This is NOT Only a Test (aka: College Admissions, pt. 1)

So my daughter, a junior in high school, just took the SAT exam last week, because she heard that some universities out there think it’s “important” that high schoolers have test scores to prove they’re “capable” of being successful students, or something. As if they couldn’t prove that by their Instagram feeds.

Anyways, she says it was pretty easy, for the most part. I hope that doesn’t mean she just randomly filled in a bunch of scantron bubbles. Because yeah, that’s pretty easy to do. I may or may not know this from experience. Lots of people have taken the SAT, but most of them don’t use the word easy to describe how it went. Those are probably the people who actually read the questions and did their best to answer them. Well, we will find out how my daughter did in another week or two. Hopefully well, because those exams aren’t free.

Standardized test scantron

Speaking of exams that aren’t free, in a couple of months, she will get to take even more exams. Only this time, they will be super-hard ones called International Baccalaureate exams. Which are a lot like Advanced Placement exams, but harder to spell. And possibly more expensive. IB exams cost about the same as buying a used car. A really bad used car that probably doesn’t run, but still. Not free.

student overwhelmed studying exams

I actually do get why colleges insist on SAT scores for the admissions process. With a nation full of overscheduled super-brains raised by a generation of Tiger Moms, the schools have to have some way to separate the chaff from the wheat, so I guess it might as well be by test result.

Tiger Moms

Well then, why don’t we take that a little further? I mean, lots of jobs (including mine) require potential candidates to pass an exam before they can be hired, right? Well, why don’t we apply this concept to other important things in life? Like, you should have to pass some sort of basic test just to get a gym membership. The questions might look something like:

You’ve just finished an intense, sweaty, 40-minute workout on one of the exercise bikes. Do you:

  1. Rub on the readout screen with your forearm to try and clean it up a little.
  2. Wipe down the equipment with anti-microbial solution, because ew, germs.
  3. Wipe down the equipment with anti-microbial solution and wash your hands, because ew, germs.
  4. Go home.

Or a test before you’re allowed to cook anything, ever:

You’ve just finished cooking a pot full of yummy spaghetti (Congrats!). Do you:

  1. Turn off the stove.
  2. Turn off the stove.
  3. Turn off the stove.
  4. Leave the stove on and walk away.

An exam for people trying to lose a few pounds:

Which of the following choices may assist you in your weight loss goals?

  1. Spending all of your free time Netflix bingeing and eating pizza.
  2. Drinking a 300 calorie smoothie in addition to your meals each day.
  3. Eating a low-calorie diet consisting mainly of plant sources.
  4. Adopting a Hobbit-style diet. (Second breakfast, anyone?)

Want to become a parent? Get a high score on this exam, first!

Your baby is crying. You:

  1. Pick her up and try to figure out what will soothe her.
  2. Put him in a bouncy seat and tell Alexa to entertain him with jokes.
  3. Ignore her and keep playing Overwatch/Roblox/The Sims.
  4. Give him away to the neighbors.

Of course, these exams wouldn’t be free. You’d have to pay the government to test you, so that we could use your money to come up with newer, shinier exams for more subjects. And the test-takers with high scores would flourish in the brave new world! And the lower classes would subsist of all the people who refused to study and failed the tests. And…what’s that? Oh, you’re wondering if these exams are part of my super-secret INTJ plan to take over the world? Nah. I was just testing you to see how you’d respond.


Graupel, Great Books, and Growth (aka: Don’t Stand Still)

Last week, something bizarre happened where I live. It snowed. Okay, fine, it wasn’t exactly snow. More like an enormous amount of hail that dumped all over the city ground during an intense thundershower. But there was so much of it, that it blanketed the streets, piled up on the sidewalks, and led to car spin-outs and a very long commute home.

On the news later that evening, the weatherman referred to the weird snow/hail/white stuff as graupel. Small pellets of soft hail. All around town, people were shoveling grapuel from their walkways. Kids — and adults — were throwing grapuel balls and forming little graupelmen and making grapuel angels on the ground.


