Places I Sat This Year (List-cember #4)

At the end of last year, I came across a few bloggers that participated in the Take Up a Seat challenge. According to the website, the challenge asks you to take a picture of “places you sit, you might sit, or art about sitting.” Weekly posts showcase couches, chairs, benches, rocks, etc., that follow the theme. I liked this idea and so I decided to make participating one of my goals for 2022.

Throughout the year, I took pictures of places I sat, but rather than the physical chair, I tried my best to photograph me sitting in the chair. To capture that moment. I held the camera up high, getting my legs in the picture, as a kind of documentation that at one point during the year, I was sitting right here.

It’s been fun looking back at the photos and I wanted to share a handful. So many offered glimpses into small moments that I otherwise might have forgotten. I also liked seeing the documentation of rest. Because I most often remembered to take a picture when I felt relaxed or peaceful, so looking at the pictures as a collection was like reliving some of my most calming of the year.


1) Two Days In

In January, I got COVID. I spent a solid 5-6 days in my room, in my bed, sometimes sitting upright, but most often laying down asleep. My FitBit thought I was hibernating. It was not a good time. But shout out to my ZZ plant poking into frame which has grown A LOT since this picture was taken.

2) Backseat Sushi

In February, my sister’s coworker invited the two of us to see a show in Santa Monica. She offered to pick up sushi from her favorite local spot, and we planned to meet at the theater. “Get in,” she said once she pulled up. We had almost an hour until show time and she wanted us to have a “dinner with a view.” We drove to the beach and rolled the windows down so we could hear the waves. I wrote this post from the same night.

3) Engagement Sandwiches

In March, I helped my now brother-in-law plan his proposal to my sister. It was in one of our favorite places, and it was truly one of the most perfect days! Everything went off without a hitch, and she said yes! The next day, we woke up in a happy glow. We grabbed sandwiches from the local grocery store and then ate them lakeside on a bench near one of our favorite fishing spots.

4) Bible in the Spare Room

In April, shortly after my sister and I moved out of our apartment and I moved into my parents’ house, I found a lazy Saturday morning with no plans. Our church had provided a Bible reading plan for the year and I was very behind. So I tip-toed into the spare bedroom and caught up on my reading. (Note: don’t ask if I stayed caught up for the rest of the year, we’re looking at the positives here.)

5) The Downton Fizz

In May, my mom and I saw Downton Abbey: A New Era in theaters. For a while, we had a checklist of movies to see and we were becoming regulars at our local theater. On this particular evening, we grabbed our popcorn and then decided to try the Downton promotional drink called the “Downtown Fizz.” We cheers-ed and took our first sips and then our eyes lit up. It was DELCIOUS. So delicious that I dm-ed AMC for the recipe—and they answered!

6) Car Meeting

In June, as I was hastily making my way home from a chiropractor appointment, I hit a burst of traffic that I knew was going to make me late. I had a 5:30pm meeting, was 20 minutes from home, and it was 5:23pm. So I got off the freeway, pulled into the parking lot of a gym, hung a flannel in my window to block the sun, and took the meeting in the car. I wondered if I had the frame angled enough for no one to notice, but as soon as I logged onto Zoom, the first question asked was, “Hey Kim, are you in the car?”

7) Dodger Game

In July, on a last minute offer from some friends, my mom and I got tickets to the Dodger game. Typically, we sit up in the Loge or Reserve section, but these seats were Field Level! We grabbed a beer and some hot dogs—and I also impulsively bought a bag of Cheetos that were perhaps the best Cheetos I’ve ever had in my life?—and watched the boys take home a win!

8) A River Runs Through it—in Texas

In August, we visited some family in Texas. I’ve written about Jim and June before, so you might already know how special these visits are to me. It is always a breath of fresh air. We sit and talk and laugh and eat junk food. It’s the best. One day, we hung out and watched A River Runs Through It, which none of us had seen in a long time. It was the perfect slow movie for the perfect slow day.

9) Sushi on the Floor

In September, after getting approved to move into my apartment, I ordered myself sushi to celebrate. I didn’t have any of my furniture yet, and I was going over every day after work to unpack boxes. I was looking forward to the days when it looked like a home instead of a chaotic storage unit, and I was eating my sushi on floor while watching Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again on DVD.

10) Mrs. Fields Saves the Day

In October, my friends and I went to the When We Were Young Festival in Las Vegas. It featured all kinds of bands we listened to in high school and it was a very nostalgic and fun day. However, since it started at 12:00pm, we got there at 11:30am to get in line. And since the last band was set to go on at 10:00pm, and after the sun went down the temperature dipped into the 40s, the prospect of staying until the end became very daunting. My sister, her husband and I cut out a little early, and we Uber-ed back to our hotel where we bought some snacks and then went to bed. I barely made it through this cookie before passing out.

11) Left on Tenth

In November, as I finally began to feel settled in my apartment, I had some lazy weekend mornings where I would make oatmeal and then read on the couch. One of my UCLA Extension writing instructors recommended Delia Ephron’s new memoir, Left on Tenth, and I loved every minute of it. Not only did it teach me a lot about writing, it was also a crazy story! After losing her husband of over 30 years, Delia not only finds new love, but fights (and beats!) cancer.

12) Here

And finally, in December, as I write this blog post, I sit in my chair, in my apartment, next to my Christmas tree. I have two candles burning, my heater running, and my favorite slipper socks on. This is where I have been doing a lot of my writing, and I foresee a lot more of it in the future.

