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A Lactose Free Poem for Your Birthday [Repost]

In honor of my sister’s birthday tomorrow, I thought I’d bring back this post. I originally posted it in 2015, back when we were sharing a room at our parents’ house, when I was just starting to post consistently on my blog, and when the world was really obsessed with infinity scarves.

I thought about changing a couple of the lines to make it more current, but I kind of like seeing how much has changed (in good and hard ways) and how far we’ve come. She was my person then and she’s my person now, so here’s hoping this poem can ring in her birthday with a smile.

Happy birthday Natallee!


Natalee my Natalee,

I hope you like this rhyme from me

You’re used to them by now I’d think

So enjoy this one and down a drink

Not too many though because I don’t like barf

I loathe barf like you love a good scarf

Which is why we have 57 in our closet

Okay not really, 58 if I’m honest.

Sometimes I think about burning them all

But don’t worry I’ll at least hold out until fall

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Today is a day when we celebrate you

A day that I’ve celebrated since I was two

That year was rough, when you arrived on the scene

Before that there was just brown hair, brown eyes, just me.

But I suppose you ended up being pretty cool, slightly valuable

Beautiful actually, smart, compassionate and admirable

One of the only people in the world to always make me happy

And to infuriate me to no end when we’re feeling cross and sassy.

But that’s a rarity now since we’re both essentially flawless

Always wondrous, always mature, never strange, unintelligible and lawless.

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You’ve listened to every song that I’ve wrote about our dog

And every whiny jingle on why I won’t go for a jog

You listen to the sighs, the cries and the rants,

You let me crank up our music and dance around with no pants

You’ve made me laugh too many times to count

And made me proud an intangible amount

You’ve seen me through it all and so many would agree

You fought through some of the hardest times and come out beautifully free

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So remember on this day as I thank you for your you-ness

That I say it with a sincerity and a gratefulness of the truest…

…nature, but not the kind with all the trees and the bugs

More the kind with all the cheesy, sentimental, tear jerking hugs

So eat cake (without eggs) and ice cream (without dairy)

That way your birthday can be diarrhea free and quite merry.

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Love you!

Red Heart on Apple iOS 14.2

5 Things to Wish for at Midnight (List-cember #9)

Well my friends, we have made it! Against all odds, we have made it to the last day of 2020. The final hours of a trying, brutal, relentless year that none of us saw coming. And now we are going to start something new. It might not look new, it might not look easy, and unlike many New Year’s Eves, the strike of midnight might not look exactly magical. But I don’t think that should sway us from counting down, setting goals, or making wishes for a fresh start.

In fact, I feel it is more important than ever to make those wishes this year, not only for ourselves but for the world as a whole. So as those final seconds start to countdown on the clock, here are five things we can all wish for:

1) Unity

One of the most common phrases we heard throughout 2020 was “we’re all in this together.” And while there were many instances where I saw this to be true, there seemed to be many more where it was clear that it wasn’t. This year brought a lot of panic, a lot of fear, a lot of hard, and a lot of new into focus, so it was understandable the way tensions rose. But never have I seen such clear division, constant hate, and widespread loneliness caused by fear of saying the wrong thing, holding the wrong opinion or having a moment’s hesitation. I think there are a lot of positive changes being made in the world, and there are a lot of long overdue conversations taking place, but I also feel like there is a lot of impulsive cancellation and condemnation rather than encouraged understanding and hopeful redemption. Let’s hope for real unity in the year(s) to come. Unity that is built on differences and two sided conversations. Unity that is not eradicated by conflict but made stronger because of it. Let’s truly find a way to be “in this together” and rebuild a better world.

2) Innovation

Even with all the restrictions in place this year, there was still a heft amount of innovation. Doctors found ways to treat and help countless patients. Families found ways to celebrate special occasions with Zoom, drive by parades, and handwritten letters. Online campaigns brought attention, help and joy to those in need with fundraising, collaborative projects and acts of kindness. I remember very early on a girl made the news by designing clear masks that made it possible for the deaf and hard of hearing to better communicate. People found ways to make life easier, more efficient, and sometimes even more fun while the world moved slowly and frightfully into the ever-winding turns and peaks of COVID-19. Let’s hope that this new year will only bring more innovation and more ideas that have never seen the light of day. Let’s hope we all find ourselves sitting, awed, and saying, “wow, I never thought of that!”

