A Celebration and a Camel

At the beginning of September, a woman named Norma, who went to my church, passed away suddenly. She was the mother of some of my mom’s closest church friends, whom we’d all grown to know over the years, and who, for a long time, was part of our row.

Most Sundays, when we were all in town, one row of the church parking lot was taken up me, my mom, my sister, Norma, and her two daughters, Renee and Rochelle. We then sat together in a row of chairs during service, and afterward we all hugged, updated each other on the recent happenings, and then wished each other well for the upcoming week.

This past weekend, I, along with my mom and sister, attended the celebration of life service for Norma that was hosted at our church. The three of us were asked to help out with food and we were both happy and honored to do so. We arrived a few hours early and promptly took our places putting together finger sandwiches, preparing charcuterie boards and fruit and veggie platters, and sorting and organizing the ridiculously delicious Porto’s bakery pastries. We, alongside a few other wonderful women, worked hard, wanting to make the reception of the service as easy and fulfilling as possible. We wanted the family and friends in attendance to be able to sit down, eat, talk, laugh and reminisce without having to worry about a thing.

At 4:00 p.m., the service ended and the attendees began to move into the banquet hall, some emotional, some talkative, some admittingly starving. The line formed and then it kept coming, and we watched as people filled their plates and sat down together, making the room loud and happy.  Laughter and stories echoed off the walls, making it impossible to decide who to eavesdrop on. People hugged and hung on each other; hands were taken and smiles were given over shoulders; compliments were handed out for outfits, shoes, hats, and makeup; pictures were taken and desserts were passed around.

I stood in the kitchen, along with my fellow ladies, both keeping an eye on the buffet table to see what might need to be refilled, and looking out at the family who so clearly were celebrating Norma’s life.

Not being related to Norma myself, and only really seeing her on Sunday’s, I knew my knowledge of her was few. And yet there were so many faces, glances and expressions, hints of her that I saw around the room in her family and friends. It made me wonder what things they were thinking about, what stories they felt they had to share with the people around them, and what memories they were holding on to that, to them, were who Norma was.

In the decorations around the room, I saw pictures, trinkets and mementos. I saw Norma’s favorite candies and her collection of Precious Moments figurines. She existed so purely in the room, and in the hearts of everyone who came to remember her, that by the end of the night, I felt like I’d met her all over again, and gotten to know her deeper than I ever would have.

I watched as her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren loved on each other, how they made each other laugh, drove each other crazy and gave each other purpose, and I thought, isn’t it amazing how one person can bring this many people, this many hearts, this many worlds into one room to be together, and to celebrate life. And it made me feel grateful to Norma, for reminding me how much love exists in the world to find, and how much love has already found me.

At the end of the night, I, alongside anyone else who wanted to, got to take home one of Norma’s Precious moments collectibles. I chose a little figurine of a camel. When I got home, I put the little guy on a shelf in my room, next to my own collection of sand that I have stored in glass bottles. Looking at them side by side, it’s as if they’d always belonged together. And even though I never got to know Norma for all of her colors, or in the way that her family did, I feel special knowing that I’ll always have a little piece of her, and thus a little bit of that love she created, here with me.

The Pants Can’t Do Everything

Confession: I like online shopping.

The ease. The convenience. The ability to make fun mail arrive on my doorstep. It is wonderful.

But sometimes I use shopping—or perhaps, the items I shop for—in a way that I shouldn’t. I pretend that shopping will solve my problems or make me feel better when it won’t. I try to shop my way to somewhere, something or someone, hoping a certain pair of pants, sweater, t-shirt, jean jacket, pair of shoes, book, journal, coffee mug or eyeshadow palette will do all the leg work for me.

Do you know what I mean?

Sometimes I feel down or lonely or out of sorts and I will have a certain struggle on my mind, but rather than actively working through that struggle, rather than talking to a friend, exercising, journaling, meditating, going for a walk, reading my bible, or just sitting in the struggle as it works itself out, I will shop.

I will look at prayer journals, assuming that if I buy that journal, I will become a better, more productive prayer and I will strengthen my relationship with God.

I will look at running shorts and assume that if I can find them in my size, I will improve my mile time and get in incredible shape and finally be proud and comfortable in my body.

I will look at shoes and imagine myself strutting confidently, my introversion thrown out the window. I will look at t-shirts and imagine myself casual and cool, someone people admire and envy and wish they could be like. I will look at makeup and imagine I am as beautiful as all the girls I see in the magazines. I will look at blazers and imagine myself at the top of the corporate ladder, financially stable, with the ability to travel anywhere at any time.

