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200 Time Time Capsule Blog #9

Has it really been 200 days already!?

In one sense, I feel like YES, January was 45 years ago, so much has happened since then, omg.

But in another sense I’m like, WOAH, it feels like yesterday.

Either way, we are back for another time capsule.

I always love getting these ~letters from the past~.

At the beginning of this one, I wrote, “Wishing you well on these next 200 days. Do your best and give yourself grace.”

That’s so nice, past me. I think I’ve done that, but there’s always room to do better. In these next 200 days, may we all strive for better.

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1) What day is it?

My answer from the last time capsule (1/5/22): January 5th, 2022

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2) Describe yourself today

My answer from the last time capsule (1/5/22): I feel calm. Which is kind of funny because looking at my crazy schedule for the next 6 months, there is NO reason to be calm. But I have been really prioritizing doing things that make me feel good (going on walks, doing yoga, cooking dinner, reading my Bible, working on my counted cross stitch, calling friends on the phone, going to bed early, etc.) and it has made me feel really good. It makes me excited for the year to come because I feel like I can always come back to this place if I get stressed. Aside from that, I’m in jeans and a sweater, in full New Year mode, wanting to learn and achieve everything all at once and practically bursting at the seams from the anticipation of what might come next. And yet, calm.

The funny thing about this is that around this same time, I was talking to my friend Nicole on the phone and I said, “I feel like everything is about to change. I don’t know in what way but I just feel like a lot of change is coming.” A few weeks later, our apartment flooded, and then over the next couple months we moved out, my sister got engaged and then married, and now I’m living with my parents while I look for a place of my own. So while I can’t say I’m still completely holding on to that “calm” I am optimistic about what’s coming next.

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3) What did you do today?

My answer from the last time capsule (1/5/22): I feel like I always start these with “I worked.” She is so brave and hardworking, folks. But alas, I did work today, and I have plans of going for a run in this strangely wonderful 70 degree weather, then I’m going to do some writing, have some leftover roasted cauliflower tacos (yum!) and hangout (from afar) with my sister, who currently has COVID and is locked in her room, so we text and play iPhone games throughout the day. I might encourage us to get ice cream too since that is an *obvious* COVID cure.

Cannot confirm whether or not I went for that run, but a week later, once my sister was COVID free, we went out for ice cream. Two days later, I tested positive and was down for a week. I lost all of my running stamina and haven’t found the motivation to get it back. 🤷

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4) What’s your favorite song right now?

My answer from the last time capsule (1/5/22): Oooh. This is usually an easy one for me, because I’m almost always in the process of overplaying a song, but I don’t have a particular favorite right now. Maybe “Oh My God” by Adele, or one of Leon’s new songs like “Soaked” or “Fade into a Dream.”

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5) What’s the most recent movie you’ve seen?

My answer from the last time capsule (1/5/22): I just watched Red Notice on Netflix last night, which was pretty good. I’m excited about so many movies coming out this year!! This month alone I’m hoping to see West Side StoryLicorice Pizza, Redeeming Love and Belfast in theaters. 

I saw all but Belfast in theaters (and have yet to see it now that I think about it!) and have been so excited to see a bunch more movies in theaters since. I missed the movies so much during lockdown and I’m trying my best to get there as often as possible.

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6) Who did you last text and what did you say?

My answer from the last time capsule (1/5/22): I texted my sister “Omg SO close to a bullseye” because we’re playing darts on iPhone games. Haha!

These proved to be a lifesaver, both when she had COVID and when I did. I think we tried every game there was, and we weren’t all that good at them lol.

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7) What is your biggest goal right now?

My answer from the last time capsule (1/5/22): Hmm, I don’t know if there is one that stands out above the others. I have my usual list of 17, and then I’ve created a small list of side goals for myself that are just self-care items that I’ve wanted to make habits of for a while, but nothing stands out as “THE ONE.” So maybe I’d just say that my biggest goal is to continue pursuing my best self. My most honest, genuine, and happy self. 

I think I’ve done pretty well at continuing to pursue this. And I think part of living a good life is always pursuing this, as our “best” self will look and feel different as we grow and change. My best self now is probably already different than my best self then.

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8) What are you most excited about?

My answer from the last time capsule (1/5/22): There is a TON to be excited about this year. Some friends are getting married, some trips and concerts are on the calendar. But I think the thing I’m MOST excited about would probably be our trip to Nashville coming up in March!

Spoiler alert: Nashville was incredible!

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9) What are you most worried about?

My answer from the last time capsule (1/5/22): That we’ll find ourselves in the same place come this next time capsule (or even next January). I am just so tired of seeing the same arguments, the same news headlines, the same negative, fear based announcements that send the public into a constant tailspin. I really want to have hope that we are headed towards something better and brighter, but a part of me is afraid we won’t make any progress any time soon. 

I’m keeping this worry in my prayers. I like to believe we’re always making progress somewhere, but in some cases I think it’s a one step forward, two steps back type of deal. Nonetheless, I do believe there always room for progress, and there are always people working to make it happen.

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10) What’s the best thing you’ve eaten in the last 200 days?

My answer from the last time capsule (1/5/22): My mom’s Thanksgiving stuffing and/or the 5000 Christmas desserts that I ate for the entire month of December (and most of January).

The summer months in Southern California have not packed their usual grueling, boiling, sweaty punch this year, but I’m already craving those cool(ish) fall months that lead into the holiday season and the DESSERTS. Or maybe I’m just craving a cookie. I can’t be sure.


You can check out this page to see the growing archive of all of my time capsule answers. And don’t forget to check out this post to find out how you can create your own time capsule.

Our next delivery date is: Tuesday, February 14, 2023!!

As usual, I will excitedly await the arrival of this next time capsule and the future it lives in, but I won’t rush towards it. Here’s hoping there’s lots to enjoy between now and then.