I’m thankful for this year and for the many places that I sat and found rest. I hope I continue to notice these little moments of peace.

If you’re interested, here are a few more pictures I took for this project. You might not know the story, but you still get that sense of place. You can still see that moment of me capturing, I was here.


Check out more List-cember posts here.

My 2022 Rec Roundup (List-cember #3)

My favorite part of doing a Rec Roundup at the end of the year is realizing how many things I watched/read/listened to. I’m always surprised to look at my lists and think, I read that THIS YEAR?! Because once you reach December, January and February don’t just seem like months ago, they seem like a lifetime ago. So it’s nice to reflect on all the lifetimes I’ve lived in the course of one year.

Wanna relive them with me?

Here are my favorites of 2022:

Books

  • The Night the Lights Went Out by Drew Magary
  • I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy
  • The Gift of Forgiveness by Katherine Schwarzenegger Pratt
  • Carrie Soto is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid
  • No Happy Endings by Nora McInerny
  • Beach Read by Emily Henry
  • Funny You Should Ask by Elissa Sussman
  • The Stranger in the Lifeboat by Mitch Albom
  • Get Your Life Back by John Eldredge
  • One Italian Summer by Rebecca Serle

Podcasts

  • Terrible, Thanks for Asking
  • Correct Opinions
  • Back to the Beach
  • Workin’ On it Podcast
  • Still Coloring
  • Circle Time
  • Brooke & Connor Make a Podcast
  • Minnie Questions
  • Podcast but Outside
  • Funny Cuz it’s True

Movies

  • Everything, Everywhere, All At Once
  • The Tender Bar
  • Father Stu
  • Thirteen Lives
  • Redeeming Love
  • West Side Story
  • Persuasion
  • The Alpinist
  • Where the Crawdads Sing
  • Elvis

TV Shows

  • Ghosts
  • The Bear
  • Abbott Elementary
  • Conversations with Friends
  • The Terminal List
  • The Time Traveler’s Wife
  • The Summer I Turned Pretty
  • House of the Dragon
  • The Man in High Castle
  • Wicked Tuna

Music

  • Sidelines by Wild Rivers
  • Circles by LEON
  • Good Person by Ingrid Andress
  • Midnights by Taylor Swift
  • Raised by Hailey Witters
  • Harry’s House by Harry Styles
  • Subject to Change by Kelsea Ballerini
  • the farewell debut album by Avenue Beat
  • Humble Quest by Maren Morris
  • Renee Rapp EP by Renee Rapp

Misc

JVN Conditioning Hair Mask: My hair went through a *journey* this year and it was a fight to find products that made it happy. This was one of those products! It is super conditioning, but doesn’t weigh my hair down. I use a dime size of it once a week and it leaves my hair feeling so refreshed and soft. (find it here)

GooGoo Clusters: During the holidays my sweet tooth likes to shoot for the stars. So I figured if you’re anything like me, you need to know about these. I tried one for the first time a couple years ago and then completely forgot about it. But then when we went to Nashville in the spring, I was reunited with this absolute magic. My favorite are the pecan ones. Do yourself a favor and go buy some, you deserve it. (find them here)

Best Advice I Got This Year (List-cember #2)

I remember a time in my life when I did not want to take advice.

I was young and sure I knew everything, and the term “advice” implied the opposite. So when I was offered up wise words, I remember politely nodding along, knowing I was going to do it my way no matter what.

These days, I CRAVE advice. I have binged my way through memoirs, self-help books, inspirational podcasts and the like, always looking for some advice that might make something a little bit easier, or change my perspective in a positive way.

I am fully aware now that I don’t know everything. Does this stop me from occasionally being stubborn and running in the wrong direction to prove a point? No. But do I bounce back faster now that I’ve realized how much help exists in the world that can encourage me to redirect and try again? Absolutely.

This year, I was blessed with a ton of good advice, and I felt like I learned a lot.

Here are some of my favorite tidbits:

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1) Live Wide

One night, while I was watching American Ninja Warrior, a contestant came on wearing a shirt that said these two words in big bold letters. It was the motto of his father, Gregory, who died of lung cancer in 2020. While going through treatment and fighting the disease, Gregory decided that since he couldn’t control how long his life was going to be, he wanted to live as wide a life as possible. This meant embracing everything you can do while you have the time. I like to imagine it as spreading your arms as wide as possible, like wings, and touching, seeing, and enjoying as much of the world, of your life, as you can.

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2) Keep a book in your purse

I loved this advice because I have often found myself sitting in waiting rooms or standing in a long line, or just with some extra time on my hands, not knowing what to do. The easy solution is always to pull out my phone and scroll through social media, but I have been actively trying not to use that as a crutch. And while carrying a physical book isn’t always an option for me, this advice reminded me that I can open the Kindle app on my phone and read rather than scroll.

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3) Don’t let someone else dictate your pace

This is actually advice I received a while ago, back when I was training to climb Mt. Whitney, but I brought it up in conversation recently, and the weight of it hit me all over again.  In 2014, while on a training hike, I was ahead of our group’s leader, Tom. He is a far more experienced hiker than me and I got self-conscious that I was moving too slow.

“You can go ahead of me,” I said, “I don’t want to hold you back.”

He shook his head.

“Don’t worry about me,” he said, “and don’t let someone else dictate your pace. You do what you need to do at your pace. Anyone who wants to go around you can and will, but the people who stay behind you might be content following your pace. They might even be inspired by it and try to better their own.”

This applies to hiking, of course, but I can relate it to many aspects of my life.

