Author: Kimberlee Koehn

Hello, my name is Kimberlee. Yes, there are two E’s, let’s not get into it. I love traveling, writing, hiking and sweet potatoes. We can go ahead and be friends now.

Take a Step Back

To kick off the new year, my church participated in a 21 day fast. In lieu of certain food groups, I opted to delete social media from my phone, as I felt that it was one thing stealing more of my attention than necessary. And while I expected a bit of habitual reaching for my phone, and the mindless skimming through apps in search of Instagram, Twitter or the like, I did not expect the real, physical withdrawal I felt.

While at first I thought it was just frustration, FOMO, this sense that I must be missing out on something big, I soon began to realize I was actually feeling a little afraid. Unbeknownst to me, social media had become a bit of a crutch—a coping mechanism that I’d been using for whenever I was sad, angry, lonely, jealous, or confused. If I felt a feeling I didn’t like, I’d take a scroll through social media to find a new one. And now that I didn’t have that option, many of the feelings and thoughts I’d been avoiding were all demanding to be felt.

I lay awake almost every night of the first week, unable to fall asleep, unable to quiet my brain the way social media had been doing. It had become such a habit to scroll through whichever app until I got tired, never sure what I was looking for, but always hopeful it might be in the next post, or the next. But it never seemed to be there.

Having time away from social media, I’ve given myself space to think, space to wonder, and space to just listen.

Reaching for my phone is still a habit. I still catch myself tapping at the screen, hoping something pops up that might make a bad moment better or a long day easier, but I am also doing better at looking for things offline that can help. I’m reading more, I’m praying more, I’m being more creative. I’m feeling all of the feelings that come naturally each day, and I’m allowing them to pass through me rather than attempting to shut them out.

I will admit, I thought this fast would be harder for me than it was. And after those first few nights, I was convinced I would never make it. But having come to the end of the 21 days, and not feeling even an inkling of the relief or freedom that I thought I would, I realize how crucial this fast was for me—even when I was someone who would have considered herself not to be addicted to social media.

And so, I’d encourage anyone to take a step back. Just to see if there’s anything you might be missing. Take a step back and feel the feelings that you might be avoiding. Take a step back and listen for the things that have always been inside you but have been muted by the endless scrolling. Take a step back and breathe. Exist in the real world and simply in the real. You don’t have to leave social media behind forever, but it’s important to remind ourselves that social media is a place to visit, not a place to live. Take a step back, log off and look around. There’s a lot more for us out here than there is in there, and out here it will last a lot longer.

A Lactose Free Poem for Your Birthday [Repost]

In honor of my sister’s birthday tomorrow, I thought I’d bring back this post. I originally posted it in 2015, back when we were sharing a room at our parents’ house, when I was just starting to post consistently on my blog, and when the world was really obsessed with infinity scarves.

I thought about changing a couple of the lines to make it more current, but I kind of like seeing how much has changed (in good and hard ways) and how far we’ve come. She was my person then and she’s my person now, so here’s hoping this poem can ring in her birthday with a smile.

Happy birthday Natallee!


Natalee my Natalee,

I hope you like this rhyme from me

You’re used to them by now I’d think

So enjoy this one and down a drink

Not too many though because I don’t like barf

I loathe barf like you love a good scarf

Which is why we have 57 in our closet

Okay not really, 58 if I’m honest.

Sometimes I think about burning them all

But don’t worry I’ll at least hold out until fall

.

Today is a day when we celebrate you

A day that I’ve celebrated since I was two

That year was rough, when you arrived on the scene

Before that there was just brown hair, brown eyes, just me.

But I suppose you ended up being pretty cool, slightly valuable

Beautiful actually, smart, compassionate and admirable

One of the only people in the world to always make me happy

And to infuriate me to no end when we’re feeling cross and sassy.

But that’s a rarity now since we’re both essentially flawless

Always wondrous, always mature, never strange, unintelligible and lawless.

.

You’ve listened to every song that I’ve wrote about our dog

And every whiny jingle on why I won’t go for a jog

You listen to the sighs, the cries and the rants,

You let me crank up our music and dance around with no pants

You’ve made me laugh too many times to count

And made me proud an intangible amount

You’ve seen me through it all and so many would agree

You fought through some of the hardest times and come out beautifully free

.

So remember on this day as I thank you for your you-ness

That I say it with a sincerity and a gratefulness of the truest…

…nature, but not the kind with all the trees and the bugs

More the kind with all the cheesy, sentimental, tear jerking hugs

So eat cake (without eggs) and ice cream (without dairy)

That way your birthday can be diarrhea free and quite merry.

.

Love you!

Red Heart on Apple iOS 14.2

I Went to the Chiropractor

Last year, after much deliberation, an appropriate amount of drama, and just enough neck pain to push me over the edge, I decided to go to the chiropractor for the first time.

My mom and sister had been going for years, forever trying to convince me that you would not in fact die on the table, but I could not be persuaded. Surely there had to be the occasional slip. The slight miscalculation that went from a vertebrae adjustment to a full-on decapitation. Surely an experience that is centered around cracking your bones could not truly be enjoyable.