Sending you well wishes. Do your best and give yourself grace ❤️

A Denim Eulogy

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to mourn the loss of a dear friend.

Finding friendship is special, but experiencing true friendship is rare. I feel thankful to have experienced both.

A true friend is someone who is there for you on your good days and bad days. Someone that makes you feel like yourself, even when the rest of your world might be up in flames. A true friend asks nothing more from you than who you are—who you REALLY are—and tells you that person is more than enough.

I hope that many of you know (and have) the kind of friend I’m talking about. I hope that you are keeping them close, appreciating each and every day that you have with them while you still can. Because time moves fast. And you never know when life is going to throw you a curveball you didn’t expect. You never know when your favorite jeans are going to rip.

Yes. That’s right. I stand here today, emotional and broken, knowing that no matter what I do, no matter what I say, my favorite jeans are gone. They have ripped. Not just your innocent, across the knee but we can make it trendy kind of rip. But the terminal, upper thigh, if I stretch or bend with too much enthusiasm things could get *spicy* kind of rip.

One morning on my drive to work I felt an unfamiliar breeze, so I looked down and there she was. A patch of my bare thigh. Pale and heartbroken. Knowing full well we should not be making eye contact. She knew what it meant. We both knew.

Which is why, even though the risk was high, even though my job requires me to sit and stand frequently, climb stairs, and often squat down to reach drawers of various file cabinets; even though my outfit could become one which made me skitter away to my car and drive home, perhaps with one butt cheek singing in the wind; EVEN THOUGH I am lucky enough to own other pairs of jeans that are not ripped and, perhaps more importantly, not six years old, and thus not as thin as a piece of paper, I continued my drive to work. I let my jeans have one last ride. I let them see the world one last time.

Now, it would be easy to say that I could just throw these jeans away and move on. They were cheap, they were not made to last, they arguably should have been thrown away two years ago when I realized they provided little to no warmth during the winter months. But, as many women might know, buying jeans is a nightmare. If you were to ask me what size jeans I wear, firstly I would slap you in the face, but then I would tell you I didn’t know. Because who could know when every single store tells you different?

But in a world full of uncertainty, inconsistency and injustice, THESE JEANS WERE THERE FOR ME. They protected me—not from the cold, or really from the sun, as I received many a splotchy sunburn on my knees during our friendship—but from shame and discomfort. These jeans welcomed me every time I put them on, with the waistband landing at exactly the right spot on my hips, and the length neither being too long or too short. These jeans worked with boots, sandals, heels, and the occasional UGG. These jeans took me to work and to nights out on the town. These jeans never judged me, never reminded me that I had eaten a cookie every day of the holiday season, and never went rogue in the washer and came out a different color, size or shape.

These jeans were reliable, they were comfortable, and they were loyal.

So thank you, jeans, for being you, and for letting me be me. Thank you for holding on as long as you could, and thank you for not splitting down the middle at work and making my shift R-rated.  You will be greatly missed, always remembered, and forever loved. RIP.

Merry (Half) Christmas!

Every year, come December, a large portion of the world is set ablaze by the joy and terror of Christmas shopping.

We make our lists, we check them 45 times, and then we often procrastinate until the last minute.

Christmas shopping is about finding special gifts for special someones, or perhaps buying gifts for people who you had no idea were going to buy you a gift, and now you feel like a jerk.

Ahhhhh, the magic of Christmas.

All that being said, you may have noticed that today is NOT Christmas. It’s not even almost Christmas—which department stores start to celebrate about mid-September these days.

BUT, it is almost half Christmas.

That’s right folks, this Saturday, June 25th, is indeed half Christmas, which is a very special holiday in my house.

Half Christmas, as we celebrate it, is when you buy a few gifts for yourself.  

Christmas shopping can be stressful. It’s hard to find the perfect gift and it’s even harder to find it on sale, in stock, and available within an appropriate shipping window. And even when we find the right gift, it’s hard to know if it fully expresses how special someone is to us or how thankful we are to have them in our lives.

Half Christmas shopping is the opposite.

It is never hard for me to pick out a few gifts for myself. I know what I like, I know what I’ve had my eye on, and I know I can return something *without* guilt if it doesn’t turn out the way I hoped.

Half Christmas is about me. It’s about you. It’s about thanking yourself, treating yourself, and celebrating yourself for all the hard work you do.

So it is my hope that you celebrate this year.

Buy that thing you’ve been wanting. Splurge a little. Get yourself something shiny or soft or pretty or powerful. Buy something that makes you want to call your friends and family and say, “look what I got!”

In case you are curious, here are a few things I’ve been considering for my half Christmas.

These shoes from Adidas (which are on major sale!)

These sunglasses from Sunski.

This book about Lost Objects.

And this shear bag (since they are required now at many sports stadiums and concert arenas).

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I am wishing you a very merry half Christmas!

Get something fun! You deserve it 😎

My Weekend Without Context

I went to visit one of my best friends in San Diego last weekend. It was relaxing, fun, cozy, and very much needed, but when I sat down to write about it, I was having trouble figuring out how.

Our days were full, maybe not from going this way and that, but from talking, laughing, and just enjoying each other’s company, so while I couldn’t write one of my usual *travel* type blogs about it, I still felt like it was one I wanted to document. One I felt like you could relate to, or benefit from, even if you weren’t there.

That’s when I realized that I didn’t need to give you specific details, or even context, in order for you to understand or experience it. Because when I thought about the weekend, I saw it in a string of moments that we might all know. Moments that make you sigh wistfully, nod enthusiastically, and say, “YES” understandingly.

So I hope that as I walk you through my weekend in a rather unconventional way, your senses can be awakened, and a few ideas might come to mind, making you think, man, I should do that.

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When the ETA on your GPS goes down by an HOUR.

The full body stretch after you arrive at your destination.

A shy smile from a little kid.

A hug from a friend you missed.

A comfy couch.

