Hello and welcome back to another edition of All the Good Things, a monthly series where I highlight all the good things (get it?) that happen in each 30-day (or so) span. I hope it can be a reminder that amongst all the well known bad, there is a lot of undercover good happening in our world.
A while back I heard Oprah say that the most important question she’s ever been asked is “what do you know for sure?” She wrote an entire book about the question and of the lessons she holds dear, and even though I haven’t read it, I have felt this question on my heart lately.
It goes without saying that there is a lot going on. A lot that I don’t have control over, that I can’t change, and that I (or anyone, really) can see the end of any time soon. As a result, I’ve been in hyperactive productivity mode, trying to find things that I can do. Ways I can help. Things I can enjoy, pursue and try. And though I have found some good—and even great—things, hobbies, and people in this process, I have also found a lot of stress, a lot of moments spent sitting frozen, unsure if I’ve overexerted myself, and a lot of wondering where to start or what to do next.
My whole life I’ve wanted to feel “sure.” To know that I’m making the right choice or to have clarity of why making the wrong choice taught me a valuable lesson. I’ve wanted to know that I’m doing a good job, or at least doing my best, and that I can be sure my family is proud of me, my friends, acquaintances, (and honestly, complete strangers) like me, and that I am doing everything I can to have a bright, successful future and a long, meaningful life. But the more I’ve tried to be sure about these things, the more I’ve found myself insecure about them. I let bad days derail my confidence and allow myself to overthink my way to believing that I’m doing absolutely everything wrong.
This is why I find comfort in this question. Because it doesn’t ask me to know everything about everyone from every single part of my life. It doesn’t ask me to know why or when or how I got to where I am or what I’m going to do next. It simply asks me what I know for sure—about anything.
Not what you think about what I know. But what I know.
For example, I hate peanut butter. I know this for sure. I’ve hated it my entire life. So when I’m trying to make a decision about what healthy, make ahead breakfast to try, or which yummy potluck dessert to bring, or what flavor ice cream to order, I know for sure I don’t have to consider any of the options with peanut butter. And that doesn’t make me uncool or uncultured or unworthy of anything or anyone—it just means I don’t like peanut butter.
This is a silly example, but I can think of far sillier things that have kept me up at night in an overthink-tank. Things that I agonized over in the fear of not being cool, of being rejected, or of being noticeably “different.” Things that I was sure had to be right or perfect in order for them to matter.
My brain loves to spin around and around in circles, and when I feel like there are a lot of things I can’t control, it loves to panic, turn to impulse and, at times, shut down. So I’m trying to hold tight to this question. What do I know for sure? What truths can set me free from some of the spiraling?
For today, I know for sure that I’m posting this blog. I don’t know if you’ll like it, I don’t know if it will resonate with you, I don’t know if it will be the best or worst post I’ve ever made, I don’t know if I’ll remember it, look back on it, or forget about it in a matter of months. I don’t know if I’ll write on this blog forever, if I’ll ever write a book, get paid to write, or write something that changes the world. What I know for sure is that I am posting this. And that I like posting on my blog. And I like writing. And I hate peanut butter. And that’s a start.
My best friend Allison and I pulled into the parking lot at the Rose Bowl and then immediately pulled over to take a look at the 11”x17” paper map we’d just been handed with no follow-up directions.
I’d heard about the “Fair Foodie Fest” in passing online, and had proposed the idea to Allison as we searched for a weekend activity that could get us outside. The concept was intriguing: a drive-thru fair that allowed you to eat the yummy, over the top treats without having to worry about large crowds and/or the restrictions brought about by COVID. Plus, the ticket was free and came with a pocket sized funnel cake, so it was really a can’t lose.
Looking at the map, our eyes got big, wondering, wanting, deciding maybe we should try absolutely everything. But then, noticing the prices, our wallets got small (not to mention our digestive systems got scared) insisting we might want a game plan. So, we starred a handful of things we decided we couldn’t miss, then pulled back out into the main lane, and started our journey through the fair.
