journal

For Laycee

This past weekend my family lost our dog, Laycee, who was a vibrant, beautiful member of our family for nine years. It was a hard day, one that we’d dreaded, but ultimately knew had to come, and we are happy to know that she lived a good life, full of love, both given and received.

When thinking about how I could honor Laycee, and the love that we all receive from pets that come into our lives at just the right time, I knew I had to turn to my sister Natalee. She had such a special relationship with Laycee, that my mom often interchanged their names in conversation. They were destined for each other, and just as any love story changes the world, so too did theirs. And so, as a final goodbye to our pretty girl, I wanted Natalee to tell their story.

This is what she wrote:

 

To My Perfect Angel,

It was a chilly day in early December of 2010. My whole family piled in to the car and set out on what ended up being a long, confusing drive. I don’t even remember the story my parents told us about where we were going, but I do remember feeling slightly concerned that the deserted, off the beaten path location we eventually found ourselves in might be the place of the Koehn family’s demise. I later found out Kim and our brother Troy were feeling the same way. Much to our delight, however, we soon learned that our parents had pulled a fast one on us! We hadn’t driven out there to meet our doom, we had driven out there to get our first family dog!

Soon we were flooded with the exciting and overwhelming scene of dogs barking, tails wagging and eyes begging to be chosen. I remember being in total disbelief. I had wanted and asked for a dog for SO long. I couldn’t believe we were actually getting one! We immediately dispersed and started looking for the one we would take home with us. Troy liked a black lab with giant paws and an even bigger personality. Kim loved all of them. I had no idea how I would ever walk out of there with just one.

 Until you walked over to me.

 With your head slumped down and your whole body shaking, you walked up to me, you let me pet you, and you stole my heart. My whole family saw the instant connection, and not 10 minutes later we were walking back to the car with you in my arms.

I know it sounds cliché, but that day changed my life. It was the beginning of winter break in my senior year of high school, and those days were truly some of my worst. I was in a dark place, and the punches were only just starting to be thrown my way. But you made all the difference. No matter what happened during the day, I had a loyal, loving, anxious little angel waiting for me at home, never questioning my character or making me feel like I wasn’t worth anything. I had a companion. Trust wasn’t an easy thing for either of us, but I had yours, and you had mine.

As it turns out, my parents knew what they were doing all those years they said no to letting me have a dog. They knew the right time, and the right pup, would come along. And for me, that was and will always be you. See you soon my precious angel. I’ll love you forever.

Thank You, Kobe.

This past weekend might have been a lot of things for a lot of people, but there was one collective moment most of us shared.

It was an awful moment. The kind we’ll replay over and over again. The kind that 20, 30 years from now we’ll still swap, “where were you when..” stories about.

For me, I was in North Carolina, visiting my cousins. I was standing in line at an ice cream shop, taking bites of my waffle cone filled with Carolina Crunch as I waited to pay. Then, with a pivot, my cousin Ashlynn turned to me, phone in hand and said, “is this true?”

It was.

Kobe Bryant had been killed in a helicopter crash.

As the day went on, the details came out. We learned that Gianna, Kobe’s 13 year old daughter, as well as seven other passengers—children, mothers, fathers, wives and husbands—had also been killed in the crash.

As the weeks go on, we’ll likely learn more. But for now, we’re just left with what we know, and what we feel.

And we all feel it.

Over the last two days, social media has been flooded with condolences, prayers and heartbreak, but more than anything, it has been filled with stories. Moments. Thank you’s.

Kobe Bryant will undoubtedly be one of the greatest, if not the greatest basketball player to ever play the game. But he was also, incredibly, so much more than that. He had only just begun to start his life and his movement after basketball, and it is clear in the heartbreak of everyone in and outside the NBA that they—we—are not only mourning a legend on the court, but an all around hero.

For me personally, growing up in Los Angeles, I grew up watching Kobe. And even though I haven’t always known basketball, I’ve always known Kobe, and thus, in many ways, to me, Kobe was basketball. His God given talent and his out of this world work ethic—he was a superhuman, destined, determined and demanding of greatness. This was clear to the die hard fan and the naked eye.

This is why, I think, this loss is so widespread and deep. Because suddenly there is a sense of hopelessness, a fear of emptiness, a question of: who now do we have to look up to the way we did Kobe?

