Using my right brain- exploring the arts

This week has given me a couple opportunities to explore the arts.

Yesterday I watched my friend Ben perform in the CCSF jazz band’s spring concert. It was my first time at the CCSF campus and it felt good to feel the comforting energy of a college campus. When I walked into the Diego Rivera Theatre I noticed that no one in the audience was on their phones; everyone was enjoying the music. So I put my phone away and enjoyed the music too.

Screen Shot 2019-05-09 at 1.02.40 AM

that’s my friend Ben on piano on the very left


Tonight I went with my friends Deborah and Richard to my first figure drawing class. There was a nude model and everything. It was at 23rd Street Studio.

It’s actually pretty cool to see how I got better with time. It was a 3 hour session and the duration of each pose the model held increased, so I was able to get more detailed with the last couple poses (20 minutes each, as opposed to the first couple at 7 minutes).

What I appreciated most about each of these experiences was the chance to unplug. No phones, no talking. Just enjoying the art, both as an audience member and as a participant.


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2018, in review.

Wow, I can’t believe I didn’t post in here for an entire year. There are many topics I want to write about, many half-written blurbs sitting in my drafts folder. Will 2019 be the year I write more? Maybe, maybe not. But I’m overdue for the color-coded recap of 2018, so here it goes.

Let’s start with the summary chart of the last 3 years:

screen shot 2019-01-17 at 1.00.32 am

To summarize, socializing with friends increased, while socializing with family and coworkers decreased, as did days spent on extracurriculars or on traveling. I am (pleasantly) surprised that the socializing with friends increased in 2018, and somewhat surprised that socializing with family decreased, considering that having a baby might mean that I have less time for friends and spend more time with family. Interesting that that’s not exactly what happened. And as expected, I dedicated much less of my free time to coworkers, extracurriculars, or traveling.

Out of 365 days in 2018:

Green- “spending time with friends”

188 days/ 365 = 52%
(in 2017 it was 162 days or 45%)

Wow, I would have totally guessed that I would spend less time with friends this year, and I can’t believe I spent even more time with friends considering I had a baby this year. When I look at whose names are highlighted green, I notice one name in particular, one of my best friends who I spent a lot of time with this year for two reasons: she moved close to me, and I wanted to spend more time with her. Overall, the names in green are mostly the same small set of names repeated- the same list from 2017, in fact- my close friends in San Francisco and a few in the east bay who I spent a lot of time with. I did not spend much time with acquaintances this year.

Red- “spending time with family”

81 days/ 365 = 22%
(in 2017 it was 95 days or 26%)

It’s surprising that my time with family dropped last year, considering we had the baby. I can imagine a few reasons for this though. One is that my sister moved out of state, and another is that often when my parents came to visit the baby, I would leave the house to take advantage of the babysitting, so I didn’t count those days as family time. We also didn’t go on a two week vacation last year like we did the year before.

Yellow- “spending time with coworkers”

13 days/ 365 = 4%
(in 2017 it was 25 days or 7%)

As I predicted a year ago, I’m not surprised that this dropped, and in fact I’m surprised that I even spent 13 evenings with coworkers. I spend much less time socializing after work with my current coworkers than I did at my previous company. That being said, I still love my job. And I still socialize with coworkers from my old company, but now those guys are in the green category as friends.

Orange- “extracurricular activities”

3 days/ 365= 1%
(in 2017 it was 26 days or 7%)

Wow, this one really dropped. But I expected this. This year I resigned from both my previous extracurricular activities- I resigned from the school board I was on, and I did not take on a new Women in Management group at Stanford. My main extracurricular was volunteering with Crisis Text Line, which I didn’t do as much as I would have liked. I hope I can take on more shifts this year. I did attend an event with the founder of Crisis Text Line and it reaffirmed my desire to be a part of the organization– Nancy Lublin is an inspirational leader and I would follow her.

Purple- “out of town vacations”

5 out of town weekends out of 52 = 10%
(in 2017 this was 20 weekends or 38%)

30 out of town days out of 365 = 8%
(in 2017 this was 81 days or 22%

Wow, this section is definitely the one that took the biggest hit. And I’m not surprised. I didn’t travel at all the couple months preceding or right after having a baby, and having a baby definitely hampers your ability to go on quick jaunts out of town.

Looking at the trips I did go on, I am proud that we were able to go to two out-of-town weddings with the baby, and I also am happy that I got to go on two trips by myself without the baby.

