personal

One Mile & 22 Years Later

In the first few months of fifth grade, as I tried to adjust to being the new kid at a new school for the first time in my life, I became a joiner.

I joined the choir. Something that still amazes me to this day. I stood in line quietly, sandwiched between girls I was too terrified to even make eye contact with, but when I got to the front, I sang a solo and matched pitch with the choir teacher. She pointed at two girls behind me, who kept bursting into fits of laughter, and told them they should be more like me. I was mortified.

I also joined the drill team, though mostly to impress my grandpa. Growing up I’d watched VHS tapes of his time as a drill team coach. I loved seeing the people walk in perfect unison, moving in and out of formation like flocks of birds. I loved the rhythm and the noise of the feet stomping on the pavement.

When practices started, I was slightly disappointed by what felt like juvenile routines. We weren’t stomping so much as we were walking, and our formations were limited to squares, circles, and lines. We felt more like a marching band with no instruments. I was underwhelmed.

To be fair, we were ten, and our limited coordination and body awareness could only have taken us so far. But it was still a bit of a letdown. One of the first times I can remember having reality fail to meet my expectations. Nonetheless, I stuck it out. My sister joined the team shortly after I did, and after telling our grandpa, our commitment was sealed. We practiced multiple days a week after school, ensuring we’d be ready for our first and only public performance: the neighborhood holiday parade.

When December arrived, our drill team, along with many other bands, dance troops and sports teams from other local elementary, junior high, and high schools, as well as local clubs, studios, and businesses, met at a local park to find our place in line.  We were wearing white t-shirts, black shorts, and top hats, and were each carrying a large, five-point star that had been hand painted with glitter by one of the coaches.

There were people everywhere, those my age and much older. It was loud and chaotic. It was red, green, and sparkly. Our coach herded us into a circle on a patch of grass behind the library and told us not to go anywhere without an adult. A banner with our school’s name sat beside us and two girls were chosen to carry it to let everyone know where we were from as we marched.

We stretched our arms and legs and stomped in place. Our teacher gave us continual updates—30 more minutes, 20 more minutes—as we started to grow restless. I could hear all kinds of music playing in the distance, and the occasional bout of applause and laughter. I was anxious to start so we could be finished.

In December of last year, I walked out the front door of my apartment building and set up a chair on the small strip of grass between the street and the sidewalk. It was drizzling, and a cold breeze sent the occasional shiver down my spine. I bundled up under an umbrella beside my mom.

Families lined the streets in ponchos and raincoats. Kids clapped their hands and parents held their phones out in front of them, snapping picture after picture.

Marching bands walked in precise step, with the drum major leading the way, calling out commands. Dance teams walked almost silently in jazz shoes, waiting for the boombox carried by one of the coaches to cue the start of their routine. Cars decorated with holiday garb drove by slowly, with members of local committees and businesses waving with friendly smiles.

I kept leaning forward in my chair so I could glance down the street for what was coming next.

In the distance, I could see the park where each team was emerging, and I could remember the small pitter patter of my own feet as my team lined up in the grass, and then inched our way forward to the sidewalk, and then the street.

Watching a group of young dancers, I could see myself, remembering the tentative steps I took as my head darted back and forth, looking for familiar faces on either side of the street. I could hear the startled shrieks and giggles of me and my sister when we saw our dad and his best friend running toward us with silly string. I could feel the sensation of the silly string sliding down the sides of my hat, dripping off the bill like candle wax.

“I was part of this!” my mom said as the group passed.

I smiled as I looked from her to the dancers, but had a hard time imagining my mom so little, so far away from me.

I pictured us walking side by side, our feet determinedly marching up the two mile stretch of street. Maybe we looked at the apartment building we both sat in front of now, waving and smiling and saying, “Merry Christmas!” not knowing we’d be sitting here decades later, waving back.

Some kids looked tired, nervous, or embarrassed. Their eyes glued to the asphalt; their shoulders slumped with fatigue.

Only one more mile to go, I wanted to say. You can do it.

Just keep marching.

What Are You Holding Too Much Of?

Over the weekend my mom, sister and I got massages.  It has become our annual January tradition: a girls’ spa day. While sitting in the jacuzzi, I remembered I had an appointment with my chiropractor scheduled for the following day.

“What a great week for my body!” I remarked.

Come Monday afternoon, I thought, I would be the most relaxed person in the world.

After my massage, I felt relaxed. The masseuse had done a great job. I half expected to get to the chiropractor and have her say, “you are the picture of health. Your joints should win awards.”

But instead, when she put her hands on my back she said, “You’re tense. Like, very tense.”

“Oh,” I responded.

I was truly surprised, speechless even.

“Yeah,” she replied, “you’re holding way more tension than you think.”

I opened my mouth and then closed it, letting this sentence sink in.

She, like my masseuse, dug into my neck and shoulders, finding knots that made me gasp in pain as she worked them out. She got deep cracks out of my back and my neck, and I stood up feeling sore.

You’re holding way more tension than you think.

On my drive home, I sat on the freeway, in torrential rain—especially for Southern California—replaying these words over and over.

I didn’t feel like I was particularly stressed. I’d had such a good day with my mom and sister. Not to mention a week off of work between the holidays. If I was holding tension, where was it coming from? And why was I holding it? And where?

The more I thought about it, the more the word “tension” became other things, like anxiety, stress, fear, impatience, anger, doubt, disappointment, pride, bitterness, frustration, pain.

You are holding more fear than you think.

You are holding more pride than you think.

It became less of an explanation as to why my neck and shoulders were tight, and more of a call to action—a reminder to check in with myself.

We all have busy schedules once in a while (sometimes more often than not) and it can result in us skipping over big emotions or feelings taking place underneath the surface. What feel like passing thoughts, worries, or memories, might be huge sources of stress, anxiety and tension.

My mind has been full lately, not just with what is going on in the present, but what is happening in the future—immediate and far—and what has happened in the past. My dreams have been vivid and strange, and my body has been tired.

I’ve been doing a lot of yoga—a lot of deep breathing and slow, meaningful movements—which can be relaxing, but can also stir up what is underneath the surface. The same goes for a new year. It can be a reminder of hard things, a pressure to start new things, and a marker of things lost or perhaps never (or not yet) gained.

We each might be holding more than we think.