3) Creativity

When I think of creativity, especially this year, I think of someone like Taylor Swift, who leaned into the confines of quarantine and wrote two albums. Granted, this is some next level kind of creativity, and not one that we should all measure ourselves against. It is hard to be creative in a time when you can’t travel, can’t see friends and family, can’t do much more than stay inside your own home. But there are moments we all experience, little ideas, in any and all genres, that poke at the back of our minds and say, try this. Sometimes those ideas are only for us, sometimes they find a home outside ourselves and make the world a better place. So let’s hope that creativity is stirred and that we are brave enough to answer the call. Let’s hope that creativity runs wild in this new year and that we see great, new, wonderful things.

4) Kindness

I often find myself saying (or thinking to myself), “it is so easy to be kind.” And while this is true, it is not always easy to want to be kind—especially when the world is seemingly falling apart around you. Still, kindness can go a long way. It can mean everything to the right person in the right moment. So let’s hope that more people (including ourselves) find that want to be kind in the new year. Let’s hope that when we reach those crossroads—perhaps on a daily basis—we try harder to take that extra second to be kind.

5) Patience

What we might need more than anything in this new year is patience. While there is a lot of positive progress being made, the world is not going to go back to normal overnight, or any time in the immediate future. And even though sometimes it seems impossible to live in this version of our world for another year, another few months, or sometimes even just one more day, we need to find it within us to be patient. Be patient with the doctors who are trying their best day in and day out, be patient with the first responders and frontline workers who put themselves as risk each and every day, be patient with your friends and family who might have different fears or opinions than you, be patient with yourself and the ups and downs of emotions that don’t seem to quit. Be patient with 2021, it is a new year, with new possibilities and each day has the chance to be something special.

Happy New Year!


Check out more List-cember posts here.

17 Things that Inspired Me This Year (List-cember #5)

No matter the year, no matter the season, there are always going to be things that inspire us. Things that make us want and dream or fight and persevere, things that make us laugh or dance or cheer or all of the above. My personal favorite are the things that spark your interest, perhaps in a way you don’t quite understand yet, and then simmer in your mind until their full understanding comes to light. This year, there were many things that inspired me, both as a writer, a woman, a daughter, a sister, a dreamer and just as a human.

Here are some of those things:

1) These podcast episodes

I listened to a lot of great podcasts this year (many of which I listed on my rec roundup) but there were a couple episodes that particularly stood out and had me feeling all the feels.

  • Rachel Hollis Podcast, Episode #151: Reclaim Your Magic w/ Elizabeth Gilbert (which inspired this blog)
  • Heavyweight, Episode #32: Vivian
  • Straight Up with Trent Shelton, Episode #46: Three Things You Need to Disarm to Bring Your Greatness to the World

2) This quote from Untamed

“Being fully human is not about feeling happy, it’s about feeling everything.” – Glennon Doyle

3) I Left the House Today by Cassandra Calin

I saw this book at Target and more or less impulse bought it because I liked the title and the first few comics I saw inside. Once I brought it home, I then proceeded to read the entire book in one sitting. It is relatable, honest, heartfelt, clever and so funny. Highly recommend!

4) @carrychalk on Instagram

5) Yoga with Adriene

Yoga was an absolute lifesaver for me this year. It gave me a sense of calm when the entire world was in chaos, and it helped me find a routine when I didn’t have motivation to do much of anything. Yoga with Adriene in particular was such a blessing as she became not only a teacher, but a friend during such a lonely time. I would recommend her to anyone and everyone, no matter your yoga level or experience. She is wonderful!

6) This song by Riley Clemmons

7) Fortitude by Dan Crenshaw

“In entertaining failure, you will embrace it.”

