love

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.

A Weekend of Happy Moments

I had a good weekend.

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

Friday 4:30 p.m.

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

Friday 9:00 p.m.

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

Saturday 9:30 a.m.

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

Saturday 11:30 a.m.

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

Saturday 2:50 p.m.

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

Saturday 3:00 p.m.

She said yes!

Saturday 4:00 p.m.

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

Sunday 2:30 p.m.

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

Sunday 3:50 p.m.

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

Sunday 6:45 p.m.

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

It was the prettiest farewell to the happiest of weekends.

Our Epic October Trip (Part 2: Arkansas & Tennessee)

On Friday, we had an early flight to Arkansas, where we planned to spend the weekend with my cousin Brittney and her family. On our agenda was nothing and everything, all of which was made ten times better because we were finally back in Arkansas, where we always dipped a little bit into a southern accent and felt like we belonged.

Plus, since we were visiting family, there was no awkward warm up. Once we arrived at Brittney and Scott (her husband’s) house, we just sat down on the couch and started talking. Nora (their six-year-old daughter) showed us a fun package she’d gotten in the mail, and Landon (their nine-year-old son) told us all about his birthday party that happened the weekend before.

On Saturday morning, we went to Landon and Nora’s soccer games, where we weaved into the crowd and sat on the sidelines, cheering them on as if we’d always been there, and on Saturday night we made chicken tacos a la a delicious rotisserie chicken from the store—making sure to take time to snap the wishbone to see who got a wish (Nora)—and chocolate chip cookies for dinner. Then we sat outside and carved pumpkins as the sun went down.

On Sunday, the boys got up and headed out to another soccer game, while the girls stayed in our pajamas, taking our morning slooow. We sipped coffee, read picture books, and attempted a very complicated Frozen themed Lego castle, before heading out to a local bookfair, getting manicures, having lunch, and then coming home and watching The Aristocats on the couch—all the makings of a perfect girl’s day.

On Sunday night, as bedtime loomed for Nora and our noon flight the next day ticked closer to take off, I found myself looking around the room the same way I’d done in Texas. Though Grammie wasn’t necessarily a taboo topic at home, sitting with Brittney, who’d known her as well as we did, we often found ourselves telling stories and cracking up laughing as we remembered her. It made her feel alive again. And it made me feel closer to Brittney, Nora, and my mom and sister, as she was a part of all of us. It made me feel more like myself.

It was then that I realized this trip was about so much more than escape or adventure—it wasn’t about running away, it was about coming home. And all the many kinds of homes that there are to come home to.

On Monday October 25th, we said our goodbyes first thing in the morning, as the kids went off to school and Scott went to work, and then we headed to the airport for our mid-day flight.

Our next stop was, at first, one that had only been sent in what if type text messages. It was a dream pit stop. One we assumed would stay in the “one day” category for a long time. But when we landed in Knoxville, Tennessee and picked up our rental car; when we put the directions into the GPS and drove the hour south to Pigeon Forge; when we came up over the hill and saw the sign accented with butterflies; and when we were given our room keys and a menu for an in-room breakfast that included coffee and homemade cinnamon bread—we knew we were really going to Dollywood.

Staying at the DreamMore Resort was leaps and bounds more than we could have anticipated. It was extra in the classiest way—with the toiler paper being pressed with the hotel logo, the hallways being decked out with Dolly Parton album covers, the floor being covered in butterflies, and the gift shop stocked with (affordable!) Dolly Parton merchandise.

On our first night, we cozied up on the couch to watch a Hallmark movie while we decided whether to order one loaf of cinnamon bread or two. Then we collapsed into sleep until we were pleasantly and politely woken up the next morning by the delivery of said cinnamon bread—hot and fresh from the oven.

The first thing on our agenda for the day was to get massages. Because if we were going to do Dollywood, we were going to do it right. We each booked a 50-minute Himalayan Salt Stone Massage, which, even to this day I’m not sure exactly what that meant, except that it was magical and I almost got emotional when my masseuse told me she was finished, because I could have easily laid there for an additional hour without flinching.

Then, after a quick bite to eat, we returned to our room, where we layered up and grabbed the car keys before heading out the door again.

Booked for 3:00 p.m. that day, was our Pink Jeep Adventure Tour. We booked the Newfound Gap tour, but there are five total options that can give you different sites and viewpoints, depending on what you’re looking for.

