Wednesday, November 29, 2017

I'm Dreaming of a Green Christmas: 6 Ways to Go Green This Christmas

Source: Inhabitat

It’s the time of year to celebrate life, to help bring peace on earth and goodwill to everyone. But just because it’s the holiday season doesn’t mean we should completely disregard the planet, even though we often do during this time.

Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, Americans throw away 25% more trash. We can try to reduce that while reducing our own holiday stress! Check out these ways to help the earth feel peace during this time of year too.

1. Homemade decorations and gifts

One fun and green way to celebrate the season is making your own decorations. Particularly for kids, homemade decorations can become a lifelong memory. Feel free to use popsicle sticks and other odds and ends, but you go more sophisticated if you want. Winter foliage is gorgeous and can be cleaned and assembled easily for centerpieces and the mantel top.

Source: Domestic Superhero
Not only can you make holiday decorations, you can also make homemade gifts. Now give it a chance. Not all homemade gifts look cheap or like a three-year-old created them. Pinterest and Instagram have thousands of examples and links to instructions for amazing, easy-to-make gifts.

2. Reusable wrapping

Did you know that wrapping paper is not recyclable?

One of the greatest sources of trash during this time is wrapping paper. According to the CDC, just 3 gifts wrapped in reused materials would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields. We all can spare at least 3 gifts using more sustainable wrapping, don’t you think?

It’s actually pretty easy to reuse wrapping because you have so many options. Save the gift bags and tissue paper you receive and reuse them for the gifts you give. Use old newspapers or paper that you’d otherwise recycle for unique and interesting wrapping. I love using the comics section of the newspaper.
Source: Pinterest
At craft or fabric stores, you can find holiday-themed fabric. Cut the fabric for various sizes of gifts, and use safety pins to secure the wrapping. No, fabric isn’t as fun to tear open as paper, but it gets the job done with no waste.

You can find more ideas here as well.

3. Shopping

A huge holiday stressor is shopping. Your blood pressure and the environment will thank you if you shop online or try to combine multiple stops in your shopping trips to save gas, time, and money.

Source: Bustle
Also consider buying from local businesses and shops or high-quality secondhand and consignment stores to save some green in your pocket and going green in your carbon footprint.

As unpopular as it might be with kids initially, you could also try giving fewer gifts and focusing on quality time together doing fun holiday activities. Time with loved ones is the whole point of the season anyway, right?

4. Experience gifts

About 35% of Americans have never used a Christmas present they have received. In addition, studies have found that spending money on experiences brings more happiness than spending money on physical possessions.

Source: Getty Images
Instead of cluttering up your house and your life with more stuff, give your loved ones the gift of experiences. Memberships to museums, concert tickets, gift cards for movies or activities are all amazing gifts that your loved ones can enjoy long after the holidays end. As a bonus, experiences you do together can bring you closer.

5. Energy efficiency

However beautiful Christmas lights are, they are sometimes inefficient. To save on energy costs and usage, use LED lights and set them on a timer. Make sure you turn off lights when you're not around  or awake to enjoy them. While you’re inside, you could consider burning candles for the same holiday feeling. Just make sure your house and choices are fire safe.

Or you could skip putting up your own lights, and go on walks around neighborhoods that participate in lighting contests. It’s a great holiday activity, and you can spare yourself the hassle and cost of your own lights.

Source: Good Housekeeping
6. Eco-friendly cards
Instead of buying new cards or ordering them online, you could send electronic holiday cards or make your own. Your kids can draw or make cards for family members. Use the front of old cards, your children’s artwork, or gift tags for unique, adorable holiday cards.
Source: Itabox

Even if everyone incorporated just one or two of these tips into your holiday this year, we could have a profound impact. Let's all feel a little more peace about the future this holiday season by including the earth in our goodwill.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

8 Reasons to Love Gilmore Girls

Even an entire month after the Gilmore Girls revival, I'm still thinking about this series! Since seeing the original 10 years ago, I've still listed it as one my favorite TV shows, despite the fact that it was no longer releasing new episodes.

I'm not alone in my love of the series. The show's loyal fan following essentially made the revival happen. Fans pleaded for the revival and finally got their wish. All this devotion from fans begs the question: what about the show motivates such deeply attached fans?

1. Hilarious, smart allusions

Gilmore Girls is not a brainless, just-on-for-background-noise type of TV show. If you're not paying attention, yes, you will probably still know what's going on, but you're missing out! Lorelai and Rory talk fast, and they are hilariously witty. You use your brain while watching, but that extra work pays off with extra laughs.

If you're paying attention and you know the references, you can catch allusions to books, movies, rock bands, obscure pop culture, and political figures. I admit that some, okay sometimes many, of their references went over my head, specifically the rock and pop culture references. But the references I get make me love the script writers for having seen or read what I have.

