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.

January & February Favorites

Ahhh, I love a first favorites post of the year.

Come January, I am always in a hurry to find new favorite things. To dive into new books, new music, new movies, and new podcasts. I’m always anxious to find things that expand my mind, make my life a little better and brighter, and, maybe, just the slightest bit easier.

And to be honest, I have been on a roll.

Let’s get right into it.


Podcasts

I got COVID at the beginning of the year and spent a solid week feeling like moving from room to room was the equivalent of climbing Mt. Everest. So, I spent a lot of time trying not to move, and I was always on the hunt for things that helped make the time go by. Podcast but Outside was one of my favorite finds. It is a podcast that has both a video and audio version—but honestly you are MISSING OUT if you listen to the audio version—and it made me genuinely laugh out loud. The concept is simple: the two hosts set up on the street and interview whoever might walk by, and the results are consistently interesting and often hilarious. (find it on YouTube or your preferred podcast app)

A little while back I recommended the Tangle newsletter, because it gives you an unbiased look at the news. And while I still stand by the newsletter, I am someone who tends to fall behind on newsletters, so I was very excited to learn that they made a podcast version of it. Each episode is a nice, clean read of the newsletter, and is usually about 20 minutes long. It’s an easy listen and I look forward to every episode. (find it on your preferred podcast app)


Books

I fell in love with both Beach Read and its author, Emily Henry, almost immediately. Beach Read is a refreshing, fun book that made me laugh out loud, and made me feel seen, as its main characters are both writers, and the writing process (and its occasional corresponding misery) is described in detail. I knew I wanted to read People We Meet on Vacation before I was even done with Beach Read and I anxiously await the arrival of her newest book, Book Lovers, in May. Consider this “favorite” both the books and Emily Henry herself.  

The Night the Lights Went Out is WILD. Not only is it a great read—eye opening, shocking, charming and even funny—but it makes you realize how much you have to be grateful for in the day to day. Even on your worst days. I for one have taken advantage (for about 30 years) of how lucky I am to taste things, smell things, to be independent and healthy. Life can throw you a lot of curveballs and the human spirit is resilient enough to (eventually) find wonder in many of them, but this book made me take a deep breath and focus on all that I have, all that I’m able to do, and remember that at any moment that can change.


Movies

First and foremost, you’ve got to watch The Alpinist. This one is in the same vein as Free Solo and The Dawn Wall. I watched it twice in the span of a week, once by myself and once with my mom, because I needed to have someone to talk about it with. I’ll admit, you feel pretty much every emotion, big and small, happy and sad, but you leave feeling so…content. It reminded me that we are all here to live different lives with different purposes, and it’s important that we all find our own and pursue it, even if it might not make sense to everyone else.  (find it on Netflix)

Next up, The Tender Bar. This movie is adapted from the memoir of the same name and it is one of those that makes you think: I want to write a memoir. I want to find all the moments that made my life my life, in all its ups and downs. It had a familiar quality in that it was a reminder that we are all trying our best—trying to figure out what on earth we’re doing. I found myself rooting for the main character in the same way I’d hope other people are rooting for me. (find it on Amazon Prime)

I Want You Back is a romantic comedy that, if I’m honest, I initially watched because it has my girl Gina Rodriguez in it, but it quickly became more than that. It is different and fun, and it made me laugh and smile and aww. It’s a good old fashioned rom-com that I feel like we don’t have nearly enough of anymore. Definitely recommend! (find it on Amazon Prime)


TV Shows

I had been recommended The Man in High Castle a few different times over the years, so when I was in between shows at the end of last year, I decided to finally give it a watch. The premise is that Germany won World War 2, and the United States becomes more or less extinct in the face of the German and Japanese empires. It is pretty much terrifying, but it is a captivating, and surprisingly patriotic watch, as a resistance of Americans fight to get their country back. Strap in though, it’s a wild ride! (find it on Amazon Prime)

One thing that I love about my Netflix algorithm right now is that it is consistently recommending me international shows that I might not have otherwise known about. I recently watched a movie in Spanish, then I saved a Polish movie to My List, and then I watched the Italian born series Baby. I watched it subtitled and really enjoyed it. The show is based on the true story of two Italian high school girls that got involved in the country’s prostitution ring. It was a dramatic and interesting watch! (find it on Netflix)


Music

the debut farewell album by avenue beat

Sidelines by Wild Rivers

Circles by LEON


Cauliflower Tacos

If you are looking for a new dinner recipe to spice up your life, and you want to make something that gives you that feeling of, damn, I am a mf-ing chef, try this Cauliflower Taco recipe. I actively called my friends into the dining room to show off what I made, and I was SO proud of myself. Plus, it was absolutely delicious. (find it here)

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The Art of Noticing Newsletter

And finally, I am a sucker for a good newsletter. I love the weekly pick me ups and the variety that exist if you keep your eye out. I have no idea where I found The Art of Noticing newsletter, but it is one I never miss. It always opens my eyes to something I can notice in the world around me, and it has a fun ongoing series called “Missing Words”, where people point out words that don’t exist but should. For example: “that feeling in the half second between when you’ve stubbed your toe and the pain arrives.” Check it out here, there is both a free version and a paid version. I am currently subscribed to the free version, but I have no doubt it would be worth the subscription!


