October 15, 2019

Are you a fan of Shel Silverstein?

And hats?

And friends?

OK that’s everyone.

I know this fellow Justin who wears many hats in my life.

In fact, whenever we speak, we must punctuate our conversations with which hat applies because some connote a fiduciary relationship. He is my lawyer, see.

But that is not all he is.

We met through AREAA Greater Birmingham, a nonprofit board on which we both serve. As the secretary and treasurer, respectively, we manage the administrative and financial interests of the chapter.

So our phone calls go like this:

“Hi Felicia it’s Justin, putting on my AREAA hat…”

And then, we plan and scheme.

When he is advising me on business matters, the calls goes:

“Hi Justin, put on your LLC hat.” I imagine an LLC hat as pointy and papered with degrees.

When he advises me on my real estate investments, I imagine a Victorian top hat caked with chunky fists full of twigs and soil and passive income.

He has been integral to my peace of mind, as I map out a plan to build wealth and community and opportunities.

And he has become a needed friend.

We meet thousands of people in our lives and keep so few. And so few keep us. It’s a terribly difficult and valuable thing to earn a place in someone’s life, filled with burdens and minutiae; busy with jobs, children, pets, and too many obligations.

And the older we get, the less time we devote to finding and keeping unusual, inspiring, intoxicating people who make us better.

So my favorite of Justin’s hats is the friend hat, which he throws on askew after we’ve rotated through all the important business we need to cover, and we’re done, but we want to keep chatting.

This hat, in my mind’s eye, is tall and pocketed, teetering precariously; a Dr. Seuss cylinder hat whose top is so high above the clouds, I cannot even see the rim.

Each pocket is filled, overflowing with moments. Hilarious moments. Some, future moments we haven’t reached yet.

Justin is always positive. I am not. I find I cannot be negative with him. He simply negates negativity with his being.

He avoids harmful ingredients, but he let me introduce him to Vietnamese food, and now his dreams are filled with cà phê đá

even though the milk causes him pain.

I fear being the harmful ingredient in his productive day, so when he calls, I stop being pissy. And that’s how me makes me better.

When I get to chat with my friend, we take care of business and then all good things seem possible.

Find yourself a Justin or maybe just get yourself some hats.

Holiday Gratitude

December 28, 2018

Please take a moment to remember all the lonely, forgotten, and neglected this holiday season.


May 12, 2018

I met Tricia a very short time ago: August 2017

Cliff arrived in my Chicago for a conference. He texted me at almost 10pm, which is about 3 hours past my bedtime. He asked for restaurant recommendations for himself and one of his staffers. Everything was closed, so I responded in my usual rude way.

But since Cliff is special to me, I resisted the urge to go back to sleep and discovered Chinatown restaurants stay open until 2am. 14 years in Chicago, and I didn’t know this. The prospect of seeing Cliff and eating dim sum woke me right up.

I rolled my old bones out of bed and drove to meet my friend.

And I met Tricia.

Now, I don’t warm to people right away very often. But Tricia radiated kindness and light. I liked her instantly. She cautiously surveyed the curried cuttlefish we ordered and tried most things, open to adventure, but warned of her sensitive constitution.


She told us about the work she did for Cliff but she was quiet, and I gathered she didn’t warm to people quickly either. We parted that evening with plans to see each other again while they were in town, over burgers and BBQ. We talked about my hometown of Birmingham and how fun it might be to work together.

In January 2018, I came home to see my family for the holidays and was eager to see my new friend. Tricia didn’t know that I had decided to move home when we agreed to meet for lunch, but she had already arranged to help me consider it by introducing me to a potential job.

Within a week, we had a deal and within a month, I was driving cross-country to my new old home.

My new office was dark and isolated and lonely, so I would visit Tricia’s office often. It is as warm and bright as her smile, and she always had 80s music playing. And giant photos of her husband, of whom she spoke as lovingly as if he were right next to her, finishing her sentences.

Here we are at Iron City listening to The Molly Ringwalds and reveling in 80s nostalgia.


We lost our dear Tricia this morning.

I knew her for only a handful of months. I cannot imagine the pain of those who loved her for her entire life.