But alas, they kept going. And miraculously, they kept returning fully mobile, wholly satisfied and, you know, with heads.

So, I decided to give it a try.

If there was ever a benefit of having to wear masks everywhere we go, it was to hide the pure fear I felt as I was walked into the room. The chiropractor—who knew both my mom and my sister—had heard that I was nervous, so she tried her best to put me at ease, but I still sat wondering if this was the end. Wondering if in a few moments she’d pull my arm off or crank my neck so far to one side that I would scream as if I was being exorcised.

What I didn’t expect was that she’d point out something before we even started.

“Let’s talk about your posture,” she said, “It is pretty good in your shoulders but your head is too far forward.”

She demonstrated how my head poked out, most likely from leaning towards a computer screen at work. Oh my gosh, I thought, looking at her, is that what I look like all the time? I look like an upside down golf club. I look like a putter. I am a walking, talking, standing putter. I should be a staff. A skyscraper. A redwood. But I am a putter.

As the chiropractor got to work, feeling the tightness in my neck and shoulders, she explained that they were doing all they could to keep my head up. Poor neck and shoulders, I thought, humanizing them. The little engines that could. Or could barely. They were not being paid enough for this. Not to hold up this brain that was obviously big and heavy and full of boundless knowledge. I can’t even imagine the kind of weight they’d been bearing all this time.

And so, we agreed—me and the chiropractor, me and my neck and shoulders, me and the fear that still whispered that if we were quick we could slip out the door and get a McFlurry instead—we agreed that we’d give this a go. So, we took a deep breath, and then the chiropractor began. She pulled and cracked and pushed and there were a couple of times when I glanced down at my fingers and toes and wiggled them *just in case* and then she told me to sit up. All in all, it is probably the most violent four minutes I’ve ever experienced. But it was definitely worth it.

I’ve been back a few times since then, and I now make a conscious effort to pull my head back during the day. Turns out, if anyone was trying to decapitate me, it was me. After that first appointment I imagined that if I’d never come in, maybe one day my head would have gotten too heavy and simply just fallen off. Ripped at the roots. Tumbling to the floor with all of that knowledge.

This obviously wouldn’t have happened, but more importantly it won’t happen because I faced my fears, went to the chiropractor and set out on a new life’s mission: to be a skyscraper, not a putter.  

Elton John’s Only Question Worth Asking

I recently read Elton John’s book Me, and it was a wild ride.

I’d highly recommend reading it in any way you prefer, but I’d especially recommend the audiobook as it was a fantastic listen that featured both Elton John himself, and Taron Egerton, who played Elton John in the biopic Rocketman.

One thing that has particularly stuck with me in the days and weeks after finishing the book is the very last sentence of the epilogue. After telling the incredible story of his life that is full of very high highs and very low lows, Elton John speaks wisely about the hard fact that all he’d gone through—even the things he regrets—got him where he is today. And while he’s wondered whether or not he’d go back and change things if he could, he says, “there’s really no point in asking, ‘what if?’ The only question worth asking is, ‘what’s next?’”

I know I live in the what if far too often—even when I’m not aware I’m doing it. There are things I regret, things I wish I could change, conversations I wish went differently, moments that still make me sad, mad, and embarrassed. But the fact of the matter is, all of those things made (and make) me who I am. They are the reasons the people in my life love me, and the reasons I’m learning to love myself.  They are what will make my life my life.

So let’s stop asking what if and start getting excited for what’s next. Let’s look forward to the possibility that comes with growth, for the understanding that comes with failure, and for the levity and humor that (eventually) come with embarrassment. Let’s look forward and stop looking back.

The Year of “Faith”

It is always an interesting experience to sit down and write about my word of the year, from the other side of the year. When I first learn my word, I’m excited, but often worried about what’s to come. And then in January of the following year, having lived through the ups and downs of both the year and the word, I often laugh at the naivety and anxiety, thinking to myself, you really had no idea what was ahead.

Needless to say, 2020 was unique in its ability to be unpredictable. For me, stepping into a new decade and the last year of my 20’s, I knew change was afoot. In fact, I felt like it had been closing in for quite some time. When I was given the word “faith”, I was confident that the year would be challenging, but I really had no idea of what sort.

Reading through my journal from the early months of last year, I can remember how restless I was. While I’d been anticipating the arrival of change, I was also impatient for it. There were parts of my life that I wanted to change, and I wrote about them in a demanding, desperate tone. I made empty promises to pray more and I set unfulfilled goals to spend more time with God—upset that neither were getting me where I wanted to go.

Then came March, where, on the 17th, I wrote, “well, the world has gone f*cking crazy…”

A true statement that was really only half true at the time.

A few days later, I started an entry with, “I really put my quarantine time to good use today—what an insane thing to write.” And the entries that follow are feverish, nervous, and overly sarcastic, trying to find comfort amongst the ever-growing panic around me.

In April, while knee deep in a puzzle that barely fit on our coffee table, my sister and I sat down to watch I Still Believe, a movie based on the life of Christian singer Jeremy Camp. In the movie, (spoiler alert!) his wife dies of cancer, after having previously believed she was in remission. It is a very hard, but very inspiring story, and I thought about it for weeks afterward, but that night, I wrote this:

“One part of the movie that struck me and that makes me tear up just thinking about it is the very last scene, where they show his late wife’s journal. There is a bible verse she circled that says, ‘do not be afraid,’ and next to it she wrote, ‘I won’t be! I will only believe!’ I can’t imagine that faith.

It is the first mention of my word up until that point. And I vividly remember writing it out, underlining it, and then immediately bursting into tears. It wasn’t until then that I realized how far my mind had wandered. And in a world that had begun to make me spiral with questions—most prominent of which was “what do I do now?!”—this movie was a reminder to lean into that word—to have faith.

Now, 2020 was no stranger to heartache. And oftentimes I caught myself wondering and asking why? Why was this happening? A pandemic was running rampant, people were losing their jobs, their homes, and their loved ones. And in my own life, a string of medical scares had left my family feeling exhausted and terrified. Pain and chaos were coming in all directions and I was not only asking why but how? How I am I supposed to have faith when so much bad is happening around me? How can I encourage faith in others when I have no explanation for what is happening? How can I pray when I don’t feel like it will make a difference?

It was a constant struggle, a constant point of contention between God and I. And I fought my word hard.

But then I would always come back to that movie.

To that little entry Jeremy Camp’s late wife, Melissa, wrote in her journal. I couldn’t stop thinking about how much it meant to me. Someone she never met, never heard of, never knew would hear her story, let alone watch a movie about it and be so moved that it would restore my faith in faith.

And as the year went on, I started to realize that that is what faith is. Faith is believing that our lives, both the good parts and the bad parts, the explainable and unexplainable, have purpose. Faith is trusting that God has a bigger plan, and that we are all playing a part in its goodness—even when there is seemingly no goodness in sight. Faith is living through the why’s and the how’s and sometimes never getting an answer, but trusting that, perhaps in my struggle, I’m helping someone else find their answer.

I don’t know what 2021 has ahead for us, but I know that each day has meaning. That each moment you are brave enough to live out the life you have ahead of you, you are making a difference. That every up and every down matters. And that there is goodness—goodness that we cannot even imagine—up ahead for each and every one of us. So I encourage you on this day and in this year, to have faith. Have faith in the goodness. Have faith in the light even amongst the dark. Have faith in faith.

“Don’t be afraid. Just have faith.” – Mark 5:36


You can check out my previous words here: GivePatienceSurrenderShine

5 Things to Wish for at Midnight (List-cember #9)

Well my friends, we have made it! Against all odds, we have made it to the last day of 2020. The final hours of a trying, brutal, relentless year that none of us saw coming. And now we are going to start something new. It might not look new, it might not look easy, and unlike many New Year’s Eves, the strike of midnight might not look exactly magical. But I don’t think that should sway us from counting down, setting goals, or making wishes for a fresh start.

In fact, I feel it is more important than ever to make those wishes this year, not only for ourselves but for the world as a whole. So as those final seconds start to countdown on the clock, here are five things we can all wish for:

1) Unity

One of the most common phrases we heard throughout 2020 was “we’re all in this together.” And while there were many instances where I saw this to be true, there seemed to be many more where it was clear that it wasn’t. This year brought a lot of panic, a lot of fear, a lot of hard, and a lot of new into focus, so it was understandable the way tensions rose. But never have I seen such clear division, constant hate, and widespread loneliness caused by fear of saying the wrong thing, holding the wrong opinion or having a moment’s hesitation. I think there are a lot of positive changes being made in the world, and there are a lot of long overdue conversations taking place, but I also feel like there is a lot of impulsive cancellation and condemnation rather than encouraged understanding and hopeful redemption. Let’s hope for real unity in the year(s) to come. Unity that is built on differences and two sided conversations. Unity that is not eradicated by conflict but made stronger because of it. Let’s truly find a way to be “in this together” and rebuild a better world.

2) Innovation

Even with all the restrictions in place this year, there was still a heft amount of innovation. Doctors found ways to treat and help countless patients. Families found ways to celebrate special occasions with Zoom, drive by parades, and handwritten letters. Online campaigns brought attention, help and joy to those in need with fundraising, collaborative projects and acts of kindness. I remember very early on a girl made the news by designing clear masks that made it possible for the deaf and hard of hearing to better communicate. People found ways to make life easier, more efficient, and sometimes even more fun while the world moved slowly and frightfully into the ever-winding turns and peaks of COVID-19. Let’s hope that this new year will only bring more innovation and more ideas that have never seen the light of day. Let’s hope we all find ourselves sitting, awed, and saying, “wow, I never thought of that!”

3) Creativity

When I think of creativity, especially this year, I think of someone like Taylor Swift, who leaned into the confines of quarantine and wrote two albums. Granted, this is some next level kind of creativity, and not one that we should all measure ourselves against. It is hard to be creative in a time when you can’t travel, can’t see friends and family, can’t do much more than stay inside your own home. But there are moments we all experience, little ideas, in any and all genres, that poke at the back of our minds and say, try this. Sometimes those ideas are only for us, sometimes they find a home outside ourselves and make the world a better place. So let’s hope that creativity is stirred and that we are brave enough to answer the call. Let’s hope that creativity runs wild in this new year and that we see great, new, wonderful things.

4) Kindness

I often find myself saying (or thinking to myself), “it is so easy to be kind.” And while this is true, it is not always easy to want to be kind—especially when the world is seemingly falling apart around you. Still, kindness can go a long way. It can mean everything to the right person in the right moment. So let’s hope that more people (including ourselves) find that want to be kind in the new year. Let’s hope that when we reach those crossroads—perhaps on a daily basis—we try harder to take that extra second to be kind.

5) Patience

What we might need more than anything in this new year is patience. While there is a lot of positive progress being made, the world is not going to go back to normal overnight, or any time in the immediate future. And even though sometimes it seems impossible to live in this version of our world for another year, another few months, or sometimes even just one more day, we need to find it within us to be patient. Be patient with the doctors who are trying their best day in and day out, be patient with the first responders and frontline workers who put themselves as risk each and every day, be patient with your friends and family who might have different fears or opinions than you, be patient with yourself and the ups and downs of emotions that don’t seem to quit. Be patient with 2021, it is a new year, with new possibilities and each day has the chance to be something special.

Happy New Year!


Check out more List-cember posts here.

17 Goals for 2021 (List-cember #8)

In 2017, I made my first list of 17 goals. They were bold—crazy even—and they were hard, but they also pushed me to do things I never thought I’d do. Since then, I’ve figured out a rhythm to goal setting. I’ve made sure to set goals that I want to accomplish rather than those I think will impress people, and I’ve set goals that are a good balance of challenging and achievable, rather than outlandish and impossible. After all, it’s easy to make big proclamations about all that you’re going to do after that New Year’s clock strikes midnight, but it’s very difficult to stick to those promises in the 365 days that follow.

Plus, some years you set goals and then a global pandemic happens, making most of them literally impossible. So you gotta work with what you’ve got. And you’ve gotta give yourself goals for you—goals that will inspire you, challenge you, and/or just make you proud you put your mind to something.

With that being said, these are the goals I’m setting for 2021:

1) Volunteer 5 times

This is a staple on my list of goals and one that I always look forward to. With COVID restrictions still in place, I might have to get creative with this one, but no matter what’s going on in the world, there is always a way to lend a helping hand, so hopefully I can find where I am best able to serve.

2) Watch the sunrise

I have watched many a sunset in my life, but far too few sunrises. And if I’m asking myself for one. One early morning. One day out of 365. One drive before dawn to a good spot where I can watch a new day begin, I think I can handle it.

3) Raise my VO2 Max score to 40

In late October, I came across a statistic on my FitBit called “VO2 Max”, which is essentially how efficiently your body uses oxygen during exercise. At the time, my score was a 35, which was marked as “average” for a woman my age. And even though I’d never previously heard of this measure of health, or had anyone telling me I needed to improve it, I instantly decided that I could no longer live a satisfying life unless my score was in the “good” range—which is a minimum of 36.5. As of now, my score is a 37, making me cleanly and wholly in the “good” range, so naturally I am now striving for the “great” range. Great is marked by a minimum score of 40.7, but for this year I’m going to start with a goal of 40.

4) Get published

Last year I made it a goal to take a writing class, and in looking for a class to take I found an entire Creative Writing Capstone through UCLA Extension that I am now in the process of completing. In doing so, my writing brain has been kicked in to overdrive and I have started to write about things I may have never had the courage or drive to write about before. So it is my hope that I can continue to write, submit and have something published in the next year.

5) Donate blood or plasma

This is another goal that I’m going to try to make an annual thing—even if it’s a little nerve-wracking and involves needles—because it’s an easy way to help those in need, and you get free snacks at the end. I’m not sure what the world of donations will look like in 2021, so I’m leaving the goal at a single donation, but if I’m brave enough, I’m going to try and do more!

6) Reduce screen time to 3 hours/day (or less)

If you have an iPhone, you might get those weekly reports on the average amount of time you spent on your phone each day. I will admit, in quarantine, my numbers skyrocketed, and I have been trying desperately to bring that number down ever since. So for this year, I want my weekly report to average 3 hours or less every week. Preferably less and less as the weeks go on.

7) Finish this writing prompt book

In September, I bought this little book of writing prompts as a fun way to get my creative mind working. For a little while, I got into a good routine of doing a handful of prompts per day, but I have since fallen off that schedule, and admittedly haven’t opened the book for a couple of months. So I’m hoping that this year I can get back into it and even finish it. Who knows, maybe one of the prompts will inspire a future blog post. (find the book here)

8) See one WLRA

A couple years back I made this list of the World’s Largest Roadside Attractions and I set out to see as many as I could. I have crossed out a good handful since then and I am hoping to cross off another one this year.

9) Read 5 books on this list

After I came across this list of inspirational books I decided to make reading through the list an item on my bucket list. So, in order to start working towards that goal, I’m setting out to read five of those books this year.

10) Cook 1 new recipe every month

I am a big creature of habit. And while a few years ago I got really into cookbooks and trying new recipes, most of the time I make what I know and what I love, or what I know I’ll love. So I’m hoping to branch out a bit this year. Nothing too crazy, just one recipe I’ve never tried each month.

11) See all the movies nominated for Best Picture (and maybe even predict the winner!)

It has always been a goal of mine to see every movie nominated for Best Picture before the Academy Awards, but somehow I have never managed to accomplish this. I want to feel like I have a real opinion on the matter, rather than just rooting for the one movie I happened to see. So, this year, the moment that list comes out, I’m filling the gap between what I have and haven’t seen and I am making a prediction!

12) Finish my Dodger Stadium cross stitch

One of my favorite quarantine projects has been a counted cross-stitch of Dodger Stadium that I designed myself. Some weeks I work on it a lot, others I forget it exists. As of now I’d say I’m about 70% done with it, but I have a feeling that last 30% might take me a long time. So while I think this is an easy goal, it’s also one that I want to hold myself accountable for. I want to get this project finished and show it off!

13) Learn to curl my hair

I am embarrassingly uneducated in all things hair. About five years ago I cut my hair short for the first time since I was a kid, and it was at that time that I first learned to properly blow-dry my hair. And as of now, that’s about all I know how to do. So, with a new straightener in tow that I got for Christmas—one that I allegedly can use to curl my hair as well—I am aiming to get a little more educated in the hairstyling department, and more or less emerge as a hair goddess.

14) Try acupuncture

My mom tried acupuncture for the first time this year and has become a firm believer. I followed her lead this past year on trying out the chiropractor, so I’m going to continue following in her footsteps and give acupuncture a go!

15) Read 12 books of the Bible

I often get overwhelmed by daily devotionals or reading plans, because I always fall behind, and then I fall so far behind that I give up and stop reading all together—which is very much not the point. So my sister suggested this goal, which I like because it gives me room to read more if I’m in a good groove, and it gives me room to catch up if I fall behind.

16) Keep my plant alive

One of the cutest gifts I got for Christmas was a little succulent in a ceramic dinosaur plant pot that my sister gave me. If you know anything about me, I deeply struggle with keeping plants alive, so she got me this in the hopes that I might, you know, not kill it. And I am so dedicated to this new plant child—that I have named “Bronto”, like brontosaurus—that I have made his well being one of my goals for this year. #prayersforBronto (find the plant pot here)

17) The Tuesdays of 2021

My final goal of the year is a little photography project. In years past I have done a one photo per day project and I have done a one second per day project. And while they were both fun and turned out really cool, they were also stressful and hard to remember to do every. single. day. So this year, I thought, why not choose one day a week to take a picture or record a short video? And why not make it a random day like Tuesday? There are 52 Tuesdays in 2021, most of which might otherwise have been relatively forgettable, but this year I’m going to have a little memory of each and every one, and to be honest, I’m already excited to see them!

Did you set any goals for 2021?


You can also check out my previous lists of goals here: 2020201920182017

My Year in Pictures (List-cember #7)

One of the more obscure goals I set for myself in 2020 was to make an “emotion scrapbook.” My idea was to try and create a more accurate depiction of my year, by taking pictures when I felt a wide range of emotions, rather than just when I was happy, excited, or in need of making people jealous with whatever dessert I just ordered.  I wanted to take pictures when I was sad, when I was angry, etc., to try and remember those days and honor them.

As it turns out, it is simply not my first instinct to take pictures when I’m feeling those kinds of emotions. Often I turn to writing instead, whether it is in the form of a blog post, a few pages scribbled in my journal, or a run-on sentence in the Notes app on my phone. That being said, with this goal in the back of my mind, I did make a conscious effort to take more pictures this year. Whenever I got that I should take a picture of this feeling, I tried to roll with it. And as a result, I got a pretty wide range of photos that tell the story of this crazy year.

Here are some of my favorites:

1) The Band

On one of the very first weekends of the year, my family drove up to visit our cousins at the beach. That Friday night, my sister, my cousin, Taryn, and I casually decided to learn a Tik-Tok dance before we went to bed, but ended up staying up until 2:00 a.m. choreographing our own music video. To this day no one can figure out how it progressed to that, but it was by far one of my favorite nights of the whole year.

2) Kobe

Kobe’s death rocked the world, but it especially hit hard in Los Angeles, where so many fans gathered in front of the Staples Center to pay tribute to a man who had been the hero of their city. My family and I went to pay our respects and to see these murals that were set outside for fans to sign. It was an incredibly moving sight.

3) Persimmons

I took this photo at a farmer’s market I volunteered at in February. Dried persimmons are hard to find, but they are also my mom’s favorite, so when I asked a vendor if she had any and she opened up this absolute treasure chest, I audibly gasped and took a picture.

4) The Quarantine Collection

Never would I ever have guessed I’d spend so many hours on Zoom and Facetime this year, but I swear that friend and family time is what made those lonely, blurry months of quarantine bearable.

5) Home Gym

My brother is an avid rock climber, so when lockdown kept him home, he had to get creative with ways to both keep himself busy and in shape. I’m not sure if I dared him to do this or if he just suggested he could and I followed closely behind him with my camera for proof, but either way, I got the shot.

6) Cousin Quarantine Olympics

One summer weekend, my brother, sister and I met our cousins up in the mountains for a little quarantined getaway and decided to hold the first ever Cousin Quarantine Olympics. This was a heated, neck in neck competition that included games like, who can build the best Jenga tower? and who can move an Oreo from their forehead to their mouth—using only their face—the fastest? I did not make the podium.

7) The beach

This picture was taken on a Saturday evening spent at the beach. On a whim we decided to drive up and watch the sunset and it turned into such a fun, easy day, where for a little while I felt like everything was going to be okay. (I wrote this blog post about it.)

8) Backyard Dinners

This was taken in the backyard of my friends Rachel & Dylan’s house, where we spent many a socially distanced evening hanging out, talking, grilling burgers, and watching the Dodger game. They even hosted a small, COVID friendly, backyard movie night for my birthday in September, which was incredibly lovely and wonderful. 

9) Neo

June was a bit of a rough month for my family, with a lot of things moving in a lot of different directions and a lot of questions not being answered. This picture was taken in a brighter moment at the beginning of July, on a night we drove to the beach in hopes of catching a glimpse of the comet Neowise.

10) Defeated

I was barely able to take this very strange, blurry picture of my sister because I was giggling so much. And while this exact moment of the day can bring a smile to my face, the day as a whole was a tough one. I remember telling my sister as we sat in our living room chairs that I “just felt defeated from minute one.” It seemed like every hard thing from the day, the year, my life, everything was weighing on my shoulders that day and I felt so heavy and stressed and overwhelmed. I wasn’t really ready to talk about it, mostly because I was afraid if I started I might burst into tears, but I was in need of some company. So, that night my sister and I ordered two pizzas and two bottles of wine and we sat in our living room—each drinking our respective wine straight from the bottle—and watched a movie.

11) Celebrity

This photo never fails to make me smile. Mostly because I think it looks like I squeezed in to take a picture with a celebrity who was trying to fly under the radar, but also because it is very unlike me to have volunteered to take this picture. I rarely, if ever, take “selfies” and, (not so) fun fact, I was just getting over an eye infection and was still unable to wear eye makeup. Nevertheless, I was having a good day and was cracking up at this makeshift mask my cousin put on before we stepped in to a restaurant to order takeout.

12) The Notch

I took this while sitting in a fold up chair, fishing in the Uinta Mountains of Utah. This mini getaway was one of the only bits of traveling I did for the year and to be honest, as I sat in that chair, I felt a bit overwhelmed by all the room I had to think and digest the happenings of the year. (I wrote a little bit about it in this blog.)

13) Solvang Waterfall

While on my dad’s birthday trip to Solvang in November, we went on a small hike to a waterfall. And while the waterfall itself was skinny and slow moving, the view around it was beautiful!

14) The Jump

When in 2020, baby showers are required to be small and safe. Which is why one Friday evening my sister and I blew up tons of balloons to host a part of four (including the mom to be). It was such a nice, relaxing evening that included a small photoshoot that was made possible by self-timer and a ladder that we dragged in from the garage. This blurry, chaotic mess of a jumping picture is by far one of my favorite pictures of the bunch.

15) Baking Cookies

One of the best parts of this year was my baby cousin Easton being born in June, and one of the best parts of this holiday season was getting to meet him for the very first time! Usually in December we have a family cookie baking day where a big group of us gets together and bakes recipes that have been passed down for generations, but this year was the first year in my entire life that we had to cancel. And while it was heartbreaking, we exchanged pictures back and forth, showing we were making the recipes at home, keeping the tradition alive until we can all see each other again next year. At my parents’ house, we introduced Easton to our holiday tradition, and even tried our hand at making handprint (or salt dough) ornaments. I think he thought we were nuts, but they turned out really cute.


Check out more List-cember posts here.

2020 Goals Wrap Up (List-cember #6)

It’s safe to say that many of the goals I set for 2020 were compromised by COVID and the corresponding shutdowns. But I also did my best to adapt and set milestones for myself that helped me see through the blur of quarantine and remain calm during the chaos of the year. So while this goal recap is a little different than those of years past, it still makes me proud and excited to see what I accomplished this year. Let’s have a look!

1) Kick a field goal

I’m considering this one pending, as there is still time left in this year and I think my cousins and I might be able to sneak this one in over the next couple weeks.

2) Learn Spanish – she’s on a roll!

This was a continuation goal from 2019, and I must say, if you are looking for a fun way to challenge yourself, I highly recommend downloading Duolingo and learning a new language. I was delighted to receive a “year in review” report that showed me I spent over 1618 minutes (which is almost 27 hours) learning Spanish. Obviously this goal is still far from being completed, but I’ve learned a ton this year and am excited to learn more!

3) Do a pullup changed to finish the ciabatta workouts almost done!

I’ve had “do a pullup” on my list for a couple years now. And while I could blame my lack of progress on the fact that gyms were closed for most of the year, if I’m being honest, I’ve also just lost interest in it. I think I saw doing unassisted pullups as an overarching mile marker of upper body strength, but doing things like yoga has shown me there are many different ways to strengthen your body—looking at you chaturanga—and many ways to feel strong. Thus, I decided to change this goal to finishing all eight “ciabatta” workouts my friend Mel created (that I mentioned in this post). They are hard, but in a good way and they always leave me feeling exhausted and convinced that I am made of pure muscle, stamina, and greatness. Six down, two to go!

4) Volunteer (at least) 5 times – completed!

I am very pleased to say that even amongst the restrictions, I was able to achieve this goal! After volunteering with one of my favorite Southern California nonprofits, Food Forward, in February, the months of quarantine and lockdown brought the opportunity to volunteer at my church, which ran a weekly drive-thru food drive for families in need. I felt very lucky to be a part of it!

5) Write 5 positive Yelp reviews – completed!

As someone who is a big reader of reviews but a rare writer of reviews, I wanted to start doing my part. And so, in the few new places I was able to visit and/or order from this year, I made sure to write them a review.

6) Donate plasma changed to give blood – completed!

A couple years ago I made it a goal to give blood, and then this year I wanted to take the next step and donate plasma. But while I did the research, I will admit, after many months in quarantine, I lost my nerve. However, this past week I made an appointment and gave blood with no problem, so I am going to try and work my way back up to plasma next year.

7) 30 Day Cleaning challenge – completed!

When I am stressed, I clean. So needless to say, there is absolutely nothing in my house that I did not clean this year.

8) Savings challengecompleted-ish!

It could also be said that when I’m stressed I online shop. Because when the world is falling apart around you, maybe a soft hoodie can help, you know? So while I did allocate money into savings, it wasn’t as much as I anticipated, but I just feel lucky to have had the opportunity to keep my job and continue to make money, so that is all I’m saying on that.

9) Purchase one charity t-shirt per month completed!

This was a fun goal and one that I enjoyed researching each month. I will admit, I did take some creative liberties and at times bought things other than t-shirts, like hoodies or hats, but it was fun knowing that I was buying something for a good cause. I’ve linked those that are still available 😊

10) Pay it forward

I actually found this one surprisingly difficult, mostly because I tended to order in rather than drive-thru. But I tried to make up for it in other ways, often noting when I had left over change that I didn’t need or could spare to tip someone more than was recommended.

11) Take a self-defense class

This one will have to be put on the backburner for now, but I am still interested in it.

12) Go to (at least) 5 concerts

*sighs*

13) Take a writing classcompleted!

As I mentioned in this post, I took a class through UCLA Extension and was thrilled with it. It was amazing to be challenged in my writing and to have a reason to really dig in and write about things that I might otherwise not have. I’m very excited to take my next class this January!

14) Go to 5 breweries changed to go to 5 breweries or wineries

Among the varying waves of COVID restrictions, I was able to find wineries with friends and family that were safely open for outside tastings. These made up some of my favorite memories of the year and were such a nice taste of normalcy. I went to:

  1. Barrelhouse Brewery
  2. Rava Winery
  3. Peachy Canyon Winery
  4. Brickbarn Winery
  5. Lucas & Lewellen Winery

15) Go to a comedy show

This was another one that simply wasn’t possible this year, but hopefully will be soon!

16) The Emotion Scrapbook – completed-ish!

This one turned less into a “scrapbook” and more into a renewed dedication to document things that mattered to me. I made a conscious effort to do better at taking more pictures this year, even if it meant being the person saying, “hold on, hold on” which often makes me uncomfortable. As a result, in this Thursday’s List-cember post, I have a list of my favorite pictures I took this year—one of which involved my brother hanging upside down by his toes in my parents’ backyard, which is surely not one of my mom’s favorite photos.

17) Make a time capsule

I think when I wrote this goal I had thoughts of marking the start of a new decade, the start of my 30’s, etc. I had no idea what was to come. But now I’m more motivated than ever to make a little time capsule, as this year is one beyond belief, and one that, in 10 years will (hopefully) be far behind us and worth reflecting on. So in these last couple weeks of the year I’m going to pull together some things that represent 2020, showcase where I’m at in my life, allude to the state of the world, etc., and in 10 years I’ll be able to see how far we’ve all come.  


Check out more List-cember posts here.

