Becoming Tabitha

A Good Morning

I slept in and slept off the 18 miles I ran yesterday. I’m really glad I ran yesterday. I’m glad I didn’t sleep in and give in to my laziness.

A few days into the new year I told myself that this is the year to say goodbye to things that I think I need to do. I planned on saying no more often instead of saying yes. Lean back, instead of lean in. What, I asked myself, is the point of wearing myself so thin? Why do I need to run yet another marathon when I’ve already completed eight?

Friday night, as the Anaheim ducks kicked ass, I mulled this over with Joe. Should I run tomorrow? Should I run the marathon? What do I do? He listened, asked me great clarifying questions and then when asked all the same above questions again he offered me no clear answer. I think he shrugged.  Such an appropriate response yet so frustrating!

So I set the alarm at 5:30 am and decided to decide in the morning. Since being diagnosed as pre-diabetic, I’ve said a temporary goodbye to my favorite sources of sugar. They deserve attention:

Jasmine Rice
Chocolate Croissants
Bucatini Pasta
Banana Bread

And so I didn’t carb load that night, it was a full day of just protein and vegetables. I didn’t even have beer at the game. Clean and clear of sugar. At midnight. Still undecided. I eat an orange. I try my best to chew my apple quietly as Joe slept and silently shrugged.

I woke up the same way I had fallen asleep, still undecided. I googled SRLA. I scrolled through images tagged #unitela. I woke Joe up. What should I do? He said,  “It’s game time baby.” Is that what he said? Then Nicole texted, followed by Shanika. Two of my favorite women. SRLA coaches are all, heroic. I was once a coach. And in that moment, as Joe suggested that I go and be physically there even if I didn’t run, the physical desire to stay warm in bed dissipated. The natural thing to do then, was to get dressed in the dark, like I’ve done hundreds of times before, and say yes. Saying no is touted as a brave thing to do, but saying yes can often be so gratifying:

Yes, I’ll be there!
Yes, I will.
Yes I do.

There’s a fine line between saying no and simply being – a lazy ass. Listening to your inner voice is a tricky thing. Trusting your gut is unreliable. It’s too much a matter of interpretation. A thousand different dialects disguised as one voice.

Yes, is a beautiful answer. I believe you can have spectacular moments without effort, it happens all the time. And yet. I was so certain that not running would be the best decision, but it wasn’t. No amount of reasoning would’ve made not running, the better choice. By mile 15, tired as I was, I was so glad to be there. So glad that I had picked the longer, more difficult road. 2016 will require me to say no to lots of things, but I’m hopeful that there will also be many incredible moments to say yes to.

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The Kitchen Is My Cave

It’s Back to the Future day! I loved and love those movies. I can’t believe that I was watching Marty McFly leap into the year 2015 in … 1989. And here I am now, 26 years later.

Its pretty heavy huh?

Am I where I wanted to be? I don’t think I ever wondered about my future too much when I was 11. Life then was really carefree. And then it suddenly wasn’t and the rest of the story in short, was all about dealing with that new reality.

I think we are capable of creating the most beautiful things when life is really hard. I think I tend to prefer extremes – all noise or all peace; lots to do or nothing to do.

The extreme I inhabit now is – lots to do. Joe gave me an Apple Watch for our one year anniversary and I always meet the standing and walking goals.

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The exhaustion is constant but I haven’t felt this creative and productive in a long time. The pressure is good. My colleagues are unbelievable …

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and my students are relentless in the classroom and while running…

Running

Running

CicLAVia 2015

CicLAVia 2015

Originally I wanted to go to the movies and watch the special showings of BTTF. Instead, the day was super busy: teach, run, cook, eat, and just as I was about to end the day the kitchen called me to make pumpkin cream cheese muffins …

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The kitchen is my cave.

imageThe time I have there is precious. I get to zone out. I get to think things through. I get the time to appreciate where I am now.

Aloha

Kaanapali

Ka’anapali Beach

Maui is beautiful ~ I fell in love with every corner of the island.

