life

A Name for Smoggy Days

Yesterday was a smoggy day.

Sure, in Los Angeles, it’s smoggy most days. But that’s not the smog I’m talking about.

Some days I wake up feeling low. Sad. Or what I like to describe as “heavy.” It’s when every worry, insecurity, and regret seem to be sitting on top of me, making it hard to think straight, feel comfortable, or find motivation. There is a haze that blocks the blue sky. And it’s hard to breathe the fresh air that was there yesterday.

I’ve long looked for something to call these days. Because often when they pop up, I don’t know how to explain them to others. I sit quietly, talk politely, walk slowly, and fidget nervously, all while fighting through the chaos and lies that are spiraling in my mind. On particularly bad ones, I feel fragile. As if I might burst into tears at any given moment. And I don’t know how to explain that it’s not you, it’s me. I’m playing offense and defense in a battle that is taking place inside my head, and I’m not sure if I want help, privacy, attention or solace.

When I was in high school, I remember having a handful of smoggy days that I didn’t really understand. My mind was in overdrive and I wanted validation. I wanted to be told I was wonderful and beautiful and absolutely crazy to be thinking these negative thoughts. But when I reached out to a friend, spitting self-deprecating venom, fishing begging for compliments and expecting them, I got nothing. I got crickets. I got, “I don’t know what to say when you’re like this.”

I don’t mention this to blame them, because they were just as young and lost as I was. But I remember the guilt that was born in that moment.

The guilt that comes in with the smog. The shame that sits on top of everything else. Telling me that I should be embarrassed for feeling so low. For bringing people down. For not being my best. It tells me to get over it. And it promises that if I don’t I will push everyone away.

And so the smog suffocates. And for a little while, it wins.

For a little while I am low. I am sad. I am quiet. I am scared. I am not myself.

But then the wind comes.

A friend. A movie. A book. A butterfly. A sunset. A tall tree. A child’s laugh. A kind word. A joke that lands in just the right place. A hug. A moment alone. An unexpected deep breath. A combination of a lot of little things. And eventually, a breeze picks up. And then a gust. And soon the smog is blown away and I can see the sky again. I can breathe the fresh air.  

It doesn’t last forever. Eventually the smog settles back in and piles back up. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that the more I talk about it, the more opportunities I give to that wind, the more public I make these battles that thrive in private, the better I set myself up to win.

And I’m hoping the same can go for you.

We all have smoggy days. Maybe even smoggy seasons. And sometimes we just need a name for it all.

We might not know what we need from others. We might not want extra attention or to give a longwinded explanation of everything we’re thinking about. Sometimes we just need a name. Something that can explain where we are when we aren’t ourselves.

So if you’re looking for a name, have mine. And remember, it’s okay to have smoggy days. It’s okay to not be your best. It’s okay if you get knocked down. As long as you get back up and keep fighting.

Open a window and let that breeze in. Take a good look at the blue sky. Take a deep breath of that fresh air. You are okay.

Bob & The Battle for the Keys

It was just your average Friday.

My alarm had gone off and I had snoozed it (twice) before getting up; the air conditioning had kicked on because it was already 85 degrees outside; my lunch box was packed, my hair was up, and I had a light jacket tucked in my purse because the office tends to get cold.

After work, I was volunteering with Food Forward, so I had a pile of things to carry. Among them was a tote bag packed with a change of clothes and shoes, my toolbox (armed with gloves, garden pruners, etc.), and a stack of cardboard boxes (to collect fruit).       

I threw my purse over one shoulder, threw the tote bag over the other, and then set my toolbox on top of the flat stack of cardboard boxes and picked them up like I was presenting the toolbox on a serving tray, and I made my way out the door.

My sister and I live in a four-story building and the parking garage is on the ground floor, so when I boarded the elevator, I rested the boxes on the handrail that runs across the back wall, to give my hands a break, then I reached into my purse and grabbed my keys.

As the doors opened, I set my keys next to my toolbox, then placed my hands back under the cardboard boxes and turned around to exit. Somewhere in the shuffle, my keys began to slide, and I groaned, annoyed I might have to bend down and pick them up.

Don’t fall, I thought.

But they fell.

And when I heard them fall, they sounded…far away?

“No way,” I said out loud.

I turned around, sure it was just a strange echo, fully expecting to see my keys sitting on the elevator floor, or maybe on the tile of the small lobby room. But then, when I set my boxes down, got onto my knees and shone my flashlight down into the elevator shaft, there they were.

