My Life

Does the vague name make it sound more edgy?

A Denim Eulogy

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to mourn the loss of a dear friend.

Finding friendship is special, but experiencing true friendship is rare. I feel thankful to have experienced both.

A true friend is someone who is there for you on your good days and bad days. Someone that makes you feel like yourself, even when the rest of your world might be up in flames. A true friend asks nothing more from you than who you are—who you REALLY are—and tells you that person is more than enough.

I hope that many of you know (and have) the kind of friend I’m talking about. I hope that you are keeping them close, appreciating each and every day that you have with them while you still can. Because time moves fast. And you never know when life is going to throw you a curveball you didn’t expect. You never know when your favorite jeans are going to rip.

Yes. That’s right. I stand here today, emotional and broken, knowing that no matter what I do, no matter what I say, my favorite jeans are gone. They have ripped. Not just your innocent, across the knee but we can make it trendy kind of rip. But the terminal, upper thigh, if I stretch or bend with too much enthusiasm things could get *spicy* kind of rip.

One morning on my drive to work I felt an unfamiliar breeze, so I looked down and there she was. A patch of my bare thigh. Pale and heartbroken. Knowing full well we should not be making eye contact. She knew what it meant. We both knew.

Which is why, even though the risk was high, even though my job requires me to sit and stand frequently, climb stairs, and often squat down to reach drawers of various file cabinets; even though my outfit could become one which made me skitter away to my car and drive home, perhaps with one butt cheek singing in the wind; EVEN THOUGH I am lucky enough to own other pairs of jeans that are not ripped and, perhaps more importantly, not six years old, and thus not as thin as a piece of paper, I continued my drive to work. I let my jeans have one last ride. I let them see the world one last time.

Now, it would be easy to say that I could just throw these jeans away and move on. They were cheap, they were not made to last, they arguably should have been thrown away two years ago when I realized they provided little to no warmth during the winter months. But, as many women might know, buying jeans is a nightmare. If you were to ask me what size jeans I wear, firstly I would slap you in the face, but then I would tell you I didn’t know. Because who could know when every single store tells you different?

But in a world full of uncertainty, inconsistency and injustice, THESE JEANS WERE THERE FOR ME. They protected me—not from the cold, or really from the sun, as I received many a splotchy sunburn on my knees during our friendship—but from shame and discomfort. These jeans welcomed me every time I put them on, with the waistband landing at exactly the right spot on my hips, and the length neither being too long or too short. These jeans worked with boots, sandals, heels, and the occasional UGG. These jeans took me to work and to nights out on the town. These jeans never judged me, never reminded me that I had eaten a cookie every day of the holiday season, and never went rogue in the washer and came out a different color, size or shape.

These jeans were reliable, they were comfortable, and they were loyal.

So thank you, jeans, for being you, and for letting me be me. Thank you for holding on as long as you could, and thank you for not splitting down the middle at work and making my shift R-rated.  You will be greatly missed, always remembered, and forever loved. RIP.

My Night Brain

I have always been more of a night owl than an early bird. When I was a teenager, there was rarely a night I was asleep before midnight. I liked the freedom of nighttime. It made me feel *dangerous* even though all I was doing was religiously watching romantic comedies and designing my Myspace profile.

As I’ve gotten older, my desire to stay up late has waned. I look forward to sleep, and I start to panic when the clock ticks into the wee hours of the morning, leaving me with a smaller and smaller window to get that sleep. Also, since I am VERY cool, I tend to get nauseous if I stay up too late. It’s that weird middle ground of my body saying, I am absolutely done eating for today, but it’s also been too long since we ate so maybe we’re starving? Idk your call but I feel like we should start freaking out.

When I get in bed, I’ll either scroll around on my phone or read a book until I am on the verge of sleep, and then I will turn over, hopeful that I won’t wake up again until morning. And I will do everything in my power to make that happen. I’ll stop drinking water an hour or two before bed to ensure I don’t wake up to pee, I’ll try and make my room the perfect temperature with just the right amount of air flow so I won’t wake up cold or overheated or feeling like I’m suffocating, I try to exercise every day to burn extra energy—like an adult might have a child do so they’ll crash sooner rather than later. I like to go to bed exhausted, and I like to sleep hard.

The truth is, I am doing everything in my power to avoid my night brain. My night brain is a bitch. My night brain knows exactly what to say to scare me, make me feel worthless, and spiral me into an endless stream of thought that will keep me awake for hours. My night brain waits patiently under the veil of sleep, hoping, praying something will wake me up, so she can put on a performance sure to rattle me to my bones.

It goes something like this.

2:30 a.m. I roll over in my bed and inexplicably open my eyes—awake.