Set up in a kind of racetrack format, there were two lanes the led you through the course to each food stop. The right line was for ordering and the left lane was for passing. Pulling up to our first stop, we rolled down the window, ordered the BBQ pulled pork sandwich, and marveled when we popped open the container to reveal this:
It was an incredible start to our journey. One that could have easily pushed us to stray from our stars and our budgets and order absolutely everything to follow. And with the pressure that came from picking where to stop, what to order when someone approached the window, and then drive away, knowing you missed your chance to change your mind, I’m honestly surprised we did as well as we did—and that I didn’t end up getting coleslaw all over me or the car. But after about 25 minutes of maneuvering our way through the course, we exited the parking lot, food stacked on my lap, the center console and the dashboard, and pulled into a neighboring lot that overlooked a park perfect for people watching. It was there that we really got to evaluate our purchases and I would like to review them with you now—in the order that we tried them, which matters.
#1) The Krispy Kreme Cheeseburger
This was too intriguing not to try, making it one of the very first things we starred on our map. I will admit, the look of it was…questionable at first sight. A feeling of what have you done entered my mind, and my stomach, quivering in fear, seemed to agree. Nonetheless, I cut it in half with the handle of a fork—the only utensil we were given in our travels, and we cheersed before we took a bite. While chewing, I found myself wondering whaton earth I was eating. My tastebuds were confused, my mind was racing, and everything I’d ever learned about a healthy diet wept. I did go in for a second bite, though it seemed only to be sure that it was as offensive as I thought. Also, they gave us two ketchup packets to go with it, which, in hindsight, somehow makes it worse.
Overall grade 3/10.
#2) The BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich
After the assault from the Krispy Kreme Cheeseburger, I was determined for a kind of meat redemption, so I insisted that we dive into our pulled pork sandwich. Again, I cut it in half with the fork—getting barbeque sauce everywhere—and then cheersed Allison before taking a bite. In one way it was just a pulled pork sandwich, but in another it was a drink of cold water after trudging through the desert for days. You know? I instantly felt comforted, redeemed, and at least partly healed from the, well, you know. It should also be noted that the waffle fries that came with the sandwich were arguably the best thing we had all day, and I will probably think about them for the rest of my life.
Overall grade: 8/10
#3) Curly Fries
Upon being handed this mountain of curly fries, I was both shocked, amazed and absolutely confused. “How?” we asked over and over. And this question covered not only the construction and design, but also the unbelievably hot temperature. Truly, I don’t think I’ve ever touched a food as hot as these fries. I also don’t think I’ve ever gone back for another bite mere minutes later, only to find something to be the absolute coldest a once hot food could possibly be. Ultimately, they were only pretty good, especially in the wake of the waffle fries.
Overall grade: 7/10
#4) Deep Fried Oreos
These were put on a pedestal going in because I’d tried deep fried Oreos before and knew they were a gift from the heavens. That being said, while they still made the two of us nod in silent agreement that yes, this is what dreams are made of, questions were raised on the authenticity of the cream filled cookie inside. Have the Law & Order music at the ready when I tell you that we believe they might have been…faux-reos. *dun dun*
Overall grade: 8.5/10
#5) Deep Fried Lemon Bites
These were the last thing on our list and (aside from the Krispy Kreme Cheeseburger) the most wildcard item we bought. What exactly did “deep fried lemon bite” mean, we wondered. Were we biting into an actual lemon? Was there going to be lemon cream filling? What was in this ball of fried dough and was it going to be a nightmare to find out? As someone who hates surprise fillings in all pastries, chocolates and the like, I bit into my lemon bite with extra caution. However, after another bite, and then another, I was thrilled to discover it was merely a fluffy, delectable bite of fried lemon cake that I will store eternally in my memory right alongside the waffle fries.
Overall grade: 10/10
Overall, I thought it was a truly unique, fun and delicious way to spend an afternoon.
