journal

My Sister Got Married, Obviously

On Saturday, my sister Natalee got married in a very small ceremony in our parents’ backyard.

After getting engaged in March, Natalee and her fiancé, Will, booked a wedding venue for March 2023 that will host about 250 guests when the time comes. But after some thought, they decided they wanted to exchange their vows in front of immediate family and start their married life a little earlier.

So, we planned a wedding.  We planned it over text messages, shared iPhone notes and pen drawings on computer paper, and when the day came, everyone knew what to do and where they were needed most.

On Saturday morning, I sat beside Natalee on the couch eating a cinnamon roll. There had been some stressful days leading up to the day, and there had been details both big and small that we’d meticulously, and sometimes literally ironed out, but on the morning of the actual wedding, I felt calm.

As we handmade the flower arrangements and fought with the wooden arch in the backyard; when our hair appointments ran long and then I stood out in the 90 degree heat sprinkling rose petals on the grass; as I watched my baby sister put on her wedding dress and get her picture taken with her bouquet, and then heard Elvis play over the speaker as she walked down the aisle with my dad; as she stood up on the wooden platform and held hands with the man of her dreams, and then turned to face us as our pastor introduced, for the first time, husband and wife, I felt calm.

Have you ever had that self-conscious feeling that you should be more emotional? When you think to yourself, shouldn’t I be crying right now? I didn’t even have that feeling. I just floated through the day, without a tear shed, or a shuddering breath taken. I was just happy. I was just calm. My one consuming thought of the day was: well, obviously.

When Will and Natalee first started dating, when she was nervous to tell him how she felt, I thought, he feels the same way, obviously.

When Will celebrated Christmas with our family for the first time and said he felt right at home, I thought, because you are, obviously.

And when Natalee came walking down the aisle, looking at Will, smiling ear to ear, I thought, this is how it was always meant to be, obviously.

There has never been a doubt in my mind. I’ve had a front seat to their relationship from the very beginning and seen how happy they make each other. Will appreciates and loves my sister for everything that she is and in every way she deserves, and Natalee does the same for him.

So even though I felt all of those feelings that might make me emotional. Even though I had all those words buzzing around inside me, the ones I’d barely be able to share as I held my sister’s hands and told her how much she deserves a love like this—how much she always has—or as I sat down next to Will for hours, trying to explain all the ways I love, appreciate, and value him, and how happy I am to start calling him my brother. Even though our backyard ceremony was designed to be a one-way ticket to Sob City, to me it felt more like a place to relax. Because it felt like the only place in the world there was.

There aren’t a lot of “obvious” days. Most of the time, we don’t know what’s going to happen or when. We don’t know where we’ll be or who we’ll be with and we don’t know what we’ll say or do. But on that day, everything was as it should be. Everything was right. There was no reason to worry, no questions left to ask. That day, that marriage, that moment, it was obvious.

Your Kindness is Never Small

Sometimes when I think about how big the world is and how many people are in it, and then how big the universe is and how much left there is to discover, I feel very small. I am just one person, in one place on one planet, in one galaxy in the universe. And when I focus too hard on being that small, it’s easy to feel powerless and inconsequential, as if what I do on a day-to-day basis doesn’t have a huge impact on everything else.

When I think this way, it’s hard to find inspiration to do good things, to show kindness, to dig deep and find empathy, or to reach out to someone who needs help. When you feel small, it’s easy to want to live small. It’s easy to let opportunities for kindness and compassion pass us by. Because what’s the point?

Thankfully, there is always a point. Always a purpose.

And I got a good reminder of that in a recent episode of the podcast, My Unsung Hero.

In the episode titled: Brenda Arnold’s Story, Brenda tells us about a time in the 1980’s when she went to visit her sister in Germany. She arrived on a weekday morning, and got to her sister’s house only to realize that she was at work. Without a cellphone or any knowledge about where she was, Brenda realized she was stuck. She sat down on the front porch, figuring she’d just have to wait there until her sister got home that evening.

As she sat, a few people walked by, asking her questions in German. She shook her head, as she didn’t know any of the language, and continued to sit there, nervous. Then a woman approached her, first speaking in German, but when Brenda again shook her head the woman changed course and asked, in English, if she was alright. Brenda was relieved and explained to the woman her situation.

“Oh no!” the woman said, “Well, would you like to come home with me? I’ll fix you something to eat.”

Brenda was taken aback by her kindness, but graciously accepted.

As they walked, the woman told Brenda that her husband had fought in World War II, and was captured and held in Louisiana as a POW for two years. While there, he was put to work on a farm but was treated very well and given plenty to eat. So when he came home, he told his wife that whenever they came into contact with an American, they would be kind to them.