The perfect sandwich.

Easy conversation that can start anywhere.

Detailed daydreaming about future vacations.

Having lots of time to sit down and relax.

Looking at a friend and saying, “I do that TOO!”

The smell of a barbeque.

The feeling of a smile pulling across your lips.

A satisfied sigh at the dinner table.

Turning off all the lights to watch a movie.

Fresh popcorn out of the microwave.

Licking salt off your fingertips.

Cuddling up with a blanket.

Falling asleep hard and fast.

Waking up to the sun rather than an alarm.

Fresh fruit on a slow morning.

A deep belly baby laugh

A breeze on a hot day.

Cold beer.

Finding a seat in the shade.

Hot French fries.

Comfortable quiet.

A long relaxing breath.

Binge watching a tv show that makes you smile.

A sunset hike on the beach.

Pasta.

A fluffy pillow.

An easy Sunday morning.

A bright blue sky.

Inside jokes.

Cozy hugs.

Promises of “see you soon!”

Good music.

An easy drive.

Home.

10 Things You Might Hear While Fishing With Us

I grew up fishing.

There are so many Saturday’s and Sunday’s I can remember waking up early at my family’s mountain cabin, anxious to get out on the lake. We would stop at 7-eleven and buy mini donuts, we’d rent one of the bright orange boats at the dock, and then we’d start our loop around the lake, knowing where and when the best bites should hit.

These days, while the Saturday’s and Sunday’s spent fishing are much fewer and farther between, we still try to get out as much as we can. And when we’re lucky, we fish with some friends in some of the most beautiful places.

But no matter where we are or who we’re with, there are some things you’re bound to hear if you happened to walk by. We have our own kind of language when we fish, one that I had to actively pull myself out of in order to write this post. I had to imagine myself out on the lake, or in my seat on the shore, listening to the people around me say things that might not make sense to someone that’s never fished before—or maybe just someone that’s never fished with us.

Here are some of those things:

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1) Fish On!

No, this isn’t a chant for the downtrodden, encouraging all those who have been shut out to keep going, to FISH. ON! This is a victory cry that announces you, quite literally, have a fish on your line. Usually we’ll pick up our pole and wait until we’ve successfully set the hook, and then yell “fish on!” It’s fun to watch our group cheer as surrounding groups slump in jealousy.

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2) How did this even happen?

I can think of a number of different circumstances in which I’ve said this exact thing in a non-fishing context. Like when I followed the instructions of a recipe and ended up with something scary. Or when I tripped and fell in grand fashion for no discernable reason. Sometimes things just become a disaster and we have no idea why. In fishing, this usually involves your line becoming a rat’s nest in the blink of an eye. Or perhaps the time I hooked a fish by the tail. Or when I reeled in my pole to rebait, only to mysteriously hook my shoe in the process.

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3) I’ve lost everything.

This is perhaps the saddest thing you can hear while fishing. Sure, you’ll lose the occasional fish. You’ll lose your bait, hook, swivel, jig, lure, or bobber. But sometimes, whether it be during a fight with a fish, or by reeling your line through a patch of seaweed, over a rock or under a log, you will, in fact, lose everything. In an instant your pole will go slack, and you know that when you reel in the rest of the line, there will be absolutely nothing there. Sometimes even the pole breaks too. *sigh*

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4) Bitch stole my bait.

Our most common moniker for fish is *ahem* bitch. And if you ever fished, you know why. Fish can be slimy, shady little…well, bitches. They can tangle up your line, they can swim under a rock or log and make you lose everything, they can get your hopes up only to send them crashing down. Sometimes fish can be clever. They figure out that the shiny, sparkly Powerbait (or worm or mosquito or salmon egg) is a trap, and will nibble them off the hook without a trace. So when you reel in your line, curious why you haven’t gotten a bite, you find nothing but a hook, licked clean like a plate on Thanksgiving. And so, the only natural thing to say is, that bitch stole my bait.  

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5) *Zelda noises*

When my siblings and I were little, we got Zelda: Ocarina of Time for our Nintendo 64. To this day, it is probably our favorite game of all time, and thus, the sights, sounds, bosses, challenges, etc. are firmly engrained in all of our memories. One of which is the unforgettable sound Link makes while swinging his sword, which is a high pitched “HaaaAAAA” noise. In time, it has become one of the most hilarious noises in the world. ESPECIALLY, when we’ve been fishing for hours, haven’t caught much, and have slipped into a delirium that encourages us to use these sword fighting sounds to help us cast.

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6) Do you have tinkage?

While trolling (fishing on a slow-moving boat) my family and I often use lures—mainly Thomas Bouyants and Super Dupers. These lures will “swim” around in the water, swaying back and forth, to attract the attention of the fish and ideally get them to bite. As a result, the swaying motion causes the tip of our fishing poles to twitch, or, as we like to call it, “tink.” If your pole is “tinking” it means the lure is swimming right. Thus, do you have tinkage? means “everything look good over there?” And responses to this range, from: “yup” to “oh, MAJOR tinkage.”

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7) We need the Koehn death grip over here.

Over the years, I have gotten pretty good at removing hooks from fish we’ve caught. To do this however, I need to keep the fish still. And so, I’ve figured out the kind of hand strength I need to make that happen. In our circle of friends, this has become known as “the Koehn death grip.” Koehn (pronounced “cane”) being my last name.  Fish have been known to gurgle while I hold them in my hand, and once I squeezed a bigger fish so hard that a salmon egg (which we were not fishing with) popped out of the fish’s mouth. Oops.

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8) I need STANK.

One of my sister’s biggest superstitions while shore fishing is to add a Powerbait attractant to her bait. It adds scent and flavor to your bait so that fish will find it and bite. While making this list, I had to actively search for what this stuff is actually called because for decades we have only ever called it “stank” or “stinky stuff.” At any given time while fishing, my sister will say, “I need STANK,” and as I write this I am giggling, knowing how completely unfazed we are by this request. We just toss her the bottle and move on.

