family

A Celebration and a Camel

At the beginning of September, a woman named Norma, who went to my church, passed away suddenly. She was the mother of some of my mom’s closest church friends, whom we’d all grown to know over the years, and who, for a long time, was part of our row.

Most Sundays, when we were all in town, one row of the church parking lot was taken up me, my mom, my sister, Norma, and her two daughters, Renee and Rochelle. We then sat together in a row of chairs during service, and afterward we all hugged, updated each other on the recent happenings, and then wished each other well for the upcoming week.

This past weekend, I, along with my mom and sister, attended the celebration of life service for Norma that was hosted at our church. The three of us were asked to help out with food and we were both happy and honored to do so. We arrived a few hours early and promptly took our places putting together finger sandwiches, preparing charcuterie boards and fruit and veggie platters, and sorting and organizing the ridiculously delicious Porto’s bakery pastries. We, alongside a few other wonderful women, worked hard, wanting to make the reception of the service as easy and fulfilling as possible. We wanted the family and friends in attendance to be able to sit down, eat, talk, laugh and reminisce without having to worry about a thing.

At 4:00 p.m., the service ended and the attendees began to move into the banquet hall, some emotional, some talkative, some admittingly starving. The line formed and then it kept coming, and we watched as people filled their plates and sat down together, making the room loud and happy.  Laughter and stories echoed off the walls, making it impossible to decide who to eavesdrop on. People hugged and hung on each other; hands were taken and smiles were given over shoulders; compliments were handed out for outfits, shoes, hats, and makeup; pictures were taken and desserts were passed around.

I stood in the kitchen, along with my fellow ladies, both keeping an eye on the buffet table to see what might need to be refilled, and looking out at the family who so clearly were celebrating Norma’s life.

Not being related to Norma myself, and only really seeing her on Sunday’s, I knew my knowledge of her was few. And yet there were so many faces, glances and expressions, hints of her that I saw around the room in her family and friends. It made me wonder what things they were thinking about, what stories they felt they had to share with the people around them, and what memories they were holding on to that, to them, were who Norma was.

In the decorations around the room, I saw pictures, trinkets and mementos. I saw Norma’s favorite candies and her collection of Precious Moments figurines. She existed so purely in the room, and in the hearts of everyone who came to remember her, that by the end of the night, I felt like I’d met her all over again, and gotten to know her deeper than I ever would have.

I watched as her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren loved on each other, how they made each other laugh, drove each other crazy and gave each other purpose, and I thought, isn’t it amazing how one person can bring this many people, this many hearts, this many worlds into one room to be together, and to celebrate life. And it made me feel grateful to Norma, for reminding me how much love exists in the world to find, and how much love has already found me.

At the end of the night, I, alongside anyone else who wanted to, got to take home one of Norma’s Precious moments collectibles. I chose a little figurine of a camel. When I got home, I put the little guy on a shelf in my room, next to my own collection of sand that I have stored in glass bottles. Looking at them side by side, it’s as if they’d always belonged together. And even though I never got to know Norma for all of her colors, or in the way that her family did, I feel special knowing that I’ll always have a little piece of her, and thus a little bit of that love she created, here with me.

I Hope 30 Loves You as Much as I Do

In the fall of my sophomore year of high school, I showed up to the annual softball tryouts as a “returner.” Having made the team as a freshman, my spot was already reserved, so I was just there to volunteer my time, meet prospective players, and, along with my teammates, be the butt of the playful jokes the coaches made to lighten the mood.

I was far more relaxed than I’d been the previous year, but I was still very quiet and shy. I was the most teenager. With awkward style, awkward body awareness and a tendency to blush at even the slightest bit of attention. But I was friendly and polite, and excited to meet the new girls.

Among those girls, was Allison Roecker.

As quickly as I met Allison, she was my friend. One day we’d never heard of each other, and the next we were chatting daily on AIM. Then we were texting, sleeping over at each other’s houses, sending longwinded personal emails, writing notes during class, and staying up late talking about things like death, love and the future. Soon enough I wasn’t calling her Allison, but Alleeson (because I wanted her to have double e’s like me) and Alfred von Roecker for reasons lost to history.

High school, for me, was tough. It was scary, and there was a lot happening behind the scenes. To compensate, I dove into schticks. I let myself be defined by foods I liked, jokes I told, and characteristics that I played up and hid behind in the hopes that no one would see how lost and confused I was. How scared and vulnerable and sad. And a lot of people leaned in to those schticks. They believed they were me, they took and/or got what they wanted off the surface and didn’t take the time to dig deeper. But not Allison.