For our tour, we started in Pigeon Forge and then headed towards Gatlinburg and into Smoky Mountains National Park. Then we drove up to Newfound Gap where we saw a piece of the Appalachian trail, the Tennessee/North Carolina border, and some absolutely incredible views! Along the way, our tour guide made a couple of stops and let us get out to walk around and take pictures, and when we made it to the top, we had a half hour to take in the majestic beauty we were surrounded with.

On our way back to the depot, we put our jeep to the test on a brief but exciting 4×4 off-road experience, that included a sheer drop off that was known as “pucker hill” for reasons that I will not disclose here, but that you can perhaps use your imagination to figure out.

After we got back, we went to dinner at the restaurant inside the DreamMore Resort called Song & Hearth. It was a southern, buffet style restaurant where we ate entirely too much but that I will talk of fondly for a long time. Then we took piping hot showers to defrost from the jeep tour (even though it’s of note that the jeeps are heated, so we weren’t as cold as we could have been, but being from Southern California, we were still more or less popsicles) and got in our pajamas.

The next morning, we woke up bright and (not too) early and headed down to the Dollywood tram, because as part of our stay we were given early access into the theme park. The theme park itself had been our initial draw in coming to Tennessee, as Dolly Parton is one of my sister’s all-time favorites. Needless to say, we were ready to go hard in the theme park. We wanted to see every inch of it, try all of the food, and practically throw our credit cards at people to buy all of the things.

So, we started with pastries.

At a bakery just inside the entrance, a small line had already formed (and would only get longer as the day went on) as people picked up coffees and pastries. One such option was 25 POUND apple pie. You could either buy it by the slice or the whole toddler sized pie, and I’ll tell you, even at 9:30 in the morning, that cashier was cranking out slices. We opted for a cinnamon roll and a pumpkin muffin, both of which were delicious and the perfect way to start our day.

It was a brisk morning. The kind where you know you’ll feel better once the sun gets right above you, but for some reason it seems to be taking its time. At certain points, as we did our initial walk through the park, we would race into patches of sun to warm our bones. Next to the exit of one of the rollercoasters, we found a wooden fence that was in direct sunlight and we placed our frozen hands on the smooth, warm surface—an act that might have been embarrassing if a handful of people didn’t watch and then do the exact same thing.

I am not really a rollercoaster person, as I get motion sick very easily, but there were a good handful of rides inside Dollywood, which kind of surprised me. I opted to try one called Blazing Fury, which was fun and relatively mellow (and inside where it was warm), and while I enjoyed it, my hands shook for about an hour afterward, because I am very cool and brave.

Later on, my mom and sister rode both the Dragonflier and the Tennessee Tornado, the latter of which had three loops (because they actually are very cool and brave), and I contently sat on a bench reading the map and drinking my water—my happy place.

Throughout the day, we tried to hit everything. We toured the Chasing Rainbows museum, which paid homage to Dolly’s entire career thus far; we walked around on her tour bus, which was beautiful and roomy; we rode the coal fired train; we awed at the model of her tiny, Tennessee mountain home, where she grew up with her parents and eleven siblings; and we perused the rows of artisans participating in the annual harvest festival, which had the entire park decked out in fall and Halloween décor. Once the sun went down, we took a final walk through the beautifully lit decorations that now came to life with new character and attitude, and then we got back on the tram and headed back to the hotel for some dinner, another hot shower, and a cozy night in.  

Our Epic October Trip (Part 1: Texas)

Sometime around mid-May, I mapped out a trip on my computer. Things were starting to open back up again, restrictions were being lifted due to the increasing availability of the vaccine, and I wanted to get the HECK out of town.

At first, it started as a crazy idea. A whirlwind. Practically a tour—if we were a small indie band just starting out. But when I laid out the plan for my mom and sister, they were in, without hesitation.

So, we booked it. Five flights (which would turn into eight by the end due to connections and layovers), four states, and almost two full weeks’ worth of vacation. We booked it for October, which, at the time, felt like it was forever away.

But then, on Tuesday October 20th, as I clocked out of work and drove home, I realized that we’d finally made it. Our flight to Texas was at 9:30 the next morning.

I also realized I should probably finish packing.

Packing, to me, is like chess. I try to make everything fit perfectly, in the most neat and organized fashion, and I aim to wear every single thing that I pack. I pack as if you could “win” packing. As if someone will be waiting for me when I return home and hand me an award. But then, while I’m actually on the vacation, I tend to inexplicably hate most everything I pack, and so I impulsively buy an emotional support sweatshirt, which makes my suitcase bulky and unorganized, thus I have to unpack it immediately upon arriving home or I will spontaneously combust.

