Buh-Bye 2020

I don’t think anyone is sad to see 2020 go. (Buh-bye 2020, don’t let the door hit you on the ass on your way out!) It just robbed us of so much – time spent with family and friends, vacations, concerts (oh, how I miss concerts), birthday parties, graduations, and just a general sense of normalness. My biggest loss of 2020 was the unexpected and sudden death of my father. He did not die of COVID, but COVID did rob us of the vacation we were supposed to take to see him in Austin a few months before he died.

Oddly, in many ways 2020 was actually good to us – Dave and I both work for the same amazing company that treats its employees so well. We started working from home in March (though sharing an office can sometimes be a struggle). Chandler is in grad school, but since it’s online he’s moved home. (He would prefer to not be living here, but having him back home for a little while has made this mama’s heart happy.) We are all healthy. We are together. We are lucky.

Every year at the beginning of the new year I like to sit down and reflect on the year that has just passed. I have a happiness journal that I sit down and write in every morning and record my happiest moment from the day before. Sometimes the moment comes to me quite easily, sometimes it’s a struggle to find one, sometimes (though rare), it’s the whole entire beautiful wonderful day. This year, which has become a Groundhog Day year of a year – one monotonous day blurring into the next, most of my happy moments come from my daily dog walks or connecting with people from a distance – whether that distance be at an outdoor gathering or via Zoom. (I know we’re all tired of it, but I am, so truly grateful for Zoom.)

The Pollyanna in me truly does seek out the bright side. I am grateful for all that we have. I try to find the funny in even the most terrible situations (it really is there if you look hard enough for it). And so, in this most terrible of years we made adjustments.

We were not able to go to Austin to visit my father in April, but in August we drove to Park City and stayed in my friend’s vacation condo. In October the kids and I went to Austin to spend time with my stepmom and sister since we can work/school from anywhere. 

I had tickets for six different concerts that went unused. We livestreamed home concerts and watched them from our couch. It’s not the same, but it still brought us joy.

And yes, I zoomed. A lot. I zoomed with my family. I zoomed with my friends. I zoomed with my co-workers. And again, it’s not the same, but I am so grateful that this pandemic has happened in a time where technology makes it possible for us to connect, even though it may not be in the way we wish it could be.

Yes, I miss hugs. Yes, I miss live music. I miss restaurant happy hours. I miss getting on planes and traveling for work. Most of all I miss my dad. 

But I leave 2020 with a grateful heart. Grateful for our jobs, our health, great technology, dog walks, hiking trails, podcasts, books, Netflix and laughter. Always laughter.

Here are some of the things that made me happy in terrible 2020:

January 1 – Our annual New Year’s Day hike – this time to Solstice Canyon. Nice hike – great beach views. So many people. Great to see so many enjoying the beautiful day and beautiful California.

A hike with a view.

January 9 – Walking two miles down High Street in Columbus, OH. The weather was about 50 degrees and I just loved the crisp air and walking in a city.

February 10 – Dinner with Mera, Dale and my mom. I love these people so much. It was so nice to catch up and be together.

February 14 – I made a nice Valentine’s dinner (and Dave and I got each other the same card – so funny!). Chandler flew home to see Sami and we picked him up from the airport. My heart is always happy when he is home.

Great minds think alike.

February 22 – Game night at Rita’s. We played Mexican Train Dominoes and drank Grapefruit Crushes (recipe in this awesome cocktail book). Great night with great people.

March 2 – Rita and I went to see Jordan Davis at the Grammy Museum and it was so great. (Little did I know at the time, this would be my only concert in 2020.)

Jordan Davis – my one and only 2020 concert

March 11 – Dinner with Marisa. The shit is really hitting the fan today. Marisa said she was so glad we had dinner because COVID-19 was giving her so much anxiety and having dinner made her feel normal. It was great to see her and to help a friend.