Thank you Tricia for bringing me home. I will miss your easy smile, your eagerness and ability to sense the needs of everyone around you, how much you love your husband, your dry humor, #TunaGate, and your notes on our dry-erase boards that read, “I love Tricia, she’s the best!”

Yes. Yes she is.

Call Spoofing

August 24, 2016

My phone number fell victim to the dreaded Caller ID Spoofing, which is when your number is used to mask the caller’s number, hiding the scammer’s identity or perhaps increasing the probability of a telemarketer getting through.

Consumers have some recourse in reporting the relentless, annoying onslaught, but little can be done by me, the owner of the phone number spoofed. Most end up changing their number altogether. We’ll see if I’m driven to that level of madness.

I immediately changed my voicemail to this:

“Please be aware, this number was highjacked by scammers or telemarketers. I did not call you, and I am sorry you have been inconvenienced too. If you are trying to reach Felicia, please text me.”

For three days, hundreds of people have been calling me. Even after hearing my sympatico voicemail, they scream demands to cease, remind of their Do Not Call status, insult for calling and hanging up.

Others have been quite polite. And thorough:

“Hi! It looks like a missed your call, and I’m not sure what it’s regarding so I wanted to follow up. My name is ….. and you can reach me at … … …. at your convenience. Thank you!”

It has been a fascinating exercise in phone etiquette, which I abandoned years ago.

  • I almost never talk on the phone unless at work
  • I pay no attention to missed calls. If I missed your call, I figure you’ll call back.
  • My usual voicemail message begs callers not to leave a voicemail, because I will never listen to it
  • Text me
  • I believe it should cost $1000 to leave a voicemail or to send a group text
  • If you get mad at me for not returning your call, our friendship is probably over because I’ll never even know you got mad. Especially if you leave me a voicemail about how mad you are.

Again, fascinating because of how much time, energy, and sometimes emotion each person invested in a missed call.

I prefer to invest in more important things, but I broke protocol and listened to a few. These are my favorites:

Angry Man #NSFW
Who gets this angry about anything, much less a missed call?

Who, indeed?

Bless You

Because random, fly-on-the-wall vicarious voicemail is best.

The calls are waning today, so I may not have to change my number. Call me in a few days to know for sure.

But please don’t leave a voicemail.


I am in search of a travel accountability buddy.

Not to travel with, necessarily.

I started the year with the honest intention of taking short weekend trips across the US since I didn’t have a long overseas trip planned. And now it’s July. And I’ve only been to Austin and Seattle: two cities I adore but have been to before.

I crave new sights and smells and tastes. I want to hear stories from local characters about local lore at every dive joint and general store I can find, told in every thick accent of every region of the U.S.

But I lack discipline. And unlimited funds.

So, I’m looking for a pal who shares the same goal. Someone who might check-in on whether I followed through with diverting my Hulu funds to the travel piggy-bank. Who can help me to rank cities with great public transportation, requiring less budgeting for car rental and cabs. Who will remind me that not spending money is not the same thing as saving money. Who will point out that I can satisfy my voracious, almost physical need for reading on the plane. Who will come up with more for this accountability list.

Someone who will remind me to not talk myself out of my goals.

I’ll do the same for you, kind friend. I’m great at this sort of structure for project management at work and for OPG (other people’s goals).

Not so much for myself.

You can come with me, if you like. But I tend to wander around aimlessly and in silence. I won’t follow your itinerary or eat at chain restaurants. I won’t go to a pool or lay on a beach. Or enter a gift shop. But we can share space and/or catch up on all we saw and did, over coffee in the morning. Early though, because I get up at 5am, even on vacation.

I’m thinking about southern U.S. Civil War cities for my first trip. Charleston, maybe. Or Wilmington. In August? That sounds hot. And muggy. I hate muggy. See? This is why I need you, pal. Remind me to check the humidity, and to look north instead.

Raise your hand if this is you. Or your friend. Or my friend. I’ll be over here, checking out flights.


How to Fall Back in Love

October 19, 2015

It’s easy to do. We all take for granted the one we love.