In terms of how I predict these numbers changing for 2019, I expect green to remain high (I naturally prioritize seeing friends), red to stay the same (seeing family), hopefully purple will go up (I didn’t travel the last couple months of my pregnancy and the first couple months after having a baby, but I hope we can be more adventurous this year). I expect yellow will stay the same (I like my job but I don’t want to spend many evenings or weekends with my coworkers) but I would like to see orange go up a bit (get more involved with a couple extracurricular activities that I can do on an ad hoc basis).

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2017, in review. now with YOY change.

Time to review my 2017. Here’s last year’s post about 2016.

Life Highlights: The three biggest things that happened to me in 2017 were starting a new job, losing my last biological grandparent, and an exciting personal development. Everything else was pretty stable, which is nice.

Progress toward Goals: I did not accomplish the goals I set out for myself last year. Boo. More on that later.

Just like previous years, I chronicled and color coded who I spent time with every day on evenings and weekends:

my 2017 on a page

my 2017 on a page

Total time spent socializing with friends + family + coworkers =282 days/365= 77%

(^ up from 269 days/ 74% last year) (nerd alert: 5% YOY increase)

Green “spending time with friends”: 162 days/365 = 45%
(^ up from 149 days/ 41% last year) (nerd alert: 9% YOY increase)
The change is due in part to people from the Yellow “coworkers” category moving to Green “friends” category either when they left my old job or when I left my old job, since I still spend a lot of time with several of them (hi Ben and Zach) but no longer as “coworkers.”

Last year I wrote that I was happy with who and how often I spent time with, as I focused more on close friendships rather than maintaining a broad network. As I look at the greens this year, seeing the names of close friends makes me really happy again. I think I was extra picky about who I spent time with, and again prioritized time with close friends over maintaining a broad network or meeting new people. Most of the greens are with the same people on repeat- my close friends in SF (Jess, Surbh, Deb, Ben, and Zach) a couple friends in the east bay (Rex and Brendan), and others who we don’t see as often but still love spending time with when they’re available.
Even though I’m happy I got to spend so much time with these lovely people, 45% does seem high. That means almost every other day I was seeing a friend. Which doesn’t surprise me, but particularly in the context of not moving forward on some of my personal projects, it’s definitely a clear indicator of how I prioritize my time.

Red “spending time with family”: 95 days/365 = 26%
(^ up from 73 days/ 20% last year) (nerd alert: 30% YOY increase)
It’s fun to look at all the red highlights and know that I spent so much time with family. The reds this year were primarily with my parents and sister, including a two week vacation we all took together. My in-laws also visited us for a week and we visited them for a week. We also visited Boston three times this year which gave us more opportunities to spend time with family.

Yellow “spending time with coworkers”: 25 days/365= 7%
(˅ down from 47 days/ 13% last year) (nerd alert: 47% YOY decrease)
I am not surprised I’m spending less time with coworkers since 1) I’m at a less social workplace now, and 2) as stated in the Green category- I still spend a lot of time with some of my old coworkers but that time is now Green instead of Yellow.

I am lucky that I made some great friends at my old job that I’m still close with. It was a special place to work. I’m also happy that I’m spending less time with “coworkers” and more time with “ex-coworkers turned friends.” Even though I miss having a more social workplace, I think there are benefits to feeling less pressure to go out after work, and I have plenty of other things to do in the evenings. Pretty amazingly, in last year’s post I wrote “In 2017 I’ll strive for coworker social time to be closer to once every other week, or 7%”- and that’s exactly what it ended up being! Given the new personal development in my life, I imagine the yellow category will be even smaller in my future.

Orange “extracurricular activities”: 26 days/365 = 7%
(didn’t track this last year)
This year most of my “extracurricular activities” were either EBIA school board meetings or facilitating a Women in Management group at Stanford. I really enjoyed participating in both and learned a lot. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to devote as much time to these activities moving forward, and it’s been nice to pick up a new extracurricular activity recently, volunteering with Crisis Text Line. This activity has a flexible schedule that I can do anytime I’m on my laptop on my couch, so that might take more of the orange category in 2018.

Purple “out of town vacations”: 81 days/365 = 22%
(up from 61 days/ 17% last year) (nerd alert: 32% YOY increase)
“out of town weekends”: 20 out of 52 = 38%
(16 out of 52/ 31% last year) (nerd alert: 25% YOY increase)
I didn’t realize that we were out of town so much more in 2017 than we were in 2016- the trips all seemed manageable and not as exhausting as some of the 2016 stretches did. I’m not sure why that is.