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9) Should we do a fish call?

I HESITATE to tell you this because it feels like a trade secret. But then, I don’t know if there’s a single person we’ve taken fishing that we haven’t told this to, so, perhaps it’s not a secret at all. At the start of any fishing trip (morning, afternoon, or evening) we like to do a “fish call.” This makes us feel like the fishing has started and, we like to believe, summons the fish toward us. To do a fish call*, you simply make a fist, count to three, and then blow into your fist the way you might if your hands were cold. But you elongate that exhale, that way the call can reach even the biggest fish at the deepest depths. Then, you open your hand and push the call into the open.

*Shout out to everyone who just did a fish call at their desk, in their bedroom, on their couch or wherever else you might be reading this.

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10) Seems like it’s time for a beer.

And finally, this one. Do I need to explain this one? I feel like I don’t. When you’re fishing, it’s almost always time for a beer.

I Played Hooky!

When my alarm went off on Friday it felt like any other weekday. I hit snooze once—okay twice—and then I got up and went through my morning routine.

But it wasn’t a normal weekday. It wasn’t even a work day. Because I was playing hooky!

A couple weeks ago, I got an email from one of my favorite places to volunteer, Food Forward, offering the opportunity to pick blueberries.

“Bummer,” I said, reading through the details. “It’s on a Friday morning.”

As a long time Monday-Friday officer worker, 8:00am – 4:00pm are always work hours. They are accounted for. They are booked. So I almost deleted the email right then and there.

But then…I let it churn a bit.

I am not one for taking spontaneous days off. I like to plan vacations and there’s the occasional weekend trip I’ll extend one way or the other, but other than that, I go to work. I’m clocking in and clocking out and wondering a) why it isn’t Friday yet, or b) how can it already be Friday?

And I’ll admit, sometimes work weeks can get monotonous. They can blend together, making time slip by at the speed of light. Which is why, when I really let myself think about it, I decided, why not?

Why not take a spontaneous Friday off?

Why not?

So, on Friday morning I got in the car, and rather than head into work I drove out to a farm in Camarillo, feeling smug as I cruised past all the rush hour traffic going the opposite direction.

When I pulled into the gravel parking lot, I met my group of fellow volunteers, who all seemed as happy to be there as I was. It was 73 degrees, it was Friday, none of us were at work. Life was good.

We walked by an orchard of avocado trees to a large tent that had almost twenty rows of blueberry bushes and a few rows of strawberry bushes right alongside them. We were each given a small bucket and told to choose an aisle.

For the next couple hours, I filled my bucket and then emptied it, dying my hands blue in the process. I’ll admit, there may have been a good handful or so of blueberries that missed my bucket and ended up in my mouth—with the permission of the farmers, of course.

At 11:00 a.m., we wrapped up our pick and calculated that we harvested around 90 pounds of blueberries. Which, when you consider that the average blueberry weighs about 1/128th of an ounce, this would suggest that we picked about 184,320 blueberries. Which would fill about 240 six-ounce containers of blueberries.

*pauses for applause*

(for the blueberry picking, yes, but also for the math I just did)

Our blueberries were donated to a food shelter, and we all left with smiles on our faces, grateful for the opportunity to lend a hand, and to spend the morning on a farm.

When I’d first made plans for my day off, I knew I’d be picking blueberries in the morning and wedding dress shopping with my sister in the afternoon. That left me a handful of hours in between to do with what I wished. So, as I got ready in the morning, I packed a bag with a few pairs of shoes, a change of clothes, and a beach towel.

After I left the farm, I headed north to a sandwich shop called Peebee & Jays. I ordered the Chicken & Greens sandwich on sourdough and filled my Hydroflask, then drove to the beach. I changed out of my blueberry stained t-shirt and into a comfortable crewneck and flip flops, then I carried my beach towel and sandwich bag out to the sand and took a seat.

The beach was nearly empty, with only a few people in sight in either direction. All I could hear was the water. I sat crisscross applesauce and watched the waves as I ate my sandwich, occasionally pausing to close my eyes and feel the breeze hit my face, my hair, my toes.  The ocean was loud but my mind was quiet.

I felt like I had time to think, to plan, to exist, to relax. A lot has happened this year, and there is a lot more year left to live. There will be a lot of work days ahead. A lot of busy weeks and full calendars. There will be a lot of change—some good, some hard, some both—and a lot of new.  But today there was just this. There was just the sound of the ocean, the sand between my toes, and this peaceful feeling that I’d grabbed onto with both hands.

I could have been at work, I could have let that email pass me by, I could have let this Friday blend in with the Wednesday and Thursday before it. But I decided to make it different. I decided to make it special. I decided to play hooky. And I was grateful I did.

If you’re looking for a sign to play hooky, this is it!

March & April Favorites

Spring is in full bloom here at home, which means that all of the birds are happily chirping, the plants are happily glowing a vibrant green, and the flowers are happily blooming in every color you can think of.

Seems like the perfect time to talk about some favorites.

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Podcasts

I have been absolutely binging Terrible, Thanks for Asking. This might be a little bit strange to hear if you a) know the podcast or b) look it up on this recommendation, because many of the episodes are emotional and, at times, devastating. But I am so drawn to the stories and emotions that this podcast inspires, and I just can’t get enough of it. I am addicted to the feelings it draws out of me, if that makes sense. They are creative feelings, they are empathetic feelings, they are feelings that say, hey, you’re alive, and I just love it.

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Books

I have a few recommendations based on what you might be looking for here

If you are looking for a romantic comedy, I’d say The Hating Game. This book was cute, strange (in a good way), funny and easy to read. It starts with: “I have a theory. Hating someone feels disturbingly similar to being in love with them” and then follows two characters who toe this line—and cross it.