I have read so many stories and been incredibly moved by the impact one man can have on an entire world. But while this loss is one we will always feel, I hope that all of that inspiration, that hope, that wonder that he brought to basketball, to fans, to friends, family, acquaintances, and everyone and everything in between, that those lessons will not only live on in his memory, but they will ripple outward, creating even more stories, more wonder, more inspiration, more love, not because he died, but because he lived.

So thank you, Kobe. There may never be another one like you, but there are so many who are better because of you.

May you, your daughter, and everyone else lost rest in peace. You will all be greatly missed.

For My Fellow Worms

While going through some of the old documents on my computer, I came across this little story. I think it was my hope that one day it would become a children’s book, but that never transpired, and now it’s just been sitting in folder oblivion for a few years, so I thought I would share it here.

I think we can all relate to Wally in one way or another heavy-black-heart_2764

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Wally the worm woke up with the squirm and wiggled his way down the road

He passed the tall flowers and birds taking showers, to find his friend Marvin the toad.

“Oh Marvin,” said Wally, “What a glum day this is.

I’d hoped that last night, the stars heard my wish.

I wanted to wake up a big hungry bear,

or maybe a lion with long fluffy hair.

Perhaps a green crocodile with big shiny teeth,

or even a monkey that climbs trees with his feet.

But this morning I found I was still just me,

I guess a little brown worm is all I’ve ever be.”

 

“What’s wrong with that?” said Marvin with a “RIBBIT.”

Wally sighed and said, “You just don’t get it.

Toads like you can catch flies on their tongue,

and hop high between lily pads for just a bit of fun.

But all I’ll ever do is wiggle and squirm,

digging in the dirt, just a tiny little worm.”

 

Then Marvin and Wally went down to the river,

to see their friend Sammy, a bushy tailed beaver.

“Good Morning!” said Sammy with a big toothy smile.

“Hello!” said Marvin, “Haven’t seen you in a while.”

“I’ve been working so hard on my dam made of wood,

it’s almost finished now, do you think it looks good?”

With one look at the dam, Wally said “Wow.

I wish I could do that, but I don’t know how.

Maybe tonight I’ll wish to be a beaver too,

so I can build something beautiful, and do things like you.”

Sammy smiled, but then shook her head,

“Don’t wish to be me, be you instead!”

 

Wally sighed and Marvin said, “RIBBIT”.

“Oh Sammy,” said Wally, “You just don’t get it.

Beavers like you can build things brand new,

and birds in the trees sing beautiful tunes.  

Peacocks have feathers prettier than gold,

and tigers have stripes and a roar oh so bold.  

You all have something that makes me say ‘wow’

and all I can do is squirm on the ground.  

Maybe tonight I’ll wish I was a giraffe standing tall,

or an ocean blue whale, the biggest beast of them all.

And then tomorrow I’ll wake up something better than me,

so you’ll finally say ‘wow’ when it’s me that you see.”

 

Then Wally and Marvin wished Sammy farewell

and walked down the road ‘til they saw an anthill. 

Next to it they saw a long line of ants,

marching and carrying heavy packs on their backs.

Led by Sgt. Pepper, carrying a load thrice her size,

Marvin and Wally watched the ants in surprise.

They marched and they marched and Wally said, “Wow.

So small and so strong, but I wonder, how?

If I were an ant, I too could be strong.

I could be part of their team and march all night long.

No one would see me as just a lousy worm,

but a hard-working insect, with respect that I’d earned.”

 

Suddenly Marvin and Wally heard a voice from up high,

and a tall beautiful sunflower looked down with brown eyes.

“Oh Wally,” said the flower, “Don’t you know what you are?”

“Yes,” Wally answered, “A tiny worm, nothing more.”

 

The sunflower sighed and Marvin said, “RIBBIT”

“Oh Wally,” she said, “You just don’t get it.

You watch us flowers grow tall in the spring,

and you see our colors blossom as the birds in trees sing.

It’s because of you this forest is so green and lush.

Without little worms like you, we’d be nothing but mush.

When you dig in the dirt, it helps our seeds grow,

you make the dirt healthy for us, didn’t you know?

We all have a “wow” and they don’t look the same,

but they all have an important place and a name.

