Have you done absolutely everything you can to reach your dreams?

A few nights ago, I sat in bed working on my laptop while Andy and Riley slept soundly next to me. That night, “working” meant catching up on a bunch of reading I had been putting off, including this 2-part personal essay by wide receiver Andrew Hawkins. (Formerly with the Cincinnati Bengals, currently with the Cleveland Browns.)

You guys, this essay wrecked me. I sat there in the dark, tears streaming down my face, sympathizing with every struggle, every doubt, every hope in Andrew Hawkins’s words. Because I have felt those exact same things on my writing journey. I still feel them. I’m still striving.

In spite of his talent and his drive, Andrew Hawkins was too short. Too small. He had to find unique opportunities for himself — or make them. He caught a couple good breaks, but a lot of bad ones too. Two steps forward, one step back. For years. But he didn’t quit. He had faith and patience. Perseverance. Passion. Now he’s finally where he wants to be, and it means everything to him.

It means a lot to me too, to read about it, because his story basically asks, Have you done absolutely everything you can to reach your dreams? I want my answer always and forever to be yes.

Part 1: “Coming Up Short”

What would you do if someone told you couldn’t have the life you wanted? What lengths would you go to to prove people wrong and live your dream?

Part 2: “Whatever It Takes”

It was creeping up on the fall of 2011, almost four years since I stood on that scale at 161 pounds and told myself I could make a run at the NFL, and I was back to square one without an NFL contract. I didn’t even last one day in the league. And during my pursuit of that dream, life started happening around me. My girlfriend was pregnant. Now, with a baby boy on the way, it wasn’t just about me.

I still cry before every game. I wish I could put those feelings into words, but I can’t. As the tears run down my face, I think of everywhere I’ve been, everything I’ve overcome and everything God has brought me through. Now, I’m able to provide for my son in a way I never thought I could. Despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles, despite the impossible odds, I achieved my dream.

Week in review (Feb 3, 2015)

As an experiment, I’m doing away with the bullet points, even though they’re like a security blanket for me. “Oh, this is just a list, not a real blog post.” But what does that even mean, lol? What’s a fake blog post? And why do I have to take everything so seriously?


Like Jane the VirginTransparent jumped to the forefront of my attention after its Golden Globes wins. I binge-watched all ten episodes on Sat, Jan 24, thanks to Amazon making them free to stream for that day. (Normally the series is only available to Amazon Prime members.) And just so you know that I’m not a total slug: I was cleaning while I watched.

Transparent felt like an HBO show to me — a bit like Girls, actually — in the sense that it’s well-written, well-acted, and well-produced, but not something that would probably appeal to the mainstream. Not because the topic is niche (though I suppose some would argue that it is…) but rather because the tone of the show just isn’t easy to swallow. It’s a dark comedy (meaning there’s humor, but not the kind that makes you laugh out loud) starring a fairly “unlikable” family. They’re all messed up and abrasive, and they make a lot of bad decisions.

That said, you do sympathize with them, because they love each other, and they’re doing the best they can. The acting is excellent, and there’s interesting storytelling at work too. Flashbacks that parallel the present storyline, or enhance it with revelations. Unreliable narration, or arguably magical realism, depending on your interpretation. Also, the sets are kind of old-timey and gorgeous.

For the most part I do enjoy the show, but I wish there were at least a couple well-adjusted characters. Partly because it would just be a nice contrast, but mostly because I worry about the (false) implication that a trans person can’t have a “normal” family. That by being trans — even (or especially) when she was closeted — Maura irrevocably damaged the people who she loves. I know that isn’t what Transparent is trying to say, but I fear that (so far) the show is sort of saying it anyway.

Krohn Conservatory

On the same day that I was streaming Transparent, an old friend came into town, so I took a break and we went to see the Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired garden show at Krohn Conservatory. It was small, but smelled amazing. Wasn’t too bad to look at, either.

Small but beautiful exhibit at Krohn Conservatory, inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright.

A photo posted by Kristan (@kristanhoffman) on

Note to self: Get a plant. Something green and alive to freshen up your home.

MV5BMTI0NjEwNDgwOV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwOTI1NTA3._V1_SX640_SY720_Mona Lisa Smile

Believe it or not, I’ve never seen Dead Poets Society, but I know the gist of it, and I’m pretty sure Mona Lisa Smile is the female version. Forward-thinking teacher inspires brilliant but hesitant young minds? Check!

Personally, I very much enjoyed the movie and its overtly feminist messaging. I also liked the entire cast, including the somewhat divisive Julia Roberts. (You either think she’s gorgeous or has a toothy horse face. I am in the former group.)

There aren’t any surprises in this movie, but that’s okay. It’s about character. My favorite moment, hands down, is when a heartbroken Betty (Kirsten Dunst) viciously lashes out at Giselle (Maggie Gyllenhaal) for being a slut with daddy issues, and Giselle just gathers her screaming, crying friend into her arms, and they hold each other.