Night brain: *smirk*

Me: Hmm. That’s weird. It’s not nearly time to wake up, let’s roll over and go to back to sleep. Maybe we’ll have a super cute dream!

Night brain: Or maybe you’re awake for a reason. Maybe someone is about to break into the house and attack you.

Me: I—what? Why would you even say that?

Night brain: It happens all the time. You listen to true crime. You know.

Me: Yes, but everything is locked. I am safe. I am fine.

Night brain: The same thing countless people have thought before they were attacked.

Me: Okay, you know what? No. I’m not hearing this. I’m falling back asleep.

Night brain: ……..

Me: *drifts*

Night brain: So you know how sometimes you feel entirely unlovable? Do you think that’s because you are?

Me: *closed eye, eye roll* Can you just…

Night brain: You don’t make enough money.

Me: What?

Night brain: Shouldn’t you be exercising more?

Me: I exercise enough, thanks.

Night brain: What about that pimple on your chin? Aren’t you too old to get breakouts? Aren’t you worried that you’re, like, hideous?

Me: *sighs and rolls over*

Night brain: Have you considered that maybe one day you’ll be completely alone? Or that everyone secretly hates you? Maybe none of the relationships you have with people are genuine. Maybe everyone wishes you would move to Antarctica and only send the occasional picture with a penguin.

Me: Now you’re just being ridiculous. I know full well that my family—

Night Brain: —ARE WE NAUSEOUS?  

Me: What? No?

Night Brain: WE MIGHT BE NAUSEOUS. You’re going to throw up! You’re going to throw up!

Me: I’m NOT going to throw up………………..am I?

Night Brain: Do you remember that time you embarrassed yourself in front of the entire high school baseball team and they all whispered behind your back for weeks?

Me: *grits teeth* ……yes, though I’m not sure why that’s relevant here.

Night Brain: When do you think your biological clock will, like, stop ticking? Soon?

Me: I—

Night Brain: Do you worry that most people find you boring? Or are you comfortable with that being who you are?

Night Brain: Why did you wear your hair like that in the ninth grade?

Night Brain: Remember all those horrific Facebook statuses you posted?

Night Brain: Have you considered that maybe you waste all of your time and are not doing anything useful?

Me: *turns over, this time aggressively, as if my night brain is a loud snorer beside me that I’m trying to quiet down*

Night Brain: *long sigh* I just wish you were worth anyone’s time. Or that you never owned those hot pink capri pants. Or that you wouldn’t have IM-ed the boy you liked “haha idk wbu?” in the 10th grade like a Frat Guy on a dating app.

Me: ENOUGH. It is 3:30 a.m. now. We have been at this for an hour. I am fine. I am safe. I am loved. I have plenty of genuine friends. I do regret speaking in IM abbreviations and sounding like a cave man, and I can still hear the whispers of the baseball boys behind my back. I don’t regret the capri pants because they were comfy as hell but I can’t explain to you why I wore my hair like that, it was ridiculous.

Night brain: Isn’t it wild that ANYONE you come across could be the person that kills you?

Me: OMG STOP.

Typically, it takes some deep breathing or the creation of an entirely fake (but happy!) scenario in my head to quiet my night brain down. Sometimes I have to start my nighttime routine over, picking up my Kindle or phone and waiting until I get tired again. And sometimes I get up to pee, in the hopes that somehow my night brain will also get flushed down the toilet.

At some point, I fall back asleep, and then, mercifully, the sun comes back up, officially exiling my night brain to its (literal) dark corners.  But I know she’s always there, waiting, and so I always spend the next day doing whatever I can to keep her quiet.

My Sister Got Married, Obviously

On Saturday, my sister Natalee got married in a very small ceremony in our parents’ backyard.

After getting engaged in March, Natalee and her fiancé, Will, booked a wedding venue for March 2023 that will host about 250 guests when the time comes. But after some thought, they decided they wanted to exchange their vows in front of immediate family and start their married life a little earlier.

So, we planned a wedding.  We planned it over text messages, shared iPhone notes and pen drawings on computer paper, and when the day came, everyone knew what to do and where they were needed most.

On Saturday morning, I sat beside Natalee on the couch eating a cinnamon roll. There had been some stressful days leading up to the day, and there had been details both big and small that we’d meticulously, and sometimes literally ironed out, but on the morning of the actual wedding, I felt calm.

As we handmade the flower arrangements and fought with the wooden arch in the backyard; when our hair appointments ran long and then I stood out in the 90 degree heat sprinkling rose petals on the grass; as I watched my baby sister put on her wedding dress and get her picture taken with her bouquet, and then heard Elvis play over the speaker as she walked down the aisle with my dad; as she stood up on the wooden platform and held hands with the man of her dreams, and then turned to face us as our pastor introduced, for the first time, husband and wife, I felt calm.

