memories

My Year in Pictures (List-cember #7)

One of the more obscure goals I set for myself in 2020 was to make an “emotion scrapbook.” My idea was to try and create a more accurate depiction of my year, by taking pictures when I felt a wide range of emotions, rather than just when I was happy, excited, or in need of making people jealous with whatever dessert I just ordered.  I wanted to take pictures when I was sad, when I was angry, etc., to try and remember those days and honor them.

As it turns out, it is simply not my first instinct to take pictures when I’m feeling those kinds of emotions. Often I turn to writing instead, whether it is in the form of a blog post, a few pages scribbled in my journal, or a run-on sentence in the Notes app on my phone. That being said, with this goal in the back of my mind, I did make a conscious effort to take more pictures this year. Whenever I got that I should take a picture of this feeling, I tried to roll with it. And as a result, I got a pretty wide range of photos that tell the story of this crazy year.

Here are some of my favorites:

1) The Band

On one of the very first weekends of the year, my family drove up to visit our cousins at the beach. That Friday night, my sister, my cousin, Taryn, and I casually decided to learn a Tik-Tok dance before we went to bed, but ended up staying up until 2:00 a.m. choreographing our own music video. To this day no one can figure out how it progressed to that, but it was by far one of my favorite nights of the whole year.

2) Kobe

Kobe’s death rocked the world, but it especially hit hard in Los Angeles, where so many fans gathered in front of the Staples Center to pay tribute to a man who had been the hero of their city. My family and I went to pay our respects and to see these murals that were set outside for fans to sign. It was an incredibly moving sight.

3) Persimmons

I took this photo at a farmer’s market I volunteered at in February. Dried persimmons are hard to find, but they are also my mom’s favorite, so when I asked a vendor if she had any and she opened up this absolute treasure chest, I audibly gasped and took a picture.

4) The Quarantine Collection

Never would I ever have guessed I’d spend so many hours on Zoom and Facetime this year, but I swear that friend and family time is what made those lonely, blurry months of quarantine bearable.

5) Home Gym

My brother is an avid rock climber, so when lockdown kept him home, he had to get creative with ways to both keep himself busy and in shape. I’m not sure if I dared him to do this or if he just suggested he could and I followed closely behind him with my camera for proof, but either way, I got the shot.

6) Cousin Quarantine Olympics

One summer weekend, my brother, sister and I met our cousins up in the mountains for a little quarantined getaway and decided to hold the first ever Cousin Quarantine Olympics. This was a heated, neck in neck competition that included games like, who can build the best Jenga tower? and who can move an Oreo from their forehead to their mouth—using only their face—the fastest? I did not make the podium.

7) The beach

This picture was taken on a Saturday evening spent at the beach. On a whim we decided to drive up and watch the sunset and it turned into such a fun, easy day, where for a little while I felt like everything was going to be okay. (I wrote this blog post about it.)

8) Backyard Dinners

This was taken in the backyard of my friends Rachel & Dylan’s house, where we spent many a socially distanced evening hanging out, talking, grilling burgers, and watching the Dodger game. They even hosted a small, COVID friendly, backyard movie night for my birthday in September, which was incredibly lovely and wonderful. 

9) Neo

June was a bit of a rough month for my family, with a lot of things moving in a lot of different directions and a lot of questions not being answered. This picture was taken in a brighter moment at the beginning of July, on a night we drove to the beach in hopes of catching a glimpse of the comet Neowise.

10) Defeated

I was barely able to take this very strange, blurry picture of my sister because I was giggling so much. And while this exact moment of the day can bring a smile to my face, the day as a whole was a tough one. I remember telling my sister as we sat in our living room chairs that I “just felt defeated from minute one.” It seemed like every hard thing from the day, the year, my life, everything was weighing on my shoulders that day and I felt so heavy and stressed and overwhelmed. I wasn’t really ready to talk about it, mostly because I was afraid if I started I might burst into tears, but I was in need of some company. So, that night my sister and I ordered two pizzas and two bottles of wine and we sat in our living room—each drinking our respective wine straight from the bottle—and watched a movie.

11) Celebrity

This photo never fails to make me smile. Mostly because I think it looks like I squeezed in to take a picture with a celebrity who was trying to fly under the radar, but also because it is very unlike me to have volunteered to take this picture. I rarely, if ever, take “selfies” and, (not so) fun fact, I was just getting over an eye infection and was still unable to wear eye makeup. Nevertheless, I was having a good day and was cracking up at this makeshift mask my cousin put on before we stepped in to a restaurant to order takeout.