March 15 – We walked to McDonalds for Shamrock McFlurries. It was so nice to walk and to see so many people outside. Being outside is going to be the key to our sanity. (If only I’d known how very true this was.)

March 18 – Matt Nathanson does a Together at Home Instagram Live show and it makes me so happy. I love it and I love him so much.

March 21 – We did a virtual HH with Jennifer, Debra, Rita, and Arlyne. It was so great. We laughed and drank. After 2 hours the husbands joined. So glad to be with my friends even when I can’t be.

April 20 – I think my favorite thing about Mondays is watching John Krazinski’s SGN (Some Good News). This was a prom episode. He held a prom! It was magic and made me cry happy tears.

April 26 – We had a family zoom with my dad and Sue and all the sibs. It was so great to see everyone’s beautiful faces.

May 8 – We went to the beach at night to see the bioluminescent waves and it was so cool. It looked like someone threw a million glow sticks into the waves. 

May 17 – We hiked Devil’s Punchbowl with Marley and then had a picnic with Italia Deli sandwiches (yum!) at a nearby park afterwards. In the afternoon I had a driveway HH at Julie’s with Kim. What a perfect day.

Devil’s Punchbowl hike with my favorite girl.

May 29 – I have been loving the 30 day yoga series I have been doing. It both calms and energizes me.

June 14 – My father passed away today. On my birthday. No happiness. But I’m glad both of my kids are home and I was able to hug them.

One of the last times I saw my dad.

June 21 – Marley turns 20! She gave me the biggest hug. I gave her what she wanted (a hammock) and we had a BBQ at my mom’s. It was a nice day.

Happy Birthday!

August 3 – The days are a blur this year, but I’m happy when I succeed at a Meatless Monday dinner.

August 19 – When Kamala Harris officially accepted the VP nomination I legit cried happy tears. Maybe she is our path to the presidency. I hope so.

August 22 – Chandler called me out to see the sunset. It was beautiful. We climbed the hill and it made me happy that he wanted to share that beauty with me.

When your son asks you to climb the hill in your backyard to get a better look at the sunset, you go.

September 3 – Kate texted me to say she finally read my book and loved it. Oh to have someone discover Laney and love her fills my heart with joy.

September 18 – Sad day. RGB died. It’s going to be a hot mess. But I made shrimp fajitas that everyone liked and drank tequila and did my best to convince myself that everything would be okay.

September 20 – Dave and I went on a day date to Ventura – lunch and a walk along the beach. It was nice to be out and outside – to do something and to go somewhere.

October 3 – I picked tomatoes at Kim’s house and made a tomato sandwich and the fresh taste of home grown tomatoes was so amazing I could hardly stand it.

These tomatoes were A-MAZ-ING!

October 16 – Dinner at Clint and Rhiannon’s. So great for my kids to play with their young cousins and for me to catch up with my sister.

November 7 – Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have been elected to the White House. My happiness is palpable. I cried. I felt it in every fiber of my being. I am so happy.

November 13 – I’m reading Julie’s book and I’m in love with it.

Do yourself a favor and read this book!

December 6 – Getting up early and reading with Geordie cuddling on my chair is such a cozy and happy way to start my day.

A cozy way to start the day.

December 15 – Dave’s birthday. I made filet mignon, asparagus, baked potatoes, and wedge salad and it was the bomb. Dave told some old stories and we had a really great time. It was wonderful to be happy and together.

Like I said, we are all happy to have 2020 behind us. (And trust me, I know that the turn of a calendar page is not going to make everything magically better.) But I hope that you were also able to find some calm among the crazy and seek out some happiness inside all of this uncertainty and anxiety. I’d love to hear some of the happy moments you had last year.

Reflections of 2018

Is it too late to write a blog post where I reflect upon 2018? (Is it reflect upon or reflect on? I don’t know. I’m too lazy to look it up. Anyway…)

Probably.

In fact, I think it’s one of the reasons I was never successful as a blogger. Well, there are many reasons. But I won’t bore you with all of them today. (And yes, boring you is probably one of them. Whatever. Moving on.)