Other than that, I’m a pretty chill traveler.

I know the lay of the land. I’m the one who has the flight number on hand and will check our bags and print our boarding passes. I’m the one who has a miscellaneous assortment of snacks and drugs (i.e., Benadryl, Dramamine and Advil) in my purse. I am a mom traveler—alert, prepared and with no time to take any shit, and I thrive in that environment.

The purpose of this trip was mostly to visit family. Since we hadn’t seen hardly anyone throughout the whole of 2020, this was practically a revenge vacation. It was our chance to see everyone and everything that we missed—plus a few fun bonuses along the way.

Our first stop was Dallas Fort Worth, where we were set to visit our surrogate grandparents, Jim and June—who I wrote about in this post.

If I’m being honest, it was the stop I was most nervous about.

In years past, my mom, sister and I had taken multiple trips a year to Arkansas to visit my great aunt Evelyn and Jim and June, as well as my cousin Brittney and her family. Arkansas was (and is) our happy place. It was where we found we could truly relax. It was a home away from home—the “home” sometimes being interchangeable in a way that we were at times unsure where we belonged more. A few years ago however, aunt Evelyn passed away. She hadn’t been doing well for a little while, and we’d been visiting as often as we could, staying with Jim and June whenever we were in town. The last time we were there, it had been for Aunt Evelyn’s funeral and June worried that we wouldn’t come back.

“You’ll come back and visit me, won’t you?” she asked us.

Us four girls always had the best time together. Sometimes I felt like we were a little bit too much for Jim, but he was always a good sport, going about his routine while we sat around talking and giggling for hours.

“Of course, we will,” we said. But no matter how many times we said it, I couldn’t help but notice that she didn’t believe us. She had no idea how much we loved her. How fondly we spoke about her back home. How quickly we wanted to come back every time we left.

Since we’d last seen them, Jim and June had moved to Texas to live with their daughter Shannon, since it was no longer safe for them to live on their own. And while we were excited to finally see them, we couldn’t help but wonder what toll the move and the past two years had had on them. Selfishly, we wanted them to be exactly the same, to be everything we remembered so this visit wouldn’t be hard or sad. But no matter what we were walking into, we wanted June to know that we’d kept our promise, for her to know that we’d made it back to her as quick as we could, and to tell her that we loved her.

On Thursday morning, after spending the night at our hotel, we drove over to Shannon’s house to spend the day with them. Upon walking in, it was clear that June had lost a lot of weight and was struggling with her vision, and if Jim recognized us, it was only in short, silent waves. But that didn’t stop us from finding those moments of laughter, of reminiscing, and talking about everything we could think of, just the way we used to in their little house in Arkansas.

“I couldn’t sleep last night, I was so excited to see y’all,” June said as we sat on the couch beside her. My heart swelled.

It had been my Grammie, my mom’s mom, that first met June all the way back in first grade, and they’d always kept in touch, even when Grammie moved to California with her family. As a result, for a long time, for me, June was just a character I occasionally heard about in stories. But then, when we started visiting Aunt Evelyn more frequently, June became a real live person. And after Aunt Evelyn moved into a care facility and we started staying with Jim and June, June became our person.  She became like a third grandma to me and my sister, and a connection to my Grammie for my mom.

So as we sat in Shannon’s living room, talking to June, I couldn’t help but think about that moment in first grade, when June and Grammie walked to school together, not knowing how far this friendship would take them. Thinking about it, I felt like Grammie was in the room with us, along with Aunt Evelyn, each of them sitting in an empty seat on the couch. I ached at the thought that one day June would be sitting with them rather than us; when they will all just be characters in stories I tell my kids one day. But as we got ready to leave and June hugged us each twice, I knew that she’d always be real to us—always be close by, and always be a piece of home that I’d hold on to, no matter where I ended up.

“I love you,” she said as we headed out the door.

“We love you too,” we said.

“You’ll come back and see me, won’t you?”

“Always.”

A Celebration and a Camel

At the beginning of September, a woman named Norma, who went to my church, passed away suddenly. She was the mother of some of my mom’s closest church friends, whom we’d all grown to know over the years, and who, for a long time, was part of our row.

