At the beginning of 2011, I made a To Do List for the year.
It’s a list that in retrospect, was a means to an end–a framework, so to speak, that in no way was confined to itself. And to that end, the framework made for an amazing year.
And it was a list that enlightened me about novel-writing.
There is this thing about lists, framework, or scaffolding; the interstitial spaces between the items–the journey, the process and the detours between milestones are the things that make the list come alive, just as surprises and detours make a novel.
You can outline and plan a novel–but it’s those moments as a writer when you are delighted and surprised by a sudden discovery or event or detour that will in turn surprise and delight your reader, that makes your novel sing. Those are the moments I live for, and the moments for which I write.
My to-do list was flawed and those flaws enlightened me, too. There were items on the list I told myself to do “everyday”; I couldn’t check these items off until all 365 days had passed, and then of course, it was unlikely I would do any certain thing “everyday.” So I left them unchecked. This helped me learn the ways in which I set unrealistic expectations of myself.
There were items I didn’t achieve, but so many amazing things unplanned and offlist. I’m thankful for all the wonderful and unexpected things that happened. They make a life.
Click on through to the jump for my 2011 in review…(it’s long. I figure some people write their Annual Reviews in their holiday cards…I write them on my blog).
Some of the things not on the list that I discovered/achieved/experienced:
- Yoga came into my life, and stayed for good in 2011. I can’t tell you how “allergic” to yoga and its rituals I
wasam–but I found a studio and teacher in Tara Stiles who helped me find a way into this incredible space that makes me feel beautiful. I know that I’ve written about the beneficial relationship between my writing and running before, but yoga–it helps ME. And helping ME in turn, helps my writing. Thank you to NRS who came with me to my first yoga classes of 2011, and who spotted this studio as a way to begin 2011.
Sometimes I go early to class and lay on my mat and stare at the ceiling. I took a picture of the very ceiling when I got particularly early to class one day (no chastising–I turn the ringer off and put my phone away (far away from me) every time but this one time).
- I walked and walked and walked and saw so many things on the ground that I would have missed had I been in a car. Even in Berkeley, where I normally drive, I got out of the car and walked a ton more. I saw couples breaking up. I dodged a zillion dog turds. I saw vultures soaring overhead. I got sunburned. I felt the air on my skin, the ground under my feet.
I got a fitbit. I decided that if I was going to do all this walking in all the cities in which I live, I was going to figure out HOW much walking I was actually doing. This little pedometer/activity tracker device has been an amazing accountability device in my fitness. It’s my goal to walk at least 5 miles a day, and if near the end of the day I see that I’m under goal, I’ll get off the couch and go do something–even if it’s a quick walk around the block, so I can reach goal.
- I lost 10 pounds and went down two dress sizes in 2011. Wow. Because I make it a habit to never put weight loss as a “to do,” this was nowhere on my list of 2011 goals, but there you go.
- For all our years of going to Tahoe, we have never ever kayaked on the lake. This year we did. The change in perspective, let alone the gorgeousness of our surroundings, was amazing.
- On a whim, we hiked a trail we hadn’t hiked in awhile, not since my PFO closure. What could I now do having closed that hole in my heart? The lack of oxygen in my system had me puking at least 14 times up this trail in the past. But this time? I ran up the thing!
Are you beginning to understand why it is I believe the Sierras are one of the most beautiful places on earth?
- After last year’s mega-snows in Tahoe and in NYC…there wasn’t a snowflake to be had in December. In Tahoe, this meant lakes that were usually inaccessible (i.e., tons of snow on their banks, and then several feet of snow on the surface of the frozen lakes) were now free of snow. And trails void of snow–with frozen lakes at the end of them! Which meant a ton of people skating, playing hockey, and just messing around on them. These people included us.
- Ohman. Caffe Intermezzo burned down this year. No more Intermezzo salads with poppy seed dressing.
- The Red Rocks did not burn down. They were prettier than ever.
- In which I could not stop obsessing over Christmas trees sold on sidewalks! I’m a California girl, and I’m used to Christmas trees sold in abandoned corner lots or parking lots.
- Holy crap–SantaCon!
- Listening to Joshua Bell play Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto in D with the New York Philharmonic. The music almost overwhelmed him–but still, it was amazing to hear it live.