It’s because I was never very topical. Whatever the topic of the day (hour, minute) other bloggers were writing about, I was always late to the party. I tend to let things like life and family (and general blaziness) get in the way of getting my butt in the chair to write.

I did sit down the first day of the year to relax and read my 2018 Happiness Journal to reflect on (upon?) the year that had just passed us and to set an intention for the year ahead.

Some wonderful things happened in 2018. Chandler turned 21. Marley turned 18, graduated high school and went on a trip to London and Edinburgh. I went to Stagecoach for the 6th year in a row and was back up in the VIP section. (Whoo Hoo!) I took on new responsibilities at work and got to travel to Las Vegas, Vancouver, Denver, Illinois, Texas (twice), Washington (twice), and Nashville. (Nashville! Squee!) Dave joined me on the Denver trip to mix pleasure with business and my friend Rita joined me when the work part of my Nashville trip ended and I extended the trip into an awesome girls’ weekend.

And some unspeakably terrible things happened. The Borderline shooting. The sad and sick truth is that everyone in this country knows what it feels like to wake up to the news of a mass shooting. But I have to tell you something. When it happens in your town it feels different. Because you were just at that nightclub having the time of your life two weeks beforehand. Because it was College Night and at least three of your friends had kids who were invited to go to the club but didn’t (thank God).  Because your daughter knew one of the twelve people who were murdered. It’s different. And for those of you who don’t live here I hope it’s a difference you never have to feel.

And then less than 24 hours later the Woolsey Fire raged through our town. Before we had a chance to get over the shock of the shooting (let alone even begin the process of grieving) we had to evacuate our homes. My family was lucky. The fire came to our back hill, but not to our house. Just down the street, starting four doors down there are three houses that suffered damage. Some of my friends are still displaced due to damaged homes. Some of my friends lost their homes completely.

backyard burn marks after woolsey fire
My hill after the fire – if you look closely at the Eucalyptus tree, you can see where it was on fire.

When I reflect on (I actually think I can use on or upon) 2018 I think a lot about luck. I’m lucky that I was not in the wrong place at the wrong time. I’m lucky that the wind did not shift towards my house when the fire was on my back hill. I’m lucky to live in a community that has grown stronger in the wake of two terrible tragedies.

Every morning I try to sit down a think about the day before and focus on the one small (or sometimes big) moment that made me happiest. It teaches me to be grateful when life is stressful or busy or boring or wonderful or even terrible. To find light even when the tunnel is so long and so, so dark. And to not take for granted the light that shines brightly when it does so many days (weeks, months) in a row.

Here are some of my 2018 happy moments:

January 5 I took the day off work and spent it with Chandler. We went shopping and had a sushi lunch and visited Tom and Lisa. At the end of the day he hugged me and said thank you and that he liked spending the day with me.

February 8 I wore bright Kelly green pants and a pink shirt to work today and it made me feel cheery.

February 17 Dinner at Larson’s with Dale. It was so great to see her. She’s such an awesome person and I need to be a better friend and see her more often.

March 9 Writers’ Group at Julie’s. And Lexi was there – yay! Julie gave us HER BOOK! Holding Lily in my own hands filled me with so much joy!

March 14 Watching Marley’s speech on National Student Walkout Day. My daughter is a rockstar.

national student walkout day speech
A rockstar in the making.

April 6 I was walking Geordie and a saw a man coming home from work. When he opened his door I heard a little boy yell, “Daddy!” Oh how I remember that. Such joy! How wonderful!

April 21 Writers’ Group was brought to a whole other level – karaoke! I sang Lady Antebelum’s A Kiss Goodnight and it was magic!

April 27 Stagecoach. Those first steps walking into the pit and the excitement of the beat of the music pounding in my chest.

midland stagecoach
My view of Midland in the pit at Stagecoach. You’re welcome.

