welcome to 12 things

what i'm writing + what i'm obsessing over

Hi, and welcome to the latest incarnation of my newsletter!

As the name suggests, it’s going to feature 12 things I’ve either been working on or obsessing over. And that’s it. Maybe sometimes I won’t even include any rambling introductory commentary (you should be so lucky).

By refreshing this newsletter’s format, I’m trying to A) keep you on your toes, and B) make it easier for me to send out on a monthlyish basis. Since, let’s be real, I haven’t always been great at that in the past.

Also appearing in this newsletter will be a photo of my dog, Mochi, because what is the world without cute dog photos.

Ok let’s give this a go!

  1. For NYT Climate, I wrote about the environmental impact of heaters and fire pits, getting climate change into schools, Earth Overshoot Day, and more

  2. Reported on the merits of feeding your dog bugs to prevent climate change for Mic [TL;DR: If dogs and cats were their own country, they’d rank fifth in worldwide meat consumption. Bug-based dog food is one way to cut down on their pawprint (aw) but for some reason crickets are still very $$$.]

  3. The You’re Wrong About podcast: not only the Princess Di episodeseveryone loves those — but the two-part series on the real life story behind NEWSIES

  4. Breath by James Nestor completely changed the way I view something I’ve been doing every second of every day of my life

  5. This flavorful peanut stew over brown rice

  6. Caamp (esp this song)

  7. DownDog Yoga’s easily adaptable quick flows (it’s only $14.99 for the year right now!)

  8. How We Fight For Our Lives by Saeed Jones, an incredibly written look at growing up Black and gay in America

  9. I got Tyler a Tushy Spa bidet for his birthday, and it was def my best pandemic purchase (Wirecutter also recommends a much cheaper alternative if you don’t live in Wisconsin and can stand cold water on your bum)

  10. The bridge dog

  11. Anne Helen Peterson’s newsletter offers such insightful cultural commentary; this one on vacation moms hit home

  12. If your eyes are dying from all the screen time, try the free Pomy app



If my grief were a goldfish

And greetings from Japan

こんにちは from Japan!

Did you know the Japanese language has three different alphabets, and that you need to recognize more than 2,000 characters before you’re considered literate? On a walking tour the other day, our guide told us that people generally can’t read a newspaper until they’re in high school. I have never felt so grateful for our 26 little letters.

We’ve been in Osaka, the country’s second largest city, for a month. It’s known as the foodie capital of Japan, where residents love to say you’ll suffer from kuidaore: eating yourself bankrupt. Despite that expectation, the food has been surprisingly affordable (cheaper than most American cities) — and we’ve eaten an obscene amount of it.

Tomorrow, we’ll head out for a week of travel around the country. We’ll visit Takayama, a traditional town in the mountains; Tokyo, a metropolis you may have heard of; and Okayama, to see where my grandfather lived before setting sail for San Francisco 99 years ago. (The house is gone; the rice paddy remains.)

Being half-Japanese, it’s odd to live in a place that is both so much a part of me and also so foreign. Spending time here has reminded me that I might be Japanese in blood and tradition, but at the core, I’m really just American.

While I’m not super proud to say that these days, it’s the truth. And I’ve found myself actually looking forward to returning next year — to a place I understand, even when it makes no sense; to a place that is mine, even when it’s hard to admit.

But first, three more months of this Peter Pan life: in Bali, Thailand, and India (!!!).

Eye + ear candy of the month

A recent visit to Nara, Japans’s ancient capital, where the deer roam freely (and literally bow to you when they want crackers). Growing up in CNY, I’m not normally a fan of deer — but these ones won me over in about six seconds flat.

What better to sit around and drink PSLs to than Leon Bridges? (Well, for me, it’s simply dreaming of PSLs, as I haven’t found them in Japan yet.) This combo with another one of my fave bands, ODESZA, is exactly what I want to listen to this fall.

On the blog

If my grief were a goldfish

The lines of this blog post came to me in the shower, on walks, and while lying in bed entering the vortex that is loss. By the time I got to the computer, my fingers started moving on their own: a direct line between my heart and the screen.

It’s a short contemplation on grief: how it changes, how it never goes away. And how the hardest part is the life that someone never got to lead.

What I wrote this month

As I said in a previous newsletter, I’ve been itching to write more about climate change. Although the current administration may command more news attention right now, this is the story whose echoes will remain long after it’s (we’re) gone.

So I’m pumped to say I was able to write a few “service journalism” (ie: helpful) pieces about climate change for one of my favorite newsletters: the NYT’s Climate: Fwd. It has a wonderful series called “One Thing You Can Do” that attempts to distill the overwhelmingness of climate change into one action item per week.

Here’s what I’ve written so far:

  • Make Your Donations Count: to combat climate change, is it more effective to buy offsets? Or donate to politicians and environmental orgs?

  • Go Solar, Get a Tax Break: how to snag the 30% tax credit for installing solar panels (which is slated to end this year!)

  • Try Community Solar: if, like most Americans, you can’t install solar panels, you can look for a community solar project in your area

Do you have any ideas for this series? Or questions I could answer? Send ‘em my way!

What I’m reading / watching / listening



PS. If you liked this, consider forwarding it to a friend? Or, at the very least, clicking the little heart below?

Is traveling even ethical anymore?

Bok bok from Stari Grad, a town on the Croatian island of Hvar that was founded in 384 B.C. and has a year-round population of fewer than 2,000. This month has been extremely relaxing, as you might guess, filled with walks and swims and writing.

One of my besties came down for her 33rd birthday — and it is amazing how different birthday celebrations in your 30s are from birthday celebrations in your 20s. We remembered everything! And weren’t too hungover for a bike ride the next day!