My keys.

About four feet down.

Stuck.

I stood in the lobby, speechless, confused, waiting for my keys to somehow…come back.

CTRL + Z, I thought.

Undo.

UNDO.

I picked up my boxes, reboarded the elevator, took it up to my floor, and walked back into our apartment. I sat at the kitchen table, took my breakfast bar out of my purse, and ate.

I then called my building manager, only to learn he wouldn’t be in the office for another hour.

So, I got back on the elevator, took it to the ground floor, and shone my flashlight down into the darkness again, curious if I was hallucinating, or if this was somehow all a dream. But no, there they were, real, and at the bottom of the elevator shaft. My entire key ring. Making it impossible for me to drive to work and/or leave the building altogether until my sister got home.

At 9:00 a.m. exactly, I called my building manager back. Lucky for me, he had about as much enthusiasm to help me as a cat would to cannonball into a bathtub, but he begrudgingly agreed to call the elevator company to “see if anyone could even do anything.”

Shout out to Bob for doing the absolute bare minimum.

For the next five hours, as the workday commenced, the neighbors went about their day, and the sun began to beat into our apartment, I sat on the couch, waiting for Bob to call.

About every hour, I would call to check in, seeing as Bob was treating the situation as if I was asking him to dig up the Titanic with a spoon rather than contact a technician on his payroll.  

I thought very briefly about going on a solo rescue mission for my keys, but every strategy I imagined ended in me either losing a limb, breaking the elevator, dropping my phone/flashlight down next to my keys, or somehow setting off the fire alarm and meeting all of our new neighbors in the most embarrassing and dramatic fashion.  

So, I stayed patient.

And I flipped Bob off in the safe confines of my empty house countless times.

Then, at around 12:00 p.m., Bob called with two options:

  1. The elevator company could come by *free of charge* next week to retrieve my keys.
  2. The elevator company could come by today for $400.

Bob also made sure to mention that he WOULD NOT be covering any of the cost.

So I could either go without all of my keys (car keys, house key, building key, mail key, etc.) for an entire week, or use money that I could spend on roundtrip flights to New York, to have a man stall the elevator, reach down with what I can only assume are fancy tongs to grab my keys, and then swipe my credit card.

Bob was unfazed with either option. And even when the gravity of the cost shook me up and I found myself on the verge of tears, Bob said, “yeah, rough,” and then assumedly started a new game of Solitaire on his computer.

In the end, I opted not pay the elevator company $400. I had one extra car key, and a burning desire to spite Bob, so I would make it work.  

But then, at 4:30 p.m., as my best friend and I sat in Friday traffic on the 101, trying to make our way to our volunteer shift, I got a text from my sister. It was a picture of her boyfriend holding a fishing pole with my keys hooked on the end of the line.

And unto us a hero was born.

I called Bob Saturday morning, knowing his office was closed, and left a voicemail on his machine. It was polite and professional, but I like to think he could tell that the entire thing was laced in sarcasm and a deep seeded hope that he steps in a puddle in socks.   

I also made a special trip to that weird, “car accessory” section of CVS and bought of one these.

Sometimes you learn lessons the hard way.

May & June Favorites

Hello friends!

I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend.

I definitely did. It was full of many of my favorite things: friends, family, ice cream, my mom’s brussel sprouts, bowls and bowls of chips. Plus, I didn’t get sunburned! That’s what they call a win win win win win win.

So on that note, let’s get into some favorites.


Books

Fun fact: I mentioned Normal People (the series) in my 2020 edition of May & June favorites. It had recently come out on Hulu and I’d binge watched and loved it. Today, I’m recommending Normal People (the book) because I listened to the audiobook and was completely unsurprised to discover it is also fantastic. I now have a hard copy of the book and plan on reading it again. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ So it’s really just a big recommend all around.

Goodbye Again by Johnny Sun is a book that I would like to write one day. It is honest and real and finds a way to make you as the reader feel a little bit more understood and a little bit less alone. It is a collection of essays and illustrations, all short and concise, that make it easy to read it at a leisurely pace. I genuinely love it and would recommend it over and over!


TV Shows

I have a been on a good streak of TV shows recently, starting and finishing good ones all in a row! It is rare and it is exciting and so I have a handful of recommendations for you.