May 20 My mom had a 100 year party for my grandparents and I had a happy/sad moment when I realized how much my grandmother would have loved that party – to be honored like that. I miss them.

June 8 Hugging Chandler. Breakfast with Chandler. The four of us in one room. Chandler is home.

June 15 Marley graduated high school. Hearing her name called was sublime. She was so happy and proud of herself. And I’m so happy for her.

graduation cap and gown
Look out world, here she comes.

July 5 Dinner alone at the hotel bar in Vancouver. A cute bartender/server. Delicious food. An eight ounce glass of wine. Heaven.

July 14 Hanging with Dave in Denver. Reconnecting. So nice to have a mini-vacay.

August 2 Talking to Marley after dinner about music and watching her eyes light up. Priceless.

August 19 Concerts in the Park with Mary. Drinking Sangria. Talking to friends. Loving my town.

September 23 Breakfast tacos with Rhiannon. A long solo walk on the San Antonio Riverwalk. Wine at an airport bar. I had a lovely, lovely day.

October 19 Borderline with Rita, Keri, and Linda for Jerrod Niemann. Country music – even when you don’t know the songs it makes you feel so good. (This one really breaks my heart.)

borderline
Our last night at Borderline.

November 5 My dad and I had to run an errand and he opened the car door for me and I remembered that is something that he does. Such a small gesture, but so nice and it made me happy to have stirred up that memory.

November 18 When I got home from writing group (after midnight) Marley and Hunter had made a very elaborate fort and were laying in it watching TV. Oh how I love that!

December 23 There was a time in the afternoon when we were all together in the house. Marley and I were baking cakes and I just had such a warm, happy feeling that we were all together. Home.

I’d love to hear from you. What do you think of when you reflect on (or upon) 2018?

backyard after the woolsey fire
My backyard last week – new growth (and hope) after the fire.

This Suburban Life

yogi-tea-fortune-happinessI sit at my writers’ group on Saturday night with my third (or maybe it’s my fourth) glass of wine in my hand and feel so lucky to be int this group of smart, funny, kind women who happen to be great writers. They encourage me and hold me accountable and don’t judge me. We laugh and cry and commiserate and tell each other our triumphs and heartaches and fears. I look forward to our meeting every month. I know that the next morning I will write “Writers’s group” in my happiness journal for Saturday, February 10th.

A little after midnight I receive a text from Dave asking if I’ve heard from Marley yet. She’s at a concert downtown at the Shrine and she said she’d text us on the way home. We knew it would run late, but it seems too late. I tell him I’ll come home and wait up for her.

Rina lives down the street and Dave dropped us off so we could take a Lyft home, but Kim only had one glass of wine and even though she lives in the opposite direction she says she’ll give us a ride. Julie’s husband dropped her off too, installing Uber in her phone so she can get home that way. Kim offers to drive her home too, but she declines, saying she lives too far (all the way in Thousand Oaks). We tell her Lyft is better and she promises to download Lyft next time. We tell her to text us when she gets home.

Marley’s phone goes straight to voicemail and she does not answer texts or Facetime. I’m not quite worried. Yet. But I’m tired and want to go to bed. Marley calls at 12:44. She’s sorry! No service! She can’t believe how late the show went. They are on their way home, but might stop for a quick bite to eat once they get in the Valley. I tell her fine, as long as they go through the drive through.

I sit on the couch with the dog snuggled next to me and try to read my book , but it makes me too sleepy, so I scroll through Instagram the blue light from my cell phone keeping me semi-alert. Julie group texts to thank Laurel for a lovely evening and to let us know that she is home safe and her Uber cherry has been popped. I let them know that Marley is on her way home. Drunk “I love you” texts circle around. I try to doze off but don’t really and Marley walks through the door at 1:45. She had fun and I’m happy that live music gives her the same thrill it gives me. Since it’s technically Sunday, maybe I’ll hold onto that feeling for my Sunday happiness journal entry.

