My Life

Does the vague name make it sound more edgy?

Finding Focus with Your Senses

With so much going on and so many reasons to both worry about the future and get lost thinking about the past, it is easy to lose sight of the present.

I know I have a tendency of focusing on the if/when’s of the future or the “if only’s” of the past, and at times I can think and worry about them until I spiral down to a point of near paralysis. As a result, I often look for ways to reconnect to the present moment, as it’s the only thing I have any control over.

Recently, on an episode of the podcast The Next Right Thing, host Emily P. Freeman shared an exercise geared to get you back into the present moment by focusing on the senses. She said, “senses bring us back to the present moment, reminding us what is rather than what we are afraid could be.”

The exercise asks you to notice and/or write down the following:

Five things you can see

Four things you can hear

Three things you can feel

Two things you can smell

One thing you can taste

As I write this blog in a low sitting chair on the beach, this is how I would go through the exercise:

Five things I can see

  1. The waves moving in and out
  2. A ship far off in the distance
  3. My brother’s sandy feet
  4. The freckles on my knees
  5. A feather stuck in the sand

Four things I can hear

  1. The ocean
  2. Kids playing and laughing
  3. An airplane overhead
  4. A seagull squawking

Three things I can feel

  1. A slight breeze
  2. The sand between my toes
  3. The heat of the late morning sun

Two things I can smell

  1. The ocean
  2. Fresh (non smoky) air

One thing I can taste

  1. The bagel I ate for breakfast

What I love about this exercise is that it can bring you into the present both to diffuse a stressful or anxious situation, or to magnify a good one. It can bring good things into focus so you can appreciate them and it can bring negative things into focus so you can move away from them. It can also act as a good distraction from intrusive or anxious thoughts, and give you something to do for a few minutes besides just breathe—which sometimes just doesn’t cut it.

This exercise can be a great go-to on anxious days, long trips to the DMV, stressful family gatherings, slow moving traffic, mornings when it’s hard to get out of bed, nights when it’s hard to fall asleep—really any time when your mind needs something to focus on…other than what it’s currently focusing on. Or, on good days, it can be used to focus and perhaps memorize the things around you that make this moment perfect so that you can remember it forever.

How My Family Watches Postseason Baseball

Postseason baseball is in full swing (pun intended), and in my family that means there is a lot of pacing, a lot of swearing, and a lot of yelling that makes our dog hide under the table.

And since I can’t invite you over to watch baseball with us because playoff sports are a borderline intimate experience that not everyone can (or should) experience together, I thought I’d give an inside look (and listen) at the goings on inside our house when our favorite team is in pursuit of a championship.

Superstition

  • At the start of the game we all choose a seat, and though it’s unspoken, it’s a well-known rule that these are our seats for the rest of the game—no matter how long it may last.
  • Rally caps are a must when we need to score runs. Generally this means turning our Dodger hats backwards, but depending on the need or the overall intensity of the game, creativity with and interpretation of “rally cap” may reach unexplored territory.
  • “Nervous pee” is a thing, as is “lucky pee” and “unlucky pee” and it is up to the owner of the bladder in question to determine what decision can most benefit the team.

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Trash talk

  • This is a full family effort, and often builds into full fledged bullying, which I only condone because it takes place inside the walls of our house, never to be repeated…until the next game, upon which we only build off our ruthless ~creativity~ and whittle you down to your very bones.

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Friendly fire

  • When our boys are performing poorly, it is not uncommon for us to begin trash talking them in our best not mad but disappointed, or at times not disappointed but furious tones of voice, because it is important for us groaning couch blobs to let the elite athletes competing at the highest level know they could try harder. And honestly I think they would agree.

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Unexpected affection

  • This is mostly my mom and I. While brutally loyal to our team, if you put an underdog, a comeback story, or just a kind humble man in front of us, a small part of our heart will melt and we will mumble good luck to them—not in this moment or this game, but in the future, far away from us and our championship, where we hope they will thrive and be happy.

