friends

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.

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.

There is More

Since I have been lucky enough to continue going into the office for work, I am among the (far fewer) commuters in the morning and afternoon. And lately on my way home, I have been taking the freeway a few exits past my own, and then driving up and down the side streets around my neighborhood, just listening to music and decompressing. I like looking at the different houses—especially the front doors, I love a pop of color on a front door—and seeing which roads wind into each other, which ones dead end, and which go up into the hills.

I also like driving around and finding the little spots that hold memories for me, some good, some bad, some from over a decade ago, and some from only a few months before everything shut down.

I can drive down the street where the food trucks park on Friday nights, where my cousin once jogged down the very windy, cold street to get a churro for us to split before the cart closed.

I can drive past the pancake restaurant my friends and I use to eat at once a week in high school, before we spent the night driving around blasting music—sometimes with added choreography.

I can drive past the front lawn where I saw the boy I liked take prom pictures with another girl.

I can drive past the park where I ate cake with my best friend the week before she moved away.

I can drive past the house with the orange tree out front, where my grandparents use to live and my papa used to let me sit on his lap while he pulled into the driveway.

On some streets I can hear myself laughing so hard with my friends that I can’t breathe; on other streets I can feel the heaviness of a hard day and hear the sad songs carrying me home; and on some streets I think of a specific person, specific food, specific weather pattern or specific song for reasons I can’t remember anymore.

More than anything, the driving around reminds me that the world is still out there. It reminds me that I’m alive—that I’ve lived a life. And it gives me hope that I still have lots of life left to live.

There are more memories to make out there, more spots to claim pieces of my mind and my memory. There is more than what I see from inside my house, more than what I feel inside my own head, and more than what we hear on the news or social media. There is more out there and we will find it.

How to Make 2020 Memorable (In A Good Way)

This past weekend I was sitting on the beach with some family, listening to music and watching the sunset, when my cousin Amanda posed a question.

I know that 2020 hasn’t been great, but I think we should each try and think of something that we’d like to do by the end of the year to make our year positive and memorable.

We each took the question in, and then went back to the music. We hummed and danced and occasionally used anything close by as a microphone, all while letting that question twist and turn in our minds.

I had a particularly hard time coming up with an answer, which surprised me, especially because I am such a goal oriented person. But even when ideas and answers were brought up—like seeing a drive in movie or going to the Grand Canyon—my mind still drew a blank.

At one point, I lay my head back on my towel and looked up at the sky.

“Look!” I said, pointing up at the now dark, starry sky, “I think that’s the big dipper!”

The group looked and excitedly agreed and then eventually fell back into swing with the music, this time with the intent to “get our cardio in,” which mostly meant jumping up and down in time with the music, running around our spot on the beach—which was by that time was completely dark and empty except for us and our little electric lantern—spinning with our arms out and our heads tilted up towards the sky, anything that made us feel good, got our hearts racing a little faster, and gave us an excuse to eat an ice cream cone later.

On the drive home (which did include an ice cream cone) I still thought about the question. I was the only one to not give an answer. But when I got home and I relived the afternoon and evening in my head, and I looked at the pictures we’d taken of the sunset and the videos of us singing and dancing around our speaker, I realized why I had struggled so much.

This year has been tough for all of us—in ways we all understand and in ways only you and me can understand. I have had obstacles and hardships you haven’t and vice versa. This year will forever be memorable, but it is not over yet, and sometimes I feel like I’m in survival mode, hiding and waiting until it is.

But just as I wrote in this blog post a little while back, and just as Amanda brought up on the beach, there are still ways we can make this year good. There are still things we can gain from 2020 that we might not have had the time, energy, or inspiration to in any other year.

So I encourage you (and me, because I still haven’t thought of an answer) to think about a way you’d like to make 2020 memorable. It doesn’t have to be big or extravagant or expensive, it just has to be something that gives you that good feeling—like sitting on the beach with people you love and singing Celine Dion into a shoe microphone.

The goodness of 2020 is still up for grabs, and I think it’s about time we went out and found it.