We started the trip in Haiku, descended from the summit of Haleakala, drove the road to Hana, and then relaxed for a few days on Ka’anapali Beach. Every journey should begin with a Japanese poem, linger a while in a bamboo forest, and then end on the shores of the Pacific – it was just so wonderful! A longer post about each place will come next.

I am days away from starting the school year and I can’t believe summer is already over. I don’t need summer to continue endlessly. It’s my favorite time of the year because when it begins I feel like I’ve earned it and by the time it ends, I feel renewed enough to teach again. What I do want and need really, is a way to keep and bottle the feeling I have right now.

Japan was one of my favorite places because I lived in inaka, the countryside. Maui – the place and the culture – is nothing like Japan but it was the first place to create the same kind of happiness I felt there. Quiet nights punctuated with rain. Rainbows everywhere. Lush rainforest when you want it, sun when you want it. Life bustling everywhere even though everyone moves through life slowly.

So I know once school begins, I will begin creating and teaching non-stop until June. I love the intensity of it but this year, my goal is to always make time and room for this aloha I feel.

Any Other Name

The song Any Other Name by Thomas Newman is playing.

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
by any other name would smell as sweet.

Names.

So the other shoe did not drop. Despite a nagging fear of the unknown and of the known (what I do know of marriage), I got married and it was spectacularly beautiful and fun and the memory of it was all cool grays and warm oranges and lots of champagne and happiness.

ceremony (124)

The month before the wedding of course, I had to decide what to do with my name.

I kept my name.

Mostly, so people could find me again if they wanted to. And because some of my friends still call me by my entire name – Tabitha Pang, just because. And it always makes me smile. You know, I thought I’d want to lose that name as soon as possible, bring to a complete close, any connection to my father. But that ugly old wound will never close and you know when your mom tells you, don’t lose who you are, you have to listen to her.

It’s the end of a full day –  three English classes, two miles with the students, nineteen minutes with the T25 fit club, and just thirty minutes in my classroom, with myself.

I ended up writing about my name, when really I wanted to write about Superintendent Deasy’s letter to all of LAUSD about technology. It was a three page letter or four, setting the record straight. What I got from it is, he didn’t favor contracts with Apple, he wants all kids to have a shot at 21st century learning, and he isn’t in it for himself, its for the kids.

We’re all in it for ourselves. Everybody is. And, we also are in it for the kids.

All of the students I teach should have a laptop, a smartphone, and wireless internet access anytime. But they do not have it – not at school and not always at home. It is so unfair, and students from wealthier neighborhoods simply have more.

We were in Da Nang for our honeymoon. One night we needed to tell our driver how to get us from the Big Lady Buddha to this restaurant and somehow, miraculously, I had wi-fi access and a digital map.

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Dinner was great. I thought I would pay for it later. But I never did. I found out from the Vietnamese lady that does my nails, that Da Nang is not only completely paved, but has free wi-fi for the entire city. That’s Da Nang, Vietnam.

What is it all about? It doesn’t matter if it’s an Apple of if it’s an HP, we just need the technology and the internet, now. Whether or not Deasy and the rest of LAUSD were being ethical or not is I feel, important, but really just a distraction to the larger issue of income inequality. If we don’t get what we need fast enough to catch our students up to the world they’ll need to survive in, there must be something more than access to technology that needs to change.

Mexican Fruit Salad

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It was the best meal I’ve had all week – the most amazing box of Mexican fruit salad. Ever. I was aiming for a full 13 miles but I stopped at 9 miles today. Three times around the Rose Bowl with only an iced Americano and water was (not surprisingly) not enough. Luckily there were several fruit trucks around, just for me! I ordered a mix of everything: jicama, watermelon, cucumbers, papaya, pineapple, cantaloupe, honeydew, and oranges with a generous squeeze of lime, tajin, and a dash of salt. I sat under the kindest tree, on the grass, and thought about nothing but how beautiful that moment was.

Lost

I can’t find the first few chapters of the story I started writing a few years ago. Where are they? I’ve tried every possible word.

Writing. Chapter 1. Write. Word. Novel.

Nothing! Nothing comes up! My search yields NOTHING. I think I’ve been searching for an hour. And all I can find are thousands of lessons, worksheets, presentations, my students’ stories, their poems, their grades, and yet. I can’t find my ONE chapter. You know. The. Most. Important. Chapter. of my NOVEL. It’s lost.