Last year I wrote that in 2016 I mostly went on weekend trips, and I only took two weeks of vacation. I was hoping that in 2017 I would take more week-long trips, as well as more than one trip to LA, more than one ski weekend, and longer trips to the east coast. I’m happy to report that in 2017 I took two weeks off between jobs and I also took a full two week vacation with family. We also did two trips to LA and two ski weekends, as well as two week-long trips to the east coast (even though I worked remotely on those), so mission accomplished. 🙂

I treasure my 52 weekends a year, and looking back, I’m happy with the 20 weekends I was out of town and the 32 weekends we stayed in SF. Of the 20 weekends we were out of town: 5 were in the east coast (Boston/NYC/Baltimore), 4 were in Napa, 2 in Tahoe, 2 in LA, 2 on an international family vacation, 1 in Carmel/Monterey (when my in-laws visited), 1 in Palm Springs for our anniversary, 1 in Colorado for my annual grad school reunion, 1 for a wedding in Nashville, and 1 in South Carolina for my bucket list trip. All 20 of those weekends were wonderful. Of the 32 weekends we stayed in SF, we spent most of those weekends seeing our close friends, as well as our favorite leisurely weekend activity- going to brunch and then taking Astra on long walks to Fort Funston or Stern Grove.

Looking at the purple highlights, I’m glad I was able to balance some of our favorite local destinations (Tahoe, Napa) with exploring places in California I hadn’t been before (Palm Springs, Mendocino). I’m also super happy we were able to squeeze in 4 trips to the east coast (two of which were longer than a weekend) and 2 trips to LA, since those are places where we have some beloved friends and family.

We went to 5 weddings this year– one local, three of which gave us great excuses to fly to the east coast, and one of which brought us to a new city we were curious about (Nashville). I also squeezed in a trip that had been on my bucket list for a long time- visiting my friend Trevor in South Carolina.

Looking to 2018, I don’t expect we will be out of town as much, though there are already 3 weddings we plan to attend. I also hope that the friends we put effort into visiting over the last few years will visit us this year instead; it’s their turn. 🙂

Accomplishing Goals

In last year’s post I reflected on 2016 and how setting weekly goals every Sunday across 6 categories didn’t work out for me. I wanted to try something new for 2017- scheduling activities into my calendar every Sunday. I thought slotting things into my calendar would be more effective than just creating a weekly to-do list- it works pretty well for me when I do it on an ad hoc basis. Unfortunately I was even worse at this 2017 resolution than I was about the 2016 one. The 2016 one I kept up for half a year, but I think the number of Sundays this year where I actually sat down to schedule things into my calendar I can count on one hand. 😦 So that stinks.

I think one reason for my failure to accomplish this goal is that our weekends ended up being pretty busy; now I know that 38% of those Sundays I was out of town, and of the 62% where I was in town, I was likely at dinner with friends or getting ready for the work week. So even though I’ve had a recurring calendar event on Sunday evenings to do my “weekly planning” (which was supposed to be the time where I added goal-related activities to my calendar for the week), it didn’t happen.

I’m not sure if I want to try a third method of goal setting for 2018, since the ones for 2016 and 2017 didn’t pan out. I still like the idea of weekly planning, but I’ve struggled to get into a good cadence with it. I’m also not feeling as motivated this year to accomplish a lot beyond survival. I’ve been really busy and working hard at work, and balancing my career with this year’s personal development will be enough of a challenge in and of itself. I need to reflect some more on how much additional pressure I want to put on myself- or maybe a better way of putting it is how much structure I want to add to my life. Structure can be helpful and liberating, but it can also create pressure and expectations. So I’m going to spend some time thinking about this before setting a resolution to manage my goal-setting differently in 2018.

