Thursday, August 2, 2012

Priorities and Value.

I remember one of the first times I earned a scholarship. I had an actual interview with a Vietnamese newspaper and one of the words I threw into my beauty pageant answers of how I became dedicated and hardworking was the fact that my values steered me there. It made the interviewer pause, and ask "You mentioned values, exactly what values did you mean?" I racked my brain -- thinking of all the stock answers one would say. I could not even think of the stock answers. Instead I said I could not articulate in words what values I was lead by.

 I think after hearing the words for years during my life I still haven't been able to pin it down until my time here at Chevron. It's continually drilling and chipping away more and more at the question of "What value is this activity providing?" and "Do I really need to do this?" So asking those questions repeatedly has made me finally pull back the curtain to the mysterious nature of this word. I ask every day at work: what is the HIGHEST value thing I could be doing with my time? What return am I providing to people based on the actions that I perform? And I often find that it steers me down the right path as I find that my efforts are being driven by history, by thinking that busy'ness is the same as value-adding.

It was a rude awakening when I realized it was not. Something that really pushed me to understand the value I provide was the 200 word summary that I needed to provide to my boss to represent me in a mid-year ranking process. At first I could not understand and resisted the activity, but while doing it, I realized I spent the majority of my efforts on the wrong things. It was disheartening but a tough and necessary lesson learned. And applying it to my personal life I realized the glut of reminders on my phone and to do list kept me in the past with the priorities of yesterday, and not with the changing climate of now. I need to constantly re-calibrate and re-assess where I should be headed. What was valuable yesterday is not valuable today, and I need to be okay with the dropped priorities of yesterday.

My priorities of today are Fitness, Career, Family, Friends, Finances, Partner, Photography, Mental Health, Experiences, and Adult Skills.

I must say instead of looking at the categories I'm not achieving the progress that I want, I'll highlight where I'm moving the needle because it is hard for me to give credit when it is due to myself.

In regards to Fitness I have been doing so well. I think a large part of that is because so much of my esteem is tied to how I feel physically and mentally. And when a hard day's work just grinds at me mentally, I feel that at the very least I need to keep my physicality in line. And I have been. With the combination of my slow carb diet and my 2 body blast sessions per week, and signing up for the 10k, I've been on the mend. I am seeing stomach muscles I haven't seen before and I find that I am not terribly sore (in the incapacitated sense), only in the mild sense.

In terms of adult skills - I've moved into my own place and navigated the whole process of selecting my apartment, finding a roommate, signing a contract with an electric company, applied/got approved for my first credit card, signing a contract with an internet company, and really ironing out all of the details in between. I'm a bit more domesticated and I like it and I'm proud of myself now that I think about it. -pat on the back-

I may not be moving the needle in all of the other categories, but I'm a work in progress. I need to set goals but I completely understand that these goals will change over time.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

New Eating Habits.

The hardest path I've taken in my life has been of fitness and getting in shape. I've been fighting for SO LONG. I think this past year I've let it knock me down a few times too many. But I feel like with this new development (that I'm about to share no worries) I finally am achieving sustainable progress.

So my friend Aarron and I met for lunch and he mentioned his new diet that he has been doing for around 6 months called the Slow Carb diet or the 4 Hour Body.

It was written by Tim Ferriss and actually one of his books is in my closet so he's a familiar name to me. However, his familiarity only ranges as far as working from home (his book was called the 4 Hour Workweek) and I shared a bit of skepticism when I thought about Tim becoming a food and health expert or guru.

After listening to Aarron's testimonial AND reading the book for myself and looking through the scientific research to see if I was just jumping on a fad diet that could adversely affect me, I decided, hey, this could be for me.