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Endless jabbering, clapping and apologizing to the dog

  • At a certain point encouraging anecdotes like “let’s go” or “you got this” become as easy and mindless as breathing. If given a nickel for every time one of us mumbled a cheer to ourselves, the room, or to a player by their first name, we might be able to buy season tickets for life.   
  • Our dog, Meeka, is not a fan of yelling or even minor bursts of enthusiasm that aren’t directed towards her, so there is a good portion of time dedicated to calling her over to apologize for all the screaming—only to scream again a few minutes later. As a result, she usually spends games under the table or outside barking at passing dogs, probably saying things like, “my family is crazy!” or “please take me with you on your walk, baseball is on again!” or maybe “Go Dodgers! All other teams are inferior!!”

No matter what, every game is an emotional nightmare journey, one which I’m sure will turn us all grey before our time—but I love every minute of it. 

My 500th Blog Post

Almost seven years ago, on a random Sunday night, I posted a rambling blog post, which to this day has only been viewed eight times. I didn’t tell anyone I posted it, and I didn’t know what to expect from it. I wrote it because I could—because I couldn’t seem not to—and because I wanted to know what it felt like to click publish. More than anything, that post was a dare to myself, fueled by late night confidence, to give blogging a shot. And even though I didn’t post another blog until almost seven months later, this dare hung in the air, it crawled into my thoughts and it wiggled out the tips of my fingers. Write, it said. Until eventually, I did.

Thinking back to the beginning, I won’t deny that I was dreaming big. Fresh off a semester abroad, during which I wrote weekly posts (on a different website) to update those back home, I had a pocketful of compliments from friends and family that gave me a big head and an expectation to turn my talents into a career—fast. You can hear it in my early blog posts. The I am so funny tone. I am so casually hilarious and knowledgeable and relatable. Feel free to make me famous.

Reading through some of my old posts, I cringe at the way I wrote, the way I rambled, the way I *clearly* didn’t proofread as well as I should have. I didn’t have a schedule, didn’t have a direction or a defined voice. I was very much just posting to gain a following, to get attention, to get numbers, and to move forward into what was sure to be a lucrative career. I spoke as a knower, as someone who was here to teach you something or to make you laugh or to change your life because of things I could tell you.

But then, little by little, I started to shake off that identity—as it didn’t fit very well—and started to write from the much more honest perspective of a learner. As someone who doesn’t know it all. As someone who is just trying her best and learning what she can along the way. And in finding that authentic voice, I found a much more comfortable, fun, and co-beneficial blogging process and experience, and grew a very genuine and caring audience that allows me to write without a defined theme—something every blogging advice columns suggests you find (#rulebreaker)—and who learns and grows right alongside me.

So as I write this post, my 500th post if you can believe it, I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who has supported me thus far and who is strapping in to see where we go from here! This blog is a safe place for me, something that is consistently fulfilling and comforting—even amongst the craziest and scariest of times. So thank you for helping me create this space! And if you’re new, welcome to this space! We’re happy to have you.

To celebrate the big 5-0-0, I wanted to highlight some of my favorite blog posts, but first, in case there are any other data nerds out there, here are some fun facts:

  • I have posted a blog on every single day of the week, the most on Monday (178) and the least on Saturday (9).
  • My total word count (including this post) is: 390,606 words, which is the equivalent of almost five books.
  • My blog has been read in 165 countries
  • My best day ever for views was December 15, 2015, when I posted this blog about Gina Rodriguez and she shared it on social media.
  • My most viewed blog of all time is this one about How to Recreate the Princes Diaries Painting.
  • The most used search terms that helped people find my blog was “things that happened in 2018” which led them to my All the Good Things series.
  • The first post I ever had published on another website was this one.

Now to name a few favorites. This was nearly an impossible task, because narrowing it down to a reasonable number leaves so many behind. But in a quick scroll down the list, these ones jumped out at me:

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1) The Mt. Whitney series

This is slightly cheating, since it refers to five posts that cover my experience of hiking Mt. Whitney, but this was the first series I ever wrote for my blog and the first thing that made me feel like a “blogger“. I was so thankful to have a place where I could document what turned out to be a big turning point in my life.

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2) The Simplest Kind of Happy

This post gives me the warm fuzzies. It was such a simple moment of an ordinary day, but it was pure and it was happy and the song I mention in the post can still take me back to that day.