If you are looking for something funny, upbeat, and undeniable good, watch Ted Lasso. (And do it quick! Season two comes out at the end of this month!) (find it on Apple TV+)

If you are looking for something suspenseful and a little dark, with a murder that you need to help solve, watch Mare of Easttown. (find it on HBO Max)

If you are looking for something cute, funny, and romantic, watch Starstruck. (find it on Hulu)

If you are looking for something hilarious, unique and sweet, watch Dave. (find it on Hulu)


Movies

I was recommended The Year Earth Changed by one of my best friends and I am so glad I watched it! It is a documentary that covers 2020 from a different perspective than we’ve seen before: that of nature. It shows the effect that lockdown had on plants, animals and the natural world while the human population was locked inside. It’s truly fascinating to watch and encouraging to know that some positive changes came about in 2020—and that there plans in place to carry on those good things.  (find it on Apple TV+)

I stumbled across Broken Hearts Gallery while looking for a cute movie to watch on a weeknight and it was exactly what I hoped it would be. It has a sweet premise, rooted in the idea that we all have a little (or a lot) of heartbreak that, while seemingly isolating, actually links us together—interweaved with a love story that gives you some warm fuzzies. (find it on Hulu)


Music

One Foot in Front of the Other by Griff

Ashlyn by Ashe

Godsend by Riley Clemmons


Kind Breakfast Protein Bars

These are so great for breakfasts on the go, mid-morning snacks, or go-to protein to have in your bag while hiking, at the beach, etc. I have tried almost every flavor and haven’t found one I don’t like!


More to That Newsletter

I have really been trying to fill my inbox with good, happy, and inspirational things that break up the ads and work emails and give me something to look forward to. This newsletter has consistently inspired me and made me look at trivial, seemingly simple subjects from a new, rewarding perspective. I really like it! (find it here)


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

See my previous favorites post here.

30 Good Things that Happened in June

Hello and welcome back to another edition of All the Good Things. It’s been a couple months, but we’re back!

Let’s dive right in.

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1) Days after getting married, this woman donated a kidney to her new husband’s ex-wife

2) This boy got an incredible souvenir:

3) This 94 year old woman received her high school diploma.

4) This duo had a jam session:

5) This 7 year old boy swam to shore to save his father and sister.

6) This:

7) Born with no arms, this archer is aiming for gold at the Paralympics.

8) This fun article pointed out words that are their own opposites.

9) This two year old became the youngest member of Mensa.

10) This bench is helping tackle depression.

11) Demetri Martin rethought the term OK:

12) This girl honored her parents in her graduation photo shoot.

13) These boys made a woman’s day.

14) Scientists claimed this straw is an instant cure for hiccups.

15) After having the tractor he rebuilt with his dad stolen, the Tempe police helped this boy get a new one:

16) This dog was named Best in Show at the Westminster Dog Show.

17) This boy tried to sell his Pokémon cards to help pay his dog’s vet bills, but when people heard, they jumped in to help.

18) This woman found her long lost dog at a shelter.

19) This boy served as his speech therapist’s best man at her wedding.

20) This:

21) This reporter found the missing child he was sent to cover the disappearance of.

22) This photographer unexpectedly captured a couple’s proposal and then found them on Twitter.

23) This boat captain found a message in a bottle from the 1920’s and then returned it to the author’s daughter.

24) The world’s most premature baby celebrated his first birthday.

25) Jimmy Fallon & Lin Manuel Miranda celebrated the return of Broadway:

26) This girl got to meet her favorite baseball player: Joey Votto.

27) This Harvard-Bound senior gave her $40,000 scholarship to someone else.

28) In preparation for the Olympics, this article detailed events that no longer exist.

29) This girl set the new Guinness World Record for folding 1000 paper cranes.

30) And finally, this baby had a good dream about his mama:

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Wanna know the best part? There is SO much I didn’t include.

I can’t wait to see what July brings!

You can view the last edition of this series here.

Look for the Happy Middles

The other day I was listening to a podcast that discussed the cliché: happiness is a journey, not a destination. It got me thinking about movies and books and their tendency to have “happy endings”—a direct contradiction of this cliché.

Oftentimes we are given a main character, and a single obstacle, choice, or relationship that is holding them back. We follow their journey to make things right, sometimes laughing or crying along the way, and then we listen to the music swell, and watch them (sometimes) metaphorically ride off into the sunset, satisfied, accomplished and happy. The screen fades to black and we sit in the goodness of the ending, holding onto it for as long as we can, feeling hopeful and inspired that our own happy ending is on its way.

I have seen this my entire life.