Here are some allusions just from season 5. Seeing all of them at once gives me a little bit of a headache.

2. Books, books, books

Any bookworm loves and relates to Rory. She reads voraciously. She plans everything out and makes lists, she is organized, and she reads and reads and reads. The early Rory is a kindred spirit for sure.

3. Girls' night every episode

What are girls' nights like? Talking about boys, sometimes deep conversations, stupid movies, and food. Lots and lots of food. That's pretty much every episode of Gilmore Girls.

Lorelai and Rory feel like my close friends, although they are fictional. I love their sense of humor, their idea of fun, and their relationship.

I feel like I'm having a girls' night every episode I watch.

4. Stars Hollow

Lorelai lives in the cutest town in America. I wish this town actually existed. Not only is the town physically charming in their seasonal decor, this town's citizens are involved and participate in nearly all events. Stars Hollow goes all out for the winter festival, festival of living art, dance marathon, knit-a-thon, Revolutionary War reenactments, and so many more.

Everyone even participates regularly in town meetings. Who does that? Well, maybe if town meetings everywhere were as entertaining as the ones in Stars Hollow, more people would go.

In one early episode, the town names an official town troubadour, the guy who randomly plays and sings in the town.

5. Awesome secondary characters

Nearly every character has his or her own charm. Everyone has clever lines. Everyone has a unique personality. 

It is so hard to pick my favorite secondary characters, because they are all so funny and lovable in their own way. But with my arm twisted behind my back, I'd have to pick Kirk, Sookie, Paris, and TJ as my favorites.

One character epitomizes the ridiculous, quirky, nonsensically hilarious personality and charm of the characters in Stars Hollow: Kirk. He is the Jack of all trades, he takes things literally to a hilarious extent, and he is awkwardly innocent.

Lorelai's best friend, Sookie, is a sweet but demanding chef. Played by Melissa McCarthy, Sookie has shining moments that deserve to be rewound and watched over and over as you wipe away tears of laughter. Here are some of my favorite funny Sookie moments.

Although Paris is often neurotic, demanding, and difficult to work with or be friends with, I can appreciate how candidly she shares her opinions about everything. I would probably join the ranks of those who hate and fear her if I knew a real version of Paris, but I love her as a fictional character.

TJ only appears in a few episodes, but he cracks me up in every scene he is in, especially the renaissance wedding episode. Those tights were obviously very comfortable, and he wanted to make sure everyone knew it. I am right there with Luke and Lorelai cracking up.

Even the annoying characters, like Taylor and Lorelai's parents, have their moments of truly charming, clever, and funny comments. They have an undeniable appeal of their own, just like every single character on this show. 

6. Sweet romantic moments

The men of Gilmore Girls know how to pull at the heartstrings.

7. What not to do in a relationship

As much as we see them succeed in relationships, we see what not to do in relationships. For example, I don't recommend sleeping with a married man or stealing a boat, or rebounding from your fiance with an ex who is also the father of your child. Not your greatest moments, girls.

8. Writer like me

Although Rory goes into newspaper journalism and I'm doing freelance, blogging, magazine, and other writing, during my high school and college years, it was nice a role model like her aspire to write, just as I did. I am  just grateful that no one has told me that I don't have what it takes to be a good writer though. Luckily I don't know anyone like Mitchem Huntsberger.

I love this show. Do I agree with every plot twist or character choice? Not really, but I love how unique, fun, smart, and amazing show. Although my name isn't Gilmore, can I be considered a Gilmore Girl too?

Thursday, August 25, 2016

I found a website called It is a pretty fun site that recommends books, lists quotes or book titles, and posts other cool things. A reader's dream.

Another awesome thing about is . . . that I'm writing for them!! Check out two posts that I wrote three days from each other. And more ideas are flowing!! (I know. This blog is jealous of the other blog getting all the attention.)

My first post recommended books for parents of twins. And believe me, twin parents need all the help they can get.

My second post listed reasons to listen to music while reading.

Check them out!!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Olympics, Winning, and Losing

During the Olympics, NBC covers tons of stories about athletes who overcame obstacles and trained hard for hours a day for years to win a gold medal. Some reports tell about humble athletes, whose natural abilities raised them up to glory. We eat up stories about Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, and Simone Biles. These stories inspire us to pursue greatness.

We all want and need to believe that our dreams will come true if we work and believe hard enough. We believe that it is possible. Children's interest piques in gymnastics and swimming and ice skating. Some of those inspired children become Olympians themselves, all because of the victors and their stories.

I'm not trying to take away from their victories or make it sound like the gold (or any) medalists haven't earned their rewards, but what about the athletes who don't win the medal they wanted or any medal at all?