Even though I didn’t accomplish my goal of weekly calendaring of goal categories (the 6 categories I used in 2016 were behavior, health, side project, managing my finances, foreign language, and happy marriage; in 2017 I was going to select every week from a buffet of categories: cleaning, cooking, running, finances, photo albums, writing, learning, side projects to save the world, etc), I made good progress in some of them anyway. For example my side project ideas usually involve video, and I got to keep up with my video editing by working on a few fun video projects in 2017 (I taught a stop-motion animation class to a group of middle schoolers, I edited a video interview with my grandpa that I recorded 4 years ago before he passed away, and I did some video editing for a project at work). I was pretty good about running- I ran two 5Ks last year (I know that’s not very impressive but it keeps me motivated) and ran with the dog which was fun. I was good about archiving my photos. I didn’t do very well with the writing and learning- I started taking an online journalism class but I dropped it, I didn’t do much reading, I didn’t clean or cook much, and well, basically since I failed to do the weekly calendaring, I failed on most of the things I was going to calendar in– since by their nature they fall by the wayside. (Though I did do some fun baking projects- I recently leveled up my cookie decorating skills by making cookies for some special occasions).


some cookies I made in December 2017 for a wedding, a baby shower, and New Year’s Eve

Looking back at the goal categories, one thing that was cool about 2016 was an intentional focus on behaviors every week, and I particularly focused on active listening. It was fun to be intentional about it and I saw so much improvement that way. Being more intentional with my behavior and attitude is something I’d like to do in 2018, so even if I shy away from committing to a weekly goal, I’d like to think about my behaviors more regularly and be more intentional and reflective about habits I’d like to improve.

So, all in all, not a lot of pride in what I accomplished in 2017, but I’m also not in the mood to set goals for 2018 beyond survival. If I were to set one goal it would be figuring out how to juggle my job and my personal life, and a second goal would be to be more intentional and reflective about my behaviors (especially reactions). So, let’s leave it at that.


2018, mostly a blank slate 🙂

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Prop 39 and charter schools

I’ve been learning about charter schools and how they get their facilities. An important part of how a charter school gets space is Prop 39. Prop 39 was passed by California voters in 2000. It basically says that the school district is required to make sure charter schools have “reasonably equivalent” facilities to district schools. As I read about how this plays out in different districts in California, this is what strikes me:

  • the complete local control (charter schools are at the mercy of the local school district- no state or federal involvement here)
  • how much it varies across school districts (some charter schools seem to have no problems getting their facilities, while others struggle- for example, a district will spread out a charter school across multiple campuses, etc.)
  • the number of lawsuits (a number of lawsuits have been filed by charter schools seeking better facilities from the districts)
  • the support of the California Charter School Association (the CCSA helps advocate for charter schools and supports them in their lawsuits against districts)

It’s fascinating how something as basic as physical space ends up caught in the crosshairs of politics, funding, and what’s best for students.

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Taking stock of 2016; Looking forward to 2017

Disclaimer: this was written for me and not an outside audience. So I won’t apologize for it being long and boring.

Here is an image of what I did every day in 2016. I started chronicling my daily activities this way  in img_57072015 and continued doing so this past year as well. I enjoy having the year-at-a-glance on one 8.5×11 sheet of paper. I used to journal but ended up writing in my journal very rarely. Writing down 2 or 3 key words per day is easier, and it gives me a daily chronicle to remind me what I did that day (like “wine with Jess”). I have a bad memory and writing everything down helps me remember. Seeing it all at once makes the year seem manageable and accessible to me. It boils it down to 52 concrete weeks. Seeing everything on one page is a habit I picked up in college at UC Berkeley. At the beginning of every semester I would trek to the Student Learning Center to pick up my favorite planning tool: the semester-at-a-glance. It was a form among many forms lying around that building, and I enjoyed the pilgrimage every semester to find it. I would hang it on the wall in front of my desk. (I just checked the SLC’s website- which I haven’t gone to in 10 years- and their homepage coincidentally has a shoutout saying the semester-at-a-glance is their most popular handout 🙂 I’ll just say I used it before it was cool.)  Having the entire semester on one page made it easy to see all my midterms, assignments, and extracurricular activities in one place. It’s like taking a deep breath and saying “okay, I can do this.” I’m a visual person so having a planning document on one page helps orient me and creates my mental model of time.

