I wrote a thing about online classes

So, the people who I talk to on the regular since the fall probably have heard me mention that I’m taking an online class. It is CS50, Harvard’s popular Introduction to Computer Science course, and thank goodness it is self-paced because it’s taking me a while to complete.

Taking this course has been enlightening (also frustrating as hell). Just as freelancing has given me an opportunity to work a few muscles that had been dormant for a bit, learning how to code and completing the homework assignments have provided a chance to work another side of the brain. Problem-solving and language-learning is part of it, but also getting out into forums and seeking help on Reddit, Discord and other platforms has been part of the educational experience.

I’ll say this about the developers community (or maybe the CS50 community?) …They’ve been an incredibly supportive group. People from around the world coming together to share knowledge is inspiring.

Well, I didn’t write about my CS50 experience (which is ongoing, 2.5 lectures to go), but I did get to research and write about some other suggestions for online classes that can help your career (and yourself).

Have a read: Online Classes That Are Worth the Investment

screenshot of Online Classes That Are Worth the Investment via GoBankingRates.com

Once I’ve actually made it through CS50, I definitely want to write a thing about it. Still processing.

I wrote a thing about how to recover from a bad job interview

This was a lovely piece to write. I interviewed an interview coach! Diana YK Chan was positive, upbeat, and had some great advice for the job seekers out there.

You can read more about her advice here: How You Can Bounce Back After a Bad Job Interview (and Ace the Next One)

And I’ll add some additional thoughts that didn’t make it into the story.

Body Language!

Chan says 93% of your message impact is based on your body language. It’s not just what you say but how you say it. Especially as we are all doing inteviews over Zoom, job seekers need to amp it up even more.


Chan suggests for Zoom interviews, having an office vibe in your background. You want to come across as professional. You also really, really need to practice. Set up your camera to double-check lighting. Make sure your audio is working well before the interview. And if something fails, don’t sweat it. Use humor to lighten the mood if A/V difficulties gets your nerves.

Head vs. Heart!

Chan said these words a few times, and I included it in the story as well, but there’s something to be said about responding from your heart and not your head. When you over-worry or over-analyze you are more likely to respond with your head, like, ‘this is what they want me to say.’ Instead, speak from your heart. She spoke of making that connection with your interviewer.

Anyway, Diana was generous with her time and has a great presence on LinkedIn, so I recommend giving her a follow.

Read: How You Can Bounce Back After a Bad Job Interview (and Ace the Next One)

I wrote a thing about tv shows and movies that address disability and difference

Writing this story finally had me sit down and watch “Crip Camp,” the 2020 documentary, produced by the Obamas’ production company. Ever since watching it I walk my usual dog walk route along the neighborhood and think, “those campers at Camp Jened is a big reason why this corner is wheelchair accessible.” Or, I think, “Why is this sidewalk intersection NOT wheelchair accessible?”

I have certainly noticed the uptick in TV shows featuring characters with disabilities. Last week we were watching “Nancy Drew” on The CW and a main character is using ASL with his hearing-impaired father. It’s not even mentioned, they just start doing it, which is such a change from the days of “on a very special Blossom.” We still have a ways to go, though.

GLAAD reported that just 3.5% of broadcast scripted shows include a character with a disability. Compare that with the CDC reporting 1 in 4 adults in America live with a disability. It is wildly disproportionate, and will likely be years before more accurate representation is met.

image of screenshot: TV Shows and Movies That Address Disability and Difference

I enjoyed writing this piece and I learned quite a bit. I was also nervous that as an able-bodied person, I could not fully represent the community. I reached out to a mom I know who advocates for this community, who put me in touch with another mom, and also reached out to an organization that supports the intellectually and developmentally disabled in King County. Advocates from Arc of King County gave me more suggestions than I could use (many of theirs focused on movies or TV shows that were a bit older than the audience I was writing for), so I wanted to list them out here.