If you are looking for something you cannot put down, I’d say Verity. I’d heard a lot of rumblings about this book and wanted to read it for myself. After starting, it took about five minutes for me to a) need to know everything that was going to happen, and b) need to have someone to discuss every second of the book with—a task I quickly gave to my mom, who said, “omg let me know what happens,” and allowed me to update her on the drama/horror/shock as I went along. The basic plot is that a woman is hired to finish writing a series of books since the author (named Verity) has been in an accident and is unable to continue writing. The woman then moves into Verity’s house (alongside Verity’s husband and son) so that she can immerse herself in Verity’s notes, outlines, etc. and she finds FAR more than she anticipated.

If you are looking for an inspirational read to change your perspective, I’d say The Gift of Forgiveness. This is a collection of stories that highlight forgiveness and the sometimes unbelievable/unbearable circumstances where people have found themselves in need of forgiving. At the beginning of every chapter I said, “no way,” in regards to the possibility/necessity of forgiveness and was continuously blown away by the human capacity to do so.

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Movies

I didn’t hear a lot about Everything, Everywhere, All At Once before it hit theaters, but after it did, all I heard was that it was fantastic. And I agree. It is nearly impossible for me to explain to you what happens. But I can honestly say that you’ve never seen anything like it, and that you will experience seemingly every emotion while watching it. Just watch it. It’s incredible.

Also, Father Stu. If you want a reason why you should look up this movie, here is the opening line on the Wikipedia page dedicated to the subject of this true story: “Stuart Long was an American boxer and Catholic priest.” This was an incredible story, that had humor and heart, and took turns I definitely didn’t anticipate. What an inspiring man and a truly meaningful life.  

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TV Shows

Pam & Tommy follows the beginning (and initial end) of the relationship between Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee, and the theft and release of their sex tape. It is honestly devastating to watch, both because of the invasion of privacy, and the way in which Pamela Anderson was treated afterwards by the media and the lawyers that were supposed to be helping her. Both Lily James and Sebastian Stan put on incredible performances and the makeup team should win an award. (find it on Hulu)

The Girl from Plainville is based on the true story from a few years back where a girl was taken to trial for allegedly encouraging her boyfriend to commit suicide. It is a heavy subject and is hard to watch at times. But I feel like it addresses an important subject and, at least for me, is a reminder of how precious life is— how precious each individual is—and how much is lost, both for a family and for the world, when someone takes their own life. (find it on Hulu)

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Music

Humble Quest by Maren Morris

Raised by Hailey Whitters

Where We Started by Thomas Rhett

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Two Dots

I’m not really one for playing games on my phone, but Two Dots has sucked me in. I couldn’t tell you how/when I found it, but it is such a simple concept and has been an easy thing to play while I’m decompressing after a long day at work. Plus, it’s free, so we love that. (find it here)

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Alabaster Co Meditations

I have wanted to get into a consistent meditation routine for a while now but have had trouble finding meditations that draw me in and keep me focused. So I was very excited to find these guided Christian meditations on YouTube that are all brief and easy to follow. I like to do them after I finish doing yoga or when I just need to refresh my mind after work. (find them here)


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

See my previous favorites post here.

A Golden Birthday in Nashville (Part 2)

Monday March 21st, 2022

On Monday, the birthday-day!, our first stop was the Country Music Hall of Fame. We walked up and down aisles of country music history, recognizing some faces, and learning about others. My mom has always been a fan of country music, so it was fun to hear songs that she’d played for me throughout my childhood, and to see her face light up in recognition of those that reminded her of hers.

Music history is special. It weaves its way into all of our lives, defining moments we will remember forever. As we walked among the crowds, I liked to imagine all of the shoulders being tapped, and hushed stories being shared, saying things like, “this reminds me of ____” or “I first heard this when ___.”

Even though we might not notice, we all have soundtracks that define our lives and unlock memories that we might not even remember we still have. I know for me (in the country music world at least) I have fond memories of Shania Twain, Tim McGraw, Amy Grant, and Crystal Bernard, and hearing them helps me connect with that little girl that heard them for the first time—be it in my mom’s car on the way to school or on the cd player in the living room—twenty years ago.

On our way out, my mom and I designed this country music *star*, designing her persona from her shoes to her hair. Personally, I think she looks like the love child of Dolly Parton and Taylor Swift, which sounds like an absolute dream of an artist.

From the Country Music Hall of Fame, we made our way to Yee Haw Brewing Co. for a drink and some lunch. I ordered a watermelon margarita and some tacos, and while I remember them being good, they were supremely overshadowed by the pretzel that we ordered. It was gigantic, it was delicious, and I will probably think about it for the rest of my life. That being said, it was so good that it was about 75% gone before I even considered taking a picture. So you will just have to go to Nashville to try one for yourself.

In the same building as Yee Haw Brewing is Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine, so after lunch a big group walked over to do a moonshine tasting. I sat it out, but happily leaned on the bar to watch everyone’s mouths pucker and eyes water—especially after tasting the 128 proof moonshine known as Blue Flame. Among the other offerings—some of which we brought home with us—were moonshine pickles, moonshine cherries, and Mountain Java moonshine, which I heard tastes a *little* like chocolate milk, and makes an excellent addition to your morning coffee if you need an extra strong start to your day.

Around 6:00p.m that evening, we walked from our building to Bakersfield, a Mexican restaurant hosting Tanner’s birthday dinner. I should also note that earlier in the day, we were all given matching hats that said “TS 3/21”. The TS being Tanner’s initials and the date obviously being his birthday. With our group, that was essentially the size of a baseball team, we turned quite a few heads in our matching gear. The red, white and blue coloring of the hats made us look like we might be campaigning for an upcoming election, though I think a few people looked at us fearfully as if we might be recruiting for a cult. Either way, we loved them, and we rocked them for the remainder of the night.

