Yeah, I put Leslie Knope into the title of my blog post, because I can do whatever the hell I want.

…also, every year, I aspire to be her in the gift-giving realm. Not just for Christmas, but for birthdays, made-up holidays and everything in between. If you’ve mentioned something, if I’ve found something online when I’m in a searching black hole – you bet your ass that I’ve written it down on some Post-In note or flimsy piece of paper.

Granted, I’ve lost some of those papers and notes, BUT, I have some. (What are sentences? I may be writing this blog post after drinking. So what? Who cares? I’m gonna edit most of my spelling and grammar errors the following morning today.)

ANYHOW, I have quite a bit of Post-It notes, papers and links. Here’s how you can kill it at Christmas Chrismukkah this year.

Leslie-Knope-Esque Gift Ideas:

  1. For the person who loves homes and Texas: Fucking Cacti Coasters. But not just any coasters, the cacti leaves ARE YOUR COASTERS. …The link…I realize is from a UK-based site. I think they’re pretty cool.
  2. Cocoon Grid-It Organizer or Carry-On Cocktail Kit – for your traveling friends. The ones who are always jet-setting…or going to places for work. It’s an easy way to organize stuffs. It would even work for someone you know who keeps losing their shit, literally. Now they have a grid to keep it all together. If they lose the grid, well…whoops. Cocktail Kit looks bougie and nice for your cocktail-enthusiasts…or serious travel-drinkers.
  3. A subscription to InkDrop. It’s a subscription service (yeah, I know) that delivers ink and pens every so often. Who wants to go to Target and/or order from Amazon? NO ONE. If you know someone who still uses pens (everyone), this is a pretty great thing. It’s $10/month! Although…now that I think about it, if they’re a pen snob – opt out. I repeat, opt out.
  4. A cook book. I’ve got a few ideas up my sleeve, but I’m afraid whoever is reading this will find out and then the surprise will be ruined. I think a great resource is NPR’s Book Concierge. They have other suggestions other than cook books. But if you know someone who loves to cook or wants to dabble in it, this may be the push they need. It’s timeless.
  5. Five packs of La Croix – this is more a personal request more than anything. Those things are expensive! (Or can add up at least…). Also, go to Target because they have a wider range of flavors. Honestly, I would be thrilled if someone gifted me a pack of La Croix and a pound of good bacon.
  6. Make something. You can always make something. A personalized scarf (I don’t know where I’m going here), a coffee mug with your face on it (Justin Timerlake/Jimmy Fallon style), a detailed, watercolor self-portrait. I’ve always wanted to gift one of my friends a tapestry of my face. Get creative and be weird. Listening to a ‘Dear Hank & John’ podcast, John Green gifted his mom a shoebox. Hold on. It was a shoebox that contained little notes of all the things that made his mom great. That’s pretty dang sweet. Etsy can be your best friend.
  7. Adele’s ’25’ album. I already have it, and it felt like Christmas when someone gave it to me. Who’s going to go out and buy it themselves? OBVIOUSLY many, if you’ve been reading Billboard…or talked to anyone. But CDs are “outdated” or something. Buying something that someone is hesitant to buy for themselves is a pretty good rule of thumb. Or practical things. Is that too adult? I’m rambling. I’m just saying, you can’t go wrong with Adele. The person probably doesn’t have it, but secretly wants it.

If all else fails and you have no idea: get an Anthropologie candle and a Lush bath bomb and call it a holiday.

011E4552-44CA-4D2E-AD8A-194D2B3DEF8CAccording to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, motivation is defined as “the act or process of giving someone a reason for doing something; the condition of being eager to act or work; a force or influence that causes someone to do something.” According to people? Well it depends. It can be found in one person, a group of people, a breakfast taco, a pint of beer, a past/future event…the list could go on and on.

Despite this never-ending list, there are still moments where I feel completely unmotivated. In theory, it seems impossible. In practice, it’s easier than I care to admit.

Running and training for the Austin Half is all I think about now. Am I eating properly? Should I have cross-trained today? Did I get enough sleep? It has affected me in more ways than I thought it would. Again, if you’re just coming into the conversation: the Austin Half Marathon is my first half marathon event, my first running event, my first exercise-related event. It’s a big deal to me. On top of that, this is the first sibling exercise-related event that my brother and I are doing together.

