I think it’s natural to do a lot of reflecting on your younger self. To try and connect to the person you were as a kid, as an adolescent, as a young adult, etc. It’s always interesting to recall the things you hoped for and dreamed about, and to notice the differences in what you expected to happen in your life and what did happen.
I think about my younger self all the time. I think about that high school girl, assuming she had it all figured out, convinced she knew the exact timeline of her life to come. Little did she know, things would go differently than she planned. Much differently.
The funny thing is, if she somehow contacted me now to ask questions about our future, I wouldn’t tell her that it’s bad. I wouldn’t tell her to be devastated for the way things have gone. I wouldn’t tell her that every hard thing we’ve walked through, everything that didn’t go our way, everything that we’d dreamed up that didn’t come true (either yet or at all), doesn’t make this future unsatisfying. It just makes it different.
Still, on my bad days I think about the things that didn’t (or haven’t) happened. I think about the ways my younger self might be bummed. And I think about the things that make me bummed. This future, while hopeful and wonderful in its own way, is different than what I imagined. And sometimes I like to harp on the things that could have gone differently, and on the things that might exist (or still exist) if they had.
But the truth of the matter is, they didn’t.
Things did not go the way I planned.
But things happened. So many things. Good and bad. And I became a better, stronger, more vibrant, confident and understanding person. If I’m being honest with myself, had I gotten what I wanted, when I wanted, I probably would have been lost along the way. And THAT (unlike some of my dreams that can still come true) might have been something I lost forever.
SO, I’m hosting a funeral. And it’s open.
You might have heard of an “open house” before, but this is an “open funeral.”
And by that I mean, anyone is welcome to join—to cohost their own.
Do you have any old daydreams that your mind likes to bring up whenever you’re feeling low?
Do you have any old pictures of your life that like to stand in front of your line of sight, tainting everything you have and making you focus only on what you don’t?
Are you ready to let go of your past expectations and embrace your current reality?
Quite frankly, I’m tired of my mind telling me that because x, y and z didn’t go as I planned: I’m not happy. Or that I’m a failure. Or that I’ve missed the window to find all the good things.
I’m tired of living in the imagined life I could have had, and I’m ready to live the life I’m in.
I’m ready to let that old daydream go. It was a good guess, a beautiful idea, but it’s not what happened. And the sooner I embrace that, the sooner I can find the beautiful here where I truly am.
Do you have any daydreams you’re ready to lay to rest? Do you have any old blueprints for your life that you’re ready to pull off the wall?
Let them go.
They’re not doing you any favors.
Who you are and where you are might not be what you expected, but then, life might have thrown you curveballs you never could have predicted.
Lay the old plans to rest, throw them six feet down. Say a few words and then let them go.
Don’t be afraid to be happy in this new reality, and don’t be afraid to guess again—to daydream againand again.
I don’t have a new post for this week. But I have recently been reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, and so this post from a few years back has been on my mind.
Re-reading it was a good reminder that being an introvert does not mean you are an incomplete extrovert. It doesn’t mean that you are less interesting or less important of a person. The world is made of both introverts and extroverts, so it is not our job to try and become something we’re not. It’s our goal to become and to appreciate exactly who we are.
Some of us are tough eggs. And that’s okay.
The world needs tough eggs.
Often when I meet someone new, or when I see someone for the first time in a long time, or sometimes for no reason at all, I feel very shy and quiet and unable to start, continue, or enjoy a conversation.
I put a lot of pressure on myself, demanding, THIS IS ON YOU, and make myself believe that whenever aconversation goes stale, or when someone opts to sit or stand with someone else, or when the stranger I meet at the supermarket doesn’t immediately fall in love with me like the movies told me they would, it’s because I’m boring or unlikeable or pathetic—or a healthy combination of all three.
Anyone else with me on this?
Anyone else wish they had that magic they see in other people? That ability to talk about anything and everything to anyone and everyone. That something that draws people to them without even meaning to. That ease.