After dinner, we headed to Luke Bryan’s bar (Luke Bryan’s 32 Bridge), which had a very mellow vibe. A pair of gentlemen stood on stage singing classic country songs we all knew, and we happily sang along, occasionally dancing, and constantly pointing at Tanner in the hope that they might sing happy birthday.

We then walked over to Kid Rock’s bar (Kid Rock’s Big Honky Tonk and Steakhouse). It was nice out, so we headed up to the rooftop and sat, sipping on our drinks, taking the occasional shot, and singing along to the band playing 80’s music.

After a little while, we decided it was time to move on, but then they played “Time of My Life”from Dirty Dancing, and so we all took off towards the stage and danced our Patrick Swayze hearts out. I then realized that—because I am the mom of the friend group—I’d packed snacks in my purse earlier in the day. So I pulled out a pack of fruit snacks which, at 11:00pm, with alcohol sponsored energy, felt like the greatest thing to ever happen. There is a video from that night of me dancing with my hands over my head. One fist is tightly closed because I am keeping my remaining fruit snacks intact for continued snacking. #snackdedication

When we finally did walk downstairs, we only got as far as the second floor (there are five total). Because on the second floor, you can look out over the first floor, which had people dancing on top of the bar, a live band singing while a bartender poured a beer on someone, and people cheering, singing and raising their glasses all over the room.

At first, I think we all stopped just to watch. They were playing good music, but it was also perhaps some of the best people watching around. But then, the music got us. We started dancing and then we kept dancing. The bar started to empty and we just kept on dancing. We jumped and we sang and we tipped our Tanner themed hats. We put our arms around each other and belted out notes into our empty cups. We stomped our boots and clapped our hands. It felt like a celebration for Tanner and a celebration of music. We twirled and laughed and took pictures that would forever bring us back to those moments. The world felt normal—or at least this new kind of normal. I felt appreciative of this night, as I knew how far we’d come to be able to have it.

We walked home, talking a mile a minute, already reminiscing about this night, about the night before, and everything in between. My FitBit buzzed, letting me know I hit 10,000 steps—two hours into the day—and my feet—this time in tennis shoes—kept dancing while I brushed my teeth, not stopping until I again collapsed into bed.

Tuesday March 22nd, 2022

Tuesday morning was a bit of an earlier wake up call. Especially when you consider that we’d been out dancing only a matter of hours beforehand. Our group walked over to meet everyone at their AirBnb just up the street, as a bus was picking us up to drive us to Lynchburg.

If you are a country music fan, the town of Lynchburg might sound familiar, even if you’ve never been to Tennessee. This is because it is the home (the one and ONLY home) to Jack Daniels whiskey.

Being a loyal Jameson family (sorry) and having toured the Jameson distillery in Ireland, we were curious to learn about this American whiskey that, while not our number one, is still a staple in our houses—especially the Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey.

In the end, we learned a lot about the making of whiskey, a lot about the man himself, Jack Daniels—who casually started working in a distillery at the age of eight—and a lot about the variety of whiskeys the distillery makes. I bought a Tennessee Honey baseball hat to support our trusted pal, but left with my loyalty to Jameson unshaken. (Sorry, again.)

By the time we got home that evening, our group was entirely too exhausted to even consider going out again. We’d been running on an average of 4-5 hours of sleep, and were set to fly home the next day. So, we robed up—embracing our last night as *penthouse people*—and ordered in some pizza. A rainstorm blew in and drenched the city, sending many people on the streets below running for cover. Wind whistled through the buildings and cars moved slow. We all went to bed early that night, and our bodies thanked us for it.

Wednesday March 23rd, 2022

On our last morning in Nashville, we ate a marvelous carb loaded breakfast at Another Broken Egg Café. I ordered the Bourbon Street Pancakes, which I felt was a good send off—not to mention delicious.

By 12:30pm we were out of our suite and in an Uber on the way to the airport, sad the trip was over, and even sadder that we had to go to work the next morning.

After the plane took off, I sat, looking out the window, hoping that the trip had been all that Tanner hoped it would be. For me, it was even more. The weeks prior to leaving had been chaotic and I was a little nervous I wouldn’t be able to unwind enough to truly enjoy the trip. But I’d had so much fun dancing and singing and jumping around like I didn’t have a care in the world. I’d loved wearing my hat (emblazoned with Tanner’s initials) backwards in a honky tonk, like a fraternity brother on spring break. I’d loved the city of Nashville and its quirky architecture and lively energy. I’d loved this break from reality, from everything that had been weighing me down at home.

Even though I was exhausted, and so excited to be reunited with my pillow—and my normal bedtime—I was going to miss this trip, and the people I took it with.

I was already dreaming up our next one, excited that someday, that dream would be a reality.

A Golden Birthday in Nashville (Part 1)

About three years ago my cousin Tanner told me and my family that he wanted to celebrate his twenty first birthday in Nashville, Tennessee.  

Funnily enough, we were in Paris at the time, waiting for the clock to strike ten so that the Eiffel Tower—which we took to calling “Eif”—would light up. Our group of nine cheers-ed to the idea, both wishing it was closer, and praying that the trip we were already on would find a way to last a little longer.

Like everyone else, we didn’t know what was to come. And we had no idea that we’d spend much of the “countdown to Nashville” locked inside. But, when things started opening back up, and flights to Nashville went on sale, we booked, we prayed and then we waited.

On Saturday, March 19th, that waiting ended.

Saturday March 19th, 2022

As we made our way down 2nd Avenue, sitting in bumper to bumper Saturday night traffic in downtown Nashville, music played from seemingly every direction. A tractor drove by towing a trailer full of people dancing and drinking, pedestrians walked down the street in dresses, boots and cow print pants. Meanwhile, our Uber driver yelled, “I DON’T SEE MY DESTINATION!” at his navigation system, so we politely asked to get out, suggesting that we were close enough and could walk the rest of the way.