I had so much fun saying the new word I’d learned, that I kept repeating it. “Hey kids, did it graupel at your school today? Don’t forget your gloves — it might graupel again today!” (Seriously, it’s fun to say. You should try it. Graupel graupel graupel).

Learning new words still gives me a little thrill. In fact, learning almost anything gives me a thrill. There is something so satisfying about downloading new tidbits of information into my ever-expanding database of knowledge. Some of those new skills and ideas get lost in an overcrowded folder somewhere. But others invade my mind like a virus, affecting the way I once thought and acted.

When I read a good book — not just entertaining light fiction, but good, hearty literature — I am often presented with new words, or esoteric phrases, or ethical dilemmas that challenge me, forcing me to dig in, to question and refine my own beliefs. Same goes for a well-made documentary, film, or other work of art. These experiences won’t let me stand still. I can feel myself stretching until I have reached such dimensions that I could not go back to being my old self if I tried.

New Dimensions

It is easy for us to stand still, to grow complacent with our stagnation, to drift through the routine of our days while allowing ourselves only the passive entertainment of cat videos and humorous memes. Even I am prone to that, nodding my head to cheap pop music, or absorbing myself in shallow reading. It is like lying on a warm beach, licking an ice cream cone. Panacea to the everyday stresses that afflict us all. It is not a bad thing.

But something burning inside me refuses to allow myself to stay the same. Train yourself, it says. It will not allow me to be content with an outdated inner database, watching graupel fall and calling it snow. Eating sugary, processed foods and convincing myself that it’s good for my body. Doing nothing at all and saying that I am becoming a better version of myself.

gears turning thinking ideas

Today is Tuesday. Some say it is the dullest day of the week — not bleak enough to be a Monday, nor hopeful enough to be a Friday. I say that Tuesdays should become our most productive day. We have shaken off the sleepiness and are ready to learn, ready to challenge ourselves, ready to shine. So let’s log back into those free online classes we’ve been ignoring. Let’s buy ingredients and actually try to cook that intriguing Thai vegetable soup recipe we found last year on Pinterest. Let sunlight fall on the pages of a new Great Book filled with ideas and words we’ve never heard before. Try a new piece of equipment at the gym. Read some opposing political viewpoints and let it shake up your own prized worldview. Let’s get out there and help each other grow toward our fullest potential.

Just don’t stand still.

Disneyland Tessering (and other Magical Things)

I know. There is bug splat all over my car. It’s pretty grody to look at, and I’m sure the next-door neighbors are frowning at my carport. But I’m not ready to wash it off. Not yet.

My two youngest teens and I just got back from a week-long vacation. It started as a plan to spend Ski Week (aka Presidents’ Week) in Southern California, touring colleges. Yes, it’s true. Teen #2, my 16yo former gymnast, is a junior in high school already. Sensing our time together at home slipping away, I suggested we make this college tour trip super-fun. “How about we spend a day at Disneyland?” I said. *Insert shrieks of enthusiasm from the kids*. In the end, our plans included one of my daughter’s friends, and extended to two days on our favorite sunny SoCal beach, followed by two days in the Happiest Place on Earth.

So off we went, road-tripping through our state, plugging our noses as we passed “Cow-alinga,” admiring the miles of golden hills and farms, and even being surprised by a snowstorm as we drove through the Grapevine. Seriously. Snow, in Southern Cali. So cool, right? That was the beginning of the magic.

The next big Magical Thing was the beach. The amazing blueness of the sky and surf, and the empty golden sands, like the beach was open just for us. (Okay fine, it was freezing cold, an the other beachgoers were probably gathered indoors somewhere with a heater. But still).

Magical Thing #3 was the poke restaurant we discovered, which had macaron ice cream sandwiches. They exist, guys. They exist. And you have not lived until you have tasted one.

Then came the biggest Magical Thing of all. No, it wasn’t getting pictures with both Mickey and Minne Mouse without even waiting in line (though that was pretty rad, too). No, it wasn’t the part where Star Tours was better than ever, and Soarin’ Around the World was better than ever, and Radiator Springs Racers was our favorite new ride and well worth the wait. Nor was it seeing the Black Panther drive by, or meeting Captain America, who was fresh out of lectures, but had a funny story to share about his friend, Thor.