And I’ve been thinking about them on and off all day. And by them I mean my main characters. I don’t think they were all that great. I’m sure they were more than contrived. But I named them. They lived for a few pages. They had memories. Maybe I deleted them. From existence. I pressed delete. On the first people I ever tried to create. Was it painful for them? To be deleted??

I’m trying to channel Pico Iyer. Who lost all of his manuscripts in a fire. And could look back on all those words and say, nothing lasts forever.

But I really want to find those chapters. I decided while driving home today that I wanted them to continue the rest of their journey. This is the reason.

While eating dinner tonight, I ask mom. What does that say? The painting on the wall. The Chinese calligraphy on the fan. What do they mean? I’ve always known they belong to my grandfather. Mom’s sixty. Grandpa had them before her birth. The painting and the fan are both likely around a hundred years old. He studied Tai Chi and his teacher gave it to him. What do they mean? The words? The words. She’s going to study them for me with my aunt to figure out their meaning. These words and their meaning, I am convinced, have significance for my story, for my characters.

They are lost. Living somewhere in a portable hard drive. In an email. In a text? I write everywhere and I leave things everywhere. I’m going to dig deep this month. And recover them. If not from digital memory, from my memory or my grandfathers.

The Other Half

I love silence. I love thinking about things. I love lingering on ideas and words. I love taking my time.

Last November, I had no idea if I’d make it through my life in one piece. I had no idea what to do. There wasn’t even enough of me to turn all of that into poetry. It was a wordless kind of pain.

But this has been a very loud year. Full of sound. Full of change. And going most of the time, at full speed, in all directions.

The engagement. The new home. The new job.

All beautiful things. Beautiful additions to my life. Things I hoped for. And now here they are.

Instead of having the stars in my life explode in my face, they are shining a bright light on me instead. It’s so wonderful, it’s hard to believe. Of all things, I am uneasy.

Unease, it turns out, is the other half of happiness.

Game Theory

Open Yale Courses.

I’ve heard about this before – the chance to listen to and watch lectures from prestigious universities – but I never made the time to do it. Until today. What took me so long? It’s so awesome. I love the idea of it. It’s free, it isn’t tied to any degree, and the reason for doing it isn’t based on what you should do or what you need to know, it is based entirely on what you want to know. It’s learning for nothing but the sake of learning.

I am, a nerd.

I think I perused the departments in this order – Philosophy, History of Art, English, and then African American studies. Listened in on a few minutes of lectures here and there, but couldn’t find anything I loved until I found … Economics 159. Who knew? But I was fascinated and I listened rapt with attention apparently, for over an hour. On a summer afternoon.

Aside from Game Theory, Ben Polak reminded me of what good teaching looks like. Surprisingly, with two to three hundred students and with a piece of chalk and a blackboard, he did not simply lecture, but he also kept everyone engaged – and that included me, who knows very little about Economics.

This, is what I learned today. Enjoy =)

Lesson 1: Do not play a strictly dominated strategy.
Lesson 2: Rational choices can lead to outcomes that suck.
Lesson 3: You can’t get what you want, until you know what you want.
Lesson 4: Put yourself in others shoes and try to figure out what they will do.
Lesson 5: Yale students are evil.

Standing Still – Pico Iyer


 
“Movement is a fantastic privilege and it allows us to do so much that our grandparents could never have dreamed of doing. But movement, ultimately, only has a meaning if you have a home to go back to. And home in the end is not just the place where you sleep, but the place where you stand.”

Pico Iyer is one of my favorite writers. I want to keep everything he writes. So many of his articles have been printed and then taped into my journals. He helps me remember who I am and the things that make me feel most alive: time for travel, writing, reflection, and solitude. In the next few months you will find me or rather, not be able to find me because I will be somewhere in the Big Sur, retreating, by the sea, with some Benedictine monks who, make fruitcake.

Outrage – Then and Now

We Wear the Mask
by Paul Laurence Dunbar

We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes, –
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
     We wear the mask.

We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
     We wear the mask!