I rely on objects to make me a different person, rather than giving myself time to grow into the person that I actually am. And oftentimes the girl I’m picturing in all of these fantasies, the girl who stars in all of the daydreams that convince me to add to cart, is not me at all. She is a version of me that I’ve convinced myself is “the right” version. The version that the media has deemed pretty, successful, worthy, etc. So when the packages arrive full of clothes and things that are supposed to fit her, they don’t fit me. I don’t like the way they look or maybe a part of me is just disappointed that my daydream didn’t come true. That even though I have these new shoes, I’m still unhappy or lonely. Or even though I bought that eyeshadow palette, that relationship didn’t pan out the way I hoped it would. Even though I bought this or subscribed to that, I am still me, in the same place, with all the same struggles.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with shopping. There’s nothing wrong with buying something that you want, that makes you feel good and inspires you to go out there, try new things and better yourself. There’s also nothing wrong with manifestation. With buying something that can help you picture a specific dream and can help motivate you to chase it.

What I’m doing is shopping in place of feeling. In place of listening to what I really need and want—even though in the moment it might seem like what I both want and need is that pair of leggings THAT ARE ON SALE.  I want to stop shopping under the assumption that buying something is the same as doing something or trying something.

Buying running shorts won’t make me a better runner. Running will.

Buying a journal won’t create a daily journaling habit for me. Journaling daily will.

I have to put in the work to make what I buy capable of fulfilling what I dreamt it could.

I have to be the person in the shoes or the pants or the dress and I have to appreciate how I wear them, not wish they turned me into someone else.

I have to live my own life, my things can’t do that for me.

So maybe I don’t need those pants today. Maybe I just need to take a deep breath and figure out what it is I really want—and then go out and get it.

Trust that the Ground is There

There have been a couple blog posts in the past where I mentioned not only my love for yoga, but especially Yoga with Adriene hosted by Adriene Mishler on both YouTube and her website Find What Feels Good—both of which I would recommend.

In taking her classes for the last year and a half or so, I have learned so much about breath, about my body and about yoga that have helped me feel inspired, empowered and calm in some very not so calm times.

One phrase that has stuck with me since the moment I first heard it, and has grown deeper and deeper in my mind ever since is: trust that the ground is there.

There have been many classes and videos I have watched of Adriene’s where she says this. Oftentimes it will come when our feet are stepped wide and we are moving into a new posture that requires our feet to be together.

“If you can,” Adriene will say, “don’t look down at your feet. Trust that the ground is there and step your feet together.”

At first, this seemed kind of funny to me. I mean, of course the ground is there. I could feel it underneath my feet. But then, when I heard her say this in the context of more complex poses, and I feared I might fall, I noticed my instinct to look down. To look at my feet to help me center myself and stay balanced. Because seeing the ground, seeing where I was standing, what I was doing, and checking back in with my foundation, helped me feel safe.

After a while however, when I would gain confidence in a pose, or practice consistently at the transitions between them, this need to look down went away. I felt stronger, more balanced, and I didn’t have to double check that my feet were sturdy, or that the ground was holding me up. I could just keep moving, having faith in my foundation and pursuing my next challenge.

In thinking about this outside of yoga, I noticed that there are so many habits I’ve formed in the hopes of holding my balance or keeping myself “safe”—whether it be from getting hurt, being rejected, embarrassing myself, standing out, or just making a mistake. I’ll stay quiet when I have something to say, I’ll stay home instead of going out, I’ll hide behind friends and family, and I’ll agree with opinions that don’t necessarily align with mine.

I will look down rather than look forward. I will hide in the safety of invisibility rather than allow my self-confidence and self-awareness to grow, because sometimes I still feel like I need to ask for permission or reassurance that who I am is okay; that I’m worthy of acceptance, success, love, etc; or that I can say no (or yes) to things without feeling lame or uncool or a burden on others’ fun/lives.

I am still learning to trust my foundation. That the ground is there. And that I can walk into each day knowing that I’ve put in a lot of work to discover who I am, why I’m here and what I’m capable of.

And while sometimes I still might fall—I might make a mistake or say the wrong thing or get hurt—the ground will catch me, and I can get up and try again. So I will continue to take steps forward, to try on new postures and poses without looking down, all the while growing and finding more balance on the ground I’m standing on.