In high school, I watched romantic comedies every single night. They were literally the last thing I thought about before I fell asleep. As a result, I believed that while life was an obstacle course with twists and turns, tears and pain, it always had a happy ending—a place where you would be free from those things.

I believed that about finishing college; about having a lavish and successful career; about falling in love, getting married and having kids; about getting in shape, being skinny, having straight teeth, clear skin and self-confidence. Once I had what I wanted, I thought, then everything would be fine. I wouldn’t have bad days. I wouldn’t feel sad. I wouldn’t feel pain, be scared or get lonely.

But the truth is, there is no such thing as happy endings—at least not in the middle of your life. There are openings and closings of chapters. Beginnings and endings to seasons. Reset buttons, changes of direction, path defining questions and answers. But there is no mid-life finish-line or series finale sunset that you walk towards, leaving behind everything hard or painful, to live our the rest of your days in blissful, unbreakable happiness.

And that’s good.

Because then what would we do? Stop learning? Stop growing? Stop creating?

Imagine how much unhappier a place the world would be if we all stopped searching for and creating new kinds of happiness.

This is why I think we have to stop looking for happy endings and start appreciating the happy middles.

Happy middles (n): happy moments that happen in the great, vast middle of your life. (i.e., the accomplishments, inspiration, wonder, love, friendship, joy, kindness, compassion, etc. that make days better. That make happiness feel a place you’ve been and will be again soon.)

Happy endings in movies are actually happy middles. (Or, depending on the movie, maybe sad middles, hard middles, devastating middles.) They are moments that would stand out in the lives of those characters as they moved fictionally forward. They showcase moments and experiences we’ve had in our own lives, that prepare us for what is ahead—whether good or bad.

Happy middles don’t have to be big. They don’t have to be dramatic or grandiose or come with a pay raise, trophy, or engagement ring. Happy middles can be slow, consistent, and simple. They can be obvious or undetectable. They can be absolutely anything at all.

If happiness is a journey, happy middles are the pit stops. The points of interest. The places where you refuel and refresh before getting back on the road.

So if you’re going through a tough season, keep going, there’s a happy middle waiting for you right around the corner.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, bogged down, and/or discouraged with where you are in your life compared to where those around you seem to be, take heart in knowing that we are all in the middle. No one has it all figured out, no one has crossed that fictional finish-line where everything becomes perfect or easy. We are all on our own path, finding our own happy middles, and your next one might be right in front of you!

All that being said, I can’t and won’t stand here and say that I don’t love me a cute, romantic, emotional, happy ending, because I do and always will. But the way I see it, I’ve got a lot of life left to live, so I’m keeping my eyes on the middle(s) and all the goodness they have to offer.  Here’s hoping one is just up ahead.

200 Day Time Capsule Blog #7

I will admit, I held on to this one for a little longer than usual.

But I couldn’t help it. I wanted to wait until today because tomorrow, June 15th, is the day when things are making a big push towards “normal.” Baseball stadiums are opening to full capacity, mask mandates are disappearing, people are OPENLY HUGGING. (At least in California. I know this happened sooner in some places and will happen later in others, but our day is tomorrow!)

It’s emotional, y’all. And I wanted my time capsule blog to commemorate that.

I’m curious what “the new normal” will look like 200 days from this fateful one.

I guess we’ll find out.


1) What day is it?

My answer from the last time capsule (11/17/20): November 17, 2020

Ahhh, isn’t it nice not to say “2020” anymore.

2) What’s the weather like outside?

My answer from the last time capsule (11/17/20): It’s going to be about 80 degrees today. We had a little spurt of cold weather but now we’re back to the (mild) heat. The mornings are nice and cool though, and I’ve even gotten to sleep in sweatshirts a couple of times. I’m ready to get cozy!

There’s a very good chance I’ll change this question. The weather is pretty consistent with, you know, seasons. So I feel like it’s just a constant cycle of “hey it’s cold” and then “wouldn’t you know it, it’s hot!!” Not exactly riveting material. New question TBD.

3) What did you do today?

My answer from the last time capsule (11/17/20): Today is just a work day, but yesterday was a real highlight, as Nicole and I played pickleball for the first time and it was so fun! We were in search of a new hobby to try out and I think this one is going to be great. Plus, we already have plans to join the senior pickleball league and dominate well into our 70’s. 

This is still the plan. Look for us in 40 years or so, we’ll be the ones in matching t-shirts, giggling.

4) What’s your favorite song right now?