From day one, Allison created a safe place for me to be me. Whoever that might be at the time. And 15 years later, that safe place still exists and is stronger than ever.

Sometimes, when we get together for drinks or dinner or just an evening spent talking on the couch, I catch myself sharing and sharing, talking about myself as if I haven’t told anyone anything in days or months or years. I bring up questions and worries and I let them settle in the room, where they don’t feel intrusive or burdening, but safe and accepted. And I always walk away feeling lighter, more understood, more seen and heard than I do almost anywhere and with anyone else.

We bring it up often. How it would seem that we were destined for each other. Our friendship has scaled great distances, multiple moves, heartbreak, tragedy, success, failure and absolute joy. But as far as our friendship dates back, I can’t for the life of me remember how exactly it started.

I often wonder what we said to each other in the moment that we met. Did we shake hands, hug, or smile politely as we stood in a circle stretching during warm up? What did we do to begin a friendship that would withstand time, distance and the chaos of growing up? How casually did we introduce ourselves, not knowing that we’d help each other get to know ourselves in the years to come?

However it went down, I’m just glad it did. Because I don’t know where I’d be without her.

Tomorrow, Allison turns 30, joining me in a club that at times feels weird to be a part of.

In a way, it feels like we were just on that softball field, passing inside jokes back and forth in the outfield, laughing so hard it hurt at 2 o’clock in the morning, and singing our hearts out on the highway after I got my driver’s license. But then I think of everything we’ve been through, everything we’ve learned, everything we’ve tried and failed and everything we’ve achieved, and I think, I can’t wait to see what’s next.

So, Allison, while 30 might seem scary (though it’s not too bad, I promise!) just know that you have nothing to worry about. Because I met you when you were only halfway to 30, and you changed my life forever. So I can only imagine where you’ll go, where we’ll go, from here.

Happy birthday! I love you!

Our Olympic Moment

Yesterday marked the end of the 2020/2021 Olympic Games in Tokyo. While I am sad to see them go, I’m sure my sleep schedule is very grateful. There were a lot of nights spent staying up late on the couch, watching hours and hours of recorded events, cheering—sometimes screaming—on not only Team USA, but all of the Olympians that worked so hard to get there.

I lived for the stories of where and what brought a particular athlete to the Olympics, and the delight their families took in watching them compete—even if they had to do it from home. There is something so special about the Olympics. It brings people together all over the world to appreciate and celebrate sports, and the amazing things the human body and human spirit can accomplish.

The Tokyo Olympics introduced four new sports this year: surfing, skateboarding, karate and sport climbing. Of these, my family, and especially my brother, was most excited to watch sport climbing. As an avid and gifted climber himself, it was clear how thrilled he was to not only watch the best of the best compete, but to see his passion celebrated at an elite level and introduced to people all over the world.

The schedule of events was a little hard to follow from California, as Tokyo is 16 hours ahead. Thus, I filled my DVR, taping anything and everything I could find, and would sift through my recordings at the end of each day. But when it came time for the sport climbing to start (which was Tuesday morning PST) my brother made it clear that he wanted to watch at least one of the finals live. On Tuesday 8/3, the men competed in the qualifying round and the women followed on Wednesday. Then, on Thursday, the men competed in the final round, with the women to follow on Friday. So, with Saturday as a recovery cushion, we decided to watch the women’s sport climbing final on Friday morning. Mind you, they started at 1:30 am.

So, at about 10:30 p.m. Thursday night, my sister, Natalee, and I drove to our parents’ house, where we got comfortable on the couch and caught up on the primetime coverage from that day. Then my brother, Troy, and I ensured that everything was set up to watch the climbing before we all set an alarm for 1:20 a.m. and went to sleep.

Earlier in the day, I had taken an hour nap in preparation for what I knew would be a late night, and that, in combination with the excitement of the women’s final (which featured American Brooke Raboutou) buzzing in my mind, made it difficult for me to fall asleep. I lay there on the living room couch, perpendicular to my sister who slept in the recliner, still but not sleeping. Come about 1:15 a.m. though, just before Troy walked back into the living room from his bedroom, I could feel the pull of deep sleep just beyond my reach. But I pushed it away, sat up, and turned on the television. My brother took his place next to me, his hands anxious and ready to mime the holds he might use to complete the climbs; my mom wiped her eyes and stood up, and then walked into the kitchen and turned on the oven—she was making 1:30 a.m. cinnamon rolls; and my sister sat her seat up straight and clapped her hands.

We were ready.