Take time to find faith in your foundation. It is no easy feat to build, but it will only get stronger with time. Take deep breaths and, when you can, try not to look down. The ground is always there, and it will catch you if you fall.  In the meantime, let it build you up.

July & August Favorites

Hello and welcome to September!

Can I just say that I am done with the summer heat.

Every day, I look at my sweatshirts longingly, desperate to be reunited.

And although I live in Southern California and I’m well aware that “fall” weather won’t arrive until, like, Thanksgiving, I’m pretending like it’s only a few days away. Please don’t burst this naïve bubble.

Let’s talk about some favorites.

I went on a true binge of new things these last few months and I could easily recommend 10 in every category, but I thought that might be a little bit intense. So I narrowed it down as best I could.

Podcasts

I found Blind Landing while I was in full Olympics mode and listened with absolute shock and horror. It follows a *huge* mistake made at the gymnastics competition during the 2000 Sydney Olympics, and if you haven’t heard the story, you should listen.

A friend recommended The Happiness Lab to me and I love it! It dives into the science of happiness and the different ways the mind works both to find happiness and to keep it. I’ve really loved the scientific approach and I feel like I learn something valuable in every episode.

Funnily enough, when I was looking up The Happiness Lab, the most recent episode recommended a sister podcast called A Slight Change of Plans, so I started listening to both. A Slight Change of Plans discusses major changes that can take place in our lives and, while traumatic, frustrating, and/or confusing at the time, can lead us to where we’re meant to go. It’s hosted by cognitive scientist Dr. Maya Shankar who I think adds great commentary to each guest’s story, and can even contextualize why we might make the decisions we make.


Books

In the last year I have become a big fan of Taylor Jenkins Reid, so I was very excited for her to release Malibu Rising. It follows the Riva family, comprised of four closely knit siblings who are gearing up for their annual party in Malibu. The book jumps from present to past, introducing you to each of the siblings and explaining how they became who they are—not to mention why they are all fiercely loyal to one another. It was a great read!

Both my mom and sister recommended Lauren Akins’ (wife to country singer Thomas Rhett) Live in Love and I’m so glad they did. It was a very honest, heartwarming read, and I admired her willingness to share her life. I was never under the impression that being married to a superstar would be easy, but she does well to show how important it is to stay true to yourself and to fight for your dreams alongside those of your partner.

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn was another one that gripped me! I got the audiobook on loan from the library and started it a little bit late, but once I was in it, I was in it, and hustled to finish before my 21-day loan ended—which I did, with 45 minutes to spare. The story follows two women whose stories collide in Europe just after the end of World War II. Eve, an English spy in both wars and Charlie, a pregnant college student who is looking for her cousin, join forces, both with their own demons fueling them forward. It was great!


Movies

Bo Burnham has long been one of my favorite comedians. So when he released his newest special INSIDE on Netflix, I was beyond thrilled. And while I expected an honest, educated commentary on 2020, I still got way more than I could have imagined. Definitely a must watch! (find it on Netflix)

The Last Letter from Your Lover is exactly the romantic drama I was in the mood for. Stick me in 1960’s England with a scandalous love affair documented by love letters and I am in. (find it on Netflix)

Warning: Tell Me Who I Am is not for the faint of heart. And by faint of heart, I especially mean parents. This documentary tells the story of a man who wakes up in the hospital after a car accident with no memory of his life except his twin brother. I don’t want to say more because I don’t want to spoil anything, but I will say that it. gets. dark. That said, it is fantastically filmed and edited and is an overall masterpiece.  (find it on Netflix)


TV Shows

We Are the Champions covers all kinds of “championships” around the world, starting with a race in England where people literally fall down a steep heel in pursuit of a wheel of cheese. It is marvelous. (find it on Netflix)

The White Lotus is so many things and I can’t really describe any of them. The bones of the story are that multiple groups of people cross paths at a Hawaiian hotel called The White Lotus and chaos ensues everywhere. It’s one of those shows that you need to talk about with other people because so much happens and you just want someone to confirm you saw the same thing. (find it on HBO Max)

Cruel Summer is a fun teen mystery that leaves you guessing after every episode. It’s set in the aftermath of a kidnapped girl being found and who might be to blame. I texted my cousin after multiple episodes, mostly to say, WHO IS THE GOOD GUY?! and she always replied with a noncommittal shrug because you just never know. (find it on Hulu)

Bake Squad has helped fill the void of my no longer having Food Network (or cable). It’s hosted by the founder of Milk Bar and brings together four master bakers who specialize in chocolate, sugar, flavor and cakes, respectively.  Each episode, a guest presents a party or event they are hosting, and the bakers compete to have their dessert chosen to star at the event. It’s super fun! (find it on Netflix)