“You have a purpose in this life. God has you here for a reason. You may not know it, but He does. Your job is to find it. No one else can. You need to understand that your purpose may be great in the eyes of the world, or it may be commonplace and seemingly small.”

“The pursuit is the purpose.”

Also check out this blog post inspired by a story in the book.

8) @drawings_for_my_grandchildren on Instagram

This account is run by a husband and wife who are using social media to leave behind stories and lessons for their grandchildren. Often there are drawings that go along with stories and they are so sweet and creative and emotional. I am always excited to see a new post from them.

9) Gerald Stratford

This is truly the most delightful, wholesome Twitter account that exists. Gerald doesn’t want to talk politics, he doesn’t want to yell and scream, he just wants to show you the vegetables he is growing and I am HERE FOR IT GERALD.

10) Little Women

I saw this movie in theaters early this year, and even though most days from March to now are a blur, I can still vividly remember sitting beside my best friend in the movie theater, our cheeks wet from crying, unable to move even as the lights came on and people started to leave. I love this movie and often watch it whenever I’m looking for a spark of inspiration—or a good cry.

11) Kobe

Growing up in Los Angeles, Kobe always had a special place in my heart, but it was truly remarkable to see the impact he had on so many lives, worldwide. In the weeks and months that followed his tragic passing, I marveled at the widespread unity that came with the grief. I read and watched so many stories, including this one, which I can still barely watch without crying, but I have loved to see the term #girldad come to life in its wake.

12) The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto

“What you’re thinking about can be what you become.”

“But even beginnings have beginnings.”

“As life goes on, you will join other bands, some through friendship, some through romance, some through neighborhoods, school, an army. Maybe you will all dress the same, or laugh at your own private vocabulary. Maybe you will flop on couches backstage, or share a boardroom table, or crowd around a galley inside a ship. But in each band you join, you will play a distinct part, and it will affect you as much as you affect it.”

13) folklore & evermore by Taylor Swift

I mean, how dare she? But also, thank goodness.

My favorites on folklore are peace, my tears ricochet & invisible string.

My (early) favorites on evermore are ivy, marjorie & gold rush.

14) This story

Please take the time to read the whole thing. It will make your day, I promise.

15) Get Out of Your Head by Jennie Allen

“When we listen to lies about our worth, we naturally back away from others. In many cases, our distancing behavior succeeds in pushing people away, reinforcing our fear of rejection. This is a classic mind trap, a self-fulfilling thought pattern in which our insecurity feeds our isolation, which in turn feeds the lie that we are worthless and nobody really gets us or cares to. We feel unseen and unloved, and to protect ourselves from further rejection, we won’t let anyone close enough to change our perception.”

16) Some Good News on Youtube

I LOVED this series started by John Krasinski on Youtube and often ugly cried throughout. This episode was particularly amazing because, well, HAMILTON.

17) The Monday Club

I’ve been subscribed to this weekly newsletter by Hannah Brencher for a while now and it is the perfect way to start my week. She never fails to speak to my heart and inspire me, and I have many an email from her saved and starred in my inbox.


Check out more List-cember posts here.

Things I’m Excited to See Again (List-cember #4)

While things are very much still tough, and the approach of the new year doesn’t have so much magic as it does desperate hope for something better, I am trying my best to think about the good things. It’s unclear when life will go completely back to “normal” or when we will be able to do all that we love and miss again, but we will get there one day. And when we do, these are some of the things I’m excited to see:

1) People walking to school

I’m excited see young kids, with backpacks hanging low on their shoulders, almost shadowing their entire frame, holding the hands of their parent or grandparent or older sibling as they make their way across the street towards the gates of their school. I’m excited to see high schoolers, walking in groups laughing or alone thinking, sitting in their cars wondering or opening up their lockers hoping that today will be a good day. And I’m excited to see college students, walking both lazily and with purpose, in sweatpants and suits, barely making it to class or betting their entire future on it.

2) Full cars

I’m excited to see cars full of families, silhouetted heads moving this way and that, with suitcases piled high on the roof, bikes strapped to the back, or a trailer being pulled behind. I’m excited to wonder where they’re going, if it’s a weekend getaway, a cross country road trip, or perhaps a new house, to start a new life in a new city. 