And while I think it’s something I’ll always strive for, and as much as I believe that you can challenge yourself and grow and acclimate and learn, there comes a point when we have to realize that we are not required to be that kind of person.
We don’t have to be the person that knows exactly what to say all the time. We don’t have to talk to anyone and everyone about anything and everything. Some of us are simply tougher eggs to crack and you just have to give us a little more time.
So, to my fellow tough eggs, let me just say that I am with you. You are not alone in feeling like you should do more, be more. You are not the only one sitting there internally screaming, “SAY SOMETHING.” You are not boring or uninteresting or pathetic. You just need time. And anyone worth having in your life will give you that time. So be patient with yourself.
And take these quotes from Quiet into consideration:
“Don’t think of introversion as something that needs to be cured.”
“There’s zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.”
“The secret to life is to put yourself in the right lighting. For some, it’s a Broadway spotlight; for others, a lamplit desk. Use your natural powers — of persistence, concentration, and insight — to do work you love and work that matters. Solve problems. make art, think deeply.”
On Monday, the birthday-day!, our first stop was the Country Music Hall of Fame. We walked up and down aisles of country music history, recognizing some faces, and learning about others. My mom has always been a fan of country music, so it was fun to hear songs that she’d played for me throughout my childhood, and to see her face light up in recognition of those that reminded her of hers.
Music history is special. It weaves its way into all of our lives, defining moments we will remember forever. As we walked among the crowds, I liked to imagine all of the shoulders being tapped, and hushed stories being shared, saying things like, “this reminds me of ____” or “I first heard this when ___.”
Even though we might not notice, we all have soundtracks that define our lives and unlock memories that we might not even remember we still have. I know for me (in the country music world at least) I have fond memories of Shania Twain, Tim McGraw, Amy Grant, and Crystal Bernard, and hearing them helps me connect with that little girl that heard them for the first time—be it in my mom’s car on the way to school or on the cd player in the living room—twenty years ago.
On our way out, my mom and I designed this country music *star*, designing her persona from her shoes to her hair. Personally, I think she looks like the love child of Dolly Parton and Taylor Swift, which sounds like an absolute dream of an artist.
From the Country Music Hall of Fame, we made our way to Yee Haw Brewing Co. for a drink and some lunch. I ordered a watermelon margarita and some tacos, and while I remember them being good, they were supremely overshadowed by the pretzel that we ordered. It was gigantic, it was delicious, and I will probably think about it for the rest of my life. That being said, it was so good that it was about 75% gone before I even considered taking a picture. So you will just have to go to Nashville to try one for yourself.
In the same building as Yee Haw Brewing is Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine, so after lunch a big group walked over to do a moonshine tasting. I sat it out, but happily leaned on the bar to watch everyone’s mouths pucker and eyes water—especially after tasting the 128 proof moonshine known as Blue Flame. Among the other offerings—some of which we brought home with us—were moonshine pickles, moonshine cherries, and Mountain Java moonshine, which I heard tastes a *little* like chocolate milk, and makes an excellent addition to your morning coffee if you need an extra strong start to your day.
Around 6:00p.m that evening, we walked from our building to Bakersfield, a Mexican restaurant hosting Tanner’s birthday dinner. I should also note that earlier in the day, we were all given matching hats that said “TS 3/21”. The TS being Tanner’s initials and the date obviously being his birthday. With our group, that was essentially the size of a baseball team, we turned quite a few heads in our matching gear. The red, white and blue coloring of the hats made us look like we might be campaigning for an upcoming election, though I think a few people looked at us fearfully as if we might be recruiting for a cult. Either way, we loved them, and we rocked them for the remainder of the night.
After dinner, we headed to Luke Bryan’s bar (Luke Bryan’s 32 Bridge), which had a very mellow vibe. A pair of gentlemen stood on stage singing classic country songs we all knew, and we happily sang along, occasionally dancing, and constantly pointing at Tanner in the hope that they might sing happy birthday.