No, the most Magical Thing happened when we just happened to be strolling past the castle on Thursday afternoon. A woman tapped me on the shoulder and asked if our family would like to participate in a photo shoot to advertise the new A Wrinkle in Time film, which is coming out next month.

Would we! My son and I had already read the book and can’t wait until the movie is released. So naturally, we said yes. I signed a couple of wavers, then they handed us free t-shirts and directed us to a roped-off area, where we waited with about one hundred other Disneygoers. “Have your phones ready,” the woman advised me. I wondered why.

And then…it happened. The crowd around us erupted into huge cheers. Then they stepped up onto a podium a few feet in front of me — Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Storm Reid, and the Queen herself, Oprah Winfrey. *Insert Screams*

Ohmigod! I was so starstruck, I forgot about the cameras snapping photos of us. Only the top of my head, and my hand, holding up my cell phone made it into the official shot (just to the right of Reese Witherspoon). But who cares? My kids and I got to be part of a very cool, very magical movie promotion along with some of the most talented and famous actresses ever. Eeeeeek! The entire experience took our level of Disney magic to a whole new level. In fact, I think we may have tessered right out of the park and straight to Neverland for a while. I’m still kind of floating there, as the pixie dust hasn’t yet worn off. How did we get so incredibly lucky?

Somehow, we managed to return home safely, though still in a daze of wonder, high on Disney Magic. There are still suitcases to be unpacked. And there’s my car, covered in road trip bug splat, in need of a wash. But that doesn’t even bug me right now. I want to savor this magic, as all magic moments in life are meant to be savored, treasured, and remembered during the times when life seems to have lost its shine. We all need a little magic, sometimes, to remind us why this wonderful, beautiful life we have is so very worth living. May you have your next magic moment soon.

Stolen Heart (A Poem)

Stolen Heart


I find it amusing

the notion that you stole my heart

like a bandit who crept in while I slept

and pocketed

my greatest treasure.


This heart?

This living, pulsing sun

that makes flowers bloom

and hastens the birth of Spring?


As if fingers could grasp it, resist

its flames

As if it were something one could possess

like a jewel, left unguarded


My heart can no more be stolen

than the current stolen from the river.

My heart can belong to no one

any more than the stars belong to the night.


What you hold now

that which slipped from clumsy fingers

or is kept dusty on a shelf

or perhaps was hung on your wall to admire

is merely a relic

a crystal glass filled with the golden water

I poured for you

from the precious fount that still beats within me.


It was always yours to spill

or shatter

or drink.

But whatever you choose, know

that my heart is full

and will fill your glass again and again

and yet again

until you understand true love

until you know forgiveness.

One is the Onlyest Number (aka: Pathways)

Life is a maze of pathways.

When we are young, the paths seem fewer. Wider. Simpler to choose. Well duh…I choose the path with the great job, perfect spouse, 2.5 kids, and a 3-bedroom house with a picket fence. Okay, maybe not with the picket fence, because those babies require maintenance.

But as we journey forward in life, those paths begin to multiply. They are murkier, shrouded in mystery. We think we have wandered down the path leading toward our destiny, only to discover that we’ve wandered into some ghetto by mistake. Whoops. Backtrack.

So we choose new paths, with new starry-eyed goals, and new hopes for a better lives. Surely this time, we’ll get it right. Right?

I used to be so good at picking the seeming winners. I wanted to graduate from a university. Bingo! I did it. I wanted a traditional marriage to a good man, with three kids, a golden retriever, and a house in a sleepy suburb. Bingo! I got that, too. Only later, the good man turned out to be not so good, so that path grew more like the journey toward Mordor, until i worked up the courage to flee.

I chose a new path. One with just me, and three great kids. (Only no more golden retriever, because, sadly, she was stolen from us.). It turned out to be the best path yet. My kids and I make one happy family together. I have a career that I enjoy, our health is good, and I feel that I have an optimum balance of work, hobbies, and rest.

But there is only me.

I’m not completely alone. My kids and I have a terrific relationship. We talk, support each other, and laugh together. What more could I ask for? One of my sisters lives nearby, and though we rarely talk or get together, I know that I could call her in an emergency. So I guess that’s kind of a support network.

