Resolutions for 2019

“If nothing else, the routine of aspiration, disappointment, and rebirth gives him a sense of purpose. There is an essential reward in the circular struggle to create a better self, even if…we’re making up that better self as we go along.” —John Teti

Orchid buds. I won’t even try to keep alive an orchid this year. (Photo credit: Robert Mitchem)

When I reviewed how I did with last year’s intentions, I questioned whether I should even keep doing new year’s resolutions. I mean, so many hopes at the start of the year went by the wayside almost faster than I could say “Oh it’s February!”

We are nothing without some measure of hope, however, so here I am with a list of resolutions again.

Take a daily vitamin
This isn’t hard, but I still don’t do it. Having to put down any pill on the regular is a big mental block for me that must have something to do with my father being a pharmacist. You know how the rap on preacher’s kids is that they rebel? Well, pharmacist kids rebel by being anti-drug, I guess.

Get organized, aka, finish moving
There is still a garage full of boxes from the move that have yet to be dealt with, and this is what I’m tasking an organizer with once I hire one. Very excited to do this. If you’re interested, there is a whole association of professional organizers who can come and make sense of your stuff.

Look inward
For a good six years, I was almost nonstop giving myself over — literally — to other humans. No joke, between January 2012 and March 2018 I was either a) pregnant or b) nursing. During that time we also moved internationally, opened a new bureau, covered three countries with dominant languages I didn’t understand and criss-crossed East and Southeast Asia to chase the news. So often I felt disconnected from myself because I was just constantly onto what’s next, what’s next, what’s next. Now that I’m integrated again and in sunny California, I don’t even KNOW what I want to do next. So I shall devote time to being still and meditating so I can hear myself better. 

Learn to surf
Also file under: I live in Southern California now! Friend Nate at work has a live cam on his second monitor of all the beaches nearby so that when he sees really good surf he can escape early to hit the waves. I would really like to join him.

Learn to play the ukulele
We got Eva a ukulele for Christmas, which I am more into than she is, so I’m going to go ahead and teach myself by watching YouTube instructional videos and THEN teach Eva. I think this is doable, but then again I always think resolutions are doable at the beginning of the year.

Blog at least four times a month
I’m glad this self-hosted blog is still around since letting Facebook “connect the world” or whatever has proven so pernicious. Last year my goal was five posts a month, which I only did for four months of the year. So I’m lowering the bar in hopes of actually passing it.

As for my 2018 list, I added the final progress report to last year’s resolution post.

If you have any resolutions of your own that might be worth adding, leave them in the comments. And look, if things don’t get to a great start in 2019 we have about a month to screw up until we can claim the Lunar New Year as a fresher fresh start.

Back To The … Country Kitchen

Blast from my past. This was taken on a disposable film camera because yes those existed.

In May I will be the commencement speaker for the Class of 2019 graduation ceremony at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism. This is such a special honor because the Mizzou J-School is c’mon, the best, and it’s also my alma mater.

At my own graduation ceremony, the commencement speaker was so breathtakingly bad that my professor Stacey later told me that he saw a department head, who was sitting on stage, driving his thumb into the opposite hand’s nail bed so hard that he started bleeding. All I remember about the speech’s content was that at one point the old-white-dude-in-the-advertising-biz told us to exercise and eat right. Can’t make this up.

My low bar goal is to outperform him. In preparation I need to draw on specific memories and experiences. The problem is, my brain does not work like Jim Comey’s, who remembers everything linearly and with high specificity. My brain seems to remember the past only in general feelings or vibes I had rather than a tick-tock of how things went down and who said what. For example, I still love and have nothing but warm feelings for Mr. Coates from AP Macro and Micro Econ in high school but I don’t remember anything he taught me except the Laffer Curve and how Arthur Laffer had a problematic theory. (BUT WHAT WAS THAT THEORY!?) To remember a tidbit, it has to be super random and often requires some jogging-of-my-memory to access, like looking at whatever I wrote down at that time.

With roomie Fiscus in our halcyon days of youth. I think this was 2005. Also shot on film.

That was a long windup to say that to write this speech, I downloaded MY OLD XANGA BLOG from my senior year of college and imported the posts here to HeyElise!

When I went down the 2002-2003 rabbit hole, I realized a lot of things, like just how much we went to Country Kitchen to “study,” how awful I was at going to class and how my education in that last year consisted of shooting a lot of television news stories about the 2002 Senate race, to the exclusion of everything else, like a solid liberal arts education.