“This is us,” my dad said, pointing to a building.

As far as lodging went, I had no real expectations going in. I’m a bargain hunter by trade, and had done my part by finding us a great deal on flights, so I assumed my dad had found a hotel that he simply liked the look of.  But when the doors opened to the fourth (and top) floor of our building, and a key code let us into the Penthouse apartment that my dad had found a good deal on, we all walked in, absolutely speechless.

It was a fun space, with both eclectic and nostalgic design schemes. There was a piano, a pool table, an arcade machine, a lava lamp, coasters that looked both like floppy discs and records, a picture of a young Queen Elizabeth edited to give her piercings and neck tattoos, and lots of books ranging from Nashville themed cookbooks to Marvel based dictionaries.

There were 4 bedrooms (each of which had at least one cloth robe emblazoned with the building’s name hanging in the closet), four bathrooms, a living room with a couch and four comfortable chairs, a kitchen, and a wet bar. And did I mention we were only a block from Broadway Street?

My family has never been wealthy, or flashy, or really ever been one that regularly “splurges”, but like most people (perhaps more than some and less than others) we had been put through the ringer in the last two years, and so walking up and down the length of the suite, marveling that it was “all for us!!”, felt like a true testament to all that we’d made it though, and all that we’d come to celebrate.

After we unpacked, we walked over to Gray & Dudley, as we wanted to eat, drink, and meet up with the guest of honor.  Tanner was turning 21 on the 21st of March, making it his golden birthday, and it almost felt surreal to actually be in Nashville, primed to celebrate it. Our trip to Europe felt like 10 years ago, but now that we were here, in Nashville, taking this trip that had once only been an idea, made it feel like just yesterday we were sitting in that Parisian café, dreaming it up. 

With our group of seven, we made the group total 17. Tanner’s family, friends and cousins had also made the trip, and we all gathered around a corner of the bar, hugging, smiling and chatting.

Even though most of us knew each other already, it still felt like a bit of an ice breaker. We were all still in our plane attire, with our eyes a little heavy from the 5ish hours of travel and the anticipation of the trip to come. We would be each other’s community for the trip. The people you would look for if you got separated in a bar or a restaurant, the faces and voices you would recognize up ahead on the street or coming around the corner behind you. Tanner had brought us all together and now we’d all be a part of each other’s memories, writing stories on this weekend of our shared histories, and taking pictures that would eventually make us say, “remember when?”

We’d made it to Nashville and now it was time to enjoy it.

Sunday March 20th, 2022

At about 12:00pm on Sunday, we all made our way over to Centennial Park to see the Parthenon, which is a 90-year-old replica of the Greek structure originally built in 447 BC. (That’s 2500 years ago, y’all)

It is an imposing, beautiful structure that I can hardly believe just exists in the middle Nashville, Tennessee.

Immediately upon getting out of the car, I was taking pictures from every angle, knowing that none of them would ever really do it justice. It’s the kind of structure that makes you feel small, and when I asked my sister (who graciously obliged) to take off running down one of the cement pathways, I was reminded just how small we are.

Cute, but small.

From there, we made our way to the Belmont Mansion.

Located on the Belmont University campus, the Belmont Mansion is listed as the largest house built in Tennessee prior to the Civil War. Moving from room to room (and trying desperately to abide by the “no touching” rules) we learned about Adelicia Acklen and her crazy life, which included three husbands, ten children (six of which died young), and of course, this expansive property which, at the time of completion, included lavish gardens, and a zoo.

Next, we headed to the historic Ryman auditorium. After checking in for our tour, we were led into a side room to watch what I assumed would be a standard informative film about the building. Instead, it was a fun, creative performance that not only taught us about the history of the Ryman, but made me both excited and invested in its (hopefully) bright and prosperous future.

At approximately 4:00pm, we were more or less starving. It had been a slow onset of travel hanger that I think, if left unchecked for much longer, could have escalated into violence. Thankfully, we found the Assembly Food Hall that had (among other things) chicken, pizza, edible no bake cookie dough, and alcohol just in time.

While we ate, we made a game plan for the night ahead. Tanner’s birthday was the next day and we wanted to be out celebrating on Broadway by midnight. So, we decided that everyone would meet at our place, where we would pregame and play a few rounds of beer pong and pool before heading out on the town.

We walked out of our building at about 11:55pm, so right as we reached Broadway, we stopped in the middle of the sidewalk to sing happy birthday loud and proud.

We then headed to Jason Aldean’s bar, with Tanner leading the way. He walked up to the bouncer, who checked his ID once, then twice, then said, “hey, happy birthday man” before letting him through, officially starting his career as a legal bar hopper.

Once inside, we were a little bummed to find that the second floor (the country music floor) was closed for the night, so we climbed the stairs all the way to the top floor, which was blasting hip hop music and was more reminiscent of a downtown LA club than I think any of us were hoping. We walked out onto the rooftop and cheers-ed our drinks, knowing that the night was young and there were plenty more bars to choose from.

Similar to Vegas, Broadway comes alive at night. The dark sky gives the neon a chance to really glow, asking you to “come in!” “try this place!” “check this out!” We did a slow spin on our heels, taking in all of our options, each of us willing to go wherever the birthday boy had in mind. He pointed at a bar across the street, but then decided to peek in Tin Roof first, as there was a live band playing and the lead singer had an incredible voice.

We walked in, ordered some drinks and then started dancing. Our big group made the once scant bar look like it was hosting a small wedding reception. We were high energy and already comfortable with one another. We took turns walking up to make requests until eventually the lead singer asked what had brought us all in.

“TANNER!” we all shouted back at her.

She squinted her eyes, looking for Tanner in the crowd, and then nodded, “you look like a Tanner. You look like every boy that broke my heart in high school.”

Seeing as most of us are related to Tanner, we all shook our heads defensively. “NO! Tanner is great! This is a NICE Tanner!!”