Still, there is only me. (Cue Whitesnake)

I am the only parent i our household. Which means, I get to be the nurturer, enforcer, provider, protector, teacher, and final-decision-maker. Those are my roles, as Mom. I can pretend sometimes that my kids are my friends, but truthfully, they have their own lives, with their own friends. And there are many things that I can’t share with them the way you can with another adult.

I am my only friend. I’m friendly enough with people I encounter at work or the occasional meetups I venture out to. But I do not have any close friends. If something exciting were to happen in my life, I would scream about it to No One and Everyone on Twitter and my blog. And possibly with people at work. I would not have a friend to share it with. If something bad happens in my life, well, I would probably write about it in my journal, or deal with it internally while listening to sad music. It is up to me to cheer for myself. It is up to me to comfort myself. Because, there is only me.

Luckily, I am good at being the only one. I’ve had a lot of practice. And I’m a pretty darned good friend to myself. I treat myself to an occasional chai, or glass of good wine. I know myself well, so I know just the right things to say to motivate me. I compliment myself and cheer my own accomplishments. Most importantly, I like myself. And I will never leave me.

This path of Onlyness isn’t the path I thought I would take. I thought that by now, after being single for nearly five years, my life would look a little different. I thought that I would have a couple of close friends to hang out with and chat about stupid stuff and important stuff. I thought I would have been in a serious relationship, maybe even remarried, but to someone much better for me. Why not? I’m a kind, honest, interesting, intelligent, and funny person. But neither of those paths led anywhere. They were only ever dead ends. Somehow, it always ended up with only me, standing there, wondering what went wrong.

So I chose a different path. The path of purposeful Onlyness. A path on which I no longer seek friendships or relationships to fill whatever voids I may have, as doing so only led to deeper voids, and more hurt. A path on which I allow people come and go as they choose, and not chase after them. Nor will it hurt when people go, because we will never be close to begin with. A path on which I will not ever again allow myself to be emotionally weak and vulnerable with others. I will instead hold others at a distance, safe in my aloofness.

On this path, I go out to see concerts, movies, and plays with Only Me. I try new foods. I read great books. I work hard at staying fit, advance in my career, and focus on raising my last two teens to adulthood. I do not look with envy at those who are on a different path. I instead celebrate my own path, and offer myself the love, respect, and appreciation that I know I deserve. Is the Only path a lonely path? Yes. It can be. But no lonelier that when I was on the wrong path, searching for togetherness, and only finding aloneness. Better to admire the garden from a distance than to pick the flowers and be stung by bees.

One Small Thing (aka: Life-Changing Baby Steps)

Big things start with small steps.

It isn’t a new concept. From the moment we were born, we learned and grew in small increments. Before we could talk, we babbled. Before we could run, we had to crawl. Then stand, Then take our first wobbly steps forward. But at last, we could do it — we could run! After that, we mastered running. Owned it. Our childhood motto was: Why walk, when you can run? Some of us still run.

But first, we had to crawl.

Change requires baby steps. It is astounding how much we berate ourselves for not being able to reach our personal potential. Why can’t my body be fit and toned? Why can’t I lose twenty pounds? Why can’t I save enough money to do the things I really want to do? What’s wrong with me?

We blame it on our lack of willpower. Our genetic inheritance. Our own laziness. Or, we try — really, really try. We follow the latest fad diet and exercise like crazy until we tear a muscle, or gain back the weight. We start hoarding money, only to realize that we’ve forgotten to budget enough cash to pay the bills, or buy enough groceries for the family.

Instead of growing, we grow discouraged.

But we’ve forgotten that every positive change starts with small steps. Teeny tiny movements in the right direction. Like learning the sounds of each letter of the alphabet before we are ready to learn to read.

MSNBC’s news website has a lifestyle segment that I often enjoy reading, called Better. Each day, it features tips for one small change that we can take in order to improve in some area of our lives. Sleep better. Eat better. Have better relationships. Be better in the workplace. Manage our finances better. Each time I read one of the articles posted, there, I walk away with new ideas for one small thing to try. One tiny change that may lead me to better habits, and assist me as I strive for excellence.