So here I am, the beginning of my 3rd week and I really like it. The essence of the plan is to go back to the basic foods that humans need to live. Neanderthals lived off of vegetables and meat basically. Tim espouses that one doesn't need to eat a diet rich with variety but one needs to eat what the body considers to be healthy. With the advent of processed food starting around the 1950's, the perception of what is normal has changed. It is 'normal' to have sugar laden foods and extremely processed foods. He espouses there are 3 main groups of food one needs: vegetables, proteins, and legumes. A cool note: these can be eaten in any quantity. Seriously. So no portion control here. However, any flour foods (even whole wheat), dairy, or fruit should be avoided in order to prevent intake of gluten (which your body may perceive as a threat) or sugar (to prevent wild fluctuations with blood sugar).

It has been hard but knowing that every Saturday is my 'cheat' day has made it all worthwhile. I can eat anything on Saturday, so when I get cravings (and boy do I get many), I write them down and go wild and shop for those foods/eat out to savor them in my tummy.

I am proud of the many opportunities I would have normally gave in to eat things. I am hoping to document these to give me inspiration since it is certainly difficult since we live in a flour/sugar intensive world and I've grown up with it for so long.

*My coworker and I went to the Mmm Cupcake truck during lunch and I accompanied her while she bought a dozen and even bought one for me too. I told her I would save mine for Saturday and so I watched all of my coworkers eat cupcakes while I supported them and knew that in 4 days I would have my own form of heavenly food nirvana.
*In the kitchen, my brother and I keep food near the fridge and every morning I see his loaf of bread, his brownies, his granola bars, and everything I can not have 6/7 days of the week. It kills me and it's torture, but I have abstained from stealing his stash.
*In the freezer, there is ice cream, breakfast sandwiches, eggo waffles, and so much food that I want to eat yet I have chosen not to.
*At Jason's deli I have successfully said no to the free corn bread, ice cream and gingerbread muffins.
*At the Astros game, there was a free buffet and I could not eat the philly cheesesteak, pizza, hot dogs, or quesadillas. Instead I had philly steak meat only, guacamole, peanuts, vegetables, salad, and even had to turn away the AMAZING dessert cart with cakes, cookies, and brownies.
*When Catherine and I got dumplings, I ordered dumplings and did not eat the flour casing. Instead I ate the pork inside and lots of vegetables on the side that I ordered.

And the list goes on. Going home to my parents' was interesting. I told my parents and they thought it was SO WEIRD. I understand. It was hard since Vietnamese food has lots of sugar and flour. I don't want them to feel like I'm rejecting a part of my culture or them as people who show love with food. But at the end of the day, I have to monitor what I put in my body and as much as anyone loves me, there's no one but myself to explain for my health and fitness. I only have that accountability. So this is what makes me comfortable. Although it's been really hard to say no to all those DELICIOUS things, I focus on the results I've gained already. I feel self-control, not bloated, not lethargic, full of more energy, and I've lost weight/inches already. I am excited about foods when it is Saturday and have an action plan forward that for now, makes sense. I really feel like I'm being set up for success. :)

Bring on the rest of week 3! I'll take it day by day. This Saturday my wish list is brownies, Taco Bell Doritos Taco, and the Wendy's Spicy Chicken guacamole sandwich. :) Mmmm. Hope you stay with me on my health journey.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

2011 in Review.

This has been an amazing year! I completed a lot of milestones this year and am currently undergoing some transitions. I went through a lot of tough times and gained tons of experience in the process. I feel like I'm growing and that I've matured since last year.

Here are my end of year highlights of 2011 after much deliberation:
-Participated in my first Triathlon Sprint on May 28th and getting 4th in my age group (despite there only being 4 in my age group, haha).
-Running 3 miles continuously.
-Joined a gym in October and committing to working out since then.
-Limited alcohol intake to 1x a month starting in September.
-Traveled to China for 2 and a half weeks. Meeting amazing people. Seeing amazing things. Eating delicious food. Shanghai. Yangtze River. Xi'an. Beijing. Hong Kong!
-Back on the dating wagon.
-Finally tried gymnastics classes.
-Completed 2 hip hop classes. :)
-Finished my undergraduate career.
-Garnered a Bachelor's of Business Administration in Management Information Systems.
-Took a course in Wine Appreciation as a senior and feeling completely comfortable with wine now.
-Started full-time employment in the Program Management Office at Chevron.
-Hosted 2 Project Managers meetings.
-Received my first performance review.
-Aired out some tough topics with my parents.
-Got closer with my best friends.