We then walked over to Kid Rock’s bar (Kid Rock’s Big Honky Tonk and Steakhouse). It was nice out, so we headed up to the rooftop and sat, sipping on our drinks, taking the occasional shot, and singing along to the band playing 80’s music.
After a little while, we decided it was time to move on, but then they played “Time of My Life”from Dirty Dancing, and so we all took off towards the stage and danced our Patrick Swayze hearts out. I then realized that—because I am the mom of the friend group—I’d packed snacks in my purse earlier in the day. So I pulled out a pack of fruit snacks which, at 11:00pm, with alcohol sponsored energy, felt like the greatest thing to ever happen. There is a video from that night of me dancing with my hands over my head. One fist is tightly closed because I am keeping my remaining fruit snacks intact for continued snacking. #snackdedication
When we finally did walk downstairs, we only got as far as the second floor (there are five total). Because on the second floor, you can look out over the first floor, which had people dancing on top of the bar, a live band singing while a bartender poured a beer on someone, and people cheering, singing and raising their glasses all over the room.
At first, I think we all stopped just to watch. They were playing good music, but it was also perhaps some of the best people watching around. But then, the music got us. We started dancing and then we kept dancing. The bar started to empty and we just kept on dancing. We jumped and we sang and we tipped our Tanner themed hats. We put our arms around each other and belted out notes into our empty cups. We stomped our boots and clapped our hands. It felt like a celebration for Tanner and a celebration of music. We twirled and laughed and took pictures that would forever bring us back to those moments. The world felt normal—or at least this new kind of normal. I felt appreciative of this night, as I knew how far we’d come to be able to have it.
We walked home, talking a mile a minute, already reminiscing about this night, about the night before, and everything in between. My FitBit buzzed, letting me know I hit 10,000 steps—two hours into the day—and my feet—this time in tennis shoes—kept dancing while I brushed my teeth, not stopping until I again collapsed into bed.
Tuesday March 22nd, 2022
Tuesday morning was a bit of an earlier wake up call. Especially when you consider that we’d been out dancing only a matter of hours beforehand. Our group walked over to meet everyone at their AirBnb just up the street, as a bus was picking us up to drive us to Lynchburg.
If you are a country music fan, the town of Lynchburg might sound familiar, even if you’ve never been to Tennessee. This is because it is the home (the one and ONLY home) to Jack Daniels whiskey.
Being a loyal Jameson family (sorry) and having toured the Jameson distillery in Ireland, we were curious to learn about this American whiskey that, while not our number one, is still a staple in our houses—especially the Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey.
In the end, we learned a lot about the making of whiskey, a lot about the man himself, Jack Daniels—who casually started working in a distillery at the age of eight—and a lot about the variety of whiskeys the distillery makes. I bought a Tennessee Honey baseball hat to support our trusted pal, but left with my loyalty to Jameson unshaken. (Sorry, again.)
By the time we got home that evening, our group was entirely too exhausted to even consider going out again. We’d been running on an average of 4-5 hours of sleep, and were set to fly home the next day. So, we robed up—embracing our last night as *penthouse people*—and ordered in some pizza. A rainstorm blew in and drenched the city, sending many people on the streets below running for cover. Wind whistled through the buildings and cars moved slow. We all went to bed early that night, and our bodies thanked us for it.
Wednesday March 23rd, 2022
On our last morning in Nashville, we ate a marvelous carb loaded breakfast at Another Broken EggCafé. I ordered the Bourbon Street Pancakes, which I felt was a good send off—not to mention delicious.
By 12:30pm we were out of our suite and in an Uber on the way to the airport, sad the trip was over, and even sadder that we had to go to work the next morning.
After the plane took off, I sat, looking out the window, hoping that the trip had been all that Tanner hoped it would be. For me, it was even more. The weeks prior to leaving had been chaotic and I was a little nervous I wouldn’t be able to unwind enough to truly enjoy the trip. But I’d had so much fun dancing and singing and jumping around like I didn’t have a care in the world. I’d loved wearing my hat (emblazoned with Tanner’s initials) backwards in a honky tonk, like a fraternity brother on spring break. I’d loved the city of Nashville and its quirky architecture and lively energy. I’d loved this break from reality, from everything that had been weighing me down at home.