So don’t wish on stars for sharp teeth or long hair.

Don’t hope for long legs or the strength of a bear.

Everyone has a wow that is theirs alone,

so please take the time to appreciate your own.

 

Wally was speechless and Marvin said, “RIBBIT”,

then Wally squirmed and said, “Now I get it.

It doesn’t matter the size or shape I am,

it doesn’t matter I can’t hop high or build a dam.

I have my own wow in my tiny little me,

and that is all I’ll ever need to be.

So when the stars come out and the sun goes home,

I’ll be grateful for the wows I have of my own.

I’ll go to sleep with a yawn, a wiggle, and a squirm,

hoping tomorrow I wake up me, a perfect little worm.”

I Got My Wisdom Teeth Out (Again)

Fun fact about me: I have wonky teeth.

I wore braces throughout most of high school, and then after getting them off, I had one tooth go so rogue that I had to put them back on for a year in college.

When I was about 15 years old, I went in to get my wisdom teeth removed. While I had four, the dentist decided it was best to only remove the bottom two, because they were drilling a hole in the roof of my mouth to pull one of my teeth down from somewhere I can only describe as oblivion. (That’s another story.)

At the time, I can imagine they thought they were saving me from total mouth trauma, but I kind of wish they would have just gone for it. If they had, maybe I wouldn’t have found myself back at the dentist, almost 15 years later, hearing that my top two wisdom teeth were coming in (sideways, I might add) and that I needed to get them removed as soon as possible.

Sitting in the chair before the surgery this past Tuesday, I was nervous, but trying my best to look calm. I clutched onto my sweatshirt, which I’d been required to take off so they could put a blood pressure monitor on one arm and an IV in the other. The nurse told me I could keep the sweatshirt on my lap, so that after I woke up I could slip it right back on.

“Okay,” I said, trying my best to sound nonchalant. She seemed convinced, that is until she put a heart rate monitor on my pointer finger and it alerted the entire room that my pulse was over 100. Still, I took some deep breaths and tried to smile.

WHAT IF I DIE IN THIS CHAIR? my darkest fears wondered.

“Yes, I had a good holiday,” I said aloud to the nurse.

The doctor then told me he was going to give me the medicine that would put me to sleep, and that I would probably feel lightheaded and a little groggy. I nodded, blinked a few times at the bright light above me, and then looked down at my watch, curious how close we were to the 1:30 p.m. start time, so I could see how long the surgery took to finish. My fingers fumbled with my watch a few times, but when I was finally able to read it, I saw the time said 2:20 p.m.

I also noticed I was now in a wheelchair.

And my sweatshirt was back on.

And my mom was there.

Oh, so…I guess we’re done?

Speaking to her the day after my appointment, my mom said I looked calm, peaceful even. She said I wasn’t pale, and aside from the swollen cheeks and mounds of gauze in my mouth, my coloring and overall demeanor suggested that I was doing remarkably well.

On the drive home, we stopped at McDonald’s to get me a vanilla shake (and a spoon) so I could put something in my stomach before I started taking my medication. Going through the drive thru, I widely praised my mother’s sense of direction for choosing a McDonald’s so close to the pharmacy. I also gave her a recap of what had happened, most of which surrounded the mystery of how my sweatshirt was put back on without my noticing.

“Also,” I said, disappointed and full of sass, “I can’t believe the nurse didn’t go over the post-op instructions with me.” Because even high on laughing gas and pain medication, my priorities were rules.

“She did,” my mom said, “I think you were just distracted and you didn’t hear her.”

When we pulled into the parking lot at the pharmacy, I was holding my vanilla shake.

“I’ll be right back,” my mom said, and then I nodded, watched her walk inside, and then sat there, staring forward for about 10 minutes.

Now, I don’t remember seeing anyone else in that parking lot, but I can tell you that if someone saw me, sitting stiffly and staring unflinchingly, all while holding a vanilla shake in her left hand like a prisoner, I can imagine they probably kept walking, quickly.

While sitting there, I texted my sister: “I am out and alive and everything is moving in slow motion. Also I have a vanilla shake.” 

A summary in its purest form.

Shortly after, I arrived home, where my sister was waiting with ice packs, water, and Top Ramen. After a few hours, I asked if I looked swollen.