Most Sundays, when we were all in town, one row of the church parking lot was taken up me, my mom, my sister, Norma, and her two daughters, Renee and Rochelle. We then sat together in a row of chairs during service, and afterward we all hugged, updated each other on the recent happenings, and then wished each other well for the upcoming week.

This past weekend, I, along with my mom and sister, attended the celebration of life service for Norma that was hosted at our church. The three of us were asked to help out with food and we were both happy and honored to do so. We arrived a few hours early and promptly took our places putting together finger sandwiches, preparing charcuterie boards and fruit and veggie platters, and sorting and organizing the ridiculously delicious Porto’s bakery pastries. We, alongside a few other wonderful women, worked hard, wanting to make the reception of the service as easy and fulfilling as possible. We wanted the family and friends in attendance to be able to sit down, eat, talk, laugh and reminisce without having to worry about a thing.

At 4:00 p.m., the service ended and the attendees began to move into the banquet hall, some emotional, some talkative, some admittingly starving. The line formed and then it kept coming, and we watched as people filled their plates and sat down together, making the room loud and happy.  Laughter and stories echoed off the walls, making it impossible to decide who to eavesdrop on. People hugged and hung on each other; hands were taken and smiles were given over shoulders; compliments were handed out for outfits, shoes, hats, and makeup; pictures were taken and desserts were passed around.

I stood in the kitchen, along with my fellow ladies, both keeping an eye on the buffet table to see what might need to be refilled, and looking out at the family who so clearly were celebrating Norma’s life.

Not being related to Norma myself, and only really seeing her on Sunday’s, I knew my knowledge of her was few. And yet there were so many faces, glances and expressions, hints of her that I saw around the room in her family and friends. It made me wonder what things they were thinking about, what stories they felt they had to share with the people around them, and what memories they were holding on to that, to them, were who Norma was.

In the decorations around the room, I saw pictures, trinkets and mementos. I saw Norma’s favorite candies and her collection of Precious Moments figurines. She existed so purely in the room, and in the hearts of everyone who came to remember her, that by the end of the night, I felt like I’d met her all over again, and gotten to know her deeper than I ever would have.

I watched as her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren loved on each other, how they made each other laugh, drove each other crazy and gave each other purpose, and I thought, isn’t it amazing how one person can bring this many people, this many hearts, this many worlds into one room to be together, and to celebrate life. And it made me feel grateful to Norma, for reminding me how much love exists in the world to find, and how much love has already found me.

At the end of the night, I, alongside anyone else who wanted to, got to take home one of Norma’s Precious moments collectibles. I chose a little figurine of a camel. When I got home, I put the little guy on a shelf in my room, next to my own collection of sand that I have stored in glass bottles. Looking at them side by side, it’s as if they’d always belonged together. And even though I never got to know Norma for all of her colors, or in the way that her family did, I feel special knowing that I’ll always have a little piece of her, and thus a little bit of that love she created, here with me.

It Had Been a While

I’ve been to quite a few weddings. I’ve also been in quite a few weddings. And while they are all unique in their own wonderful ways, they are also very similar—running through the same routines, the same schedule of events and the same (at least in my case) excited yet patient wait at your table for your free dessert to arrive.

That being said, I love weddings. I love the fancy dresses, I love the dancing, I love the love, and this past weekend I was reminded of all of this when I went to a wedding where COVID played a (big and chaotic) part in the planning—but failed to ruin the magic.

It had been a little while since I’d been in a wedding. Since I’d gotten all dolled up beside a bride, talking, laughing and watching as her hands shook in excitement. It had been a while since I’d stood up at the front of the ceremony, watching the groom watch the bride, trying to hold back the tears that were threatening to ruin my makeup. It had been a while since I’d been able to just stop—to forget about everything else going on in the world and watch two people promise to love each other for better or for worse, and then wave my bouquet in the air, cheering, as a minister said, “you may kiss the bride!” It had been a while since I sat and listened to heartfelt speeches from a best man and maid of honor, that make you laugh and make you cry, and then ask you to raise your glass and celebrate something wonderful life has done.  It had been a while since I felt that hope. That little spark of optimism that surfaces when you see love so obviously in front of you, in the teary eyes of the couple, dancing together for the first time, in the proud smiles of the parents, thankful to see their children so happy, and in the giddy, excited laughs of the bridal party, cheering and chanting from their seats.

It had been a while.

But it felt good to be back.

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

.

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.

.

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

.

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.

.

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.