Even though I was exhausted, and so excited to be reunited with my pillow—and my normal bedtime—I was going to miss this trip, and the people I took it with.
I was already dreaming up our next one, excited that someday, that dream would be a reality.
About three years ago my cousin Tanner told me and my family that he wanted to celebrate his twenty first birthday in Nashville, Tennessee.
Funnily enough, we were in Paris at the time, waiting for the clock to strike ten so that the Eiffel Tower—which we took to calling “Eif”—would light up. Our group of nine cheers-ed to the idea, both wishing it was closer, and praying that the trip we were already on would find a way to last a little longer.
Like everyone else, we didn’t know what was to come. And we had no idea that we’d spend much of the “countdown to Nashville” locked inside. But, when things started opening back up, and flights to Nashville went on sale, we booked, we prayed and then we waited.
On Saturday, March 19th, that waiting ended.
Saturday March 19th, 2022
As we made our way down 2nd Avenue, sitting in bumper to bumper Saturday night traffic in downtown Nashville, music played from seemingly every direction. A tractor drove by towing a trailer full of people dancing and drinking, pedestrians walked down the street in dresses, boots and cow print pants. Meanwhile, our Uber driver yelled, “I DON’T SEE MY DESTINATION!” at his navigation system, so we politely asked to get out, suggesting that we were close enough and could walk the rest of the way.
“This is us,” my dad said, pointing to a building.
As far as lodging went, I had no real expectations going in. I’m a bargain hunter by trade, and had done my part by finding us a great deal on flights, so I assumed my dad had found a hotel that he simply liked the look of. But when the doors opened to the fourth (and top) floor of our building, and a key code let us into the Penthouse apartment that my dad had found a good deal on, we all walked in, absolutely speechless.
It was a fun space, with both eclectic and nostalgic design schemes. There was a piano, a pool table, an arcade machine, a lava lamp, coasters that looked both like floppy discs and records, a picture of a young Queen Elizabeth edited to give her piercings and neck tattoos, and lots of books ranging from Nashville themed cookbooks to Marvel based dictionaries.
There were 4 bedrooms (each of which had at least one cloth robe emblazoned with the building’s name hanging in the closet), four bathrooms, a living room with a couch and four comfortable chairs, a kitchen, and a wet bar. And did I mention we were only a block from Broadway Street?
My family has never been wealthy, or flashy, or really ever been one that regularly “splurges”, but like most people (perhaps more than some and less than others) we had been put through the ringer in the last two years, and so walking up and down the length of the suite, marveling that it was “all for us!!”, felt like a true testament to all that we’d made it though, and all that we’d come to celebrate.
After we unpacked, we walked over to Gray & Dudley, as we wanted to eat, drink, and meet up with the guest of honor. Tanner was turning 21 on the 21st of March, making it his golden birthday, and it almost felt surreal to actually be in Nashville, primed to celebrate it. Our trip to Europe felt like 10 years ago, but now that we were here, in Nashville, taking this trip that had once only been an idea, made it feel like just yesterday we were sitting in that Parisian café, dreaming it up.
With our group of seven, we made the group total 17. Tanner’s family, friends and cousins had also made the trip, and we all gathered around a corner of the bar, hugging, smiling and chatting.
Even though most of us knew each other already, it still felt like a bit of an ice breaker. We were all still in our plane attire, with our eyes a little heavy from the 5ish hours of travel and the anticipation of the trip to come. We would be each other’s community for the trip. The people you would look for if you got separated in a bar or a restaurant, the faces and voices you would recognize up ahead on the street or coming around the corner behind you. Tanner had brought us all together and now we’d all be a part of each other’s memories, writing stories on this weekend of our shared histories, and taking pictures that would eventually make us say, “remember when?”