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If you have any ideas for how you want to make your 2020 memorable, please leave them in the comments! We could all use some inspiration. white-smiling-face_263a

Things to Do with Alexa in Quarantine

Since we live in a time that is full of technological companions (e.g. Alexa, Siri, Google Home, etc.) and many of us might be finding ourselves with little more than their company these days, I think it’s about time we start utilizing them to their full potential.

This past weekend, as my sister and I were sitting on the couch eating donuts we ordered from our local shop, we decided to talk to Alexa. After buying our Amazon Echo about three years ago, I started getting weekly emails from Amazon that provide a list of fun prompts that you can give Alexa, but I’ve more or less ignored them—until now.

Note: if you have a Google Home, check out both this article and this one for prompts. If you have Siri, check out both this article and this one, and if you have neither, I’d recommend Facetime, Zoom, or, if all else fails, this:

No judgment, times are weird.

Anyway, here are some of our favorite things you can do with Alexa:

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Play Jeopardy

Say: “Alexa, play Jeopardy.”

Each day you are given 12 trivia questions that you have to answer Jeopardy style (what is, where is, who is, etc.) Weekdays you are given extra questions from the same categories showcased in that day’s televised episode, and then Saturdays are College Jeopardy and Sundays (my favorite!) are Sports Jeopardy.

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Play Puzzle of the Day

Say: “Alexa, open Puzzle of the day.”

This is a crossword puzzle that you play in the style of a word game since you don’t have a paper in front of you. Alexa gives you a clue and the number of letters in the answer, and then you try to guess it. If you have trouble, you are able to ask for a letter, but you lose points by doing so—which may not matter to you, or may matter more than anything. I land somewhere in the middle.

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Make Fart Noises

Say: “Alexa, make a fart noise.”

I will just leave this one here.

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Look up the Spelling and/or Definition of a word

Say: “Alexa, spell ______” or “Alexa, what is the definition of _______”

Sure, I could Google it, but she does it faster, and asking almost makes me feel like I’m back in high school with no responsibilities or pandemics to speak of.

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Set a Reminder

Say: “Alexa, remind me to______.”

If you’re working from home, it might be hard to find a good routine, which makes it easy to forget to do things like drink enough water, or take necessary medications, or stop looking at Instagram. That’s where Alexa can come in as an accountability partner. Set reminders, as many as you want, about anything you want. Maybe it’s to put on pants, maybe it’s to refill your water bottle, maybe it’s to go outside, maybe it’s to move to a different section of the couch so you can blob evenly. Whatever you need, she’s there to remind you.

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Use Announce and/or Simon Says

Both of these functions make Alexa repeat something that is being said.

If you say, “Alexa, announce it is time for lunch,” she will play back a recording of you saying, “it’s time for lunch.”

But if you say, “Alexa, simon says it’s time for lunch,” Alexa will say, “it’s time for lunch.”

So it’s really your preference on that one. If you’ve ever wanted to actually hear yourself talk to yourself, now is your chance. Or if you’re someone who lives alone and needs a voice other than your own to whip you into shape, Alexa can do that for you. Again, no judgment.

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Learn Something Weird

Say, “Alexa, tell me something weird.”

Then strap in.

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Hear a 20-second song

Say, “Alexa, sing a song for twenty seconds.”

It has been a widely spread recommendation to (constantly) wash your hands for (at least) twenty seconds. In an effort to make that easier, people have been on the hunt for songs and choruses of songs that are approximately that long so we can get a better idea of the timing. But please look no further than your Alexa, who will sing you a song that (at least when I’ve asked) rhymes and lasts exactly 20 seconds. Also, good luck not having that song stuck in your head.

Submitting My Friendship Resume

To Whom it May Concern,

Seeing as we are in a strange time, one that encourages not only kindness and politeness, but undeniable kinship and unity, I have come to the conclusion that we should be friends—from afar obviously, because, well, YOU KNOW.

That being said, I’ve attached my resume for your review. If the contents appear up to par, I’d like us electronically agree, from our own homes, that we are in this thing together, and will at no point physically or emotionally harm one another in order to get the last package of toilet paper or container of oatmeal.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Attachment: KimK_ResumeforFriendship

 

Kimberlee K.

kimberleek.com

Education:

Hiking Trails in Southern California

May 2014 – Present

Various Locations

Major: Keeping a Steady Pace

Minor: Heavy Breathing

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Facts No One Should Know

August 2006 – Present

News Articles, Assorted Googling, Neighboring Conversations, Etc.