My answer from the last time capsule (11/17/20): Natalee and I have been really jamming out to Bitter by FLETCHER, but I’ve also had Cam’s new album The Otherside and Léon’s album Apart on repeat for the last couple weeks. 

Spoiler alert: you over-played most of these, girl. But I love this selection, they pretty much cover every emotion, and there were a lot of emotions to feel.

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

My answer from the last time capsule (11/17/20): I just watched Jojo Rabbit the other night and it was so great. I’m mad it took me so long to watch it! I’m hoping that this year I’ll see all of the movies nominated for an Oscar and, even better, correctly predict which one will win! 

Another spoiler alert: You did not watch all of the nominees (yet) and you did not correctly predict what would win. You did see the winning movie though. So there’s that.

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

My answer from the last time capsule (11/17/20): I texted Nicole to set up our next day for pickleball, which we have taken to calling “pickle it up”, “get our pickle on”, etc. 

Things have escalated and we’ve learned real pickleball lingo now, though I can only assume we are using it (at least kind of ) incorrectly. We also gave each other “pickleball alter egos” because that is how you dive headfirst into a new hobby.

7) What is your biggest goal right now?

My answer from the last time capsule (11/17/20): I am about halfway through my first ever writing class at UCLA Extension and it is the first unit of a Creative Writing Certificate. So my current goal is to work through those classes, get that certificate and see where writing can take me. Also, you know, just survive the rest of 2020. 

#1: You not only finished that writing class but two more after! You are now halfway through the writing certificate and you’ve written about 15 essays that you didn’t know you had in you! Keep it up!

#2: You did make it through 2020, and while 2021 hasn’t necessarily been *the best* it’s got potential. So hang in there. Believe in the slow magic.

8) What are you most excited about?

My answer from the last time capsule (11/17/20): Seeing my family at Thanksgiving, watching all of my friend’s babies grow up, the possibility of falling in love and having babies of my own. I’m feeling positive today and I’m just excited about the good things ahead, because I know they’re coming. 

I am honestly very surprised by this burst of positivity. Not sure what brought it on, but go off, past me. Thanksgiving ended up being wonderful and hilarious and a true celebration of everything we’d been through survived in 2020 up to that point. It should also be noted that my friends & family’s babies are adorable and growing up at the speed of light, and that one day my own babies will come for their crowns. I do believe that good things are ahead, though I can’t say I’ve got the momentum I had behind me in November. Past me sounded like she was sure they were right around the corner, while present me is anticipating them to be way up ahead somewhere and thus, I will continue to impatiently trudge forward. But hey, progress is progress.

9) What are you most worried about?

My answer from the last time capsule (11/17/20): COVID numbers peaking, overall unrest, change, all the things I can’t really control. You know, casual stuff. 

There is a vaccine my sweet past self! June 15th, my darling, June 15th!!!

I can’t say we’re entirely less worried about most of the other things, but one of out four ain’t bad.

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

My answer from the last time capsule (11/17/20): Easily, the granola crunch Belgian waffle I had not once but twice for breakfast while my family was in Solvang for the weekend celebrating my dad’s 60th birthday. 

Oh my gosh, that waffle. I still dream of you.


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: Saturday December 31st, 2021!!

How cool is that! We will finish the year with predictions, hopes, questions and a time capsule blog. See you there!

Just What I Needed

Last year, right after I turned 30, I was at the dentist.

Having just finished a cleaning, I was sat up straight in the chair, my ponytail flattened and messy, and my eyes—which I close during every appointment—still adjusting to the bright light of the room.   The dental hygienist was talking positively about my teeth, telling me I brushed well, could floss better, but had no cavities, and thus I felt like a successful adult.

She asked me how old I was, and her eyes lit up when I told her.

“I just turned 40,” she said, “and I’m looking forward to see what these next ten years bring me, but I couldn’t be more excited for you. My thirties were the best years of my life so far.”

I flinched at this.

For ten years people had said to me, “Your twenties are your best years! Don’t waste them!” over and over again, and I had spent night after night lying in bed, feeling guilty, wondering, “Am I wasting them?”

But the truth was, my twenties were hard. They were confusing and at times sad and heartbreaking and isolating and overall just one big WHAT AM I EVEN DOING?!

Part of me was relieved to hear that, in this humble woman’s opinion, I had another shot at “my best years.” But I also worried that the your-thirties-are-the-best-time-of-your-life crowd was about to come out of the woodworks, and I was going to spend another decade lying awake at night wondering why I can’t do anything right.