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3) A Literally Sick Rap Song

I wrote this post when I was on day 3 or 4 of being home sick with the flu and it was one of the only things that made me feel better. I spent almost an entire fever filled day rewriting the lyrics to Tupac & Dr. Dre’s “California Love”, renaming it “Day&NyQuil Love” and I laughed so incredibly hard. I will never not think of this post when I’m sick.

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4) To My Fellow Tough Eggs

Some of the hardest blogs to post are the ones that feel like I’m sharing my journal or the innermost workings of my brain. This post was meant to be encouraging to all but especially to myself. It also stands out because shortly after posting it someone mentioned it to me by name and thanked me for posting it and that meant the world to me.

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5) A Lesson in Love from Mr. & Mrs. Day

This is not only one of my favorite posts on my blog, but one of my favorite things I’ve ever written. In 2015, my Grammie was moved into a nursing home, where we met Mr. Day and his wife, Mrs. Day, who was in the bed next to my Grammie. Their love story will inspire me always.

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6) The Year of Give

This was the start of a series I do at the end of every year where I recap the word that defined my year. It put me out of my comfort zone to post, but I’m so glad to have shared it because I love having a place to go back and read what I’ve learned from each year and each word.

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7) The Butterfly

In late 2015, my Grammie passed away, and I wrote this post, which ended up being distributed at her funeral. I felt very lucky to be able to honor her, and I think about this post often.

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8) I Ran a Damn Marathon

This had to be on this list because I still can’t believe it actually happened.

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9) This Blog Was Written By My Dog

This was such a fun, silly post I wrote from the perspective of our family dog, Laycee, who was the cutest, most loving dog I’ve ever known. Unfortunately, only about a year after I posted it, Laycee passed away, but I’m so thankful to have this encapsulation of what an important, special member of our family she was and always will be.

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10) Just Live the Day

I have written many posts describing a struggle of staying present, but I feel like this one really hit straight to the point. It was inspired by The Grapes of Wrath, and offers advice that I try to carry with me at all times.

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Thank you again for all your support through these 500 posts, here’s to 500 more!

91 Birthdays and Now I’m Counting Too

This past weekend we celebrated my grandpa’s 91st birthday.

It was a happy day filled with good food, lots of sunshine, and a big reminder of the many good things (and especially good people) I have in my life.

The most important person of the day, the ever handsome, ever lovable birthday boy, pulled up to the party in one of his most stylish (and one of my favorite) Dodger themed button down shirts, some nice pants, and a pair of shades. Throughout the day, I couldn’t help but look over at him, sometimes catching him looking at me, maybe to wave or stick his tongue out, and wonder how he was feeling.

When asked how he is doing, his go-to answer most days is that he’s doing okay. He says he feels old, and on some days, on especially good and sassy days, he’ll slick his hair back and tell you he feels oh, just as wonderful as ever. And while I know there are lots of hard layers to his answers—that he’s tired, his knees hurt, he misses my grandma, he’s not sure how much longer he wants to stick around—there are also good ones—he’s proud of the family he’s built, he’s always excited to hear what we’re up to, and he’s curious to see what another day holds. Still, I can’t help but feel like there is so much I don’t understand and can’t understand until I (or IF I) am lucky enough to reach the age of 91.

It’s hard to believe that I’d have to live the life I’ve lived twice more to reach my grandpa’s age. And if I do, it’s hard to comprehend how much I will see and learn and experience in that time. Not to mention, how different the world (my world and the world at large) will look in 61 years. It’s startling and overwhelming, but also inspiring because it makes me realize how much life my grandpa has lived.

I would consider myself very lucky to be sitting in a backyard on a Sunday afternoon 61 years from now, looking out at a family I built, and eating a cake they made just for me. And I’d like to think in that moment I’ll think of my grandpa. I’ll think of how perfect the weather was at his 91st birthday and how lucky I felt to be a part of it. I’ll remember the sound of the excited chatter and the laughter and the clinking of drinks. And then maybe I’ll look over at a certain granddaughter or grandson who I catch looking at me and I’ll stick my tongue out.