We might be hiding that tension (bitterness, fear, anger, doubt, disappointment, pride, impatience) away, not even knowing that it’s there.

What’s strange about the body, is that it can often figure out how to manage that tension—how to hold it—without sounding an alarm. It can shuffle things around, using muscles in ways they shouldn’t be used, filing emotions in places they shouldn’t be filed, in order to make everything feel “normal”. Our body knows how to throw things into a closet and, with just the right force, close that door, so that no one (including us) can tell that it’s too full of everything that doesn’t belong there.

So today, I want you to think about what you might be holding.

And what you might be holding too much of.

Your body is ready to release that tension.

You are ready to release that tension.

What can you stand to let go?

What’s the first thing you can pull out of that closet?

How I Choose My “Word” for the Year

Earlier this week I shared my reflection on my word for 2022: believe.

As we move into 2023, as we get back into our routines (or perhaps start new ones), we are all given the opportunity to find a new word—or perhaps our first word. To find the word we can cling to over the next 360ish days. The word that holds special meaning for this particular year.

But how do we choose it? How do we know which word is *our* word?

For me personally, I don’t choose it. I’ve always felt as though the word has been given to me.

Usually, at the end of the year I will start asking the question, what is my word?

I will write that question down. I will pray on it. I will think about it constantly.

What is my word? Show me my word. Make it stand out.

I have never been someone who hears the word given to me. Throughout my life of faith, I’ve never had that moment of physically hearing God’s voice. I like to think it’s because He knows I’d probably be spooked. I’d probably jump and think someone was behind me. I’d probably lean into all of the true crime podcasts I’ve listened to and think his voice was actually that of a serial killer hiding in my closet.

So at this point, I’m cool with the silence. I’m cool with the inaudible nudges. They work for me.

This year, I again wrote out the question: What is my word? Will you show it to me? Will you make it stand out?

A few days later, I got the weekly bulletin from my church in my email. At the top, there was a Bible verse.

As you can see, the word “peace” is bolded and italicized.

It stands out.

When I read the verse, I felt my stomach flip over. It was that feeling of “this might be it!!”

But I didn’t want to jump to conclusions. I wanted to be sure.

If that is my word, I prayed, really drive it home.

Earlier in the day, I’d posted a video on Instagram, and searched around for a song to go in the background. When I reopened the app, my search results were still in my history. One of the songs I searched for? Peace by Taylor Swift.

That night, I went over to my parents’ house. We had dinner with my aunt, uncle and grandpa. At one point, I walked down the hall to use the bathroom. There was a candle burning and I loved the way it smelled, so I bent down to see the name of it.

Peace.

At church that weekend, a woman came up and wished me a happy new year. I wished her the same.

“Aren’t we lucky,” she said, “that we have a God that can give us such peace?”

Goosebumps ran down my arms.

Clearly, I’d found my word.

Now, it’s in my nature to fear every single word I get. In these first weeks, I’m always trying to figure out why this is my word. And I tend to catastrophize.

PEACE? WHY DO I NEED PEACE? AM I NOT PEACEFUL? I AM THE DEFINITION OF PEACE.

WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN THAT REQUIRES ME TO NEED PEACE?

WHY IS THIS THE SCARIEST WORD OF ALL TIME?

I like to think I give God a good laugh every year.

I am determinedly doubtful and afraid. Consistently curious—are you sure? Or stubborn—does it HAVE to be that word?

But I have seen time and time again that my word is the right word. It is the word I need most. It is the word that will guide me through the trials and tribulations of the year to come.

And this year, it would appear that my word is peace.

Merriam Webster defines peace as:

– a state of tranquility or quiet

– freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions

– harmony in personal relations

Which, honestly, sounds wonderful.

So even though I am the slightest bit afraid and suspicious of this word (as always), I am trying to center myself in it right from the jump.

Peace is a lovely word. Peace is a lovely thing.

If peace is what 2023 has in store for me, I consider myself to be very lucky.

Bring on the peace. I want it! I need it! I love it!


Are you hoping for a word this year?

Or do you perhaps have one already?

I’d love to hear!

The Year of “Believe”

Typically, I can remember when I was given my word for the year. I can remember that moment of that’s it! So I keep that memory close, and then at the end of the year, knowing all that I didn’t know before, I like to reflect on it. I like to think back to when I wondered why is this my word? And why can’t it be Hawaii? Or jackpot?

This year however, I have only remembered one thing on repeat.

It was in January, and my sister and I were sitting at our kitchen table. She shared her word with me and I shared mine.

“Believe,” I said.

But instead of just leaving it there, I followed it up with THIS:

“It’s kind of a beginner word.”

This has absolutely haunted me ever since.

Especially because, shortly after telling her this, and thus starting my “year of believe”, my “year of a very beginner word” our apartment flooded. And that kicked off a series of chaotic events that left me hanging on for dear life.

I’d initially viewed “believe” as just a word that meant I believe in God.

It was a beginner word because—I thought—it was a basic concept. It was a yes or no question. Do you believe? Yes. Okay, I guess I’ll see you in 2023 for a new word.

But as I began to walk into this year, into the real heart of it, I realized that do you believe? is not a one-time question. And it’s not a choice you make once. It is not the same as asking someone, do you like mushrooms? Believing is an ongoing question, an ongoing experience, an ongoing answer.

And to say, yes, I believe is not a catch all answer of faith.

It is used many different ways, and thus is can mean many different things.

In the song “I’m Not Alone” by Riley Clemmons, she says, “help me believe what is true,” and in her song “For the Good” she says, “I know you’re working; I believe!”

Already this is two different versions of the word believe. Help me believe what is true asks for help in casting out the lies we are hit with every single day. The lies that say, “you are not enough” “you are unlovable” “you don’t deserve good things.” And on dark days, when we are especially vulnerable to those lies, it takes a lot of courage not to believe them.

I know you’re working; I believe is a proclamation that you believe God is working behind the scenes. That even when you can’t see the plans He has for you, you believe they are good. Even when it feels like you are stuck or lonely or abandoned, He is working. It means that you believe you are living a purposeful life, even when you don’t know what that purpose is yet. 