The first round of competition was speed climbing. Eight women, strong and incredibly talented, powered up the rock wall, racing in pairs. We were excited, but very aware of the time of night, so our cheers were kept to whispers, but they remained passionate.

The second round of competition was bouldering. Inside this second discipline, there were three boulder problems the climbers had to solve, and they were each given four minutes for each try. I’ll admit, by the third round, which started at about 3:45 a.m., we were all starting to fade. We always perked up and came to attention when Brooke was climbing, but we were all long past our prime of pulling all-nighters, so as the sunrise snuck closer, our bodies couldn’t help but ask, wtf are you doing?!

By the time the bouldering ended, it was about 4:20 a.m. and the final round of competition didn’t start until 5:10 a.m. So, we turned off all the lights, returned to our designated snoozing spots, and knocked out. This time however, when my brother came in after his alarm went off, I felt confused. I felt upside down. My body was begging, pleading to stay asleep. But we sat back up, reasoning that the summer Olympics only happen once every four years, and this was the first year rock climbing had ever been a part of it. Plus, there’s no telling where life will lead us before the 2024 games in Paris. So while we were tired, we were together and that was reason enough to sit back up, turn the television back on, and head into the final round of competition: lead climbing.

In the end, American climber, Brooke Raboutou, didn’t metal, but, like all of the women competing, she put on an incredible show of talent and determination. I gained so much respect for climbers and their ability to push their body to its absolutely limit. To hold on by literal fingertips and to try again and again and again.

As the sun peaked over the horizon, my sister and I got back in our car and headed home. It was about 6:00 a.m. and the morning commuters were already on the road. Once home, we would collapse back in our beds for a couple hours and then go to work. And even though my eight-hour workday felt like a 90-hour work week, even though at one point I got emotional over a FedEx label, even though I had to go for a three mile walk at 7:00pm just to stay awake long enough to not ruin my chances at a good night’s sleep, it was all worth it.

In a way, I felt like it was our Olympic moment of the games, and it is something I will always remember.

See you next time, Olympians, and as always, you are amazing.

O-Hi It’s My Trauma

Midway through February I was sitting at my desk, looking up at my Wanderlust calendar, wanting to go somewhere. The vaccine had just started circulating and I wanted to put something on the calendar that might help expedite our wait for the new normal.

Three months later, my sister, my best friend Allison, and I were in the car on our way to Ojai, at last fulfilling that calendar entry, all three of us now vaccinated, restrictions being lifted or laxed quickly, and an undeniable hope that we might actually see the other side of all of this starting to spread.

We had no real plan for the weekend. We were driving up Saturday afternoon and I’d made a reservation at the Topa Mountain Winery for 5:00pm, but we’d left everything else up in the air—as we tend to do.

After checking into our hotel at 3:00pm, we went to the store to pick up some snacks and drinks to have in the hotel room—feeling confident we would want late night salt and sugar—and then fancied up a little before heading out. 

The weather in Ojai left a little heat to be desired, with temperatures staying in the 50s and 60s and the sun only making a brief appearance. But once we settled in at the winery, we didn’t really mind. We each ordered a wine flight, and then decided to split a carafe of the Pixie Cooler (a mix of pixie tangerine juice & sparkling wine, I believe), as well as a box of crackers, which were listed as “palette cleansers”, but we ordered for the sole purpose of snacks. 

When our flights arrived, we raised our first glass—a Rosé—and then rated it based on the scales provided. We chatted. We each had a few crackers. We took a sip of our water. And then we moved on to the next one. A white blend. And so the routine continued.

But then, somewhere between the red blend and the Syrah we started…crying.

Somewhere between the red blend and the Syrah, we were waist deep in conversations we’d never had. Admitting things and sharing stories we’d never told. First putting our sunglasses on to hide the tears, and then putting hands on each other’s shoulders to invite them to fall.  The crackers were finished. The water was emptied. The flights were finished. And then the pixie cooler was brought out and sipped slowly as the stories kept coming, the sun started setting, and the tables around us cleared out.

Before we knew it, we were three of only six people left at the winery and we took a picture to both commemorate the conversations, and laugh at the fact that we’d come to look cute and drink wine, and we’d ended up spending two hours smudging our mascara and unpacking emotional baggage that had long been sealed shut.

From the winery, we went to dinner, where looked at the menu, unable to explain what had just happened. We laughed and talked about what greasy goodness was going to soak up all of our emotions…before we dove right back in.

And then we were there again.

Let me tell you, it is something special to put all your secrets on the table, at a place called The Deer Lodge, while binge eating sweet potato fries and forgetting that absolutely anyone else exists.

