IF ONLY by Geri Halliwell

Please note: My “Reading Reflections” are not reviews. They are simply my thoughts in response to certain passages.

If OnlyIn the 6th grade, I heard “Wannabe” on the car radio and asked my mom to turn it up. The lyrics were inane, and yet they also spoke to me on some strange level. I’ll tell you what I want, what I really really want. So tell me what you want, what you really really want. I really really really wanna zig-a-zig-ah! By the end of middle school, my best friend Aisha and I were firmly entrenched in Girl Power. We knew every Spice Girls song by heart (even the B-sides) and we sang them (divvying up the parts) while walking home from school, working at my parents’ office, and playing Nintendo.

Over the years, the Spice Girls changed and matured in many ways — as did I. But in reading Geri Halliwell’s book, I was reminded of how much I’m still that girl striving to reach her dreams. And maybe I always will be.

I drew a lot of comfort from these wannabe musters in dance studios and theater foyers because I knew that I wasn’t alone. If my dream was fruitless and foolish, then a lot of other people had the same problem. We couldn’t all be wrong. (118)

Sometimes it seems like everyone I know wants to be a writer. And sometimes that scares me — like how am I supposed to stand out among this crowd?

But then I remember:

1) Publishing is not a zero-sum game. There’s plenty of pie for everyone.

2) These people are my people. They get me. We’re all dreaming the same dreams, and with each other’s help, we can achieve them.

3) I live in a bubble of my own making. All I need to do is step outside of it — talk to people who have no idea what “pantsing” is or how advances work — and I’ll realize that most people want nothing to do with writing books. Bless them.

(Now if only more people were interested in reading books…)

Not all of my grand plans ended in complete disaster. Each time I seemed to make just enough forward momentum to feel that I was still heading in the right direction. It wasn’t so much a case of one step forward and two steps back. More of treading water and hoping the current would take me where I wanted to go. (125)

I think this is just what progress feels like. An endless road — until suddenly you arrive.

(At least, that’s what I’m hoping/assuming!)

The way I figured it, people fell into three major categories. Those who have little ambition, achieve nothing and complain about what a rough deal they get. Those who are comfortable with their lives and feel no need to rise… And finally, there are people like me — restless dreamers. (160)

Okay, there are probably more than just those 3 categories, but I definitely know people in the first and third groups. And personally, I think the world needs more people in the second.

“You do know what your girl power is, don’t you?”

“It’s tapping into your inner resources to help you achieve your goals. If a girl has brains and femininity and most importantly inner strength and determination then, my dears, she has a very deadly weapon.” (179)

I think this is what the new wave of feminism is about. We’re not telling girls, you have to be this or that. We’re telling girls, you don’t have to be anything. You can be this. Or that. Or this and that. Whatever you want. Whatever makes you you.

And most importantly, we’re not defining a girl’s value through her looks. Or her career. No one thing should define a woman. (Or anyone.) It’s a total package kind of equation.

I’d like to be able to tell them that it all comes down to talent, but that’s not true. And I’d like to be able to say that perseverance inevitably pays off, but that’s not true either.

Nor is it about luck, or lottery tickets. You could be the most talented, most dedicated, luckiest wannabe in the world and still not succeed. In reality, it’s all of these things mixed into a cocktail that is never made the same way twice. (384)

And that, my friends, is the truth. There is no secret recipe. There are only the various ingredients, and your willingness to try combining them time and time again.


Earlier today I tweeted:

It’s true: such a silly little thing thing really can brighten my day. Many of the people I follow on Instagram manage to make their daily meals look like art — just with good lighting, fresh ingredients, and smart composition/framing. Their photos inspire me to eat better, and to appreciate the “mundane beauty” in my life.

cacahuete_sr jelitodeleon lolypopp3

Since we’re already talking about fabulous photography, here are a few more Instagrammers I adore:

ifitwags balletzaida pchyburrs
ariefhaskara arielelasko austinxc04

Dogs, doors, dancers, darling children, and… woodworking. (Okay, I couldn’t make a D out of that one.) It’s amazing what people do out there. Amazing how they see and share their worlds.