Have you ever had that self-conscious feeling that you should be more emotional? When you think to yourself, shouldn’t I be crying right now? I didn’t even have that feeling. I just floated through the day, without a tear shed, or a shuddering breath taken. I was just happy. I was just calm. My one consuming thought of the day was: well, obviously.

When Will and Natalee first started dating, when she was nervous to tell him how she felt, I thought, he feels the same way, obviously.

When Will celebrated Christmas with our family for the first time and said he felt right at home, I thought, because you are, obviously.

And when Natalee came walking down the aisle, looking at Will, smiling ear to ear, I thought, this is how it was always meant to be, obviously.

There has never been a doubt in my mind. I’ve had a front seat to their relationship from the very beginning and seen how happy they make each other. Will appreciates and loves my sister for everything that she is and in every way she deserves, and Natalee does the same for him.

So even though I felt all of those feelings that might make me emotional. Even though I had all those words buzzing around inside me, the ones I’d barely be able to share as I held my sister’s hands and told her how much she deserves a love like this—how much she always has—or as I sat down next to Will for hours, trying to explain all the ways I love, appreciate, and value him, and how happy I am to start calling him my brother. Even though our backyard ceremony was designed to be a one-way ticket to Sob City, to me it felt more like a place to relax. Because it felt like the only place in the world there was.

There aren’t a lot of “obvious” days. Most of the time, we don’t know what’s going to happen or when. We don’t know where we’ll be or who we’ll be with and we don’t know what we’ll say or do. But on that day, everything was as it should be. Everything was right. There was no reason to worry, no questions left to ask. That day, that marriage, that moment, it was obvious.

Merry (Half) Christmas!

Every year, come December, a large portion of the world is set ablaze by the joy and terror of Christmas shopping.

We make our lists, we check them 45 times, and then we often procrastinate until the last minute.

Christmas shopping is about finding special gifts for special someones, or perhaps buying gifts for people who you had no idea were going to buy you a gift, and now you feel like a jerk.

Ahhhhh, the magic of Christmas.

All that being said, you may have noticed that today is NOT Christmas. It’s not even almost Christmas—which department stores start to celebrate about mid-September these days.

BUT, it is almost half Christmas.

That’s right folks, this Saturday, June 25th, is indeed half Christmas, which is a very special holiday in my house.

Half Christmas, as we celebrate it, is when you buy a few gifts for yourself.  

Christmas shopping can be stressful. It’s hard to find the perfect gift and it’s even harder to find it on sale, in stock, and available within an appropriate shipping window. And even when we find the right gift, it’s hard to know if it fully expresses how special someone is to us or how thankful we are to have them in our lives.

Half Christmas shopping is the opposite.

It is never hard for me to pick out a few gifts for myself. I know what I like, I know what I’ve had my eye on, and I know I can return something *without* guilt if it doesn’t turn out the way I hoped.

Half Christmas is about me. It’s about you. It’s about thanking yourself, treating yourself, and celebrating yourself for all the hard work you do.

So it is my hope that you celebrate this year.

Buy that thing you’ve been wanting. Splurge a little. Get yourself something shiny or soft or pretty or powerful. Buy something that makes you want to call your friends and family and say, “look what I got!”

In case you are curious, here are a few things I’ve been considering for my half Christmas.

These shoes from Adidas (which are on major sale!)

These sunglasses from Sunski.

This book about Lost Objects.

And this shear bag (since they are required now at many sports stadiums and concert arenas).

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I am wishing you a very merry half Christmas!

Get something fun! You deserve it 😎

My Weekend Without Context

I went to visit one of my best friends in San Diego last weekend. It was relaxing, fun, cozy, and very much needed, but when I sat down to write about it, I was having trouble figuring out how.

Our days were full, maybe not from going this way and that, but from talking, laughing, and just enjoying each other’s company, so while I couldn’t write one of my usual *travel* type blogs about it, I still felt like it was one I wanted to document. One I felt like you could relate to, or benefit from, even if you weren’t there.

That’s when I realized that I didn’t need to give you specific details, or even context, in order for you to understand or experience it. Because when I thought about the weekend, I saw it in a string of moments that we might all know. Moments that make you sigh wistfully, nod enthusiastically, and say, “YES” understandingly.

So I hope that as I walk you through my weekend in a rather unconventional way, your senses can be awakened, and a few ideas might come to mind, making you think, man, I should do that.

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When the ETA on your GPS goes down by an HOUR.

The full body stretch after you arrive at your destination.

A shy smile from a little kid.

A hug from a friend you missed.

A comfy couch.

The perfect sandwich.

Easy conversation that can start anywhere.

Detailed daydreaming about future vacations.