A Few Sunburned Themed Thank You Notes

While it may seem obvious to even the most distant of onlooker, and while I should be well versed and well informed as I have lived with this knowledge my entire life, sometimes I still forget that I am a pale, pale white girl. And even on days when I am reminded of this, say, when I step into a bathing suit and the whitest parts my body squint at the daylight they don’t usually see, I still manage to forget that my skin is to the sun what a peace of bread is to a toaster: ready to get burned.

But alas, the sun is always there to set me straight. It is always there to cook me to the perfect pink of a medium rare steak, leaving me feeling the way I feel when I eat a perfectly pink steak too fast, and with too big a helping of mashed potatoes on the side: sad and regretful. 

So as I sit here today, in the last stages of healing from a weekend sunburn, still diligently applying aloe vera, and patiently waiting for the itching phase of healing to pass, I thought I’d write some thank you notes a la Jimmy Fallon, to the sun, to my sunburn, and to keep my hands busy so I don’t physically scratch my skin off.

I’ll keep my oven mitts close just in case.

*ahem*

Cue the piano, James.

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Thank you, Mr. Sun,

For teaching me what it feels like to be slow cooked. I can now empathize with everything I’ve ever put in a crock-pot.   

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Thank you, SPF,

For undoubtedly standing for Sun’ll Probably still Fry you.

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Thank you, Google,

For teaching me that the itching phase of a sunburn is called “hell’s itch”, making anything I was going to call it seem way less dramatic.

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Thank you, skin,

For always burning and then peeling and then going back immediately to pale. It has always been my worst nightmare to feel like a bronzed beach goddess, so I appreciate you keeping me from that misery.

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Thank you, fall in Southern California,

For actually being Summer: the Sequel.

The Summer Smells

I have a very good (and very sensitive) sense of smell. There have been times my mom has referred to my nose as “a pregnant nose” because of my inane ability to pick up even the smallest scents, and my inability to go down certain aisles in the grocery store (I’m looking at you laundry detergent) because of the scents being too strong.

I am also good at identifying smells. I like to pinpoint it down to the finest detail. For example, I might say something like, “does it smell like blue raspberry jolly ranchers in here to you?” or “why does this soup smell like Christmas?”

Scents are big memory keepers for me. And sometimes when I smell something familiar it stops me in my tracks, and I am taken back to wherever or with whomever the scent pertains to. And while most of the scents outside, and even inside right now, are sadly riddled with smoke, there have still been summer smells that have brought back some good (and minorly traumatic) memories:

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1) Wet grass

The other day I walked across a wet lawn and I was immediately taken back to an early morning soccer game. I could hear the rustling of kids and parents trying to find which field they had to be on, and I could feel the damp blades of grass being kicked up with each passing pair of feet. I hated playing soccer, but I loved putting on my uniform and cleats and feeling official. I also loved the coupon for a free snack bar Popsicle we got at the end of every game.

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2) Chlorine

Whenever I smell chlorine I think of myself as a 10 (and then 11, 12, and 13) year old girl trying to learn how to dive off a family friend’s diving board, and never quite figuring out how. I can feel the water in my nose, hear the splash of other kids doing cannonballs, see the fluttering toes of my sister doing a handstand in the shallow end, and hear the encouraging words from my parents and their friends asking me to try again. Which I did, again, and again, and again, to no avail.

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3) Barbecues

There are few things that give me an immediate, cozy, summery feeling than the smell of a backyard barbecue. When I was little and my family would go over to friends’ houses to swim or have game nights, there was always something on the grill. And being a girl with mostly simple pleasures when it comes to food—especially when I was young—I love a homemade cheeseburger that you awkwardly eat off a paper plate in your lap, while trying to keep track of your fork so you can eventually transition into your helping of macaroni salad, all the while ensuring you leave enough room in your stomach to have a homemade cookie later.