The Reason I Jump (2021)

The Reason I Jump, was a 2020 film festival favorite. It follows the experiences of five young nonspeaking autistic people around the globe. The title comes from the best-selling book by Naoki Higashida, who, at the age of 13, gave a voice to his experiences as a nonspeaking autistic child.

With narration of portions of Higashida’s book, alongside interviews with family members, the film provides viewers with a sensory experience that highlights the emotions within these young adults from India, Britain, the U.S., and Sierra Leone, to empathetically convey to a neurotypical audience what it is like to live within a neurodivergent mind.

Breathe (2017)

A young man stricken with polio, finds love, refuses to give up on life and the couple spends their lives helping other polio patients. Andrew Garfield and Claire Foy star, with Andy Serkis in his directorial debut!

Wretches and Jabberers (2011)

Two men with autism travel the world with the goal of changing attitudes about disability and intelligence. One of the women I messaged with emphasized the impact this film had on her, as she raised a nonverbal child for a while.

I also wished I could have written about “Raising Dion” and the “How To Train Your Dragon” series. Perhaps there is a second installment that needs to be done…

Anyway, read the first installment here: TV Shows and Movies That Address Disability and Difference

I wrote a thing about financial literacy and kids

I remember as a kid getting $5 a week for an allowance. I can’t remember if I actually got the $5 on a regular basis or if, like I do now as a parent, I was given it when my parents remembered. I also am trying to remember what I did with that money.

When I was a little bit older, I babysat and made some pretty good money, relatively speaking. I had an added advantage in that my older sister handed down a few of her jobs when she stopped babysitting, so I had a couple of regular gigs throughout middle school and high school. Sweet.

I worked during the summers in high school, and all through college. For at least a quarter and through the summer of my last months at the University of Chicago, I actually held a job and had a paid internship. I have no doubt this work ethic, on top of the somewhat neurotic way I viewed money on account of being surrounded by mostly rich kids at a prep school during the critical teen years, has crafted my view on money and finances.

Based on this, you might think I have served my child well with a financial education starting at a young age, yeah? You would be wrong! Work ethic? What’s that? Value of a dollar? Sounds fishy. It’s a lot harder to instill in your kid in this day and age, but I’ll keep trying.

It’s why I loved working on this story for GOBankingRates.com. Financial literacy is critical in this day and age, where buying items is as easy as tapping on your phone. Student loans today aren’t want they were before, and gimmicks and scams are that much more trickier to catch.

But you can start early, as the experts in this story suggest.

Read: Never Too Early: A Parents’ Guide To Teaching Your Kids About Money

Diverse YA & MG reads from 2020

This story was published the week of the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, and I didn’t feel like writing or posting. Perhaps it’s fitting, then, that this short list of books represents what America means to me. Immigrant stories, learning about racism and antiracism, overcoming defeat and achieving dreams. Maybe even more fitting, I’m typing all this while watching Inauguration Day coverage on TV. American flags, national anthems, feeling hopeful and optimistic.

For the past few years I have made a point of focusing my reading on books by women and POC. There are good stories that deserve to be told. I don’t want to get on a high horse around this. But I do believe it is important to walk the walk and talk the talk. If you don’t know what or who to read, you can start with this list (if you enjoy young adult reads), and I also suggest making use of The Seattle Public Library’s “Your Next Five” feature. You can tell a librarian (all via web form or email) what books you just read or enjoyed, and they’ll give you recommendations. Be upfront that you want to read POC authors and they will find you a book. Or, you know, your local independent bookstore. Or, if you must, Twitter.

Or start with this: Great Diverse Reads of 2020

I wrote a thing about cats and dogs

So, if you haven’t heard the biggest news, get ready: We got a puppy! That is actually old news. Bailey has been a part of our family since October. But taking care of a puppy sure did occupy a great deal of space in my head, so I was thrilled when Carly, Lead Editor at GOBankingRates.com, suggested a piece about budgeting for your new pet.

