Yesterday I took my mom to a doctor’s appointment and I saw you sitting in the waiting room. We both had our masks on and we both listened as the door opened and closed with nurses calling name after name of someone else who had one reason or another to start their week at the doctor.
When they called my mom’s name, I put an AirPod in and started listening to music. I wished I’d brought my Kindle, but I settled for a halfhearted scroll through social media. The office phone rang. A sneaker squeaked in the hallway. Patients shuffled in and out and suddenly it was just you and me, sitting a few rows apart, waiting.
Unlike me, you didn’t have your phone in your hand. In fact, your hands sat purposefully in your lap, fingers folded into each other, a medical bracelet around your wrist. Your hair was straightened, and your eyeliner looked not only practiced but perfected. Your elbow tucked your purse into your side and your eyes stayed glued on the ground. You were focused. Serious. Maybe even nervous.
Maybe you were there for a routine x-ray. Maybe it was nothing to worry about. Maybe it was just an early morning and you were tired, stressed or trying to prepare yourself for the rest of the day. Or maybe you were sitting there wondering. Wondering if you were about to get news you didn’t want to hear. Wondering if this was going to be the day that changed everything. Wondering if you’d often think about this morning, about how you straightened your hair, did your makeup, and pretended like this was just another day—when it wasn’t.
When they finally called your name, I watched as you flinched, as you quickly gathered your things and made your way through the door. And then, for a few minutes, I sat alone, wondering. Hoping. That everything was normal. Or better. Or completely treatable. Hoping that the news you were about to be given was good news, manageable news, news that made you breathe a sigh of relief, erasing all those horrible possibilities you dreamed up in the purple chairs of the waiting room.
As my mom walked back out and we made our way to the car, I left behind wishes for only good things for you. For this to be just a casual day. A casual appointment. A cautious but clear checkup. A reminder that everything is going to be okay.
Back in October I wrote this post—inspired by The Next Right Thing podcast—that was all about connecting to your senses in order to find some peace amongst the fear of the future and chaos of the present.
Right now, I have a lot of moving pieces in my life, a lot of things that I don’t feel like I have control over and that are changing. As a result, I have been pouring myself into projects, exercise, and goal setting in order to combat the corresponding anxiety. Yesterday, after getting home from work a little earlier than usual, and with the sun out and the weather an incredible 75 degrees outside, I found myself debating over how I could be productive. Should I go for a run, a walk, a hike, do yoga, do work, write, clean, read, pray? What could I do to make myself feel good, or better, or at the very least, calm.
After a while, I decided to do a little yoga, even though I spent the first few minutes frustrated and unwilling to participate. I pretended to relax until I actually relaxed. Then, I sat down on my bed and tried to map out my plan for the rest of my evening—instantly going back to that place of demanded productivity. My mind was racing and I felt like I was wasting time. But then, I felt the breeze come through my bedroom window. And then I noticed that the sun had turned golden with the evening and there were birds chirping outside. And then I thought back to that post, and I thought it was a fitting time to shift my focus back to the present—“to what is rather than what we are afraid could be.”
Here’s what I wrote down:
–Five things I can see
The golden hour sunlight shining through the window
The flickering shadows casted on my bed, my floor and my wall from my blinds
A branch of the palm tree in my backyard swaying in the breeze
The collage on my wall that I made to inspire me whenever I look at it
My newly painted pink toenails
–Four things I can hear
The bells of the church down the road that mark the start of every hour
Birds chirping—a reminder that spring is so close!
Neighbors chatting and laughing
A UPS truck driving in the distance
–Three things I can feel
The evening breeze that is cool but no longer cold
The soft comforter that sits on top of my bed
Hunger. The excited kind of hunger you feel when you know what you’re making for dinner and you can’t wait to have it. Looking at you Naan pizza.
–Two things I can smell
The laundry detergent I used to clean the cozy sweatshirt I’m wearing
Fresh air from my open window
–One thing you can taste
There are a lot of things that we can’t control, but there are also a lot of moments that we can choose not to let control us. As it turned out, there were plenty of good things to find on what tried to become a very stressful afternoon. And while I can’t guarantee that anxiety won’t sneak its way back into my shoulders, as I sat there, allowing myself to feel the breeze, to listen to the family next door joke and laugh, and to watch the sun turn gold, I knew everything was going to be okay, and that I could take a deep breath and relax.