Music

The Grapefruit Skies by TEEKS

Happier Than Ever by Billie Eilish

Into the Mystery by Needtobreathe


KIND Subscription Box

If you’ll recall from my last favorites post, I mentioned the KIND breakfast bars that I had recently fallen in love with. Well, that love affair has continued, so much so that I discovered that KIND offers a subscription box that you can customize and get delivered monthly, bimonthly, etc., full of yummy snacks! In my 20-piece box I of course added my breakfast bars (blueberry almond and honey oat are my favorite!) but I also like the dark chocolate nut bars and these salted caramel healthy grains bars. I am officially a KIND fan. (find it here)


Have anything you’ve been loving over these last couple months? Let me know!

See my previous favorites post here.

I Hope 30 Loves You as Much as I Do

In the fall of my sophomore year of high school, I showed up to the annual softball tryouts as a “returner.” Having made the team as a freshman, my spot was already reserved, so I was just there to volunteer my time, meet prospective players, and, along with my teammates, be the butt of the playful jokes the coaches made to lighten the mood.

I was far more relaxed than I’d been the previous year, but I was still very quiet and shy. I was the most teenager. With awkward style, awkward body awareness and a tendency to blush at even the slightest bit of attention. But I was friendly and polite, and excited to meet the new girls.

Among those girls, was Allison Roecker.

As quickly as I met Allison, she was my friend. One day we’d never heard of each other, and the next we were chatting daily on AIM. Then we were texting, sleeping over at each other’s houses, sending longwinded personal emails, writing notes during class, and staying up late talking about things like death, love and the future. Soon enough I wasn’t calling her Allison, but Alleeson (because I wanted her to have double e’s like me) and Alfred von Roecker for reasons lost to history.

High school, for me, was tough. It was scary, and there was a lot happening behind the scenes. To compensate, I dove into schticks. I let myself be defined by foods I liked, jokes I told, and characteristics that I played up and hid behind in the hopes that no one would see how lost and confused I was. How scared and vulnerable and sad. And a lot of people leaned in to those schticks. They believed they were me, they took and/or got what they wanted off the surface and didn’t take the time to dig deeper. But not Allison.

From day one, Allison created a safe place for me to be me. Whoever that might be at the time. And 15 years later, that safe place still exists and is stronger than ever.

Sometimes, when we get together for drinks or dinner or just an evening spent talking on the couch, I catch myself sharing and sharing, talking about myself as if I haven’t told anyone anything in days or months or years. I bring up questions and worries and I let them settle in the room, where they don’t feel intrusive or burdening, but safe and accepted. And I always walk away feeling lighter, more understood, more seen and heard than I do almost anywhere and with anyone else.

We bring it up often. How it would seem that we were destined for each other. Our friendship has scaled great distances, multiple moves, heartbreak, tragedy, success, failure and absolute joy. But as far as our friendship dates back, I can’t for the life of me remember how exactly it started.

I often wonder what we said to each other in the moment that we met. Did we shake hands, hug, or smile politely as we stood in a circle stretching during warm up? What did we do to begin a friendship that would withstand time, distance and the chaos of growing up? How casually did we introduce ourselves, not knowing that we’d help each other get to know ourselves in the years to come?

However it went down, I’m just glad it did. Because I don’t know where I’d be without her.

Tomorrow, Allison turns 30, joining me in a club that at times feels weird to be a part of.

In a way, it feels like we were just on that softball field, passing inside jokes back and forth in the outfield, laughing so hard it hurt at 2 o’clock in the morning, and singing our hearts out on the highway after I got my driver’s license. But then I think of everything we’ve been through, everything we’ve learned, everything we’ve tried and failed and everything we’ve achieved, and I think, I can’t wait to see what’s next.

So, Allison, while 30 might seem scary (though it’s not too bad, I promise!) just know that you have nothing to worry about. Because I met you when you were only halfway to 30, and you changed my life forever. So I can only imagine where you’ll go, where we’ll go, from here.

Happy birthday! I love you!

The One Question I Keep Asking Myself

When I was little, I was often asked what I wanted to be when I grew up.

When I was in high school, I was often asked what I was going to study in college.

When I was in college, I was often asked what my plans were after graduation.

When I reached my mid-twenties, I was often asked when I was going to get married.

And now that I sit at almost 31, unmarried and with no kids, I know I still have a lot of questions to come.