Year after year, we look at the same ol’ face and forget all the things that once mesmerized. Our enthusiasm seems reserved more for the “new” than for the more-deserving tried-and-true. Where did the heat go? Where’s the excitement? We forget that it’s our responsibility to keep looking past the known. How presumptuous we are, to believe there are no more surprises to be had; to believe we know everything there is to know.

Then, something comes along to give us a kick in the pants to remind us how lucky we are blah blah blah grateful blah blah. That will last for about a day. We are flawed and selfish and doomed. But I digress.

Over the weekend, Open House Chicago 2015 gave me such a kick.

200 sites. Hidden gems. Behind-the-scenes access. Free. All motivating words.

I had forgotten how much I love my love: Chicago. Too many long days at work, too many trips, and too much of the “busy” had driven me indoors during my free time. To recharge, I told myself. All the while, neglecting my love.

My friend Anne and I decided to make a day of it. Starting with:

Lakeside Development, South Shore

Rainbow Beach
OK, not necessarily part of the Open House Chicago site list, but since we were nearby, we explored.

Windsor Beach Co-Op Apartments

South Shore Cultural Center

Stony Island Arts Bank

Then, after a hearty hearth-to-table lunch at Promontory in Hyde Park…

New Regal Theater (Avalon Theater)

2015-10-18 14.54.59

I didn’t take any pics inside this gorgeous structure because it was dark and a flash is just obnoxious.

Meyers Ace Hardware (Sunset Jazz Cafe)

Not much to see here in terms of its legacy, save for a box of old menus, sheet music, and partially visible original murals on the wall. More satisfying to read about the history of the building, but I’m glad we went. Also, I love a hardware store and scored a cast iron skillet for $20.

Illinois Institute of Technology, S.R. Crown Hall

I would have missed this one were it not for Anne and her love of Mies van der Rohe. But I went straight for the models.

Swift Mansion, now Inner City Youth & Adult Foundation
I didn’t take any pics here to respect the privacy of the Foundation. The tour was less about Swift Mansion and more about the current occupants and their inspiring initiatives.

And finally, we ended in Bridgeport to introduce Anne to my beloved Bernice’s Tavern and to Mr. Stingo himself. While there, a local chap stopped by with Mira, and falling madly in love with her was the perfect way to end the day.

2015-10-18 17.38.31

I have no idea how long the OHC links will be live, so I linked to the site URLs whenever possible. Obviously, I have barely scratched the surface of the 200 sites offered by #OHC2015, and the thousands of other sights available to us every day. I promise to do better.

That’s all it took for me to remember my love, and my duty to her.

So, thank you, Chicago Architecture Foundation for reminding me how much I love this city. The next time I forget, I promise to remember that she gives me plenty. The rest is up to me.

1 week

6 days

9 hours

34 minutes


The Rhino Principle

February 4, 2014

I did not write this.

But I read it often, reminding myself to shut my trap, put my head down, and get done what needs to get done. Highly recommend you give it a gander.

“There’s a certain rule in life that I’ve found worth considering. It particularly applies if you’re confronted by a crisis. I call it the Rhino Principle.

Now, the rhino is not a particularly subtle or clever animal. It’s the last of the antediluvian quadrupeds to carry a great weight of body armor. And by all the rules of progressive design and the process of natural selection the rhino ought to have been eliminated. But it hasn’t been. Why not? Because the rhino is single-minded. When it perceives an object, it makes a decision–to charge. And it puts everything it’s got into that charge. When the charge is over, the object is either flattened or has gone a long way into cover, whereupon the rhino instantly resumes browsing.

Few people think of learning from a rhino. But I have. And when I hear of an author who cannot finish or get started on a book, I send him (or her) a rhino card. I paint a watercolor of a rhinoceros on the front of a postcard–something I do well, as I’ve practiced it a great many times. And in the space next to the address I write: “Stop fussing about that book. Just charge it. Keep on charging it until it is finished. That’s what the rhino does. Put this card over your desk and remember the Rhino Principle.””

The author continues by applying the principle to politics and business, if you are so inclined. You’re welcome.

By the way, I’ve missed you, gentle reader.


I recently read a story about Li Ching- Yun who supposedly lived to be 256 years old. He attributed his longevity to one thing: inner quiet.