Having lots of time to sit down and relax.

Looking at a friend and saying, “I do that TOO!”

The smell of a barbeque.

The feeling of a smile pulling across your lips.

A satisfied sigh at the dinner table.

Turning off all the lights to watch a movie.

Fresh popcorn out of the microwave.

Licking salt off your fingertips.

Cuddling up with a blanket.

Falling asleep hard and fast.

Waking up to the sun rather than an alarm.

Fresh fruit on a slow morning.

A deep belly baby laugh

A breeze on a hot day.

Cold beer.

Finding a seat in the shade.

Hot French fries.

Comfortable quiet.

A long relaxing breath.

Binge watching a tv show that makes you smile.

A sunset hike on the beach.

Pasta.

A fluffy pillow.

An easy Sunday morning.

A bright blue sky.

Inside jokes.

Cozy hugs.

Promises of “see you soon!”

Good music.

An easy drive.

Home.

10 Things You Might Hear While Fishing With Us

I grew up fishing.

There are so many Saturday’s and Sunday’s I can remember waking up early at my family’s mountain cabin, anxious to get out on the lake. We would stop at 7-eleven and buy mini donuts, we’d rent one of the bright orange boats at the dock, and then we’d start our loop around the lake, knowing where and when the best bites should hit.

These days, while the Saturday’s and Sunday’s spent fishing are much fewer and farther between, we still try to get out as much as we can. And when we’re lucky, we fish with some friends in some of the most beautiful places.

But no matter where we are or who we’re with, there are some things you’re bound to hear if you happened to walk by. We have our own kind of language when we fish, one that I had to actively pull myself out of in order to write this post. I had to imagine myself out on the lake, or in my seat on the shore, listening to the people around me say things that might not make sense to someone that’s never fished before—or maybe just someone that’s never fished with us.

Here are some of those things:

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1) Fish On!

No, this isn’t a chant for the downtrodden, encouraging all those who have been shut out to keep going, to FISH. ON! This is a victory cry that announces you, quite literally, have a fish on your line. Usually we’ll pick up our pole and wait until we’ve successfully set the hook, and then yell “fish on!” It’s fun to watch our group cheer as surrounding groups slump in jealousy.

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2) How did this even happen?

I can think of a number of different circumstances in which I’ve said this exact thing in a non-fishing context. Like when I followed the instructions of a recipe and ended up with something scary. Or when I tripped and fell in grand fashion for no discernable reason. Sometimes things just become a disaster and we have no idea why. In fishing, this usually involves your line becoming a rat’s nest in the blink of an eye. Or perhaps the time I hooked a fish by the tail. Or when I reeled in my pole to rebait, only to mysteriously hook my shoe in the process.

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3) I’ve lost everything.

This is perhaps the saddest thing you can hear while fishing. Sure, you’ll lose the occasional fish. You’ll lose your bait, hook, swivel, jig, lure, or bobber. But sometimes, whether it be during a fight with a fish, or by reeling your line through a patch of seaweed, over a rock or under a log, you will, in fact, lose everything. In an instant your pole will go slack, and you know that when you reel in the rest of the line, there will be absolutely nothing there. Sometimes even the pole breaks too. *sigh*

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4) Bitch stole my bait.

Our most common moniker for fish is *ahem* bitch. And if you ever fished, you know why. Fish can be slimy, shady little…well, bitches. They can tangle up your line, they can swim under a rock or log and make you lose everything, they can get your hopes up only to send them crashing down. Sometimes fish can be clever. They figure out that the shiny, sparkly Powerbait (or worm or mosquito or salmon egg) is a trap, and will nibble them off the hook without a trace. So when you reel in your line, curious why you haven’t gotten a bite, you find nothing but a hook, licked clean like a plate on Thanksgiving. And so, the only natural thing to say is, that bitch stole my bait.  

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5) *Zelda noises*

When my siblings and I were little, we got Zelda: Ocarina of Time for our Nintendo 64. To this day, it is probably our favorite game of all time, and thus, the sights, sounds, bosses, challenges, etc. are firmly engrained in all of our memories. One of which is the unforgettable sound Link makes while swinging his sword, which is a high pitched “HaaaAAAA” noise. In time, it has become one of the most hilarious noises in the world. ESPECIALLY, when we’ve been fishing for hours, haven’t caught much, and have slipped into a delirium that encourages us to use these sword fighting sounds to help us cast.

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6) Do you have tinkage?

While trolling (fishing on a slow-moving boat) my family and I often use lures—mainly Thomas Bouyants and Super Dupers. These lures will “swim” around in the water, swaying back and forth, to attract the attention of the fish and ideally get them to bite. As a result, the swaying motion causes the tip of our fishing poles to twitch, or, as we like to call it, “tink.” If your pole is “tinking” it means the lure is swimming right. Thus, do you have tinkage? means “everything look good over there?” And responses to this range, from: “yup” to “oh, MAJOR tinkage.”