“Only a little,” she said, maybe truthfully, maybe kindly, but then she added, “When you first got home you were very swollen.” Which only brought new life to my vanilla clad serial killer persona in the pharmacy parking lot.

As of now, I am still a little swollen, and still eat a little bit like the squirrel I appear to be, but I am on the mend. I am spending my days mostly on the couch, watching murder documentaries and a series on YouTube where celebrities get interviewed while eating hot wings, and I spend my nights dreaming about crunchy foods and the ability to open my mouth past the halfway point. By this time next week, I imagine I will be back to nearly tip top shape, though I can’t say if I’ll ever figure out who put my sweatshirt back on.

The Year of Shine

As a final wrap up of 2019, I wanted to share with you my word of the year.

Since 2015, I have found a faith-based word to focus on each year. In these last five years (!!) I have had: trust, give, patience, surrender, and then for this year I got shine. Every word has found its way to me differently, but shine was perhaps the most direct.

In November of 2018, I was at the wedding of a family friend, and my mom, sister and I were on the dance floor—our usual wedding reception hangout. In between songs, the bride herself walked up to me and put her hand on my shoulder.

“You have a light in you, you know that?”

Me, being bad at receiving compliments, smiled, but was already plotting a way to deny, deflect and run away. But she didn’t back down.

“You have a light in you, something special, and you need to let people see you shine.”

I remember wondering if she could possibly be talking about me, or if maybe it was dark and she’d had champagne like the rest of us, and had meant to say this to one of her friends, or my sister, or someone, anyone else. But she looked at me, and she squeezed my shoulder, willing me to hear her and believe her.

“Okay,” I said, and the word stuck with me.

By the time I rang in 2019, I was sure it was my word, and as usual, I was terrified.

For starters, the dictionary defines shine as: to emit rays of light, or to be eminent, conspicuous or distinguished. So I thought, GREAT, I just have to be wonderfully successful, seen, heard, inspiring and bright. Sounds horrifying. And hard.

For the first couple months, all I could do was put pressure on myself.

You need to shine you need to shine you need to shine.

You need to be BIG! You need to be LOUD! You need to let people see you and hear you. You need to be great.

Then, in March, after six months of training, I ran the LA Marathon. And when I crossed that finish line, I thought, THIS IS IT! This is me, shining. I’m doing it, baby! But then the high wore off and my routine went back to normal, and I felt as dull and unremarkable as ever.

I kept trying to think of new ways I could impress people. New things I could do that would mark me as successful and inspiring and unique and special. I was trying desperately to shine my light, but was doing so in ways that sometimes felt inauthentic or even uncomfortable. Ironically (or not at all), this is when my definition of inspiring, successful, unique, special and shine, began to change. And it started with something I hated most: quitting.

Out of nowhere, I started quitting.

I took a look at the list of goals I’d set for the year and I started crossing things off and making changes. I pulled the bookmarks out of books I was “going to finish,” and I waved the white flag on projects I’d lost interest in. I got rid of clothes and shoes that didn’t fit right but I’d kept because I thought I should wear them, and I stopped buying makeup products “everyone was using” that I didn’t like the look of on me. It was a Marie Kondo approach: anything that didn’t spark joy (or was necessary for survival and wellbeing) was out. And though it felt scary, bad even, like I was letting people down or giving up or being lazy, I knew it was something I had to do.

For so long I have tried to figure out who I am, what I represent and what I want to do with my life. I have tried to find that unique light inside myself, but have often done so with the hope/need of others’ approval. I have based a lot of my self worth in the opinions of others, and I have let my own opinion and self-confidence be swayed in their wake.

This submissive and self-conscious mentality is something I’ve always been aware of, but it is also something I believed I needed to embrace in order to be loved and accepted. When I realized the error in this thinking, and I began to let things go that “didn’t spark joy,” I found that what was left were actually the things that, in my own way, made me shine.

And it is there, in that understanding, that I found my reason for receiving this word. It is there that I found the hope in it rather than just the pressure.

We have all been made to shine. We have been given unique talents, dreams, desires, and destinations, all to mold us into the wonderfully different people that we are. We do not need to be the biggest or the loudest or the most successful to shine, we need only be our most authentic selves. And when we do things that make us happy, make us feel whole, give us a reason to laugh or smile or scream in excitement, that is when we shine the brightest.