So Brenda, who had come to Germany almost forty years after this man had come back from the war, reaped the benefit of this kindness. And not just any kindness, but kindness shown to him during an incredibly dark time in history. Kindness that was rare and perhaps unheard of in the throes of war.

And then, that kindness, shown to Brenda forty years ago, inspired me when I heard it on a podcast.

So that one act of kindness, 80 years ago, continues to stretch it arms and dig its roots. It mattered then and it still mattered. Everything we do, every small act of kindness matters.

The world is big, yes, the universe is nearly inconceivable, yes, but you are never small. Your life is never small. Your kindness is never small.

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.

Take a Nap on the Floor

Yesterday, as I drove home from church, I began to map out the rest of my Sunday in my head.

It was 11:45 a.m. and I was trying to plan my day out by the hour. I thought about going for a walk, or even a run. I wanted to get some chores done, to write for a few hours, to try on the dresses I bought and decide which ones I need to take back, to finish a report, to start doing peer reviews in my writing class, to plan the next big vacation I want to take, to buy a friend’s birthday gift, to book flights for an upcoming wedding—and about 10 more things.

If I did all these things, I thought, it would be a successful Sunday, and I would feel good.

But even as I planned, I knew I already didn’t feel good. I’d had trouble falling asleep the night before and woke up feeling anxious. And with this to-do list buzzing through my head, I felt, for the most part, like I wanted to burst into tears.

I am someone who has often believed that being productive makes me a better person. That living “right”—exercising, eating healthy, achieving things in a timely and efficient manner, checking off life events in time with everyone else—means I am living a successful life. And on the flip side of that, when I am not getting things done, when I’m not doing everything “right”, I feel like a failure, or like I’ve wasted time/days/etc.  I am quick to beat myself up over not getting things done or doing things right, and I am quick to assume that other people are judging me just as hard.

For example, I have an alarm set on my phone on weekends—weekends. This is partially because I like to get up at a decent hour and have time to take the morning slow and fully embrace my day off. But up until recently, I never fully admitted to myself that this alarm was also to ensure that I would not sleep in late and be deemed as lazy by other people.

This is a habit I am trying to break, it is a mindset I am trying to unlearn, it is an alarm I’m trying to turn off. I like to call this process untangling knots, and this is one that’s been double and triple tied for a long time. Having an unproductive day feels like making a mistake, being lazy feels like making a mistake, and I don’t give myself a lot of grace when it comes to “making mistakes.”

But yesterday, after I got home from church, and as I sat on the couch, feeling anxious and overwhelmed, I decided to do yoga.

My body was tired, my mind was tired. I had so much I wanted to do, so much on my mind, so much that was saying “if you don’t do this, you will WASTE your day!” But I rolled out my mat.

At the end, as I lay in savasana—which is just lying flat on your back with your eyes closed—I got tired. I told myself I should get up, I should get things done, I needed to get a move on my to-list or risk wasting the entire day. But instead, I grabbed a pillow and went to sleep, right there, on the floor. And when I woke up, I felt so much better.

Afterward, I walked into the living room and sat on the couch and watched the Dodger game. I did my daily bible study and then wrote this blog post. I ate dinner and then made banana bread.

A lot of my to-do list went unfinished, but I still felt good because I did things that served my soul. Things that helped me slow down and rest. Things that make the more traditionally productive days possible.

There are times when we need to buckle down and get things done. There are times when we can push ourselves to do things we never thought we could do. But what I’m trying to remind myself, is that the value of a day is not based on its productivity. My value is not based on my productivity. And neither is yours. Some days we can muster up the strength to check every single thing off our to-do list, and other days we might need to put the whole list aside and rest.

Both days are important. Both days will add value to your life. It is okay to make mistakes, it is okay to take days off, it is okay to sleep in on the weekends (or whenever your schedule allows.)

The only way to waste a day is to spend it in the past, regretting what you could have done, rather than spending it in the present, taking advantage of what you can do—even if that’s taking a nap on the floor.

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.

7 Things Saving My Life Right Now

I recently listened to an episode of The Next Right Thing podcast where host, Emily P. Freeman, shared a list of things that are currently “saving her life.” The list was inspired by a question Barbara Brown Taylor answered in her memoir Leaving Church.

At first, the question was startling to me: “What’s saving my life right now?”

To answer the question, it seemed, one would need to find themselves in dire circumstances and give answers such as: medication, oxygen, a rope that someone threw over the side of a cliff and asked me to grab onto, etc.

But then, when asked to consider how often we say that “______ is killing me”—whether it be work, school, a tough coworker, a moody teenager, finances, etc.—I realized this question is actually a way to bring attention to the good things in our life. The things we look forward to in the day to day. The things that allow us to breathe in and calm down amongst all of the stress and chaos that feels like it is breaking us down bit by bit.

And so, today I want to share with you the things that are currently saving my life.