I have never enjoyed inner quiet.

I was an anxious child, plagued with worry about anything I couldn’t possibly affect, much less control. Sister Mary something or other always told my mother that I was 5 going on 40.

When I was 8, we moved to a small town where my brother and I were the sole Asians in a literal handful of minority kids and I was often the subject of ridicule.

Once, I walked into the girls’ locker room where a conversation was in play.

“And I heard that her father was a GI in the war, and her mother was a prostitute…and that’s why she lives with her dad…”

Nonplussed, because it couldn’t possibly be about me, I strode in to hear more of this salacious gossip. The silence was instant and deafening as the beautiful storyteller froze, and pretended to investigate an offensive thread on her sleeve. The realization that the prostitute’s daughter had just entered the room spread across the rapt audience of tween cheerleaders with perfect hair and local lineage, who each leaned back and, as if on cue, fell into benign conversations of boyfriends and football games and anything but this, anywhere but here.

I wish I could say that I laughed it off, and confidently said, “I’d be happy to tell you the truth of my upbringing and my birth in Vietnam to a happily married civilian contractor and a respected embassy translator. Gather ‘round friends!”

But I was neither confident nor mature.

I am ashamed to say that I folded into myself, or tried to, in order to be as invisible as I desperately wanted to be.  But I never forgot. I remember utterly, everything about that room and every person sitting in that circle because it was brutal and humiliating and cruel.

And then there was the time that my 6th grade crush, annoyed by my not-so-well-disguised love glances proclaimed aloud in front of many, “Why don’t you go back to your own country?”

Now, these recollections are of cruel children who had no idea what they were saying, I’m convinced. They were simply repeating to some degree what adults in their lives had been speculating ever since we arrived in their town. Their town. Not mine.

But ignorance doesn’t end in small towns or with age.

About 5 years ago, I was at the Ravenswood Pub in Andersonville (Andersonville!) when a patron sat next to my friend and me, and asked, “Where are you from? Your English is excellent.”

“Alabama,” I snapped.

I can still taste the bile.

Because I can’t forget it. Or won’t?

I had friends over the other day, and we were discussing something about minority lending, and my dear, dear friend gleefully exclaimed, “Oh God, remember the time…”

Less than a year before, we had attended a happy hour gathering of friends and acquaintances.

Apparently, one well-intentioned acquaintance said to me, “You should apply for minority lending,” and then proceeded to lift her hands to her face and pull apart the outer corners of her eyes in a mock-demonstration of traditionally Asian features.

Apparently, I turned to my dear, dear friend and discreetly whispered, “Did she just do the ‘Chinky Eyes’ at me?” Apparently, this sent my friend over the edge into peals of laughter.

I wrote “apparently” thrice (deliberately, mind you, if you are editing as you read) because I do not remember this at all.

I remember the cheerleaders. I remember the bar patron. I remember the bile.

But this? Nada.

A quote comes to mind that I’ve been trying to incorporate into my constitution, which is more inclined to catalog every personal slight, analyze, seethe, and plot revenge against. I’m a Scorpio on the cusp of banshee, after all.

“Remember every kindness forever, and forget every slight immediately.” Aristotle? Shakespeare? Jesus? No idea.

I want to be this quote.

I want to be light, and still, and capable of inner quiet. Perhaps, in my unending quest to become an adult, I have achieved it.

I have no recollection of this comment, or even of the conversation. Therefore, I am free of its effect.


Or maybe I’m just getting senile.


February 8, 2013

Apparently, I’ve been on vacation from this blog.


Although this time, I say it fondly because I love my work intensely. The keen eye might spot this unfolding in dusty old posts as I was discovering my place in the world. Finally.

Last week, I went on an actual vacation, which is not really my thing. I come from immigrants and entrepreneurs. Time off, while important, is not paramount to the likes of me. As a result, my few bona fide vacations (two, to be exact) were not earth-shattering.

I am happy to report that I had my first real vacation, and it was divine. Turns out, a stellar travel mate + zero itinerary = meandering through cemeteries and exploring tourist-free fish markets = my kinda vacation.

I’m hooked.


%d bloggers like this: