List-cember

December…but with lists!

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.

Things I’m Excited to See Again (List-cember #4)

While things are very much still tough, and the approach of the new year doesn’t have so much magic as it does desperate hope for something better, I am trying my best to think about the good things. It’s unclear when life will go completely back to “normal” or when we will be able to do all that we love and miss again, but we will get there one day. And when we do, these are some of the things I’m excited to see:

1) People walking to school

I’m excited see young kids, with backpacks hanging low on their shoulders, almost shadowing their entire frame, holding the hands of their parent or grandparent or older sibling as they make their way across the street towards the gates of their school. I’m excited to see high schoolers, walking in groups laughing or alone thinking, sitting in their cars wondering or opening up their lockers hoping that today will be a good day. And I’m excited to see college students, walking both lazily and with purpose, in sweatpants and suits, barely making it to class or betting their entire future on it.

2) Full cars

I’m excited to see cars full of families, silhouetted heads moving this way and that, with suitcases piled high on the roof, bikes strapped to the back, or a trailer being pulled behind. I’m excited to wonder where they’re going, if it’s a weekend getaway, a cross country road trip, or perhaps a new house, to start a new life in a new city. 

3) Smiles

I’m excited to see the big, face changing smiles, the small, polite ones, the unexpected, undeniable ones, the shy, nervous ones, and the ones that connect you to a stranger as you both shake your head as a way to say, can you believe this guy? I’m excited to see smiles freshly whitened, smiles made of braces, and smiles with teeth missing and awaiting reward from the tooth fairy. Most of all I’m excited to stop avoiding eye contact simply because I’m afraid my mask will hide my smile and my sunglasses will hide my eyes, making it impossible for me to let someone know that I hope they have a good day.

4) Sports fans jumping from their seats

I’m excited to see stadiums packed with people, sitting side by side, on the edge of their seats, hoping for a big play, a big moment, and doing their best to cheer and rally their fellow fans. I’m excited to see them stand, and to stand with them, clapping and chanting and tapping their team’s name across the fronts of their jerseys. I’m excited to see that big moment happen, and to hear the gasps and excitement and energy rip through the entire stadium, bringing everyone to their feet, hugging and high fiving.

5) My whole family—up close and personal

I’m excited to be able to stand with my arm around a cousin or my head on the shoulder of an aunt, or to sit right next to my grandpa and watch a baseball game. I’m excited to eat chips from the same bowl and dip them in our family’s homemade guacamole, to swap Christmas cookies and cheers late night drinks. I’m excited to plan each and every annual family gathering, to catch up and share stories, take group pictures and spend way too long hugging each other as we try to say goodbye.

6) Movie previews

I’m excited to walk into a theater right before the room goes dark, and to look over at my sister and guess how many previews are going to play before the movie—I always guess four. I’m excited to whisper things like, “that looks good” or “I’ve been waiting for this!” or “what on earth is that?” And I’m excited to finish whatever snack I brought or bought before the previews even end, and not feel mad or sad, but content and prepared to sink into my seat and watch a movie on the big screen.

7) “OPEN” signs

I’m excited to drive around town, hungry or bored, or just in the mood to explore and see all the restaurants and stores and gyms and parks and churches and salons and bookstores and museums open and ready for business. Ready to welcome customers and families and people looking to try something new or return to something they love. I’m ready to watch people hold the door for each other, to eavesdrop on what other people are buying or ordering or talking about, to spy on the cute boy at the gym or look over at the person typing furiously on their keyboard in a coffee shop. I’m excited for the world to open back up, for people to open back up, and for the hope and unity we’ve been struggling to find over this last year to finally, truly, bring us together into the new normal.  


Check out more List-cember posts here.

My 2020 Rec Roundup (List-cember #3)

One of my favorite things to do at the end of the year is to look at everyone’s “best of” lists. I love recommendation lists and you will find my notebook, my phone, and sometimes even my hands covered in scribbled notes of things to check out. So, since I know I will be actively consuming these lists, I think it’s only fair to contribute one of my own.

Here are my favorite things from 2020:

Note: these aren’t necessarily things that came out in 2020, but they are things that I found this year and loved.

Books

  • Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano
  • Sorry I’m Late I Didn’t Want to Come by Jessica Pan
  • Funny, You Don’t Look Autistic by Michael McCreary
  • The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom
  • The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn
  • This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay
  • A Very Punchable Face by Colin Jost
  • Black Widow by Leslie Gray Streeter
  • A Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins
  • Fortitude by Dan Crenshaw

Podcasts

  • Pretty Big Deal w/ Ashley Graham
  • Truth & Lies: Jeffrey Epstein
  • Straight Up w/ Trent Shelton
  • Dolly Parton’s America
  • Everyday Decisions w/ Jo Firestone
  • Off Air with Joe & Orel
  • 1619
  • The Next Right Thing
  • Human Seeking Human
  • Song Exploder

Movies

  • Little Women
  • 1917
  • Jojo Rabbit
  • Emma
  • Brittany Runs a Marathon
  • Home Again
  • Troop Zero
  • Swiss Army Man
  • Peanut Butter Falcon
  • Knives Out

TV Shows

  • Schitt’s Creek
  • Hunters
  • Outer Banks
  • Dark
  • Never Have I Ever
  • Normal People
  • Emily in Paris
  • Pen15
  • Peaky Blinders
  • The Queen’s Gambit

Music

  • Rare by Selena Gomez
  • Ocean by Lady Antebellum
  • Apart by Léon
  • Lady Like by Ingrid Andress
  • Go Somewhere by John Splithoff
  • State of the Heart by Patrick Droney
  • Kelsea by Kelsea Ballerini
  • folklore by Taylor Swift
  • The Otherside by Cam
  • Sad Hunk by Bahamas

Misc

Take the Day off Cleansing Balm: This is hands down the best makeup remover I’ve ever used. Not only does it get allll of my makeup off, it doesn’t irritate my skin, and it lasts for a long time. (find it here.)

Aveda Shampoo: I feel like I’ve been looking for “the right” shampoo for my hair for a long time and to my absolute delight, I finally found it in this one. This was an intensely impulsive purchase that was brought on by quarantine boredom, but it has been a lifesaver! Pro-tip: if you try it and like the shampoo, just get jumbo size bottle, it’s worth it. (find it here.)

Tangle: This bi-partisan newsletter was a valuable find for me, especially this year when there were so many important conversations being had. I liked being given both sides of an argument rather than trying to weed out the truth between all the screaming and arguing that took place on opposing sides. (find it here.)

AirPods: I would have never guessed that I’d be finishing out the year recommended AirPods as one of my favorite things but I would be lying if I said I haven’t used them absolutely every day since I bought them. These have especially been a lifesaver for listening to music at work, doing chores, talking on the phone, etc., because I no longer have to worry about the cords of my old headphones. (find them here.)


Check out more List-cember posts here.

And you can check out last year’s Rec Roundup here.

10 Things I Tried this Year (List-cember #2)

I’m a sucker for a new hobby.

I’m also a sucker for going hard into a new hobby and then forgetting about it for months.

But alas, I keep searching. I keep hobby-ing. I keep trying to find things that I like, that I could maybe, eventually even love, and things that can help me learn about myself, about the world and how I fit in it.

This year, with so many things being closed for so long, it was hard to try new things, but with so much extra time on my hands, it was hard not to try new things.   So I did a little bit of both.

Here are 10 of my favorite things I tried this year:

1) Digitizing National Archives

If you don’t mind a little bit of busy work, this is a great thing to do both to pass the time and to help make historical records more accessible. It’s super easy, fun, and can be done remotely. I usually try to log on and do it for about a half hour at a time. (Check it out here)

2) UCLA Extension Writing Class

Taking a writing class was actually on my list of goals for 2020, and I was very excited to not only find a class through UCLA Extension, but also a Creative Writing Certificate program that I am now a part of. Next week, I finish up my first class of the program and I can’t wait for the next one! If you are interested, they have all kinds of classes and open enrollment for the winter quarter is now open! (Check it out here)

3) Pickleball

If you have never heard of pickleball, or have never taken the time to look it up (like me) it is essentially the love child of tennis and ping pong. You play with paddles and a wiffle ball, on a court about half the size of a tennis court, and you are worse than you think will be when you start. One of my best friends and I decided to take it up as a new hobby and we are having a blast. Look out for us on the courts, we plan to play until we qualify for the senior citizen leagues, grey hair and all.

4) Going to the chiropractor

My mom and sister have been going to the chiropractor for years now but I have always been way too scared to join them. The thought of willingly letting someone crack your neck sounded like a recipe for disaster to me. But, after having a few years of constant pain in the base of my neck and shoulders, I decided to give it a go, and let me tell you, I am now a believer! I’ve gone twice now and I would have never expected the results I have gotten. Not only did she *literally* realign me, but she pointed out some things to focus on with my posture that might have been contributing to the neck pain, and overall just performed voodoo magic on my bones.

5) Using a planner

I mentioned this planner in my favorites for May & June, and I still very much love it. I will admit, I’ve fallen out of the habit a little bit and sometimes make to-do lists that I don’t look at for weeks at a time—which is not only frustrating for my desire to make a habit of using the planner, but also quite frustrating when I open the planner weeks later and find I still haven’t completed items on my to-do list. That being said however, if you are looking for a planner, this one is great and it is undated, which works wonders for forgetful people like me.

6) Mealime

I go through phases of planning my meals, not based on interest but rather the willingness to plan and then go to the store to buy the ingredients to carry out said plan. It was by pure impulse that I downloaded this app that helps you pick and plan your meals and even makes you a grocery list to keep track of which ingredients you will need. I love the layout of the app and definitely foresee myself using it more after the holidays—when my diet isn’t primarily cookies.

7) Overnight Oats

These were truly a love that I did not expect to find. I have never been an oatmeal person as I find it too mushy, so I never expected to like overnight oats. But this recipe really surprised me and there have been few weekday mornings since I found it that I don’t have a mason jar of oats to grab on my way out the door.  YUM.

8) Modified HIIT workouts

I hate HIIT workouts. I hate jumping, I hate circuits, I generally hate feeling like I’m going to die for every minute of a workout. This is why I stick to running and yoga and pickleball. However, my friend Mel recently graduated with a doctorate in physical therapy and started releasing weekly HIIT workouts that I wanted to check out. And lucky for me, she showcased a lot of modifications that are not only friendly for those (like me) looking for lower impact/non jumping workouts, but also those (like me) who might be working out on a second story, with my sister working from home right below me. (Check out @ptmelmel on Instagram for the workouts, especially those of you who ski/snowboard, her “ciabatta” series is designed especially for snow season!)

9) Pimple patches

If I’m being honest, I’m almost upset by how great these work, because I feel like this is a secret that has been kept from me for TOO LONG. I especially like these ones you can get for very cheap on Amazon. They are small, barely visible, super effective and don’t leave your skin dry and irritated. High school me would have died for these.

10) Join a book club

I have always wanted to be a part of a book club, and when COVID hit I was pretty devastated that this was something that was pretty out of reach for me to find. But then in October, I came across Literati, which is a group of book clubs that all have different themes and are run by different moderators. And what’s more, while you choose which club to be in, if you are more interested in the book of another club for a specific month, you can switch! There’s also an app you can download to join the conversation about the book, and while I’d love to tell you all about it, I am already behind on my reading and have not opened the app once so one could argue I am failing at being in a book club but I would disagree, if only to maintain my dignity.


Did you try anything this year that you loved?

My Favorite Ornaments on My Tree (List-cember #1)

Hello and happy December List-cember to you! I have made it a tradition on my blog that in December every post is centered around lists, and here we are again, in year five!

You can check out some of the previous List-cember posts here, otherwise let’s get started!

If I’m being honest, alongside my sister, I broke every rule this year. We watched our first Christmas movie before Halloween and had our Christmas decorations up by the first week of November—but can you blame us? There’s just something special about Christmas time and all the goodness that comes with it, and this year we were in a hurry to get to all that good stuff.

Usually during List-cember I give out “superlatives” to the many ornaments in my life, but this year, after having spent so many months isolated from family, friends and all things “normal”, I just wanted to highlight some of my favorites.  These are the ornaments that make me smile and give me hope that good years with good memories and even more good ornaments to commemorate them are ahead of us.

1) The Burrito

Ornaments are meant to highlight people and things that you love, right? Well one thing my family can agree on—almost every time we order-in for dinner—is burritos. My sister likes to joke (even though she’s serious) that she has Chipotle on speed dial, but our burrito backlog goes far beyond the local chain. So for a time of year when so many other foods and food groups reign supreme, I love having an ode to burritos up there on our tree, reminding us that yes, you should order-in tonight, you deserve it.  

2) The Fireplace

Some of my favorite ornaments on my parents’ tree are those with family names handwritten on snowmen, stockings, Santa hats, etc., so when I saw this ornament a couple years ago, I couldn’t resist bringing it home and making one of my own. And with our roommate Rachel moved out into a new house now, this ornament is even more special, as it now commemorates the time we all lived together, which is full of so many happy memories.

3) Yoga Santa

I love me some yoga, and I got even more into it this year during quarantine. Yoga Santa reminds me to relax, and to stop stressing—because compared to a guy who has to deliver presents to the entire world in one night, how big could my problems really be?

4) New York

Last year my family took a trip to New York for a whirlwind weekend to see the New York Giants play. It was only a few months before the world took a turn for the ‘rona and is one of the last times I remember being out and about without a mask on. So while I look at this ornament longingly for a time before 2020, I also look at it with the hope that one day this will all be behind us.

5) The Shark

My roommates and I nabbed this guy when I signed us up for a bar crawl a few years back. He came in our gigantic fishbowl of a drink and, me being the sentimental being that I am, stuck him in my purse to keep forever. For reasons lost to time (and alcohol) we named him “Timothy Bruce Henry” and he might be the only homemade shark ornament I’ll ever encounter.

6) Candy Cane

These are a staple on my grandma and grandpa’s tree that were handmade by my grandma herself. And not to paint myself as a thief, but (along with shark) I also stole this. But it was from my grandparents’ house and they have lots of extras and definitely would have freely given it to me if I asked—so it’s only, like, half stolen.

7) Michael Strahan

As a Giants fan you can’t not like Michael Strahan. And as a loyal Giants fan, you can’t not look at this ornament and feel desperately nostalgic for a time when you were a Superbowl champion. *sigh*

8) Jameson Distillery

For the longest time it was my sister’s dream to go to Ireland, and in 2016, we were able to make that happen. Then, in June of last year, we were able to go back—and even visit London and Paris too!—to show our family the place we’d fallen in love with, which made it all the more incredible. This ornament is from one of our favorite places, and where, without shame, we all got a little buzzed at 10:00 a.m. on a weekday morning.  

9) Turtledove

Similar to the candy cane, this ornament has special meaning as it came from my grammie and papa’s tree. You’ll be happy to know I didn’t steal this one, though I might say I did, just to up my street cred. Because as we all know, stolen turtledove ornaments are worth infinite street cred.

10) Cheeseburger Topper

While tradition is key during this time of year and one might expect to see a star or an angel at the top of the tree, we consistently and unabashedly put this cheeseburger with legs on top. I can’t tell you why or when it started, only that it is strange and glorious and weirdly normal at this point. It makes me smile every time I see it, and especially every time someone comes over and takes brief moment to pause and ask, tentatively, “is that–is that a cheeseburger?

My Favorite Moments of 2019 (List-cember #9)

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it approximately 600,000 times: this year was busy!

But within the confines of our crazy calendar, there were so many good moments. And I don’t just mean big, fancy moments. Some of my favorite parts of this year were the small but meaningful bursts of joy. The cozy, perfect moments that I’ll undoubtedly be thinking about when that ball drops tomorrow at midnight.

For me, these were those moments:

1) Meeting Lyra

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I have long been afraid of holding babies. They are just so fragile and so perfect and so little, and the thought of holding something so important in my hands (especially when it is not even my something) has always terrified me. But in January of this year, one of my lifelong friends had a baby, and she encouraged me to overcome that fear when met her little one for the first time in the hospital. That moment inspired me to write this blog post and I will remember it forever.

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2) A Ball at Spring Training

giphy

My family went to Spring Training in March for the first time this year (which you can read about here.) and easily one of my favorite parts of the trip and of the year was when my friend Mel, after trying for innings on end, got a baseball from one of the players. Not only was it a joyous celebration of perseverance, but the resulting footage includes a look of fuming jealousy from her neighboring fan, which makes for an all around perfect video.

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3) Finishing the Marathon

There are many moments of the marathon that I would deem “defining,” but perhaps my favorite was crossing that finish line and seeing my 6 foot 2 brother standing among the crowd. I was so proud and relieved to be finished, and seeing a familiar face to welcome me to the otherside of that journey was truly great.

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4) Mom Scores a Goal

goal

Some of the best memories I have of my family are the slow, ordinary days where we are just spending time together, which is why this moment from May stands out. My mom, sister and I had gone to visit my cousin Brittney and her family in Arkansas, and we spent one afternoon sitting outside, drawing in sidewalk chalk, and playing soccer. At one point we set up a challenge between my mom and my little cousin Landon. While Landon won in the end, the crowd (of me, Natalee, Brittney, and baby Nora) went wild for this goal scored by my mom.

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5) A Circular Celebration

taryn

In June my family got the opportunity to go to Europe, and among the many jaw dropping, awe inspiring moments of that trip, was this one. My cousin Taryn (which, if you didn’t read the blog I wrote about our trip, is the whole reason we went) finished writing a long tedious essay that would complete her study abroad program, and we did what any family would do when they’re in England and about to head to dinner but need to take a moment or two to celebrate this accomplishment: we formed a circle around her and and jumped up and down, chanting, “We are proud of you, say we are proud of you! Hey! Hey! Hey!”

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6) That Eiffel Tower Sparkle

paris

Upon arriving in Paris and seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time, my most prominent and low key embarrassing thought was, “oh my gosh, the Eiffel Tower is actually real.” It’s not that I thought we’d been lied to all this time, but the realization that I was really, truly seeing it in person was so unbelievable that I was having trouble accepting it all as reality. This shock and awe only multiplied as we sat on the grass in front of the tower and watched as the sun set, the tower glowed gold, and then started to sparkle.

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7) Axe throwing in Vegas

axe throwing

For my brother’s 21st birthday, a group of us went to Vegas with a list of things we were looking to accomplish in order to properly celebrate his milestone. Among the items on that list was throwing axes. After almost an hour of learning and practicing, we decided  to document our newfound skills, and showcase our ability to hit the target. What makes this moment one of my favorites, is that the video recording is almost four minutes long, (three of which we fail miserably) but when we finally do all hit the target at once, we all threw our arms up and yelled, “first try!”

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8) You’ve Got Ice Cream

About two years ago, on a visit to Arkansas with my mom and sister, I discovered the magic of Blue Bell ice cream. Upon arriving home however, I was very disappointed to discover that it is not sold in California. But for my 29th birthday, I was floored to find a box from Blue Bell waiting for me. My parents had all of my favorite flavors (including the holy grail, Salted Caramel Cookie) shipped to me and it. was. EPIC.

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9) Pop the champagne

Last year my cousin Cory married my now cousin Amanda, and this year they were able to purchase their first house! I was so happy and honored to be there when they popped champagne in their living room, that at the time had little more than a table and some folding chairs, but is now a beautiful, cozy home.

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10) The Dodgers Take Game 3

dodgers

For a Dodger fan, the 2019 playoffs were rough to say the least. But before we had our hearts broken, we had our hopes up, and on the night of Game 3, me, my sister, my cousin Taryn, and my best friend Allison were walking into a concert at the Honda Center as the Dodgers entered the 7th inning. As we made our way to our seats, I was streaming the game through the TBS app on my phone, which I’d downloaded while waiting in line, and we asked multiple employees if they could turn on the game, all of whom turned us down. So as we went to the 8th inning and then the 9th, the four of us stood out in the hallway, crowded around my phone to watch us close out a victory.

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11) The Frozen North Lake

northlake

In November, my family made one of our annual trips to Bishop to squeeze in a weekend of fishing before the season closed. On the Saturday of the weekend we were there, we parked our car and hiked in to one of our favorite fishing spots, only to find the lake frozen solid. While this obviously prevented us from fishing, it did little to deter our fun. We spent a solid half hour throwing loose pieces of ice onto the lake and watching them shatter and glide across its surface.

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12) Sending “The Hulk”

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On the same trip to Bishop, my brother, who is an avid rock climber, had his sights on a boulder at Happy Boulders known as “The Hulk.” After spending a few hours attempting the climb on Friday, he was determined to return, so on Sunday afternoon, me, him and my sister headed back to Happy Boulders on our way home, where we watched him try time and time again until he finally reached the top!

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13) Eli’s Last Game

giants

To cap off the year, at the beginning of this month my family took a whirlwind trip to New York to see our favorite football team (the New York Giants) play for the very first time at their home stadium. We went the week they played the Dolphins, which wound up being one of only 4 games we won this season, and on top of that, it was our longtime quarterback, Eli Manning’s, probable last game with the team. We couldn’t have picked a better game!

Note: Please leave all Giants hate at the door, thank you.

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14) Coming June 2020

At our annual family Cookie Baking day, my cousins Spenser and Ashlynn gave my grandpa (and all of us, really) a very special gift: the news that we have a new member coming in June 2020! On Christmas Day we found out that the little one is a boy, and while we already know his name, I’ve taken to calling him Meatball for now.

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15) Meeting Luca

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Since I started this list with a baby, it seems only logical for me to end this list with a baby! And in true bookend fashion, I got to meet one of my best friends’ new baby, Luca, just this past week, and even though he is handsome and perfect and practically impossible not to want to hold, it was still a big deal for me to do so without fear. And as I looked down at him and his big curious eyes, I couldn’t help but feel every good moment of the year capsize in this one moment. It was a busy year, but it was a good one. I got to do so many great things and love and be loved on by so many great people. I’m very thankful for the life I live and I feel so honored for the opportunity to live it.

Here’s to 2020, I hope it’s full of wonderful moments, big, small and everything in between. Happy New Year!