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1) My houseplants

I don’t want to say that my mental health hinges on the state of my houseplants, but there is a special kind of relief that comes when they are not actively dying. I have two houseplants: a ZZ plant named Ruth, and a Fiddle Leaf Fig named Figgy Azalea, both of which are currently thriving. And if you’ve read this blog post from a while back where I wrote a series of haikus about my pension for killing plants, you’ll know this is an absolute joy for me.  

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2) My counted cross-stitch

My calendar has felt full for the entire year thus far, and it shows no signs of slowing down. But on the nights when I’m home and able to sit on the couch and relax a little, I have found such joy in working on my latest cross-stitch. It makes me feel creative and gives my hands something to do other than scroll on my phone. I’m very thankful my grandma taught me how to cross stich all those years ago.

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3) Phone calls with my friend Nicole

Last September one of my best friends moved to San Diego. On the last night she was in town, we decided that alongside texting and the occasional visit back and forth, we would plan to call each other (at least) once a month in order to stay active and up to date in each other’s lives. We also set up an emoji-based system that, should one person need an immediate phone call for various reasons, they can send that emoji like a bat signal.

Some of our emoji codes are as follows:

The suitcase 💼 which implies, there are things to unpack.

The bone 🦴 which says, I HAVE A BONE TO PICK.

And the dragon 🐲 which suggests: and I quote from our message, “there is too much going on and I feel so overwhelmed I think I’ve grown a tail and whiskers and just need to talk to a friend.”

These conversations have proven to be some of the highlights of my week. On our scheduled day I will pop my headphones in and go on a walk, and then we will talk (and talk and talk and talk) until our hearts are content or until it’s time to eat dinner.

Then, in the hours that follow, we usually send visual aids that relate back to the many things we covered over the course of our two-hour (or so) phone call, giving us each things to dive into and try out so we can reconvene and rediscuss later.

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4) My mid-morning cashews

I know this one sounds silly. It is silly, but it’s true. Every workday I bring a small Tupperware container full of cashews to have for snack a couple hours before lunch. What started as a solution to mid-morning hunger pangs has become somewhat of a mile marker of my day. Once I have my cashews, I know I’m halfway to lunch. And, visa versa, once I’m halfway to lunch I get to have my delicious, salty, cashews. I try to savor them but always end up barreling through them like they are popcorn during a suspenseful movie. Nevertheless, they are always delicious and I always look forward to them.

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5) My room in my parents’ house

You may have read this post back in January about the day we have since begun to refer to as “The Great Flood.” It was a very stressful, very ridiculous ordeal. But thankfully, when the time came to pack our stuff and get out so the repair process could begin, my parents offered to let me stay with them. Over the course of the last couple months, this room and their house has been a true blessing. It has lessened the weight of stress on my shoulders tremendously and it has allowed me to find a sense of routine and normal amongst so much chaos.

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6) My writing class

I took almost a year off of pursuing my Creative Writing Certificate through UCLA Extension in order to work on a big writing project. But at the beginning of April I was able to sign up for another writing class—my fourth of six needed to complete the program. Almost instantly it put me in a good, creative headspace, and the presence of deadlines has helped me get back in a more consistent writing routine. I always love to see what kinds of essays and stories these classes can bring out of me, so I am very thankful to be back.

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7) Baseball

I grew up watching Dodger baseball, and the pandemic years of no fans and then limited fans were tough. So to have baseball back in full swing this spring has been magical. Plus, baseball season always seems to bring order to my world. It brings my family together and gives us something to root for, and it’s one of the perfect evening watches after a long day at work.


What are some of the things that are saving your life right now?

You can also find the podcast episode here.

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!

How to Pray for Other People When You Don’t Know What to Say

Prayer, to me, is very special, but it’s also something that I’m still learning a lot about.

I am not that comfortable with praying in front of other people, and so I mostly do it in private. Sometimes I will pray aloud and other times I like to write out my prayers, both in a journal and in word documents on the computer—sometimes I feel like I can better get my thoughts out that way.

Even so, sometimes I feel like I’m not saying everything I want to—everything I need to. And when it comes to praying for other people, I have often felt completely unqualified. I have heard prayers (spoken both over me and others) that seem to have just the right words. They hit all the right marks, speak to all the important issues, and leave everyone feeling filled up with hope.

So even though I’ve grown comfortable with my own style of prayer, I have wanted to improve upon my prayers for others. And lately, I have come across a lot of people to pray for. People I know directly, people I know through others, and people I have seen on tv or read about online. There has seemingly been this big sign everywhere I look saying: PRAY FOR THEM! And so naturally I have been throwing my arms up in the air and saying, “I DON’T KNOW HOW.”

In the past, I might have just let the prayer requests pass me by. But this year I have felt the pull to pray stronger than ever before.

So, I started making a list.