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4) If something is yours it will always be yours

I am a big spiraler. I can convince myself that a mistake I made 20 years ago changed the entire course of my life for the worse, even if that “mistake” is an awkward thing I said to someone I never spoke to again. I constantly wonder if I can be doing more, if I should be doing better, and what opportunities I am missing out on when I fall short, say “no”, or fail. But this advice gave me peace. It reminded me not to live in the “what if’s” of the past, but rather the “what if’s” of the future. We are always walking towards something, and if it is meant to be ours, it will be. We won’t miss it because we blinked or because we changed direction or made a mistake. What is meant to be ours, will always be ours, and everything we’re doing each day—every success, every failure, every try—is leading us right to it.

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5) Assume everyone likes you

I grappled with this one initially because it seemed like an easy way to get hurt, or to be naïve to the realities of a situation. But then I realized how often I walk into relationships and interactions assuming that I have to do SO MUCH in order to get the other person to like me. And I want everyone to like me. But when I’m constantly worried that I won’t be liked, I close myself off, and I think I miss out on a lot of meaningful conversations. If I walked into more days believing that I am likeable and that everyone could and should like me, then I might open myself up to more meaningful interactions. I know this doesn’t mean that everyone will like me, but it’s a better starting point than assuming NO ONE likes me, and it allows me to be myself without worrying (as much) that doing so will disappoint, put off, or annoy the other person.

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Did you get any good advice this year?

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Check out more List-cember posts here.

30 Things You Might Need When You Move into a New Place (List-Cember #1)

Hello and happy December!

Each year on my blog I like to dedicate all posts in December to lists, to celebrate what I call List-cember.

It’s a fun, easy way to recap the year and to share some things I’m hoping for in the new year.

As some of you may know, this past September I moved into a new apartment. The first time I’ve ever lived by myself. It was a big adjustment, but one that I think has served me very well.

One thing I learned pretty quickly was that all of the shopping is up to me and only me. I have to remember to buy everything. And I can’t even tell you how many times I opened a cabinet door to realize oh, I don’t have that yet.

Starting fresh in a new place requires you to truly, start fresh. My pantry was empty, my spice cabinet was empty, my refrigerator was empty. I had to start from ground zero.  Which was tough. But it was also kind of exciting to fill the cabinets with things that I want and need, and to see the apartment slowly transform into a place that is truly and uniquely mine.

Still, there were a lot of expensive trips to the grocery store. A lot of tedious purchases that allowed me to get to where I am now. So I thought I’d make a list of all the things I ran into needing in my first few months.

Maybe you’re in the middle of a move, or preparing for one. Maybe you just want advice on things to add to your cart while you’re at the grocery store. This list is not fancy, it is not the end all be all list, or the fancy lists you find at the front of cookbooks that recommend you keep a wheel of parmesan cheese in your refrigerator. These are simply the things I have collected in order to feel like I have a foundation.

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  1. Hand soap (for the kitchen and the bathroom)
  2. Dish soap
  3. Laundry soap
  4. A dish scrubber (be it a sponge, or the bristled kind with a rubber handle)
  5. A toilet scrubber and plunger (they sell them as a set now!)
  6. Clorox disinfecting wipes
  7. Trash bags
  8. A trash can—or maybe a couple (It is really something to sit down and eat amongst the chaos of your moving boxes, only to realize afterward that you have nowhere to put your trash)
  9. Batteries (a small pack of AA & AAA’s will come in handy when you are unpacking and putting stuff together)
  10. A broom and a dustpan
  11. A Brita (or whichever water filtering product you prefer if you don’t like/can’t drink the tap water)
  12. Toilet paper
  13. Paper towels (or dish towels)
  14. Garlic salt
  15. Table salt
  16. Black pepper
  17. The baking party pack (flour, sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, vanilla extract)
  18. The medicine party pack (Advil, Benadryl, Tums)
  19. Olive oil
  20. Butter
  21. Pasta
  22. Rice (I like the “boil in a bag” variety because it gives you individual servings that you can make in 10 minutes)
  23. Your condiment of choice (It is SO SAD to make chicken and have absolutely nothing to put on it. So, pick your poison to have on hand. I will always choose Chick-fil-a sauce.)
  24. Kroger Sweet Chili Sauce (this is a wild card pick. It doesn’t have to be Kroger and it’s not *essential* but one of my favorite go-to meals is a stir fry and this sauce HITS on a stir fry. I prefer it over soy sauce.)
  25. Frozen vegetables (grab a couple bags of broccoli, peas, etc. and you can heat them up with any dish)
  26. Chicken breasts (I like to grab a four pack and then individually bag the chicken breasts before putting them in the freezer, that way I can defrost them one at a time)
  27. Frozen burger patties (You can throw the patty into a sauté pan frozen and it cooks in less then 10 minutes. Makes for a super easy dinner in a pinch)
  28. Hamburger buns (These are also super easy to freeze. If I’m going to make a burger for dinner, I defrost one bun. Easy peasy.)
  29. A loaf of bread (Toast never lets you down. At any meal, snack, or time of day.)
  30. Honey/Jam/Peanut Butter (whatever you want on your toast)

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Like I said, these are the basics.

Maybe these are just *my* basics.

But hey, they work for me. And now, when I’m putting together a lazy meal, I have the things I need.

Have anything you would recommend for this list? Feel free to share!

Have any harsh opinions or judgement of my list? Feel free not to share!