Chances are, those who get the "participant ribbon" worked just as hard and just as long as, or perhaps even harder and longer than, the winners. Some of them come from even humbler circumstances or had to overcome and sacrifice even more to get to the Olympics. But despite their best efforts, they lose the race. Or someone else nails their dismount better than they did. Or the other team plays just a little bit better and scores more. And because these athletes don't win or come close to winning, we don't hear about them.

This Olympics, I keep thinking about those who "lose," despite doing everything right. How do they feel knowing that they gave everything they had, and it still wasn't enough? That their best will never beat someone else's? How long did they dream of and train toward winning a gold medal? How do they feel about the time they spent working toward a goal that will never be theirs?

I'm not an Olympian, but I know the feeling that my efforts sometimes don't actually contribute to the end result. There have been times when I have worked as hard as I can and done everything I can do, and still nothing. I struggle to accept the results and to feel that my best is good enough when it clearly isn't. It makes dreaming seem like a cruel trick.

And yet. . . . (Yes, there is a hopeful ending to this post.)

Yet most of the Olympic athletes are young in their early thirties, twenties, and even teens. Some will have chances to try again in the Tokyo Olympics. For those who won't return, life goes on. Even for those who win, time goes on. Life doesn't stop after the Olympics. Everyone must find a way to move on to the next goal, the next step.

I would love for NBC to run features that catch up with some retired Olympic athletes: some who won gold and perhaps some who didn't. What have they done since they stopped competing? What have past water polo players moved on to do? What is Michelle Kwan doing now? What is Misty Mays up to these days? Do they coach? Do they have families? Did they take up a different career? Your accountant could be a former Olympic diver. Who knows?

I guess the point is that sometimes dreams change. Whether we reach them or not, dreams evolve with life. Everyone, gold medalists, Olympic participants, and us normal humans alike, must realize that dreams, unless obtained at the end of our lifetimes, are not the end-all goal. Getting into a certain college, obtaining a dream job, or achieving a weight limit are admirable goals, but regardless of whether we achieve them, life goes on. We learn to dream new dreams.

So, at the close of the Olympics, I want to wish everyone happy dreaming!

What were some of your favorite moments in the 2016 Olympics?

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Writers, Read This Book!

If you want to be a writer, you have to read. A lot. A whole lot.

The more you read, the more you notice writing styles you admire. The more you read, the more you notice how the authors create that style you like. Then, comes the hard part: creating your own style.

I'm going to share some books that I think provide useful guidance for all writers, whether you're writing short blog posts or the next great American novel. Some will be fiction, others will be nonfiction. They just have to be helpful, entertaining, and relate to writing.

To start off this series of book recommendations, I thought I'd start with a fun, yet complex work of fiction that models excellent first-chapter writing--times 10. Italo Calvino's If on a Winter's Night a Stranger (1979) pushes impatient book lovers to the limit. If you must finish a story, you may not like this book. Just breathe into a paper bag and read it anyway.

The main story line takes "the Reader" through an experience of reading the first chapters of 10 different books. What prevents him (and therefore us) from progressing beyond the first? The book he buys only contains the first chapter, and then to correct the mistake the publisher sends him the wrong replacement book, which also is defective. He meets with the publisher, who gives him the first-chapter manuscript of another book, etc. One cruel twist after another leads him to seemingly endless dead ends as he tries to finish the story, any story!

Why would I recommend such a frustrating book? Simply put, introductions and first chapters are hard, and Calvino nails several in a single book. In my favorite first chapter, the character is running, something his doctor said would "calm his nerves." However, as the character runs, his train of thought runs away as well. I felt that character's panic and confusion and the intensity of his situation. Turns out, his panic was justified after all. By the end of the chapter, I was sincerely invested and wanted to know what came next.

His style and mechanics are worth studying and possibly emulating.

In addition to providing exemplary literary devices, If on a Winter's Night also discusses the experiences of writers, readers, and their relationship to each other. I can't count how many times I said as I read, "That's me. I do that too." If anything, read this book to feel understood both as a reader and a writer.

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? What books have helped you develop as a writer?

Friday, July 1, 2016

You Might Have Twins . . .

Nod to Jeff Foxworthy.
Although these mostly apply to the first year with twins, some still apply to me now.

- If you feel you could win most arm wrestling matches.

- If you get only 10 minutes without a baby in a 12-hour period.

- If you have had 16 or more diaper changes in one day.

- If perfect strangers ask you about your kids' conception.

- If you feel like a celebrity . . . in that you can't go anywhere without being stared at, stopped, asked a million questions, admired, complimented, and/or consoled.

- If there is no such thing as a quick errand.

- If you can't remember which baby woke you up last night. Or which baby you just changed. Or who you just fed.