We’d made it to Nashville and now it was time to enjoy it.
SundayMarch 20th, 2022
At about 12:00pm on Sunday, we all made our way over to Centennial Park to see the Parthenon, which is a 90-year-old replica of the Greek structure originally built in 447 BC. (That’s 2500 years ago, y’all)
It is an imposing, beautiful structure that I can hardly believe just exists in the middle Nashville, Tennessee.
Immediately upon getting out of the car, I was taking pictures from every angle, knowing that none of them would ever really do it justice. It’s the kind of structure that makes you feel small, and when I asked my sister (who graciously obliged) to take off running down one of the cement pathways, I was reminded just how small we are.
Cute, but small.
From there, we made our way to the Belmont Mansion.
Located on the Belmont University campus, the Belmont Mansion is listed as the largest house built in Tennessee prior to the Civil War. Moving from room to room (and trying desperately to abide by the “no touching” rules) we learned about Adelicia Acklen and her crazy life, which included three husbands, ten children (six of which died young), and of course, this expansive property which, at the time of completion, included lavish gardens, and a zoo.
Next, we headed to the historic Ryman auditorium. After checking in for our tour, we were led into a side room to watch what I assumed would be a standard informative film about the building. Instead, it was a fun, creative performance that not only taught us about the history of the Ryman, but made me both excited and invested in its (hopefully) bright and prosperous future.
At approximately 4:00pm, we were more or less starving. It had been a slow onset of travel hanger that I think, if left unchecked for much longer, could have escalated into violence. Thankfully, we found the Assembly Food Hall that had (among other things) chicken, pizza, edible no bake cookie dough, and alcohol just in time.
While we ate, we made a game plan for the night ahead. Tanner’s birthday was the next day and we wanted to be out celebrating on Broadway by midnight. So, we decided that everyone would meet at our place, where we would pregame and play a few rounds of beer pong and pool before heading out on the town.
We walked out of our building at about 11:55pm, so right as we reached Broadway, we stopped in the middle of the sidewalk to sing happy birthday loud and proud.
We then headed to Jason Aldean’s bar, with Tanner leading the way. He walked up to the bouncer, who checked his ID once, then twice, then said, “hey, happy birthday man” before letting him through, officially starting his career as a legal bar hopper.
Once inside, we were a little bummed to find that the second floor (the country music floor) was closed for the night, so we climbed the stairs all the way to the top floor, which was blasting hip hop music and was more reminiscent of a downtown LA club than I think any of us were hoping. We walked out onto the rooftop and cheers-ed our drinks, knowing that the night was young and there were plenty more bars to choose from.
Similar to Vegas, Broadway comes alive at night. The dark sky gives the neon a chance to really glow, asking you to “come in!” “try this place!” “check this out!” We did a slow spin on our heels, taking in all of our options, each of us willing to go wherever the birthday boy had in mind. He pointed at a bar across the street, but then decided to peek in Tin Roof first, as there was a live band playing and the lead singer had an incredible voice.
We walked in, ordered some drinks and then started dancing. Our big group made the once scant bar look like it was hosting a small wedding reception. We were high energy and already comfortable with one another. We took turns walking up to make requests until eventually the lead singer asked what had brought us all in.
“TANNER!” we all shouted back at her.
She squinted her eyes, looking for Tanner in the crowd, and then nodded, “you look like a Tanner. You look like every boy that broke my heart in high school.”
Seeing as most of us are related to Tanner, we all shook our heads defensively. “NO! Tanner is great! This is a NICE Tanner!!”
We continued to dance, our group bantering back and forth with the band. Then my aunt, Tanner’s mom, bought the band a round of shots, which prompted them to sing, “Stacy’s Mom” by Fountains of Wayne, except they changed the lyrics to say, “Tanner’s mom, has got it going on!” which we all sang at the absolute top of our lungs.
At 2:30am, the band signed off and the bar started to close. We walked outside to find Broadway much quieter than we’d last seen it. We had danced for almost two hours, and I was limping like a baby giraffe in my heeled booties that had seemed like such a good/cute idea when we left the house.
