Winter in Los Angeles >
January 16, 2020
“Winter in Los Angeles”…pretty much an oxymoron because it feels like summer here all year. So, how do winter enthusiasts such as myself get my fill of the cold seasons? It’s not easy, but here are some of my favorite winter activities to make this warm weather at least feel a little colder.
My first major strategy to get some winter vibes in my life is to change the decorations in my apartment. When I first moved here, I did not have many decorations, but after missing out on the seasons, I started changing my apartment decorations based on season I wanted my home to feel like. Right now, I am transitioning my fall decorations of pumpkins, spice-scented candles, reds, oranges, and browns to my winter decorations. The first thing I do when I get home to get in the winter mood is to light a pine scented candle, then I turn on the TV in the living room and play an ambient visual of a fireplace with crackling noises. While my apartment has a fireplace, I almost never use it because it just does not get cold enough, so the fake fireplace does wonders to give me the relaxing feel of a cozy fire. After setting the winter mood, I start busting out our winter décor including snowflake pillows, holiday lights, and pine-wreaths! It does not take much to create the feel of winter inside even though it’s still that perfect 65-70 degrees outside all year.
After my apartment has been transformed for winter, I start planning my winter themed activities. This includes blowing the dust of the board games for rainy days, making winter-themed crafts, and finding the best outdoor ice-skating location. Last, but certainly not least, I try to make a trip down to Disneyland because if there is any place that decorates for winter, Disney is sure to deliver.
With the changes to my decorations and leisure activities, “winter in Los Angeles” feels just as cozy and cold as I need!
Family Traditions >
November 20, 2019
With the holiday season approaching, it got me thinking about what make the holidays so special for me. At the top of my list are the traditions I celebrate with my family. For the past four years, my girlfriend Jenna and I visit my family in NorCal to celebrate thanksgiving and these are the traditions that are the most meaningful to me.
Although we arrive a few days before thanksgiving, the festivities start the moment we arrive. On the first day, my mom always makes pies and more importantly “pie sticks”…what are pie sticks you may ask? Well it’s essentially just the pie crust baked with cinnamon and sugar on top. We all know the crust is the best part of pie, so let’s just get to the good stuff…right? After we’ve filled up on pie sticks, we walk from my parent’s house, one street down to my older sister’s house to play the latest board games. I never know how she does it, but my sister always has the most fun board games that I’ve never played before. It’s even become a tradition to bring the games my sister taught us to Jenna’s family during their holiday celebrations. The next day we head to Wright’s Lake to kayak. In November, Wright’s Lake is usually partially frozen over, and is surrounded by snowcapped mountains making it one of the most breathtaking scenes of nature I have ever seen. After a day of exercising our upper body kayaking, we wake up early Thanksgiving morning and do a charity 5k run. The run helps me feel more justified in the amount of food I will consume later in the day. The rest of the day we help our relatives prepare the Thanksgiving meal and then we all eat together while sharing stories to catch up on the past year. The next morning we get up early again and we head toward South Lake Tahoe to find a tree in preparation for Christmas.
Needless to say, I cannot wait for next week because I am grateful to have these traditions that allow me to spend quality time with the people I love!
Making Peace with my Commute >
November 6, 2019
Growing up in a small town, the longest “commute” you have is around twenty minutes to go across town. Generally, people enjoyed driving and on Sunday I would go on a drive along the lake with my dad to relax and enjoy the open roads. Parking was plentiful and free. People used their car horns only for emergencies or to give friends a quick “hello” as they passed by. For much of my life, driving was a preferred occupation and something I looked forward to as part of my day. Soon after moving to Los Angeles, that all changed and driving quickly became one of my most stressful and unenjoyable occupations. My shortest commute is around twenty minutes, roads are rarely open, parking is sparse and expensive, and car horns are a little less friendly. What once was one of my most enjoyable thirty minute daily occupation was now my least enjoyable two hour daily inconvenience.
Quickly, I realized that I had taken on this pessimistic attitude toward driving and it was impacting me negatively. After coming to this realization, I chose to reframe my attitude toward my commute and find ways to make the time more enjoyable and relaxing. My first discovery on my quest to making my commute enjoyable was podcasts! Listening to podcasts and audiobooks brought back much of my enjoyment for the drive itself. Within a few weeks, I was hooked on several podcasts including Stuff You Should Know, Modern Love, and Ted Talks Daily. I now looked forward to a long drive because it gave me time to listen to a great story or learn something new.