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4) Sunscreen

I have competing memories when it comes to sunscreen. On the one hand, there is the beach. There are the long days spent swimming in the ocean, trying my hand at boogie boarding and getting womped by the waves enough times to retire from boogie boarding at age 12. There is the sound the ice chest made when you dragged it through the sand and the wonder at how good the snacks inside the ice chest tasted after you’d be out in the sun for a few hours. There are sandcastles and digging for sand crabs, and there are sandy walks to the showers and drives home with wet hair. On the other hand, there is pure trauma. When I was around seven or eight, I got sunburned on my shoulders so bad that they bubbled and blistered; when I was 17, I got sunburned on the back of my calves so bad that they peeled for an entire month afterward; and my personal favorite, when I was 13 I went water skiing and didn’t put any sunscreen down the center part of my hair and burned my scalp, making it look like I had thick, mutant dandruff for weeks to follow. So while sunscreen smells like fun in the sun and overall sun safety, it also smells like a lesson I learned the hard way—more than once.

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5) A summer night

This smell is hard to describe but without a doubt one of my favorite smells in the whole world. It’s that combination of the warm weather, the slight cool breeze that starts to sneak in the screen door after dusk, and the hint of water from the neighbors’ sprinklers that just kicked on. Plus there’s the wide open night sky, the quiet swishes of the ceiling fan, the distant chatter of neighbors sitting on their back patios, and, when you’re little, the knowledge that you don’t have any homework to do. To this day summer nights feel so light and free, even when I know I have to get up for work, or take my trash barrels out, or do my laundry, just as I would at any other time of year. Summer nights just have that magic about them that makes you feel like you might end up anywhere. Maybe you buy a spontaneous ticket to a baseball game, maybe you drive down to the beach just to watch the sunset, maybe you see a movie and then walk down the street eating a double scoop ice cream cone.

This summer, obviously, is a little different than most, and for many it is impossibly tough and completely void of those special nostalgic smells. If that’s you, I hope this post can find you and not only remind you of some good things, but encourage you toward the good things awaiting you on the other side of this hard season.

13 Going on 30 Going on…

We are officially on the clock folks!

Come midnight (or 7:39 pm tomorrow if you want to get technical) I will turn 30! I am setting off into a new decade, a new chapter, a new adventure, and I am 97% sure I’m excited about it!

To commemorate this milestone, I watched the cinematic masterpiece 13 Going on 30. If you haven’t seen the movie, honestly, shame on you, and if you have, you’ll recall that it follows Jenna Rink, a 13 year old who is dissatisfied with the state of her life and wishes she could be thirty, flirty and thriving—a wish that comes true thanks to some wishing dust, causing her to wake up 17 years in the future, in the body of Jennifer Garner (bless) with *almost* everything she hoped for.

Ironically, 13 Going on 30 was released when I actually was 13. So as I watched the movie, it got me wondering what I (and the world) were like back in that fateful year of 2004.

To take us back, let me give you some highlights:

  • Justin Timberlake & Janet Jackson (ahem) performed at the Super Bowl.
  • Michael Phelps won 8 medals at the Athens Summer Olympic Games.
  • Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook—for Harvard students only at the time.
  • Friends aired its final episode.
  • The number one song of the year (and my longest running Myspace profile song) was Yeah! By Usher & Ludacris
  • And the highest grossing film was Shrek 2

Unlike Jenna Rink, I wasn’t necessarily in a hurry to grow up. I was in a hurry to not feel dramatic. To not feel like everything was the end of the world. But I was more or less okay with taking things step by step.

I almost always wore my hair in a ponytail—sometimes gelled back—and was obsessed with my hair straightener. I exclusively wore PacSun t-shirts and Vans tennis shoes, and I had one denim skirt that I wore when I wanted to feel fancy. I didn’t own a cellphone, but I texted my friends (and played Snake) on my mom’s blocky, Nokia phone. I owned a CD player on which I played Simple Plan and Ashlee Simpson albums on repeat, desperate for the world to know how misunderstood I was, and I spent hours on my computer coding my Myspace profile so it looked just right. I was quiet, timid, and very prone to copying personality traits from other people that I thought were cool. I was also very naïve and optimistic, very much thriving in what I have grown to call “the bubble,” that would very soon be popped.