- If you have to paint your kids' toe nails to make sure you don't mix them up, regardless of whether they are identical or fraternal.

- If there are bags under the bags under your eyes.

- If starting solids means wearing a hazmat suit.

- If changing diapers means wearing a hazmat suit.

- If you have two of everything and you hide things that you only have one of.

- If you coordinate your kids' outfits most days without even thinking about it.

- If you have single-handedly consumed an entire 1/2 gallon of ice cream in 24 hours.

- If your kids giggle at each other's jokes in their own baby language.

Any others I forgot to mention? Leave yours here.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

What Happened to My Uterus

This post is for those who are curious about the details of my hysterectomy last year, since I didn't share much right after it happened. Be warned, however, that some might consider these details icky, so proceed at your own risk. You have been warned.

One year ago today around evening rush hour, I was sitting in our NICU room with Tracy, admiring our strong 4-pound baby boys. We just put them back in their open cribs, which they had progressed to only a couple days before. We loved that since the transition to open crib we could hold them whenever and for however long we wanted. Tracy had just finished reading a book to them, a nightly ritual during their NICU stay.

Then I felt it. Whoosh. A rush of blood. Two weeks after the boys were born, I was bleeding only slightly by that point, so I definitely knew something had to be wrong when I felt about an entire period's worth of blood all at once. I told Tracy and our NICU nurse what had happened. Immediately, which means that it still took 20 minutes to arrive, she sent someone to find a wheelchair to take me to the emergency room in the other wing of the hospital. A few minutes later, I felt another huge rush of blood. I was hemorrhaging. Finally the wheelchair came, and I said goodbye to my babies, comforted that they would be well cared for by the NICU nurses.

As we started walking, Tracy and I cracked jokes and laughed that yet another function or organ in my body was malfunctioning. I joked, "What will it be this time?" and "How convenient that we are already here in the hospital!" For those who know my "story," this reaction probably doesn't surprise you. (For those who don't, click here.) But the joking soon came to screeching halt.

The skywalk system between medical buildings felt exponentially longer than it should've as wave after wave of blood gushed out, each time slightly more painful. When we approached the check-in desk in the ER, I felt dizzy and tired. Tracy filled out the necessary paperwork while I tried unsuccessfully to stop my head from spinning. Then came the barrage of the same questions over and over again from several separate nurses and doctors, as you always experience when you go to the ER. They kept asking Tracy if I looked especially pale to him. No, that's just how she looks, he said. Thanks, babe.

I started to feel so cold; my hands and legs shivered, and my teeth chattering involuntarily. Now I understand why in the movies or TV shows, people say they are cold when they have been shot or stabbed or whatever and are bleeding to death. I've been there. (Bleeding to death, not getting shot or stabbed.) Eventually even breathing became difficult for me, so they gave me an oxygen tube. The bleeding slowed down, but the pain increased with each wave of blood. The doctors explained that they would try to stop the bleeding with a D&E, but if they couldn't they might need to perform a hysterectomy. Without question, Tracy and I told them to do what they needed to do.

Then came more questions, but not the same ones as before. "What is your name? What city do you live in? How old are you?" That's when I started worrying. Until then, I hadn't exactly enjoyed the experience, but I wasn't scared. I had only started bleeding about 30 minutes before and only recently felt significant pain. But no one asks you those kinds of questions unless they are concerned about your brain function from blood loss. I heard Tracy say to one of the nurses, "Now she looks really pale." Later he told me that I looked like a corpse, complete with blue lips and china-white skin.

At that point, I could barely keep my eyes open. As they rolled my bed away to go the OR, I held his hand and with all my energy whispered to Tracy that I loved him. For a second I honestly wondered if I would see him again. If I'd see my babies again. If I'd see any of my family or friends again. I wondered if it was already too late to stop it, if my time was drawing to a close.

I woke up--obviously. I felt that strong, deep, all-too-familiar ache in my abdomen and weak throughout my entire body. A large white bandage covered the doctors' work, but I already knew. They removed my uterus. I never got the actual number from the doctor, but before and during my surgery, I received anywhere between 6-10 units of blood.

Later, my doctor explained that the placentas had grown into the uterus lining, called placenta accreta. Most likely, my uterus had some scar tissue from my appendix or first ruptured ectopic pregnancy, which caused the placentas to grow into the lining. Although all the pieces of the placentas came out (after the doctor fished them out--ouch), two weeks later my uterus "thought" some of it was still there and bled to flush it out.

If we had been at home when it happened and if we had had to fight through Houston rush hour traffic to get to the emergency room, Tracy and I are sure I wouldn't have survived. But I did. Again. How about that?

I wonder what's next. My gall bladder? My spleen? A kidney? What other organs don't I need?