17 Things that Inspired Me This Year (List-cember #5)

No matter the year, no matter the season, there are always going to be things that inspire us. Things that make us want and dream or fight and persevere, things that make us laugh or dance or cheer or all of the above. My personal favorite are the things that spark your interest, perhaps in a way you don’t quite understand yet, and then simmer in your mind until their full understanding comes to light. This year, there were many things that inspired me, both as a writer, a woman, a daughter, a sister, a dreamer and just as a human.

Here are some of those things:

1) These podcast episodes

I listened to a lot of great podcasts this year (many of which I listed on my rec roundup) but there were a couple episodes that particularly stood out and had me feeling all the feels.

  • Rachel Hollis Podcast, Episode #151: Reclaim Your Magic w/ Elizabeth Gilbert (which inspired this blog)
  • Heavyweight, Episode #32: Vivian
  • Straight Up with Trent Shelton, Episode #46: Three Things You Need to Disarm to Bring Your Greatness to the World

2) This quote from Untamed

“Being fully human is not about feeling happy, it’s about feeling everything.” – Glennon Doyle

3) I Left the House Today by Cassandra Calin

I saw this book at Target and more or less impulse bought it because I liked the title and the first few comics I saw inside. Once I brought it home, I then proceeded to read the entire book in one sitting. It is relatable, honest, heartfelt, clever and so funny. Highly recommend!

4) @carrychalk on Instagram

5) Yoga with Adriene

Yoga was an absolute lifesaver for me this year. It gave me a sense of calm when the entire world was in chaos, and it helped me find a routine when I didn’t have motivation to do much of anything. Yoga with Adriene in particular was such a blessing as she became not only a teacher, but a friend during such a lonely time. I would recommend her to anyone and everyone, no matter your yoga level or experience. She is wonderful!

6) This song by Riley Clemmons

7) Fortitude by Dan Crenshaw

“In entertaining failure, you will embrace it.”

“You have a purpose in this life. God has you here for a reason. You may not know it, but He does. Your job is to find it. No one else can. You need to understand that your purpose may be great in the eyes of the world, or it may be commonplace and seemingly small.”

“The pursuit is the purpose.”

Also check out this blog post inspired by a story in the book.

8) @drawings_for_my_grandchildren on Instagram

This account is run by a husband and wife who are using social media to leave behind stories and lessons for their grandchildren. Often there are drawings that go along with stories and they are so sweet and creative and emotional. I am always excited to see a new post from them.

9) Gerald Stratford

This is truly the most delightful, wholesome Twitter account that exists. Gerald doesn’t want to talk politics, he doesn’t want to yell and scream, he just wants to show you the vegetables he is growing and I am HERE FOR IT GERALD.

10) Little Women

I saw this movie in theaters early this year, and even though most days from March to now are a blur, I can still vividly remember sitting beside my best friend in the movie theater, our cheeks wet from crying, unable to move even as the lights came on and people started to leave. I love this movie and often watch it whenever I’m looking for a spark of inspiration—or a good cry.

11) Kobe

Growing up in Los Angeles, Kobe always had a special place in my heart, but it was truly remarkable to see the impact he had on so many lives, worldwide. In the weeks and months that followed his tragic passing, I marveled at the widespread unity that came with the grief. I read and watched so many stories, including this one, which I can still barely watch without crying, but I have loved to see the term #girldad come to life in its wake.

12) The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto

“What you’re thinking about can be what you become.”

“But even beginnings have beginnings.”

“As life goes on, you will join other bands, some through friendship, some through romance, some through neighborhoods, school, an army. Maybe you will all dress the same, or laugh at your own private vocabulary. Maybe you will flop on couches backstage, or share a boardroom table, or crowd around a galley inside a ship. But in each band you join, you will play a distinct part, and it will affect you as much as you affect it.”

13) folklore & evermore by Taylor Swift

I mean, how dare she? But also, thank goodness.

My favorites on folklore are peace, my tears ricochet & invisible string.

My (early) favorites on evermore are ivy, marjorie & gold rush.

14) This story

Please take the time to read the whole thing. It will make your day, I promise.

15) Get Out of Your Head by Jennie Allen

“When we listen to lies about our worth, we naturally back away from others. In many cases, our distancing behavior succeeds in pushing people away, reinforcing our fear of rejection. This is a classic mind trap, a self-fulfilling thought pattern in which our insecurity feeds our isolation, which in turn feeds the lie that we are worthless and nobody really gets us or cares to. We feel unseen and unloved, and to protect ourselves from further rejection, we won’t let anyone close enough to change our perception.”

16) Some Good News on Youtube

I LOVED this series started by John Krasinski on Youtube and often ugly cried throughout. This episode was particularly amazing because, well, HAMILTON.

17) The Monday Club

I’ve been subscribed to this weekly newsletter by Hannah Brencher for a while now and it is the perfect way to start my week. She never fails to speak to my heart and inspire me, and I have many an email from her saved and starred in my inbox.


Check out more List-cember posts here.