Have anything you’ve been loving over these last couple months? Let me know!

See my previous favorites post here.

Pray for One Person in Ukraine

Yesterday, a man at my church prayed for the people of Ukraine.

In the past few days, we have all watched the chaos and tragedy caused by the attack ordered by Vladimir Putin unfold. And while it has been heartbreaking to watch, it has also been inspiring to see the resilience and determination of the Ukrainian people as they fight to protect their country and maintain their freedom.

I have seen a lot of prayers and cries of support go out to Ukraine, but this one stood out to me. This prayer was not general, it was not surface level, and it was not sweeping. I don’t say this to criticize any other prayers or support, as the world needs all of them right now, but this one acted as a bit of a wakeup call to me.

In his prayer, he asked us to identify with the people of Ukraine. Not just think of them, not just pray for them, not just hope for their peace and safety. He asked us to remember that they are people just like us. They are not just a far away country or a story on the news. They are a community of individuals. They are people. Just like us.

As I listened to him pray, I imagined what it would be like for that war to be around me. To feel the terror of my country, my city, being under attack and not knowing what the future holds. I imagined what it would be like to watch my friends and family lay down their lives to protect their freedom, my freedom, and I imagined what I would do if the time came when I had to take up a weapon and do the same.

I imagined what it might feel like to listen to the world cry out in prayer and support for my country, my people, and my safety. Would it feel like they were really praying for me? Would they know I was there, scared, my world as I knew it darkening and cracking? Would they understand the consequences this war would have on the rest of my life—on the rest of the world, the rest of the country, the rest of history, yes, but also me, my life, and so many more individual lives.

The expanse of the universe makes it so easy to feel small. The size of continents, countries, cities, heck, even counties or neighborhoods make it easy to feel small. In Southern California, as I sit on the freeway in traffic, to so many people I am just another car. But to me, I am always an individual. I am always a person with thoughts and feelings that is living a life, having good days and bad days. I am one person. But I am a person. And in the Ukraine, amongst all the numbers, statistics and generalized news reports, there are millions of people. One person alongside another, fighting for their lives. Wanting peace to find their country again. Wanting their families to be safe and their future to be hopeful.

So when you pray for Ukraine, when you research ways you can support the people in the midst of their darkest days, remember they are a population made up of individuals, of stories, lives and hearts. Remember that those people are just like you and me, and that in a different world, they might be praying for us. For you. For me.

Think of what it would feel like to know that someone was praying for you. To identify with you, to understand the pain and trauma that you are feeling in a time like this, to let you know that you are seen, that you are cared for, and that peace and protection is being asked over you. There are so many people to pray for right now, but let’s not do so lazily or generally. Don’t be vague, be specific. Ignite hope, provide strength, and cast love on each and every person. Young and old and everything in between.

Pray for one person. Pray for every person.

My Nighttime Routine

Remember a while back when I was determined to find a morning routine?

And remember how after a few tries I figured out that my mornings do kind of have a routine, but that routine is simply organized chaos?

I kind of gave up on the idea of trying to squeeze things into my mornings, especially my weekday mornings, because I think I’m always going to be someone who gets done what needs to get done, and leaves room for nothing else. And that’s okay. As the poet Ke$ha once said, “we R who we R.”

However, I have not completely given up on the idea of a routine.  In fact, over the last few months, I’ve found great comfort in sticking to a nighttime routine.

When I was little (and honestly, still quite often today) I had a lot of trouble falling and staying asleep. I often had a lot of anxiety around the concept of sleep, and of the responsibilities that awaited me when I woke up. I also tended to be just plain scared of the dark, as it’s unsettling and, seemingly, unsafe.

Needless to say, I like to get in bed, fall asleep, and stay asleep until the sun comes up. And finding a routine that invites in that deep sleep has been very helpful for me.

So, if you are someone looking to add some routine to your evenings, or just need something else to focus on other than the impending workday, I thought I’d share some of the staples in my nighttime routine.