Sunday morning I wake up late, but not nearly late enough. I’m lucky that too much wine and cheese and not nearly enough sleep did not net me a hangover. I have a cup of coffee and make toast out of the Trader Joe’s beer bread I made for dinner Friday night and chat with Dave. I’m meeting my mom at Costco at 10:00, but have to run errands first so I need to get moving. I go to Bed Bath & Beyond for hairspray, mascara, and a nail file, using my $5 off $15 coupon. I text my mom and ask if we can meet at 10:15. I didn’t get going quite as early as I’d meant to and I’m running late as usual. Then I head to Target with a return and pick up cedar balls and store brand peanut butter for the dog’s Kong. Small, but necessary suburban errands.

We take our time and Costco and buy too much and chat in the parking lot after loading up our cars as our frozen items grow warm.  I don’t get home until almost noon. I put the groceries away, make myself some tuna, and start some laundry. At 1:00 I insist Marley wake up. I spend the rest of the day on the laundry, organizing papers and filing, getting my tax documents together for my appointment with our accountant on Thursday. Sunday busy work.

Rina and Kim and I have been texting throughout the day. Rina has clothes she had put aside for a clothing swap that Kim and I went to a couple of weeks ago that Rina was unable to attend and wants us to come over and look at them before she donates them. We were supposed to go over at 4:30 but she is stuck at a birthday party and it’s looking like 5:00. Too late, I say. I need to start dinner. Maybe another night? Kim calls me at 4:59. “I’m coming over to get you. I’m already on my way. I need to cross this off my list. It will only take a few minutes.” I inform my family I’m being kidnapped and dinner will be a bit later and head out the door.

We go through Rina’s clothes quickly. Rina’s family is going to a friend’s for dinner at 5:30. Kim has been hiking all day and still needs to make her Sunday trip to the market. And I have to make dinner. But it doesn’t feel rushed. It feels nice to be with my friends, even briefly. A quick reprieve from the busyness of a Sunday evening. Again I feel lucky. To live in a Shangri-La at the northern most end of Los Angeles. To spend a Sunday doing mundane and ordinary, yet useful things.

I go home and Dave and Marley are watching TV and I smell popcorn, their hunger unable to wait for my late dinner. After a dinner of roasted chicken, roasted cauliflower, green beans and rice, we all clean up and then I walk the dog. I choose “new country” on Pandora and decide to do a two and a half mile loop. Dave and Marley want to watch something that doesn’t interest me, so I retreat to the bedroom to read my book. It’s only 8:00, but I put on my pajamas and snuggle into bed early at the end my my ordinary Sunday in the suburbs. I am content.

What will I write in my happiness journal for Sunday? All of it.

Good Deeds, Smart Husbands, Sweet Country Music, and Lucky Days

Last Thursday I went to run a quick errand at Target and saw the 100.7 KHAY van in the parking lot and saw a station remote set up. I walked by and said hello and was asked if I wanted to try to win VIP tickets to the Oakheart Country Music Festival on Saturday.

“Oh, I already have tickets,” I said, “but I’ll take a swag bag, if that’s okay.” I chatted with the radio station people for a few minutes and then went into Target for my errand. (You’re dying to know what I had to buy at Target, aren’t you? Well, guess what – I’m not going to tell you, because it’s irrelevant to the story, and I’m trying to be more pithy with my words.)

What was I saying? Oh yeah. As I was paying for my purchase, I realized that they were giving away VIP tickets and I had GA – why not try to win? So I marched back to the tent and told them I did want to enter the contest. They told me the winner had to be present and they were drawing names in 20 minutes. It seemed I had a pretty good chance as there were only a couple of people lurking around, so I went into Target to kill time before the drawing and looked at all their cute summer clothes that I will not be buying due to my serious money diet and (baby) steps towards minimalization.

I came out and there were about five people milling about hoping to have their name pulled. A one in six chance at VIP tickets? Sweet! At precisely 2:30 a name was drawn and… it was not mine. Oh well. Then the guy from the radio station said he had a pair of GA tickets, did we want him to draw another name? Everyone said yes, so he pulled another name and I WON!