Also I spent a heavy amount of time watching football, some of my time going to an ab workout class, and a stupid amount of time following around a dude named Ryan, which is regrettable, and WHERE WAS MY ROOMMATE AMY FISCUS TO STOP ME?! FISCUS I AM LOOKING AT YOU.

In other ways, I realized some things have never changed: pop culture-laden snark, going on random last minute trips with whomever, being the biggest fangirl of Brad Hawkins.

Anyway my archives are in the footer of this blog and you, too, can do the time warp! But maybe don’t, because I am going to mine this material for the A+ stuff so it can subtly make appearances in that Class of 2019 commencement speech. As I used to say in 2002, “More to come.”

Resolutions for 2018

The fake shrimp tempura that I sent Harper in the mail, after the international
journey to Chicago.

Last year my key resolution was to read 52 books before 2017 was out and by golly, I did it. So I’m gonna get ambitious and write down a LIST of resolutions this time. Let’s check back on these at the end of the year:

Hire a financial planner
I’ve had an accountant for a few years (hi Richard!) but no financial planner, because even though I am 35-years old and a slumlord two times over, I still have my bestie Sudeep hop into my TD Ameritrade account every once in awhile and just make sure my money is still there. He and my accountant both agree this is not a grown-up way to handle finances.

Start a book club on Slack so we don’t have to meet in real life
It’s not that I have a huge issue with the real-life book clubs of which I’ve been a part, it’s that I don’t like any structured socializing, including meetup groups, Bible studies, mommy yoga, etc. So, I want to start a Slack for my cleverest, book-loving friends to tackle a different book every month and have a running Slack conversation about it. And if you don’t read that month’s book, whatever, it’s your loss. The rest of us will be snarking on Slack about it. Hit me up if you want to do this.

Stop drinking as much flavored tea and drink more water
I don’t know that this will happen because spending $4 on a sweetened green ice tea at Starbucks almost every day is the kind of time, money and energy waste that has been written into my routine since I was 16 years old. But whatever, this is my intention list and I’m leaving this in.

Get an accurate bra measurement
I have fears that my boobs are going the way of my great-grandmother’s after she breastfed seven, SEVEN children. I realize bra technology can’t really solve for this, but either way it’s good for every woman to know what bra size she actually wears.

Write handwritten letters and cards to people for no reason
This is a perennial resolution. Last year I did a twist on it, which was “send rando packages.” It was all working out well until the unfortunate melted wax that Friend Harper received, so I’m going back to letters and cards.

Blog at least five times a month
This is my version of the clichéd “write an hour a day” resolution because there’s no way that I DON’T write an hour a day as a function of my job. But I have been trying to get back to non-work blogging as a discipline, and to have the written record of the absurdity or outrage or gratitude of the moment.

See more movies at the theatre
This is one of my favorite things to do, period, especially at Alamo Drafthouse. But in South Korea I have barely gone to the movies and I’m lesser for it. Please note this is a resolution that I’m gonna be better at keeping after we repatriate.

Other intentions:

Keep my credit card balance at zero
Spend more time in Texas
Wean Baby Luna from nursing
Have no more children


Year End Update, December 2018

Hire a financial planner
Failed: I actually started working with a guy named Bob to try and do a tax deferral thing from selling my Austin house and to get my money in order but never followed through, so, fail.

Start a book club on Slack
Failed: Took steps to start this and strangers even wrote me saying they wanted to do it but I had too much going on in the early months of this year (mainly with the Olympics and North Korea) and never got it off the ground. Now I just joined a new “Asian Americans read Asian Americans” book club in LA that has yet to meet (but we have chosen ONE book) so I think I’m giving up on this.

Drink Less Flavored Tea and More Water
Marginal, as Trump would say

Get Accurate Bra Measurement
Success: Squeezed this in before the end of the year when I realized it was a resolution!

Write handwritten cards and letters for no reason
Partially fulfilled: This is a consistent hit or miss, but a perennial resolution. Last year I gave up writing people and replaced it with the “send rando packages” thing, but now that I’m back in America it’s much less hassle to mail things to Americans. Sent Christmas cards, but that’s not for “no reason.” I have no excuses!

Blog at least five times a month
Partially fulfilled. The months I made it to five: January, March, April, December

Other intentions of 2018: Keep my credit card balance at zero, spend more time in Texas, wean Baby Luna from nursing, have no more children. ALL ACCOMPLISHED!