I’ve often whispered secrets, desperate for no one else to hear. I’ve emailed or texted them, written them down in a journal, hidden them in blog posts or fictional stories, and buried them as deep as they can go. But it’s quite a thing to hear them out loud. To watch them lose their power right before your eyes, or to hear yourself say things that remind you you’re stronger and smarter than you once were. To hear you stand up for yourself, and to let your friends poke holes in the lies you’ve long believed. To just let go of the weight you’ve been carrying around, convinced you had to bear it all on your own.

The next day we woke up and went out to breakfast, the conversation lighter, but not awkward, strained or regretful. We walked to a popular bookstore (Bart’s Books) and popped in and out of local shops, all while knowing that something had changed. That we were lucky. That in all the craziness that has been this year, last year, and all the years before, we’d stuck together, and we’d arrived together, here, this weekend, to let each other be heard and known and understood and undeniably accepted for who we are and where we’ve come from.

All those months ago, we wanted a weekend getaway. But we got so much more than that.

Unit 25

It was the back door. The way you had to twist the knob halfway to the right, then pull, then twist it again in order for everything to click into place when you locked it. Getting that down was part of making the place feel like home. Like you belonged. Because you knew the trick.

After a while, everything became familiar, and every quirk became common as we began to know our house inside and out, thus making it our own.  

Our house became the go-to spot on Mondays, when The Bachelor would be on and I would hustle inside from my evening yoga class, saying, “hi,” to friends on the couch who were ready to catch up and half watch, half talk over the ridiculous television drama.

Our backyard became the place where my sister could pull weeds beside my dad, preparing the soil for seasonal flowers and vegetables, hopeful they’d bring some relief to her busy work schedule and upcoming grad school exams.

Our upstairs hallway became the place where we could stand at our respective bedroom doorways, rehashing the events of the day, whether it was good, bad, or entirely unbelievable. It was where a rogue feather from a newly cleaned down comforter always landed, where the quietness of the morning was broken up by hurried feet charging out the door, and where communal decisions on shoes, sweaters, hair and makeup could be made.

Our dining room table became the place where we updated our collective wall calendar and where ate Jack-in-the-Box tacos at midnight, hoping to avoid the hangover. It became a place where we played board games with cousins visiting from out of town, sometimes laughing so hard our stomachs hurt, and where we threw anything that didn’t have a defined place into “the mug” that sat in the center.

Our kitchen became the place where potluck meals came together, and where drinks were mixed, and shots were taken after hard days. It became the place where cookbooks were propped up, followed closely, and inevitably stained with oil, butter and spices, where a week’s worth of breakfasts were prepped on Sunday nights, and where my sister made her famous chocolate chip cookies for every holiday and celebration you could imagine.

Our living room recliners became the place where my sister and I sat side by side, to eat dinner, talk, vent, do homework, watch TV, play a video game, laugh, cry, and wonder where life was going to take us next.

Laying in my bed on our last night in the house, I looked up at the skylight in my ceiling, taking note of the small handful of stars that had always seemed to watch over me. I turned on my left side to look at my window, remembering all the afternoons after work when I’d lay there and watched the setting sun turn my room golden orange. I looked at the pictures, paintings, and shelves on the wall, each of which went up in their own time, with their own set of frustrations, and their own purpose, story or memory. I thought of the pacing I’d done on our very first night in the house, the frantic energy that had come with the newfound freedom of living on my own, and the growing panic that I might not know how. And then I turned on my right side, the side I always fall asleep on, the side I’d often lay, praying, crying, reading, or watching a movie—sometimes far later into the night than I intended. I lay on my right side, unable to remember every single thing I’d learned during these last six years, but overtly aware that I’d been changed for the better.

I was leaving this house, but I was taking it with me. We were starting a new adventure, but those we had here would never be too far away. So when we packed up the house the next day, trucks loaded with furniture, clothes, and boxes and boxes of little things, I turned off all the lights and then locked all the doors—leaving a few extra seconds for that back one, to do a final twist, pull, twist, and click.

It Had Been a While

I’ve been to quite a few weddings. I’ve also been in quite a few weddings. And while they are all unique in their own wonderful ways, they are also very similar—running through the same routines, the same schedule of events and the same (at least in my case) excited yet patient wait at your table for your free dessert to arrive.

That being said, I love weddings. I love the fancy dresses, I love the dancing, I love the love, and this past weekend I was reminded of all of this when I went to a wedding where COVID played a (big and chaotic) part in the planning—but failed to ruin the magic.