Standing on the dance floor of that wedding, I had no idea why God would put someone in front of me and ask me, outright, to shine. I couldn’t figure out why He needed me to be big and brave and loud and remarkable, and I was afraid that if I couldn’t be, I’d be the disappointment I’d always feared. But as I’ve made my way through this year, I’ve found that what He was really asking of me was simply to love the person He made me to be. To reconnect with the goodness that is mine, the uniqueness that is mine, the shine that is mine, and to let go of the fears, expectations and opinions that have been controlling me for too long.

And so, as I step into this new year, I will shine my light, in exactly the way I was made to shine it, and I hope I can encourage you to do the same.

Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

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

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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!

17 Goals for 2020 (List-cember #8)

It’s that time of year again, y’all.

I’m going to be honest, this list was not easy to make this year.

My 2019 was absolutely CRAZY in terms of busyness, so a lot of my goals were left unattended and it made me very discouraged. For a hot second I thought about not setting any goals at all, but then I was tempted by the mistress of a new decade and here we are.

In the past, I’ve picked goals based on their grandeur and their promise of a big, impressive challenge, however, I’ve worked hard on learning to pick things that I like, that I want to do, and that can challenge me in ways I want to be challenged.

So, with that being said, I am very excited to share my goals for the new year, the new decade! May we all make 2020 our bitch.

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1) Kick a field goal

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I have exactly zero talent in anything relating to football (except watching it) but I’ve always wanted to know what it feels like to kick a field goal. So, this year, I plan on 1) buying a football, and 2) trying my hand foot at field goals.

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2) Learn Spanish

I replaced one of my original goals for 2019 mid year with “learn Spanish,” and since I am in no way a linguistic prodigy, I am not yet fluent in the language, thus I’m keeping it on here. And since there’s no way to really gage how far along in a language you are, I’m going to base my progress on the app I’ve been using to learn it. Duolingo divides languages into sections and as of now I’m at the end of Section 1, so my goal by the end of 2020 is to finish Section 3. Deséame suerte!

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3) Do a pull up

This is another repeat from last year because damn it, I’ve made progress but not enough. Upper body strength has just never been my strong suit, but I’m working on it!

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4) Volunteer (at least) 5 times

This is a regular on my list of goals and it never fails to be one of my favorites.

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5) Write positive Yelp reviews

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I didn’t put a concrete number on this one like I usually do, but that’s only because it’s hard to know how many new places you’ll visit in a year, you know? But I wanted to put in on this list because I feel like there aren’t enough good reviews on the internet. People are quick to log on and write horrible, scathing reviews, but often forget to share their positive experiences. So I’m hoping to find good things and write good reviews about those good things, so that other people can find those good things.

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6) Donate plasma

A couple years ago I made it a goal of mine to donate blood, and while it took me two tries to do it, I was so glad I did! This year, I’m hoping to donate plasma, which can be in just as high of demand as blood. Check out where you can donate plasma here.

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7) 30 Cleaning Challenge

I have been in desperate need of a deep clean in my life, and I think this challenge is just the place to start. I don’t plan on doing the challenge in order or all at once, I’m just using it as a checklist/baseline for the massive clean I’m going to do around my house. Call me a nerd, but I am PUMPED.

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You can download the PDF here.

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8) Savings Challenge

This one makes me a little less pumped, only because it’s been pretty fun spending money I don’t have for the last couple years. But I would really love to get back into the habit of saving, and build up an account that I can use for splurging, rather than just closing my eyes, hitting purchase and crossing my fingers that the stars align and all my bills get paid. I’ve seen a bunch of different challenges out there, and while I don’t think I’m going to stick to any by the letter, I’m going to use this one as a baseline.

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9) Purchase one charity t-shirt per month

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A few years ago I wrote a blog post all about t-shirts you can buy that will benefit great charities. I love a t-shirt with a cause, and so I decided a cool way to donate money to charity each month would be to buy a t-shirt from a specific charity. The way I see it, you donate money to a charity, you get a great t-shirt, which then gives visibility to that charity! It’s a win win win. I can’t wait! (Find this t-shirt here)

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10) Pay it forward

Have you ever had someone in front of you pay for your food/coffee/etc? I have had someone do it for me once, but I have never done it myself. So this year I’m hoping to give it a try. Personally I don’t think I’d be brave enough to do it in front of anyone, but I’d love to hop in a drive thru, pay for the person behind me, and then sneak away so the receiving party could be surprised.