12) The Notch

I took this while sitting in a fold up chair, fishing in the Uinta Mountains of Utah. This mini getaway was one of the only bits of traveling I did for the year and to be honest, as I sat in that chair, I felt a bit overwhelmed by all the room I had to think and digest the happenings of the year. (I wrote a little bit about it in this blog.)

13) Solvang Waterfall

While on my dad’s birthday trip to Solvang in November, we went on a small hike to a waterfall. And while the waterfall itself was skinny and slow moving, the view around it was beautiful!

14) The Jump

When in 2020, baby showers are required to be small and safe. Which is why one Friday evening my sister and I blew up tons of balloons to host a part of four (including the mom to be). It was such a nice, relaxing evening that included a small photoshoot that was made possible by self-timer and a ladder that we dragged in from the garage. This blurry, chaotic mess of a jumping picture is by far one of my favorite pictures of the bunch.

15) Baking Cookies

One of the best parts of this year was my baby cousin Easton being born in June, and one of the best parts of this holiday season was getting to meet him for the very first time! Usually in December we have a family cookie baking day where a big group of us gets together and bakes recipes that have been passed down for generations, but this year was the first year in my entire life that we had to cancel. And while it was heartbreaking, we exchanged pictures back and forth, showing we were making the recipes at home, keeping the tradition alive until we can all see each other again next year. At my parents’ house, we introduced Easton to our holiday tradition, and even tried our hand at making handprint (or salt dough) ornaments. I think he thought we were nuts, but they turned out really cute.


Check out more List-cember posts here.

This Post Was Brought to You By Amy Grant

The living room is empty.

My dad is at work and my mom is in the other room, maybe cleaning or reading or talking on the phone.

I am eight years old, and I am in the mood to dance.

I sift through the CDs on the shelf, press the power button on the stereo, and open the tray of the seven disk CD player that I have already flagged as something I need in my own house when I grow up.

Amy Grant’s The Collection goes in the disc one spot. I turn off shuffle.

I hear the CD start to spin and I wait, wiggling my toes on the large oval rug where I usually spend my Saturday mornings hunched over my favorite yellow controller playing Zelda on the N64. The moment the music starts, I skip to track seven. Then I scoot back to the center of the room and place my hands in front of my face—my fingers spread wide.

The opening notes start and I wait, holding my pose, until Amy Grant starts to sing Emmaaaannnn-uel, upon which I start moving my hands up and down and around my face, assuming I look as poised and mysterious as the high level contemporary dancers at my dance studio—while in reality I probably looked like I was trying to swat a fly away from my face in slow motion.

When the chorus hits, I throw my hands in the air and jump around, singing my heart out, free, though never distracted enough to miss the next round of Emaaannnn-uel’s and their corresponding hand choreography.

When the song ends, I consider starting it again, but then skip forward to track 11, like always. There is no choreography to this song, just slow swaying around the room. I hold my hands out in front of me as if I’m dancing with someone, and move from the living room to the dining room and back, unaware (and unfazed) that a good portion of the song is in Hebrew.

As the last few notes fade out, I return to the rug, preparing for my big finish. I Have Decided comes blasting through the speakers and I begin to march around, agreeing with Amy with animated fingers that point to the ceiling. I close my eyes and wave my fists, willing her words, her decisions to be true for me too, and it makes me feel grown up. At the end of the song, I walk over and turn down the music, then lay down on our green couch.

The next song starts and I bob my head but I don’t stand up. I turn over on my side and look at the doorway leading to the hall. I know that if I turn left through that door I’ll find my baby brother’s room and the room I share with my sister, and if I turn right I’ll find my mom and dad’s room, where I’d spent last Sunday night sleeping on the floor because I had a nightmare. But I don’t move, I just lay there for a while, bobbing my head without a care in the world, already wanting to start the CD—or my version of it—over again.

There is More

Since I have been lucky enough to continue going into the office for work, I am among the (far fewer) commuters in the morning and afternoon. And lately on my way home, I have been taking the freeway a few exits past my own, and then driving up and down the side streets around my neighborhood, just listening to music and decompressing. I like looking at the different houses—especially the front doors, I love a pop of color on a front door—and seeing which roads wind into each other, which ones dead end, and which go up into the hills.

I also like driving around and finding the little spots that hold memories for me, some good, some bad, some from over a decade ago, and some from only a few months before everything shut down.

I can drive down the street where the food trucks park on Friday nights, where my cousin once jogged down the very windy, cold street to get a churro for us to split before the cart closed.

I can drive past the pancake restaurant my friends and I use to eat at once a week in high school, before we spent the night driving around blasting music—sometimes with added choreography.

I can drive past the front lawn where I saw the boy I liked take prom pictures with another girl.