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7) We need the Koehn death grip over here.

Over the years, I have gotten pretty good at removing hooks from fish we’ve caught. To do this however, I need to keep the fish still. And so, I’ve figured out the kind of hand strength I need to make that happen. In our circle of friends, this has become known as “the Koehn death grip.” Koehn (pronounced “cane”) being my last name.  Fish have been known to gurgle while I hold them in my hand, and once I squeezed a bigger fish so hard that a salmon egg (which we were not fishing with) popped out of the fish’s mouth. Oops.

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8) I need STANK.

One of my sister’s biggest superstitions while shore fishing is to add a Powerbait attractant to her bait. It adds scent and flavor to your bait so that fish will find it and bite. While making this list, I had to actively search for what this stuff is actually called because for decades we have only ever called it “stank” or “stinky stuff.” At any given time while fishing, my sister will say, “I need STANK,” and as I write this I am giggling, knowing how completely unfazed we are by this request. We just toss her the bottle and move on.

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9) Should we do a fish call?

I HESITATE to tell you this because it feels like a trade secret. But then, I don’t know if there’s a single person we’ve taken fishing that we haven’t told this to, so, perhaps it’s not a secret at all. At the start of any fishing trip (morning, afternoon, or evening) we like to do a “fish call.” This makes us feel like the fishing has started and, we like to believe, summons the fish toward us. To do a fish call*, you simply make a fist, count to three, and then blow into your fist the way you might if your hands were cold. But you elongate that exhale, that way the call can reach even the biggest fish at the deepest depths. Then, you open your hand and push the call into the open.

*Shout out to everyone who just did a fish call at their desk, in their bedroom, on their couch or wherever else you might be reading this.

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10) Seems like it’s time for a beer.

And finally, this one. Do I need to explain this one? I feel like I don’t. When you’re fishing, it’s almost always time for a beer.

7 Things Saving My Life Right Now

I recently listened to an episode of The Next Right Thing podcast where host, Emily P. Freeman, shared a list of things that are currently “saving her life.” The list was inspired by a question Barbara Brown Taylor answered in her memoir Leaving Church.

At first, the question was startling to me: “What’s saving my life right now?”

To answer the question, it seemed, one would need to find themselves in dire circumstances and give answers such as: medication, oxygen, a rope that someone threw over the side of a cliff and asked me to grab onto, etc.

But then, when asked to consider how often we say that “______ is killing me”—whether it be work, school, a tough coworker, a moody teenager, finances, etc.—I realized this question is actually a way to bring attention to the good things in our life. The things we look forward to in the day to day. The things that allow us to breathe in and calm down amongst all of the stress and chaos that feels like it is breaking us down bit by bit.

And so, today I want to share with you the things that are currently saving my life.

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1) My houseplants

I don’t want to say that my mental health hinges on the state of my houseplants, but there is a special kind of relief that comes when they are not actively dying. I have two houseplants: a ZZ plant named Ruth, and a Fiddle Leaf Fig named Figgy Azalea, both of which are currently thriving. And if you’ve read this blog post from a while back where I wrote a series of haikus about my pension for killing plants, you’ll know this is an absolute joy for me.  

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2) My counted cross-stitch

My calendar has felt full for the entire year thus far, and it shows no signs of slowing down. But on the nights when I’m home and able to sit on the couch and relax a little, I have found such joy in working on my latest cross-stitch. It makes me feel creative and gives my hands something to do other than scroll on my phone. I’m very thankful my grandma taught me how to cross stich all those years ago.

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3) Phone calls with my friend Nicole

Last September one of my best friends moved to San Diego. On the last night she was in town, we decided that alongside texting and the occasional visit back and forth, we would plan to call each other (at least) once a month in order to stay active and up to date in each other’s lives. We also set up an emoji-based system that, should one person need an immediate phone call for various reasons, they can send that emoji like a bat signal.

Some of our emoji codes are as follows:

The suitcase 💼 which implies, there are things to unpack.

The bone 🦴 which says, I HAVE A BONE TO PICK.

And the dragon 🐲 which suggests: and I quote from our message, “there is too much going on and I feel so overwhelmed I think I’ve grown a tail and whiskers and just need to talk to a friend.”

These conversations have proven to be some of the highlights of my week. On our scheduled day I will pop my headphones in and go on a walk, and then we will talk (and talk and talk and talk) until our hearts are content or until it’s time to eat dinner.

Then, in the hours that follow, we usually send visual aids that relate back to the many things we covered over the course of our two-hour (or so) phone call, giving us each things to dive into and try out so we can reconvene and rediscuss later.