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11) Take a self defense class

I think this is important for anyone, but I feel particularly drawn to it as a woman. What can I say, I want to feel safe, I want to feel tough(er), and I want to give off that BDE. You know, badass defense energy.

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12) Go to (at least) 5 concerts

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Last year I was lucky enough to go to a handful of amazing concerts and it reminded me why I love them so much. There are few things better than live music, and so I want to make it more of a priority to see it. As of now, I’m happy to report I already have 3 on the calendar! 🙂

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13) Take a writing class

I love blogging and it has always been my dream to write a book, but since it was a passion I found after college, I never took a class that might help hone my skills and better my ability to express myself through writing. So I’m hoping to find a class online that is both fun and challenging—something that can move me forward in this field of mine.

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14) Go to 5 breweries

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Being a beer drinker, raised by a beer drinker, who loves trying and drinking new beer, I find it surprising how few breweries I’ve been to in my lifetime. This year I’m hoping to change that, both by visiting breweries in my state, and possibly a few others. We’ll see what we find.

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15) Go to a comedy show

This is another one that seems crazy to be so inexperienced in when I live in a state that is home to so many great comedy houses. There’s something special about setting out on your evening with the intention of laughing. And with so many great comedians out there right now, I’d love to spend a good amount of time doing just that.

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16) The Emotion Scrapbook  

I feel like every year I have that one goal where my inner art major shines through, and this year, it’s this one. I have always loved pictures and the way they can capture parts of a moment or experience that you can revisit even years later. And so, to make a unique kind of scrapbook for this year, I made a list of 20 different feelings/emotions that I’m looking to capture in 2020. The idea is that when I find myself feeling one of those feelings, I want to take a picture of whatever can capture it best, so I can have a memento of it. Not all of these emotions are happy ones, but I think the list as a whole can give me a good idea of where the year took me and what it taught me, so I’m excited.

In case you’re interested, the list I’m going to work off of is as follows:

Take a picture when you’re feeling…

  1. Happy
  2. Sad
  3. Angry
  4. Peaceful
  5. Free
  6. Afraid
  7. Confident
  8. Love
  9. Relaxed
  10. Thankful
  11. Nostalgic
  12. Inspired
  13. Adventurous
  14. Stressed
  15. Bored
  16. Important
  17. Brave
  18. Optimistic
  19. Curious
  20. Determined

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17) Make a time capsule

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Since 2020 is going to be the beginning of a new decade, I thought it would be cool to make something to commemorate this decade. The last 10 years of my life have brought about a lot of change, and I would have loved to see a collection of things I valued at the beginning of 2010 compared to now. So, I’m going to find myself a box, gather up some things that I think best represent who I am and where the world is at the beginning of 2020, and then seal it, stash it, and open it at the end of 2029.

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And there they are in all their glory!

This might be the first year that I’m more excited than terrified. That has to be a good sign, right?

Don’t tell me if it’s not, I don’t need that kind of energy going into a new decade.

I hope you feel as optimistic and excited as I do about this new year, and I wish you luck on any goals you might be setting!

A Passive Aggressive List of All the Bad Driving Habits We Should Leave in 2019 (List-cember #4)

We are nearing the end of a decade.

Thus, when the ball drops this New Years Eve, that feeling of potential and newness will undoubtedly be a little magnified. We might be inspired to try new things, make big changes, and find exciting ways to kickstart 2020.

In that spirit, I thought I would mention something we should leave in 2019. It’s something that I think has scarred this decade (and many before it), and something I believe we can only benefit from eradicating, both from our year, our decade, and ultimately, our world.

I am of course referring to bad driving.

I personally do a lot of driving, so it could be argued that I’m hyper-sensitive/completely fed up/a borderline road rage-aholic, but I also think there are things that simply need to stop.

Maybe you’ll agree with me, maybe you won’t, maybe you’ll feel personally attacked, I don’t know. Regardless, let us all take a deep, cleansing breath and DO BETTER.