It had been a little while since I’d been in a wedding. Since I’d gotten all dolled up beside a bride, talking, laughing and watching as her hands shook in excitement. It had been a while since I’d stood up at the front of the ceremony, watching the groom watch the bride, trying to hold back the tears that were threatening to ruin my makeup. It had been a while since I’d been able to just stop—to forget about everything else going on in the world and watch two people promise to love each other for better or for worse, and then wave my bouquet in the air, cheering, as a minister said, “you may kiss the bride!” It had been a while since I sat and listened to heartfelt speeches from a best man and maid of honor, that make you laugh and make you cry, and then ask you to raise your glass and celebrate something wonderful life has done.  It had been a while since I felt that hope. That little spark of optimism that surfaces when you see love so obviously in front of you, in the teary eyes of the couple, dancing together for the first time, in the proud smiles of the parents, thankful to see their children so happy, and in the giddy, excited laughs of the bridal party, cheering and chanting from their seats.

It had been a while.

But it felt good to be back.

A Lactose Free Poem for Your Birthday [Repost]

In honor of my sister’s birthday tomorrow, I thought I’d bring back this post. I originally posted it in 2015, back when we were sharing a room at our parents’ house, when I was just starting to post consistently on my blog, and when the world was really obsessed with infinity scarves.

I thought about changing a couple of the lines to make it more current, but I kind of like seeing how much has changed (in good and hard ways) and how far we’ve come. She was my person then and she’s my person now, so here’s hoping this poem can ring in her birthday with a smile.

Happy birthday Natallee!


Natalee my Natalee,

I hope you like this rhyme from me

You’re used to them by now I’d think

So enjoy this one and down a drink

Not too many though because I don’t like barf

I loathe barf like you love a good scarf

Which is why we have 57 in our closet

Okay not really, 58 if I’m honest.

Sometimes I think about burning them all

But don’t worry I’ll at least hold out until fall

.

Today is a day when we celebrate you

A day that I’ve celebrated since I was two

That year was rough, when you arrived on the scene

Before that there was just brown hair, brown eyes, just me.

But I suppose you ended up being pretty cool, slightly valuable

Beautiful actually, smart, compassionate and admirable

One of the only people in the world to always make me happy

And to infuriate me to no end when we’re feeling cross and sassy.

But that’s a rarity now since we’re both essentially flawless

Always wondrous, always mature, never strange, unintelligible and lawless.

.

You’ve listened to every song that I’ve wrote about our dog

And every whiny jingle on why I won’t go for a jog

You listen to the sighs, the cries and the rants,

You let me crank up our music and dance around with no pants

You’ve made me laugh too many times to count

And made me proud an intangible amount

You’ve seen me through it all and so many would agree

You fought through some of the hardest times and come out beautifully free

.

So remember on this day as I thank you for your you-ness

That I say it with a sincerity and a gratefulness of the truest…

…nature, but not the kind with all the trees and the bugs

More the kind with all the cheesy, sentimental, tear jerking hugs

So eat cake (without eggs) and ice cream (without dairy)

That way your birthday can be diarrhea free and quite merry.

.

Love you!

Red Heart on Apple iOS 14.2

My Year in Pictures (List-cember #7)

One of the more obscure goals I set for myself in 2020 was to make an “emotion scrapbook.” My idea was to try and create a more accurate depiction of my year, by taking pictures when I felt a wide range of emotions, rather than just when I was happy, excited, or in need of making people jealous with whatever dessert I just ordered.  I wanted to take pictures when I was sad, when I was angry, etc., to try and remember those days and honor them.

As it turns out, it is simply not my first instinct to take pictures when I’m feeling those kinds of emotions. Often I turn to writing instead, whether it is in the form of a blog post, a few pages scribbled in my journal, or a run-on sentence in the Notes app on my phone. That being said, with this goal in the back of my mind, I did make a conscious effort to take more pictures this year. Whenever I got that I should take a picture of this feeling, I tried to roll with it. And as a result, I got a pretty wide range of photos that tell the story of this crazy year.

Here are some of my favorites:

1) The Band

On one of the very first weekends of the year, my family drove up to visit our cousins at the beach. That Friday night, my sister, my cousin, Taryn, and I casually decided to learn a Tik-Tok dance before we went to bed, but ended up staying up until 2:00 a.m. choreographing our own music video. To this day no one can figure out how it progressed to that, but it was by far one of my favorite nights of the whole year.

2) Kobe

Kobe’s death rocked the world, but it especially hit hard in Los Angeles, where so many fans gathered in front of the Staples Center to pay tribute to a man who had been the hero of their city. My family and I went to pay our respects and to see these murals that were set outside for fans to sign. It was an incredibly moving sight.

