SFO-NYC, BRB

it’s 4:45am and I’m standing in the longest security line known to SFO-kind en route to New York City for a long weekend! 

Michael and I haven’t gotten together since my move, and I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t missed my opera-and-orchestra buddy (and, of course, the operas and orchestras themselves!). We both have February birthdays and we both get Presidents‘ Day off, and have both been wanting to get to the Met...his second time, my first. When we found out René Pape was performing in Wagner’s “Parsifal” this weekend, we were in faster than you can tell “NERRRRRRDS!”

 

In addition to THE MET OMG, we’re going all out and seeing “Hamilton” for good measure...because of course I can’t go too long without a little A.Ham in my life. Apart from that, I’m looking forward to lots of champagne, plenty of museums, catching up over good dinners, some shopping...and hopefully a liiiiittle sleep on this flight! 

 

Catch you all on the flip side... 

A Monday giggle.

I had the BEST weekend with my parents celebrating my birthday (MUCH more detail to come soon!), and am correspondingly in the happiest, sunniest mood today. What's not to love about a weekend that combines the Olympics, wine tasting in Napa, eating Michelin-starred food, and tourist-ing all over my home with my two favorite people? Nothing is not to love, I tell you. Add to that the fact that I've got a vacation coming up on Thursday and I am feeling pretty grand about life in general. 

Maybe that's why I find this so giggle-inducing: I'm reviewing a memo that one of my colleagues drafted about a very technical valuation process, details intentionally vague. The memo kept referencing "morality tables," and it took me a couple seconds to parse out that the item under discussion was actually a "mortality table." For those of you who aren't hopeless, helpless nerds, a mortality table is used to determine a person's statistical probability of death. They are, in a word, morbid, but are hugely significant in industries like insurance, accounting, and planned giving (ding ding ding!). 

I got the giggles when I started thinking about what a morality table would actually look like - some kind of chart that tells you how to be a good person? A sliding scale of how moral an action is relative to situation, agent, and recipient? A scatter plot of the judged morality of a person on an x-axis of, let's say, age and y-axis of, hmm...privilege? A "moral brightline" as the mean in a scatter graph of moral judgments? I sat there musing on it for a solid few minutes, sort of laughing to myself and sort of actually contemplating how interesting and revealing it would be to actually create a morality table for myself. 

And then, because I've got sh*t to get done today, I control F'd "morality" and replaced it with "mortality," and that was that. 

Happy Monday! 

Being right and humble pie

A few thoughts from my Saturday...

"Would you rather be right, or effective?" Every time I meet with our controller, those words stare me in the face from the wall of her gorgeous, light-flooded corner office, and I find myself fixating on them. I don't know why they just popped back into my head, as I sit here on our patio staring out at the palm trees, but they're stuck in my mind so I'm going to word-vomit out some thoughts. Hold on tight! 

I'm the kind of person who has a bad, bad tendency to need to be right. In seventh grade English, we were having an organized class debate about some reading or other - I don't even remember what - and I could not stop arguing my point. I was right. I was right, I WAS right. No form of emphasis can capture how utterly confident I was in my certitude that I had taken the correct side of the argument, and I was willing to die on that hill, status and popularity and other classmates' feelings be damned. Needless to say, my team "won" the debate, and after class, my teacher pulled me aside and suggested I talk to my mother about joining the high school debate team. As a thirteen-year old. Ummm, right. 

I did, eventually, join that high school debate team, and I was a damn good debater - undefeated as a novice, successful on the national competition circuit, and consistently placing high in my first and early second year. At a few tournaments, I made my opponents cry...an achievement of which I remain dubiously proud, even to this day. 

That sort of half-ashamed pride in my argumentative ability trickles over into my personal life, too. I am far too reluctant to back down - famous in my family for needing to get the last word in, to prove my point, or to twist the knife. I am vicious when confronted unjustly by friends or partners, gifted with a colossal vocabulary and cursed with the kind of temper that stays dormant or suppressed for far too long and explodes out so violently as to be near-cruel. My family has a name for these sorts of flare-ups, after an incident in high school when I eviscerated a close guy friend, over the phone (while they all eavesdropped on another phone, of course), for falsely accusing me of being dishonest about some prom drama, of all things. Now, when I go off, they call it "John Doe'ing" someone (name, obviously, redacted to save that poor guy's dignity a decade later). Since that high school lash-out, I've only John Doe'd a half a dozen times, but each one lives in my memory: distinct moments of mingled shame over losing it and satisfaction in my ability to stand up for myself in my own righteousness. 