Even in hindsight, having lived through it and come out the other side of 13, I can openly admit it was awful. It was scary, awkward, confusing, dramatic, honest, and embarrassing. Funny thing is, at (nearly) 30, I don’t find those adjectives unfamiliar. Life, at any stage is scary in its own right, awkward in its own right, confusing in its own right, etc. But there is a noticeable difference between the fears and struggles I had at 13 and those I have now. One could say the obstacles we face at 30 are tougher, they’re deeper, they hold more consequences, but they also (for the most part) have more structure, more foundation. In the face of controversy at 30, we have such an elaborate tool belt compared to when we are 13. And while that doesn’t necessarily make life easy, it makes it seem survivable, it makes it seem worth it, because we’ve learned that there are good things beyond the bad things, and lessons behind the losses.

In a way, it feels like I’ve blinked and found myself here, the same way Jenna Rink closed her eyes at 13 and opened them at 30. Like Jenna, when I look around, I can see my world is markedly different—that I am markedly different. I’ve accomplished things I would have never imagined and survived pain and loss I didn’t know existed.  Also, Mark Ruffalo is here, and isn’t that a marvelous thing?

It is hard to believe I’m going to be 30, but then it’s also hard to believe that I was once 13.

I don’t envy 13-year-old me. I don’t envy all that she had to walk through and learn and figure out. But I give her credit for making it through. For walking me, step by step, to this very day. And I’d like to believe that 40 or 50 or 80 year old me would have 30 year old me do the exact same thing. To take the days, the moments, the ups, downs, successes, and failures, one step at a time.

So as the clock counts down my final hours and minutes of 29, of my 20’s, of the first third(ish) of my life, I’m going to take a deep breath, reflect on some good memories, cringe at some awkward ones, and set off to make some new ones. I feel very lucky to be where I am, very proud of who I am and very grateful for who I have around me, and I can’t wait to see what’s coming next. 

A Call for Advice Before I Turn 30

I have exactly three weeks left of being 29. Which means I have exactly three weeks left of my 20’s. Which is…well, I haven’t decided yet.

I’ve never really been afraid of or concerned with my age—mostly because I’ve learned that every age has the potential to bring you both good and bad things—but the milestones always feel different. They ask you to reflect, to prepare, to predict, to manifest. They ask you to notice. (And slightly panic.) But mostly notice that you have made it this far.

I look forward to breathing in that milestone.

I also look forward to basking in the vast wisdom and grace I assume arrives at midnight.

But if I happen to be wrong, I figured I’d send out a small request for any advice you might have.

Note: you do not have to be 30 (or older) to provide this advice, as I think we all learn different things at different times in different ways.

So, let’s truly let age just be a number here, and, if you’re willing, give me some advice that has inspired you. Something that you take with you into each day or something that reminds you everything is going to be okay or something that has taught you how to rebuild when things are not okay or something that makes you smile or cry or just helps you breathe.

My 30’s thank you. (As do these last three weeks of my 20’s.)

Strange Things I’ve Heard My Sister Say While She was Playing Animal Crossing

My sister works hard. She has a tough job that keeps her mind (and schedule) constantly busy and so when her workday comes to an end, it’s no surprise that she looks for ways to decompress. Sometimes this comes in the form of an early bedtime, sometimes it’s exercise, sometimes it’s dinner with friends, and sometimes it’s Animal Crossing.

Having played the game when it first came out on the Nintendo Game Cube in 2001, she was excited when the new version for the Nintendo Switch came out earlier this year, and bought it on a whim while we were out on one of our very first quarantine shopping trips.

Personally, I don’t play the game and so my understanding is based solely on what she tells me. Thus, in the time I’ve spent sitting in the living room watching TV while she plays Animal Crossing in the chair next to me, I have heard plenty of out of context comments that, while I have no doubt make sense to her and other players of the game, tend to sound a little strange to those of us who remain uneducated in the *island* life.

Here are some of my favorite things I’ve heard her say:

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How much is this antique chest? Ugh, it’s 20,000? I only have 80,000 left because I spent all my money on turnips.

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I feel like there’s a trick to catching sharks that I don’t know.

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Damnit! I got stung by bees again.

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I dug up all my money trees today.

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*talking to our friend Kristine on the phone who was also playing Animal Crossing*

Kristine: Would you like a piano, a guitar, or a keyboard?