3) Persimmons

I took this photo at a farmer’s market I volunteered at in February. Dried persimmons are hard to find, but they are also my mom’s favorite, so when I asked a vendor if she had any and she opened up this absolute treasure chest, I audibly gasped and took a picture.

4) The Quarantine Collection

Never would I ever have guessed I’d spend so many hours on Zoom and Facetime this year, but I swear that friend and family time is what made those lonely, blurry months of quarantine bearable.

5) Home Gym

My brother is an avid rock climber, so when lockdown kept him home, he had to get creative with ways to both keep himself busy and in shape. I’m not sure if I dared him to do this or if he just suggested he could and I followed closely behind him with my camera for proof, but either way, I got the shot.

6) Cousin Quarantine Olympics

One summer weekend, my brother, sister and I met our cousins up in the mountains for a little quarantined getaway and decided to hold the first ever Cousin Quarantine Olympics. This was a heated, neck in neck competition that included games like, who can build the best Jenga tower? and who can move an Oreo from their forehead to their mouth—using only their face—the fastest? I did not make the podium.

7) The beach

This picture was taken on a Saturday evening spent at the beach. On a whim we decided to drive up and watch the sunset and it turned into such a fun, easy day, where for a little while I felt like everything was going to be okay. (I wrote this blog post about it.)

8) Backyard Dinners

This was taken in the backyard of my friends Rachel & Dylan’s house, where we spent many a socially distanced evening hanging out, talking, grilling burgers, and watching the Dodger game. They even hosted a small, COVID friendly, backyard movie night for my birthday in September, which was incredibly lovely and wonderful. 

9) Neo

June was a bit of a rough month for my family, with a lot of things moving in a lot of different directions and a lot of questions not being answered. This picture was taken in a brighter moment at the beginning of July, on a night we drove to the beach in hopes of catching a glimpse of the comet Neowise.

10) Defeated

I was barely able to take this very strange, blurry picture of my sister because I was giggling so much. And while this exact moment of the day can bring a smile to my face, the day as a whole was a tough one. I remember telling my sister as we sat in our living room chairs that I “just felt defeated from minute one.” It seemed like every hard thing from the day, the year, my life, everything was weighing on my shoulders that day and I felt so heavy and stressed and overwhelmed. I wasn’t really ready to talk about it, mostly because I was afraid if I started I might burst into tears, but I was in need of some company. So, that night my sister and I ordered two pizzas and two bottles of wine and we sat in our living room—each drinking our respective wine straight from the bottle—and watched a movie.

11) Celebrity

This photo never fails to make me smile. Mostly because I think it looks like I squeezed in to take a picture with a celebrity who was trying to fly under the radar, but also because it is very unlike me to have volunteered to take this picture. I rarely, if ever, take “selfies” and, (not so) fun fact, I was just getting over an eye infection and was still unable to wear eye makeup. Nevertheless, I was having a good day and was cracking up at this makeshift mask my cousin put on before we stepped in to a restaurant to order takeout.

12) The Notch

I took this while sitting in a fold up chair, fishing in the Uinta Mountains of Utah. This mini getaway was one of the only bits of traveling I did for the year and to be honest, as I sat in that chair, I felt a bit overwhelmed by all the room I had to think and digest the happenings of the year. (I wrote a little bit about it in this blog.)

13) Solvang Waterfall

While on my dad’s birthday trip to Solvang in November, we went on a small hike to a waterfall. And while the waterfall itself was skinny and slow moving, the view around it was beautiful!

14) The Jump

When in 2020, baby showers are required to be small and safe. Which is why one Friday evening my sister and I blew up tons of balloons to host a part of four (including the mom to be). It was such a nice, relaxing evening that included a small photoshoot that was made possible by self-timer and a ladder that we dragged in from the garage. This blurry, chaotic mess of a jumping picture is by far one of my favorite pictures of the bunch.

15) Baking Cookies

One of the best parts of this year was my baby cousin Easton being born in June, and one of the best parts of this holiday season was getting to meet him for the very first time! Usually in December we have a family cookie baking day where a big group of us gets together and bakes recipes that have been passed down for generations, but this year was the first year in my entire life that we had to cancel. And while it was heartbreaking, we exchanged pictures back and forth, showing we were making the recipes at home, keeping the tradition alive until we can all see each other again next year. At my parents’ house, we introduced Easton to our holiday tradition, and even tried our hand at making handprint (or salt dough) ornaments. I think he thought we were nuts, but they turned out really cute.


