Embracing Uncertainty

11 Sep

Isn’t it funny how time, even small amounts of time, can change one’s perspective?  I have been thinking about this all week, especially since I reviewed my business development plans for the United States, written just 3 months prior, realizing that none of the projects or ideas I had in mind were even a thought today.  All of this analysis reminded me of a writing project, albeit a small one, that I took on earlier this year.  Many of you might be aware of the women’s magazine Skirt!, a collection of essays written by aspiring women across our vast nation.  I prepared a small essay entitled: Embracing Uncertainty: A wish for all women around the world.  I was confident that my essay would be chosen for the June 2010 edition, mostly because it followed the theme of the month that focused on women and their strength to overcome obstacles.  Well, much to my disappointment my submission was rejected.  With all of this reflection lately, on projects that seemed so certain but never came to fruition, led me to this short essay.  I would like to share it with you today, as I think many of you can relate.  Looking back, in early 2010 when this was drafted, I did hold much uncertainty toward the path I was on.  But now, just 9 months later, I love my path.

I love it.

Embracing Uncertainty…

What does it mean to embrace uncertainty?  Is it about having the courage to take chances when the outcome isn’t crystal clear?  Is it about being true to yourself, admitting something is not cooperating with your ideal way of being, and making a change?

There, I said it.  CHANGE.  The most feared word in the English dictionary, worthy of 9 definitions as a verb according to Merriam Webster.   The most applicable definition of change is “to undergo transformation, transition, or substitution” (Merriam Webster).  I have a hunch that a handful of you, possibly more, will never embrace uncertainty because it means something will change in your life.  And that change, however rewarding, enriching and positive it could be, UNCERTAINTY overcomes you like an oversized red light on the road of life.

Embracing uncertainly isn’t a part of your genetic code, readily offering itself up through a molecular cascade of events in the human body.  Rather, it’s a unique ability; something unrealized in my life until one special day.  One day, January 1st, 2010 to be exact, when this 36 year old, North Carolina country girl decided to relocate cross country: San Francisco.

It all started on that anticipation filled day, back in 1991, when I received my senior yearbook and recorded my well thought out plans for the future.  There it was, recorded in black ink, my declaration to the world.  Where would I be in 10 years?  This was a question with multiple responses, all of which took no more than 10 seconds to come to mind.  I aspired to be a teacher; I wanted to shape young minds into leaders and instill confidence in these inexperienced souls (meanwhile I was still an inexperienced soul myself mind you).  I was to live in Florida; that I was completely sure of (although at this point I had never even been to Florida).  The cool winters of North Carolina could easily be forgotten when surrounded by warm, tropical breezes.  As for my marital status, there was no question in my mind that MY prince charming and I would be happily married and truly, forever and always, in love.  This I was most certain of because I had carefully planned our meeting, courtship and marriage in my mind since my early childhood.  Years of daydreaming, of acting out my adult life through Barbie dolls and pure make believe offered what I thought to be a realistic and achievable scenario.  And last but not least, I was to be a mother.  Of all the certainties I fantasized about, this one contained the most passion and intensity.  The unconditional love experienced between mother and child wasn’t an option but a necessity.  It seemed to stem from a loss of my own father at an early age, possibly a desire to re-create the parent/child bond we once held and carry it through a lifetime.

Today, nearly 19 years since I first proclaimed my destiny, I couldn’t find myself in a more different situation.  My carefully crafted plans never suggested I move so far away from my family, let alone California.  An idea such as this at the youthful age of 17 would have surely sent me into a definite state of panic.  Yet today, at 36, here I am.  I have embarked on an inspiring journey into a diverse, heterogeneous society that couldn’t be more unlike my homogeneous roots.

Much as I did at the age of 17, I have a plan.  I plan to enrich my life with culture, business opportunities, new acquaintances and fitness challenges.  I have detailed goals with set timelines for completion, yet there is a clear distinction between today and yesterday: acceptance of uncertainty.  Life is full of uncertainties, yet as an innocent and naïve child you fail to see this or at least understand the concept.  Sure, I suffered my share of disappointments, physical and emotional loss, unresolved relationships and those occasional not-so-happy moments.  However, it still never occurred to me, in my youth, that my plans would not be.  A deviation from the course, let’s say.