Some key lessons to take away are:
-the helpings are huge so, depending on how many people are in your car, you probably need at least one serving less than you think you do. Plus, you only have so many hands, it’s a 10 stop course, and there are speed bumps in the parking lot, adding perilous obstacles as you try to balance multiple giant sized items.
-ask for a knife
-bring extra napkins or perhaps a bib, tarp or poncho
-pretend you’re an Instagram influencer and take pictures of everything, if only to remember that one time you ate a cheeseburger in between two Krispy Kreme donuts and walked away traumatized.
-come hungry and leave full, it is worth it.
If you are (or will be) in Southern California, the fair runs until the end of February and you can grab tickets here.
Hello and welcome back to another edition of All the Good Things, a monthly series where I highlight all the good things (get it?) that happen in each 30-day (or so) span. I hope it can be a reminder that amongst all the well known bad, there is a lot of undercover good happening in our world.
At the beginning of this year, I saw a newsletter from Hannah Brencher that introduced 2021 as “the year of slow magic.” I was immediately drawn to the term “slow magic”, loving the idea that we are consistently in the midst of a slow but meaningful build up to something great. Something that is better than all of the quick fixes we might look for in a pinch.
In thinking about this, I remembered a video I saw last year that showed a time lapse of house plants moving throughout the day. Based on my personal experience with houseplants, I was under the assumption that they do little besides quickly and efficiently die. And while I know this change—or perhaps this murder—occurs inside each and every day, it is hard to see it as it’s happening.
The same can be said about the things we struggle with in our daily lives. So often we wait for change, hoping and expecting it to arrive overnight and yet each day it would seem no progress has been made.
It’s hard to believe in the slow magic. It’s hard to have faith that good things are working behind the scenes and that change is happening little by little. But it is. It always is. And that doesn’t mean to stop trying new things, to stop pursuing new paths, or to give up entirely and let the slow magic do all the work. It simply reminds us to believe in what lies ahead. To find hope in the successes that are happening behind the failures. And to look forward to the good that is coming your way, that is stirring inside you right now, even when you can’t feel it yet.
So believe in that slow magic. Even in times like this. Even in moments that are tough. Even when it feels like there’s nothing left to believe in.
Things are always moving. Change is always happening. Magic is always at work.
To kick off the new year, my church participated in a 21 day fast. In lieu of certain food groups, I opted to delete social media from my phone, as I felt that it was one thing stealing more of my attention than necessary. And while I expected a bit of habitual reaching for my phone, and the mindless skimming through apps in search of Instagram, Twitter or the like, I did not expect the real, physical withdrawal I felt.
While at first I thought it was just frustration, FOMO, this sense that I must be missing out on something big, I soon began to realize I was actually feeling a little afraid. Unbeknownst to me, social media had become a bit of a crutch—a coping mechanism that I’d been using for whenever I was sad, angry, lonely, jealous, or confused. If I felt a feeling I didn’t like, I’d take a scroll through social media to find a new one. And now that I didn’t have that option, many of the feelings and thoughts I’d been avoiding were all demanding to be felt.
I lay awake almost every night of the first week, unable to fall asleep, unable to quiet my brain the way social media had been doing. It had become such a habit to scroll through whichever app until I got tired, never sure what I was looking for, but always hopeful it might be in the next post, or the next. But it never seemed to be there.
Having time away from social media, I’ve given myself space to think, space to wonder, and space to just listen.
Reaching for my phone is still a habit. I still catch myself tapping at the screen, hoping something pops up that might make a bad moment better or a long day easier, but I am also doing better at looking for things offline that can help. I’m reading more, I’m praying more, I’m being more creative. I’m feeling all of the feelings that come naturally each day, and I’m allowing them to pass through me rather than attempting to shut them out.
I will admit, I thought this fast would be harder for me than it was. And after those first few nights, I was convinced I would never make it. But having come to the end of the 21 days, and not feeling even an inkling of the relief or freedom that I thought I would, I realize how crucial this fast was for me—even when I was someone who would have considered herself not to be addicted to social media.