So back to motivation. Everyday is a struggle. I started running at the beginning of the year for two reasons:

  1. I was reading The Power of Habit.
  2. I needed an outlet for my feelings.

The Power of Habit talks about this habit loop, which is the way [the author] Charles Duhigg said we developed our habits. There’s a cue, the habit, and the reward (tangible or intangible). Needless to say, I turned running into a habit when I was cued by feelings and the reward was a smoothie. Well, at first it was a smoothie and it transitioned to something more intangible: a clear mind. I ran and ran and ran until I had no feelings. Jk, I ran until I got injured.

There’s a lesson in here I swear. After I healed from my injury, wherever I was in my mind, I didn’t have as many feelings and so I had no idea why I was running. There wasn’t a cue for me, I didn’t feel inclined to run. So what happened? Did Thu lose her soul?

No, no I didn’t. But since I’ve started training, really training, my motivation needed to change. My running cue started at my own feelings, but turned into something else. One day I was running for food, another day I would run for my brother, two weeks ago, I dedicated my long run to BatKid (5 miles for each year he fought cancer).

So This Is What I’m Going To Say About Motivation:

  • You have to find it. Whether it is yourself, your tacos, your favorite quote from your favorite author, your mom, or your dog. You’ve got to find something or someone.
  • It’s not easy. I’d be delusional to think that it’s easy. I usually text someone when I prep myself for a run. Sometimes they get back to me, sometimes they don’t. I think the action of me telling someone I’m going to run, commits me to do it. Maybe try that out, I don’t know. It’s all a learning process.
  • I guess as I’m typing this, I’m realizing that there can be a transition of motivation as long as it’s getting you to your goal. For whatever reason, I thought this wasn’t possible. Sometimes I run a little slower because my motivation isn’t as strong, but at least I committed to the day and I did the run/cross-train. You have to start somewhere, right?
  • Lastly, sometimes I tell myself I can’t eat until after I run. I read in Runner’s World that if you’re working out for less than 30 minutes, you can get by without eating. On those days, it’s hard on both ends, I’m hungry and I’m over-exhausted toward the end of my run. But when I get to the finish line (aka my apartment)? Oh sweet tacos and soda, you’re all mine. (Soda = simple sugars, stop judging me.)

So tell me, what or who is your motivation?

After getting back from church this morning, I automatically walked to my kitchen, filled my kettle with fresh cold water, and turned on the stove. You know what time it is? It’s coffee time.

I enjoy coffee, but I lie somewhere between those who drink it because they need it and those who drink it on occasion (i.e. to stay awake). I also lie somewhere between coffee snob and police station coffee drinker. While I do not enter myself in world barista championships, I do like to support our local coffee shops around the city. How can you pass up Vintage Heart Coffee’s iced vanilla latte or even Central Market’s regular hot coffee? I’m sorry, but my allegiance will never be with Starbucks. I am not a gold member (but Caroline is).

But I want to talk coffee because I’m in a bit of a dilemma. A couple of months ago, I broke my beloved french press. I bought that special one that Starbucks made (I can hear the irony, but I bought it because of the ‘special size’) and I chipped the glass. Upset by tragedy, I threw it away. What I later found out was that I could have easily replaced the glass. I thought they didn’t make replacement glass for that particular “model,” BUT THEY DID. Lesson learned… I guess.

Right now I brew my hot coffee in a makeshift pour-over-type-coffee-vehicle. You can see it in the picture above. And after seeing the price of french presses increase, I decided that perhaps this is an opportunity to explore other ways of brewing coffee. I didn’t expect there to be so many options. From different types of french presses to an Aeropress to a Chemex to different types of pour-over’s, I didn’t know of the various ways I could make coffee. I refuse to get a Keurig or a regular coffee machine; this is where I ask for your help. What do you use to make your coffee, people-that-make-coffee? Should I stick to a french press? Should I drop some mad $$$ for a Chemex? Those things aren’t cheap, but since I’m transitioning to buying things that last longer (aka might cost more), I figured that I should ask for the advice of the smart people around me.

I’m currently obsessed with “Houston Blend” coffee at HEB right now. Also, I will never stop putting condensed milk in my coffee (I love Vietnamese coffee, of course). But I need something cool and awesome to brew my coffee. HELP.

Thank you in advance,

It recently came to my attention that I am overwhelming my friends and family with information and content. …Okay, so maybe this isn’t something that I didn’t already know, but I wasn’t aware that it was overwhelming them to the point that a lot of the information was getting brushed over (aka everything I sent them was getting ignored). AKA CLUTTER, which is actually a nightmare of mine. Ironically, I work in an industry where “clutter” is the word that is associated with it.