Major: “Did You Know?” anecdotes

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Limited Slang

One day in Middle school – Present

Peers, Urban Dictionary, “Kids these days”

Major: Stealth Research

____

Work Experience:

Adult

Legally 2008 – Present

Various Locations

Concrete Identity Pending

  • Dresses self for a variety of formal and informal occasions.
  • Feeds self a variety of meals, both in controlled and uncontrolled portions, in order to sustain life.
  • Attempts to take on and maintain responsibilities
  • Cries periodically
  • Often says, “Thanks, I got it at Target.”

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DIY

September 1995 – Present

Usually the Floor

Project Creator & Artist (of sorts)

  • Formulates a wide variety of projects capable of being made on one’s own
  • Fails miserably during the first attempt and throws it on the ground/in trash
  • Completes second (or third or fourth) try and shrugs at result, calling it “good enough”
  • Learns to love project with whole heart
  • Creates new project and starts the cycle over again.

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Watching Movies

September 1990 – Present

Various Locations

Memorizer of Noteworthy Comedic Quotes

  • Watches a variety of movies both in theaters and on VHS/DVD/Blu-ray/Streaming services
  • Enjoys nearly all movies thoroughly
  • Chooses a number of anecdotes from the films to quote numerous times a day.

____

Other Work Experience:

Instagram Stalking

July 2012-Present

Hidden on the Internet

Creep

  • Follows curious thoughts into the depths of social media, often losing one’s mind in the process.
  • Becomes extremely knowledgeable in persons and events that bear no relation to me.
  • Audibly gasps often.

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Introverting

February 2002 – Present

Various Locations, Primarily Home

People Avoider

  • Often enters state of desire to be completely and utterly alone
  • Cancels all plans and stays indoors, making little contact with the outside world
  • Has minor moments of clarity regarding the benefits of creating and maintaining meaningful friendships, then makes a meal, turns off the lights and continues to introvert.

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Awards/Achievements:

Summited Mt. Whitney

Has not broken a bone

Once made a triple decker bologna sandwich

Has vomited due to motion sickness in various major cities

Once hooked a mudsucker by the tail while fishing in the Owens River

Member of 2016 Winter League Championship bowling team: Beer & Waffles.

Has twice defeated The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

Hasn’t died yet*

*Note: void when dead.

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Strengths:

Sarcasm

Smiling politely

Requesting Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” at weddings

Making excel spreadsheets for every occasion

Committing to puzzles

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Weaknesses:

Mini golf

Making omelets

Overcommitting to puzzles

Forgetting to bring toothpaste on vacation

Often drops phone for no apparent reason

My Favorite Moments of 2019 (List-cember #9)

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it approximately 600,000 times: this year was busy!

But within the confines of our crazy calendar, there were so many good moments. And I don’t just mean big, fancy moments. Some of my favorite parts of this year were the small but meaningful bursts of joy. The cozy, perfect moments that I’ll undoubtedly be thinking about when that ball drops tomorrow at midnight.

For me, these were those moments:

1) Meeting Lyra

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I have long been afraid of holding babies. They are just so fragile and so perfect and so little, and the thought of holding something so important in my hands (especially when it is not even my something) has always terrified me. But in January of this year, one of my lifelong friends had a baby, and she encouraged me to overcome that fear when met her little one for the first time in the hospital. That moment inspired me to write this blog post and I will remember it forever.

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2) A Ball at Spring Training

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My family went to Spring Training in March for the first time this year (which you can read about here.) and easily one of my favorite parts of the trip and of the year was when my friend Mel, after trying for innings on end, got a baseball from one of the players. Not only was it a joyous celebration of perseverance, but the resulting footage includes a look of fuming jealousy from her neighboring fan, which makes for an all around perfect video.