I used to believe that once I got the answer to these questions, I would have lived (or be living) a successful life. But then, as each question slowly got answered, I was disappointed to find that another one was always waiting right behind it. And each one got bigger and scarier and more life defining.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the intention behind these questions. They are shortcuts into getting to know someone. They are milestones that connect people. But I have also felt the pressure of these questions. Of entering a conversation and immediately feeling uncomfortable, praying that I won’t be asked the questions I don’t have an answer to yet, because they make me feel like less of an adult, or even, less of a person. I feel like a failure for not having reached some of the major milestones that my friends, family or some random stranger has, and I spiral into self-doubt and self-hatred, wishing I could change parts of my life that have made me intrinsically me.

And so, I have tried to start asking myself better questions. Mainly one in particular.

For me, right now, I am single and entering into the second year of my thirties. I am a rarity among my friend group, with no boyfriend, fiancé or husband, and no kids. I have worked the same job for over a decade that is not related to the field I studied in college, and I don’t really have a long term “career” path in mind. But that doesn’t make me a failure. It doesn’t make me less of an adult or less of a woman or less of a person. It just makes my path different than theirs.

So, a question I’ve tried to start asking myself is: what can I learn here?

Because one day, I won’t be single. One day I will have kids. One day I will have a new job. One day I will live in a new place. One day my life will look completely different than it does today, and yet, people will still have their questions, I will still have my fears, and there will still be reasons for me to wonder if I’m doing any of this right.

But right now, I’m here. And I believe I’m here for a reason. There are still things for me to learn, people for me to meet, ideas to form, conversations to be had, moments to be experienced and choices to be made. And so I focus on the question that has to do with where I am, not where people want me to go, or where everyone else seems to be.

What can I learn here? I ask.

And in asking, I find myself trying. I find myself searching my surroundings, noticing slow magic, and finding joy in small things that otherwise would have been missed.

What can I learn here? I ask.

And in asking I find potential. I learn more about myself, about what I like to do, what I want to do, and what I’m capable of doing.

What can I learn here? I ask.

And in asking I find peace. Memories long buried turn over in my head, unfelt feelings rise to the surface and new understandings dawn.

When I ask myself what more there is for me to find and learn exactly where I am, I better appreciate that place—this place—rather than wish it into the past in favor of checking off an item on a list, or staying on track with lives and paths that aren’t mine.

There will always be questions, and that’s okay. If there are more questions to ask, that means there is more life to live. But I’m trying to stay focused on one question, as it’s the only one that keeps me present and moves me forward at the same time.

What can I learn here? I ask, and the answers abound.

Our Olympic Moment

Yesterday marked the end of the 2020/2021 Olympic Games in Tokyo. While I am sad to see them go, I’m sure my sleep schedule is very grateful. There were a lot of nights spent staying up late on the couch, watching hours and hours of recorded events, cheering—sometimes screaming—on not only Team USA, but all of the Olympians that worked so hard to get there.

I lived for the stories of where and what brought a particular athlete to the Olympics, and the delight their families took in watching them compete—even if they had to do it from home. There is something so special about the Olympics. It brings people together all over the world to appreciate and celebrate sports, and the amazing things the human body and human spirit can accomplish.

The Tokyo Olympics introduced four new sports this year: surfing, skateboarding, karate and sport climbing. Of these, my family, and especially my brother, was most excited to watch sport climbing. As an avid and gifted climber himself, it was clear how thrilled he was to not only watch the best of the best compete, but to see his passion celebrated at an elite level and introduced to people all over the world.

The schedule of events was a little hard to follow from California, as Tokyo is 16 hours ahead. Thus, I filled my DVR, taping anything and everything I could find, and would sift through my recordings at the end of each day. But when it came time for the sport climbing to start (which was Tuesday morning PST) my brother made it clear that he wanted to watch at least one of the finals live. On Tuesday 8/3, the men competed in the qualifying round and the women followed on Wednesday. Then, on Thursday, the men competed in the final round, with the women to follow on Friday. So, with Saturday as a recovery cushion, we decided to watch the women’s sport climbing final on Friday morning. Mind you, they started at 1:30 am.

So, at about 10:30 p.m. Thursday night, my sister, Natalee, and I drove to our parents’ house, where we got comfortable on the couch and caught up on the primetime coverage from that day. Then my brother, Troy, and I ensured that everything was set up to watch the climbing before we all set an alarm for 1:20 a.m. and went to sleep.