In “Famous For” by Tauren Wells, he says, “there is no fear ‘cause I believe”

In times of chaos, grief, or unknown, it is very common to feel scared. Heck, I feel scared in good times, too. I always like to know what’s happening or what’s about to happen. I like to feel like I’m in control, or like I can escape—like I can change the ending if it’s not going to turn out like I wanted. But to say, “I have no fear, because I believe” means that even if the ending is nothing like you expected—even if the middle or beginning is nothing like you expected—even if you have no idea where you are or where you’re going or what you’re doing, you know God is in control. That there’s no reason to be afraid.

There are so many elements of “believing.”

And the more I found, the more I realized that it is THE FARTHEST thing from a “beginner” word.

Because I realized that no, I don’t believe all these things. Not all the time. Sometimes I believe in the opinions of the world over the opinions of God. Sometimes I believe my life is off track or “wrong” or unsuccessful, rather than believing in the plans and pace God has given me. Sometimes I believe that God has left me behind, that I need to give into the fear, that I need to “take the wheel” rather than trust He has it under control.

Over the course of this year, there were many moments I wanted to stomp my foot and say, “this isn’t it! This isn’t what I wanted. This is, perhaps, what I feared most. Why? WHY?”

And through every trial, through every season of doubt, panic, and smog, I just kept hearing that word: believe.

Believe that this is all part of a plan.

Believe that you are in good hands.

Believe even though you can’t see, understand, or predict what’s going to happen next.

Believe.

This word, this lesson I learned, will serve me well going forward. For I have not been give assurance that I will never struggle or doubt or feel like my world is spinning out of control. I have not been given the secret to never being afraid or to get whatever I want. But I have been given a word that reminds me what to do when I do feel afraid, when I am doubtful, when I feel like everything is upside down.

I can choose to believe. I can make that choice over and over.


You can check out my previous words here: Give – Patience – Surrender – Shine – Faith Start

3 People to Look For in the New Year (List-cember #9)

When I am out doing errands, or making a delivery for work, or on a walk around my neighborhood, or just out doing whatever, I see all kinds of people. We all do.

When we go out into the world, we put our lives on a collision course with so many other lives. Sometimes I even get a little overwhelmed at just how many other lives are being lived alongside mine—some I’ll never know a single thing about.

It is easy to pass by people and never know a thing about them. It is also easy to figuratively walk by the people actually in our lives, to hold them at a distance and keep everything on the surface. It is easy to get wrapped up inside ourselves, in our fears and stresses, in our schedules and chaos. It is easy to focus our attention on the things we’re “told” to pay attention to. To follow the trends, to stay in “the loop”, to join the traffic.

There are so many people in this world, so many lives trying to be lived, and none of them are easy. But the one thing we all have in common is that we’re all trying our best, on our first try, and we’re making do with what we’ve been given.

We are each other’s best allies, and each other’s worst enemies.

So, in this new year, let’s look out for each other. And even more, let’s look for each other. Let’s notice one another.

In this new year, let’s look for these three people:

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1) People who need grace

Whether I’m driving and I get cutoff, or I’m walking and someone rushes past me, bumping me in the process, or someone just gives me a little attitude, I have noticed that I’m quick to think, “UMM, EXCUSE ME!” Because yes, we all deserve respect. And when I’m minding my own business and someone appears to be asking the world to treat them like they are the most important person, I want to protest. I want to honk my horn or roll my eyes or say something just as rude back to them. Because yes, some people do believe they are more important than everyone else. Some people DO deserve the eye rolls, the honks and the reality check. But some people might be having the worst day of their lives. Some people might be in a hurry to get to a loved one that’s in trouble. Some people feel like their lives are spinning out of control and they are not even aware that they are treating the people around them inconsiderately. Those people don’t need more piled on their plate. They don’t need guilt, shame, or unkindness shoved in their face. They need grace. They need prayer. They need someone to let it slide and to give them kindness that they might not even deserve in that moment.

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2) People who need help

We all live chaotic, busy lives. We all have about 50 things we’re thinking about at a time. We are all tackling different emotions, different losses, different challenges, every single minute of every single day. Some people find it to be too much and they ask for help. But some people are wandering around with a weight on their shoulders they don’t know how to remove. Some people think asking for help is putting that weight on someone else’s shoulders. Some people think they don’t deserve help. So let’s look for those people. Let’s be the light that shines into their darkness. It doesn’t take big gestures or knowing exactly what to say, sometimes it just takes one person noticing. One person looking out for another person. One person extending their hand and saying, let me help.

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3) People with good intentions

In our world, there are a lot of things that still need correcting. There are still injustices, discrimination, and outright hatred taking place all around us, and there are people trying to weed those things out to make the world a better place. But there are also people who are determined to bring to light every single mistake every single person makes. There are people waiting in the wings to “cancel” other people. There are people who not only take pride but delight in finding fault in others. No one is perfect. No one will ever be perfect. We are all learning how to do life each and every day. We are all learning to be better people. But tearing down others will never make us better people. Destroying people who have made mistakes, who dared misstep, misspeak or misunderstand will not make us better people. We need to stop looking at people under a microscope, ignoring context, growth, or the basic differences created from different life experiences. We need to stop looking—HOPING—for the bad in people that can be turned into clickbait, and start again looking for the good in people. To bring intention back into the conversation. To notice when something done or said was with actual malice, or whether you, I, we’ve decided to interpret it as such simply because it would generate harsh conversation, clicks, and a reason to be angry. Modern technology has taught us to have a short attention span, a need for continuous gratification, an insatiable impatience—let’s not let that carry over into our relationships. Let’s attempt to understand each other rather than race to ruin each other. Pause and listen, pause and watch, remember that we are all living different lives and we only know the ins and outs of our own. Look for the intention. Let that be the loudest.


Wishing you all a happy and healthy New Year.

May we all look out for each other in 2023.

You can find more List-cember posts here.

17 Goals for 2023 (List-cember #8)

If you’ve been around this blog for a while, you might know that I typically set 17 goals at the end of each year. It is my jumping off point for the year to come.

In the six years (!) that I’ve done it, I’ve set some really good goals. They’ve pushed me out of my comfort zone, inspired me to try new things, and led me places I probably wouldn’t have found otherwise.

This year, while trying to figure out my next 17 goals, I kept coming up with ideas that weren’t necessarily tangible or trackable. They were just things I wanted to improve on. At first, I set them aside, calling them “emotional goals” that I wouldn’t necessarily talk about. But then I decided to put them in the mix, to prioritize them with the rest of my goals.