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3) Finishing the Marathon

There are many moments of the marathon that I would deem “defining,” but perhaps my favorite was crossing that finish line and seeing my 6 foot 2 brother standing among the crowd. I was so proud and relieved to be finished, and seeing a familiar face to welcome me to the otherside of that journey was truly great.

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4) Mom Scores a Goal

goal

Some of the best memories I have of my family are the slow, ordinary days where we are just spending time together, which is why this moment from May stands out. My mom, sister and I had gone to visit my cousin Brittney and her family in Arkansas, and we spent one afternoon sitting outside, drawing in sidewalk chalk, and playing soccer. At one point we set up a challenge between my mom and my little cousin Landon. While Landon won in the end, the crowd (of me, Natalee, Brittney, and baby Nora) went wild for this goal scored by my mom.

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5) A Circular Celebration

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In June my family got the opportunity to go to Europe, and among the many jaw dropping, awe inspiring moments of that trip, was this one. My cousin Taryn (which, if you didn’t read the blog I wrote about our trip, is the whole reason we went) finished writing a long tedious essay that would complete her study abroad program, and we did what any family would do when they’re in England and about to head to dinner but need to take a moment or two to celebrate this accomplishment: we formed a circle around her and and jumped up and down, chanting, “We are proud of you, say we are proud of you! Hey! Hey! Hey!”

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6) That Eiffel Tower Sparkle

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Upon arriving in Paris and seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time, my most prominent and low key embarrassing thought was, “oh my gosh, the Eiffel Tower is actually real.” It’s not that I thought we’d been lied to all this time, but the realization that I was really, truly seeing it in person was so unbelievable that I was having trouble accepting it all as reality. This shock and awe only multiplied as we sat on the grass in front of the tower and watched as the sun set, the tower glowed gold, and then started to sparkle.

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7) Axe throwing in Vegas

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For my brother’s 21st birthday, a group of us went to Vegas with a list of things we were looking to accomplish in order to properly celebrate his milestone. Among the items on that list was throwing axes. After almost an hour of learning and practicing, we decided  to document our newfound skills, and showcase our ability to hit the target. What makes this moment one of my favorites, is that the video recording is almost four minutes long, (three of which we fail miserably) but when we finally do all hit the target at once, we all threw our arms up and yelled, “first try!”

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8) You’ve Got Ice Cream

About two years ago, on a visit to Arkansas with my mom and sister, I discovered the magic of Blue Bell ice cream. Upon arriving home however, I was very disappointed to discover that it is not sold in California. But for my 29th birthday, I was floored to find a box from Blue Bell waiting for me. My parents had all of my favorite flavors (including the holy grail, Salted Caramel Cookie) shipped to me and it. was. EPIC.

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9) Pop the champagne

Last year my cousin Cory married my now cousin Amanda, and this year they were able to purchase their first house! I was so happy and honored to be there when they popped champagne in their living room, that at the time had little more than a table and some folding chairs, but is now a beautiful, cozy home.

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10) The Dodgers Take Game 3

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For a Dodger fan, the 2019 playoffs were rough to say the least. But before we had our hearts broken, we had our hopes up, and on the night of Game 3, me, my sister, my cousin Taryn, and my best friend Allison were walking into a concert at the Honda Center as the Dodgers entered the 7th inning. As we made our way to our seats, I was streaming the game through the TBS app on my phone, which I’d downloaded while waiting in line, and we asked multiple employees if they could turn on the game, all of whom turned us down. So as we went to the 8th inning and then the 9th, the four of us stood out in the hallway, crowded around my phone to watch us close out a victory.

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11) The Frozen North Lake

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In November, my family made one of our annual trips to Bishop to squeeze in a weekend of fishing before the season closed. On the Saturday of the weekend we were there, we parked our car and hiked in to one of our favorite fishing spots, only to find the lake frozen solid. While this obviously prevented us from fishing, it did little to deter our fun. We spent a solid half hour throwing loose pieces of ice onto the lake and watching them shatter and glide across its surface.

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12) Sending “The Hulk”

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On the same trip to Bishop, my brother, who is an avid rock climber, had his sights on a boulder at Happy Boulders known as “The Hulk.” After spending a few hours attempting the climb on Friday, he was determined to return, so on Sunday afternoon, me, him and my sister headed back to Happy Boulders on our way home, where we watched him try time and time again until he finally reached the top!