3) Smiles

I’m excited to see the big, face changing smiles, the small, polite ones, the unexpected, undeniable ones, the shy, nervous ones, and the ones that connect you to a stranger as you both shake your head as a way to say, can you believe this guy? I’m excited to see smiles freshly whitened, smiles made of braces, and smiles with teeth missing and awaiting reward from the tooth fairy. Most of all I’m excited to stop avoiding eye contact simply because I’m afraid my mask will hide my smile and my sunglasses will hide my eyes, making it impossible for me to let someone know that I hope they have a good day.

4) Sports fans jumping from their seats

I’m excited to see stadiums packed with people, sitting side by side, on the edge of their seats, hoping for a big play, a big moment, and doing their best to cheer and rally their fellow fans. I’m excited to see them stand, and to stand with them, clapping and chanting and tapping their team’s name across the fronts of their jerseys. I’m excited to see that big moment happen, and to hear the gasps and excitement and energy rip through the entire stadium, bringing everyone to their feet, hugging and high fiving.

5) My whole family—up close and personal

I’m excited to be able to stand with my arm around a cousin or my head on the shoulder of an aunt, or to sit right next to my grandpa and watch a baseball game. I’m excited to eat chips from the same bowl and dip them in our family’s homemade guacamole, to swap Christmas cookies and cheers late night drinks. I’m excited to plan each and every annual family gathering, to catch up and share stories, take group pictures and spend way too long hugging each other as we try to say goodbye.

6) Movie previews

I’m excited to walk into a theater right before the room goes dark, and to look over at my sister and guess how many previews are going to play before the movie—I always guess four. I’m excited to whisper things like, “that looks good” or “I’ve been waiting for this!” or “what on earth is that?” And I’m excited to finish whatever snack I brought or bought before the previews even end, and not feel mad or sad, but content and prepared to sink into my seat and watch a movie on the big screen.

7) “OPEN” signs

I’m excited to drive around town, hungry or bored, or just in the mood to explore and see all the restaurants and stores and gyms and parks and churches and salons and bookstores and museums open and ready for business. Ready to welcome customers and families and people looking to try something new or return to something they love. I’m ready to watch people hold the door for each other, to eavesdrop on what other people are buying or ordering or talking about, to spy on the cute boy at the gym or look over at the person typing furiously on their keyboard in a coffee shop. I’m excited for the world to open back up, for people to open back up, and for the hope and unity we’ve been struggling to find over this last year to finally, truly, bring us together into the new normal.  


Check out more List-cember posts here.

30 Good Things that Happened in November

Hello and welcome back to another edition of All the Good Things, a monthly series where I highlight all the good things (get it?) that happen in each 30-day (or so) span. I hope it can be a reminder that amongst all the well known bad, there is a lot of undercover good happening in our world.

Let’s dive right in.

1) This whale sculpture in the Netherlands caught a metro train that went off track.

2) This woman shared her incredibly detailed sleepover plans

3) Vice released a list of things to do besides stress about the election—that I think could help in the aftermath as well.

4) This dog played with its ball

5) Veteran combat divers helped restore ocean health.

6) These two brothers put together a beautiful shot

7) Business Insider made this fun video to show how cranberries are harvested in preparation for the holidays

8) This man made an incredible mashup

9) SpaceX’s Crew-1 successfully made it to the International Space Station

10) And they brought Baby Yoda

11) Veteran’s Day

12) This lost hiker was brought back to life in the ER.

13) This photography group existed

14) This restaurant in the Bronx turned into a soup kitchen to help the poor.

15) Ziggy took his turn

16) The International Landscape Photographer of the year was named.

17) This cat did its civic duty

18) Immigrant families paid tribute to Alex Trebek for helping them learn English.

19) This man hid a short story inside signed copies of his book

20) Zippia released this list of the most popular Thanksgiving sides by US state.

21) This:

22) The Miami Marlins hired Kim Ng as the first female MLB general manager.