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4) My mid-morning cashews

I know this one sounds silly. It is silly, but it’s true. Every workday I bring a small Tupperware container full of cashews to have for snack a couple hours before lunch. What started as a solution to mid-morning hunger pangs has become somewhat of a mile marker of my day. Once I have my cashews, I know I’m halfway to lunch. And, visa versa, once I’m halfway to lunch I get to have my delicious, salty, cashews. I try to savor them but always end up barreling through them like they are popcorn during a suspenseful movie. Nevertheless, they are always delicious and I always look forward to them.

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5) My room in my parents’ house

You may have read this post back in January about the day we have since begun to refer to as “The Great Flood.” It was a very stressful, very ridiculous ordeal. But thankfully, when the time came to pack our stuff and get out so the repair process could begin, my parents offered to let me stay with them. Over the course of the last couple months, this room and their house has been a true blessing. It has lessened the weight of stress on my shoulders tremendously and it has allowed me to find a sense of routine and normal amongst so much chaos.

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6) My writing class

I took almost a year off of pursuing my Creative Writing Certificate through UCLA Extension in order to work on a big writing project. But at the beginning of April I was able to sign up for another writing class—my fourth of six needed to complete the program. Almost instantly it put me in a good, creative headspace, and the presence of deadlines has helped me get back in a more consistent writing routine. I always love to see what kinds of essays and stories these classes can bring out of me, so I am very thankful to be back.

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7) Baseball

I grew up watching Dodger baseball, and the pandemic years of no fans and then limited fans were tough. So to have baseball back in full swing this spring has been magical. Plus, baseball season always seems to bring order to my world. It brings my family together and gives us something to root for, and it’s one of the perfect evening watches after a long day at work.


What are some of the things that are saving your life right now?

You can also find the podcast episode here.

I Played Hooky!

When my alarm went off on Friday it felt like any other weekday. I hit snooze once—okay twice—and then I got up and went through my morning routine.

But it wasn’t a normal weekday. It wasn’t even a work day. Because I was playing hooky!

A couple weeks ago, I got an email from one of my favorite places to volunteer, Food Forward, offering the opportunity to pick blueberries.

“Bummer,” I said, reading through the details. “It’s on a Friday morning.”

As a long time Monday-Friday officer worker, 8:00am – 4:00pm are always work hours. They are accounted for. They are booked. So I almost deleted the email right then and there.

But then…I let it churn a bit.

I am not one for taking spontaneous days off. I like to plan vacations and there’s the occasional weekend trip I’ll extend one way or the other, but other than that, I go to work. I’m clocking in and clocking out and wondering a) why it isn’t Friday yet, or b) how can it already be Friday?

And I’ll admit, sometimes work weeks can get monotonous. They can blend together, making time slip by at the speed of light. Which is why, when I really let myself think about it, I decided, why not?

Why not take a spontaneous Friday off?

Why not?

So, on Friday morning I got in the car, and rather than head into work I drove out to a farm in Camarillo, feeling smug as I cruised past all the rush hour traffic going the opposite direction.

When I pulled into the gravel parking lot, I met my group of fellow volunteers, who all seemed as happy to be there as I was. It was 73 degrees, it was Friday, none of us were at work. Life was good.

We walked by an orchard of avocado trees to a large tent that had almost twenty rows of blueberry bushes and a few rows of strawberry bushes right alongside them. We were each given a small bucket and told to choose an aisle.

For the next couple hours, I filled my bucket and then emptied it, dying my hands blue in the process. I’ll admit, there may have been a good handful or so of blueberries that missed my bucket and ended up in my mouth—with the permission of the farmers, of course.

At 11:00 a.m., we wrapped up our pick and calculated that we harvested around 90 pounds of blueberries. Which, when you consider that the average blueberry weighs about 1/128th of an ounce, this would suggest that we picked about 184,320 blueberries. Which would fill about 240 six-ounce containers of blueberries.

*pauses for applause*

(for the blueberry picking, yes, but also for the math I just did)

Our blueberries were donated to a food shelter, and we all left with smiles on our faces, grateful for the opportunity to lend a hand, and to spend the morning on a farm.

When I’d first made plans for my day off, I knew I’d be picking blueberries in the morning and wedding dress shopping with my sister in the afternoon. That left me a handful of hours in between to do with what I wished. So, as I got ready in the morning, I packed a bag with a few pairs of shoes, a change of clothes, and a beach towel.

After I left the farm, I headed north to a sandwich shop called Peebee & Jays. I ordered the Chicken & Greens sandwich on sourdough and filled my Hydroflask, then drove to the beach. I changed out of my blueberry stained t-shirt and into a comfortable crewneck and flip flops, then I carried my beach towel and sandwich bag out to the sand and took a seat.