If you are preparing for, in the middle of, or in the aftermath of a move, I wish you luck, organization, sanity, peace and a solid foundation. It will all come your way in time.

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If you want to read more list-cember posts, you can check them out here.

My Least Favorite Question

There is one question that haunts my dreams. One question that I have tried to master my entire life, but still find myself quaking in its presence. This question rattles me to my core, it can make me reconsider absolutely everything in my life, and can even make me want to stand up from a conversation and run all the way home.

This question is: What’s new?

Meant as a breezy conversation starter and a ticket to deeper connection, to me this question often feels more like a challenge. It asks, “what have you been doing with your time since I last saw you—I hope it’s impressive!”

I once had someone say, “So, what’s new? And DON’T say nothing.”

In one sense, I understand what they meant. If I say, “nothing”, or its neighbor, “not much, how about you?” the conversation takes on a staleness that is hard to break out of. It’s polite and awkward and feels more like playing a robotic game of catch rather than a leisurely round of catch up. I get that, and if I was the one starting the game of “what’s new”, a reply of “nothing” would discourage me too.

But then, this seemingly simple question also makes me feel very nervous. It asks too much of me without really asking anything at all. When asked, even by a close friend or family member I’ve known my whole life, I feel like I’m suddenly on stage in front of thousands of people, with a hot spotlight shining bright on my face. I feel like the question asks me to prove that I’m living a meaningful life, that I’m being productive, that I’m successful, that I am worth the time this person is spending with me.

What’s new?

The question bounces around in my brain, searching, begging my memory banks to pull something from the last few weeks or months—anything I can tell them that might make them say, “wow!” or “that’s exciting!”

I look for a story or a big life event or a punchline that can kick off the conversation and make them glad they decided to talk to me.

But most of the time, unless I have something specific at the ready, my honest answer will be “nothing.” Not because I have been standing stationary, eating nothing but beans since the last time I saw them—though this would probably make for an interesting story—but because I get so nervous that my answer will be unimpressive or boring, that I can’t think of a single thing.

The truth is, I usually have a lot to say. And I want to open up and share those things, but it just takes me a minute. My mind has to survey the situation, seeing if it feels safe enough for me to let the walls down and let you in on everything—to really tell you what’s new. But chances are, a lot of “what’s new” is completely internal. Maybe I’ve learned something about myself, or untied a knot that held me hostage for a long time. Maybe I did a workout the other day that gave me the slightest bit more confidence in my body, or just started working on a creative project that I’m really excited about. Maybe I’ve been harping on something I don’t know how to express yet, or I had a dream that has puzzled me since the morning I woke up with it fresh in my mind. Maybe I’ve just been going about my routine, content as ever, but am worried that is not exciting enough to tell you.

I have never been good at conversational shortcuts. People who can sit down and immediately tell you what’s on their mind have always amazed me. Because I need time. I need to take the long way. I need you to do the heavy lifting while my brain boots up and prepares all of the funny or inspiring moments I might have experienced since the last time I saw you. I want time to remember all of the interesting anecdotes I’ve recently learned from podcasts, articles, movies, tv shows and books. I want time to recall the questions I have for you, that will perhaps invite us into the deeper conversation we’re both hoping for.

I know I can’t stop people from asking “what’s new?” And honestly, I’m not trying to. I understand it’s purpose in the conversation universe, and I understand that much of my distaste for it stems from my own insecurities. At the end of the day, we all have a lot of “new” because we’ve all woken up each morning and experienced day after day, with countless thoughts, ideas, hopes, desires, heartbreaks, frustrations and delights. Sometimes it’s just hard to recall them in a few seconds, after a two-word question, when it feels like the fate of a conversation is in your hands.  You know?

So this week, as we walk into the holday season, maybe we all just give each other a little time. Ask the question but maybe follow it up with something more specific, like “what was the best part of your week?” or “have you read/watched/eaten anything good lately?” or “what’s something you’re excited about?” Something that might spark a memory in the other person rather than leave them floundering in their mind, wondering if they’re doing anything with their life.

Give conversations room to take the long way around. It’s not always easy, but it’s always worth it.

You Can

Is there a place you’ve always wanted to go to?

A thing you’ve always wanted to try?

A bucket list item that you always bring up excitedly, but then follow it up with a gloomy, wistful “someday”?

Is there something you keep adding to your want-to-do list?

An idea bouncing around in your head that you never say out loud to anyone else?

Is there something you keep wanting to do or try or see or say or explore or learn that you keep talking yourself out of, saying, “but I can’t”?

I just want to remind you that you can.

I know there are obstacles. Some small, some big.

I know your calendar is full and you don’t have time, and what about all of your responsibilities or what if you fail or what if you embarrass yourself or maybe it’s too far or too hard or something only other people get to do, or maybe it’s just too expensive or you don’t have anything to wear or it’s just a crazy idea or WHATEVER.

I know all the reasons why not. Maybe not for you, for your situation, for your life, right now, but I know what it’s like to want to do something and have your mind tell you every reason why you shouldn’t or can’t or should just put it aside for “someday.”

I’m just here to remind you that you can make someday sooner.

That you can shape it. That you can make it happen.

The world can throw a lot of curveballs at us, and we can get lost in the chaos of those curveballs. We can watch our lives fly by. We can pretend like the rest of the world is only for other people. We can convince ourselves that our plans have no place in the future—only in our dreams.

But while we’re here, while we’re living these lives that are ours and ours alone, why not try or see or explore the things that stir something up inside us? Why live in the mindset of “I can’t” when the very loud and obvious truth is you can?