At the beginning of 2016 I typed up this calendar in a 7×52 cell table in Microsoft word (advanced technical skills required) and printed it out and kept it on my nightstand. I keep a pen and highlighters next to it. I love color coding and the colors I used to highlight the cells in 2016 were: green for friends I saw on evenings or weekends, yellow for coworkers I saw on evenings or weekends, red for family I saw on evenings or weekends, and the whole cell is highlighted purple for days I was out of town. I know, I’m a bit anal retentive 🙂

When I look at my 2016-at-a-glance, now that all 7×52 cells are filled in, here are my observations:

  • I am a social creature/ extrovert. There is a green highlight on 149 out of 365 days (41%), a yellow highlight on 47 out of 365 days (13%), and a red highlight on 73 out of 365 days (20%). Ignoring a few days with multiple color highlights, that means I spent 74% of the days of the year socializing with friends, coworkers, or family. Glancing at the page, that seems right to me since it looks like I socialized on average 3 out of 5 weekdays and both Saturdays and Sundays. So, yes, I’m a social person. Of course, the fact that the majority of what I even bother to chronicle is the name of the person I spent time with that day should also be a clue here. (For example, I’m not a foodie so none of these include the names of restaurants we ate at, though if you ask me about seeing someone that day I might remember if I hosted them at our place or if we went out somewhere.) Of course more importantly than how many days I socialized is am I happy/proud of my socializing this year?
  • The greens (41%): Looking at who I spent time with, most of the green highlights are my 4 closest friends in the Bay Area, 2 of whom moved back here this year (yay!). That makes me happy. Though I also need to be more secure in the fact that it’s okay if we live near each other and don’t know every detail that’s going on in each other’s lives- that’s a tough one for me, I always want to get together with them and catch up and be involved). In the green, there’s also a good smattering of old friends who visited from out of town or who I visited when I was out town. Some precious memories there. As I get older I get pickier with how I spend my free time and who I spend it with (at least I strive to be pickier- sometimes it’s hard to say no or to avoid my extroverted nature). Looking at the names of friends who I only saw a few times this year makes me realize they fall into 2 categories: my close friends who are out of town and I don’t get to see often (lots of nostalgia there), and acquaintances or casual friends I don’t make as much of an effort to see (for example, there are some alumni from my grad programs who I like and I see a few times a year at networking events or when we get together for coffee/drinks. Some I wish I could spend more time with and will reach out more proactively to in 2017, others I am okay having be occasional greens.) Most of my greens fall into the inner circle rather than the outer circle category, which makes me happy. Spending time with close friends is something I will continue to prioritize in 2017, and hopefully I’ll get more time with close friends who live out of town too. (Come visit, please!)
  • The yellows (13%): I’ve never been at such a social workplace as my current office. It’s a young culture and lots of folks are single or don’t have family obligations and like to go out together after work. We also stay at work pretty late so the happy hours sometimes start in the office 🙂 Happy hours and dinners are common and I enjoy how inclusive they are. I love this about my work and it looks like I’ve gone out with coworkers on average once a week. As I look back at the coworkers I’ve spent my free time with, I’m glad to see most of the yellow concentrated on weekdays (I only get 52 weekends a year and they are precious to me) and I also notice that my favorite coworker is the one I’ve spent the most time with, which is a good sign ’cause he’s more of a green (hi Ben). I do think that going out with coworkers once a week is a lot though, and that’s something I’ll try to cut down in 2017. I’ll strive for coworker social time to be closer to once every other week, or 7%.
  • The reds (20%): I moved back to the Bay Area primarily to be closer to my family so it’s awesome to see that I saw family 20% of the year (it was a lot less when I lived on the east coast and overseas). The reds also include seeing extended family and family out of town, which we always wish we could do more of. One thing that stands out this year when I look at all the red highlights is how often I saw my sister. Moving to San Francisco has been awesome for seeing her more often. Seeing all the red highlights with her name on it make me smile thinking about all the times she’s taken an uber to my place to have dinner with us (thanks chucks) or we had dinner with her in her neighborhood 🙂
  • The purples (17%): I was out of town for 61 days or 17% of 2016, and 16 out of 52 weekends (30%). The majority of these were long weekends away, especially over the summer when Max has half-day Fridays. This year our weekend trips included Tahoe, Mexico City, Boston twice, Carmel, LA, Napa, Santa Barbara, Philly, Monterey, and our soul-enriching annual reunion with grad school friends in the Colorado mountains. I also went to Ocean City, Maryland for a girls beach weekend and one business trip to Denver for an ed tech conference. Looking back, I think we did a nice job this year of balancing spending more time in San Francisco on weekends and going on weekend trips. September was a little hectic when we went out of town 3 weekends in a row (we had a wedding and a baby shower on consecutive east coast weekends), but other than that it was all manageable. I’m looking forward to more weekend trips in 2017, hopefully at least a couple to LA (we only went once this year and some of our close friends and family in LA were out of town that weekend). We also only did one ski weekend and I’m hoping to squeeze in at least a couple this year.
  • I need to take more week-long trips. 😦 I totally fell into the startup “unlimited vacation” trap. While I work at a company that says it has unlimited vacation, I only ended up taking 2 week-long trips this year! (one was for a vacation to Scandinavia with some girl friends and one was this past week in Vietnam with my husband). Both were awesome trips and I’m lucky I had the opportunity to travel internationally. One thing we did in 2015 that we didn’t do this year was spend a full week on the east coast- we only did 2 short weekend trips to Boston. That’s something I hope to change in 2017 as we miss our friends on the east coast, one of my best friends in Boston had a baby, and we have more friends who’ve moved to the east coast recently. So fair warning 🙂 I’m hoping for some NYC/Boston/Baltimore combos, maybe Philly and New Haven too. 🙂 I should at least work remotely more, if not take more time off (I only did maybe one or two days of working remotely this year).
  • The not purple weekends: we stayed in town for 36 weekends or 70% of our weekends this year. I love looking at what we did those weekends because one of our goals this year was to spend more time exploring SF. We ended up falling in love with Fort Funston and taking our dog to the beach there almost every Saturday and Sunday. One thing we really love doing is hosting friends for brunch at our place (or eating at one of our go-to brunch spots) and then going for a walk on the beach at Fort Funson. I hope we continue to do that a lot in 2017 so please let me know if you’d like to join us. We also participated in fun San Francisco activities like the Treasure Island Flea, Stern Grove Festival, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, and watching the Blue Angels. Other frequent weekend activities included getting mani pedis with friends, hosting people at our place, and going out. We also attended life events including birthdays, weddings, baby showers, and funerals.