Note: While sometimes I do these in a kind of “order” it is neither rigid nor consistent. These act more like items on a checklist rather than blocks of a schedule.


1) Skin care

I’m not here to tell you to do 78 steps of skincare. I’m not even here to tell you to do five. I just know that finding a routine and doing it consistently has made my skin happy for the first time in *literally* 15 years. I used to always skip a step here or there, saying that I was too tired or that I didn’t really need to do them all because I assumed, I don’t know, I could overcome breakout prone skin with shear will. It was only about a year or two ago when I decided, okay, I will do every single step, every single day, and see if I can stop breaking out like I’m still 16 years old. And even though it took a little bit for my skin to adjust, once it did, it was like, FINALLY, GIRL, I’ve been waiting for this! My skin still isn’t “perfect”, but I feel like it’s no longer mad at me, and as a result, I no longer dream about peeling it off my face. So that’s nice.

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2) Go through my to-do list

When I was doing research on how to find a revitalizing morning routine, I constantly saw things like “set intentions” or “go through your to-do list” as an important item. It is supposed to put you in the right mindset for the day, putting your priorities in the right place and jumpstarting your motivation. But for me, my biggest goal in the morning is finding a way to get up. I don’t have time (or energy) to go through my to-do list because what I’d like to do is go back to sleep. However, I have found that going through my to-do list at night allows me to plan out my next day, making me feel like I’m a little more ready for it. I check off what I got done and I review what’s still left to accomplish, and I start brainstorming how I can be productive the next day. It’s nothing too intense. In fact, I mostly just scroll through the list, make a few mental notes here and there, and then move on. It’s a way for me to center and quiet my mind, preventing it from spinning off in a million different directions and causing me to panic.

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3) Duolingo

I’ve been taking Spanish on Duolingo for a few years now and I have been very excited with my progress. Within the app, your “daily goal” is completed when you do about two lessons, and this takes maybe 10 minutes. I tend to do my Spanish when I get in bed and I start to have that internal argument about whether or not I should stay on my phone. I get a weird kind of separation anxiety about putting my phone down and not getting to see or know anything else until the next morning. But often when I give in a little, I take full advantage, staying on my phone for way too long. So, I’ve been using Duolingo as a kind of farewell to screen time. Once I finish my Spanish, I am finished with my phone for the day.

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4) Journal

One of the best ways I have found to quiet a pacing mind is to put all of those paces on paper. Sometimes I don’t know how hard I’m thinking or overthinking until I start to write about it, and then all of sudden I’ve filled pages and pages with thoughts and feelings. Journaling for me is like having a long, deep talk with a friend right before bed. You can get everything out, take that deep sigh of relief, and then relax.

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5) Read

The very last thing I do at night is read. After I’ve turned off all the lights, I lay down with my Kindle and tuck in with the latest chapter of whatever book I’m reading. Depending on the night, I will sometimes do this with my phone, because at this point, I am looking for that final distraction, that something to help me think about anything other than the spirals in my mind. More often than not however, my phone offers both a distraction from what I’m thinking about and a bridge to all new reasons to panic. With social media, I never know what I’m going to scroll by, so at times it feels like I’m waiting for a bomb to drop, for something to pop up that sets my brain on fire—which I usually try to put out by continuing to scroll, as if I’ll find something to undo it. Reading however, both relaxes and engages my mind. It asks me to pay attention to one story, and that story slowly invites in sleep. I always sleep better when I read before bed, and it’s nice not waking up with a headache or that feeling that, you know, I stared at a tiny screen three inches from my face for two hours in the dark.

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In a way, I have tried to make these things somewhat Pavlovian, tricking my mind into thinking that, once we go through this routine, we must sleep. We have to sleep, because there is nothing else to do.  I have come a long way since I was little and am much better equipped to manage my emotions and calm myself down, but some nights the panic is hard to escape, and it can compound with the fear of being overtired the next day, making it a viscous spiral. Having a routine makes me feel more in control, which gives me a sense of peace.

We all want to get a good night’s sleep, and this is how I believe I set myself up to do just that.


Do you have anything you do as part of your nighttime routine?

We’re Going Out Tonight

As I took my seat in the audience, I took a slow look at the people around me. There were conversations happening everywhere. Some serious, some lighthearted, some loud, and some whispered. Hands joined in greetings and introductions, and arms pulled shoulders into happy hugs. The stage was set, the show was getting ready to start, and the seats were filling up by the minute.

I fiddled with my rings, two on each hand. I don’t get to wear them as often as I’d like because I work with too many metals and chemicals that might damage them. So when I do put them on, it means I’m going somewhere special, somewhere fun, somewhere I want to feel the slightest bit fancy.

