Birthday Post, vol. 47

Today is my birthday! Over the years, I’ve come to understand that I value experiences and memories over anything else. That said, I have a request for my birthday, for you to share your own memories and experiences with me.

Here are some prompts to guide you!

  • Your very first memory of me
  • One of your favorite memories of an experience we shared together
  • Your favorite photo of us together
  • A photo you’ve taken of me that perhaps I’ve never seen
  • A memorable conversation we shared

Please leave a comment on this post, but if you’d prefer to keep it private, you can email me or use my contact form.

Looking forward to revisiting these moments with you! 💝

About that social media experiment…

When I last posted to this blog, I was embarking on a month long experiment in which I removed all social media apps from my phone. I would say that it was a success — I didn’t even want to rush right back into it when February ended. Only today, the 4th of March, is when I reinstalled a couple of apps back on my phone.

At first, it felt a little strange to be without social apps on my phone, almost like I was dealing with a phantom limb. I would instinctually pick up my phone when I was idle, only to find out there wasn’t really anything for me to look at.

Within the first few days, I found myself actually looking for something else on my phone to kill the time with, so I started browsing my social Slack instances to see what people were talking about. That still had a bit of a social media feeling to it, so I eventually deleted those off my phone as well.

More reading, less browsing

Soon I started reading my neglected reading lists on Instapaper and my RSS reader. That felt pretty good and enriching, but I still didn’t like staring at my phone for an extended period of time. I eventually limited my feed reading to my iPad, when I would sit down intentionally to read. That worked pretty well! I also started reading on my Kindle more regularly.

The life and death of FOMO

I definitely had a feeling of FOMO in the early days of this experiment. My anxious brain kicked in: What is everybody up to? Am I missing any big announcements or events in anyone’s life? Am I being a bad friend or family member by not keeping up with things as they’re happening?

The solution to this was to make more direct connections with people. That made the FOMO monster go away, and I felt more relaxed.

Direct connections

As I mentioned in my previous post, I gave myself permission to make occasional, intentional visits to the desktop/web versions of these sites while sitting at my computer, and spend a limited amount of time on them. While it was nice to have that option, I ended up only doing so a handful of times over the course of the month, mainly to check in to see what family and close friends were up to by visiting their profiles.

I think going directly to the profiles of people I want to check in on is a habit that I’m going to keep up with, as the main feed on Instagram in particular is often frustrating with the way that the algorithm sorts things. I’ve also become partial to using the “Favorites” view if I felt like browsing. Another habit I’d like to keep up with when browsing IG is to use the desktop/web version more often, since there doesn’t seem to be any advertisements littering the feed.

In addition, I made more direct connections by contacting people individually (via email, text, even calls). That felt a lot more fulfilling than trying to keep up with social media posts.

The others

It turned out that Instagram was the largest presence in my social media life, and that adjustment was probably the most challenging. The second runner up was Mastodon, which I had only recently gained momentum in using in the past few months.

The other apps were not a challenge at all to be away from. TikTok and Tumblr were already occasional visits. I largely stopped using Twitter many years ago, and cleared out my account last year anyway.

The sound of silence

I really, really liked the reduction of noise in my life from taking social media apps off of my phone. When looking at my phone to check the time or weather, it was refreshing to not be greeted by a long, scrolling list of notifications.

What I took away from this is to disable notifications from these apps completely. It’s such a simple solution, yet I hadn’t thought of it till I conducted this experiment.


With less social media in my life, I found myself with more time and mindspace to just be. I found myself sitting and reflecting a lot. I picked up journaling again. I became more consistent with my exercise habit. All good things that I hope to continue.

I’ve learned a lot from this experiment, and have some new habits that I’ll be keeping — I consider this experiment a success!

Reclaiming Boredom

I recently read this comic* by Kate Wheeler that really resonated with me. I recommend you read it, but to summarize, Kate remembers what it was like as a child to be bored, which led to letting her mind wander. In the current time, she realizes that she was finding herself grabbing her phone whenever she found an idle moment.

*The comic is also available on the Washington Post, but it is paywalled.

At best, my phone was a time waster. At worst, a thief of boredom and creativity.

—Kate Wheeler

Kate deleted “everything interesting” from her phone in an attempt to get back the feeling of boredom and creativity that she experienced as a kid, and she seems to have been successful with that.

Reading Kate’s story inspired me to try something similar. I hope to not only to encourage my creativity again through boredom, but also to disconnect from the barrage of news and “junk food” that social media often serves up, as well as connect with people outside of the context of apps on my phone.