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13) Eli’s Last Game

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To cap off the year, at the beginning of this month my family took a whirlwind trip to New York to see our favorite football team (the New York Giants) play for the very first time at their home stadium. We went the week they played the Dolphins, which wound up being one of only 4 games we won this season, and on top of that, it was our longtime quarterback, Eli Manning’s, probable last game with the team. We couldn’t have picked a better game!

Note: Please leave all Giants hate at the door, thank you.

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14) Coming June 2020

At our annual family Cookie Baking day, my cousins Spenser and Ashlynn gave my grandpa (and all of us, really) a very special gift: the news that we have a new member coming in June 2020! On Christmas Day we found out that the little one is a boy, and while we already know his name, I’ve taken to calling him Meatball for now.

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15) Meeting Luca

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Since I started this list with a baby, it seems only logical for me to end this list with a baby! And in true bookend fashion, I got to meet one of my best friends’ new baby, Luca, just this past week, and even though he is handsome and perfect and practically impossible not to want to hold, it was still a big deal for me to do so without fear. And as I looked down at him and his big curious eyes, I couldn’t help but feel every good moment of the year capsize in this one moment. It was a busy year, but it was a good one. I got to do so many great things and love and be loved on by so many great people. I’m very thankful for the life I live and I feel so honored for the opportunity to live it.

Here’s to 2020, I hope it’s full of wonderful moments, big, small and everything in between. Happy New Year!

From One to Ninety (And Beyond)

It was 12:30 p.m. and I was sitting at a table, breaking a cookie into a bite-sized pieces as I sang happy birthday to the man of the hour. With big eyes, he looked out at all of us, not sure what to think or what to do. His mom held a candle in her hand, the small flame flickering in the afternoon breeze, and she and his dad stood in front of him, encouraging him with puffed cheeks to blow. Instead he reached for the candle, noticing when we laughed, and again when his mom blew out the candle for him and we clapped. Then his eyes shifted to the cake before him and he dug in.

At 4:30 p.m. I was sitting on a couch, spooning my way through a hot fudge sundae as I talked baseball with the man of the hour. He donned a Dodger hat, and the rest of us wore jerseys, shirts, and hats to match as we all watched our favorite team play their final game of the regular season. A cool breeze snuck in the back door, making it easy for us to sit close to one another as we whispered stories or shared them with the whole room, the light and easy conversation the kind that Sunday dreams are made of. Then, with timers set and everyone in their place, we took a group picture to commemorate the day.

It was a one-year-old birthday party and a 90-year-old birthday party, back to back. My sister and I attended both, with a minor costume change in between.

As we celebrated Berkley, we watched as he pointed at balloons and curiously poked his bare feet into the grass in the backyard. We told him all the reasons there were to celebrate and looked into his beautiful eyes, excited for all that they were destined to see.

As we celebrated our grandpa, we barbequed Dodger dogs and passed around Cracker Jacks, recreating one home inside another. We glanced from cousin to aunt to sister to parent, thankful for all that my grandma and grandpa have built, and hopeful that it will only continue to grow. We hugged my grandpa, knowing 90 is not nearly as easy as one or 20 or 40 or even 89, and we looked into his beautiful eyes knowing that they’d seen so much.

I myself have had 29 birthday parties. Some have been small, some have been slightly bigger than small. Some years I feel pressure to do something special, something exciting, while other years I’m perfectly content doing absolutely nothing. All that I hope for, all that we can ever hope for, is exactly what I found at both of these birthday parties: love.

For birthdays mark both an end and a beginning, and we want that transition to be shared with people, in places, surrounded by all that we love. Over time, those people, places and things may change, but if we’re lucky, we’ll always have that love. From the time we’re only one year old and we aren’t even sure what love is, to when we’re 90 years old and we know that love is all there is.

So, to you on your birthday (whenever that may be) I wish you love. For your first birthday, Berkley, I offer you love. And for your 90th birthday, grandpa, I thank you for love. For you’ve given it to me, to all of us, and each and every year, we watch it grow.