My best friend Allison and I pulled into the parking lot at the Rose Bowl and then immediately pulled over to take a look at the 11”x17” paper map we’d just been handed with no follow-up directions.
I’d heard about the “Fair Foodie Fest” in passing online, and had proposed the idea to Allison as we searched for a weekend activity that could get us outside. The concept was intriguing: a drive-thru fair that allowed you to eat the yummy, over the top treats without having to worry about large crowds and/or the restrictions brought about by COVID. Plus, the ticket was free and came with a pocket sized funnel cake, so it was really a can’t lose.
Looking at the map, our eyes got big, wondering, wanting, deciding maybe we should try absolutely everything. But then, noticing the prices, our wallets got small (not to mention our digestive systems got scared) insisting we might want a game plan. So, we starred a handful of things we decided we couldn’t miss, then pulled back out into the main lane, and started our journey through the fair.
Set up in a kind of racetrack format, there were two lanes the led you through the course to each food stop. The right line was for ordering and the left lane was for passing. Pulling up to our first stop, we rolled down the window, ordered the BBQ pulled pork sandwich, and marveled when we popped open the container to reveal this:
It was an incredible start to our journey. One that could have easily pushed us to stray from our stars and our budgets and order absolutely everything to follow. And with the pressure that came from picking where to stop, what to order when someone approached the window, and then drive away, knowing you missed your chance to change your mind, I’m honestly surprised we did as well as we did—and that I didn’t end up getting coleslaw all over me or the car. But after about 25 minutes of maneuvering our way through the course, we exited the parking lot, food stacked on my lap, the center console and the dashboard, and pulled into a neighboring lot that overlooked a park perfect for people watching. It was there that we really got to evaluate our purchases and I would like to review them with you now—in the order that we tried them, which matters.
#1) The Krispy Kreme Cheeseburger
This was too intriguing not to try, making it one of the very first things we starred on our map. I will admit, the look of it was…questionable at first sight. A feeling of what have you done entered my mind, and my stomach, quivering in fear, seemed to agree. Nonetheless, I cut it in half with the handle of a fork—the only utensil we were given in our travels, and we cheersed before we took a bite. While chewing, I found myself wondering whaton earth I was eating. My tastebuds were confused, my mind was racing, and everything I’d ever learned about a healthy diet wept. I did go in for a second bite, though it seemed only to be sure that it was as offensive as I thought. Also, they gave us two ketchup packets to go with it, which, in hindsight, somehow makes it worse.
Overall grade 3/10.
#2) The BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich
After the assault from the Krispy Kreme Cheeseburger, I was determined for a kind of meat redemption, so I insisted that we dive into our pulled pork sandwich. Again, I cut it in half with the fork—getting barbeque sauce everywhere—and then cheersed Allison before taking a bite. In one way it was just a pulled pork sandwich, but in another it was a drink of cold water after trudging through the desert for days. You know? I instantly felt comforted, redeemed, and at least partly healed from the, well, you know. It should also be noted that the waffle fries that came with the sandwich were arguably the best thing we had all day, and I will probably think about them for the rest of my life.
Overall grade: 8/10
#3) Curly Fries
Upon being handed this mountain of curly fries, I was both shocked, amazed and absolutely confused. “How?” we asked over and over. And this question covered not only the construction and design, but also the unbelievably hot temperature. Truly, I don’t think I’ve ever touched a food as hot as these fries. I also don’t think I’ve ever gone back for another bite mere minutes later, only to find something to be the absolute coldest a once hot food could possibly be. Ultimately, they were only pretty good, especially in the wake of the waffle fries.