But then, as if she could see the curiosity (and perhaps fear) wash over me, she turned towards me—or rather, wheeled her dentist stool in front of me—and elaborated.

She told me her thirties were good to her because she felt she was finally good to herself. She said everyone talks about the “carefree fun” of your twenties, but no one talks about the self-acceptance and understanding that can come in your thirties.

She said I would finally start to see myself and, in turn, stop hearing everyone else.

“Their opinions will matter less, even if it doesn’t feel like it right away. That doesn’t mean you won’t care what other people think, but you will start to get a feeling of what feels right to you. And even though it might not be what everyone else is doing or what is ‘cool’ or ‘right’ or ‘normal’, you begin to appreciate what is honest to you more than striving for everyone else’s acceptance and affection.”

I have thought about this conversation often. It has comforted me on hard days, encouraged me on good days, and given me an underlying sense of peace that reminds me to relax and settle in for the ride.

Let’s be honest, there is no set standard for “the best years of your life.” There is no reason it has to be your 20’s, 30’s or 40’s. There is no reason they have to come in ten-year increments or happen in succession. Your best days and best years are defined by you and you alone.

So let’s take each day as it comes. Take each decade as it comes. Live honestly—even if that means making mistakes—and find your way forward. Let’s get excited about what’s ahead and appreciate what we’ve learned so far.  

And never be afraid to encourage someone—even if they’re at the dentist. You never know how bad they might need it.

O-Hi It’s My Trauma

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then we were there again.

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

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

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

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

Zion & the 15 Freeway

Great news! If you’re reading this, it means I made it home.

Why is this great news? Well, because as I write this, it seems doubtful.

At this very moment in time, I’m sitting on the 15 freeway, with my sister behind the wheel, heading home from a wonderful weekend spent in Southern Utah.

As routes home go, there aren’t many options to Southern California from that direction, which means we have no choice but to drive through the Sunday Las Vegas traffic—on a two lane highway that has now come to a complete stop.

To give you the whole picture, I drove the first three hours, driving approximately 200 miles, and it has since been two hours of my sister driving, and we’ve gone about 20 miles. We still have 4 hours to go. So things are pretty bleak.

On the bright side, I’ve had time to reflect on our trip. Sitting still and looking out at the desert will do that to you. And right off the bat, I have this feeling of disbelief, of doubt that I had just come from here:

That this morning my alarm went off at 6:00 am so we could take an early a shuttle into Zion National Park to climb Angel’s Landing.

That a handful of hours ago I had my hiking boots on, taking deep breaths and choosing careful steps as I held on to a chain that lined that trail near the top, as it narrowed and got more dangerous, and then I summited and got to look out at this:

And now I’m here. On the freeway. Crawling.

But then I look at the cars around me—and oh, there are so many of them—and I can’t help but feel the same way I did looking at all the people walking up the trails beside me. Whether they were going up or coming down, having just finished, just started, or reconsidering going all the way to the top, they were all carrying their own story, and their own motivations for doing this hike, on this Sunday, at this point in their lives.

Sitting in traffic, it’s easy to forget that everyone around you is trying to get somewhere—maybe home—just like you. And they’re all carrying a story or a handful or worries or a reason that they have to be sitting in this traffic, at this time, on this day.

Now, I’m not trying to make traffic sound like this deep, magical place. I’ll be the first to say that on most days, everyone preventing me from driving my desired speed is in my way and ruining my life. But having spent the weekend exploring a National park—that was full of people from all over the world, hiking, biking, camping and taking pictures of everything, knowing they’d never quite be able to do it justice, but wanting to try their best so that they could remember this, or at least prove that they were here, that this trip, this place, was real, and the world was a little bigger and a little better than it had been before they came here—I’m having one of those moments when you look at the world a little differently. When you remember that we’re all out here trying our best, trying to live our lives right and to enjoy them while we’re lucky enough to live them.

I may be stuck on the freeway but so are a lot of other people. And we’re all hoping it will clear up soon. Because it’s Sunday, and I know I like being home on Sunday nights. I like to settle in and prepare for a new week that might offer a whole new adventure. So I’ll be patient. I’ll look at my pictures from this weekend, be grateful that I got to experience it, and, after a little while, I’ll be home. And I hope everyone else will too. And maybe one day we’ll see each other on the trails, or in some other part of the world that we can’t believe is real, that we can’t believe we are lucky enough to see, and that we would sit in traffic over and over again to be able to experience.

Unit 25

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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