Along with listening to podcasts, I made some other changes to my driving routine to create a more relaxing experience. First, I started using the app Waze to estimate my drive time for the next day and I would automatically add thirty minutes to all of my trips. This additional thirty minutes allowed me to relax when I encountered unexpected traffic, time to find parking, and take the slow lanes where I tend to find more friendly drivers. Next, I started walking or riding my longboard places that were close to my apartment and I found that I would usually get to my destination faster than if I had taken my car. Lastly, I began to pay more attention to the routes I took each day so I could take my eyes away from my phone’s GPS system. Knowing my daily route gave me the opportunity to relax because I was no longer concerned with missing a turn or getting lost.
Making these changes has brought back my enjoyment of driving and reduced the stress in my life. Recently, I even started going on Sunday drives again down the coast and it feels just like when I would drive along the lake with my dad. Moving to a big city came with a lot of change, but I am happy to say that I have made peace with my commute.
Staying Active on Campus >
October 30, 2019
During my first year here at USC, I lost touch with my love for fitness and staying active. Over the course of the year, I tended to prioritize my studies and other extracurricular activities over my physical fitness. Soon after taking on this more sedentary lifestyle I noticed that my mood had decreased and my stress levels had increased so I decided to make a change. Over the summer, I took advantage of the extra time I had after fieldwork to make small changes to my diet and fitness. After several weeks of making small lifestyle adjustments, I was back in the swing of physical activity and nutritious eating. As the next academic year approached I began thinking about ways I can stay active even when on campus and here are some of my favorite ideas:
- Take a walk during class breaks: many of my peers choose to take walks during breaks from class and there are many reasons to do so. Not only do you get some light physical activity, but the exposure to sunlight and the beautiful campus gardens allows me to recharge and focus when I come back to class.
- Stop at the HSC Fitness Center: As long as you are a registered student with at least 1 unit, you will have free access to the HSC fitness center Monday-Friday 6:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m. and Saturday 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. You can easily get a quick workout in before or after classes utilizing this close to campus gym!
- Do something active at lunch: My favorite of these three options is to plan to do something active during our lunch breaks. About twice a month, I play a Frisbee game called KanJam with several of my friends from the Chan Division. The grassy area outside quench is the perfect spot to set-up a quick pick-up game and have some fun while getting some exercise.
Since implementing these small changes in my daily routine, I have experienced many benefits far beyond improving my mood and stress levels. I found that after exercising I have more energy in class and throughout my day. Additionally, I have gained new friends on my daily walks during class breaks and through playing exciting games of KanJam!
If you have any other ideas I didn’t mention or would like to join–in on any of these activities, I would love to hear from you in the comment section below!
While in graduate school it’s more important than ever to take care of yourself and find something you love to do for relaxation or fun! Since I was 13 years old, that activity for me is making puzzles. Soon after discovering the Rubik’s Cube, I was hooked and wanted to make my own puzzles. While I started from humble beginnings sculpting each puzzle piece by hand, technological advances and support from the community of fellow puzzle enthusiasts brought me to 3D-printing my puzzle designs from home! Through this hobby, I made friends with people all over the world and collaborated on designs that have been brought to the mass market.
Puzzles give me the creative and stress-relieving outlet I need at the end of each day to calm my mind. While some people view Rubik’s Cube as headache inducing, for me there is nothing more peaceful than creating and solving puzzles. Along with providing a productive self-care activity, I have turned this hobby into a part-time job selling puzzles on Etsy and designing for puzzle manufactures.
This year, I challenged myself to create a new puzzle each week and so far I have met my goal and I am currently making my 40th design. Pictured below are some of my favorite designs from my puzzle-a-week challenge along with a picture of a 3D-design.
Within occupational therapy, I have used my puzzles to build rapport with clients and let them into my occupational world as they let me into theirs. Additionally, several of my less complex puzzles have been great for practicing fine motor and visual perception skills with kids!
As my puzzle-a-week challenge year comes to an end, I am shifting my focus to applying my love for 3D design and creation of complex mechanisms to the Mark and Semira Moshayedi Innovation Award competition. I am hoping to combine my love for creation with my passion for occupational therapy to create new ergonomic equipment! Look out for a blog in the future about the Moshayedi Innovation Award competition and the new Innovation Bootcamp!