And so, I’d encourage anyone to take a step back. Just to see if there’s anything you might be missing. Take a step back and feel the feelings that you might be avoiding. Take a step back and listen for the things that have always been inside you but have been muted by the endless scrolling. Take a step back and breathe. Exist in the real world and simply in the real. You don’t have to leave social media behind forever, but it’s important to remind ourselves that social media is a place to visit, not a place to live. Take a step back, log off and look around. There’s a lot more for us out here than there is in there, and out here it will last a lot longer.
My mom and sister had been going for years, forever trying to convince me that you would not in fact die on the table, but I could not be persuaded. Surely there had to be the occasional slip. The slight miscalculation that went from a vertebrae adjustment to a full-on decapitation. Surely an experience that is centered around cracking your bones could not truly be enjoyable.
But alas, they kept going. And miraculously, they kept returning fully mobile, wholly satisfied and, you know, with heads.
So, I decided to give it a try.
If there was ever a benefit of having to wear masks everywhere we go, it was to hide the pure fear I felt as I was walked into the room. The chiropractor—who knew both my mom and my sister—had heard that I was nervous, so she tried her best to put me at ease, but I still sat wondering if this was the end. Wondering if in a few moments she’d pull my arm off or crank my neck so far to one side that I would scream as if I was being exorcised.
What I didn’t expect was that she’d point out something before we even started.
“Let’s talk about your posture,” she said, “It is pretty good in your shoulders but your head is too far forward.”
She demonstrated how my head poked out, most likely from leaning towards a computer screen at work. Oh my gosh, I thought, looking at her, is that what I look like all the time? I look like an upside down golf club. I look like a putter. I am a walking, talking, standing putter. I should be a staff. A skyscraper. A redwood. But I am a putter.
As the chiropractor got to work, feeling the tightness in my neck and shoulders, she explained that they were doing all they could to keep my head up. Poor neck and shoulders, I thought, humanizing them. The little engines that could. Or could barely. They were not being paid enough for this. Not to hold up this brainthat was obviously big and heavy and full of boundless knowledge. I can’t even imagine the kind of weight they’d been bearing all this time.
And so, we agreed—me and the chiropractor, me and my neck and shoulders, me and the fear that still whispered that if we were quick we could slip out the door and get a McFlurry instead—we agreed that we’d give this a go. So, we took a deep breath, and then the chiropractor began. She pulled and cracked and pushed and there were a couple of times when I glanced down at my fingers and toes and wiggled them *just in case* and then she told me to sit up. All in all, it is probably the most violent four minutes I’ve ever experienced. But it was definitely worth it.
I’ve been back a few times since then, and I now make a conscious effort to pull my head back during the day. Turns out, if anyone was trying to decapitate me, it was me. After that first appointment I imagined that if I’d never come in, maybe one day my head would have gotten too heavy and simply just fallen off. Ripped at the roots. Tumbling to the floor with all of that knowledge.
This obviously wouldn’t have happened, but more importantly it won’t happen because I faced my fears, went to the chiropractor and set out on a new life’s mission: to be a skyscraper, not a putter.
I recently read Elton John’s book Me, and it was a wild ride.
I’d highly recommend reading it in any way you prefer, but I’d especially recommend the audiobook as it was a fantastic listen that featured both Elton John himself, and Taron Egerton, who played Elton John in the biopic Rocketman.
One thing that has particularly stuck with me in the days and weeks after finishing the book is the very last sentence of the epilogue. After telling the incredible story of his life that is full of very high highs and very low lows, Elton John speaks wisely about the hard fact that all he’d gone through—even the things he regrets—got him where he is today. And while he’s wondered whether or not he’d go back and change things if he could, he says, “there’s really no point in asking, ‘what if?’ The only question worth asking is, ‘what’s next?’”
I know I live in the what if far too often—even when I’m not aware I’m doing it. There are things I regret, things I wish I could change, conversations I wish went differently, moments that still make me sad, mad, and embarrassed. But the fact of the matter is, all of those things made (and make) me who I am. They are the reasons the people in my life love me, and the reasons I’m learning to love myself. They are what will make my life my life.