So I’ve included them in here, and I’m honestly very excited.

Here are my 17 goals for 2023:

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1) Learn when to pause

While listening to the podcast, Still Coloring, this year, I noticed how host Toni Collier was able to give her guests space to talk. Sometimes the conversations were difficult and there were points where there wasn’t anything Toni could say, there was just a need for a pause. To let what had been said just sit there. Toni is great at pausing, and I’d like to get better at that. To not feel like I always need to give a response, or to give the “right” response. I want to learn to fearlessly listen to what other people are saying and know when to just pause.

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2) Take another UCLA writing class

I thought about saying, “finish my writing certificate”, but I’m honestly not sure if I will have time. I only need to take two more classes, so it’s very possible that I *could* finish, but in the interest of setting attainable goals, I’m going to say one. Anything else will be a bonus.

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3) Don’t always apologize

I have a tendency to think that I am always on verge of doing/saying/assuming something wrong. Oftentimes, after I’ve hung out with someone, I’ll go home and replay everything that happened, and have a compulsion to text and apologize.

Sorry I talked so much about myself.

Sorry I was so reserved.

Sorry I wasn’t funny enough.

Sorry I kept circling back to that thing that was bothering me.

Sorry I was quiet.

Sorry for not existing correctly.

I could find an apology for absolutely everything. And while sure, there are times when I do need to apologize, there are also a lot of times when I’m just a person, when I’m not perfect, and when my friends know me and my heart and don’t need or want me to apologize for the small things my anxiety has decided make me a bad/boring/unworthy person.

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4) Use my library card

I am an avid fan of the e-library. It is almost exclusively where I get my books. But at times it does require some *patience.* And sometimes, like while I was taking a writing class, I didn’t have time to be patient. So I ordered the required reading on Amazon. It was only after I had a stack of books that I remembered I also have a physical library card, AND I live less than a mile from a library. There’s something so magical about checking books out, so I’m sticking that on the to-do list this year.

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5) Ask hard questions

This is sort of like #1 (learning how to pause), but it is also about not being afraid to go deep with people. I wrote this post in November about how I spent a long time being afraid to cry in front of other people because I thought it made me look weak. Recently, I’ve noticed that I get flustered when I’m talking to someone and they start to cry because I’m afraid that they too feel weak, and are in turn angry with me for making them feel that way. To avoid this, I often avoid deep questions. I try to avoid entering that territory all together. But then I have such a craving for deep relationships. So this year, as I continue my own progress in letting my walls down, I want to do better at creating space for people to do the same with me.

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6) Take the train

I drove to San Diego a few times this year to visit my best friend and her family. When you time it right, it’s an easy drive, and I like getting those two hours of *me time.* But I’ve also been wanting to take the train. It’s one of the most scenic rides out there, and it gives you the power to take your hands off the wheel and zone out. Plus, when you don’t have to do it a lot, it’s kind of fun to be a commuter. To people watch and to become a part of that overarching question of “what’s her story?”

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7) Move slow

This has been a goal of mine for a while that I’ve never fully been able to articulate. Whenever I described it, I felt like I was saying I wanted to move in slow motion. But really what I want to do is find confidence in myself that allows me not to rush through interactions and tasks. I want to take calm, slow steps through the grocery store. I want to listen to what a stranger is saying and then respond, rather than sit on the edge of my seat while they talk, feeling like I have to make a witty comment in response or I’m going to burst into flames. I just want to dial it down a bit. To be more deliberate, more present, more calm.

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8) Break in my new hiking shoes

A while back my dad, sister and I hiked Mt. Whitney. In training for that hike, I bought new hiking shoes. I then kept those hiking shoes up until last year. Did I mention that we climbed Mt. Whitney in 2014? And did I mention I somehow never twisted my ankle or rolled down a hill in the no-tread, sorry excuse for hiking boots that they became in the eight years I insisted on wearing them?! It’s a miracle. And it’s an even bigger miracle that I bought a new pair. So this year I’m hoping to get back out there and do a few hikes. These boots need to be broken in, and I need to get back on the trail.

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9) Use better self-talk

As a whole, I can easily say that my improvement on this from, say, when I was sixteen years old is INCREDIBLE. However, I think I could still do better. I am quick to criticize myself, quick to assume I’m in the wrong, quick to say I should have done better or that I should look better. And sometimes it isn’t jarring, loud self-hatred, it’s almost imperceptible micro-aggressions. It’s apologizing for my hair being messy, or calling myself lazy or “bad” if I don’t exercise for a few days. It’s calling myself dumb or embarrassing for not knowing something, rather than embracing the opportunity to learn something new. This year, I’m trying to weed out those little things that I put myself down for. To give myself more grace.

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10) Staycation

I’ve always wanted to do this but have never really given it a proper go. I just think it would be so fun to rent a hotel for the night or for the weekend—not in a new place, but right where I live. To be able to explore a different part of where I live by placing my home base in a new spot for the weekend. And to be able to get free breakfast and someone to make my bed and bring me fresh towels. Maybe even order room service and spend the entire day in a hotel robe watching movies. I don’t know. The possibilities are endless, and the drive is easy. 

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11) Assume people like you

This was also on the List-cember post for “Best advice I got this year”, and I liked it so much I’m making it a goal for next year. I really want to embrace this mindset. To go into interactions and situations assuming people do (and should) like me. Not everyone will, and that’s okay. But eliminating the idea that nobody will (or should) like me, will put me in a better headspace to meet new people, and might make those interactions a lot less stressful.

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12) Log unplugged hours

I have talked in the past about my struggle with social media and my attempts to try and separate myself from it—or at least lessen my need for it. I always find that I feel better on days when I don’t spend a lot of time on my phone. Earlier this year, I saw Hannah Brencher mention her quest to unplug for 1,000 hours. She made a conscious attempt to put her phone down—put it away as much as possible. If we do the math, 1000 hours is just over 41 days. And when I think about the fact that we are spending DAYS looking at our phones, I get a little sared—and sad. So I’m going to start putting my phone down when I get home from work. I’m going to stop spending as much time getting sucked into social media—I’m looking at YOU Tik Tok. I’m not saying I’m going off the map or deleting all social media, I’m just reminding myself that I don’t have to look at it all the time. I don’t have to open Instagram every time the TV goes to commercial. I don’t have to spend my first hour after work scrolling through my For You page on Tik Tok. I can do other things. There are other things to do.