Today I am still a dreamer.  I stare out my 12th floor apartment window, counting the series of illuminations lining the steel frame of the Bay Bridge, gleaming like tiny twinkle lights that once adorned my family Christmas tree.  I hop on the MUNI bus #5, taking the 30 minute trek to Golden Gate Park, positioning myself in the Japanese Tea Garden and saluting the majestic trees, strong yet weathered from years of existence.  I jog along the pier, towards Fisherman’s Wharf, stopping briefly to smell the ocean and bask in its vast and powerful unpredictability.  I am reminded of the uncertainty found in the ocean environment itself; much like human life it is a balance between sheer survival and a courageous attempt at adventure.

Today I am still a dreamer AND I accept uncertainty.  I see its power and I embrace it.  For it is uncertainty that causes us to re-examine our lives and sometimes, maybe just the right time, make a change in our lives for the better.  It is the acceptance of uncertainty that helps us to understand life may not be exactly as we had planned.  It may be a slight deviation from the path or, as in my case, a totally new direction.

Accepting this, embracing this, gives you the power to adapt.  The power to deal with whatever comes.  The power to start a new career, change your look, take on a new hobby, end a relationship that is draining your energy, or possibly fly across the country and live in a new place… and smile.


What is Love?

23 Jul

Slip your palm into the palm of another,

rushing across the street toward your absolute favorite Indian restaurant…

Speaking the thoughts that flow through your mind,

lacking any awareness of how they fall upon another’s ears…

Dancing like a schoolgirl by the living room window,

hoping he’s watching as your spirit soars…

Gazing into another’s eyes,

wishing that everyday is full of dreams realized and fears abolished…

Sharing a star filled night together,

two sets of eyes gazing upon the bright rings of Saturn…

Acceptance of differences,

understanding that the glue that binds you isn’t always so sticky…

The taste of your lips,

commitment unspoken…

The acknowledgement of creation,

and the acceptance of death…

A soft cheek nestled against a strong chest,

only aware of the pitter patter of life deep within…

Someone to share the world with,

two sets of eyes to see the sunrise and the sunset…

Did you hold me when I cried?

Did you laugh at all my jokes?

Did you feed me when I was full of hunger?

Did you nurse me when I was ill?

Did you guide me when I was lost?

Did you share new adventures with me?

That is LOVE.  Pure and simple.

Like water flowing from a cool mountain brook, it’s the essence of life.

Summer in San Francisco… series 1

5 Jul

Freshness Abounds...

A cocktail with a friend...

Strength and mystery...

A little green sanctuary amidst the concrete

Reaching out to the Pacific...

The Meaning of Life

3 Jul

Yesterday someone asked me “What is the meaning of life?”

Is there a clear cut answer?  Not really.  Life means different things to different people.

I want to help others through my writing, giving me a purpose.

I wish to have close companionship and union with others.

Making a difference… that is my life goal.  Giving everything 100%.  And nothing less.

At the very core of this question comes a simple but heavy speech from Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple

I hope you will enjoy this and carry it with you, as I did…



Thank you sun!

23 May

The blinding sun beckoned me from my slumber this morning,

summoning me to bask in its glory…

I answered the call, lacing up my new Mizunos,

each step more exhilarating than the one before…

Sailboats speckled the bay,

splashing reds, yellows and greens across the horizon…

What a brilliant canvas!

I wanted to reach out and paint mine pink…

A small yacht named Picaroon sat in the harbor,

anxiously awaiting guidance from its master…

I imagined the freedom, the freedom to command,

the freedom to steer the vessel into the distant unknown…

The sound of a child’s laughter called out,

the Giant’s orange and black visible in the distance…

I was drawn across the bay,

curiosity drew me in…

Barely over 5 years of age,

tiny souls dressed and ready to conquer the world…

boney little arms protruding from baggy t-shirts,

black war paint striped their cheekbones…

Plagued by indecision and restless energy,

they spun in circles and fell to the ground…

Chaos ensued as the bat and ball made contact,

no one sure where to throw the ball and to whom…

Fathers offered a loving but stern hand,

Mothers peering through a tattered fence with considerate and loving eyes…

Moisture slid down my cheek without realization,

Embracing the love of the American family…

Again each step, more exhilarating than the one before,

carried me home…

Past the ballpark…

Past the sailboats…

Past familiar faces heading out on their own journey…

Thank you sun for reminding me what is beautiful, important;

I am humbled in your presence.