I can drive past the park where I ate cake with my best friend the week before she moved away.

I can drive past the house with the orange tree out front, where my grandparents use to live and my papa used to let me sit on his lap while he pulled into the driveway.

On some streets I can hear myself laughing so hard with my friends that I can’t breathe; on other streets I can feel the heaviness of a hard day and hear the sad songs carrying me home; and on some streets I think of a specific person, specific food, specific weather pattern or specific song for reasons I can’t remember anymore.

More than anything, the driving around reminds me that the world is still out there. It reminds me that I’m alive—that I’ve lived a life. And it gives me hope that I still have lots of life left to live.

There are more memories to make out there, more spots to claim pieces of my mind and my memory. There is more than what I see from inside my house, more than what I feel inside my own head, and more than what we hear on the news or social media. There is more out there and we will find it.

An Ode to Tuna Noodles

Dear Tuna Noodles,

Thank you, for being you. Thank you for your egg noodles. Thank you for your tuna. Thank you for your cream of mushroom soup. But most of all, thank you for your 100% not organic or diet friendly or doctor recommended Velveeta cheese.

Thank you for all of the evenings that you cooked in the oven at my grandparents’ house, in my childhood homes, and in friends’ kitchens. Thank you for your heaping portions on the plastic plates that my cousins and I decorated and my grandparents kept on a shelf just for us; and for those on the spring pallet glass plates that my parents still have in their cupboard to this day; and even for those in deep set bowls that somehow still managed to encourage a second and third helping.

Thank you for being easy to make, for giving me something I could cook with my grandma and my mom, and by myself when I studied abroad and wanted a taste of home. Thank you for the memories you unlock with every bite—be it a weeknight conversation at my grandparent’s long, padded dinner table, a lazy Friday night sat on my parents’ kitchen stool with the broken leg, or a living room crowded with family, pets, and TV trays set up in front of a Dodger game.

Thank you for teaching me what comfort food is, and for giving me a recipe to share at every bridal shower I will ever attend. Thank you for giving me something to fall back on and to build up from. I’ve come a long way in my cooking, and I can only hope I have a long way to go, but you will always be my first love. So thank you for all the love. And again, for the Velveeta.

I’ll Always Remember the Good Parts

A couple weeks ago my mom, sister and I took a trip to Arkansas to visit both my cousin Brittney and her family, as well as my great great Aunt Evelyn who just recently turned 97 years old.

Usually when I go on a trip, I like to blog about it (check out some examples here and here) but when it comes to Arkansas, I tend to just let it lie. Not because the trip is boring or not worth sharing, but because it always seems to feel different than any other trip, making it hard—if not impossible—to find a way to write about it. In a way it feels like it’s not so much a trip as it is a step into another world, one that I couldn’t explain to someone as well as I could show them.

Our past couple trips to Arkansas, while fun and the exact breath of fresh air I needed, have had a bit of sadness attached to them. With my Aunt Evelyn’s health declining first slowly, and then quicker than we could keep up with, we saw our trips change from spending afternoons reading on her porch, to sitting at her bedside in a nursing home. For these trips, rather than staying at my Aunt Evelyn’s house, we’ve stayed with June, a childhood friend of my mom’s mom, and her husband, Jim. This alone has balanced the scales of the trips, filling them with as much laughter as they had gloom.

This past trip, after being warned by June that Aunt Evelyn had fallen not once, but twice in the last few days, and that her cancer had spread to nearly every part of her body, we took a few extra breaths on our drive from Brittney’s to June and Jim’s, knowing that this trip would be somewhat of a goodbye.

Upon arriving at June and Jim’s, we all exhaled, because at least for the moment, we were home. In an instant we were laughing, almost too hard to walk. They greeted us at the door and we dropped our things, unable to peel the smiles off our faces. It was almost 6 o’clock when we got there, so it wasn’t long before we were back on the road, headed out to dinner at one of June and Jim’s favorite restaurants. June sat next to me in the backseat, cracking jokes and nudging my elbow whenever she made a snarky comment just out of Jim’s earshot.

At dinner, we talked about our trip to Brittney’s. About her husband Scott, their five year old son, Landon, and their two and a half year old daughter, Nora. We talked about the three days we spent with them; about the slow mornings filled with Nora’s singing and Landon’s giggling and dancing and soccer ball dribbling; we talked about the day at the waterpark and the evening at the comedy club; and we talked about the afternoons on the couch talking or napping or laughing or just simply being.