- I read at the Sunday Salon Reading Series.
- At the Sunday Salon Reading Series (and at Litquake in San Francisco earlier in the year), I read from my piece (an excerpt from my novel-in-progress) in the Men Undressed anthology. It was pretty neat to see part of my novel in print.
- Autumn. The event of the year.
- I discovered Kalustyan’s. How did I not know about this place sooner?
- Beautiful October days in San Francisco.
- I took a letterpress class with an instructor who was so rigid and
analparticular, I couldn’t stop giggling. Which of course, frustrated her further. Which of course, caused me to giggle further. In sum, I had TONS of fun.
- The Astor Place Cube was “Olek’d!” So glad I ran out to take a picture while it was still Olek’d–because the police took it down a few hours later.
- On a whim, we drove to the Jersey Shore. I know that the Hamptons were on my “to do list” but did you know that I loved the Jersey Shore? And that I think I loved it more than I do the Hamptons? Any place with graffiti this cool is my kind of place…And holy moly! The concept of East Coast beach boardwalks blows my minds. And did you know you have to PAY for beaches on most of the East Coast? On the West Coast, the public beaches are free!And dude. There are church-owned beaches on the East Coast. This blew our minds.
- And how rad was our view of the July 4th fireworks in NYC?
- And how wicked the sunset here?
- Gay marriage was legalized in the state of New York! And we celebrated at Pride!
- OMG, we almost adopted this little chi-weenie called Bentley.
- I witnessed a modeling session on a roof top across the way.
- We discovered why New Yorkers like to brunch. I think it has something to do with mimosas.
- A way inside, but way meaningful, joke. Titan happened this year.
- I looked forward to Autumn in NYC all year long. But guess what? Spring came a damn close second. Holy moly, that was a beautiful and fleeting few weeks of the year.
- Bin Laden was killed. The media frenzy at the WTC was still going strong two days after the announcement.
- My mom and dad came out to visit us in NYC. My dad hadn’t been to NYC since he left town in 1978. I saw the city through his awed eyes–just one more place in his life that has changed so much it’s no longer the place he remembers, no longer a place to which he can return.We went on a tour of their old haunts; reliving their first ten years in the U.S. with my parents was one of the most amazing gifts of 2011, one of the most amazing gifts in my life.
My parents took me to the little pizza slice place I used to visit daily as a young child. I’d always imagined it as a little hole in a window under the train tracks. It was more than a hole in the window, but it was right by the elevated train tracks of the 7.
And guess what? The same proprietor still works there! (His son, who is one year older than me, works the ovens now). My mom, and dad and he took a reunion picture. Amazing.
- I got to the Land’s End Great Gatsby mansion in the nick of time. I saw its skeleton standing in the sky before the final blows tore the structure down. I was so grateful to witness this moment, and to make it part of my own memory. And I am so grateful to my husband for convincing me to trespass under the eye of the security cameras in order to take pictures.
- And confession: I went to three tapings of the Martha Stewart Show this year. Ohboy.
- It’s winter again. And I’m seeing those large winter “horse carrots” in the NYC supermarkets again. Wow.
- The L O S T Smoke Monster lives…in NYC.
- I spotted an urban hawk! I was on the phone, looking absentmindedly out the window in Tribeca. When I spotted it. Several rooftops away. Mr. (or Ms.) Hawk chilled out in the cold winter sun for a good 15 minutes before taking flight.
- One night, coming home from a literary reading, I looked up and saw…a picture of my brother. In an advertisement on the A train. My brother is *not* a professional model. It took all I had to stifle a squeak. The world is so weird. My brother didn’t even know his picture was being used in the advertisements.
- I experienced my first ice storm. It was kind of rad. Especially since I was indoors.
- Snow falling in a city. Quietness. And lots of buried cars.
- This was the moment we drove into NYC in 2011…after a cross country trip in a small car with two wiener dogs, in which we crossed a blizzard and passed 25 spin-outs, we picked up excellent green chile burritos in Albuquerque, drove through mega-steak places in Texas, traveled through New Orleans and Tennessee, stopped at a Waffle House…this is the moment we drove into NYC.