Overall grade: 7/10
#4) Deep Fried Oreos
These were put on a pedestal going in because I’d tried deep fried Oreos before and knew they were a gift from the heavens. That being said, while they still made the two of us nod in silent agreement that yes, this is what dreams are made of, questions were raised on the authenticity of the cream filled cookie inside. Have the Law & Order music at the ready when I tell you that we believe they might have been…faux-reos. *dun dun*
Overall grade: 8.5/10
#5) Deep Fried Lemon Bites
These were the last thing on our list and (aside from the Krispy Kreme Cheeseburger) the most wildcard item we bought. What exactly did “deep fried lemon bite” mean, we wondered. Were we biting into an actual lemon? Was there going to be lemon cream filling? What was in this ball of fried dough and was it going to be a nightmare to find out? As someone who hates surprise fillings in all pastries, chocolates and the like, I bit into my lemon bite with extra caution. However, after another bite, and then another, I was thrilled to discover it was merely a fluffy, delectable bite of fried lemon cake that I will store eternally in my memory right alongside the waffle fries.
Overall grade: 10/10
Overall, I thought it was a truly unique, fun and delicious way to spend an afternoon.
Some key lessons to take away are:
-the helpings are huge so, depending on how many people are in your car, you probably need at least one serving less than you think you do. Plus, you only have so many hands, it’s a 10 stop course, and there are speed bumps in the parking lot, adding perilous obstacles as you try to balance multiple giant sized items.
-ask for a knife
-bring extra napkins or perhaps a bib, tarp or poncho
-pretend you’re an Instagram influencer and take pictures of everything, if only to remember that one time you ate a cheeseburger in between two Krispy Kreme donuts and walked away traumatized.
-come hungry and leave full, it is worth it.
If you are (or will be) in Southern California, the fair runs until the end of February and you can grab tickets here.
I’ve been to quite a few weddings. I’ve also been in quite a few weddings. And while they are all unique in their own wonderful ways, they are also very similar—running through the same routines, the same schedule of events and the same (at least in my case) excited yet patient wait at your table for your free dessert to arrive.
That being said, I love weddings. I love the fancy dresses, I love the dancing, I love the love, and this past weekend I was reminded of all of this when I went to a wedding where COVID played a (big and chaotic) part in the planning—but failed to ruin the magic.
It had been a little while since I’d been in a wedding. Since I’d gotten all dolled up beside a bride, talking, laughing and watching as her hands shook in excitement. It had been a while since I’d stood up at the front of the ceremony, watching the groom watch the bride, trying to hold back the tears that were threatening to ruin my makeup. It had been a while since I’d been able to just stop—to forget about everything else going on in the world and watch two people promise to love each other for better or for worse, and then wave my bouquet in the air, cheering, as a minister said, “you may kiss the bride!” It had been a while since I sat and listened to heartfelt speeches from a best man and maid of honor, that make you laugh and make you cry, and then ask you to raise your glass and celebrate something wonderful life has done. It had been a while since I felt that hope. That little spark of optimism that surfaces when you see love so obviously in front of you, in the teary eyes of the couple, dancing together for the first time, in the proud smiles of the parents, thankful to see their children so happy, and in the giddy, excited laughs of the bridal party, cheering and chanting from their seats.
To kick off the new year, my church participated in a 21 day fast. In lieu of certain food groups, I opted to delete social media from my phone, as I felt that it was one thing stealing more of my attention than necessary. And while I expected a bit of habitual reaching for my phone, and the mindless skimming through apps in search of Instagram, Twitter or the like, I did not expect the real, physical withdrawal I felt.
While at first I thought it was just frustration, FOMO, this sense that I must be missing out on something big, I soon began to realize I was actually feeling a little afraid. Unbeknownst to me, social media had become a bit of a crutch—a coping mechanism that I’d been using for whenever I was sad, angry, lonely, jealous, or confused. If I felt a feeling I didn’t like, I’d take a scroll through social media to find a new one. And now that I didn’t have that option, many of the feelings and thoughts I’d been avoiding were all demanding to be felt.
I lay awake almost every night of the first week, unable to fall asleep, unable to quiet my brain the way social media had been doing. It had become such a habit to scroll through whichever app until I got tired, never sure what I was looking for, but always hopeful it might be in the next post, or the next. But it never seemed to be there.
Having time away from social media, I’ve given myself space to think, space to wonder, and space to just listen.
Reaching for my phone is still a habit. I still catch myself tapping at the screen, hoping something pops up that might make a bad moment better or a long day easier, but I am also doing better at looking for things offline that can help. I’m reading more, I’m praying more, I’m being more creative. I’m feeling all of the feelings that come naturally each day, and I’m allowing them to pass through me rather than attempting to shut them out.