So let’s stop asking what if and start getting excited for what’s next. Let’s look forward to the possibility that comes with growth, for the understanding that comes with failure, and for the levity and humor that (eventually) come with embarrassment. Let’s look forward and stop looking back.
It is always an interesting experience to sit down and write about my word of the year, from the other side of the year. When I first learn my word, I’m excited, but often worried about what’s to come. And then in January of the following year, having lived through the ups and downs of both the year and the word, I often laugh at the naivety and anxiety, thinking to myself, you really had no idea what was ahead.
Needless to say, 2020 was unique in its ability to be unpredictable. For me, stepping into a new decade and the last year of my 20’s, I knew change was afoot. In fact, I felt like it had been closing in for quite some time. When I was given the word “faith”, I was confident that the year would be challenging, but I really had no idea of what sort.
Reading through my journal from the early months of last year, I can remember how restless I was. While I’d been anticipating the arrival of change, I was also impatient for it. There were parts of my life that I wanted to change, and I wrote about them in a demanding, desperate tone. I made empty promises to pray more and I set unfulfilled goals to spend more time with God—upset that neither were getting me where I wanted to go.
Then came March, where, on the 17th, I wrote, “well, the world has gone f*cking crazy…”
A true statement that was really only half true at the time.
A few days later, I started an entry with, “I really put my quarantine time to good use today—what an insane thing to write.” And the entries that follow are feverish, nervous, and overly sarcastic, trying to find comfort amongst the ever-growing panic around me.
In April, while knee deep in a puzzle that barely fit on our coffee table, my sister and I sat down to watch I Still Believe, a movie based on the life of Christian singer Jeremy Camp. In the movie, (spoiler alert!) his wife dies of cancer, after having previously believed she was in remission. It is a very hard, but very inspiring story, and I thought about it for weeks afterward, but that night, I wrote this:
“One part of the movie that struck me and that makes me tear up just thinking about it is the very last scene, where they show his late wife’s journal. There is a bible verse she circled that says, ‘do not be afraid,’ and next to it she wrote, ‘I won’t be! I will only believe!’ I can’t imagine that faith.”
It is the first mention of my word up until that point. And I vividly remember writing it out, underlining it, and then immediately bursting into tears. It wasn’t until then that I realized how far my mind had wandered. And in a world that had begun to make me spiral with questions—most prominent of which was “what do I do now?!”—this movie was a reminder to lean into that word—to have faith.
Now, 2020 was no stranger to heartache. And oftentimes I caught myself wondering and asking why? Why was this happening? A pandemic was running rampant, people were losing their jobs, their homes, and their loved ones. And in my own life, a string of medical scares had left my family feeling exhausted and terrified. Pain and chaos were coming in all directions and I was not only asking why but how? How I am I supposed to have faith when so much bad is happening around me? How can I encourage faith in others when I have no explanation for what is happening? How can I pray when I don’t feel like it will make a difference?
It was a constant struggle, a constant point of contention between God and I. And I fought my word hard.
But then I would always come back to that movie.
To that little entry Jeremy Camp’s late wife, Melissa, wrote in her journal. I couldn’t stop thinking about how much it meant to me. Someone she never met, never heard of, never knew would hear her story, let alone watch a movie about it and be so moved that it would restore my faith in faith.
And as the year went on, I started to realize that that is what faith is. Faith is believing that our lives, both the good parts and the bad parts, the explainable and unexplainable, have purpose. Faith is trusting that God has a bigger plan, and that we are all playing a part in its goodness—even when there is seemingly no goodness in sight. Faith is living through the why’s and the how’s and sometimes never getting an answer, but trusting that, perhaps in my struggle, I’m helping someone else find their answer.