I put on my favorite pair of jeans and a fun top, a pair of white sneakers and my jean jacket. Standing in front of the mirror while I got ready, I put on mascara and some eyeshadow, and brushed product in my hair to give it a little oomph. I felt comfortable, I felt cute, I felt like myself, which is my favorite feeling—especially since it hasn’t always been the most common.

Getting ready can be a miserable process. Sometimes you walk into your closet and it feels as if all you own is a series of different colored grocery bags, and when you put them on you feel like the trash that people throw into those grocery bags in an effort to upcycle. I have been brought to tears by everything from the seam of a sock to the tag on a t-shirt. I have participated in the cliché throwing of outfit after outfit onto my bed, and I have dramatically slid down the front of my dresser, with my shirt half on and my pants unbuttoned, hoping that by the time I hit the floor the world might spontaneously combust so I won’t have to finish getting dressed.

If I manage to get through that step though, all new obstacles await me in the bathroom. With the slightest error, my go-to makeup routine can become a session of torture. Sometimes I’ll put on the finishing touches and think, cool, I’ve turned a goblin into an oily goblin with eyeshadow. Other times I will look at my concealer brush as if it has betrayed me by not turning me into an entirely different person, and I apply so much powder in an attempt to hide my blemishes that I look like I fell asleep in a bowl of flour—then I’m mad about that and so I start over.

And sometimes, I’ll get all the way ready, feeling pretty good, or, at the very least, not pretty bad, and then I’ll walk out, either in public amongst strangers, or just into my living room amongst friends and family, and think, awesome, everyone looks great and I look like I rolled in the gutter and then put lipstick on.

I’ll admit, sometimes the mere prospect of getting ready can sway me from wanting to leave my house. The threat of feeling those negative feelings about myself or of comparing myself to others can prevent me from wanting to go anywhere at all. Because at home, in my space, amongst my things and my people, I know I can be exactly who I am, exactly the way I look, with no judgement. And when I step outside, I expose myself to a lot of eyes and opinions that I am sometimes not ready for.

But I’m starting to learn that while yes, some days are just going to be tough, sometimes getting ready is going to feel less desirable than getting the stomach flu—with the finished product feeling just as nauseating—the more you start to appreciate, understand and know who you are on the inside, the more you are able to honestly, accurately and comfortably present that person on the outside.

As I sat down in the audience on Saturday night, I felt like myself. I knew why I’d chosen that outfit and why I’d put on my makeup and my rings, and I wasn’t looking around the room for reasons why those choices were wrong or inferior.  I knew what made me feel confident to go out, and I loved seeing what everyone else chose.

Looking around, I saw a snakeskin blazer and black boots, a grey sweater with a small, hand embroidered flower on the back, a fedora, a black breton with lace detail, a shiny silk shirt tucked into a pleated skirt, a Tommy Hilfiger jacket, straight hair, curly hair, hair that was gelled back, suits, blue jeans, high heels, sneakers, necklaces, earrings, bedazzled masks and headbands. There were patterns and solid colors, and textures of all kinds.

In a room full of about 100 people, not one looked the same. But each of us had stood in front of the mirror, maybe agonizingly, maybe casually, maybe for hours, maybe for a few minutes. We all stood in front of the mirror and said, “okay, we’re going out tonight.” Maybe not everyone felt as confident as they’d like to, and maybe a few people walked in with that familiar feeling of, why does everyone look great except me? But as I looked at the people around me, I was just happy to see us all out. Happy to see us all expressing ourselves and our styles, all different and all wonderful.

We’d all overcome the biggest obstacle to getting ready—ourselves—and now we were all there, ready to have a good night. The lights went down, the show started, and I smiled, comfortable.

Two Different Days

On Saturday morning I got up early to drive to San Diego. Coming from Los Angeles, the drive is about 150 miles and can be two hours. But if you leave at the wrong time of day, it can get longer and longer (and longer). So when I head that direction, I do my best to outsmart the traffic. I left at about 8:30 a.m., and had an estimated arrival time of 11:00am, so I turned on a playlist and got comfortable.  

About 30 minutes into my drive, a motorcycle came up on my left, followed by about 50 more motorcycles. While it’s not strange to see crews of motorcycles cruising down the freeway, especially when the weather is nice, I was surprised when they kept coming and coming. Then, at the back, I saw a police officer. As an instinct, I sat up straight and checked my speed, but the officer paid me no mind, driving right by me, closely following the motorcycles. I continued driving, and then I noticed three cars in front of the motorcycles, all with their flashers on. In front of them, was a hearse.  