Hannah’s goal was 1,000 hours, but I’m not going to focus so much on the number. I’m going to keep a log and just see how many I have at the end of the year.

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13) Say you’re welcome

I heard this advice on the Best Advice Show and I loved it. I also felt *slightly* called out by it, but sometimes that’s a good thing. While I consider myself to be very well mannered—perhaps compulsively polite at times—I also have a habit of using manners to deflect compliments. Sometimes I even use compliments to deflect compliments.

If someone were to say, “thank you for doing that” I might say, “thank YOU for giving me the opportunity.”

If someone said, “you look nice” I might say, “I was just about to say YOU look beautiful. I love your dress!”

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s spreading positivity, it’s creating an air of appreciation and gratitude. But it is also preventing me from absorbing the appreciation and kindness someone is trying to share with me. It’s preventing me from hearing and thus believing that I am worthy of that compliment, that I am loved, appreciated, etc.

There is nothing wrong with paying people compliments, there is nothing wrong with paying good deeds forward, but I want to better accept kind words. To say you’re welcome when someone says thank you.

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14) Compliment strangers

Speaking of compliments. In May of this year, a group of friends and I went wine tasting. While we were standing at the counter, a woman walked up behind me and put her hand on my shoulder. “I have this same dress at home!” she said, “it looks marvelous on you.” I had been feeling self-conscious the whole day, but she changed that. She made me feel beautiful with the smallest of passing compliments. When I like something, I tend to lean into the person I’m with and say, “I like her purse” or “I like her hair” or “I like his shoes,” and then slyly point at someone across the room or in front of us in line. Maybe it’s because I’m introverted, but I tend to keep those compliments like secrets. I want to try and change that. This goal won’t be limited to strangers, but I’m trying to encourage myself to go the extra mile. Compliment people. You never know how much they might need it.

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15) Do the Jar Full of Joy Challenge

I saw this idea (created by Ingrid Fetell Lee) on The Art of Noticing newsletter and I loved it. It is a win win.

Win #1) You notice when you are having (or had) a joyful moment during a particular day, and you write it down. This helps you stay present and to notice the happy things happening in your life, both big and small.

Win #2) You put each thing you wrote down into a jar, and then at the end of the year you get to relive all of those happy moments! It is a scrapbook of all the joy you experienced throughout the year.

I bought my jar. I might even go so far as to decorate it!

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16) Be in more pictures

I, like my mother before me, do not like having my picture taken. I get too in my head. I have trouble looking at a picture objectively and thinking, “look at this moment we captured,” and instead think, “I look terrible.” Whether it’s my outfit, my body, my face, anything and everything really. I can almost always find something to dislike about myself in a picture. What’s worse, I am constantly bummed I’m not in more pictures—that I don’t have better proof that I visited a cool place, or that I don’t have better documented memories of good and exciting days. I want to do better at this. So I’m setting a goal to be in more pictures. To take more pictures. To ASK to have my picture taken, even if I—GASP—don’t look perfect. (This goal will tie together nicely with #9)

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17) Post monthly recaps

This one is kind of funny when you take into account the unplugged hours goal of #12, but this is something that I really like about social media. When a new month starts, I love seeing people post groups of photos and videos that summarize the last month. It’s amazing how we are able to memorialize those experiences, allowing us to remember them a lot longer than we may have otherwise. I also think it might be a good way to reflect on each month, rather than let them slam into each other. I think this will be a great way to force myself to pause and ask, “what did I do this month?” And ideally, if I’m in more pictures (#16) these recaps will be a lot easier for me to pull off 🙂

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Wishing you luck with any and all goals and/or resolutions you might be setting for the new year!

May we all find somthing we’re looking for.


You can find more List-cember posts here.

5 People I Had a Crush on This Year (List-cember #7)

In middle school, admitting you have a crush on someone feels equivalent to setting

yourself on fire. It is painful and horrifying, which makes sense because everything about being a middle schooler is painful and horrifying.

As an adult, well, it doesn’t get that much easier. Being vulnerable is never fun, setting yourself up for rejection is always terrifying. But we get through it—maybe not gracefully, maybe not easily, but we get through it.

Luckily, we’re not talking about those kinds of crushes today. Because as I’ve grown up, I’ve found that those are not the only ones that exist.

Sometimes you have a crush on someone that is not based on romantic feelings, but rather that longing to be more like a person, or a wish that you were friends (best friends?), or a productive envy that inspires you to better yourself.

These kinds of crushes are the kind that make you want to say, “I just think you’re so rad.”

Even if you never use the word “rad” in your everyday vocabulary. (Which I don’t.)

This year, I crushed and I crushed hard.

These five people inspired me and made me laugh and cry (in a good way) and just overall made me feel cozy.

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1) Meghan Trainor

If you are/were on Tik Tok this year, you might have run into a lot of Meghan Trainor content. She kind of took the social media world by storm. At some point, I looked up her podcast and then binge listened to it, smiling and giggling my way through every episode. I then proceeded to follow her on Instagram, listened to her music, and simply just fell in love with her. She is so fun and genuine and goofy, and she is upbeat while never being afraid to be honest. At times I would forget that she was a mega pop star known and beloved by the world, and would scroll past her on social media thinking she was one of my friends. (find her here)

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2) Nora McInerny

After finding Terrible, Thanks for Asking, during a Google search for “podcast recommendations”, I quickly and gladly snuggled into its orbit. The premise of the podcast is to embrace your feelings—even and especially the hard ones—which is why the name is phrased as a response to the question, “how are you?” Having gone through multiple harrowing losses herself, Nora founded a community that invites its listeners to just be, and I was hooked instantly. While keeping up with the podcast, I listened to Nora’s audiobooks and even went to a live show she put on in Los Angeles. The content she creates makes me feel safe and seen, and it gives me courage to write about the hard parts of my story.

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3) Toni Collier

On another night spent searching for new podcasts (the subplot for this blog might be my podcast addiction) I found Still Coloring hosted by Toni Collier. It is Christian based, and it encourages those who are walking/have walked through hard seasons. Not only do I find inspiration in each episode, but I am constantly in awe of Toni’s ability to hear and have hard conversations. She leaves space for people. She’s not too quick to respond, she doesn’t try to fix or explain or bandage, she just says, “mmhmm” allowing her guests to know she’s listening, while giving them room to keep talking. She’s not intimidated by gaps or silence. I am in AWE of this, and I want to do better at it in my relationships.