“You know what?” I said. “I already have GA tickets – I was just trying to get an upgrade. Pull someone else.”

He pulled the name of a woman who was so happy to win. “I tried to buy tickets, but they were sold out,” she told me. “Thank you so much,” she said, giving me a hug.

I went home feeling happier about my good deed than disappointed about not getting the upgrade. When I told the story three separate times to my three family members at home, every one of them said, “You should have taken the tickets and sold them.”

“What’s wrong with you?” I asked them. “It felt so good to see that woman so happy. I’m writing it in my happiness journal.”

On Saturday I sat down at my computer at two-thirty to print the tickets as my friend, Simmah was coming over at three o’clock to pick me up for the show.

Only.

I couldn’t find them.

What?!

My search for Oakheart resulted in 20 different emails telling me that tickets were on sale, Josh Turner, David Nail and Drake White were added to the line up, get your VIP tickets NOW, and tickets are almost sold out – hurry!, but no email with a link to my tickets.

I logged into Eventbrite, figuring I’d find my tickets there and saw my tickets for the Boots and Brews Country Music Festival in two weeks, but no Oakheart tickets.

I found the email to Simmah dated December 15th – did she want to go? Tickets, normally $50, were on sale that day only for half price. The line up hadn’t been announced (or even secured), but it seemed like a $25 gamble worth taking.

I did buy the tickets, didn’t I?

I searched my bank records to find that indeed I did. I looked up the company i purchased the tickets from online and tried to get in touch with their customer service department. I sent them an email. I called them. I even tried to contact their Customer Service Manager via in-mail on LinkedIn. But it’s a small company located in Georgia and it was now almost six o’clock eastern time. On a Saturday. No luck.

According to their FAQs (which were ridiculously hard to find, BTW) they mail their tickets via USPS. I didn’t remember getting tickets in the mail, but I purchased them six months ago. I don’t remember what I had for breakfast yesterday, so it’s possible. (Okay, I do actually remember what I had for breakfast yesterday -full fat plain Greek yogurt with fruit and granola- the same thing I have every morning, but you know what I’m saying!) There are only a few places I’d put something like that so I searched all those places. Nothing.

My book says the F word 42 times. I said it a lot more times than that in this frantic half hour period.

Simmah got to my house and I told her the news. She helped me look for the tickets. I did more email searches. And yes, I checked my spam folders. Still nothing.

Why did I give away the tickets I won to that stupid woman?! They only sold out five days before the show. She had a whole six months to buy them! I’m crossing that out of my happiness journal. I do something so nice and look what happens to me. There is no such thing as karma. Why do bad things always happen to me? Shit!

I was so mad at myself for waiting until the last minute to print the tickets and mostly for disappointing my friend. She said it was fine, things happen, we’re going to a bunch of concerts this year. After two hours of fruitless searching we decided to do what any rational person would do in this situation: sit in the backyard and drink wine.

“Why don’t you just go and see if your name is at will call,” Dave said, sticking his head out of the sliding glass door. “Then at least you can tell the company you did everything when you call them on Monday and demand your money back.”

I rolled my eyes. Husbands are so dumb. There is no way I’d be on a will call list, but we finished our glass of wine and decided to try. The festival was only 15 minutes away and we’d put some feelers out to see if anyone had extra tickets – maybe we’d get lucky.

And miraculously, we did.

My name was on the freaking list.

So I guess sometimes husbands are pretty smart. (But don’t tell him I said that!)

“I hate it when you’re right,” I texted him. “My name was on the list. We’re in.”

“I know shit about shit,” he texted back. He’s right. He does.

The music was great. I saw my niece. I ran into a good friend. Two different people bought us beer.

It was our lucky day.

“I listened to my husband and he was right,” I wrote in my happiness journal. (But seriously. Do not tell him I said that.)