Earlier in the day, I had taken an hour nap in preparation for what I knew would be a late night, and that, in combination with the excitement of the women’s final (which featured American Brooke Raboutou) buzzing in my mind, made it difficult for me to fall asleep. I lay there on the living room couch, perpendicular to my sister who slept in the recliner, still but not sleeping. Come about 1:15 a.m. though, just before Troy walked back into the living room from his bedroom, I could feel the pull of deep sleep just beyond my reach. But I pushed it away, sat up, and turned on the television. My brother took his place next to me, his hands anxious and ready to mime the holds he might use to complete the climbs; my mom wiped her eyes and stood up, and then walked into the kitchen and turned on the oven—she was making 1:30 a.m. cinnamon rolls; and my sister sat her seat up straight and clapped her hands.

We were ready.

The first round of competition was speed climbing. Eight women, strong and incredibly talented, powered up the rock wall, racing in pairs. We were excited, but very aware of the time of night, so our cheers were kept to whispers, but they remained passionate.

The second round of competition was bouldering. Inside this second discipline, there were three boulder problems the climbers had to solve, and they were each given four minutes for each try. I’ll admit, by the third round, which started at about 3:45 a.m., we were all starting to fade. We always perked up and came to attention when Brooke was climbing, but we were all long past our prime of pulling all-nighters, so as the sunrise snuck closer, our bodies couldn’t help but ask, wtf are you doing?!

By the time the bouldering ended, it was about 4:20 a.m. and the final round of competition didn’t start until 5:10 a.m. So, we turned off all the lights, returned to our designated snoozing spots, and knocked out. This time however, when my brother came in after his alarm went off, I felt confused. I felt upside down. My body was begging, pleading to stay asleep. But we sat back up, reasoning that the summer Olympics only happen once every four years, and this was the first year rock climbing had ever been a part of it. Plus, there’s no telling where life will lead us before the 2024 games in Paris. So while we were tired, we were together and that was reason enough to sit back up, turn the television back on, and head into the final round of competition: lead climbing.

In the end, American climber, Brooke Raboutou, didn’t metal, but, like all of the women competing, she put on an incredible show of talent and determination. I gained so much respect for climbers and their ability to push their body to its absolutely limit. To hold on by literal fingertips and to try again and again and again.

As the sun peaked over the horizon, my sister and I got back in our car and headed home. It was about 6:00 a.m. and the morning commuters were already on the road. Once home, we would collapse back in our beds for a couple hours and then go to work. And even though my eight-hour workday felt like a 90-hour work week, even though at one point I got emotional over a FedEx label, even though I had to go for a three mile walk at 7:00pm just to stay awake long enough to not ruin my chances at a good night’s sleep, it was all worth it.

In a way, I felt like it was our Olympic moment of the games, and it is something I will always remember.

See you next time, Olympians, and as always, you are amazing.

A Name for Smoggy Days

Yesterday was a smoggy day.

Sure, in Los Angeles, it’s smoggy most days. But that’s not the smog I’m talking about.

Some days I wake up feeling low. Sad. Or what I like to describe as “heavy.” It’s when every worry, insecurity, and regret seem to be sitting on top of me, making it hard to think straight, feel comfortable, or find motivation. There is a haze that blocks the blue sky. And it’s hard to breathe the fresh air that was there yesterday.

I’ve long looked for something to call these days. Because often when they pop up, I don’t know how to explain them to others. I sit quietly, talk politely, walk slowly, and fidget nervously, all while fighting through the chaos and lies that are spiraling in my mind. On particularly bad ones, I feel fragile. As if I might burst into tears at any given moment. And I don’t know how to explain that it’s not you, it’s me. I’m playing offense and defense in a battle that is taking place inside my head, and I’m not sure if I want help, privacy, attention or solace.

When I was in high school, I remember having a handful of smoggy days that I didn’t really understand. My mind was in overdrive and I wanted validation. I wanted to be told I was wonderful and beautiful and absolutely crazy to be thinking these negative thoughts. But when I reached out to a friend, spitting self-deprecating venom, fishing begging for compliments and expecting them, I got nothing. I got crickets. I got, “I don’t know what to say when you’re like this.”

I don’t mention this to blame them, because they were just as young and lost as I was. But I remember the guilt that was born in that moment.

The guilt that comes in with the smog. The shame that sits on top of everything else. Telling me that I should be embarrassed for feeling so low. For bringing people down. For not being my best. It tells me to get over it. And it promises that if I don’t I will push everyone away.