Whenever someone asked for prayer, or when I saw a friend or acquaintance or complete stranger that I thought needed prayer, I would put their name on a list on my iPhone, and then, occasionally, I’d glance at it.

This counts, I thought to myself.

I was intentionally keeping their names at the front of my mind, I was making God a checklist that he could run down, and thus, I was praying for people.

While I don’t necessarily think this is incorrect, I quickly began to feel like it wasn’t enough. I was being called to do more. To pray more.

So, I started reading their names out loud.

I would say a name and then mention the reasons that person needed prayer. But then, like before, I felt self-conscious that I wasn’t saying enough or that I wasn’t praying the “right” prayer.

But then I realized that God already knows the right prayer. He knows exactly what that person needs, and he knows exactly why I put their name on my list. I don’t have to know or say the “perfect” prayer for it to be a meaningful one. And I can’t let the fear of not saying the “right” words keep me from saying any at all.

So, I wrote “the name prayer.”

It is not the only prayer I pray, but it is one that I pray often. It helps me stick to a prayer routine, and it cuts out a lot of the self-consciousness that I’ve previously felt while trying to pray for other people. When I find a moment of stillness and silence—which for me is often right before bed—I will read this prayer aloud, followed by the names on my list.

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Dear God,

I lift up each person on this list. They are all on here for different reasons and all need different prayers. So I pray that as I say their names you would hear the prayer they need. I pray that you would comfort those who need comforting, heal those who need healing, and draw close those who feel lost. I pray that you meet each and every person where they are, where they need you most, and that you would fill them with hope and surround them with love.

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If you need prayer today, I’d be happy to pray for you. You don’t have to explain why, or know how to express the exact prayer you need, just simply leave a comment with your name and I will add you to my list.

And if you are looking for an easy way to start praying for other people, this might be a great place to start. Open a note on your iPhone and make a list, look (and listen) for people who need prayer, and simply speak their name alongside this prayer. God will know what they need. God will do the rest. ❤

Let’s Have a Funeral

I think it’s natural to do a lot of reflecting on your younger self. To try and connect to the person you were as a kid, as an adolescent, as a young adult, etc. It’s always interesting to recall the things you hoped for and dreamed about, and to notice the differences in what you expected to happen in your life and what did happen.

I think about my younger self all the time. I think about that high school girl, assuming she had it all figured out, convinced she knew the exact timeline of her life to come. Little did she know, things would go differently than she planned. Much differently.

The funny thing is, if she somehow contacted me now to ask questions about our future, I wouldn’t tell her that it’s bad. I wouldn’t tell her to be devastated for the way things have gone. I wouldn’t tell her that every hard thing we’ve walked through, everything that didn’t go our way, everything that we’d dreamed up that didn’t come true (either yet or at all), doesn’t make this future unsatisfying. It just makes it different.

Still, on my bad days I think about the things that didn’t (or haven’t) happened. I think about the ways my younger self might be bummed. And I think about the things that make me bummed. This future, while hopeful and wonderful in its own way, is different than what I imagined. And sometimes I like to harp on the things that could have gone differently, and on the things that might exist (or still exist) if they had.

But the truth of the matter is, they didn’t.

Things did not go the way I planned.

But things happened. So many things. Good and bad. And I became a better, stronger, more vibrant, confident and understanding person. If I’m being honest with myself, had I gotten what I wanted, when I wanted, I probably would have been lost along the way. And THAT (unlike some of my dreams that can still come true) might have been something I lost forever.

SO, I’m hosting a funeral. And it’s open.

You might have heard of an “open house” before, but this is an “open funeral.”

And by that I mean, anyone is welcome to join—to cohost their own.

Do you have any old daydreams that your mind likes to bring up whenever you’re feeling low?

Do you have any old pictures of your life that like to stand in front of your line of sight, tainting everything you have and making you focus only on what you don’t?

Are you ready to let go of your past expectations and embrace your current reality?

I am.

Quite frankly, I’m tired of my mind telling me that because x, y and z didn’t go as I planned: I’m not happy. Or that I’m a failure. Or that I’ve missed the window to find all the good things.

I’m tired of living in the imagined life I could have had, and I’m ready to live the life I’m in.

I’m ready to let that old daydream go. It was a good guess, a beautiful idea, but it’s not what happened. And the sooner I embrace that, the sooner I can find the beautiful here where I truly am.

Do you have any daydreams you’re ready to lay to rest? Do you have any old blueprints for your life that you’re ready to pull off the wall?

Let them go.

They’re not doing you any favors.

Who you are and where you are might not be what you expected, but then, life might have thrown you curveballs you never could have predicted.

Lay the old plans to rest, throw them six feet down. Say a few words and then let them go.

Don’t be afraid to be happy in this new reality, and don’t be afraid to guess again—to daydream again and again.