- Ringing in 2012 by having dinner with friends, then rushing home to change into comfy clothes & run out to Times Square just in time to see the apple drop (from the back)…
- A wonderful end-of-year fortune:
And below is the 2011 To Do List…
Get a kickass haircut. Done. Celebrate our 12th wedding anniversary!Yay!
- Kiss my husband every day (when possible, unless he’s traveling).
Cook a dinner for friends.done! it was a beautiful balmy NYC evening in July with a few good friends on the terrace. Make an effort to meet new people. Make at least one new friend.You know who you are. This has been a year of amazing new friendships.
- Maintain good friendships. Send at least one encouraging message to at least one friend each day.
Eat the early girl sun dried tomatoes that are in my freezer.
- Laugh at least once each day.
- Hug someone each day.
Parttake in some fantastic Dominican food.Margot’s in Washington Heights. It’s the only restaurant in NYC who recognizes me as a regular. Great dive. Eat an arepa.Done! Thank you to Saeedfor showing me your favorite arepa resto. 🙂 (don’t worry, I won’t tell). Eat a knish. Amendment: Eat a *delicious* knish done right.Seriously, I have learned that knishes aren’t as good as I wanted them to be. Learn to bake a new pastry/cookie.So um, I thought I was baking a sour cherry pie for the first time here…but apparently, my friend Connie told me I’d baked one before! It was during the year I was recovering from my brain thing/memory problems, does it still count?
- Say yes more often (at least once a week if not more).
Find (and buy) a sundress I love. I found so many! And for the first time in many years, I actually NEED and wear them–everyday. Wear skirts more often (i.e., more than once every 6 months). Pants are impossible in this summer heat. The skirts are happenin’.
- When I’m sad, admit I’m sad.
- Take a ferry around the San Francisco Bay (how is it that I’ve lived in SF for 20 years and never done this)? OMG, I have now lived in SF for 21 years and never done this.
Wave hello to the wild turkeys in Berkeley when they come out. Hello! Listen to Pacific Tree Frogs in Berkeley. *ribbit* Jog/run around the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir in Central ParkThis was one of the best things I did all year. Walk Central Park on a fantastic Narnia-snowy Winter day .Tremendous. Treacherous beauty.
Walk Central Park on a beautiful sunny Spring day. Was beautiful. All the trees in bloom!
Spend a day writing while riding the 7 to/from Queens. Can only do this using a physical notebook + pen. Visit the MoMA Eat at a Momofuku restaurant.Ssam Bar you are brilliant. Eat at a Batali/Bastianich resto.Lupa, you are amazing. Discover an abandoned, secret subway station. Wow, this was anti-climactic. The old City Hall stop at the end of the 6 line exists–but it’s barely visible from the train. But kind of cool. But still a let-down. Learn a new neighborhood in NYC.Tribeca. Then SoHo. Then the East Village. Go to Montauk. I don’t know, I just want to. Especially since I watched “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” Done. It was beautiful. The lighthouse! All the sea creatures on the beach! Visit the Hamptons. Done. Kind of meh. But very pretty.
- Drive up to Vermont for a visit.
Eat a Philly cheesesteak. In Philly. Done. Overrated!
- Visit friends in Boston. My Boston friends are so mad I didn’t make it up there.
- Visit friends in D.C.
- Go to Korea again. Visit Cheonggyecheon and NamDaeMun market.
Visit Europe. London. Paris. (done, July 2011). Maybe Greece. Or Italy again. Or SpainParis and its love affair with smoking:
Landing at Heathrow:
Writing & Fitness:
Get a seat at a Writing Space.
- Keep up a writing routine. I did. But man, this “to do” was so ambiguous. What is a “routine?”
Revise novel. Be super proud of at least 75 pages. I am.
- Channel all my creative reserves into the novel.
Apply to more writing opportunities with great hope.This was harder and easier than I thought it would be. But yes, I applied to more things. For 2 weeks: run/jog/walk every single day. For 6 months: run/jog at least once a week every week.
- Eat more vegetables. Eat at least one protein each day (i.e., break the 100% carb diet). You know what? I like carbs. Screw this to-do!
Hydrate. Drink more water. Drink fewer sodas/sugary drinks. Moisturize.
I’ll have a 2012 List of Things To Do, soon!