Here’s the thing: I read a lot. I read at work and read for work. I read at home. I read when I’m bored. I read for pleasure. I even wrote a post about reading a lot. I guess what I’m saying is that I’m failing at what I said I would try to do in that post. I said I would try to stop, or to reduce the reading, and try to take in my environment instead. But here’s also the thing: I can’t stop. I read and I read and then I have to share it immediately. “Knowledge is power” is something I take to heart. I don’t like to be wrong and I am admittedly competitive when it comes to information and “being in the know”. Michael knows this. Sandy knows this. Tommy is the one who pointed it out this past weekend, so I’m apologizing via blog post. I’m sorry everyone who receives my messages that include 3+ links/day! I know it’s overwhelming and it looks like I have a lot of time on my hands. I’ll try and aggregate the best one’s and compile them into a newsletter or something…please let me know when I’m overwhelming you because I will subconsciously keep sending you links.

I have had a hard time accepting the fact that I can’t know everything. It’s a harsh reality that Sandy shed light on and I am in denial of that reality. I obviously haven’t found a solution because months since that post, I haven’t changed that habit much. It has also escalated because it’s the summer and academics don’t take over my life. How does one stop…caring? Is that the word to use? Or is the word “stop”? I like knowing things all of the time.

hottamale[1]Hot Tamale Day (def.): created by two best friends, Caca and Thutie, it is a day that celebrates the things they love: food, friendship, dancing, and weirdness.

We hope you celebrate with us as this marks our 6th annual Hot Tamale Day.

Just a personal note on friendship because today is an ode to friendship: It is a lot of work but it is what our soul needs. It is rare when we find a friend who knows what we’re thinking before we’re even thinking it. But while it is rare, I’m no longer afraid to be short of friends, not because I have many, but because I know we are wired to connect. And if your friendship involves a lot of food, you’re probably doing it right.

The weirdness never stops and the brainwaves are always on point. Cheers to more Hot Tamale Days and the push for it to be nationally recognized!

And a youth said, “Speak to us of Friendship.” Your friend is your needs answered. He is your field which you sow with love and reap with thanksgiving. And he is your board and your fireside. For you come to him with your hunger, and you seek him for peace. When your friend speaks his mind you fear not the “nay” in your own mind, nor do you withhold the “ay.” And when he is silent your heart ceases not to listen to his heart; For without words, in friendship, all thoughts, all desires, all expectations are born and shared, with joy that is unacclaimed. When you part from your friend, you grieve not; For that which you love most in him may be clearer in his absence, as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain. And let there be no purpose in friendship save the deepening of the spirit. For love that seeks aught but the disclosure of its own mystery is not love but a net cast forth: and only the unprofitable is caught. And let your best be for your friend. If he must know the ebb of your tide, let him know its flood also. For what is your friend that you should seek him with hours to kill? Seek him always with hours to live. For it is his to fill your need, but not your emptiness. And in the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.

Khalil Gibran

The hardest part is reconciling with the fact that while you should live like today is your last, you must also figure out what happens when you don’t die tomorrow. “It’s irresponsible.” It’s even harder when you’re diagnosed with a terminal illness or cancer like Ezra, and then disciplining yourself to continue to think about the future. What he brings up around minute 10 is thought-provoking.

“It’s irresponsible.” That’s something I would have never told myself. Most definitely because it gives me an excuse to live [somewhat] recklessly.

It’s interesting because I’ve been going on about my life (and through this blog), for the most part hearing and advocating a way of life of risk-taking, going for it, and living like tomorrow is not guaranteed. While all of this is true and I still stand behind it all, watching this — puts me back on balance? It grounds me? I don’t know. I’m still processing it. Buzz phrase: It’s all about perspective. (Of course I watch a short film about a bike maker but it popped up on my Vimeo feed & you can’t deny it was beautifully shot.)

And then when Ezra said that the doctor told him that he couldn’t ride his bike, my heart dropped. How do you cope with something like that? First, being diagnosed with cancer and then being told that you couldn’t do something that you enjoyed so much, all in the same day. The way that he responded to this was both hilarious and courageous.

Among many of the things Ezra said, this resonated with me too: “Each portrait is like a moment in time.” He was referring to his daily self-portrait taking. He started to document after he was diagnosed. It’s true and obvious, but the words were framed so eloquently.

Anyway, if you want to watch it, watch it. Ezra has a blog, click this to read it. Image