We all must come down from the clouds from time to time…

15 May

Preface: I wrote this blog entry in late March.  However, I didn’t post it because I felt the message was a bit diluted as I tried to touch on so many different points, coupled with the fact that my work had me in so many directions and blogging was not a priority for me.  Now, as my thoughts are coming together and I found a chance to review this blog, I thought it was an important post.  Remember, find comfort in your career.  However, remember to stop and smell the roses.

How many of you have watched the movie “Up in the Air” with George Clooney?  I imagine quite a few of you… I’ve seen it twice and plan to purchase it for my collection of inspirational DVDs.  Why you might ask?  Simply for one reason: I can relate to it.

Not only does this movie and my life share many similarities, but the symbolism to a human being’s need for interaction with others to have a complete life is all encompassing.  Sure, we must be happy with ourselves, confident in who we are before we can truly love and experience others.  George Clooney followed a routine in this film, one he rather enjoyed and thought to be superior to the mundane routines of others in his life.  However, as the film progressed I believe that he realized how important human interaction is.  Once he broke down his barriers, that is.

What can happen when one allows those barriers to break down?  When one comes down from the clouds, so to speak, from time to time?

If you haven’t taken the time to listen to this soundtrack, I highly suggest that you do so.  My favorite song is titled “Help Yourself”, performed by Sad Brad Smith, a Chicago singer/songwriter.  This song has so much meaning in my life, supporting my viewpoints about being open to possibilities and what is to come.  My favorite lyrics are simply:

Take the time to take apart

Each brick that sits outside your heart

And look around you

There’s people everywhere

And though they don’t always show it

They’re  just as scared and we would be more prepared

If you just pulled on through

I’m always in the clouds, moving from place to place, arid desert land with slot machines chiming in my dreams to cold mountain streams to fields of European sunflowers.  It is not simply an easy task to slip from this silent habitat, this safe haven of ascending above all civilization and escaping with only my thoughts and my battery operated technologies.  Music, words such as that of Sad Brad Smith, help me to settle back into reality.  To come down from the clouds.

What is it that I find when I descend?  What happens when I allow myself to break down those bricks surrounding my heart?  I find amazing people with bright ideas, smiles and passions.  Passion for life, simplicity; living each day to it’s fullest and longing to share those days with others.  It is a great feeling, I must say.

My last descent from the clouds, just this past week, opened my eyes to a new world.  I stepped off the plane, feet upon solid ground, somewhat dreading a 2 week stent of being grounded.  Don’t get me wrong; I am anxious to see more of San Francisco and spend time immersed in the simplistic side of the city I fell in love with last year.  However, I have been up in the clouds since my arrival here in the bay area; therefore, my short lived attempts to make new friends had produced very little in the form of quality individuals.  But this time would be different…

In the course of 6 days, my life has been touched by 3 individuals, all sharing the same open mentality and love of life.  I have a new girlfriend, someone who thinks like me and adds so much value to my life.  Our conversations are fulfilling, initiated at random coffee shops, the nail salon and the pet parlor.  Laughter ensues; talk of boys from yesterday, professional quests of today and dreams of family and love in every tomorrow.  I opened my eyes to what could be in my new place, descending from the clouds to experience life, and I was given an amazing new friend.

The random happenings in life, once you come down from the clouds, are maybe not so random.  Although I’m not in total control of my life, I can decide to be open to new situations, chats with complete strangers, offering a word of advice to a newfound friend at a local gathering, being inspired and inspiring others.

I hope you make the choice to open your heart to others.  Chances are you will find some amazing people out there.  People who add value to your life and, even if you do not realize it, you add value to their life as well.