Sigh. A new year is upon us. More introspection about what I aim for in the future to come. :)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Running Up That Hill.

Inspired by the Placebo cover of Kate Bush's song, Running up that Hill.

So I hit a milestone (hooray!) and I wanted to share!

I remember my nights of diligence in the garage at my parents' home, running on the treadmill. I remember thinking that 20 minutes of continuous running was a great accomplishment. It was, no doubt! But at that point, I thought that was the holy grail.

Especially since previous to high school, fitness and myself were like oil and water. Despite my lack of endurance and strength, it didn't register with me that I should be remotely concerned. I looked great. I learned a lesson the hard way: looks can deceive. My cholesterol started running a bit high; my stamina left much to be desired; I could pass as average, but I knew I was not 'fit'.

This was a hard lesson learned, especially since my knowledge did not immediately translate to living a fit, healthy, active lifestyle. Awareness wasn't enough, sadly.

Enter the point where I learned about marathons, ultramarathons, and the Ironman. I fell in love with the idea that a human being could push their bodies to this limit. It begs the question, what is the limit for any other context? Does it actually exist or is it a figment of society's imagination? There's too much proof in the pudding to allow a person of such mental fiber to be brought down by much. That's exactly the kind of experience I'm looking for.

So, I knew I wanted it. I've officially communicated my desire to do an Ironman with many of my friends. They know. I know. So now what?


I let things languish a bit, I admit. I'm back on track though. Joined the gym at my work. Quit eating up my excuses to not work out (it's dark outside, too tired, want to be home and relax, need more space, not motivated, etc) and overlapped the convenience factor with having the luxury of zero minutes of driving time, great equipment to use at my disposal, being able to take a shower right afterwards and having motivation next to me in the form of my fellow coworkers sweating it out too. :)

I've officially reached the point where I can comfortably jog 3 miles straight. That in itself, is a huge milestone for me. Running a mile straight was a huge milestone I hit when I could consistently do it, only starting a few years ago in college. But I know that I have a long journey to go to be Ironman ready. This keeps me motivated.

I feel like I finally have a foothold. I have something to be extremely proud of! I'm not letting this momentum go. I usually sabotage myself, right when I have a lot of progress.

I feel really good about being able to run 3 miles continuously. I think it'll transition well to increasing my speed (currently I'm all about completing, and running at a pretty slow pace to manage that). Also, this keeps me motivated to move forward with getting off the treadmill and attempting real life terrain where it'd be much more difficult with hills, humidity, and actual movement (much harder than the flat, predictable, steady surface of a treadmill). In the mean time, I can increase my incline, increase my volume, increase my speed, vary my tempo/pace, improve my form, test out different strategies to keep me motivated, and to always be evolving.

I won't diminish my accomplishment by qualifying it with how I need to make it better. I know that I'm lapping everyone on the couch. I'm well aware of those amazing individuals who have built volume over the years to complete marathons. I love them. I WILL be one of them. In the mean time, I definitely will bask in my huge win. Very big step that shows me I've come sooo far, and have lots of momentum and self-love on my side to keep me going.


Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Spark.

In my previous post, the gentleman I referred to I later learned to have a girlfriend.

Of course I was deeply saddened. I like to say I have great intuition but sometimes I learn that my predictions are far from the truth.

I have two more tales I want to share of recent experiences where I felt that magical 'spark' with someone. Despite what happens, if anything, in the future, I just have to note these as being joyful experiences. When I spark with someone, my mind starts to travel at the speed of light, and the possibilities just seem... endless. I have an appreciation for these moments in and of themselves, and I thank these individuals. If anything, I'll have the memory.