23) This 8 year old stayed prepared

24) This compilation of funny moments from Leta Powell Drake interviews went viral

25) This 21 year old became the first man with Down Syndrome to complete an Ironman triathlon.

26) Thanksgiving

27) Missy Elliot paid for a fan’s wedding dress in full.

28) This owl was rescued from the Rockefeller center Christmas tree.

29) This woman shared a heartwarming story about comedian John Mulaney

30) And finally, these kids left messages for their dads deployed overseas

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

I can’t wait to see what December brings!

You can view the last edition of this series here.

The Solvang Postcard

In the fall of my senior year of college—which as I type this I realize was nine years ago, YIKES—I studied abroad in Australia. While there, one of my absolute favorite things was to write and receive letters from friends and family back home.

I love mail in general, but being a whole continent away and receiving things from the people I loved back home not only made the first few weeks easier to adjust, but made the remaining five months all the more fun. I was practically a regular at the post office, and there was an entire drawer of my desk filled with envelopes, stamps, and handwritten letters that I still have to this day.

One that stood out was a postcard from my grandpa. “You’re not the only world traveler!” the note on the back started, “Grandma and I went to Denmark. Played golf & ate at Anderson’s Split Pea Soup Restaurant. Quite a trip – took 1hr & 15min each way. Saw lots of Danish shops & houses. Took 3 days so we were exhausted when we got home. Love you bunches – Gma & Gpa”

Maybe it was the startling opening of my grandparents being in “Denmark”, maybe it was the note explaining it had taken them one hour and 15 minutes to get there—from California—or maybe it was just because I hadn’t head of Solvang before, but I never forgot this postcard. It made me smile thinking about my grandma and grandpa on vacation, golfing and exploring this strange and—judging by the pictures on the front of the postcard—very cute town.

A few years later, after my grandma passed away, this postcard became even more sentimental. I felt like it was a tangible memory from their marriage and of the life they lived together—a little piece that they wanted to share with me, that I could have forever. And so just as I kept the postcard, I kept a constant curiosity about Solvang—wondering what it would feel like to stand where they stood all those years ago. And this past weekend, I finally got the chance.

To celebrate my dad’s 60th birthday, our family of five spent the weekend in Solvang. We walked around and saw all the Danish shops and houses, we ate split pea soup at Anderson’s, and though we didn’t play golf, we did go wine tasting and feed some ostriches. (Yes, you read that right.)

We did Solvang our way, just as my grandma and grandpa had done it their way. And even though our trips were almost a decade apart, I still felt like they were right there with me. I still looked for the two of them walking down the street up ahead of me, and imagined them sharing split pea soup in the booth next to us.

Being where they had been made the postcard come to life, and caused it to hit me in a different way. It made me sad knowing that when my grandpa wrote that note to me, none of us had any idea we’d be losing grandma less than a year later. It made me wonder and worry about what might be coming in this decade to follow my own trip to Solvang. But then, it also made me think again about their trip. About the forethought they had to grab a postcard for me, one of their 11 grandkids and 3 great-grandchildren (at the time), and about how much that said about them and the love they had for each and everyone of us. It made me happy to think that they went on this trip and so many others, building their lives together and sharing it with us.

On our last day in Solvang, I grabbed a small, souvenir windmill that is now sitting on my desk. Maybe one day someone will ask me about it and I will pull out the postcard to explain where it all started. Maybe that will inspire another generation to take that trip, and as they walk down the streets and eat split pea soup they’ll look for me just as I looked for my grandma and grandpa, and just like that we’ll all be together again.

31 Good Things that Happened in October

Hello and welcome back to another edition of All the Good Things, a monthly series where I highlight all the good things (get it?) that happen in each 30-day (or so) span. I hope it can be a reminder that amongst all the well known bad, there is a lot of undercover good happening in our world.

Let’s dive right in.

1) Twitter held an unflattering dog photo challenge contest…

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2) …and an unflattering cat contest.

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3) This dog shelter found a clever way to help its older dogs get adopted.

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4) This man shared his cousin’s hilarious misstep

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5) Mental Floss released this fun list of lesser known inventions.