I will admit, I thought this fast would be harder for me than it was. And after those first few nights, I was convinced I would never make it. But having come to the end of the 21 days, and not feeling even an inkling of the relief or freedom that I thought I would, I realize how crucial this fast was for me—even when I was someone who would have considered herself not to be addicted to social media.
And so, I’d encourage anyone to take a step back. Just to see if there’s anything you might be missing. Take a step back and feel the feelings that you might be avoiding. Take a step back and listen for the things that have always been inside you but have been muted by the endless scrolling. Take a step back and breathe. Exist in the real world and simply in the real. You don’t have to leave social media behind forever, but it’s important to remind ourselves that social media is a place to visit, not a place to live. Take a step back, log off and look around. There’s a lot more for us out here than there is in there, and out here it will last a lot longer.
In honor of my sister’s birthday tomorrow, I thought I’d bring back this post. I originally posted it in 2015, back when we were sharing a room at our parents’ house, when I was just starting to post consistently on my blog, and when the world was really obsessed with infinity scarves.
I thought about changing a couple of the lines to make it more current, but I kind of like seeing how much has changed (in good and hard ways) and how far we’ve come. She was my person then and she’s my person now, so here’s hoping this poem can ring in her birthday with a smile.
Happy birthday Natallee!
Natalee my Natalee,
I hope you like this rhyme from me
You’re used to them by now I’d think
So enjoy this one and down a drink
Not too many though because I don’t like barf
I loathe barf like you love a good scarf
Which is why we have 57 in our closet
Okay not really, 58 if I’m honest.
Sometimes I think about burning them all
But don’t worry I’ll at least hold out until fall
Today is a day when we celebrate you
A day that I’ve celebrated since I was two
That year was rough, when you arrived on the scene
Before that there was just brown hair, brown eyes, just me.
But I suppose you ended up being pretty cool, slightly valuable
Beautiful actually, smart, compassionate and admirable
One of the only people in the world to always make me happy
And to infuriate me to no end when we’re feeling cross and sassy.
But that’s a rarity now since we’re both essentially flawless
Always wondrous, always mature, never strange, unintelligible and lawless.
You’ve listened to every song that I’ve wrote about our dog
And every whiny jingle on why I won’t go for a jog
You listen to the sighs, the cries and the rants,
You let me crank up our music and dance around with no pants
You’ve made me laugh too many times to count
And made me proud an intangible amount
You’ve seen me through it all and so many would agree
You fought through some of the hardest times and come out beautifully free
So remember on this day as I thank you for your you-ness
That I say it with a sincerity and a gratefulness of the truest…
…nature, but not the kind with all the trees and the bugs
More the kind with all the cheesy, sentimental, tear jerking hugs
So eat cake (without eggs) and ice cream (without dairy)
That way your birthday can be diarrhea free and quite merry.
My mom and sister had been going for years, forever trying to convince me that you would not in fact die on the table, but I could not be persuaded. Surely there had to be the occasional slip. The slight miscalculation that went from a vertebrae adjustment to a full-on decapitation. Surely an experience that is centered around cracking your bones could not truly be enjoyable.
But alas, they kept going. And miraculously, they kept returning fully mobile, wholly satisfied and, you know, with heads.
So, I decided to give it a try.
If there was ever a benefit of having to wear masks everywhere we go, it was to hide the pure fear I felt as I was walked into the room. The chiropractor—who knew both my mom and my sister—had heard that I was nervous, so she tried her best to put me at ease, but I still sat wondering if this was the end. Wondering if in a few moments she’d pull my arm off or crank my neck so far to one side that I would scream as if I was being exorcised.
What I didn’t expect was that she’d point out something before we even started.
“Let’s talk about your posture,” she said, “It is pretty good in your shoulders but your head is too far forward.”
She demonstrated how my head poked out, most likely from leaning towards a computer screen at work. Oh my gosh, I thought, looking at her, is that what I look like all the time? I look like an upside down golf club. I look like a putter. I am a walking, talking, standing putter. I should be a staff. A skyscraper. A redwood. But I am a putter.