Overall, as I reflect on the year, I know it was a positive one. I was re-reading one of the few journal entries I wrote this year and it was all about how grateful I am for so many things I have going for me. I felt very lucky every morning when I woke up and every evening when I went to bed in 2016. At my birthday this year I gave a speech about it being my happiest year on record. I have lots of people as well as luck to thank for that. But did I meet my 2016 resolutions? Yes and no. My two big ones were to build healthy habits and to spend part of every Sunday setting weekly goals. I made progress on the healthy habits but as you’ll see the Sunday goal-setting fell through.

I bought into some health trends like 21 Day Fix (which I did in April- I loved the daily 30 minute workouts from home) and Whole 30 (which I did in May and again in December- I love how I have more energy when I do it). I also went running with my dog and on my own. I didn’t track my runs as regularly but I’m doing a 5k with my husband and sister next weekend so that’ll be a good way to kick off more running in 2017 🙂 One thing that I do miss is swimming. I swam a lot in summer 2015 because I was between jobs for a couple months and lived a mile away from a community pool. In 2016 I didn’t swim much at all– I wish the gym next to my office had a pool, that’s the only way I can imagine squeezing it in. In 2014 I trained for and finished a triathlon, and in 2015 I swam a lot over the summer, so I do feel the swimming gap in 2016 but I don’t see it closing in 2017 unfortunately.

My second New Years resolution was to dedicate part of every Sunday to planning my week. I used a very structured approach (surprise, surprise) where I had a 6×52 table where for every week I had goals in 6 categories (behavior, health, side project, managing my finances, foreign language, and happy marriage). I printed it out on a double sided 8.5×11 sheet of paper and kept it on my nightstand (yes, next to my 2016-at-a-glance). On Sundays I would fill in goals for some or all of the 6 categories to do that week (for example, behavior- practice active listening, health- 3 runs, side project- reach out to 3 people, finances- call bank, foreign language- 1 Chinese podcast, and happy marriage- plan a date night.)  Then the following Sunday I had a color coded system (surprise, surprise) where I would check progress on each one as green (done), yellow (partially done), or red (not done). I actually did this every Sunday until June and then I stopped. It was too disheartening seeing all the reds and yellows and very few greens, even as I set fewer and fewer of the 6 goals each week. I learned an important lesson here about setting goals. The important thing isn’t to set the goal, the important thing is to schedule it into your calendar. This was my biggest mistake. In 2017 I plan to spend part of every Sunday not just setting goals for the week but actually scheduling them into my calendar. I know, it may sound obvious, but I missed that part last year. So we’ll see if that makes me more productive 🙂 And yes I think that scheduling these into my calendar will impact the 74% of my days that I spend socializing, which will be difficult for me (I just love getting together with friends… can’t help it). If a friend is free for a drink, I’ve never been one to say “I can’t, I actually need to call my bank”- I’m always one to postpone that kind of thing. So it’ll be interesting to see where the chips fall in 2017.