You can take that trip—maybe not today, this moment, but you can start saving for it, start planning for it, and make it happen.

You can do that thing—take that class, try that new hobby, climb that mountain, write that book, pursue that dream.

Think about the times you’ve said to yourself, “I want to try that,” or, “I want to go there,” or, “I wonder what that’s like.”

And then give yourself permission to find out. To plan. To start saving money. To take the steps forward to do the thing.

There are always going to be reasons why you can’t. But it’s important to remember that you can.

Look for the Heart Shaped Pizzas

When I was in high school, I was part of my church youth group. On Wednesday nights, we would get together to worship, hear a sermon, and then hang out and talk. The boys liked to skateboard and play tag and do stunts that would make me say, “that doesn’t look safe.” And the girls would talk and shoot basketballs and try to figure out what in the world it meant to be a teenager.

I wouldn’t be unique in saying that, for me, being a teenager was hard. It was confusing and awkward and terrifying. Nothing felt normal or safe or easy. And on top of the things I was going through in my own body and mind, the world threw a few curveballs at me that really rattled my foundation.

Death, betrayal, and new levels of fear burst through the bubble I’d been living in, introducing me to dark parts of the world I wasn’t ready for. Every direction I turned had a new mountain to climb, or hole to dig out of, or an empty room to sit in that used to be full.

Each shot came at me and I took it, though I didn’t really absorb the pain, at least not in a way I was able to process. I was sad and angry and confused, but I was also 15 and 16 and 17, just trying to get that cute boy to notice me or to pass my Economics final. There were a lot of emotions competing for the surface, and the fun ones were more enticing.

One Wednesday, when I went to youth group, we met in the Fellowship Hall, which is like a banquet room. There were round tables set up and we were assigned seats. Heart shaped pizzas sat in the middle of each table. I sat down in my spot, nervous, but hungry, and listened for further instructions.

The theme of the night was love. It was sharing the hard parts of our lives so that we might be able to help one another work through, overcome, or at the very least talk about them. I peeled pepperoni off my slice of pizza and then took a big bite. A few people at my table shared before me. They talked about fighting parents, divorced parents, difficult relationships with siblings or friends. I chewed on my slice of pizza and then had another.

When it came to my turn, I took a deep breath and then started talking. I assumed it would be like giving an oral report—simply stating the facts. But once I started, I realized how heavy it had all been to hold.

“It’s just been really hard,” I said. And then I burst into tears.

This shocked everyone at my table, as no one before me had cried, or even welled up. No one at any of the surrounding tables was emotional either. But I was suddenly sobbing. My youth group leader walked over and scooped me into a hug. She rubbed my back and I cried in shuddering breaths and sniffles. I kept trying to stop, embarrassed at the scene I was making, but it just kept coming.

As I leaned into her chest, the boy beside me was asked to share. To continue the process so people would stop staring at me. I listened as he shared a story of an abusive stepparent and then I instantly stopped crying. The grief that had literally spilled out of me was instantly swallowed by shame.

I felt guilty for being so overwhelmed by what I was going through, because clearly it wasn’t as hard as what he was going through. I was embarrassed for crying. I went home exhausted.

For years afterward, I didn’t cry in front of people. I’m still not good at it. There is still a shame buried deep inside me, something that tells me that if I breakdown I will look stupid, ignorant of the realer, harder problems happening around me. It takes me right back to that moment in the Fellowship Hall, feeling like maybe I was just weak.

I say this now, with dots connected, though it took me a long time to figure it out. To pinpoint the when and the why. I used to say, with a sense of pride, “I just don’t really cry.” I used to brag that sad movies never got me. I felt tough, cool, unique. Kim doesn’t cry. She’s so strong.

But I wasn’t.

I was just burying it all. The same way I’d done in high school. And even though it’s what I wanted LEAST, I was walking around with all of that weight, all of that pain, looking for another table with a heart shaped pizza to lay it all down on.

I think for a long time I resented that day. Absolutely HATED that I cried and that I got embarrassed. I fizzled out on youth group after that, just slowly stopped going. Not only because of that night, but I think part of me was terrified it might happen again.

I spent the next decade of my life scared to cry. Scared to be vulnerable. Scared to be weak.

But more and more over the last few years I’ve realized how valid it all was. How justified. How okay. That night I needed to let it go. To let it out. To admit that what I was carrying was heavy.

And no matter what is going on in the lives around me, when something feels heavy to me, it’s heavy.

When something feels heavy to you, it’s heavy.

Being a teenager isn’t easy, but neither is being an adult. Let’s face it, as time goes on, life gets harder and things tend to just get heavier. But I’m learning now that I don’t have to run from the heart shaped pizzas asking me to sit down and lighten my load. I don’t have to pretend to be strong. Sometimes you just have to peel off a pepperoni, take a deep breath, and let it go.

It doesn’t make you weak, it just makes you honest. And when you’re honest, when you’re vulnerable, when you’re brave enough to let it go, you find strength, you find peace, and then you can grab another slice.

September & October Favorites

Happy Halloween, y’all!

Fun (and at times controversial) fact: Halloween is not my favorite.

I’ve never been very into costumes, I absolutely hate being scared, and one year in middle school I got my braces tightened on Halloween morning and I couldn’t eat any candy. #trauma.

But while “spooky season” might not be for me, I have bunch of new favorites that might be for you!

Let’s dive in.