By the way, I updated my hand-drawn social media icons to include a link to my own Instagram account, and to show the Twitter bird instead of the “t” (which looked too similar to the Tumblr logo). The new icon line-up makes me so happy! Is it weird how much little details like that can please me?

Stuff worth reading

“The Names They Gave Me” by Tasbeeh Herwees

My mother spits out this last word with venom. Amreekan. Americans. It sounds like a curse coming out of her mouth. Eight years in this country and she’s still not convinced she lives here. She wears her headscarf tightly around her neck, wades across the school lawn in long, floor-skimming skirts. Eight years in this country and her tongue refuses to bend and soften for the English language. It embarrasses me, her heavy Arab tongue, wrapping itself so forcefully around the clumsy syllables of English, strangling them out of their meaning.

“Nobody’s Son” by Mark Slouka

For years I hid my parents in my work. Submerged their names, their lives, in stories. Nobody would know. I let them come closest to the surface in a book called “The Visible World.” Even the title pointed to all that I couldn’t say. Was it cowardice? Decency? All my life, I’ve been better at taking pain than giving it — which suggests a bit of both. Truth brings either freedom or grief, and I didn’t want to risk it. I didn’t want to hurt them. It was just the three of us.

“Inside the Box” by Jessica Olien

Most people agree that what distinguishes those who become famously creative is their resilience. While creativity at times is very rewarding, it is not about happiness. Staw says a successful creative person is someone “who can survive conformity pressures and be impervious to social pressure.”

To live creatively is a choice. You must make a commitment to your own mind and the possibility that you will not be accepted. You have to let go of satisfying people, often even yourself.

An incomplete history of places I’ve called home

This post was inspired by Shari’s “Home Sweet Home.”


A simple brick townhouse at the end of the row. Two stories tall, with a small courtyard and a single-car garage. We had a soft blue sofa against one wall, and a baby grand piano by the window. We kept our pet rabbit in a cage in the kitchen.

I remember sitting in the back of my dad’s study while he worked, reading the 1983 Farmer’s Almanac and declaring Thomas Jefferson my favorite president. I remember the big vanity in my parents’ bedroom where my mom would brush my hair, and I would point out lumps in my ponytail in the mirror. I remember trying to slide down the stairs on my stomach and getting rug burn. I remember looking out my bedroom window and imagining I could fly.


A one-story “ranch” in the back corner of a tree-lined, U-shaped street. (But we don’t call them ranches in Texas, because that term means something else here.) The owner before us was a middle-aged playboy who bricked over the yard so he wouldn’t have to mow. There’s a fireplace in the center of the house, allowing both sides of the living room to enjoy the warmth and the flickering light.

I remember climbing up to the split-level library and sliding the bookcase back to reveal a secret passage to the attic. I remember having a sleepover with three girl friends in middle school, all of us splayed out on the rug underneath the dining table, talking into the late hours of the night. I remember my first boyfriend knocking on my bedroom window, unable to climb in because it had been painted shut. I remember sitting on the roof for hours, singing made-up love songs and writing stories in my journal under the moonlight.


A two-bed, two-bath unit in a condo complex. All the doorknobs, cabinets, and light fixtures are straight out of a builder’s catalog — plain and old-fashioned, but ours. Big sliding glass doors look out over a woody hillside, where deer and squirrels like to pass by. Art adorns every wall, a growing museum of our world travels.

I remember taking couch cushions into the kitchen so I could sleep by Riley’s crate on his first night at home. I remember the excitement of putting our new bed frame together — only to find that we had left a crucial piece back at IKEA. I remember hosting a dinner party for nine of our friends, tables and chairs crammed into whatever space we could find, the air warming with the scent of pheasant and squash, our ears swelling with the sound of voices and laughter.


Over the years I’ve learned: home is just a word, until you fill it with memories.