The parade of cars and motorcycles moved like a flock of birds. When the leader changed lanes, the line followed suit in a smooth transition. Hand signals were passed down the line like falling dominoes, and everyone stayed close together.

I couldn’t help but watch.

The playlist on my radio faded into the background and I drove on autopilot, fascinated. I examined the motorcycle riders, noticing how some wore matching leather jackets emblazoned with the name of their crew; some bikes had two people on them, one driver and one passenger holding on tight; hair flowed out from underneath helmets and tattoos were dark on forearms.

The hearse looked both like the toughest car and the most fragile. It was hard not to feel the weight of the vehicle, knowing it carried a body–a person. And everyone that followed in line cared about that person. Even though I had no personal connection to these people, and had no knowledge of the deceased, I still recognized the sting and humanness of loss.

I’d stood in those shoes many times before. I’d walked out of churches or across the grounds of cemeteries; I’d driven home from funerals and celebrations of life, drenched in the pain of grief. On those days, I often wondered what it might be like to be someone else, disconnected from the feeling I felt, living a different day, making different memories.

But on that day, I was the someone else. The sun was warm and welcoming, and I was excited to make the drive down to San Diego to visit one of my best friends and her family. I knew my weekend was going to be full of good conversation, good company and an undeniable lightness that comes with pure, unconditional friendship.

They, on the other hand, would feel differently. Their day would perhaps be quite heavy, quite hard, quite slow. They’d lost someone and their world looked a little different now. I knew how they felt, and I was sorry they had to feel it.

A hand went up in the front of the pack and pointed to the right, towards a sign for an upcoming exit. It started a ripple effect, sending hands up and to the right, down the line until it reached the last rider and the policeman following close behind. They moved smoothly into the next lane and then the next, and then took the off ramp. I drove past them, continuing on my way, and slowly turned my music back up, coming back into myself and my drive.  

I thought of them often throughout the weekend, wondering who they’d lost, how they were doing, and what had brought them all together in the first place. They were all living different lives and walking down different paths that could have taken them in a thousand different directions. But on that day, and perhaps many before it, they were all together. And on that morning, I was riding along with them, empathizing with their loss, admiring their community, and hoping for good things in the future.

We were all just people moving from one place to the next, but at the same time, we were so much more than that. We were the directions we were going and the places we’d come from. We were every morning that had led us to that one, and every morning that would come after. We were a collection of all the people we loved and all the people we’d lost. We were stories, actively being written, side by side. Perhaps we’d never cross paths again, but the fact that we had was a humbling reminder of how many lives are being lived in a single day.

Two hours later, I turned off my car and knocked on the door of my friend Nicole’s house. She greeted me with a warm smile and her two-year-old son looked up at me shyly.

“Hi Kim,” he said, before stuffing a bite of muffin in his mouth. I took a seat next to him, thankful this was my day, knowing not everyone was so lucky.

The Day My Washer Betrayed Me

So, there I was. It was Saturday night. I’d just finished my takeout. I was watching a movie. I was sitting at the dining room table, painting. I was doing laundry. I was thinking about making hot chocolate. I was feeling at peace.

Then the dryer buzzed.

Our dryer is a little on the older side, and the timer can only be set for 30 minutes, so you have to run it through one cycle, listen for the buzz, and then start it again. Two cycles usually does the trick. I’d already done two loads of laundry and I only had one left.

So, the dryer buzzed, and I decided to finish painting one final flower before getting up. I was painting daisies on an old window that my mom’s friend had found at a garage sale. There was green on my hands from the stems and a chunk of yellow under my thumbnail from the pollen in the center of the petals. I was sitting with my legs crossed under me, in big fluffy socks because my toes had been cold since I woke up. My legs were stiff, my shoulders were slouched, but I was in the zone. The hours were flying off the clock in that happy way they do when you’re immersed in something you love. But then I remembered: the dryer buzzed, and if I didn’t get up now, I’d never remember to start it again.

I stretched my arms out, rolled my head along my shoulders, and then stepped onto the wood floor to stand up. Instantly, my foot was wet. I jumped and instinctively took my sock off, wondering what spilled. Then I took a few more steps and realized the whole floor was wet. I walked to the kitchen, and when I crossed the threshold of the wood floor in the dining room onto the linoleum in the kitchen, my foot splashed into a near two inches of water.

I gasped, whispering, “no no no no no no,” as I sloshed through the kitchen. When I opened the door to the laundry room, the small shag rug was floating like a raft in front of the washer and dryer. I pulled the knob to turn off the washer, then kicked my way through the water to find towels.