I focused on cats and dogs since they make up the majority of pets in U.S. households. If you must know, 86.9 million households in the U.S. report having a pet. That is a lot of pets.

Anyway, this one was very fun to write and research, and I included a couple of examples of pet expenses that I have heard about over the past year from friends. That comes at the very end.

Give this a read: How Your New Cat or Dog Will Impact Your Wallet

“How Your New Cat or Dog Will Impact Your Wallet”

And, please follow Bailey on Instagram:

I wrote a thing about spending and saving

2021 is getting off to a sluggish start. I’m still wrapping up the stuff from the last year that I wanted to mention on the blog, like this piece that I wrote for GOBankingRates.com. Funny thing, a year ago I was working with GBR as a publishing partner, reviewing their content, suggesting edits and pitching their stories to my fellow editors for promotion.

Today, I am freelancing for them, writing stories that once upon a time I may have been reviewing.

It’s the circle of (work) life.

Read it here: 2020 in Review: What Parents Spent and Saved This Year

Grateful for the opportunities to work with an awesome editorial team at GBR!

Happy New Year!

My favorite books from 2020

It’s been a while since I listed out some favorite books of the year. My last post like this was in 2016. Egads! This would be an odd year to resurrect it, because 2020 was not a productive year of reading for me. According to Goodreads I have read an average of 62.33 books a year over the last 9 years. In 2020, my 10th year of keeping track, I only read 29, fewer than half of my usual rate. One would think that, by staying at home 95% of the time for 10 months straight, that one might read more, but there seemingly was much to do that wasn’t reading.

photo credit: https://www.pexels.com/@dom-j-7304

The last few summers I participated in Seattle Public Library’s Book Bingo which guaranteed at least 24 books read over the summer, but I skipped it this year. There was other pandemic activities to be had, such as knitting, bread baking, remote learning supervision, job searching, coding, and then puppy life. Puppy life is really something, right?

I read a lot of YA and middle grade books, and reread some favorites due to some of the pieces I wrote for ParentMap. So, my favorite reread is definitely Are You There God, It’s Me Marageret, and I already wrote about that.

Here are some of my favorite books from 2020. The list is shorter this year. See above paragraphs about how I didn’t do as much reading

Such a Fun Age, by Kiley Reid.

A young black woman finds herself in the center of controversy when she is accused of kidnapping a child she babysits for. An engaging and realistic look at how we view race, white privilege, and woke culture.

Clap When You Land, by Elizabeth Acevedo

Two teenage girls who have never met are met with devastation of a loved one after a plane from New York to the Dominican Republic crashes. Surprise twist is when they learn they share the same father.

Written in free verse, this novel does a beautiful job at describing the lives and challenges and the emotional upheaval for these two girls. Also, I wrote a little bit about it already, in an upcoming piece that I’ll link to when it’s live.

Big Summer, Jennifer Weiner

This was one of the few books I actually wrote a review for on Goodreads, so I think that meant I liked it! Weiner is known for her chick-lit hits, but for her last two novels, I feel like she’s made a stretch out of that zone and has gone exploring a bit. Big Summer starts one way that seems familiar and then takes a twist into mystery, which is refreshing coming from the author. I think the unexpectedness of it is what made it so enjoyable for me.

I will end this post with one observation, which is that there are a number of franchises/series I have been reading, some for the past 10 years, that published within their respective series in 2020 that left me less impressed than usual. I won’t give names. Okay, I will. Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files is slowly killing me. I am still trying to get through the final epic. I am not sure if it was me, or the books themselves. Normally, my faves, including Ilona Andrews, Patricia Briggs and Sarah Maclean knock them out of the park. I’m deciding if it was the mood I was in (like for all of 2020), or the books themselves. I’ll have to do some rereads in 2021 to make my final decisions. So, there’s that.

Follow me on Goodreads.

My favorite pandemic books

I am compiling (in my head, of course), a short list of my favorite books from 2020, but until I get that done, here’s a #TBT from my Instagram account, which is private.