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4) Kelsey Kreppel

I started watching Kelsey Kreppel’s videos on YouTube a few years ago. They have always been funny and easy to watch, cozy and casual without all the flash and show that you find in many other popular videos. She is just a normal person, going about her day, sometimes thriving, sometimes struggling, never afraid to admit either. She is funny, sweet, and comfortable in her own skin in a way that I am striving for.

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5) Ashlyn Sailsbury

I mentioned Ashlyn in a List-cember post a few years back and she remains one of my favorite people to follow. She is so funny and sassy and is always sharing her latest hobbies and travels. I like that she goes with her own flow and is never ashamed of that. She feels like a big sister I can check in with that encourages me to speak my mind and define my own bliss.

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You know that saying “you are who surround yourself with”? I have seen it be true in my real-life relationships, and in the people I follow on social media. I am proud that I actively pursue people who encourage me to be myself. It’s a good reminder of how far I’ve come on this journey to self-love and acceptance. And I’m thankful for all the people (online and IRL) that continue to help me on that journey.

Here’s hoping we all crush next year.

I know I will!


You can find more List-cember posts here.

Five Reasons Why I “Like” a Post (List-cember #6)

The term “like” took on a whole new meaning after the dawn of social media.

Now, alongside its traditional meaning of: enjoying/appreciating/admiring something, it means physically tapping a heart or star or some other mystical symbol on your screen. It means adding your name to a count of other people who saw, read, enjoyed, or admired a picture, blog, tweet, post, or video.

The other day, as I was scrolling through Tik Tok, I started re-watching some of the videos that I’d liked. There is a feature in the app that lets you sort and save those videos so you can more quickly access them. It was a slow afternoon, and, like a stack of miscellaneous papers, I wanted to organize my favorite videos into folders that I could refer back to. I wanted to create collections reminiscent of my Spotify playlists, that I could curate based on my mood.

In sorting and scrolling for the next hour or so, I got a good look at the posts I like, and started to formulate ideas as to why I liked them.

I found five main reasons.

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1) It’s adorable

Hi, it’s me, the target audience for cute animals and babies. If I scroll past a picture of a dog with its happy tongue out, or a baby giggling, it almost seems wrong not to acknowledge it. Did you ever get chain mail when you were younger that had the threat at the bottom that essentially said, “send this to 10 friends or the world will collapse into flames and it will all be your fault”? That’s how I feel when I come across adorable internet content. I must “like” or the world will think I reject joy.

Also, I just love seeing cute sassy animals and cute sassy babies. Sue me.

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2) It made me cry happy tears

This is a two-fer. If a post makes me cry happy tears—which to be honest is not hard to do—I like it because:

a) I want it to gain popularity and reach other people, thus causing more happy tears around the world

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b) because sometimes you need some savings in the bank. Sometimes I will go through a day thinking, dang, I could really use a good cry right now, and so I will go home, pull up those posts and just *sob.* It’s therapeutic. It’s invigorating. It’s exhausting. It works.

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3) I’m saving it to show my friends later

Sometimes a post will pop up on my feed that is so niche, so quintessentially me or my friends that I HAVE to show them. Oftentimes I will share the post immediately, be it over text or through direct messages, but sometimes I am desperate to see their live reaction, so I save the post until we are together in person and then show it off like a good grade on a test. Look at this, I say. And then we laugh or cringe or just make wide eyes at each other, bonding. It’s wonderful.

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4) It made my brain ding

A brain ding is a diverse feeling. It has levels, layers, colors, all sorts of things that make them enticing and unique. Also, a brain ding is something I just made up. But sometimes you see something and think, “huh” or “woah!” or “are you kidding me?” or “how in the world?” or “I must” or “I need” or “I have to watch that nine more times.” I love finding inspiration in unique places, I love seeing the weird and creative things people come up with all over the world, I love getting that feeling of, I wonder if I could do that. This has to be the reason I like 90% of posts. But if I were to venture another statistic with no research to back it up, I’d say I only return to about 17% of these posts. Still, I like to think the inspiration gained was poured into some kind of proverbial measuring cup in my head that is constantly being stirred, waiting for just the right moment to make me realize: I HAVE TO DO THIS! Whatever this may be.

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5) I’ll use it as emotional support content

One of the great things about social media is that it gives you things to talk about when a conversation takes an awkward turn. Sometimes I reach a point where I don’t have much to say. I’m fine with that but I’m usually convinced that the person I’m talking to is horrified and thinks I’m a boring piece of bread that they’d like to get away from. Sometimes it comes in handy to have a post in your back pocket, ready to fill the dead air. There is also something wildly validating about telling a story and then pulling up the corresponding post that makes an entire room laugh, gasp or “awwww”, and concludes with a few individuals saying, “oh my gosh you HAVE to send that to me.” Excuse me while I add a few stories to this building to make room for my self-esteem that has just SKY ROCKETED.

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What makes you “like” a post?


You can check out more List-cember posts here.

Best Things I Bought this Year (List-cember #5)

There are few things I love more than a listicle full of links to things I can BUY.

Things I need, things I don’t need, things I’m convinced will make me feel better or give my life/home/closet/car that little oomph it’s been missing.

So if you’re in the mood to open a few extra tabs, or if you just want to be a little nosey, these are some of the best things I bought this year.

1) Skeleton Yoga Sweatshirt

I came across this crewneck on Etsy and immediately loved it. I ordered up a size for a baggier fit, and it is so cozy! The perfect sweatshirt to cuddle up in at night. (find it here.)

2) FitBit Versa 3

I have always stayed loyal to FitBit over AppleWatch, mostly due to familiarity and a preference for simplicity. So when the time came to get a new model, I stuck to what I knew, and it didn’t let me down! It gives me everything I’m looking for: workout tracking, sleep stats, V02 scores, and notification alerts. Plus it’s comfortable and easy to use. (Note: It looks like the Versa 3 is no longer available on the website, but the Versa 2 & 4 are, and they’re both on sale! find them here.)

3) Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree

This was an absolute impulse purchase. It felt like going to a pet store and having a kitten curl up in your lap, making it impossible not to take it home. It batted it’s proverbial eyes at me, and I just couldn’t resist! It now sits below my kitchen window and I call it Figgy Azaelia. (I bought mine at my local hardware store, but there are some available on Amazon too, find them here.)

4) Merrell Hiking Boots

I had my last pair of Merrells for seven years. This is probably, like, five years longer than you’re supposed to. Especially when you hike consistently–including casually climbing a mountain. At one point, both my dad and sister looked at my boots, horrified and truly shocked I hadn’t slipped or sprained my ankle with how little traction they had left. Needless to say, I’m excited to break these new guys in. (find them here.)

5) Coiled Lightning Cable

When my Apple Car Play cord started to fray, I found this one. And honestly I wish I bought it earlier. The coil keeps it from constantly getting stuck in the door, and it just looks a lot neater in general. (find it here.)

6) Beyond Yoga bike shorts

Can shorts be the love of your life? If so, these are mine. They are so soft and so cozy. They say, you do you today, Kim, I got you. And while yes, they are a bit pricey, they are WORTH IT. I have two pairs and would probably buy 50 if I didn’t have to make rent. (find it here.)

7) Gaiam Yoga Mat

I had a Gaiam mat for the longest time and when it got thin and worn, I randomly switched to a different brand. But it didn’t have anywhere near the grip as my old yoga mat, so I went back to the tried and true. I got this beautiful mat from Target and have loved it. (find it here.)

8) JoyLab Sports Bra

Speaking of Target, their JoyLab active brand is marvelous. I got this seamless sports bra and it instantly became one of my favorites! It’s comfortable, it doesn’t dig in anywhere, and it does its job. It’s everything you can ask for in a sports bra. (find it here.)

9) Kate Spade purse

I LOVE a Kate Spade purse. But even more, I LOVE a Kate Spade purse on sale. And that’s pretty much the only time I’ll buy one. I got this purse (in blue) for 75% off, and I bring it up pretty much every time I wear it. (find it here.)

10) Velvet hangers

About a year ago my sister switched out all her plastic hangers for velvet ones and I was instantly jealous. Not only does it make your closet look neater, it also saves a ton of space, and helps those stubborn shirts actually stay on the hanger. When I moved into my new apartment, I jumped on the velvet hanger train and I’ll never look back. (find it here.)

11) Mini Vaseline

To make a very long, very infuriating experience very brief, my lips went crazy this year. There was a big chunk of time when seemingly every lip product I used gave me a wild allergic reaction. The ONE thing that helped was Vaseline. And while I know this isn’t necessarily a ground breaking recommendation. You can’t deny this tiny size is adorable. Perfect for keeping in your purse and preventing you from ripping your lips off your face. (find it here.)

12) Thrifted Dresser

This is one thing that I won’t have a link for since I found it at an estate sale. So this is more of a recommendation to go thrifting every once in a while because you never know what you might find. I found this guy for $40!! And it is now one of my favorite things that I own. Plus, you know it’s true love when you notice the dresser even when there is a giant box of flushable wipes on top.

13) Stanley 40oz Tumbler

If this were a list numbered by ranking, Stanley would be near the top. It is truly worth all the hype. The handle. The straw. The ability to carry over half my recommended daily water intake at once. Stanley has easily become my favorite emotional support water bottle and I will recommemnd him over and over and over. (find it here.)

14) SKYVOO Blue light glasses

I am always on the hunt for the best blue light glasses since I spend so much time on the computer. Early this year, I bought a pair of *stylish* blue light glasses, but quickly learned they did almost nothing for blocking blue light. So I went back to the drawing board, and eventually found these. They were more affordable than quite a few of the other pairs mentioned on “best of” lists, but they still boasted a lot of positive reviews. I am very happy both with the style, the blue light blocking, and the comfort on my face! (find them here.)

15) 40 Watt Light bulbs

Part of me hesitates to put these on the list because they are literally LIGHT BULBS. And not specialty, environment saving, made from recycled glass or everlasting gobstopper light bulbs, they are just plain light bulbs that I got at my local grocery store. BUT they were a fantastic purchase for me because they are *soft.* I spent the first couple months in my apartment trying not to turn on my bathroom light because it was so bright and unflattering. I dreaded doing my makeup every morning because turning on the light instantly gave me a headache and announced every single flaw on my face. So at my mom’s recommendation, I scoped out 40w bulbs, and it wouldn’t be dramatic to say that they have improved the quality of my life. (I got the Phillips 40w Ultra Defintion bulbs)

16) Fanny Pack Bag

I know that fanny packs are having a come back right now, but I don’t remember a time when I didn’t think they were cool? I mean, my mom rocked a fanny pack when I was a kid, and could anything be more convenient?! I grabbed this bag at Target to have as an on-the-go bag for when I’m running errands, headed to a workout class, etc. It’s super light and easy and has enough room for my wallet, phone and, of course, my mini vaseline. (find it here.)

18) Slipper Socks

If it seems like every other item is from Target, it’s becaue I’m a stress shopper and always add cute/cozy things to my cart when I have a lot on my mind. With that pattern of behavior, Target is essentially a death trap for me, but, like, a nice death trap. A peaceful one. One that knows exactly the way I’d like to go out: with oversized sweatshirts and furry socks. When I touched these slipper socks, I immediately put them in my cart. They are nearly irresistable and under $10. My feet write me thank you notes every day. (find them here.)

17) Shelf from IKEA

If you’re wondering if I have an eye for interior design, when shopping to decorate my apartment, I typed, “a bookshelf” into Google. I had no idea what I wanted or what key words to use, I just knew that I wanted a shelf to go right *points to corner of room* there! Eventually, I came across this bookshelf and I’m so happy I did! It was easy to put together and the final product was exactly what I was looking for. I also love how cute it looks next to my green thrifed dresser! 🙂 (find it here.)

19) Head & Shoulders Dry Scalp Care

Similar to the onslaught of allergies I experienced this year, my scalp seemed to have an identity crisis. I kept getting bouts of dry scalp and NOTHING I did seemed to help. After some Googling, I found out that sometimes dry scalp can be caused by eczema, which I’ve struggled with in the last couple years. Reviews of this product claimed it helped with eczema based dry scalp, so I decide to give it a go, and I’m happy to say that I agree! (find it here.)