My experiment will slightly vary from Kate’s. For the month of February, I am going to delete social media apps from my phone (i.e., Instagram, Mastodon, TikTok, Tumblr, Twitter), but I’ll give myself permission to make occasional, intentional visits to the desktop versions of these sites while sitting at my computer, and spend a limited amount of time on them.

I intend on running this experiment for a month and I’ll see what happens! So if you don’t see me around those networks as often, now you know why. I intend on posting a recap at the end of month, so see ya then! 👋🏽

Courtney’s 2021

It’s typical on New Year’s to write a post reflecting on the past year. Although I have been mulling over all the thoughts and feelings on 2021 as a whole, I am opting to keep those thoughts internal for now, and I’m more motivated to document some of my personal experiences in this year-end review post. Read on for a bulleted list!


  • Went to the emergency room for what ended up being diagnosed as my first stomach ulcer. The cause seems to had been a perfect storm of naproxen (for back pain), triggering foods, and the stress from the January 6 insurrection.
  • Celebrated one year with our sweet kittens.


  • Hunkered down for the first winter storm of the year (10 inches of snow, if my memory serves me).
  • Made the decision to sell our house of seven years, the first house we’d ever purchased!
  • Spent a lot of the month sorting through and purging a lot of the belongings we’d accumulated over the past seven years.  Started moving out of our home gradually.


  • Completely emptied our house and did a bunch of painting and prepping for staging.
  • During the moving process, I injured my back so horribly that I could not get out of bed. Full recovery took a couple weeks, which unfortunately made me a bit slow with our prep for selling. I am endlessly thankful to Robert for balancing out moving, house selling tasks, and taking care of me through all this. <3


  • Staged and listed our house, and quickly received multiple offers!
  • Accepted an offer and the house welcomed its new owners by month’s end.
  • Signed off of work for three months as I started my three month sabbatical!
  • Got my first vaccine dose on the first full day of my sabbatical.


  • Started a daily habit of going for wandering walks and sitting in parks.
  • Got my second vaccine dose!
  • Got my hair professionally cut (with the return of the undercut!) and colored for the first time since
  • Voted in the special election.
  • Subscribed to MasterClass and started learning new things.
  • Bought a waffle iron and waffled all the things (favorite waffled food: tater tots)!
  • Met with a friend for the first time in a year and a half <3


  • Witnessed my baby nephew turning one year old!
  • Went for our first vacation since December 2019, to Palm Springs. I spent a heck of a lot of time doing nothing in particular, sitting in the pool and reading.
  • Went on multiple day trips to the Oregon coast (Manzanita Beach is our favorite) to sit on the beach and watch the waves.
  • Continued my daily habit of walks with podcasts, and sitting & reading in the park.


  • Went back to the movies for the first time in 19 months, to see Summer of Soul.
  • Traveled to L.A. to visit our close friends (incidentally, the last folks we traveled to see before the pandemic began).
  • Continued my daily walks and park sitting.
  • Inspired by a MasterClass, I picked up a DJ controller and started playing around with DJing.
  • Went to the art museum for the first time in years.
  • Went to Retro Game Bar for the first time, with my brother for some bonding time.
  • Wrapped up my sabbatical and went back to work!
  • Published a post of my recently consumed media.


  • Published a post with my thoughts on my sabbatical.
  • Bought an espresso machine and started to attempt to perfect my latte technique.
  • Traveled to Newport for our 9th wedding anniversary. Visited the Oregon Aquarium for the first time and enjoyed some more time staring at ocean waves.


  • Went on a hike to one of our favorite waterfalls for the first time since the wildfires in 2017.
  • Celebrated Robert’s last day of a job he’d had for 9 years, and his start at a new one!
  • Participated in a project with a group of rad AAPI women and non-binary people.
  • Rang in my 45th birthday by celebrating my inner child at Disneyland, back for the first time in 3 years.


  • Welcomed both sets of parents for a visit in Portland early in the month.
  • Celebrated Robert’s birthday with early dinner at his favorite restaurant, and a low-key evening at home.


  • Started a new role in Designer Experience.
  • Created a new office space at home (since I had been working from a desk in our bedroom since I returned from sabbatical in July).
  • Had a nice intimate Thanksgiving dinner with just a few family members.
  • Celebrated 16 years together with Robert <3
  • Got my vaccine booster.