I ramble so terribly, yikes - let's bring it back to that statement on the wall. "Do you want to be right, or effective?" I've been mulling over my desire to be right, and I think it stems largely from the fact that being right, being correct, traditionally earns one praise, accolades, gold stars and merit badges. I am a junkie for pleasing people and achieving highly - always have been, always will be. You have to be right to get high test scores, to pass pop quizzes, to clear audit review notes or adhere to finance policies and procedures. Doing things right is a source of comfort, of safety, of success. But there's a difference between doing things right and being right, and I often don't adhere to that brightline. 

Of late, my job has really hammered this point home, as has my personal life. Long story short, I John Doe'd a bit a few weeks ago on someone who was being hideously unfair, and the residual anger and sense of irreproachability has lingered. Professionally, I'm working with a few people at work who are not subject-matter experts in what I do, and who remain reluctant to admit that. All of these smaller situations have combined, I think, to make me feel like I'm right more often than not - and I am right, in these specific situations. 

Moral of the story though, in order to be effective in these scenarios, I'm going to have to put that in my back pocket and shut the eff up. I'm right, yes, but I don't know it all and I can't control others' response to the fact that I AM right. And in these scenarios, it's better to serve myself up a double helping of humble pie, acknowledge that there are other ways to get where I need to go, and bite my tongue rather than proving my point. This, for me, is anathema, which I've touched on before here; I take pride in my intelligence and grasp of what I do, and not using (let's be honest, flaunting) that expertise is hard for me. That said, it's a lesson I'm trying hard to take to heart, and hopefully having it down on "paper" here will help me adhere to that principle as effectively as possible. 

Wish me luck, I guess?! 

The Girl Scout cookie conundrum

Welp, so much for writing daily in February, hahaha. Oh well - Rome wasn't built in a day, nor was writer's block overcome in a minute. 

You guys, I'm in a quandary. I've been trying so hard so far this year to eat better and to exercise - yoga twice a week, Pilates, lots of homemade paleo lunches and dinners up the wazoo - but I'm in crisis mode. It's Girl Scout cookie season, and the Girl Scouts of Redwood City, CA, have it figured out. 

Our local Safeway is my go-to for meal prep runs, and I tend to pop in there at least two or three times a week. (Aside: I am aware that this is an ineffective, time-wasting way to do my grocery shopping, but I don't care - it still beats ordering takeout, so there.) The place is generally a zoo, and always seems to be understaffed for the number of people who are flowing through on a daily basis. Going there is an experience that, by nature, leaves me a bit stressed out and spastic from time to time. 

And now, every time I want to go in Safeway, I have to run the gauntlet of adorable Girl Scouts who stand outside hawking their devil cookies. Turns out this is a thing here - they get to set up a cute little table or two, with homemade, hand-lettered signs in their wobbly little bubble letters, and stacked with their cookies. They all show up in their uniforms, with their missing front teeth and their little high pitched voices, and ask you "Excuse me miss, would you like to buy some cookies today?" 

I AM POWERLESS TO RESIST cute children being cute. Always have been, always will be. I am even more powerless to resist cute children trying to sell me things. I once went to the bank before going home from Target because the neighbor kids had a lemonade stand and I didn't have cash to buy anything from them. The Girl Scouts are my kryptonite. Couple their adorableness with how freaking good frozen Thin Mints are (don't even START me on Samoas), and I'm a dead woman walking. 

So I fell victim, the first time, about two weeks ago. I couldn't help it, the little Brownie kiddos were so cute - so I bought a box of Thin Mints and brought them into work, and left them in the break room, taking three for myself as a reward for not eating the whole box. Then it happened again. This time, they were older Girl Scouts, and I felt bad for them because, while nobody can resist a precious little first-grader, it's a lot easier to ignore the older girls. So I got Samoas this time, and did the same thing. 

Then on Sunday it happened AGAIN, and now it's starting to get ridiculous. My key mistake this time was accidentally making eye contact with one of them - once you've established eye contact with a Girl Scout, all is lost. And THEN her mother made eye contact with me, and I crumbled faster than the Vikings defense against the Eagles in the NFC championship. I bought a kind I don't even like so that I wouldn't be tempted to eat them, and the cute little Girl Scout made change (with the aforementioned mom's help), and I went on my way, kind of frustrated and also kind of gratified and mostly just stressed out by the whole experience. 