So story #1. Ah. So, I bought my dad a flying lesson for his birthday and it turns out he is terrified of flying in planes. For the record, he hid this fear very well. :) So here I am, stuck with an awesome gift. I could have given it to someone else, shopping it around until someone desired it. But in life there are no victims, just volunteers, so I decided you know what, I want to fly a plane! :) I know. Didn't think this day would come. So after making reservations, I arrive on the day of, not wanting to come because it was very out of my comfort zone. Yikes. I walk in the door and after some preliminary introductions, I discover that instructor is 21 but has 3 years of experience. He seemed very professional (stiff) at first, and as we talked more and more, he opened up to me and shared some pretty funny stories about flying and being called 'White Trailer Trash' from someone at Walmart. He told me he started flying at such a young age, 18, and 3 years later, moved thousands of miles away from home in Michigan to start this career. He was very charming and although I was nervous and my palms were sweating at the prospect of flying a plane in the air, he calmed me down considerably with his easy going demeanor. He was one of those individuals that is really a pleasure to talk to with such an interesting story.

Tale #2. Sigh. I'm at the UNICEF hunger banquet and talent show. I was standing in line, and remembered that this is my domain. So I felt very comfortable and using the convenience of proximity I asked the person nearest me, what their name was. From there, someone chimed in that I was one of the previous Presidents of UNICEF. I of course, had to ask a particular question. He sold me when he told me the reason why he loved UNICEF. His answer seemed very sincere, and it sounded like it came from his heart. He spoke up an upbringing in Venezuela and soccer games that used rocks instead of balls. It broke my heart, but it of course made my heart smile at what it's catalyzed him to do. Throughout the night I witnessed him garner more donations from individuals from table to table. It was sincere the way he asked, and being in his shoes, I have to say, it is an extremely hard thing to do. When I chatted with him before I left, I was sold and blown away by his charisma, character, and charm. I don't often say this about people, but I met a shining star that night. I hope he becomes the President of UNICEF in the future.

And these are 2 people that made me forget about the concept of time. Very happy moments in my life. I feel blessed that I'm alive and I'm able to have these moments.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Thrill.

Song of the moment: Calvin Harris & Deadmau5 - I'm Not Alone.

I recognize the name, and I hesitate as I consider whether I should go down to lunch with my friends or work some more.

Leap of faith. I feel like my life is comprised of these.

So I go downstairs.

Downstairs, I meet my friends and another whom I've met before but only in name. I recognize the name because I had it in my phone. Let me explain.

I remember I met him briefly when my friend from out of town came in for training and invited all of his new friends out. I chatted everyone up, and that's why I couldn't recall his face or anything about him. I do remember his gracious offer of answering any questions via email. I never took him on the offer but I read his name week after week after week in my iPhone notes while I waited for the stars to align. They did, and my offer came eventually.

So there he was. We had lunch and I kept asking myself how could I forget such a remarkable and funny person. He kept making offhand quips that I couldn't help but laugh so hard at.

I kept asking myself... who is this?!

I left late today, and everyone on my MS Lync had logged off. It was just me and an empty floor. I felt super relaxed and confident in my comfortable heels. Great $25 buy btw. As I got off the escalator and was about to walk through the elevator banks, I saw a guy in blue up ahead. Normally, I'd glance and be distracted, but I was so focused on my calm that I didn't care.

I noticed though, that the figured stopped and stared. That's the universal body language of recognition. I looked at him, and I smiled at the odds. It was him. We walked and talked to the parking garage about being lost and feeling intelligent, but I just felt like, tough day aside, he really made my day. :) Sigh. It's been a while since I've felt the thrill, but I'm glad it's back, however long it decides to stay.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

New Things.

I'm been proud of myself for pushing it to the next level.

I remember just 2 months ago, I felt like I hit a low point in my life.

I've bounced back and I feel great.

Things have been tough no doubt, but there have been more steps forward, by far.

Let me count the ways.

*I finally tried a Hip Hop class. It turned out to be Advanced (LOL), but I stuck it out, and found new respect for dancers of all kinds. I appreciate the talent and think if I focus on ways to improve my relationship with the choreography and memorizing it, I'll be ace.