The San Francisco Project: 12 down, 40 to go

4 May

Over the past weeks I have come to a harsh realization: I am not a restaurant critic.  Maybe my opinion matters to no one.  How can I claim to be passionate about this project when I wait weeks to write a blog about my dining experience?  I guess I have no excuses, so I will make a feeble attempt to recall some details of my past dining/coffee drinking/people watching adventures…

Thai Spice, Russian Hill: I thoroughly enjoy Thai food, but I must admit that my favorite dish is something like going to the most amazing sushi restaurant and ordering the California Roll (should be a sin actually).  I love Pad Thai.  Although for some reason, on this particular night, I made a conscious choice to be adventurous and allow my dinner guest to order for me!

By the way, did I mention that Thai Spice is ranked as one of San Francisco’s top 5 Thai establishments?  I didn’t know this going in, most likely to their advantage.  If there is one thing I have learned over the past 5 years, it’s the effect that expectations can have on you.  I went in with no preconceived notions about the food, service or overall atmosphere.  I was pleasantly surprised with each course, eating only half of the Shrimp in a Blanket appetizer but secretly wishing I could have it all to myself!   The name was catchy yet completely descriptive of the basic contents: marinated shrimp, wrapped in a spring roll, served with a sweet sauce.  I also give this place kudos for presentation; I am still reminded of how each shrimp was standing at attention, neatly placed in its own miniature glass dish atop an oblong glass plate.

Dinner is served!  A Pumpkin Yellow Curry with Chicken was satisfying; the creaminess of the dish, or should I say richness of the dish could be credited to the Asian pumpkin and the ‘one step away from mashed’ chunky potatoes.  Overall I would recommend this restaurant, mostly due to the food and what seemed to be a diverse yet manageable crowd of locals flooding the place at all times.  My only complaint was the slow waitress, suggesting that you allow 2 hours for the total experience.

Fang is located on Howard Street directly across from the Thirsty Bear, a popular place for beer and burgers by both locals and tourists.  Fang decor is a step above the usual Chinese restaurant decor; one will not find the typical astrological place mats lining each table (not that there is anything wrong with that).  Low lighting, dark wood combined with red accents produced a comfortable and relaxing environment.

Unfortunately I cannot share my menu with you, mainly because the owner personally presented himself and offered up special dishes that could not be found on the menu.  My dinner date spoke Mandarin, which again makes my ability to promote the contents of each dish quite difficult.  I am extremely open minded when it comes to food, so I was elated to have the master chef whip up something special for the lady (I do know a few words in Mandarin).

To summarize, I did enjoy a rice dish with assorted mushrooms (amazing), and the one thing I did order directly from the menu was traditional Hot n’ Sour Soup.  I’ve been on a quest for some time to eat this Szechuan classic in as many places as possible, and this one was simply the best for one major reason: vinegar.  The sourness of this soup is attributed to the vinegar, and in many cases it is hard to detect.  However, at Fang I found the perfect balance of flavors and yes, I finished the entire bowl for 2!

Ruchi is a remodeled South Indian cuisine establishment located on 3rd street in Soma.  For the price it is some of the best Indian food in the city!  We started with the most basic Garden Salad, and even this was tantalizing!  We spoke briefly to the owner of the restaurant, a native of India who was extremely proud of the delicacies he creates.  I would say they are most famous for their Dosa, although one cannot go wrong with the Chicken Biryani.  This dish was unique in comparison to the Naan n’ Chutneys and Naan n’ Curries around the city; the spices were fresh and seemed to stand separately on the palette yet complement the chicken and rice.  On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the highest, this restaurant gets an 11 for freshness and flavor!

Velo Rouge is a small neighborhood feel coffee shop where people commence to write, work and play.  Situated mere blocks from Golden Gate Park, this establishment not only feels like home away from home, but serves up one of my favorite coffees in the city: Blue Bottle Coffee Co.  They even have live music on Friday and Saturday nights, although I haven’t been in the evenings to critique these musical events.

The dark colored interior is offset by the sunshine cascading through the massive windows, and the black, white and red awnings outside cannot be missed.  I recommend this coffee shop for atmosphere and a great cappuccino!