Within those 6 categories, I should mention that even though I stopped setting goals for each one mid year, I made more progress on some than others. I already mentioned the health category. The behavior category I also made progress in, primarily in being a better listener (this is something that will continue to be a focus for me in 2017). I have read several books about active listening this year (I highly recommend Never Split The Difference which seems like a negotiation tactic book but is actually all about how to handle difficult conversations- one of my new favorite topics to read and think about). I have been a longtime fan of the concept of active listening but this year I was more intentional about it than ever before (see this blog post I wrote earlier this year after I tried doing it for a week at work- Active Listening at a Tech Startup).

The side project category is the one I’m most disappointed in my progress this year. When I look at my 2016-at-a-glance, I notice that the first four months of the year I went to Code for San Francisco and worked on my side project most Wednesdays. This petered out over the summer after the National Day of Civic Hacking in early June (an annual hackathon hosted by Code for America at chapters across the US). There were a few reasons (excuses) for this, including end of summer and early fall being the busy season at work, and joining the board of a charter school in Oakland where monthly board meetings are on Wednesdays. But the real reason is the core problem of setting goals instead of action plans (calendaring them in). My socializing got in the way of achieving my stated objectives. I did work on a side project at work that I demoed at our hackathon in October (a video of students around the world answering the same question). Related to any side project I take on is an interest in video, and I’m really proud of the fact that I got back into stop motion animation this year and made a few videos (here’s a 30 second happy spring video using my work mascot and the first in a series I’m working on of animating my favorite quotes). I’m looking forward to being more focused and productive in 2017, with a side project that combines my longtime interests in education and video, and more recent interest in journalism. That’ll be Julia’s contribution to making the world a better place.

In terms of the last 3 categories-  managing my finances, foreign language, and happy marriage- I am at the same place where I was last year- need to spend more time on finances, haven’t really prioritized practicing a foreign language, and still happily married. I’m looking forward to my new Sunday calendaring to help my finances and my marriage, but I have removed foreign language from my weekly planning (I still love speaking and learning foreign languages but I’m deprioritizing it for 2017).

I just printeimg_5708d out my year-at-a-glance calendar for 2017. What will this year hold? It’s empowering to think that how these white spaces are filled is entirely in my control (barring unforeseen circumstances). I love seeing 52 blank rows. Here is how I’m thinking of color coding this year:

  • Keeping the colors for friends, coworkers, family, and days I’m out of town.
  • A color for days I have my 2 extracurricular responsibilities (monthly board meeting for the charter school in Oakland, and I’m starting a new gig as a facilitator for a Women in Management group at the Stanford Graduate School of Business).
  • A color for days or evenings I dedicate to my side project.

I have several New Year’s Resolutions for 2017, some of which are behavioral and some of which I plan to include in the Sunday calendaring. (Making time to calendar my action items every Sunday is the first thing I should put in the calendar.) Some of the action items will be reflected in the 2017-at-a-glance (like time spent on side projects) but some of them won’t be (like healthy habits). Rather than having a set number of categories that I calendar every week, every Sunday I will add to my calendar for the week, selecting what I think is important that week from a list of categories (cleaning, cooking, running, finances, photo albums, writing, learning, side projects to save the world, the usual).

I’m looking forward to seeing the 2017-at-a-glance fill with spending time with people I care about and making progress toward my goals. In the meantime, here’s a photo from Fort Funston this morning. Happy New Year!


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Education in the election- Julia’s 2016 voter guide for San Francisco and California

These opinions are my own. They do not represent the opinions of my employer or any organization I am affiliated with.

Voting in this year’s election is overwhelming. The federal presidential election is a depressing circus, and if you’re in San Francisco the local voter guides are over 500 pages long.


Here is the Julia voter guide for the education issues on the ballot:

TL;DR: Yes.