Because isn’t that what this is all about? Not just trying to grow for the sake of growth, but to strive for excellence. To live our best life possible. To be all that we can be.

I have had a decades-long goal of becoming a better homemaker. I want for my family’s home to be comfortable, aesthetically pleasing, and clean. Even back when I was a full-time SAHM/Homemaker, I was a terrible housekeeper. I could cook well, and sew adorable curtains to hang in the windows. I could paint walls and add special touches to make our house feel like home. But our home was rarely ever clean. I’ve certainly come a long way, as have my kids. But I’m still not where I’d like to be.

I began with baby steps. Start by making your bed. I don’t remember where I once read this advice, but after my ex-husband and I split up, I began to make my bed every day. And know what? I grew to appreciate having a well-made bed to sleep in each night. I also began to keep a very clean bedroom. Uncluttered surfaces, vacuumed floors. Each small change added to my daily happiness, and reduced my stress levels. Soon, I hope that this state of being always tidy spreads to the rest of the house. That’s a little tougher, since those are shared spaces, and my kids, well, they remind me of myself twenty years ago. Some days, I wish that they could just magically become organized teens, with neat bedrooms, and organized school binders.

And know what? Someday, they may get there. They just have to start with one small change. The same is true for you, too.

I’m a Unicorn, not a Villain (aka: Musings of a Mastermind)

Want to know a secret about me?

I was not always an INTJ.

Gasp! Impossible! I know, right? After all, I have taken the MBTI (Meyer-Briggs Type Indicator) multiple times, on multiple websites, and even in paper form. I once even paid to have my results summed up by an MBTI certified psychologist. And every single time, at least, throughout the past decade, I have scored the same. INTJ.  Introverted Intuitive Thinking Judging. AKA The Mastermind. AKA The Systems Builder. AKA The Psychopath. 

Okay, not really that last one. But there is a disturbing number of villains associated with my MBTI type. Or rather, people who appear to be villainous until you get to know them better. . (Also note the  curiously low number of females on this list).

Female MBTI Personality Types

Once upon a time, though, I was not an INTJ. I took the test when I was around 22 years old, a preschool teacher, young traditional wife, aspiring mother, and conservative super-Christian. Back in those days, I was still super-social, with a wide circle of friends, and plenty of parties and get-togethers on the calendar. I even used to throw parties. I played Bunko, sold Tupperware, and went to scrapbooking socials.

In other words, I used to be a totally different person than I am today.

When I took the MBTI for the first time in the late 1990s, I wasn’t even close to an INTJ. I forget the type, but it was associated with being warm, caring, and nurturing. It was a highly typical female personality. I may have still been an introvert, I don’t know. But my profile didn’t look anything like it does now.

So what does that mean? Does it mean that the MBTI is bullshit, as VICE so eloquently summed it up?   Some say that the tool is invalid for categorizing unchanging personality traits, because a person’s mood can affect his or her answers, or because the person may be one way in the workplace, but exhibit different traits outside of work. And yet, the tool continues to be used widely by therapists, potential employers, educators, and more.

Or maybe the tool itself is functional, but a person’s personality traits are not as unchangeable as we once thought. Perhaps environment, trauma, and other life circumstances can impact different parts of our personality. After all, I was not always an unsociable cave-dweller. I did not always live inside my own mind, putting pieces together and creating systems.

And yet, here I am.

I recently tried Good & Co., a popular career app that offers multiple quizzes to help you discover more about your personality, and to match you with companies. The first couple of quizzes yielded predictable results: I was a Mastermind. I was a Unicorn. No kidding. But then, as I took more tests, the results began to change:

Tiare's Good&Co Profile


Excuse me? An Advocate? Sociable? How and when did this happen? Maybe my personality at work is nothing like my personality outside of work. Or maybe I just happen to be the kind of INTJ who generally gets along well with people and likes to be kind and altruistic. Or maybe personality is far too multi-faceted to be neatly divided into little labeled boxes.

And maybe I am thinking about all of this in a very INTJ way.