I laid the towels down and they withered, like a piece of paper in a puddle. They absorbed what they could but then just lay there, pointless, and within seconds, I had no more dry towels. Standing in the near ankle-deep water in the kitchen, I grabbed a plastic cup out of the cupboard and began shoveling the water in the sink, as if I was trying to keep a boat afloat. I threw in cupful after cupful—and then I called my dad.

As I waited for him to arrive, I started to use one of the towels like a mop, laying it in the water and then wringing it out, laying it in the water and then wringing it out. Then I noticed that the water had moved into the entry way by the front door, and through the doorway of my sister’s bedroom. So, I wrung out the towel for a final time and took off running, my feet splashing across the floor, and turned on her bathroom and bedroom light.

“No no no no no,” I said again as I moved into her room, horrified by how the water had slithered down her hallway to the base of her bed and underneath her desk. I began to use the towel to push the water back down the hallway, careful not to direct it into her closet, and out into the entryway where the water was already pooled. From there, I would take the towel and wring it out in her sink, then start again.

By the time my dad got there, I was wet from the neck down, openly panting. Shortly after, the neighbor from down the hall knocked on the door, kind but concerned.

“Do you guys have a leak?” he asked.

I nodded, my feet now numb and my hair sticking out at all angles. I tried and failed to start a few sentences but ended up just apologized over and over, to him, to anyone, to everyone, to me. He graciously brought me more towels and I threw them down, using some to mop and squeeze, and others to dry the parts of the floor we’d manage to clear of standing water.

I was still making trips up and down my sister’s hallway as my dad worked diligently in the kitchen, trying to drain our makeshift lake. Then, as I wrung out my towel on one trip, I noticed that the sink was covered in drops of blood. I saw it on the towel, and then I saw it on my hand.  The ring finger on my right hand, which has been prone to random and inexplicable bouts of aggressive eczema for the last year, had split open. The sensitive, paper thin skin, had been rubbed raw from the water and the tight, persistent squeezing of the towels. I didn’t know what to do, so I just kept going.

When I took breaks, I would lean on the walls, my hands shaking and my legs getting weak beneath me, and then I’d curse, realizing that as my apartment was actively flooding, I was also getting blood all over the walls.

Once it appeared that all of the standing water was gone, I started to scoot around on the remaining dry towels donated by our neighbor, trying to dry the floor as best I could. My dad turned off the water in the laundry room and noticed that not only was the washer full to the top, but the knob I’d pushed to start the cycle had not moved.

“It never stopped filling,” he said. “The cycle never started. The washer just filled and never stopped filling.”

So, as I’d sat crisscross applesauce, peacefully painting daisies at the dining room table, the washer had slowly filled to the top, then spilled over the sides, gracefully and silently, until it snuck into the kitchen, into the living room, under the table in the dining room, into the entryway, and down the hallway into my sister’s room—never making a sound.

If I hadn’t been home, if I’d set the washer to run and went on a walk or gone to the store, or, heaven forbid, stayed the night at a friend’s house, the washer would have simply kept filling, drowning our apartment and everything in it.

At least we’re on the first floor, I thought, imagining how bad this could have been if we lived above someone and brought unexpected showers to the forecast of their Saturday night. But then I thought, wait, how did our neighbor know we had a flood? I hadn’t called anyone except my dad, and I hadn’t told or talked to anyone else since my sister wasn’t home. I stepped out into the hallway and was horrified to find rivers of water running from our apartment to the one across the hall. The floor squished and bubbled when you walked on it and I held my head in pure panic.

We knocked on the door of the apartment, but no one answered. Unlike the kind, concerned neighbor who’d brought towels, I’d never met this neighbor, and didn’t want to do so Noah’s Ark style, when we were all trying to escape two by two.  So, we got to work, dragging our towels along the carpet and then wringing them out in the sink. I called my landlord, who put in a call to Servpro, and then, when there was seemingly nothing else we could do, I sat down, wondering if I was going to fall asleep or openly sob.

Just before 11:00pm, my dad, a true hero, took all the towels home with him to wash and dry, and then I got in the shower, the water warm but borderline triggering. Standing there, I worried I was going to step out of the shower and find more water, or that the neighbor across the hall was going to get home, get angry and come banging at my door, aimed to hurt me.

I knew none of this was my fault. I knew that things were going to be okay. I knew that I’d done absolutely everything that I could. I also knew that I was exhausted, that my muscles were going to SCREAM at me in the days to come, and that what I needed most was sleep. But after my shower, I walked back out into the living room and sat in my favorite chair.