And so the smog suffocates. And for a little while, it wins.

For a little while I am low. I am sad. I am quiet. I am scared. I am not myself.

But then the wind comes.

A friend. A movie. A book. A butterfly. A sunset. A tall tree. A child’s laugh. A kind word. A joke that lands in just the right place. A hug. A moment alone. An unexpected deep breath. A combination of a lot of little things. And eventually, a breeze picks up. And then a gust. And soon the smog is blown away and I can see the sky again. I can breathe the fresh air.  

It doesn’t last forever. Eventually the smog settles back in and piles back up. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that the more I talk about it, the more opportunities I give to that wind, the more public I make these battles that thrive in private, the better I set myself up to win.

And I’m hoping the same can go for you.

We all have smoggy days. Maybe even smoggy seasons. And sometimes we just need a name for it all.

We might not know what we need from others. We might not want extra attention or to give a longwinded explanation of everything we’re thinking about. Sometimes we just need a name. Something that can explain where we are when we aren’t ourselves.

So if you’re looking for a name, have mine. And remember, it’s okay to have smoggy days. It’s okay to not be your best. It’s okay if you get knocked down. As long as you get back up and keep fighting.

Open a window and let that breeze in. Take a good look at the blue sky. Take a deep breath of that fresh air. You are okay.

Bob & The Battle for the Keys

It was just your average Friday.

My alarm had gone off and I had snoozed it (twice) before getting up; the air conditioning had kicked on because it was already 85 degrees outside; my lunch box was packed, my hair was up, and I had a light jacket tucked in my purse because the office tends to get cold.

After work, I was volunteering with Food Forward, so I had a pile of things to carry. Among them was a tote bag packed with a change of clothes and shoes, my toolbox (armed with gloves, garden pruners, etc.), and a stack of cardboard boxes (to collect fruit).       

I threw my purse over one shoulder, threw the tote bag over the other, and then set my toolbox on top of the flat stack of cardboard boxes and picked them up like I was presenting the toolbox on a serving tray, and I made my way out the door.

My sister and I live in a four-story building and the parking garage is on the ground floor, so when I boarded the elevator, I rested the boxes on the handrail that runs across the back wall, to give my hands a break, then I reached into my purse and grabbed my keys.

As the doors opened, I set my keys next to my toolbox, then placed my hands back under the cardboard boxes and turned around to exit. Somewhere in the shuffle, my keys began to slide, and I groaned, annoyed I might have to bend down and pick them up.

Don’t fall, I thought.

But they fell.

And when I heard them fall, they sounded…far away?

“No way,” I said out loud.

I turned around, sure it was just a strange echo, fully expecting to see my keys sitting on the elevator floor, or maybe on the tile of the small lobby room. But then, when I set my boxes down, got onto my knees and shone my flashlight down into the elevator shaft, there they were.

My keys.

About four feet down.

Stuck.

I stood in the lobby, speechless, confused, waiting for my keys to somehow…come back.

CTRL + Z, I thought.

Undo.

UNDO.

I picked up my boxes, reboarded the elevator, took it up to my floor, and walked back into our apartment. I sat at the kitchen table, took my breakfast bar out of my purse, and ate.

I then called my building manager, only to learn he wouldn’t be in the office for another hour.

So, I got back on the elevator, took it to the ground floor, and shone my flashlight down into the darkness again, curious if I was hallucinating, or if this was somehow all a dream. But no, there they were, real, and at the bottom of the elevator shaft. My entire key ring. Making it impossible for me to drive to work and/or leave the building altogether until my sister got home.

At 9:00 a.m. exactly, I called my building manager back. Lucky for me, he had about as much enthusiasm to help me as a cat would to cannonball into a bathtub, but he begrudgingly agreed to call the elevator company to “see if anyone could even do anything.”

Shout out to Bob for doing the absolute bare minimum.

For the next five hours, as the workday commenced, the neighbors went about their day, and the sun began to beat into our apartment, I sat on the couch, waiting for Bob to call.

About every hour, I would call to check in, seeing as Bob was treating the situation as if I was asking him to dig up the Titanic with a spoon rather than contact a technician on his payroll.  

I thought very briefly about going on a solo rescue mission for my keys, but every strategy I imagined ended in me either losing a limb, breaking the elevator, dropping my phone/flashlight down next to my keys, or somehow setting off the fire alarm and meeting all of our new neighbors in the most embarrassing and dramatic fashion.  

So, I stayed patient.

And I flipped Bob off in the safe confines of my empty house countless times.