Natalee: I’ll take any of those instruments because I’m trying to create an instrument land.

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Should I give my sea things to back to the beaver or sell them to Tom Nook?

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I’m just shooting down balloons with presents.

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I love that you can change clothes in the refrigerator.

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I need another retro chair to complete my kitchen.

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*gasps* I’VE FALLEN IN A HOLE!

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Me (while Natalee showed me the house she’s built in the game): What are those things hanging on the walls?

Natalee: All of my awards.

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How do I make my mailbox cuter?

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This green goat really isn’t that nice. I tried to make him leave by giving him a trash wall that I built, but all he said was, “not sure what I’ll do with this.” I hate him.

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I made a new summer wreath for my door.

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Somebody gave me a karate outfit today. It wasn’t very flattering.

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Has anyone seen where I put my scuba mask?

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Hold on a second, I have to take my fossils to the museum.

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Getting Over the Big Bump

Up until I was nine years old, my family lived in a blue house, in a neighborhood close to our church. My dad had bought the house with a few of his friends before he met my mom, and so by the time they got married and I came along, we were very much part of the neighborhood. Our next door neighbor, Frank, always had the best Halloween candy set aside for my siblings and I, and our neighbors down the street would smile and wave when they saw us heading out on an afternoon walk—my sister and I on our bikes, and my mom walking (and eventually pushing a stroller with our brother) close behind us.

Fun fact about me: I am not a strong bike rider.

The day I learned to ride a bike (without training wheels) is a notorious one in my family, as it involved hours of me trying and failing to balance on two wheels in the cul de sac in front of my aunt’s house. There were tears, scraped knees, explosive frustration and unwavering determination. Eventually I got there, but I have never considered myself a “confident” bicyclist, even to this day.

Nonetheless, I loved riding my bike on our afternoon walks. I liked pretending I was on a safari and that I could spot wild animals running beside me. Sometimes I liked to pretend that I was being chased or that I was in the last seconds of a race I needed to win. But then, once we took a left turn onto the louder, busier street, I would see it.

Always big, though, once I got my training wheels off, it appeared nearly mountainous, there was bump in the road, mostly likely caused by an earthquake, where two chunks of sidewalk collided and raised. We called it “the big bump.”

Pre cul de sac stick-to-itiveness, I would go over this bump with my training wheels without hesitation or fear, but once I began riding on two wheels, it became an ongoing obstacle. I was suddenly very aware of how it changed the balance of my bike and could ultimately cause me to fall and get hurt. And even though we would do that walk often and I longed to approach the big bump without worry, when we made that turn and I saw it come into focus, my hands would grip tighter on the handles and my visions of being on a safari or in the middle of a race would vanish.

To my credit, I always went over the bump. And to my knowledge, I never fell. There were times when I severely slowed my pace, and there were times when I completely stopped and walked my bike over it, but I always went over it.

These days I rarely ride bikes, and when I do I rarely seek out “big bumps,” but I still find similar obstacles in my day-to-day life. Some I expect, dread even, and some come out of nowhere, but they both give me that same sense of fear I felt as a kid. And while sometimes I can connect to that girl who spent hours trying and failing and willing herself to succeed, other times I find myself looking out at that (now figurative) “big bump” and turning myself around.

I’m still scared. Scared to get hurt, scared to be thrown off balance and lose control. Scared to get stuck, scared to hold people back, and scared to get left behind. I’m scared of the consequences of going over the “big bumps,” which are no longer just scraped knees or a broken bone. Plus, what might look like a big bump to me, might not look so daunting to others and sometimes it’s hard to reconcile that what’s holding you back gave your peers no grief at all. But as scary as the big bumps seem, and no matter how often I might find them in my path, I owe it to myself to keep going over them.

When I was little, each time I made it over the big bump, I felt a swell of pride, and a small burst of confidence that next time I might go over it a little bit easier. And even though I might not be that seven-year-old girl anymore, I still have her grit, I still have her determination, and I still have people behind me willing to help me over whatever bump may enter my path.

So I’m going to keep moving, keep riding, keep walking, keeping making my way over those big bumps, because I know there are good things waiting for me on the other side.