The wood floor had started to pop and crack in the places where water had gotten between the panels. By morning, it would be bubbled and warped, making our once flat, shiny floor, rough and hilly, like a miniature golf course. But that night, I sat there, eating Oreos in my sweatpants and robe. My wet hair was sticking to the sides of my face and the raw skin on my ring finger was pulsing and red, but I sat there and finished the movie I’d paused almost three hours earlier, pretending like the evening ended like it was supposed to. Hoping that, somehow, I’d lay down and then wake up to find that this was all a dream.

But it wasn’t.  

Walking

Yesterday, I went on a walk.

After being down with COVID for about a week, my stamina had slowly (oh. so. slowly.) started to come back, allowing me to do things like stand up, make dinner without feeling like I was going to pass out, and even do small bouts of yoga that were mostly just breathing and remembering that I wasn’t a blob.

So, on my best day yet, I decided to walk.

Recreational walking was not my thing for a long time. I thought, if I am not a dog mother, giving her child exercise, or a human mother, pushing a stroller while my infant sleeps, then why would I walk places when I could, you know, run?

Running always seemed more logical to me. You can burn more calories, increase your cardiovascular strength, and lose weight all in way less time than walking. Plus, you feel like a badass, and with enough training you can even do crazy things like run marathons.

But then the pandemic hit, and my sister, who was confined to working from home entirely on zoom, began walking in order to maintain her sanity, and I started to get curious. I started walking through the wealthy parts of our neighborhood and admiring the houses. I liked to imagine what it would be like to live inside. I even found a few favorites that I purposefully routed my walks around, just so I could be nosey on a regular basis.

Then, when we moved out of our home of six years and into an apartment closer to the city, I fell in love with walking. Not only did it help me familiarize myself with the new neighborhood, allowing me to map it out in my head, but it allowed me, once again, to snoop. To look at all the different styles of houses that are home to countless different lives.

Walking has become one of my favorite things to do—exercise or not. Whenever I’ve had a long day, I like to go for a walk to clear my head. And when I have an open morning on the weekend, I like to go for long walks, turning down every street I come across just to see where it leads. When I start walking, I don’t want to stop, I just want to stay in that flow state where all that exists is me, my music, and the beautiful things I can find along the way.

One of my favorite things about my neighborhood is the trees. The streets are lined with tall trees that cast wonderful shadows on the walls, gates, and sidewalks, and I often find myself looking up more than straight-ahead. I can’t get enough of the way the leaves look fluttering in the breeze with the sky as their backdrop, or the way the bark curves and clothes the trunks, in all kinds of textures and patterns. Not to mention, flowers of all kinds bloom in fenced in gardens or from bushes reaching out into the street, and mailboxes come in all shapes and sizes, some even hand painted.

Walking around my neighborhood has made me feel like part of the neighborhood. I have become familiar with some neighbors—and even more familiar with their dogs—that make their daily loops. I have started to choose which direction I walk based on what time of day it is because I like the way the sun changes the tone of different buildings, or the way the breeze blows down different streets. I know which hills are steep and which roads are flat, and I know which intersections are always crowded and where the sidewalks widen and end.

On my walk yesterday, I felt blissfully happy. Not only because I was so incredibly grateful to be out bed, out of my apartment and on the other side of COVID, but because it was sunny and warm, and I had no responsibilities waiting for me at home, so I knew I could take my time and go wherever I wanted. Walking made me feel human again, it made me feel alive.  I couldn’t help but smile the whole time, admiring all the colors and feeling the heat on my skin.

Turns out, walking was a well-kept secret. One often buried under pride and stereotypes. But it does more for me than most anything else. It reminds me that I am here, among so many wonderful things—and I often take pictures of my shoes to prove it.

I am here and today was a good day.

A Five Senses Check-In (Omicron Edition)

Hello there.

A little while back I started doing these senses check-ins (I’ve done two so far, this one and this one) and I thought it might be time for another one.

This one will be a little bit different than the rest, as I wasn’t outside, amongst the sights and smells of nature, but rather stuck in my room, sick (like seemingly everyone else) with the Omicron variant of Covid-19.

This was my first and (hopefully) only run-in with Covid, which I know makes me very lucky. My family managed to steer clear of it for a while, but Omicron seems to be leaving no stone left unturned. In fact, I was one of the last men standing at my job (and the last woman standing, if you will) as our staff of 13 was picked off one by one, leaving I believe only one person without a positive diagnosis.

Thus, there I was. In my room. Waiting for it to be over.

I wrote this post on Thursday, and have since finally started to feel better, but I like that this is a little glimpse into what I was doing and feeling. I really tried to keep my mind busy since my body couldn’t do much of anything, and this made me feel productive.