*I signed up for 5 weeks of gymnastics classes. Week 1 was brutal, and I felt sooo out of my element. I received claps for a half-cartwheel. Hell, it's certainly better than before I stepped in so I'm thankful for that. I'll keep at it. The other people in my class are fearless animals. I say animals, because they tear up and jump around like there's no tomorrow. It's beautiful. I told my mom about my gymnastics endeavors and she asked if I was too old for that. I replied, no, it's never too late to learn. :) I really mean it, for everyone.

*Waking up at 11am no longer seems impossible on the weekend. After the conditioning from waking up early for work, I've finally been able to feel my body responding and waking up on its own accord. This is a pretty big deal.

*I've started a new time management initiative, and although I can't vouch for its success yet, I can say it's new and I feel excited about it. I'm using a Tickler File and created some rules for Outlook thus far. There's more to come but for now, it's working out. I've done a lot of things I've put off for so long.

*At Viv's bday I tried interesting meat for dinner. Apparently I had some thymus gland and I had blood sausage. LOL.

*I've been running with some amount of regularity as I charge up to train for the Ironman. I'm getting my training wheels on, and it's been intense as I realize how far my body has to go to be prepared for this ~17 hour journey. A body performs for 10-17 hours on race day, but how many hours does it take to get to that point? We don't see that, but we can 'see' it on race day. I am finding enjoyment in the movement and I can see changes in my stamina and my body. It's wonderful. I think about the catalyst, my blood pressure reading in early 2011 and how much that pushed me to change my life.

*I finally got to see my hero Deadmau5 in concert. It was my bday present to Sareee, and I know she loved it. :) We got to go to the general admission area and all was good. I was so in the moment and those are the times I'll remember most besides the tapper gentleman that we met. I swear those times were so spiritual and Madonna's album title comes to mind... there were definitely confessions on that dancefloor.

*Houston Wine Festival was great to attend now that I feel confident and comfortable with wine. :) Enjoyed the Eiswein and some others that I wrote down in my handy-dandy wine notebook. Just last semester, I was confused about nearly all things wine. Now I've come so far.

*I saw that there would be a contemporary dance concert at Miller Outdoor theater and I had such a great time with Freddy watching those talented dancers. The suit dance was so angular, sneaky, feisty, and sharp. Love. And the b-boy ending really affirmed my love and appreciation for hip hop. So supremely talented. I wish I had taken dance throughout my childhood. It's not too late, but it just makes me think, where have you been all my life? :) It felt so adult and carefree to enjoy my night with a friend, basking in the breeze and wonderful performances of these visionaries. All for free. Wow. Houston is awesome.

*I finally posted my first China album to Facebook and I'm proud of myself. It takes a lot of work to channel creative energy into something for an extended period of time. I took more than 6,000 photos, so the final 700 (who knows the amount) or so photos I showcase is a result of this distillation.

*I've seen a lot of documentaries online and it's been a bit therapeutic for me at times. Sometimes, it's awfully depressing, boring, and one-sided. BUT for the most part, I feel enlightened, and feel like I'm being offered an opinion that I could think about in my own mind. I find it valuable because I'm looking for the truth, and I know that if I can't experience it firsthand, it could be good to start here. It's not perfect, it is biased by the director, and all hands that touch it, but it's a start.

*Clothes just fit better. They do. When they fit better, and when I wear better clothes, I feel better about what I'm wearing and I have become even more beautiful. I hope that it reflects the person I am inside. Confident, feminine, and different.

*I've been able to listen to music more. :) My music initiative has been progressing and I've listened to Alexisonfire - Old Crows, Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz!, and Incubus - If Not Now, When?. In the queue are albums from Thrice, Imogen Heap, Rx Bandits and more. I'm so excited and stoked that YouTube makes all music accessible. Wow, I'm so blessed to live in such an amazing world.

Overall, I conduct my life according to the principle of trying to do the right thing. "If I see it, I own it" has been replaying in my head as a mantra. I am positive and happy for where I'm going, and have maintained my spirit and freedom by trying new things, learning loads, giving back to those around me, and saving up for travel, appreciation for others, and investments in myself. It's been THRILLING. I love the post-grad life.