Check out more List-cember posts here.

2020 Goals Wrap Up (List-cember #6)

It’s safe to say that many of the goals I set for 2020 were compromised by COVID and the corresponding shutdowns. But I also did my best to adapt and set milestones for myself that helped me see through the blur of quarantine and remain calm during the chaos of the year. So while this goal recap is a little different than those of years past, it still makes me proud and excited to see what I accomplished this year. Let’s have a look!

1) Kick a field goal

I’m considering this one pending, as there is still time left in this year and I think my cousins and I might be able to sneak this one in over the next couple weeks.

2) Learn Spanish – she’s on a roll!

This was a continuation goal from 2019, and I must say, if you are looking for a fun way to challenge yourself, I highly recommend downloading Duolingo and learning a new language. I was delighted to receive a “year in review” report that showed me I spent over 1618 minutes (which is almost 27 hours) learning Spanish. Obviously this goal is still far from being completed, but I’ve learned a ton this year and am excited to learn more!

3) Do a pullup changed to finish the ciabatta workouts almost done!

I’ve had “do a pullup” on my list for a couple years now. And while I could blame my lack of progress on the fact that gyms were closed for most of the year, if I’m being honest, I’ve also just lost interest in it. I think I saw doing unassisted pullups as an overarching mile marker of upper body strength, but doing things like yoga has shown me there are many different ways to strengthen your body—looking at you chaturanga—and many ways to feel strong. Thus, I decided to change this goal to finishing all eight “ciabatta” workouts my friend Mel created (that I mentioned in this post). They are hard, but in a good way and they always leave me feeling exhausted and convinced that I am made of pure muscle, stamina, and greatness. Six down, two to go!

4) Volunteer (at least) 5 times – completed!

I am very pleased to say that even amongst the restrictions, I was able to achieve this goal! After volunteering with one of my favorite Southern California nonprofits, Food Forward, in February, the months of quarantine and lockdown brought the opportunity to volunteer at my church, which ran a weekly drive-thru food drive for families in need. I felt very lucky to be a part of it!

5) Write 5 positive Yelp reviews – completed!

As someone who is a big reader of reviews but a rare writer of reviews, I wanted to start doing my part. And so, in the few new places I was able to visit and/or order from this year, I made sure to write them a review.

6) Donate plasma changed to give blood – completed!

A couple years ago I made it a goal to give blood, and then this year I wanted to take the next step and donate plasma. But while I did the research, I will admit, after many months in quarantine, I lost my nerve. However, this past week I made an appointment and gave blood with no problem, so I am going to try and work my way back up to plasma next year.

7) 30 Day Cleaning challenge – completed!

When I am stressed, I clean. So needless to say, there is absolutely nothing in my house that I did not clean this year.

8) Savings challengecompleted-ish!

It could also be said that when I’m stressed I online shop. Because when the world is falling apart around you, maybe a soft hoodie can help, you know? So while I did allocate money into savings, it wasn’t as much as I anticipated, but I just feel lucky to have had the opportunity to keep my job and continue to make money, so that is all I’m saying on that.

9) Purchase one charity t-shirt per month completed!

This was a fun goal and one that I enjoyed researching each month. I will admit, I did take some creative liberties and at times bought things other than t-shirts, like hoodies or hats, but it was fun knowing that I was buying something for a good cause. I’ve linked those that are still available 😊

10) Pay it forward

I actually found this one surprisingly difficult, mostly because I tended to order in rather than drive-thru. But I tried to make up for it in other ways, often noting when I had left over change that I didn’t need or could spare to tip someone more than was recommended.

11) Take a self-defense class

This one will have to be put on the backburner for now, but I am still interested in it.

12) Go to (at least) 5 concerts

*sighs*

13) Take a writing classcompleted!

As I mentioned in this post, I took a class through UCLA Extension and was thrilled with it. It was amazing to be challenged in my writing and to have a reason to really dig in and write about things that I might otherwise not have. I’m very excited to take my next class this January!

14) Go to 5 breweries changed to go to 5 breweries or wineries

Among the varying waves of COVID restrictions, I was able to find wineries with friends and family that were safely open for outside tastings. These made up some of my favorite memories of the year and were such a nice taste of normalcy. I went to:

  1. Barrelhouse Brewery
  2. Rava Winery
  3. Peachy Canyon Winery
  4. Brickbarn Winery
  5. Lucas & Lewellen Winery

15) Go to a comedy show

This was another one that simply wasn’t possible this year, but hopefully will be soon!

16) The Emotion Scrapbook – completed-ish!