I don’t know what 2021 has ahead for us, but I know that each day has meaning. That each moment you are brave enough to live out the life you have ahead of you, you are making a difference. That every up and every down matters. And that there is goodness—goodness that we cannot even imagine—up ahead for each and every one of us. So I encourage you on this day and in this year, to have faith. Have faith in the goodness. Have faith in the light even amongst the dark. Have faith in faith.
Well my friends, we have made it! Against all odds, we have made it to the last day of 2020. The final hours of a trying, brutal, relentless year that none of us saw coming. And now we are going to start something new. It might not look new, it might not look easy, and unlike many New Year’s Eves, the strike of midnight might not look exactly magical. But I don’t think that should sway us from counting down, setting goals, or making wishes for a fresh start.
In fact, I feel it is more important than ever to make those wishes this year, not only for ourselves but for the world as a whole. So as those final seconds start to countdown on the clock, here are five things we can all wish for:
One of the most common phrases we heard throughout 2020 was “we’re all in this together.” And while there were many instances where I saw this to be true, there seemed to be many more where it was clear that it wasn’t. This year brought a lot of panic, a lot of fear, a lot of hard, and a lot of new into focus, so it was understandable the way tensions rose. But never have I seen such clear division, constant hate, and widespread loneliness caused by fear of saying the wrong thing, holding the wrong opinion or having a moment’s hesitation. I think there are a lot of positive changes being made in the world, and there are a lot of long overdue conversations taking place, but I also feel like there is a lot of impulsive cancellation and condemnation rather than encouraged understanding and hopeful redemption. Let’s hope for real unity in the year(s) to come. Unity that is built on differences and two sided conversations. Unity that is not eradicated by conflict but made stronger because of it. Let’s truly find a way to be “in this together” and rebuild a better world.
Even with all the restrictions in place this year, there was still a heft amount of innovation. Doctors found ways to treat and help countless patients. Families found ways to celebrate special occasions with Zoom, drive by parades, and handwritten letters. Online campaigns brought attention, help and joy to those in need with fundraising, collaborative projects and acts of kindness. I remember very early on a girl made the news by designing clear masks that made it possible for the deaf and hard of hearing to better communicate. People found ways to make life easier, more efficient, and sometimes even more fun while the world moved slowly and frightfully into the ever-winding turns and peaks of COVID-19. Let’s hope that this new year will only bring more innovation and more ideas that have never seen the light of day. Let’s hope we all find ourselves sitting, awed, and saying, “wow, I never thought of that!”
When I think of creativity, especially this year, I think of someone like Taylor Swift, who leaned into the confines of quarantine and wrote two albums. Granted, this is some next level kind of creativity, and not one that we should all measure ourselves against. It is hard to be creative in a time when you can’t travel, can’t see friends and family, can’t do much more than stay inside your own home. But there are moments we all experience, little ideas, in any and all genres, that poke at the back of our minds and say, try this. Sometimes those ideas are only for us, sometimes they find a home outside ourselves and make the world a better place. So let’s hope that creativity is stirred and that we are brave enough to answer the call. Let’s hope that creativity runs wild in this new year and that we see great, new, wonderful things.
I often find myself saying (or thinking to myself), “it is so easy to be kind.” And while this is true, it is not always easy to wantto be kind—especially when the world is seemingly falling apart around you. Still, kindness can go a long way. It can mean everything to the right person in the right moment. So let’s hope that more people (including ourselves) find that want to be kind in the new year. Let’s hope that when we reach those crossroads—perhaps on a daily basis—we try harder to take that extra second to be kind.
What we might need more than anything in this new year is patience. While there is a lot of positive progress being made, the world is not going to go back to normal overnight, or any time in the immediate future. And even though sometimes it seems impossible to live in this version of our world for another year, another few months, or sometimes even just one more day, we need to find it within us to be patient. Be patient with the doctors who are trying their best day in and day out, be patient with the first responders and frontline workers who put themselves as risk each and every day, be patient with your friends and family who might have different fears or opinions than you, be patient with yourself and the ups and downs of emotions that don’t seem to quit. Be patient with 2021, it is a new year, with new possibilities and each day has the chance to be something special.