Usually Andy and I just play flag football from Sep to Nov, but this year the team wanted to try a few other sports in addition. Right now it’s broomball, which is like hockey without skates. And “brooms” instead of sticks. And a ball instead of a puck.

orange iguanas broomball

Yeah, it’s weird. But also surprisingly fun!

Writer Unboxed & the Super Bowl

Speaking of sports… Since my latest Writer Unboxed post fell on Super Bowl Sunday, I decided to spotlight 3 football players and share what I’ve learned from them about pursuing dreams.

“Talent, Perseverance, and Hard Work: Lessons on Writing from Football”

Fred Jackson may never end up in the Hall of Fame, but he’s got heart and soul, and he’s the reason I fell in love with football again. Although the odds of him making it to the NFL seemed grim, he had faith in himself, and passion for the sport. He is living his dream because he looks at every step of the process as an opportunity to improve and impress.

That’s the kind of writer I want to be.

Thanks, Mom

My mother (right) and her sister, in Taiwan.

I’ve written about my mother many times. Today I’m going to borrow other people’s words.

From Heather Armstrong’s recent post:

I am successful because my mother showed me how it is done. She invested herself in me, and I owe her everything. I hope that she knows that I knew what she was doing. I knew that she cared and wanted me to learn how to work, how to be generous, how to be loyal. She is the reason I know how and where inside myself to dig deep. I was paying attention. I recognize the tireless campaigner she was on my behalf.

From Kevin Durant’s MVP speech (which you really should watch, with tissues handy):

“And last, my mom. I don’t think you know what you did. … You’re the real MVP.”

Michelle Kwan and the importance of mirrors

They say that when you’re a child, the world is a mirror. What you see becomes part of your identity, just like a reflection.


I don’t think I can explain how meaningful it was to be a half-Asian girl growing up in the Michelle Kwan era.

Yes, there was Kristi Yamaguchi before that, and yes, she had an impact too. I was just 6 years old when Kristi won her gold medal, but I remember the excitement in people’s voices when they talked about her performances. And I remember feeling an instinctive pull toward her, a kinship based solely on the fact that we were both Asian. Not even the same kind of Asian, but who else did I have to choose from?

When I was growing up, there were not many famous people who looked like me. Not on television or in movies, not on the radio, and not in magazines. That’s why Kristi Yamaguchi made such an impression on me. That’s why the Joy Luck Club  became one of my favorite books. That’s why my friends and I watched Mulan over a dozen times.

Suddenly the world really was a mirror. One that I hadn’t even known I needed.

Suddenly I could see myself.

And for ten of my most formative years, Michelle Kwan held that mirror right up to my face and said, “You can do amazing things.” She was strong and elegant, kind and ambitious. She was hard-working and accomplished in an artistic field, one that garnered worldwide respect. If you think it’s a coincidence that there are so many young Asian-American women competing in figure skating today, then you’re delusional. Michelle revealed a new path that was open to us — and in doing so, made us wonder what other paths might be possible.

Part of the reason I love sports — and the Olympics in particular — is because they showcase the skills and achievements of all sorts of people from all walks of life. Children around the world can see athletes who look like them, or come from similar backgrounds, representing their countries, showing good sportsmanship to their competition, and maybe even taking home a medal. It’s inspiring in so many different ways.

True, we still have a long way to go before we reach fair representation in most fields — especially business, entertainment, and government — and even many sports have their skews. But every couple of years, when I watch each country enter the arena for the Parade of Nations, with athletes and coaches proudly waving and following their flag, I’m reminded that the mirrors do exist, and the reflections are only getting clearer over time.

Moms are the best (Or: A brief scene from Friday Night Lights that brought me to tears)

First, a very relevant shout-out to my mother: Happy birthday, Mom! Thanks for always supporting me in the pursuit of my dreams.

After a series of controversies, Dillon Panthers star running back Smash Williams finds himself without a scholarship. Which means he can’t afford to go to college. Coach Taylor lines up one last opportunity, but Smash isn’t sure he’s going to take it.

Smash: Hey, I’m not going to the walk-on next week.
Mrs. Williams: What?
Smash: Alamo Freeze made me an offer. They want me to be a regional manager. It’s a good job, and I can help you —
Mrs. Williams: Alamo Freeze? Hell no.
Smash: Well look, I decided. And I’m gonna tell Coach tomorrow.
Mrs. Williams: All you’re gonna tell Coach is thank you. After all that man has done for you? He could have lost his job, Brian.
Smash: This is not how it was supposed to be. I mean, I was supposed to buy you a house.
Mrs. Williams: I did not have kids to buy me a house. What is wrong with you?
Smash: I’ve done everything right. I’ve done everything I was supposed to do, and it’s still not enough.
Mrs. Williams: And you’re gonna keep doing things right. That’s what makes you a man. The son I raised is a man. So you’re going to that tryout, and you’re going to play like God made you to, and you are going to go to that college.
Smash: What if I don’t take your help?
Mrs. Williams: Oh, you’re gonna take my help. I am your mother. Maybe you’ll get the scholarship, but if you don’t, I am going to help you. You let me be your momma. That is my job.