Then, at around 12:00 p.m., Bob called with two options:

  1. The elevator company could come by *free of charge* next week to retrieve my keys.
  2. The elevator company could come by today for $400.

Bob also made sure to mention that he WOULD NOT be covering any of the cost.

So I could either go without all of my keys (car keys, house key, building key, mail key, etc.) for an entire week, or use money that I could spend on roundtrip flights to New York, to have a man stall the elevator, reach down with what I can only assume are fancy tongs to grab my keys, and then swipe my credit card.

Bob was unfazed with either option. And even when the gravity of the cost shook me up and I found myself on the verge of tears, Bob said, “yeah, rough,” and then assumedly started a new game of Solitaire on his computer.

In the end, I opted not pay the elevator company $400. I had one extra car key, and a burning desire to spite Bob, so I would make it work.  

But then, at 4:30 p.m., as my best friend and I sat in Friday traffic on the 101, trying to make our way to our volunteer shift, I got a text from my sister. It was a picture of her boyfriend holding a fishing pole with my keys hooked on the end of the line.

And unto us a hero was born.

I called Bob Saturday morning, knowing his office was closed, and left a voicemail on his machine. It was polite and professional, but I like to think he could tell that the entire thing was laced in sarcasm and a deep seeded hope that he steps in a puddle in socks.   

I also made a special trip to that weird, “car accessory” section of CVS and bought of one these.

Sometimes you learn lessons the hard way.

May & June Favorites

Hello friends!

I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend.

I definitely did. It was full of many of my favorite things: friends, family, ice cream, my mom’s brussel sprouts, bowls and bowls of chips. Plus, I didn’t get sunburned! That’s what they call a win win win win win win.

So on that note, let’s get into some favorites.


Books

Fun fact: I mentioned Normal People (the series) in my 2020 edition of May & June favorites. It had recently come out on Hulu and I’d binge watched and loved it. Today, I’m recommending Normal People (the book) because I listened to the audiobook and was completely unsurprised to discover it is also fantastic. I now have a hard copy of the book and plan on reading it again. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ So it’s really just a big recommend all around.

Goodbye Again by Johnny Sun is a book that I would like to write one day. It is honest and real and finds a way to make you as the reader feel a little bit more understood and a little bit less alone. It is a collection of essays and illustrations, all short and concise, that make it easy to read it at a leisurely pace. I genuinely love it and would recommend it over and over!


TV Shows

I have a been on a good streak of TV shows recently, starting and finishing good ones all in a row! It is rare and it is exciting and so I have a handful of recommendations for you.

If you are looking for something funny, upbeat, and undeniable good, watch Ted Lasso. (And do it quick! Season two comes out at the end of this month!) (find it on Apple TV+)

If you are looking for something suspenseful and a little dark, with a murder that you need to help solve, watch Mare of Easttown. (find it on HBO Max)

If you are looking for something cute, funny, and romantic, watch Starstruck. (find it on Hulu)

If you are looking for something hilarious, unique and sweet, watch Dave. (find it on Hulu)


Movies

I was recommended The Year Earth Changed by one of my best friends and I am so glad I watched it! It is a documentary that covers 2020 from a different perspective than we’ve seen before: that of nature. It shows the effect that lockdown had on plants, animals and the natural world while the human population was locked inside. It’s truly fascinating to watch and encouraging to know that some positive changes came about in 2020—and that there plans in place to carry on those good things.  (find it on Apple TV+)

I stumbled across Broken Hearts Gallery while looking for a cute movie to watch on a weeknight and it was exactly what I hoped it would be. It has a sweet premise, rooted in the idea that we all have a little (or a lot) of heartbreak that, while seemingly isolating, actually links us together—interweaved with a love story that gives you some warm fuzzies. (find it on Hulu)


Music

One Foot in Front of the Other by Griff

Ashlyn by Ashe

Godsend by Riley Clemmons


Kind Breakfast Protein Bars

These are so great for breakfasts on the go, mid-morning snacks, or go-to protein to have in your bag while hiking, at the beach, etc. I have tried almost every flavor and haven’t found one I don’t like!


More to That Newsletter

I have really been trying to fill my inbox with good, happy, and inspirational things that break up the ads and work emails and give me something to look forward to. This newsletter has consistently inspired me and made me look at trivial, seemingly simple subjects from a new, rewarding perspective. I really like it! (find it here)


Have anything you’ve been loving over these last couple months? Let me know!

See my previous favorites post here.