We continued to dance, our group bantering back and forth with the band. Then my aunt, Tanner’s mom, bought the band a round of shots, which prompted them to sing, “Stacy’s Mom” by Fountains of Wayne, except they changed the lyrics to say, “Tanner’s mom, has got it going on!” which we all sang at the absolute top of our lungs.

At 2:30am, the band signed off and the bar started to close. We walked outside to find Broadway much quieter than we’d last seen it. We had danced for almost two hours, and I was limping like a baby giraffe in my heeled booties that had seemed like such a good/cute idea when we left the house.

A couple people stopped to get late night gyros, both to soak up some alcohol and to account for the hunger that we’d worked up dancing the night away. Then we all collapsed into bed. Ears ringing, (at least my) feet throbbing, and curiosity building for what adventures awaited us the next day—or rather, the same day, in a matter of hours.

A Weekend of Happy Moments

I had a good weekend.

I wanted to write about it from start to finish, but the more I thought about it, the more I just wanted to highlight the moments that made it especially good. Because sometimes it’s not always the big moments, the obvious moments, the moments everyone can see from the outside. Sometimes it’s the smallest moments, the ones you may not even notice until they’re over. Lucky for me, I had a combination of both this weekend—big moments and small—and I want to share some of them.

Friday 4:30 p.m.

My mom and I, dressed in robes, walked into a quiet room where a few day beds faced a waterfall display. There was no music playing, no surrounding conversations, just the sound of water quietly running. We each had a cup of lemon water that we set on the end tables next to our respective day beds, and we took out our Kindles to read for a little while. Our bodies were fully relaxed, having just been treated to 90-minute massages, and we seemed to melt into those day beds, our robes tied loosely around our waists and our minds able to escape into our books. A half hour slipped by, then an hour, and we lay there, content and relaxed.

Friday 9:00 p.m.

I was curled under a blanket in my parents’ living room, watching West Side Story with my parents, my aunt and uncle, and my grandpa. My grandpa and I have always bonded over our love of musicals, and so we’d wanted to watch the new adaptation of West Side Story together. The moment Tony and Maria first see each other at the dance, my 92-year-old grandpa said, wistfully, “this is called love at first sight.

Saturday 9:30 a.m.

It was 75 degrees outside and perfectly clear in Camarillo, and I was picking lemons on an expansive property that looked out over the city. I was part of a group of volunteers picking fruit for Food Forward, and I was filling a bucket with lemons and carrying it up the hill in order to fill the boxes we’d be donating to food shelters. The sun was out, and the lemon trees were blossoming, making the air the perfect blend of floral and citrus. I was sweating, and, at times, panting, as I carried that bucket (20 pounds when full) up the hill over and over, but I knew I was doing good work, and I was happy to be meeting new people.

Saturday 11:30 a.m.

I stopped at Jamba Juice—my tradition after completing a volunteer shift—and got small smoothie and an apple cinnamon pretzel. One of my favorite country songs (“Raised on it” by Sam Hunt) came on the radio, and I took a sip of my smoothie, said, “this is DELICIOUS” out loud, then blasted the song and sang every word.

Saturday 2:50 p.m.

I was standing on the shore of my favorite lake, having driven up to spend the weekend at my family’s cabin. My dad was on the phone with my sister, asking if she could see him, me and my mom from the boat she was fishing on with her boyfriend, Will. They were a good way away from us, and I was waving my arms and dancing, hoping to both get her attention and make her laugh. We were letting her know that we had arrived at the lake, so that they could make their way over to “pick us up.” Little did she know, a small group of friends and family were standing behind a tree, waiting for the signal to come down and watch as Will got down on one knee in the boat and asked her to marry him.

Saturday 3:00 p.m.

She said yes!

Saturday 4:00 p.m.

I was sitting on the boat (named “Tiny Guy”)—which my sister received as present from Will last year—for the very first time. Will was driving, Natalee was sitting beside me, and Will’s mom was sitting behind me. We were making our way from the shore where we’d all gathered after the proposal to the dock, and we couldn’t help but comment on the perfection of the day. The sun was bright and warm, and the sky was perfectly clear—not a cloud in sight. I’d been on that lake so many times growing up, always with my sister right beside me, fishing and singing and creating inside jokes that we still quote to this day, and now there I was, seeing her future unfold in the brightest way, surrounded by new family, with new memories awaiting us in the days ahead.

Sunday 2:30 p.m.

I was sitting on a recliner in the living room, trying to throw a bottle cap into a glass vase. After spending the morning and early afternoon lounging around, I proposed the game to my sister’s now fiancé Will. “How much would you give me if I made a bottle cap in that vase?” To be fair, the vase, set atop the fireplace mantle, already had about ten bottle caps in it, and I was wondering how impressed he would be if I could add to the collection from my chair. What unfolded was nearly 30 minutes of the three of us trying to make the bottle cap in the vase, and cheering as if we’d just won the World Series whenever one of us did.

Sunday 3:50 p.m.

I was sitting on a bench eating a sandwich, looking out at the lake. We’d picked up the sandwiches from the local market, and then parked our car in a shady spot on the highway before walking down the small hill to get to the lake. It was a little breezy, but the sun was still out and a few boats were making laps around the lake. We sat, sometimes talking, sometimes just taking bite after bite, soaking in the mountain air and the easy happiness that the weekend seemed to be made of.

Sunday 6:45 p.m.

I was in my car, singing my heart out on my drive home. The sun was only just starting to set since daylight saving time had given us back our evenings, and it was turning the sky pink. Every part of the weekend had gone right, from start to finish, and I was both ecstatic and exhausted. But the sunset seemed to promise only more good things, only more good moments. So I kept driving, kept singing, and made sure to take a few pictures once I pulled into the driveway at home.

It was the prettiest farewell to the happiest of weekends.