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Podcasts

Kelsey Kreppel is a Youtuber and former preschool teacher. During the pandemic, she discussed having daily “circle time” with her class on Zoom to keep them engaged and give them some structure. Now, her podcast Circle Time is like a weekly check-in for adults that is cozy, fun and nostalgic. The episodes are broken down into familiar sections: journal time, story time, show and tell, etc., and it feels like a conversation with a friend.

Speaking of friends, Elyse Meyers is someone who I immediately loved once I found her on Tik Tok. She is funny and sweet and undeniably herself. Her videos and stories are so funny and genuine, so I was thrilled to hear she was starting a podcast. Each episode of Funny Cuz it’s True starts with one of her trademark, fast paced stories, and then is followed up with an interview of a famous personality. Throughout the interview she pauses the segment and comes in with commentary, giving insight into what she was thinking, or how a particular piece of advice stood out to her. I love hearing her learn and grow in real time and I feel like I do the same.

And finally, The Best Advice Show. If you’re looking for something short (like less than 10 minutes) and sweet. This is the perfect show to boost you. Each week, two short episodes are released that detail pieces of advice people want to share. I am always up for some inspirational words, and love hearing them in the context that they were learned.

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Books

Over the past couple months, I’ve done a few different Bible studies that I have loved.

Fighting Words is a 100-day daily devotional that encourages you to memorize Bible verses in order to be better equipped to tackle the harder parts of life. Get Your Life Back discusses the chaos of our daily lives and offers simply practices to regain control—or rather relinquish that control and regain peace. My favorite practice so far is the “one minute pause.” I do it every morning when I get in my car. It settles me into the day rather than encouraging hurry from the start. I just sit quietly for an entire minute and center myself and my faith into the beginning of the day. If you are looking for a faith based book, I would recommend both of these.

Next, I loved My Oxford Year. I don’t know what it says about how often I listen to audiobooks that I have an absolute favorite audiobook narrator, but Julia Whelan is and forever will be my queen. So when my sister told me that Julia wrote a book AND narrates a new book, I was immediately IN. Bonus: I loved the book! It follows Ella from Ohio as she spends a year studying literature at Oxford University in England. It’s a fun—and unexpectedly stressful at times—read and it was an easy listen. (Thanks, Julia.)

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Movies

If you are a Pride and Prejudice or Emma fan, Persuasion is for you. It has been my go-to comfort movie. My favorite thing to wind down to at the end of a long day. It’s based off of Jane Austen’s book of the same name, and it is just as cozy as any other movie in this genre. Dakota Johnson is charming and funny and the story is unique and easy to follow. When I texted my sister about it, I described the movie as “glorious” and her response after watching it was, “truly, truly, glorious.” So, do with that what you will. (find it on Netflix)

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TV Shows

I have been in a little bit of a show rut lately, not knowing what I want to watch or where to start.

So if you have any show recommendations please let me know!

But there have been two that I have been loving.

Abbott Elementary is so fun and hilarious. It follows the teachers and students at an elementary school in Philadelphia, focusing mainly on second grade teacher Jeanine, who is upbeat and dedicated to her job—at times to a fault. It is clever and sweet, and has made me laugh out loud often. (find it on Hulu)

House of the Dragon is a prequel to Game of Thrones, set hundreds of years prior to the world we know so well. Regardless of your opinion on how Game of Thrones ended, this show is worth the watch. It has been so excited to fall back into that universe and see how the story unfolds. I never, repeat NEVER anticipate what is going to happen and gasp almost every episode. Not to mention, the theme song still pumps me UP and makes me feel nostalgic for the Game of Thrones watching days. (find it on HBO Max)

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Music

Subject to Change by Kelsea Ballerini

Good Person by Ingrid Andress

Midnights by Taylor Swift

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Misc

And finally, the 40oz Stanley Tumbler. When I tell you that this water bottle has taken my family by storm, I am not exaggerating in the SLIGHTEST. My sister ordered the highly sought after, often sold out tumbler, and after she got it we were all promptly raging with jealousy. When she got an email that they were restocked she ordered five more so we could join the Stanley party. It is a great size, it keeps water VERY cold, and the handle makes it easy to carry. Now we all have one and refer to our water bottles by the name “Stanley” and it turns quite a few heads.

“Have you seen Stanley?”

“Omg I left Stanley at home.”

“Yeah, the other day I was holding Stanley and then I dropped him.”

“Poor guy.”

(find it here)


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

See my previous favorites post here.

A Golden Gate Birthday (Part 2)

Saturday October 1, 2022

On Saturday we woke up with a renewed determination to see the bridge.

We’d been given advice: 11:00am – 2:00pm.

That was the window. The no Karl window.

So we took our time getting ready, popped into a café for a quick coffee and a pastry, then walked with new resolve through our already familiar neighborhood to the water.

I took this picture at 10:56 a.m.

It wasn’t the whole bridge. It wasn’t the bridge from the travel photo with the perfect lighting and a sky that had never even HEARD of Karl. But it was, like, 80% of the bridge. The most I’d ever seen.

I thought of eigth grade me. Her eyes squinting in the overcast lighting, her hair gelled back in a ponytail, her shoelaces tied too tight. Here we were again, 18 years later.

From the bridge, we walked back by the Palace of Fine Arts—because why wouldn’t you?—en route to the Lyon Street Steps.

Lyon Street on its own is a bit of a hill. It’s gradual but constant. So when the stairs came into view and my friends glanced at me as if to say, “is THAT where we’re going?” and I smiled my best smile as if to say, “SORRY BUT YES,” I felt that small fear of did I plan the worst trip ever shiver through my spine.