Let’s Blog Again, Like We Did 15 Years Ago

Remember when everyone blogged? Here’s what I remember about it: I thought the audiences for these things were limited to the people who I personally told about them, so that was approximately 14 people. Things got out of hand during my early 2002 intern stint at The Taipei Times, where I reviewed nightclubs while underaged and more comically, when my LiveJournal was secretly being read by all my Canadian, British and American expat colleagues, who I was totally blogging about. I had a crazy crush on one of those colleagues because he was a brooding-yet-brilliant asshole. I never named said crush and instead just relentlessly wrote about being in lust with him. Unbeknownst to me, the men in the office started a pool over who it was. One night, while stoned at a party, one of these guys decided he wanted to end the office pool so he told me about it. I was so humiliated I didn’t go to work for a week. They never figured out who the dude was. I wonder what he’s doing. Probably being brooding/brilliant.

My college roomie Amy ran a blog called “Unsolicited Advice” and I checked it all the time even though we were always like, sitting right next to each other. I don’t think any irreverent person in the Missouri Journalism program lacked a blog, actually. Everyone seemed to write under pseudonyms (a sign of those times) and I chose “Jack Foley” after the George Clooney bank robber character in Out of Sight. I named my blog after a line from a different movie — Waiting for Guffman. Inside the crop circle in the film, it was weirdly always 67 Degrees with a 40% Chance of Rain, so that was what I called ye olde blog. Those were the days. Those blogs felt realer, maybe because we had more characters to use and fewer image filters to choose from. The internet wasn’t feudal and algorithms didn’t decide as much about which friends you kept up with and which ones you never read about.

That was a long windup to a point, which is that confronted with Facebook feeds and Tweetdeck barrages and Instagram and Snapchat and whatever the kids use these days, some people are returning to the old-school style of blogging. Mainly it’s the internet dude Dave Winer, and my friend Jenny (who I wanted to BE in 8th grade). And I think I want to try and do it more, too. As Winer notes, “Out here on the open web, as long as you stay away from the BigCo silos, there is no algorithm. Just people. No one but us people.”

Back When I Blogged Brazenly

“I have no idea what compels me to do these things; I will never understand why I need to write about the events that other people merely experience.” -Chuck Klosterman

The year I started blogging was also the year I dated that Mizzou golf team guy in the gray.
The year I started blogging was also the year I dated that Mizzou golf team guy in the grey shirt.

I started blogging just after Christmas break in late 2000/early 2001. My friend Bryan Mathews, a computer geek who was always ahead of his time, encouraged me to write entries to a software called “Live Journal” because he had built me a website as a gift and it needed content. The wayback machine capture of the site doesn’t seem to have the index page image/design on it anymore, but maybe it was cause he used Flash, which was cool back in the early aughts.

In 2002, when I was studying abroad in Taipei and interning at the Taipei Times, I was still under the impression that blogging was ostensibly secret because who would actually read the nonsense I posted? So I was quite candid on my blog, especially about my mad crush on an American expat writer at the paper. I didn’t name names, but that only made things more fun for the staff, because I later learned they started an office pool to bet on which dude it was. MORTIFYING. I ran home alone from the house party where I learned of this pool and proceeded to delete dozens of posts from my LiveJournal.

In my last year of college at Missouri (which is amazingly 10 — TEN — years ago now), I was using Xanga as a blogging platform. And as it turns out, I was using it a lot. I found my Xanga blog tonight and it’s awesome to read about how I spent my days in 2003. It made me wish I’d been blogging more over the last decade. I’m a nostalgia junkie, after all. It’s why I’ve kept a diary since age six. It’s why I love photos and photographers. It’s probably why I’m a journalist. And now, I feel compelled to recommit myself to personal blogging. Not daily, since keeping up my daughter’s Eva’s daily photo blog takes work, but at a more regular clip.

Maybe this will work, or maybe I’ll lose steam. But we’re so quippy now, with our tweets and status updates and our photo Tumblrs. I want a more substantive artifact for later, and I trust my current blog platform, WordPress, is gonna stick around for awhile.

Quick Update

So much random blogging, so little time. To get a sense of where my head’s at, two alternative blog locations:

Conversations about Mad Men, a group Tumblr my friends and I are penning together as we journey through the fourth season of one of television’s best shows.

Hu-Stiles: The Blog, where we looked back at the crazy spring weekend we spent in Europe with the people we love the most.