The beach was nearly empty, with only a few people in sight in either direction. All I could hear was the water. I sat crisscross applesauce and watched the waves as I ate my sandwich, occasionally pausing to close my eyes and feel the breeze hit my face, my hair, my toes.  The ocean was loud but my mind was quiet.

I felt like I had time to think, to plan, to exist, to relax. A lot has happened this year, and there is a lot more year left to live. There will be a lot of work days ahead. A lot of busy weeks and full calendars. There will be a lot of change—some good, some hard, some both—and a lot of new.  But today there was just this. There was just the sound of the ocean, the sand between my toes, and this peaceful feeling that I’d grabbed onto with both hands.

I could have been at work, I could have let that email pass me by, I could have let this Friday blend in with the Wednesday and Thursday before it. But I decided to make it different. I decided to make it special. I decided to play hooky. And I was grateful I did.

If you’re looking for a sign to play hooky, this is it!

Work For and From the Inside

About a week ago my mom, sister and I went to get massages.

We’d each received a gift certificate for Christmas and were finally able to make (and keep) an appointment, since the first couple were cancelled due to one of us having COVID.

We were very excited, as we’d booked—for the first time ever—ninety-minute massages. And with a myriad of different stressors weighing on us from the past month or so, we were ready (and desperate) to *relax*.

I had even asked for the deep tissue massage, which, if you happened to read this post regarding my feelings on my first ever massage, will let you know 1) how much of the massage Kool-Aid I’ve drank over the last few years, and 2) how much I wanted the stress more or less beaten out of me. I wanted that stress to run for its life. I wanted a stress exorcism.

When the masseuse asked if there were any areas to focus on, I said: neck, shoulders and back.

They have forever been where I hold everything. From the annoyance of that bad driver I encountered on the freeway yesterday, to that mean thing a girl said to me in high school 15 years ago. It’s also where, for a long time, my muscles were working overtime to keep my head on my shoulders due to my bad posture—that I’ve since put in a lot of energy (and a lot of money at the chiropractor) to correct.

Needless to say, I love having my neck, shoulders and back massaged. It feels like ironing a wrinkly shirt. And since it had been a while since my last massage, I was sure there were going to be quite a few wrinkles to tend to.

To my surprise, as I lay face down on the table and the masseuse dug into what seemed like the very core of my spine, assumedly finding evidence that I still hadn’t fully forgiven someone who wronged me in the seventh grade, he asked, “do you ever do any kind of stretching or foam rolling?”

I tried to nod, but then remembered my face was framed by the pillow, making my neck borderline immovable.

“Yes,” I said. “I foam roll my back a few times a week”—something that was recommended by my chiropractor—“and I try to do yoga two or three times a week.”

He made a quick “mhm” noise, and I assumed it was partnered with a nod.

“I can tell,” he said. “While you have tension in your back, there are no knots at all. So your efforts are paying off.”

I lay there, letting his words repeat in my head.

I thought about all the anxiety I felt going into our day at the spa. I always got nervous knowing I’d have to spend time in my bathing suit—or naked, under the sheets of the massage table—overly critical of my body and how it compared to others.

I thought of all the times I’d done yoga, or gone for a run or a walk, hoping that the efforts I was putting in would garner positive results that I could see in the mirror.

I thought of all the times I’d hidden my body behind baggy clothes, anxious hands, or the body of someone else.

And then I thought about how my body, my muscles, and my bones themselves might be benefiting from my exercise, my (mostly) healthy diet, my efforts to meditate, and to express myself both emotionally, physically, and creatively.

Those efforts might not show in the mirror. They might not match up to some kind of image I have in my head of what a body is “supposed” to look like. But they do change the way my body feels. They do the work on the inside of my body.

We are told so often to focus on physical results and to hit monetary goals, when so much benefit can come from doing work for and from the inside first. I know what it feels like when I eat healthy, when I exercise, when I don’t slouch, when I can relax into deep, honest conversations with those I trust. These things make me feel light, they bring an ease to my days, and, apparently, give me the iron to take to that wrinkly shirt.

After the massage, I lay on one of the daybeds beside my mom, reading a book and listening to the sound of falling water. Then I took a long, hot shower and blow dried my hair. On the way home, we picked up dinner from one of my favorite places and then sat on the couch and watched a movie.

It was a great day, not because things looked perfect on the outside, but because they felt good from the inside.

A Weekend of Happy Moments

I had a good weekend.

I wanted to write about it from start to finish, but the more I thought about it, the more I just wanted to highlight the moments that made it especially good. Because sometimes it’s not always the big moments, the obvious moments, the moments everyone can see from the outside. Sometimes it’s the smallest moments, the ones you may not even notice until they’re over. Lucky for me, I had a combination of both this weekend—big moments and small—and I want to share some of them.