But it wasn’t as strong as before.

I was having the best time, and I was surrounded by my best friends. There was an ease that had overtaken the fear. I still wanted everyone to have a good time, but I felt less afraid that they weren’t. It was a good day, and even stairs couldn’t ruin it.

We walked up the first flight, and were already excited at the view to come. We played “The Distance” by CAKE on one of our phones to motivate us to keep going. A few people jogged right by us, and a woman walked up and down the stairs in metallic leggings, managing to talk on the phone while climbing. We remained unperturbed. Once we reached the top, we high fived, took a few photos and then went on our way.

“This way,” I said, pointing to an open gate in between two cement pillars, one of which had a plaque with The Presidio printed on it.

This is where extensive (obsessive?) online research can come in handy before a trip.

While looking up things to do in San Francisco, one fun and unique attraction that came up was Andy Goldsworthy’s Wood Line. It’s found inside the Presidio (which is basically a gigantic park full of all kinds of fun things), and is VERY close to the top of the Lyon Street Steps.

0.1 miles to be exact.

We walked in the gate, and then descended into the park. Within a few minutes (or, if you’re interested, just to the left of where Pacific Ave and Presidio Blvd meet) we found the Wood Line.

It was the perfect deep breath after all the stairs. Plus, it was nice and cool inside the canopy of the trees. We walked until the path met back up with the main road, then followed the road through the park.

While walking, I said, “hey, I heard there’s a Yoda statue in this park,” which everyone agreed to go see. We took pictures and then I pointed at a nearby building.

“There’s an R2-D2 in there!” I exclaimed.

We tried to get in but were surprised to find the door was locked. Upon further investigation, we found out this was Lucasfilm a.k.a. the studio that MAKES the Star Wars movies. So not only was the Yoda statue not as strange as we thought, but we had also tried to wander into a major movie studio, and then peered through their windows for a while.

Afterward, we had lunch at Sessions at the Presidio. If you ever go, order the beignets.

From lunch, we got on the bus and headed downtown to visit City Lights Booksellers & Publishers. It is a cool bookshop with multiple levels. All of us being book nerds, we spent a good chunk of time looking around before we each made a purchase and went on our merry way.

Once we got back to our hotel, we just *sat.*

Downtime is an underrated part of travelling. Especially when you are travelling with friends you love dearly, whom you can talk to about anything. We sat in chairs and on beds and talked for a few hours, recovering from the literal miles we had walked over the last two days. It felt like having my friends over for dinner or gossiping in a dorm room. I sat there wondering how I’d gotten so lucky to have these people as my people. To know that I could tell them anything and that they would be there for me. To know that I could text them out of the blue and ask them to go to San Francisco with me for my birthday. and they would all show up to make me feel loved and celebrated. I thought about saying something, but then I worried I might cry.

For dinner, we went to Ace Wasabi Rock-N-Roll Sushi, where we drank Sapporo, repeatedly said, “oh my gosh you have to try this” and then eventually said “I think I need to unzip my pants” before walking back to our hotel and knocking out.

Sunday October 2, 2022

On our last day in San Francisco, we went to breakfast at Home Plate, which again was just a short walk from our hotel. It was our last meal together, the big brunch to end the trip.  We had all booked early afternoon flights, both because they were cheap, and because it gave us the last half of our Sunday at home before we headed back to work.

To me, sitting at breakfast immediately felt like one of those “remember when” moments. The whole trip did, really. Though I’d given my friends a few months notice, it had still felt like a relatively spontaneous vacation. It seemed crazy that we were all able to squeeze in a weekend like this amongst our crazy schedules, and it seemed unlikely that we’d be able to do it again any time soon. So while I tried to be present, the whole trip took on a nostalgic feeling for me right from the beginning.

The next time we take a trip like this, our lives might look very different. And while a part of that is scary—because things are always changing and change is hard and chaotic and a lot to keep up with—it is also exciting. I’m excited to see where we go and how we grow. I’m excited for the future because I know I have a lot of good people in it, and I’m thankful for this trip because it reminded me of that.

Plus, like any good trip, this one was filled with its own one liners. Moments that made us laugh, that don’t make a lot of sense out of context, and that might lose meaning in the years to come. But in the Notes app on my phone, I jotted down a few.

“What is it with the eggs in this city?”

“She rose from the ashes of Georgie.”

“I will never get over seeing ravioli at a liquor store.”

“This is the picture of the century.”

These are their own kind of picture, their own kind of memory. I can still hear and feel the moment they existed in. They will always bring me back here, to San Francisco, where Karl reigned supreme, but we had fun anyway.

A Golden Gate Birthday (Part 1)

When I was in 8th grade, I went on a class trip to San Francisco.

I remember eating Ghirardelli chocolate, I remember getting a migraine on the bus, I remember listening to Hoobastank in the hotel room that I shared with four other girls, and I remember the fog.

En route to Seattle a few years later, my family stopped in San Francisco. I remember walking around Fisherman’s Wharf, I remember it raining, and I remember the fog.

This past spring, on a slow day at work, I was scrolling through a travel article that counted down beautiful places to visit, and San Francisco was on the list. I stared at a picture of the Golden Gate bridge, in perfect focus, enveloped in golden light.

On both visits to San Francisco, I hadn’t seen the bridge like this. I’d seen its feet, hints of the deep red color, and glimpses of the swooping curves. On one day of my class trip, we’d even walked across the bridge, making it visible close up. But for the most part the fog sat right on top, hiding it, keeping its full glory a secret.