Even weirder, it was actually really nice. Maybe that’s the difference between your 20s, late 20s, and 30s: In your late 20s, you’re still wondering if you’re missing out on all the things you did in your 20s — and in your 30s, you know you’re not?

As for Crete, it was lovely: snowy mountains, sandy beaches, olive groves for miles. Cretan people, who are incredibly hospitable, are also the envy of every wannabe millennial homesteader (cough, me). At one memorable breakfast, every single thing on the table was made/grown/produced by our hosts: from the eggs to the bread, jam, cheese, yogurt, and HONEY. It was unreal.

Next up? A road trip through northern Croatia and Slovenia. Then, Sicily for a month!

Eye + ear candy of the month

One of the many gorgeous hideaways you’ll find on Hvar. (Just don’t go expecting any sand!)

This summery song has been following us around our entire trip, from Argentina to Spain to even Croatia. Pack your beach bag, and go.   

On the blog

Is traveling even ethical anymore?

While climate change has long been in the back of my mind, I am embarrassed to admit that’s where it’s been: in the back of my mind. But clearly, with fire after disaster after flood, report after buried report after report, it can no longer stay there.

What’s even more embarrassing is that this realization has arrived in the midst of a yearlong trip around the world. Which, as it turns out, is completely antithetical to caring about climate change. (On a 2,500-mile flight, one passenger’s share of emissions melts 32 square feet of Arctic summer sea ice cover.)

Here’s my blog post on the topic — would love to hear your thoughts, and whether this is something you’re struggling with, too.

What I wrote this month

When Your Final Exam Is Surviving the Wilderness ~ The Atlantic

Yippee! I’m pumped to be in The Atlantic with a story so close to my heart.

It’s basically been in the making since 2010, the summer I first set foot in a place that would forever captivate me: Ketchikan, Alaska. When locals casually told me that every eighth grader has to survive on a deserted island for two days before they go to high school, my jaw dropped.

So last year, I packed my XtraTufs, boated out to Back Island with a bunch of tweens, and had a blast. I pitched the story to six outlets; while I got some interest, and even one offer, the outlet wanted me to tell the story in a different way than I’d envisioned. So I made the tough call to turn down the assignment, and let my pitch simmer for months before trying The Atlantic (lucky number seven) in January.

Though I probably earned less than minimum wage if you calculate the hours I put into reporting, writing, and editing this baby, the process made my soul sing. I want to do more stories like this in the months and years to come.  

What I’m reading / watching / listening

Now go enjoy spring

“After you have exhausted what there is in business, politics, conviviality, love, and so on — have found that none of these finally satisfy, or permanently wear — what remains? Nature remains; to bring out from their torpid recesses, the affinities of a man or woman with the open air, the trees, fields, the changes of seasons — the sun by day and the stars of heaven by night.” ~ Walt Whitman



PS. If you liked this, consider forwarding it to a friend? Or, at the very least, clicking the little heart below?

Why I quit Facebook & Instagram

Greetings from Granada, Spain, where...

You get a free tapa with every drink order.

You're surrounded by hills covered with old (in the good way) walls and whitewashed houses. 

You constantly gape at the architectural wonder known as the Alhambra, which crowns the city like a 13th-century cake topper. (If you want to see the inside, buy tickets way ahead of time!) 

It's been a lovely month here. Granada is, in my mind, the perfect size for a digital nomad base: plenty to do, but not so much (ie: Paris) that you feel guilty any time you’re not SEIZING EVERY MINUIT.

In fact, we haven't done a whole lot in Granada, and that's been the beauty of it. We've mostly spent our time wandering around the narrow streets, relaxing on outdoor patios with 2€ wine and free tapas, sniffing the air because lilacs and Seville orange blossoms have draped themselves over every available wall and corner and it smells like Bath & Body Works wherever you go, and buying bread and cheese from tiny specialty shops because it makes us feel super European.

By the time you get this, we'll have left paella and Moorish buildings and snow-capped peaks behind, and will be in Crete, where we're meeting up with one of my best friends for 10 days of adventure in a Fiat Panda (or similar). We're really hoping it's black and white…

After that, we've switched up our 12-countries-in-12-months schedule a bit, and have rented the cutest stone house (!) on a Croatian island (!) for the month of May. I have wanted to visit Croatia forever, and am so happy to finally make it there. We're visiting King's Landing beforehand, so if you have any tips, please send 'em our way! 

Ear/eye candy of the month

I’ve been listening to a lot of Spanish guitar while I work because I’m cliche like that.

Here’s a tune to get you going:

Then there’s this photo, which encapsulates everything I've enjoyed about Granada: flowers, old buildings, mountains, and quaint hillside homes. (Plus it reminds me of one of my favorite babies, whose middle name is Iris, and who just turned four months old. Hi Baby A!)

On the blog

I went in-depth on my decision to quit Facebook and Instagram

As you'll see, at the root of it all is the Annie Dillard quote: “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

Interested in this topic? At the bottom of the post, I included a helpful list of other articles, podcasts, and books where you can learn more about digital addiction. Would love to hear your thoughts on this issue — just click reply to chat! 

Other things I did this month

What I'm reading/listening/watching

What do you think of the new newsletter format? Anything you'd like me to add/change/never do again? I'm all ears! Thanks, as always, for being here. 



PS. This is the first newsletter I'm sending from Substack, rather than Mailchimp. If you notice any glitches, please let me know.

PPS. If you thought this email was as cool as your third cousin’s kid’s first-day-of-school pic, would you consider doing what you’d do for them, and clicking the heart below? Doing so will help this newsletter get found by more people. I know this might be a hypocritical request, given my reasons for going off social media, but I am not Beyonce and have no control over the way the world works.

Loading more posts…