Friday 4:30 p.m.

My mom and I, dressed in robes, walked into a quiet room where a few day beds faced a waterfall display. There was no music playing, no surrounding conversations, just the sound of water quietly running. We each had a cup of lemon water that we set on the end tables next to our respective day beds, and we took out our Kindles to read for a little while. Our bodies were fully relaxed, having just been treated to 90-minute massages, and we seemed to melt into those day beds, our robes tied loosely around our waists and our minds able to escape into our books. A half hour slipped by, then an hour, and we lay there, content and relaxed.

Friday 9:00 p.m.

I was curled under a blanket in my parents’ living room, watching West Side Story with my parents, my aunt and uncle, and my grandpa. My grandpa and I have always bonded over our love of musicals, and so we’d wanted to watch the new adaptation of West Side Story together. The moment Tony and Maria first see each other at the dance, my 92-year-old grandpa said, wistfully, “this is called love at first sight.

Saturday 9:30 a.m.

It was 75 degrees outside and perfectly clear in Camarillo, and I was picking lemons on an expansive property that looked out over the city. I was part of a group of volunteers picking fruit for Food Forward, and I was filling a bucket with lemons and carrying it up the hill in order to fill the boxes we’d be donating to food shelters. The sun was out, and the lemon trees were blossoming, making the air the perfect blend of floral and citrus. I was sweating, and, at times, panting, as I carried that bucket (20 pounds when full) up the hill over and over, but I knew I was doing good work, and I was happy to be meeting new people.

Saturday 11:30 a.m.

I stopped at Jamba Juice—my tradition after completing a volunteer shift—and got small smoothie and an apple cinnamon pretzel. One of my favorite country songs (“Raised on it” by Sam Hunt) came on the radio, and I took a sip of my smoothie, said, “this is DELICIOUS” out loud, then blasted the song and sang every word.

Saturday 2:50 p.m.

I was standing on the shore of my favorite lake, having driven up to spend the weekend at my family’s cabin. My dad was on the phone with my sister, asking if she could see him, me and my mom from the boat she was fishing on with her boyfriend, Will. They were a good way away from us, and I was waving my arms and dancing, hoping to both get her attention and make her laugh. We were letting her know that we had arrived at the lake, so that they could make their way over to “pick us up.” Little did she know, a small group of friends and family were standing behind a tree, waiting for the signal to come down and watch as Will got down on one knee in the boat and asked her to marry him.

Saturday 3:00 p.m.

She said yes!

Saturday 4:00 p.m.

I was sitting on the boat (named “Tiny Guy”)—which my sister received as present from Will last year—for the very first time. Will was driving, Natalee was sitting beside me, and Will’s mom was sitting behind me. We were making our way from the shore where we’d all gathered after the proposal to the dock, and we couldn’t help but comment on the perfection of the day. The sun was bright and warm, and the sky was perfectly clear—not a cloud in sight. I’d been on that lake so many times growing up, always with my sister right beside me, fishing and singing and creating inside jokes that we still quote to this day, and now there I was, seeing her future unfold in the brightest way, surrounded by new family, with new memories awaiting us in the days ahead.

Sunday 2:30 p.m.

I was sitting on a recliner in the living room, trying to throw a bottle cap into a glass vase. After spending the morning and early afternoon lounging around, I proposed the game to my sister’s now fiancé Will. “How much would you give me if I made a bottle cap in that vase?” To be fair, the vase, set atop the fireplace mantle, already had about ten bottle caps in it, and I was wondering how impressed he would be if I could add to the collection from my chair. What unfolded was nearly 30 minutes of the three of us trying to make the bottle cap in the vase, and cheering as if we’d just won the World Series whenever one of us did.

Sunday 3:50 p.m.

I was sitting on a bench eating a sandwich, looking out at the lake. We’d picked up the sandwiches from the local market, and then parked our car in a shady spot on the highway before walking down the small hill to get to the lake. It was a little breezy, but the sun was still out and a few boats were making laps around the lake. We sat, sometimes talking, sometimes just taking bite after bite, soaking in the mountain air and the easy happiness that the weekend seemed to be made of.

Sunday 6:45 p.m.

I was in my car, singing my heart out on my drive home. The sun was only just starting to set since daylight saving time had given us back our evenings, and it was turning the sky pink. Every part of the weekend had gone right, from start to finish, and I was both ecstatic and exhausted. But the sunset seemed to promise only more good things, only more good moments. So I kept driving, kept singing, and made sure to take a few pictures once I pulled into the driveway at home.

It was the prettiest farewell to the happiest of weekends.