20) Shoe Rack

Similar to the velvet hangers, I bought this shoe rack to add some organization to my life. I’ve always kept my shoes pretty neat, but I wanted a space saving, more concrete shoe home, and this was the perfect solution. One downside is that it made me realize, contrary to what I tell myself when I’m in DSW, I actually don’t need anymore shoes, but that is an issue I’ll deal with at a later date. (find it here.)

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Did you buy anything especially great this year? My wallet is both scared and curious to know.

Check out more List-cember posts here.

Places I Sat This Year (List-cember #4)

At the end of last year, I came across a few bloggers that participated in the Take Up a Seat challenge. According to the website, the challenge asks you to take a picture of “places you sit, you might sit, or art about sitting.” Weekly posts showcase couches, chairs, benches, rocks, etc., that follow the theme. I liked this idea and so I decided to make participating one of my goals for 2022.

Throughout the year, I took pictures of places I sat, but rather than the physical chair, I tried my best to photograph me sitting in the chair. To capture that moment. I held the camera up high, getting my legs in the picture, as a kind of documentation that at one point during the year, I was sitting right here.

It’s been fun looking back at the photos and I wanted to share a handful. So many offered glimpses into small moments that I otherwise might have forgotten. I also liked seeing the documentation of rest. Because I most often remembered to take a picture when I felt relaxed or peaceful, so looking at the pictures as a collection was like reliving some of my most calming of the year.


1) Two Days In

In January, I got COVID. I spent a solid 5-6 days in my room, in my bed, sometimes sitting upright, but most often laying down asleep. My FitBit thought I was hibernating. It was not a good time. But shout out to my ZZ plant poking into frame which has grown A LOT since this picture was taken.

2) Backseat Sushi

In February, my sister’s coworker invited the two of us to see a show in Santa Monica. She offered to pick up sushi from her favorite local spot, and we planned to meet at the theater. “Get in,” she said once she pulled up. We had almost an hour until show time and she wanted us to have a “dinner with a view.” We drove to the beach and rolled the windows down so we could hear the waves. I wrote this post from the same night.

3) Engagement Sandwiches

In March, I helped my now brother-in-law plan his proposal to my sister. It was in one of our favorite places, and it was truly one of the most perfect days! Everything went off without a hitch, and she said yes! The next day, we woke up in a happy glow. We grabbed sandwiches from the local grocery store and then ate them lakeside on a bench near one of our favorite fishing spots.

4) Bible in the Spare Room

In April, shortly after my sister and I moved out of our apartment and I moved into my parents’ house, I found a lazy Saturday morning with no plans. Our church had provided a Bible reading plan for the year and I was very behind. So I tip-toed into the spare bedroom and caught up on my reading. (Note: don’t ask if I stayed caught up for the rest of the year, we’re looking at the positives here.)

5) The Downton Fizz

In May, my mom and I saw Downton Abbey: A New Era in theaters. For a while, we had a checklist of movies to see and we were becoming regulars at our local theater. On this particular evening, we grabbed our popcorn and then decided to try the Downton promotional drink called the “Downtown Fizz.” We cheers-ed and took our first sips and then our eyes lit up. It was DELCIOUS. So delicious that I dm-ed AMC for the recipe—and they answered!

6) Car Meeting

In June, as I was hastily making my way home from a chiropractor appointment, I hit a burst of traffic that I knew was going to make me late. I had a 5:30pm meeting, was 20 minutes from home, and it was 5:23pm. So I got off the freeway, pulled into the parking lot of a gym, hung a flannel in my window to block the sun, and took the meeting in the car. I wondered if I had the frame angled enough for no one to notice, but as soon as I logged onto Zoom, the first question asked was, “Hey Kim, are you in the car?”

7) Dodger Game

In July, on a last minute offer from some friends, my mom and I got tickets to the Dodger game. Typically, we sit up in the Loge or Reserve section, but these seats were Field Level! We grabbed a beer and some hot dogs—and I also impulsively bought a bag of Cheetos that were perhaps the best Cheetos I’ve ever had in my life?—and watched the boys take home a win!

8) A River Runs Through it—in Texas

In August, we visited some family in Texas. I’ve written about Jim and June before, so you might already know how special these visits are to me. It is always a breath of fresh air. We sit and talk and laugh and eat junk food. It’s the best. One day, we hung out and watched A River Runs Through It, which none of us had seen in a long time. It was the perfect slow movie for the perfect slow day.

9) Sushi on the Floor

In September, after getting approved to move into my apartment, I ordered myself sushi to celebrate. I didn’t have any of my furniture yet, and I was going over every day after work to unpack boxes. I was looking forward to the days when it looked like a home instead of a chaotic storage unit, and I was eating my sushi on floor while watching Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again on DVD.

10) Mrs. Fields Saves the Day

In October, my friends and I went to the When We Were Young Festival in Las Vegas. It featured all kinds of bands we listened to in high school and it was a very nostalgic and fun day. However, since it started at 12:00pm, we got there at 11:30am to get in line. And since the last band was set to go on at 10:00pm, and after the sun went down the temperature dipped into the 40s, the prospect of staying until the end became very daunting. My sister, her husband and I cut out a little early, and we Uber-ed back to our hotel where we bought some snacks and then went to bed. I barely made it through this cookie before passing out.

11) Left on Tenth

In November, as I finally began to feel settled in my apartment, I had some lazy weekend mornings where I would make oatmeal and then read on the couch. One of my UCLA Extension writing instructors recommended Delia Ephron’s new memoir, Left on Tenth, and I loved every minute of it. Not only did it teach me a lot about writing, it was also a crazy story! After losing her husband of over 30 years, Delia not only finds new love, but fights (and beats!) cancer.

12) Here

And finally, in December, as I write this blog post, I sit in my chair, in my apartment, next to my Christmas tree. I have two candles burning, my heater running, and my favorite slipper socks on. This is where I have been doing a lot of my writing, and I foresee a lot more of it in the future.

I’m thankful for this year and for the many places that I sat and found rest. I hope I continue to notice these little moments of peace.

If you’re interested, here are a few more pictures I took for this project. You might not know the story, but you still get that sense of place. You can still see that moment of me capturing, I was here.


Check out more List-cember posts here.