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6) This Twitter prompt made for some hilarious fake 2020 slogans.

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7) This 2350 pound pumpkin won a California pumpkin contest.

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8) This man drew terrible portraits of people’s pets and raised money for charity.

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9) This boy made a great shot.

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10) Tasmanian devils were reintroduced into the Australian wild for the first time in 3,000 years.

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11) This elephant had a snack.

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12) This dad made desks for students still schooling at home.

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13) This couple was reunited after 200 days.

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14) This girl shared her unique love story

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15) This boy was admitted into the English National Ballet School after only four years of training.

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16) This veteran saved a couple from a fire.

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17) This man sheltered 300 dogs from Hurricane Delta.

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18) This woman shared her incredible Halloween costume.

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19) This engineering student built a giant water slide to break a world record.

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20) This:

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21) This couple found a clever way to get married.

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22) These ballerinas put on an incredible show.

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23) This story was published about an epic tale of man who lost his surfboard and the man who found it 5,000 miles away.

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24) This man donated his baseball card collection to a 9 year old who lost all of hers in a fire.

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25) Harry Styles left a superfan a nice note—and fed her fish

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26) IKEA announced its “Buy Back” program which is aimed to promote recycling.

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27) This boy taught us the ABC’s.

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28) The Dodgers won the World Series (I realize this isn’t good news for everyone, but being a Dodger fan myself, I couldn’t help but share it!)

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29) Buzzfeed collected a bunch of good things that happened to people during quarantine.

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30) This man started a master’s program

View this post on Instagram

You got this 💪🏼

A post shared by Good News (@tanksgoodnews) on

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31) And this boy danced with Jack Skellington

View this post on Instagram

Killed it

A post shared by FUCKJERRY (@fuckjerry) on

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

I can’t wait to see what November brings!

You can view the last edition of this series here.

30 Good Things that Happened in September

Hello and welcome back to another edition of All the Good Things, a monthly series where I highlight all the good things (get it?) that happen in each 30-day (or so) span. I hope it can be a reminder that amongst all the well known bad, there is a lot of undercover good happening in our world.

Let’s dive right in.

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1) This Kroger employee helped a woman turn her life around

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2) This rat won an award for detecting landmines in Cambodia

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3) This man helped save a baby swan

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4) A treatment that slows the spread of ALS (and was partially funded by the Ice Bucket challenge) was announced.

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5) This:

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6) This rescue dog adopted three rescue kittens.

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7) Steve Martin solved a pressing problem

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8) The founder of Jelly Belly announced a Willy Wonka type treasure hunt.

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9) This man raised money to give a huge tip to his favorite 89-year old pizza delivery man.

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10) This cartoon:

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11) The finalists for the comedy wildlife photography awards were announced.

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12) Zendaya’s costar on Euphoria had an amazing reaction to her Emmy win.

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13) This incredible story was shared about 9/11

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14) This man got an amazing surprise

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15) This fourth grader’s drawing about kindness won the Google Doodle contest

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16) And the winners from other states and territories showed some seriously impressive work.

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17) This five year old gave a special gift to hardworking firefighters

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18) This Wisconsin farmer planted 2 million sunflowers to spread some happiness to his customers.

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19) The 6th annual Fat Bear Week began.

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20) Dodgers infielder Justin Turner got his cleats decorated by a very special artist

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21) This postcard was finally delivered, 100 years after it was sent.

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22) This man was able to play the piano for the first time in 20 years

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23) This boy got a huge surprise from his favorite garbage truck drivers on his third birthday.

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24) This:

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25) This man played music on a speed bag

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26) This nun ran a marathon on a treadmill in her basement to raise money for the poor.

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27) This dog gave out hugs

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28) This girl swam with a guide dog to help her prepare for the Tokyo Paralympic Games

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29) This kid made solved a math problem

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30) And finally, this toddler made a new best friend: a five foot tall skeleton.

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

I can’t wait to see what October brings!

You can view the last edition of this series here.

tree

91 Birthdays and Now I’m Counting Too

This past weekend we celebrated my grandpa’s 91st birthday.