A couple people stopped to get late night gyros, both to soak up some alcohol and to account for the hunger that we’d worked up dancing the night away. Then we all collapsed into bed. Ears ringing, (at least my) feet throbbing, and curiosity building for what adventures awaited us the next day—or rather, the same day, in a matter of hours.
About a week ago my mom, sister and I went to get massages.
We’d each received a gift certificate for Christmas and were finally able to make (and keep) an appointment, since the first couple were cancelled due to one of us having COVID.
We were very excited, as we’d booked—for the first time ever—ninety-minute massages. And with a myriad of different stressors weighing on us from the past month or so, we were ready (and desperate) to *relax*.
I had even asked for the deep tissue massage, which, if you happened to read this post regarding my feelings on my first ever massage, will let you know 1) how much of the massage Kool-Aid I’ve drank over the last few years, and 2) how much I wanted the stress more or less beaten out of me. I wanted that stress to run for its life. I wanted a stress exorcism.
When the masseuse asked if there were any areas to focus on, I said: neck, shoulders and back.
They have forever been where I hold everything. From the annoyance of that bad driver I encountered on the freeway yesterday, to that mean thing a girl said to me in high school 15 years ago. It’s also where, for a long time, my muscles were working overtime to keep my head on my shoulders due to my bad posture—that I’ve since put in a lot of energy (and a lot of money at the chiropractor) to correct.
Needless to say, I love having my neck, shoulders and back massaged. It feels like ironing a wrinkly shirt. And since it had been a while since my last massage, I was sure there were going to be quite a few wrinkles to tend to.
To my surprise, as I lay face down on the table and the masseuse dug into what seemed like the very core of my spine, assumedly finding evidence that I still hadn’t fully forgiven someone who wronged me in the seventh grade, he asked, “do you ever do any kind of stretching or foam rolling?”
I tried to nod, but then remembered my face was framed by the pillow, making my neck borderline immovable.
“Yes,” I said. “I foam roll my back a few times a week”—something that was recommended by my chiropractor—“and I try to do yoga two or three times a week.”
He made a quick “mhm” noise, and I assumed it was partnered with a nod.
“I can tell,” he said. “While you have tension in your back, there are no knots at all. So your efforts are paying off.”
I lay there, letting his words repeat in my head.
I thought about all the anxiety I felt going into our day at the spa. I always got nervous knowing I’d have to spend time in my bathing suit—or naked, under the sheets of the massage table—overly critical of my body and how it compared to others.
I thought of all the times I’d done yoga, or gone for a run or a walk, hoping that the efforts I was putting in would garner positive results that I could see in the mirror.
I thought of all the times I’d hidden my body behind baggy clothes, anxious hands, or the body of someone else.
And then I thought about how my body, my muscles, and my bones themselves might be benefiting from my exercise, my (mostly) healthy diet, my efforts to meditate, and to express myself both emotionally, physically, and creatively.
Those efforts might not show in the mirror. They might not match up to some kind of image I have in my head of what a body is “supposed” to look like. But they do change the way my body feels. They do the work on the inside of my body.
We are told so often to focus on physical results and to hit monetary goals, when so much benefit can come from doing work for and from the inside first. I know what it feels like when I eat healthy, when I exercise, when I don’t slouch, when I can relax into deep, honest conversations with those I trust. These things make me feel light, they bring an ease to my days, and, apparently, give me the iron to take to that wrinkly shirt.
After the massage, I lay on one of the daybeds beside my mom, reading a book and listening to the sound of falling water. Then I took a long, hot shower and blow dried my hair. On the way home, we picked up dinner from one of my favorite places and then sat on the couch and watched a movie.
It was a great day, not because things looked perfect on the outside, but because they felt good from the inside.
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.
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.
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. Podcastbut 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)
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.
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)
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)
the debut farewell album by avenue beat
Sidelines by Wild Rivers
Circles by LEON
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)
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?