The next morning, as we slowly got ourselves out of bed to the breakfast table and then out of our pajamas and into real clothes, we took another collective breath. My mom, my sister, June and I loaded up in the car to go see Aunt Evelyn, all of us the slightest bit nervous, even if we didn’t say so. When we got there, we found Aunt Evelyn asleep in her bed, so asleep it took two nurses to finally coax her awake to eat, even though she didn’t want to. I sat in a chair in the corner of the room, watching her slowly bring the world into focus, my mind flickering from the woman I saw in front of me, to the woman I’d sat beside in her living room watching reruns of Judge Judy.

As an adult, I’d never seen Aunt Evelyn without pain. She was always moving slow, her back keeping her slightly hunched and most content in her chair in the living room. But there were moments when it seemed to dull. Like when my sister made her favorite cookies in the kitchen and she giggled in her chair, excited to have three too many. Or when a story we told reminded her of a memory she carried. The three of us could never get enough of her stories. Both the good ones and the bad, the happy and the sad. Aunt Evelyn had lived a long, oftentimes hard life, and had spent many years living on her own, ruminating, reminiscing, and understandably burying a lot of memories.

As I sat in the corner chair, watching my Aunt Evelyn’s eyes squint and her brow furrow, I saw fear and confusion, pain and exhaustion. Then, for a moment, it passed. June cooed at her and Aunt Evelyn smiled in recognition, saying, “Hello June,” almost sarcastically, before softening her eyes and smiling at the sight of my mother, “Gina.”

But just as soon as peace settled in her eyes, the pain was back. The nurse sitting at her side offered her a bite of each helping of food on her tray, and Aunt Evelyn begged her to stop, hating every bit of it. Then, her eyes shifted again, this time into anger. She looked up at June and my mom, perhaps embarrassed, perhaps ashamed, perhaps longing for that woman I pictured sitting by my side in the living room watching reruns of Judge Judy.

“Get out,” she said. It was stern, but calm.

At first.

Then it was meaner. Louder. Fiercer.

“Get out of here!”

On the drive back to June’s we were all quiet, all bearing wounds that we didn’t want to talk about. Knowing what we knew about her health, we knew that could very well be the last time we would see her, and it was hard to swallow that as the last time. But just as I was able to picture her how I knew her, how I’ve known her, not in that bed but in her chair, in her house, in the hundreds of old pictures—some from stories I knew, others from those I might never know—I made a promise to remember her that way too.

On our flight home, my mind flashed with memories of trips we taken to see her. And even though there were hard parts, sad parts, bad parts strewn in, I clutched desperately to the good. To the funny and beautiful and indescribable. I hoped she knew I’d remember those parts most. And I’d visit them as easy as we did our weekend at Brittney’s as we sat across the dinner table from Jim and June. No matter what, I would always hold on to the good parts. Both today, tomorrow, and (if I’m lucky enough) seventy years from now, when I have my own chair in my own living room with a pair of great great nieces sitting by my side watching reruns and making me cookies.

If the Timehop App Knew Too Much

Alongside hitting snooze upwards of three times, my morning routine usually consists of checking the Timehop app on my phone. For those of you unfamiliar, Timehop connects to your social media accounts and tells you what you have posted on that day, however many years ago. In my case, Timehop usually reminds me of bad jokes I’ve made—though to be fair, I usually still laugh at them.

Sometimes when I read through an old status or tweet or Instagram picture, I’m reminded of more than just the post itself. I have flashbacks of the days and moments surrounding the post, getting a little glimpse into where I was when I posted it. This got me thinking: wouldn’t it be something if Timehop somehow tapped into those moments in time, both the good and the bad?

It would probably look something like this:

6 years ago today you said “you too” when the theater ticket taker said, “enjoy the movie.”

4 years ago today you woke up and felt inexplicably different about the relationship you were in.

2 years ago today you spent the entire day on the couch for no reason.

1 year ago today you ate 15 Oreos for breakfast and couldn’t eat anything for the rest of the day.

7 years ago today you fell in surface love with a person you saw on the freeway and spent a solid 10 minutes picturing what your future together would be like.

3 years ago today you looked in the mirror and liked what you saw for the first time in a long time.

5 years ago today you ate expired food from your fridge.

5 seconds ago today you were still wondering if it had any lasting effects.

14 years ago today you saw your favorite movie for the first time.

10 years ago today you made awkward small talk with a person who would become your best friend.

.

To be honest, I’m not sure if I’d like a deeper digging Timehop. I like the freedom of being able to block things out here and there. But I suppose the important thing to remember, both about the real Timehop, and the nosy, fictional one I’ve imagined, is that it can remind us of all the moments that have lead us to where we are now, and the ones currently leading us somewhere in the future. Today will be full of those moments, as will tomorrow. They won’t all be easy, but they’ll be necessary to help us get where we’re destined to go.