It was a happy day filled with good food, lots of sunshine, and a big reminder of the many good things (and especially good people) I have in my life.

The most important person of the day, the ever handsome, ever lovable birthday boy, pulled up to the party in one of his most stylish (and one of my favorite) Dodger themed button down shirts, some nice pants, and a pair of shades. Throughout the day, I couldn’t help but look over at him, sometimes catching him looking at me, maybe to wave or stick his tongue out, and wonder how he was feeling.

When asked how he is doing, his go-to answer most days is that he’s doing okay. He says he feels old, and on some days, on especially good and sassy days, he’ll slick his hair back and tell you he feels oh, just as wonderful as ever. And while I know there are lots of hard layers to his answers—that he’s tired, his knees hurt, he misses my grandma, he’s not sure how much longer he wants to stick around—there are also good ones—he’s proud of the family he’s built, he’s always excited to hear what we’re up to, and he’s curious to see what another day holds. Still, I can’t help but feel like there is so much I don’t understand and can’t understand until I (or IF I) am lucky enough to reach the age of 91.

It’s hard to believe that I’d have to live the life I’ve lived twice more to reach my grandpa’s age. And if I do, it’s hard to comprehend how much I will see and learn and experience in that time. Not to mention, how different the world (my world and the world at large) will look in 61 years. It’s startling and overwhelming, but also inspiring because it makes me realize how much life my grandpa has lived.

I would consider myself very lucky to be sitting in a backyard on a Sunday afternoon 61 years from now, looking out at a family I built, and eating a cake they made just for me. And I’d like to think in that moment I’ll think of my grandpa. I’ll think of how perfect the weather was at his 91st birthday and how lucky I felt to be a part of it. I’ll remember the sound of the excited chatter and the laughter and the clinking of drinks. And then maybe I’ll look over at a certain granddaughter or grandson who I catch looking at me and I’ll stick my tongue out.

Hands & Words & What They Can Do

The other day I was thinking about hands.

So often we look down at our hands, sometimes nervously, sometimes mindlessly, sometimes in shock or amazement. I recently painted a bookshelf and each day as I was cleaning up I would look down at my hands, covered in white paint, and be proud of the work I accomplished—and ­annoyed at how long it was going to take me to get my hands clean.

Hands can build. And we’ve seen them build. They create things from the ground up and we look at them, amazed that what we see before us came from these hands.

In the same way, hands can hurt. And we’ve seen them hurt. In movies, it’s common to see heroes and villains alike look down at their hands, wondering how—how could these hands have done such a thing? 

Hands leave their mark, good or bad, building or destroying, often stopping us in our tracks to look at the wake of their work.

But the same isn’t always true for words.

When we speak, when we talk or scream or whisper or mention or mumble or demand or inquire or refuse or agree, we use our words. But we don’t always see what our words do. Oftentimes our words leave our mouths and we never know where they land or how far they reach.  We don’t know if they fall on deaf ears or vulnerable ones. We don’t know if they are quickly forgotten or remembered forever.

Our words can build. They can inspire people. They can stay with people. They can shape people. In the same way, our words can hurt. They can tear people down. They can send people into darkness. They can shape people.

Our words leave marks, but oftentimes we don’t see them, especially when so many of our words are spoken online these days. We text and tweet and caption and comment and share and shout into the void of the internet and social media, assuming no one can hear us. We post and repost, sometimes solely to protect ourselves from judgment, and often without regard for those who might be hurt by what we say. We forget that people are people, even people that are different from us, even people who disagree with us. We forget that our words can build twice as high as our hands and can cut twice as fast.

I’m not here to tell you what to say, how to say it, or to infringe at all upon your right to say it. I just think we all could use a reminder that words matter. Our words matter. Whether we have one follower or millions. And what we say can change the world, for better or for worse. In this moment and in the infinity to follow. So let’s take our time. Let’s think about what we say and how we’re saying it. Let’s focus on echoing the good in what we’re fighting for rather than the hate for those we feel we’re fighting against. Let’s use our words (and our hands) to build and then watch as a new world takes shape.