  • Back at Disneyland at the beginning of the month to spend time with family!
  • Started a new hobby with Robert of assembling jigsaw puzzles together.
  • Celebrated Christmas with just the two of us at home for the first time.
  • Stayed up till 3am on New Year’s eve listening to records while working on a puzzle!

How I learned to stop worrying and loved my sabbatical

You rarely have time for everything you want in this life, so you need to make choices. And hopefully your choices can come from a deep sense of who you are.

–Mr. Rogers

My employer gives the gift of a 3 month sabbatical for folks that have been with the company for 5 years. I reached that mark this past April, but the planning for my sabbatical started back in autumn of 2020. At that time, I debated whether it was a good idea to take a sabbatical in the midst of a pandemic. But at the gentle urging of wise friends, I decided to go ahead and go for it.

In the months leading up to it, I was approaching my sabbatical like a project, because I wanted to make the best of this generous gift of time. I kept asking myself, What could I accomplish in three months? What goals should I set? What boxes could I check off?

Initially, I was super excited to start new projects, revisit neglected ones, learn new things, and return to work as an improved version of myself.

As a planner by nature, I made lists upon lists, only to find myself overwhelmed with the seemingly endless possibilities. Whenever I have these many possibilities, I find myself paralyzed with indecision on how to proceed. It got to the point that I felt like I really needed to reel it in and get to the core of what I wanted… not just out of a sabbatical, but from myself.

My teammates are always thinking of and are very giving to others, and I really treasure that quality about them. While this is a great and admirable quality, I have found that I have a tendency to over-deliver on it and lose sight of myself.

After some thought, I decided to lower my expectations for quantifiable accomplishments during my sabbatical, and concentrate on returning to work as an improved version of myself. To improve myself, I concluded that needed:

  • To get to know myself outside the context of work, home, and various responsibilities,
  • To treat myself with kindness, and
  • To accept and like that person I was getting to know again.

Getting outside

My most frequented park

One of the most important things I taught myself was to get outside. Not just out of the house, but outside my head. I found myself going on frequent walks, usually without prior planning for a particular route or destination. I made lots of neighborhood discoveries — gazing at gardens in full bloom; finding tiny libraries, fairy doors, and yard art; greeting neighborhood dogs and cats (and even chickens and tortoises); listening to orchestra musicians practicing in their backyards. I also spent a lot of time sitting in various parks, reading, listening to podcasts, and watching dogs play.

It turned out that it was really helpful for me to get out of the house, in order to get out of the context of the place where household chores and other responsibilities are always looming. This helped clear my mind to enable me to spend intentional time with and for myself.

Taking the idea of getting outside even further, as the time progressed I wanted to get out of the context of our town to reset a bit. We took a couple of local day trips, and eventually, once we were fully vaccinated, even hopped on a plane a couple of times.

Where the heart is

Part of nourishing my heart is spending my time with loved ones. I’m grateful that I was able to reconnect more deeply with my spouse and close friends, and I’ve been grateful for having family close by again. Maintaining these kinds of connections is important to me, especially during the pandemic.

The Rest

I listened to a lot of podcasts, played video games, read books, and watched plenty of movies and television shows. Because I cannot resist making lists, I published a list of everything I consumed.

Speaking of rest, I did a lot of that. It was incredibly restorative to be able to get the sleep my body needed (despite still battling with occasional insomnia, and a recurrence of some health issues from earlier this year). I wrote in my paper journal. I kept up with my therapy sessions. I meditated. I got my hair cut by a pro for the first time in 21 months. I got a manicure and pedicure. I cooked. I supported local chefs’ pop-up businesses. I drove around without a destination. I wandered plant nurseries with no agenda. I tended to my house plants. I assembled furniture. I sketched. I went to the art museum. Inspired by one of the MasterClass courses I took, I even bought a DJ controller and started dabbling in DJing.

These were all things that contribute to who I am! Reflecting back on all I experienced, this is the most “me” sabbatical I could’ve taken.

A video composed of 1 second of each day of my sabbatical.

Bringing it all back

I feel like I really had the time and space to get to know myself again, and I hope to bring my full self back to my everyday work. I don’t want to lose sight of who that person is, so I want to be more aware of when I am losing myself in my work and not having a good balance in my life, because that is what often leads me to stress and burnout. As I returned to work last month, I wanted to be aware of setting boundaries for myself and others, getting the rest I need, not overcommit and over-work, and asking for help when I need it.

I came back to work refreshed and ready to dive back in with a new and improved perspective, so I’d call my sabbatical a success.

Bonus: Link to some photos from my sabbatical. Lots of cats, food, drink, and parks 🙂