Five things I can see

1) The television, slowly flipping through different Google chrome screensavers

2) The very top leaves of my ZZ plant (because it sits on the floor) which continues to thrive and grow.

3) The light coming through the lace curtains that hang in front of my bedroom window.

4) The wrinkles in my comforter, undoubtedly from my continuous fidgeting and occasional napping.

5) My feet, in adidas socks, stretched out in front of me—out from under a blanket for the first time in a while.

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Four things I can hear

1) Cars driving by outside. I’ve heard the occasional police car and ambulance, a sporadic honk from impatient drivers, and the start and (sometimes not quite) stops of cars at the stop signs surrounding my apartment building.

2) My sister, moving around in the kitchen and living room. I can hear her cleaning and organizing, starting our (very loud) dishwasher, and planning out the rest of her day.

3) A conversation taking place outside, a woman calling to her neighbor about her dog and the other woman talking to the dog in a high pitched, loving voice.

4) Creaks in the ceiling from the upstairs neighbor moving around, and miscellaneous doors in the building opening and shutting.

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Three things I can feel

1) The effects of Covid. For me, it is massive fatigue and chest tightness (as of now). I’ve had the occasional fever, but nothing too high, and there is some slight congestion in my head that is making my ears click.

2) The pillow behind my back. My favorite spot to sit in the house is a chair in the living room that reclines. More often than not, when people come over I’m sitting in that chair, eating or writing, or working on a cross stitch. But since I’m sick, I’m spending most of my time in my room, sitting on my bed with a pillow propped up behind my back when I feel like I can sit up. It’s amazing how much sitting up can make you feel like a human when you’ve spent a few hours laying down.

3) The Kate Spade blanket beside me. It was a birthday gift, and it has been the coziest companion. Before I got sick, it was my go-to napping blanket, but for the past couple days it’s become more or less an additional appendage. (Thanks Kristine!)

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Two things I can smell

1) To be honest, I can’t smell anything, and that’s not because I’ve lost taste and smell (thank goodness) but because I’ve been sitting in this room for so long, that any discernable smells (which now that I say that, I honestly hope there aren’t any), have long gone unnoticed. I did just take a deep inhale through my nose however, and should nasal congestion join this party in the coming days, I’m trying to remember what that’s like.  (Thankfully, it never did!)

2) All this talk about not being able to smell anything made me sad, so I lit a candle given to me by my sister for Christmas, and now the room smells good.

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One thing I can taste

1) Cold Water. I have been trying to diligently drink as much as possible, as I know it’s important to stay hydrated when you’re sick. And I just love cold water.


Sending well wishes from my (currently four walled) corner of the world.

Stay hydrated, stay healthy—or if you’re like me, get better!

A Small Prayer for You in the (Not So) New Year

We are ten days into this new year, which is about the time when the “new” starts to wear off.

We are back into our routines, back into the stress the holidays (ideally) took us away from, back into the hustle, bustle, and (at times) chaos.

For some of us, we might even already feel discouraged. Maybe you already quit on your new years resolutions, or maybe you never got around to setting any. Maybe you feel the exact same way you did on December 31st and you feel a little gypped.

The new year always promises transformation and possibility—a solution to all of the problems we feel so stuck in. We want the new year to change us, to make us better, to make us feel good enough. Which is why we set goals and resolutions, why we make plans (or cancel them), and why start good habits and quit bad ones. We want to be changed, and for everything we don’t like about ourselves to vanish at midnight.

But when the sun comes up on New Year’s Day and we don’t immediately see that positive change on the horizon, it’s easy to count ourselves out (and put ourselves down) and to mark the new year as a wash.

So if you happen to be someone who is feeling let down by the new year, who put all of their hope in the potential it promised, but now feels just as discouraged as you were before; if you are someone who still doesn’t feel good enough and who doesn’t know how to pick yourself up and find the goodness that might exist in these next 11 months, I want to offer you this small prayer today.

It comes from author Macrina Wiederkehr. It says:

“Oh God, help me to believe the truth about myself, no matter how beautiful it is.”

There are always positive changes to be made. We can all grow, we can all learn, and we can all become better versions of ourselves as the years go by. But today, I pray that you are reminded of all the wonderful things that you already are. And I hope you don’t deflect them. I hope you absorb them. I hope they fill you up. And I hope they inspire you to look forward.

I’m so glad you’re here, and I hope you are too!

It might not be New Year’s anymore, but there’s still a lot of year left to live.

Here’s hoping it treats you well and you treat yourself well in return. May we all treat each other well this year, and encourage one another to believe in the beautiful things that exist in all of us.