Thing is - Girl Scout cookie season isn't like a short little one-week thing anymore. I feel like it's been going on forever, and we're barely into February right now. Couple that with the fact that they've definitely raised the prices a lot since I was a Girl Scout ...they're like $5 a box here, and I'm pretty sure we sold them for around $2 back in the nineties (god, I'm old and lame). Anyway, this is going to be a very expensive guilty weakness for me if this keeps up - either I'm going to have to grow a thicker skin, or I'm going to have to stop going to Safeway altogether at the rate we're going. 

In the meantime, if anyone actually likes Savannah Smiles, there's a box of them sitting in my car with your name on it. Send help - you'll find me desperately seeking courage in the parking lot of the local grocery store. 

A literary Lately I'm Loving

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Hiiiiiiiiii guys! So I'm noodling with the idea of trying to write a daily post in February - I've been so writers' blocked lately (can "writers' block" be verbified? Is "verbified" acceptable for use?) and I feel like that, coupled with laziness, has made me think it's okay to just...not write, which it isn't. SO here we go - with the spirit of doing some kind of writing daily, whether it's good, bad, or indifferent, here's me thinking a bunch about books, because I read SO MUCH last month, and because I'm so excited about both the book I'm currently reading and a few I have on deck. 

- First off, a hot take of sorts. I know a lot of people are deeply devoted to *their* medium of book delivery - whether it be physical books, audiobooks, or e-readers. I'm an omnivore when it comes to books - at any given time, I usually have at least one hardcopy book going, along with an audiobook for those lovely California commutes and usually at least a book apiece in Scribd, Kindle, and iBooks. It drove my mom crazy when I was little that I would be reading a dozen books at once (and that the corresponding stack HAD to sit on my nightstand no matter what) - I like the flexibility the modern options for reading grant me. 

Along those lines, this article on The Millions fascinated me. The gist? Ownership of physical books has been showed to be correlated with increased wealth. The article decries this as completely the wrong reason to appreciate, collect, and cherish physical books - citing a plethora of better, more soulful reasons than aesthetics and advancement. I'm inclined to agree with the writer - I have an impossibly hard time letting go of books, and love to re-read favorites - but I guess that, in my mind, anything that gets a person reading is worth it (even if it means audiobooks or eBooks all the way). 

- I am a longtime Twitter user, and over the nine years I've had an account the rabidity with which I use the medium has vacillated wildly. I'm currently in an "on" phase (hit me up at @MissSchweg), and one of my favorite accounts I've followed in the last several months is Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster). Yes, I follow a dictionary on Twitter. This is in no way related to the phase I went through as a child where I tried to read my dad's stunning old college dictionary, cover-to-cover. 

The account is worthy of a follow for a variety of reasons - it elaborates on common word choice errors, illustrates the evolution of words and colloquialisms, and expounds on words relevant to holidays, social events, et cetera. Most significantly, however, the account subtweets - radically - at our esteemed leader, calling him on his BS, explaining some of his more interesting word choices ("bigly" comes to mind, as does "braggadocious") and offering veiled commentary on the latest occurrences in the political world. I found this article on a day in the life of the account's manager to be so fun, interesting and eye-opening.  

- One of the points I always (try to) hammer home with people when they react incredulously to the amount of reading I do is that the act of reading is universal. From the fourth millennium BC, reading has been part of civilization, and today it has been estimated that 83% of the world's population is literate. I loved this peek at photographer Steve McCurry's book, "On Reading," which showcases the mind-boggling variety of the world's readers...it made me appreciate the sheer banality of my reading spot of choice (curled up in my ancient gray overstuffed armchair, usually swaddled in a ridiculously plush blanket, with a beverage of some kind close at hand). 

- Can reading make you happier? I was immediately sucked in by this (admittedly clickbait-y) title on The New Yorker - with the amount I read, I thought, I must be happy if it can! The actual point of the article, that books are therapeutic and that there is an entire genre of therapy that has evolved around that premise, intrigued me (and still does). Their elucidation of why books are effectively making people "happier" was more what I was expecting - an increased capacity for empathy, stronger social perception, and more refined ability to interact? All worth picking up a book if you ask me, and definitely all things that would make me happier. 

- And in that vein, I fell madly for this article on the world's required reading lists. Although my personal list of "books to read," housed in my "Life Lists" Excel workbook (NERD ALERT), just crested 525, I couldn't help but add a few, reminiscing on some of my favorite high school required reading as we went. Fun story: in 10th grade Honors English, I had already read the entire curriculum at the beginning of the year, so my fantastic teacher (hi, Mathison!) designed a bunch of mini-units for me to do instead of/alongside the regular curriculum. In one of those units, she introduced me to Willa Cather; in another, CS Lewis - both of whom have become longstanding loves of mine, and for that I will be eternally grateful to her.