friend, a child (whether biological or adopted), a mentor. It doesn’t even have to be one person. I’m lucky to have several unbelievably kind people in my day-to-day that fill me up with goodness. Because love comes in all shapes and sizes, doesn’t it?

P.S. I’m liking my quick and dirty illustrations of constellations (practicing away at my digital painting!). Obviously, the love one is made up…

P.P.S Sewing is slow-going these days. I hope to have fun projects to share next week!

International Women’s Club


I’ve been thinking of you, lovely readers of this little blog. As I assembled the post for the Secret Valentine Exchange yesterday, I was struck by a feeling of déjà vu. I dug around the roots of my memories, and realized that almost everything about this blog takes me back to a very particular time in my life: grad school.

After teaching English in Japan for a couple of years in my mid-twenties, I knew that I would be a basket case trying to transition back into American society (ironically my English was in a state of complete atrophy), so I did what comes naturally to me and went back to school. I figured I could while away some time nestled in academia while I re-acclimated to giant food portions, direct communication styles and inefficient public transit.

As part of my Educational Psychology studies, I was required to find an internship. Luckily, I landed my first choice: the International Center. Here, I would work with students, faculty and staff from around the globe by coordinating programs and providing “counseling” — the counseling amounted to little more than advice on bureaucratic, visa-related information, however, and not the brainy/emotional stuff I had anticipated. Anyway. A foreboding orange building designed by a world-famous architect housed The International Center, and secretly everyone thought it was ugly. But inside, it was airy, brand-spanking new and filled with light.


The Director of the International Programs didn’t like me. It wasn’t overt, her dislike of me, and I thought it was my newly defunct language skills that made our interactions stilted. She was my assigned mentor, so it was a bit of a problem. She hurtled project after project at me with virtually no instructions but with plenty of inscrutable looks, and then took extended lunches. It became pretty clear that she wanted me to fail. Fortunately — or unfortunately — it turned out that I was very good at project management. She disliked me even more.

While that drama was going on, I busily managed a large number of programs including an ESL class series, a housing assistance package for newly arrived faculty, Los Angeles tours and orientation parties for international students, and campus events. I thoroughly enjoyed coordinating all these programs, but my favorite was an oft-ignored group known as IWC, or “International Women’s Club”.

Now, there were a lot of things wrong with the IWC, starting with its name. The program aimed to provide resources for the spouses of international professors and researchers invited to UCLA. First of all, the assumption that the academics would all be male and the spouses female is ridiculous and must have been a carryover from the previous century (or most likely modeled after the Officer’s Wives Club?). There was no International Men’s Club. Adding to the ridiculousness was that the program offered zero resources and was merely a line item in the handbook the international folks received as part of their welcome package.


In fact, I didn’t even know it existed until a couple of women wandered into my office asking about it. It was an awkward moment. But the women seemed keen on doing something — “we can join, yes?” they asked, so I agreed to come up with an idea and told them to meet me the next week.

The following week, they showed up, and we went to a coffee shop. We got to know each other over lattes and pastries (two things that seem to always mark significance in my life). One was a stunningly beautiful Korean woman married to a Swedish professor. I still remember her name, Sohyang. Her English was bare bones, but she was a mover and shaker and gesticulated animatedly about her many ideas for our new “club”. The other was from the Czech Republic with a higher command of English and equal enthusiasm. She was an academic and scientist herself, but her husband received the research grant and she found herself with too much time. The two talked of the loneliness, the unwelcome idleness – these were intelligent, competent women who had full lives back home. I understood.

We planned a weekly meet-up of varied themes, and I would be responsible for executing them. The following week, four women showed up and we went to the Getty Museum. The week after that I invited a French graduate student to lead a cooking class, and a couple more joined. And each week as we explored the city and attempted crafty or cultural activities, more women showed up. Word kept spreading, and after a few weeks, we had more than a dozen women — not a huge number, but more than I’d ever dreamed of and I had to rent a bus for our field trips. As it so happened, the spouses were mostly female, and it truly became an international women’s club. Japan, India, Hong Kong, Russia, Korea, Germany, Czech Republic…

We were friends. Amid what seemed like froth and frivolous activities (we baked Valentine’s Day cookies in my cramped apartment one week), we dealt with life-altering matters too. I helped a woman buy and take a pregnancy test – miming the process was undignified to say the least; I listened to stories told in tear-filled, broken English of family left behind; I answered questions on how to take a driver’s test. Quite a few of the women got together frequently outside of the weekly meet-ups too. In a small way, the IWC gave a foothold in an unfamiliar territory for these women who used to be skilled and successful professionals and contributing members in their home countries. Now that I’m thinking about it, new motherhood held me hostage in a similar helpless state of being. Nothing challenges your sense of self like wiping up baby poo from the wall and trying to decipher the ear-splitting squawks. It’s often messy, confusing and disorienting being a transplant.