As the chiropractor got to work, feeling the tightness in my neck and shoulders, she explained that they were doing all they could to keep my head up. Poor neck and shoulders, I thought, humanizing them. The little engines that could. Or could barely. They were not being paid enough for this. Not to hold up this brainthat was obviously big and heavy and full of boundless knowledge. I can’t even imagine the kind of weight they’d been bearing all this time.
And so, we agreed—me and the chiropractor, me and my neck and shoulders, me and the fear that still whispered that if we were quick we could slip out the door and get a McFlurry instead—we agreed that we’d give this a go. So, we took a deep breath, and then the chiropractor began. She pulled and cracked and pushed and there were a couple of times when I glanced down at my fingers and toes and wiggled them *just in case* and then she told me to sit up. All in all, it is probably the most violent four minutes I’ve ever experienced. But it was definitely worth it.
I’ve been back a few times since then, and I now make a conscious effort to pull my head back during the day. Turns out, if anyone was trying to decapitate me, it was me. After that first appointment I imagined that if I’d never come in, maybe one day my head would have gotten too heavy and simply just fallen off. Ripped at the roots. Tumbling to the floor with all of that knowledge.
This obviously wouldn’t have happened, but more importantly it won’t happen because I faced my fears, went to the chiropractor and set out on a new life’s mission: to be a skyscraper, not a putter.
When I was little, my maternal grandparents used to host Thanksgiving every year. And just like any other holiday, I would arrive looking for a few key staples: the stuffing, the mashed potatoes, the pre-meal black olives that I would place on my fingers and pretend I got a manicure, and the cheese filled celery sticks that I would lick the cheese out of and throw the celery away.
When I got older and my parents starting hosting Thanksgiving, I wanted to find my own staple to bring to the table. Something that people could look forward to and rely on me for, and something that I could pass down to my kids when my mom passes the turkey down to me, so I can undoubtedly take on the job as if I am precisely diffusing a bomb for five hours.
One year, I decided this staple might be rolls. As the turkey cooled for carving and the final touches were being put on the side dishes, I volunteered to butter and bake the rolls, which to some members of my family are arguably the most important part of the meal. I thought it was a can’t lose move. But it turns out, when you reach in to grab your cooked rolls and accidentally light your oven mitt on fire, filling the whole kitchen with smoke and a burnt smell that begins to overtake every other pleasant smell, just as your guests start to arrive, you put yourself in a canlose situation.
So I ditched the rolls. Or rather, gave them back to my aunt, who’d failed to ruin them or set off a smoke alarm even once. Show off.
Then, after a solid year of pouting and self-deprecation, another year of Internet research, and then a tentative shopping trip for cheeses I’d never heard of, I found my side dish. My staple. My claim to Thanksgiving table fame.
I will admit, it’s not a walk in the park. And while I’ve gotten into a good rhythm over the years, I still usually sit down at the Thanksgiving table looking slightly weathered and a little sweatier than I’d prefer, but it’s always worth it. So if you’re looking for something to spice up your Thanksgiving, your Christmas, or even just your Tuesday, might I recommend this recipe. It’s DELICIOUS.
Plus, if you make it enough, people start to forget that Martha Stewart created it and start calling it “your macaroni”, allowing you to feel like an innovative culinary queen (or king.) And that, my friends, is a can’t lose situation.
In the fall of my senior year of college—which as I type this I realize was nine years ago, YIKES—I studied abroad in Australia. While there, one of my absolute favorite things was to write and receive letters from friends and family back home.
I love mail in general, but being a whole continent away and receiving things from the people I loved back home not only made the first few weeks easier to adjust, but made the remaining five months all the more fun. I was practically a regular at the post office, and there was an entire drawer of my desk filled with envelopes, stamps, and handwritten letters that I still have to this day.
One that stood out was a postcard from my grandpa. “You’re not the only world traveler!” the note on the back started, “Grandma and I went to Denmark. Played golf & ate at Anderson’s Split Pea Soup Restaurant. Quite a trip – took 1hr & 15min each way. Saw lots of Danish shops & houses. Took 3 days so we were exhausted when we got home. Love you bunches – Gma & Gpa”
Maybe it was the startling opening of my grandparents being in “Denmark”, maybe it was the note explaining it had taken them one hour and 15 minutes to get there—from California—or maybe it was just because I hadn’t head of Solvang before, but I never forgot this postcard. It made me smile thinking about my grandma and grandpa on vacation, golfing and exploring this strange and—judging by the pictures on the front of the postcard—very cute town.