This one turned less into a “scrapbook” and more into a renewed dedication to document things that mattered to me. I made a conscious effort to do better at taking more pictures this year, even if it meant being the person saying, “hold on, hold on” which often makes me uncomfortable. As a result, in this Thursday’s List-cember post, I have a list of my favorite pictures I took this year—one of which involved my brother hanging upside down by his toes in my parents’ backyard, which is surely not one of my mom’s favorite photos.

17) Make a time capsule

I think when I wrote this goal I had thoughts of marking the start of a new decade, the start of my 30’s, etc. I had no idea what was to come. But now I’m more motivated than ever to make a little time capsule, as this year is one beyond belief, and one that, in 10 years will (hopefully) be far behind us and worth reflecting on. So in these last couple weeks of the year I’m going to pull together some things that represent 2020, showcase where I’m at in my life, allude to the state of the world, etc., and in 10 years I’ll be able to see how far we’ve all come.  


Check out more List-cember posts here.

Things I’m Excited to See Again (List-cember #4)

While things are very much still tough, and the approach of the new year doesn’t have so much magic as it does desperate hope for something better, I am trying my best to think about the good things. It’s unclear when life will go completely back to “normal” or when we will be able to do all that we love and miss again, but we will get there one day. And when we do, these are some of the things I’m excited to see:

1) People walking to school

I’m excited see young kids, with backpacks hanging low on their shoulders, almost shadowing their entire frame, holding the hands of their parent or grandparent or older sibling as they make their way across the street towards the gates of their school. I’m excited to see high schoolers, walking in groups laughing or alone thinking, sitting in their cars wondering or opening up their lockers hoping that today will be a good day. And I’m excited to see college students, walking both lazily and with purpose, in sweatpants and suits, barely making it to class or betting their entire future on it.

2) Full cars

I’m excited to see cars full of families, silhouetted heads moving this way and that, with suitcases piled high on the roof, bikes strapped to the back, or a trailer being pulled behind. I’m excited to wonder where they’re going, if it’s a weekend getaway, a cross country road trip, or perhaps a new house, to start a new life in a new city. 

3) Smiles

I’m excited to see the big, face changing smiles, the small, polite ones, the unexpected, undeniable ones, the shy, nervous ones, and the ones that connect you to a stranger as you both shake your head as a way to say, can you believe this guy? I’m excited to see smiles freshly whitened, smiles made of braces, and smiles with teeth missing and awaiting reward from the tooth fairy. Most of all I’m excited to stop avoiding eye contact simply because I’m afraid my mask will hide my smile and my sunglasses will hide my eyes, making it impossible for me to let someone know that I hope they have a good day.

4) Sports fans jumping from their seats

I’m excited to see stadiums packed with people, sitting side by side, on the edge of their seats, hoping for a big play, a big moment, and doing their best to cheer and rally their fellow fans. I’m excited to see them stand, and to stand with them, clapping and chanting and tapping their team’s name across the fronts of their jerseys. I’m excited to see that big moment happen, and to hear the gasps and excitement and energy rip through the entire stadium, bringing everyone to their feet, hugging and high fiving.

5) My whole family—up close and personal

I’m excited to be able to stand with my arm around a cousin or my head on the shoulder of an aunt, or to sit right next to my grandpa and watch a baseball game. I’m excited to eat chips from the same bowl and dip them in our family’s homemade guacamole, to swap Christmas cookies and cheers late night drinks. I’m excited to plan each and every annual family gathering, to catch up and share stories, take group pictures and spend way too long hugging each other as we try to say goodbye.

6) Movie previews

I’m excited to walk into a theater right before the room goes dark, and to look over at my sister and guess how many previews are going to play before the movie—I always guess four. I’m excited to whisper things like, “that looks good” or “I’ve been waiting for this!” or “what on earth is that?” And I’m excited to finish whatever snack I brought or bought before the previews even end, and not feel mad or sad, but content and prepared to sink into my seat and watch a movie on the big screen.

7) “OPEN” signs

I’m excited to drive around town, hungry or bored, or just in the mood to explore and see all the restaurants and stores and gyms and parks and churches and salons and bookstores and museums open and ready for business. Ready to welcome customers and families and people looking to try something new or return to something they love. I’m ready to watch people hold the door for each other, to eavesdrop on what other people are buying or ordering or talking about, to spy on the cute boy at the gym or look over at the person typing furiously on their keyboard in a coffee shop. I’m excited for the world to open back up, for people to open back up, and for the hope and unity we’ve been struggling to find over this last year to finally, truly, bring us together into the new normal.  


Check out more List-cember posts here.