How can I continue to rant about food and coffee without touching on the magical elixir: wine!  If you are looking for a place to have an amazing glass of wine whilst meeting other professionals in the bay area, District is for you!  District offers rustic brick walls, flanked by assorted tables, surrounding a central bar with a large wall of assorted bottles spanning the world.  My personal preference, although I must admit that the Riesling Auslese is amazing, is the Malbec Bordeaux blend known as Tierra Secreta from Argentina, 2008.  This wine is everything and more!  They describe a “dark cocoa powder on the finish” (District Menu), which is an understatement.  The berries hit you first, finishing with the taste of cocoa.  It’s like eating a chocolate covered strawberry, only the flavors hit your palette at different times.  The wait is well worth it.

I must also recommend the lounge menu.  If you don’t have time for dinner, this place has a great happy hour menu and plenty of options to fill you up!  I must admit I have visited this establishment 3 times now, each time trying a new dish.  A simple treat is the assorted pizzas known as “pizzettas“, while the more sophisticated Ahi Tartare and the Lightly Fried Monterey Calamari are great choices as well.

QUICK TIP: Weekday nights can sometimes be a better choice than the weekend.  I found Thursday nights to be the best so far!

Taqueria San Jose, 2830 Mission Street, offered what seemed to be the best Mexican food ever!  As you already know I am a huge fan of Peruvian food; however, when people try to “refine” Mexican food into something resembling an overpriced $30 order of tacos, something has gone terribly wrong.  Super cheap, greasy beef tacos with the fixins’ cannot, in my honest opinion, be beaten.  So, if you are looking for atmosphere and bathrooms that have helpful attendants waiting to hand you a towel, then do not waste your time at Taqueria.  If you are looking for an honest to goodness inexpensive and delicious meal of burritos, enchiladas, Huevos Rancheros and the like, with no bells and whistles, you MUST stop by Tacqueria San Jose!

Sparky’s Diner in the Castro… cheap, open 24 hours, and an excellent place to people watch!  Don’t go to this diner expecting fabulous food, but a good time is to be had by all.

Here’s one for you: Broom Bush Cafe in Berkeley.  I found myself working in Emeryville a few weeks ago, and I was void of my usual dining plans with current or potential customers.  I was famished; my thoughts were filled with cheeseburgers, french fries and my favorite: Dr. Pepper.  The neighborhood seemed to change from the bustling shopping area surrounding E’ville and the modern food chain establishments, and I soon found myself driving down San Pablo Avenue with very few dining options.  Suddenly, the Broom Bush Cafe’s tiny facade came into view.  I quickly parked and hopped into this diverse, somewhat dingy but friendly cafe.  I welcome diversity; I live in a city full of diversity!  However, I couldn’t contain the irony rolling through my mind like a filmstrip.  This was exactly the type of place, back home in North Carolina, that would have attracted the middle-aged to elderly, country music loving, fried chicken eating Southern white folk.  And, ironically, I was the only Caucasian in the place!

My meal was fantastic, yet amazingly simple: Cheeseburger and french fries.  There is something special about a large beef patty, fried on the grill amongst other mouth-watering, artery clogging foods, smothered in American cheese and topped with mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato and onion.  I don’t think I have eaten that fast and felt that happy after a meal in a long time!

And last but not least, if you love peanut brittle you must try Sweet in the Castro.  I do not think I have tried such excellent flavor combinations all wrapped up in a bar of peanut brittle… the tough part was deciding which was my favorite!  I actually carried a container of the Cayenne Pepper Peanut Brittle to Sweden in February, and not surprisingly the container was empty the next morning.  The ginger flavor was fantastic as well!  I did try the mini cupcakes which seem to be the most popular item on the menu, but I wasn’t that impressed.  I guess once you’ve had an authentic Sprinkles cupcake everything else pales in comparison…

Since visiting these establishments I have frequented what seems to be millions of diners, upscale gourmet shops and candy stores.  I made a commitment to you regarding my quest to visit 52 locations in 6 months, and that I will do.  I just need some extra time, and mental support, to blog about them!