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1) When changing lanes or making a turn, turn on your damn blinkers.

2) When you’ve completed said turn or lane change, turn OFF your damn blinkers.

3) Also, in regards to said turn—JUST TURN. You can do it. Just crank that wheel and step on that gas. Go!

4) Stop texting and driving. Seriously. It’s dumb, you’re not “better” at it than other people, and there is absolutely nothing important enough to put every single driver, including yourself, at risk.

5) When the light turns green, GO. As in NOW.

6) ESPECIALLY on green arrows. If you are the first car in a line of cars waiting to turn on a green arrow, the moment that light turns green I need you to drive as if the car behind you is on fire.

7) Stop at stop signs. This one seems pretty obvious but, you know, APPARENTLY IT’S NOT.

8) Merge like a gentleman. I get it. Merging sucks. But that doesn’t mean you have to be a jerk. Just wait your turn, take your turn, and then we can all move on.

9) Drive faster. I understand there is a speed limit. I respect the speed limit. I don’t always obey it, but I respect it. You should too. And by that I mean, at least drive the speed limit. I’ve got things to do, I’m sure you’ve got things to do, so why not drive faster than the powerwalking senior who just passed us?

10) Drive slower. I get it, time is money and traffic is awful. But weaving in and out, speeding down the shoulder or a bike lane, or just driving 30 or 40 miles an hour over the speed limit does not make you cool, or in any way make me feel like you are more important than me. Again, just respect the speed limit, and maybe the lives of your fellow drivers (and peds!)

11) Do not slam on your breaks unless it is absolutely necessary. Examples of things that are not absolutely necessary: being nosy about an accident on the side of the road, realizing you just passed a cop, seeing a billboard, trying to wake up your friend in the passenger’s seat, dropping a french fry.

12) Get over for service vehicles. When an ambulance, firetruck or police car has their sirens on, pull over. As in alllll the way over.

13) Park in between the lines. They are not suggestions, they are requirements, y’all.

14) Turn your lights on. The sun is down, you are now a ghost death machine, take a second and turn your lights on, please.

15) This might be specific to Southern California drivers, but rain is NOT a sign of the apocalypse. So while caution is recommended, a complete and total forfeit of all driving abilities is not.

16) Don’t litter. Or, written another way, stop throwing shit out the window of your car.

17) Say thank you. A wave, a nod, a grateful burst of eye contact is all I ask. Something that says, “hey, I noticed you were a decent human who let me make the driving maneuver I was hoping to make, may we both live out the rest of our day peacefully!”

18) Approach the limit line. Hey, it’s me, behind you. This light is never going to change unless you pull forward and activate the sensor. So please, for the love of everything, pull up.

19) Speaking of pulling up, if you are making a left hand turn, PULL OUT INTO THE INTERSECTION. DO NOT. I repeat. DO NOT WAIT BEHIND THE LINE UNTIL THE LIGHT TURNS RED AND THEN TURN, LEAVING THE REST OF US STUCK AT THE LIGHT.

20) Speaking of speaking of pulling up, when parallel parking, PULL. THE. HELL. UP. There is no reason for there to be half a car length in front and/or behind you. Pull up close to that car and leave room for, I don’t know, EVERYONE ELSE, who might want to park on this street.

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Wow. That felt good.

I think I just added a year or two to my life (and saved money on therapy) by getting that off my chest.


 

Check out more List-cember posts here.

A Celebratory Massage (Adventures at the Spa: Part 4)

My sister just passed her comprehensive exams for grad school, making her a certified Speech-Language Pathologist.

*pause for much deserved applause*

To celebrate her accomplishment and combat the years of hard work leading up to it, as well as the weeks and weeks of stress she went through studying for the exam, I booked massage appointments for her, my mom and I.

If you’ve been around this blog for a little while, you might know that I have had an aversion/borderline fear of massages in the past, which is why on our previous trip to the spa I opted for being swaddled in a cocoon—which you can read about here. This time around however, I was determined to go all in.

Seeing as this year has been chockFULL of calendar events, and I had been sipping on secondhand stress for my sister, I was actually in a place where a massage sounded useful. Necessary, even. So as we sat at the spa that afternoon, clad in our luxurious white robes, and already relaxed after having spent a couple hours checking out the sauna, steam room and Jacuzzi, I was only slightly nervous. And when my name was called and I was led back to the room and asked to disrobe by my very nice masseuse, Rochelle, I only awkwardly giggled once.