I did this Insta Story back when we all thought we’d be out of the office, or out of school, or out of whatever for, like two weeks. Two weeks somehow turned into two months, then the rest of the year.

These books popped up into my head again recently because over dinner the other night my family had a fun discussion around what we would do if/when a zombie apocalypse (or, any apocalypse) were to occur. I have, due to a lot of fiction reading, given this a lot of thought and felt I had a lot to contribute. My daughter’s first instinct, she said, was to head to the middle school she now attends, which I found interested because it is first, further away from us than, say, her elementary school and second, still very unfamiliar to her because even though she’s a student there, she’s never taken a class in person there. I do think she’s got the right idea, though. Schools, malls, airports are all ideal locations to consider for the long haul.

Anyhow, here is a photo flashback of some flu pandemic novel recommendations, with a little added detail that I didn’t include in the original story:

FWIW, Instagram stories is my preferred storytelling method on social media.
The Stand by Stephen King
The Stand, by Stephen King (“You never forget your first”)
I read this right after the release of the TV mini-series adaptation that starred Gary Sinise and Molly Ringwald. The version of the paperback I bought, which I got from the airport, had the two actors from the series. I think I have reread it once, and rewatched the old series, or at least seen parts of it. I have no plans on watching the new version that is now airing.
The Dog Stars, by Peter Heller
The Dog Stars, by Peter Heller.
I read so much that sometimes I forget books that I’ve read, but The Dog Stars has definitely stuck with me through the years. I think it was one of those books that I had in my queue at the library, and by the time I got it off the Holds list, I had forgotten everything about why I had it in the queue in the first place. When that happens, and then you get hit with a great story, well that’s always a memorable one. I really liked the post-pandemic lifestyle the main character lived, in the airport hangar. This is when I started keeping notes on living through these types of things.

Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel
Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel. This was recommended to me by a friend, who also lent me his copy. You are just going along, reading all of these different storylines, knowing at some point they will connect, but not entirely sure how, when suddenly it comes and you are just, like, Wow. I very much like to allow books or stories happen to me, vs trying to guess what will happen. It is a much more appealing way to enjoy a surprise twist.
Year One, by Nora Roberts
Year One, by Nora Roberts. Is there anything that Nora Robert can’t do? This novel was not only pandemic creating chaos, but also supernatural and magical. But I remember it for the post-pandemic parts, of the life and society that’s built up from the destruction. I’m seeing now that the entire series is much more magical and fantastical, and since it’s Nora, probably a little sexy. I’ll have to add them to my queue.
Severence, by Ling Ma
Severance, by Ling Ma. This has a cool twist on the panedmic, with the added Zombies that are spooky but not deadly. Memorable to me because it reflected a millennial generation perspective, which the others did not.

I wrote a thing about my favorite 80s movies

The headline of this blog post is a bit of a lie. “Hoosiers” is not one of my favorite movies from the 80s. And I didn’t see “Fame” until I was writing this piece. But “Fame” is really good! And the other movies I wrote about in this piece are ones I really truly love.

Best ‘80s Movies to Watch With Your Teens

I’m not going to talk about every movie covered, because you should read the story! But one common theme I am seeing as I look back is how much I connected with these films despite the now very glaring fact that none of the main characters of these films looked like me. So obviously devoid of Asian-American teens, as if we didn’t exist.

Okay, I’ll say this one thing about this one film. Dead Poet’s Society takes place in the 50s at an all-boys (and all-white) prep school. I suppose the only thing I really had in common here was that I was also in prep school at the time. My sophomore English teacher revealed to our class that he would watch this movie before the school year started to get pumped for teaching. Like, is that weird? I remember being a bit mortified that I liked the same movie as him. Probably not that weird.

Those students went through the emotions that I was going through at the time. Learning to express myself in front of others; trying to figure out who I was. Big for me was is dealing with imposter syndrome. So, yes, I identified with a film about white boys in the 50s.

Anyhow, please read this very fun piece I wrote for ParentMap.