At the end of the year, we celebrated with a big cookout. I ordered t-shirts with an “IWC” logo, rented space near a marina, and we all brought food representing our home. The food! So delicious. After a year of regular outings, we were comfortable in our hodge-podgeness with many inside jokes, a lot of extra hugs, knowing that this was the end. Some women had already departed on the next leg of their journey to far flung locales; some women would be staying longer – I was graduating and leaving the city, headed to San Francisco.

Sadly, I’ve lost touch with those remarkable women but I’ve never forgotten them, or the sheer magic of the community. It just worked, you know? I was a little forlorn too when I found them. After my stint in Japan, I had returned to the US a stranger, needing a place to call home.

The parallels are obvious, right? Here I am, in my airy, light-filled digital space, meeting with you daily to talk about things that seem outwardly insignificant. And every week, a few more of you show up to join me, forging an international community that feels comfortable, connected. Maybe the people who thought up the International Women’s Club weren’t sexist pigs but understood something important. That women are powerful together; that we naturally gravitate towards each other and accomplish unexpected and wonderful things. And just like my IWC ladies, you are amazingly intelligent and beautiful and strong – you are creators, and savers of lives, defenders of laws, researchers of science, teachers of Important Lessons, students of everything, givers of nurturance. You have become my friends. Thank you for giving me a foothold in this crazy, unfamiliar online world. Hmmmm, this turned out longer than I expected. My sentimentality knows no bounds, but that’s all for today. Over and out.



As 2013 dwindles to a close, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting as is my habit. For the better part of this last year, there’s a particular conversation I had with a friend that has flitted in and out of my mind at regular intervals. It was almost two years ago, this conversation, and it was with a lovely writer friend of mine at a cozy cafe with a distinctly French flair. She, like me, wanted to combat her procrastination tendencies, but unlike me, she took proactive action and hired a life coach. A life coach! I was so curious. What do life coaches do? I’ve always wondered that, and here was my chance to find out.

Naturally, every life coach has his or her own “system,” and my friend was actually unimpressed with this particular one’s repertoire. The coach reviewed daily habits, discussed goals, emphasized the importance of just starting. Yawn. Nothing new or revelatory.

Except one thing.

The coach brought up a concept called “tolerations”. Tolerations are basically anything that is part of your life that is mildly to moderately annoying. Nothing severe like a toxic friend or a broken femur. Things like a sporadically drippy faucet, or a pair of shoes that don’t fit quite right that you still continue to wear, or that junk drawer that makes you shudder every time you accidentally open it. The definition of “mild to moderate” is unique to each person as fingerprints, but we all have these tolerations. Aspects that grate on our nerves but aren’t high priority enough to require immediate attention and so we let them fester. The coach explained (to my friend) that individually, these tolerations aren’t a big deal. But collectively, they drain away your mojo, subconsciously adding to your stress and ultimately, you are less productive and more prone to procrastination.


I was fascinated by this. Not surprisingly, most tolerations are related to the home. My friend and her coach went through every room in the house, noting every single annoyance: the overstuffed medicine cabinet in the bathroom, the broken plate that she keeps forgetting to throw out, etc. etc. Together, they created a schedule to take care of all of the tolerations and followed through. She said it was phenomenal. Freed of the niggling daily annoyances, she felt buoyed and energized.

Though I am without a life coach, I’ve successfully interrogated my friend, so I’ve been wanting to create my own list of tolerations (the irony of having procrastinated to make this list has not escaped me). M managed to crack our toilet basin lid eons ago and instead of trying to find a replacement (it’s vintage and hard to replace), I’ve been artfully placing magazines on top to hide the crack. Annoyance level? Mild. I keep purging and purging, but our basement is just not set up efficiently and it’s a holy mess down there. Annoyance level? Moderate to borderline severe, though no one ever sees the basement so I’ve been putting the much-needed overhaul on the backburner. My goal is to have a comprehensive list by the end of this year and to start working on each item starting January 2014. I’m thinking that writing about it here will keep me accountable.

What about you? Do you have a list of tolerations you’d like to tackle?

P.S. The clay house above was version 1.0 for the advent calendar. I quickly realized the error of my ways because making just one tiny house took too long. The thought of making 23 more made me want to hyperventilate.