California statewide propositions

  • Yes on Prop 51: school bond = more money for education. California ranks near the bottom of states in the nation in school funding. We need this. more info
  • Yes on Prop 58:  allow non-English languages in public schools (this repeals  a racist proposition from the 90s, and research shows bilingual education improves learning outcomes) more info

San Francisco local measures

  • Yes on Measure A: school bonds for SFUSD (more money for facilities) more info
  • Yes on Measure B: funding for City College of San Francisco more info
  • Yes on Measure F: allow 16 and 17 year olds to vote in local elections (I’m for it, though most people I know are against it… I guess it comes down to: I have faith in our teens) more info
  • Yes on Measure N: allow non-citizens who are residents and parents of SFUSD students to vote for School Board more info

San Francisco School Board candidates:

  • School Board- vote for up to 4 people. I like Matt Haney (he’s the incumbent and has been doing a good job) more info and Ian Kalin (I’ve met him- he’s smart, passionate, and data-driven) more info.
  • Community College Board- vote for up to 4 people. I haven’t been following this as closely. The SF Chronicle recommends Alex Randolph who seems legit. more info

Agree? Disagree? I’m curious what you think. Most importantly, GO FREAKING VOTE!


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Charter schools, John Oliver, and Accountability

Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 11.44.40 PMLast week I was happy to see ed reform in mainstream media on John Oliver’s show Last Week Tonight. It’s always good to see ed reform being discussed on popular shows. Unfortunately the context for this episode was gross mismanagement of charter schools by their founders and leaders. This is a sensitive topic for me, since charter schools are where I first started my career as a teacher, and I currently serve on the board of a charter school. Here are my 3 takeaways from the episode:

  1. Mismanagement of public funds is pervasive

If what you learned from the John Oliver segment is “wow, charter schools misuse a lot of public money,” I urge you to take a critical look at public spending more broadly. While it is true that the charter sector could use more oversight, it is a small fraction of state spending, and an even smaller fraction of your tax dollars. If you’re really interested in making sure your tax money isn’t misspent, consider the fact that the majority of the federal discretionary budget goes to the military. Here’s one of my all time favorite articles that touches just the tip of the iceberg of the complex ways our tax dollars are used by the military (this one’s about the US government’s attempts to build a road in Afghanistan in 2011). I don’t want to defend charter schools as “less bad” than other industries, but if the focus of this piece is on efficient use of public funding, it is shining the spotlight into the wings rather than center stage.

So, yes. There’s mismanagement of public funds in education. But let’s not lose sight of the forest through the trees. I would love to see Last Week Tonight uncover more stories that shed light on where our tax dollars go.

2. Mismanaged money in education hurts

While corruption occurs in many industries, I think it’s particularly painful for people to see examples of corruption in public schools. We view education as a basic right and a stepping stone to success for children of all backgrounds. When adults mismanage funding that should be used to help kids, it hurts. The examples John Oliver gave were painful to see: multiple schools that had to shut their doors within a few weeks of starting the schoolyear, forcing families to find alternate placements, schools without facilities that coped by taking kids on daily field trips, and clear conflicts of interest between charter school authorizers and charter school leaders. While on the scale of mismanaged funds this isn’t as large a pot as mismanaged Social Security or Defense spending, the perception is sometimes even more negative.

When corruption touches something we’ve all experienced- like the neighborhood school- it’s hard to not rise up in arms.

3. Charter school oversight is important

While I support charter schools, I agree with John Oliver that oversight is important. I’m the first to raise my hand for more accountability of any publicly funded sector (I also understand that this often places additional reporting burdens on under-resourced organizations). One place that oversight starts for charter schools is in the community. This resonates with me personally because I recently joined the board of a local charter school in Oakland. As a Board Member, I am responsible for the governance of the school and holding the school leadership accountable. The John Oliver segment was a reminder to me of the importance of this role.

One thing I’ve noticed in my experience on school boards is that understanding the budget is usually relegated to one or two people. The rest of the board isn’t necessarily expected to dig too deep into the details. I’ve been to many board meetings where peoples’ eyes glaze over during budget presentations. Part of this is understandable- many people who are drawn to the education sector are there for social reasons and because they are passionate and experienced in pedagogy and child development- not necessarily the Wall Street type. Nonetheless, it is our collective civic duty- particularly those of us who are shepherds of public funds- to go outside our comfort zones and make sure we know how to read a financial statement. I’m not a finance expert, but I can be brave enough to take on that responsibility and seek help when I need it. Thank you John Oliver for giving me the confidence to keep asking questions.


I believe deeply in investigative journalism and would love to see the mainstream media spend less time on celebrities and more time on investigating how tax dollars are spent. Overall I was happy to see charter schools in the spotlight, and it was a good reminder for me to be vigilant where I can.


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