A few years later, after my grandma passed away, this postcard became even more sentimental. I felt like it was a tangible memory from their marriage and of the life they lived together—a little piece that they wanted to share with me, that I could have forever. And so just as I kept the postcard, I kept a constant curiosity about Solvang—wondering what it would feel like to stand where they stood all those years ago. And this past weekend, I finally got the chance.
To celebrate my dad’s 60th birthday, our family of five spent the weekend in Solvang. We walked around and saw all the Danish shops and houses, we ate split pea soup at Anderson’s, and though we didn’t play golf, we did go wine tasting and feed some ostriches. (Yes, you read that right.)
We did Solvang our way, just as my grandma and grandpa had done it their way. And even though our trips were almost a decade apart, I still felt like they were right there with me. I still looked for the two of them walking down the street up ahead of me, and imagined them sharing split pea soup in the booth next to us.
Being where they had been made the postcard come to life, and caused it to hit me in a different way. It made me sad knowing that when my grandpa wrote that note to me, none of us had any idea we’d be losing grandma less than a year later. It made me wonder and worry about what might be coming in this decade to follow my own trip to Solvang. But then, it also made me think again about their trip. About the forethought they had to grab a postcard for me, one of their 11 grandkids and 3 great-grandchildren (at the time), and about how much that said about them and the love they had for each and everyone of us. It made me happy to think that they went on this trip and so many others, building their lives together and sharing it with us.
On our last day in Solvang, I grabbed a small, souvenir windmill that is now sitting on my desk. Maybe one day someone will ask me about it and I will pull out the postcard to explain where it all started. Maybe that will inspire another generation to take that trip, and as they walk down the streets and eat split pea soup they’ll look for me just as I looked for my grandma and grandpa, and just like that we’ll all be together again.
My dad is at work and my mom is in the other room, maybe cleaning or reading or talking on the phone.
I am eight years old, and I am in the mood to dance.
I sift through the CDs on the shelf, press the power button on the stereo, and open the tray of the seven disk CD player that I have already flagged as something I need in my own house when I grow up.
Amy Grant’s The Collection goes in the disc one spot. I turn off shuffle.
I hear the CD start to spin and I wait, wiggling my toes on the large oval rug where I usually spend my Saturday mornings hunched over my favorite yellow controller playing Zelda on the N64. The moment the music starts, I skip to track seven. Then I scoot back to the center of the room and place my hands in front of my face—my fingers spread wide.
The opening notes start and I wait, holding my pose, until Amy Grant starts to sing Emmaaaannnn-uel, upon which I start moving my hands up and down and around my face, assuming I look as poised and mysterious as the high level contemporary dancers at my dance studio—while in reality I probably looked like I was trying to swat a fly away from my face in slow motion.
When the chorus hits, I throw my hands in the air and jump around, singing my heart out, free, though never distracted enough to miss the next round of Emaaannnn-uel’s and their corresponding hand choreography.
When the song ends, I consider starting it again, but then skip forward to track 11, like always. There is no choreography to this song, just slow swaying around the room. I hold my hands out in front of me as if I’m dancing with someone, and move from the living room to the dining room and back, unaware (and unfazed) that a good portion of the song is in Hebrew.
As the last few notes fade out, I return to the rug, preparing for my big finish. I Have Decided comes blasting through the speakers and I begin to march around, agreeing with Amy with animated fingers that point to the ceiling. I close my eyes and wave my fists, willing her words, her decisions to be true for me too, and it makes me feel grown up. At the end of the song, I walk over and turn down the music, then lay down on our green couch.
The next song starts and I bob my head but I don’t stand up. I turn over on my side and look at the doorway leading to the hall. I know that if I turn left through that door I’ll find my baby brother’s room and the room I share with my sister, and if I turn right I’ll find my mom and dad’s room, where I’d spent last Sunday night sleeping on the floor because I had a nightmare. But I don’t move, I just lay there for a while, bobbing my head without a care in the world, already wanting to start the CD—or my version of it—over again.