As I sat in my desk chair, staring at that perfect picture of the bridge, reading through the gushing comments from people who loved the city, or who dreamed of it but lived too far to visit, I decided I needed to go back.

When is the best time to visit San Francisco? I Googled.

September to November, it answered.

I bookmarked the page.

In light of my 32nd birthday at the beginning of September, I decided to make the trip a birthday celebration. I invited my three closest friends, and I planned the whole thing.

The day before we left, I completely panicked, wondering if everything I planned—everything I knew I would love—was a terrible idea. Maybe my ideal trip was only ideal for me. Maybe everyone would have an awful time and wish they never came and wonder why we were even friends.

You know, just a cute, fun anxiety spiral that concluded this was the trip I lose all my friends. Thanks, brain!

Nevertheless, I boarded the plane with my sister on Friday morning, happy to be playing hooky from work, and texted Allison and Nicole, who were flying out separately, that we’d see them in the city.

Friday September 30th, 2022

“Where are we headed?” our Lyft driver asked as we got in the car.

Marina Motel,” I answered.

“Oooh!” he said as he zoomed in on his map. “That’s a cool area.”

The smallest weight fell off my shoulders.

My first fear: did I book us two nights at a murder hotel? had immediately been quashed.

After he dropped us off, we left our bags at the hotel and then headed out for lunch.

The hotel concierge told us: “right, right” as our directions to find everything we might need.

And she was right.

We walked down Chestnut St. and found tons of bars, restaurants and cafes. As we narrowed down what sounded good for lunch, we also pointed out possible spots for dinner, and for breakfast the next morning.

It was 70 degrees. A perfect, sunny day. The slightest breeze made us shiver, but it made the sun feel all the more welcoming.

We settled on Bonita Taqueria Rotisse, and I ordered a quesadilla that was almost the size of my forearm. We talked, settling into the weekend. My toes wiggled in my shoes, nervous and excited.

“Which way to the bridge?” Nicole asked.

I held up a pointed finger as I looked down at the map on my phone.

“That way.”

The homes in the Marina District are gorgeous. Big and colorful, they look nothing like the buildings we are acquainted with in Southern California. There are no backyards, the small garages act as the bottom floors of the building, and cars are required to drive over the sidewalk to get inside. We pulled up Zillow, curious and nosey, and we all gasped. Then we pointed, picking which houses we liked most, all while trying to pretend we lived there when another pedestrian walked by.

“Hello!” we would say with our best neighborly wave. “Just out for our daily walk.”

En route to the bridge, we walked by and through the Palace of Fine Arts.

It is so grand and unexpected. The kind of building you don’t expect to see in an American city. The kind that makes you stand underneath it and just look UP. Everyone walked by with a camera, taking in the architecture and showcasing its grandiosity in comparison to the average human.

A girl took pictures in her quinceañera dress, a family smiled for a potential Christmas card, a bride and groom took pictures with a small bridal party which included a cat in a tuxedo. 

We kept walking, closing in on the water up ahead. As we walked, we pulled our sleeves up and fanned our faces. I bounced in excitement, thinking I’d outsmarted the fog—which is known in the city as “Karl”—elated to have arrived on such a sunny, hot day. But when we came around the corner and crooned our heads to find the bridge, Karl laughed in our face.

Not an INCH of the bridge was visible. We squinted our eyes at an island in the distance, assuming it might be Alcatraz but unable to tell for sure from the faint, blurry blob we could see.

We laughed, because it was the only thing we could do, and then we started walking again.

We went east, towards the Fisherman’s Wharf, with no real destination in mind. We blended into the pack of runners, bikers, and skateboarders that cruised down Marina Boulevard with their own plans. I began to relax, knowing this is exactly what I wanted to do. I just wanted to walk. To be a part of the city, allowing myself to fantasize that I lived there, the same way I had when I was in eighth grade.

It’s my favorite way to see a city. Slow and deliberate.

We ended up at Great Meadow Park at Fort Mason, and stopped at the top of the hill to take a few pictures.

An older man whizzed by us on an electric scooter, singing the Speed Racer theme song to himself and we all giggled. We sat down on a half wall, looking at the people picnicking, reading and sleeping on the grass. San Francisco seemed to know how to relax on a Friday afternoon.

With a quick stop for coffee, we walked back to the Palace of Fine Arts to watch the sunset. Clouds began to roll in, making it a lot colder. We shivered and ate Madeline cookies. We pleaded with the sun, begging for it to slice through, to give us that multicolor sunset behind the Palace, but it never did. We stayed for as long as our light jackets could stand it, and then we headed back to the hotel.

For dinner, we went to Na’Pizza, which not only had heat lamps, but BLANKETS on every chair.

You do not know cozy until you know a dinner blanket.

We ordered the Gnocchi alla Sorrentina, the arugula salad and the Margherita pizza to split between the four of us, along with a bottle of wine.

“Thank you for coming,” I said to the table of ladies, raising my wine glass. “You guys are my best.”

The phrase felt the slightest bit unnatural on my tongue. I’d only just heard it used a day or two before. But I liked the way it left the compliment open. Because they weren’t just my best friends, they were the best of many things I’d found so far in this life. The best listeners, the best advice givers, the best people to talk to on the phone, or to eat takeout with on the couch, or to ask for help when you’re falling into a thought spiral. They had each gone beyond the bounds of friendship for me, and were more than I could explain. They were just the best, and I was glad I had them with me.