Then it began.

After lying on my stomach and tucking myself under the sheet, Rochelle walked back into the room and promptly pulled the sheet all the way over my head. This immediately made me feel like a corpse, which wasn’t exactly relaxing, but then I thought, is there anything more relaxing than being dead? So I went full rigor mortis and let her go to work.

Looking back at my first massage, I compared the work of the masseuse to that of a baker kneading bread. I remembered this as Rochelle started massaging my back, and I had a sudden realization that I was the bread. And when I accepted that, I realized the true key to surviving and thriving your way through a massage.

Be dead. Be bread. Get read.

That is: allow yourself to melt into the table and, for lack of a better word, DIE. Then embrace your temporary identity as a batch of dough needing…kneading. And then let the masseuse read you, i.e. go hunting for everywhere you’ve been hiding and holding stress, anxiety, and those cringy, awkward moments you’ve been trying to forget about.

Be dead. Be bread. Get read.

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Following this mantra, it was no time at all before Rochelle was telling me our 50 minutes were up. As a testament to her work, when I stood up, my legs felt like jello and my hair was sticking out in seemingly every direction. And since I was still naked, I realized I was the perfect embodiment of a troll doll.

But alas, with a smile on my face, my rubber band back in my hair, and my robe securely fastened, I walked back into the waiting room a new woman. I was relaxed, I was moisturized, and I was now a massage person.

Trust Me, it Works

When I was six years old, my parents gave me a Nintendo 64 for Christmas. And for many many weekend mornings after that, I would wake up early, sneak into the living room, and play Zelda: Ocarina of Time alongside my brother and sister for as long as our parents would let us hog the television.

Now, if you’ve ever played Nintendo 64, you’ll know that it takes a very delicate touch to get a game to work. Unlike many video games today that don’t even require discs, N64 games were thick, plastic bricks that you had to blow into the bottom of before you pushed them into the top of the console at just the right pressure. If it didn’t work the first time, you would pull the game back out, blow on the bottom again, this time in a harmonica like fashion, and then place the game back into the console, perhaps with only two fingers or with a series of delicate taps. Even at age 6, I quickly learned the series of techniques that worked for my particular console, and will utilize them in exact order, even to this day, without fail.

It’s funny how we can become inadvertently trained to operate things in a specific way without ever realizing that it’s peculiar, ridiculous or borderline ritualistic.

For example, my back door has a tricky doorknob. In order to lock both the knob and the pad lock, you have to shut the door, then pull and twist the knob, not so much that it reopens the door, but enough to engage whatever didn’t engage when you initially shut it.

To get my phone to play music in my car, I plug the auxiliary cord into the bottom, unlock my phone, then press play, pause and then play again.

I once had a hairdryer that only worked if you held it at a certain angle, so I would rotate my head in accordance with the limits of the hairdryer, which was great for stretching my neck, but terrible for giving me any kind of acceptable hair style.

To put on my favorite pair of jeans, I squat down into a catcher-like stance, and then jump up, repeating until they wiggle their way up into place. If I choose these jeans when I’m getting ready in a hurry, this process could almost be considered a round of cardio.

We all have a part of our house or our work that we’ll walk towards or lean against in order to get the best Wi-Fi signal, we’ve all had that phone or television that still worked if you banged the side of it, and we’ve all had a window that you have to prop open with a cup, aptly named the “window cup”, when you’re looking to let in a cool fall breeze.

Okay, that last one might just be my roommates and I. But you know what I mean.

Somehow, some way, we fall into these routines and methods that we only realize are strange when we have to explain them out loud to somebody else. And even then, even after we hear it back and think maybe we should, I don’t know, get a new hairdryer, we just shrug it off and move on, because starting a new routine, even if it might be easier, sounds way more complicated than just keeping with what’s familiar.

So if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to turn my ceiling fan on level two, because on level one it clicks, and then I’m going to tip toe my way to the bathroom, using precise footing across the floor so it doesn’t creak, because it’s late and I don’t wake up my roommates.

It’s not weird, it’s polite.