ordinary / extraordinary

I.

It is the morning of my high school graduation. I have just woken up and am still lying in bed in my pajamas. I slept in late, and my dog Gar is snoozing at the foot of my bed. My yellow graduation gown hangs on the back of my door, waiting and ready. My brother is at school—the last day of school before summer—but I don’t have to be on campus until the afternoon ceremony. My mom and dad both come into my room and sit on my bed with me. Mom has made breakfast, and soon I will go downstairs and eat scrambled eggs and toast. But, for now—for a few more minutes, at least—I stay in bed. I talk with Mom about last-minute plans for my graduation party this evening. I talk with Dad about the speech I’m giving at the graduation ceremony. The doorbell rings and Gar leaps off my bed, barking. Mom runs downstairs to see who it is, then calls up that I’ve received congratulations flowers from my aunt and uncle. In my stomach I feel a buzzing energy, an excited anticipation, for the day ahead. A day that feels like so much more than just a single day. It holds the weight of all the years leading up to this point, and also the promise of all the years to come. I am on the cusp of adulthood; in a few short months, I will unpack my suitcase into a Los Angeles dorm room and begin a new chapter of my life.

But, for now, I am a girl in her pajamas, in her childhood bedroom, chatting with her parents. It is an extraordinary day, but at the same time, I hold the comforting normalcy of it close to my heart. Somehow, this quiet ordinary time before the excitement of the day unfolds feels like the most special gift of all.

II.

It is four years later: the morning of my college graduation. I wake up in a crowded apartment after hardly sleeping the night before. I was too filled with emotion to sleep. I can’t believe this day is actually here. How did college pass by so quickly?

When I emerge from my bedroom, my roommates are already busy in the kitchen, making coffee and pouring cereal for breakfast. I share this two-bedroom apartment with three of my best friends, and all of us have graduation guests staying here, so our apartment is at max capacity, with people crashing on the couch and sprawled out in sleeping bags on the floor. It feels like a big sleepover, or like the morning after one of our parties—except that everyone is wide-eyed and chipper.

My roommates and I run in and out of each other’s bedrooms and bathrooms, slipping into our graduation dresses, asking for second and third and fourth opinions on shoes and makeup. Time is slipping away—soon, we will need to head out the door and walk the five blocks to campus for the ceremony. But not before we take one final roommate photo. We clump together in the kitchen, before we put our black graduation gowns on over our dresses, and one of our boyfriends snaps the photo. I feel like I am a balloon, floating up above the scene—like this day is too big for me to hold. It feels as if all the adventures and mistakes and laughter and victories and drama and love of the past four years is condensed into this moment, the four of us crowded into our cramped kitchen with our arms slung around each other and our cheeks round with smiles, posing like we’ve posed for countless other photos together.

Soon, we will break apart and scramble to collect our purses and pull our graduation gowns over our dresses. We will help each other zip up our gowns and pin our caps to our hair and then we will walk, arms linked, through a swamped campus to hear Governor Schwarzenegger give our commencement address, and then we will head to our separate satellite ceremonies and celebrate with our own families and loved ones. But, for now, I bask in this ordinary moment, in our ordinary messy apartment—what I think of as the last ordinary moment of our college years together. Here, now, we are not yet college graduates. We are simply four roommates dressed up in pretty dresses who love each other very much.

III.

It is the morning of my bachelorette party, three days before my wedding. In many ways, these morning hours are the final slice of calm before the manic energy of the weekend washes over us. Today, Friday, Allyn and I are heading off to our separate bachelor/bachelorette parties. Tomorrow is the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner. And Sunday is the wedding. Everything seems so real all of a sudden, so close. I feel like I am getting onto a roller coaster—all I will be able to do the next three days is hang on and enjoy the ride.

One of my best friends, Erica, takes an early morning flight to SFO for my bachelorette party. She catches the train to my city and I pick her up at the station. The parking lot is filled with commuters, heading into a routine day of work. I feel similar to how I used to feel as a child, when my parents would surprise my brother and me with a trip to Disneyland on an otherwise normal school day. I remember looking out the car window in wonder as we drove the three hours to Anaheim, amazed that the people in the cars around us were oblivious to the magic that was unfolding in my day.

Erica emerges from the station carrying a duffel bag, and I leap out of the car and wave to her. We hug hello maybe a little longer and tighter than normal. All of a sudden, I’m a volcano of words, telling her all about the frantic craziness of the past couple weeks and warning her how much of a disaster my apartment is. In my fantasies about this weekend, I was so incredibly calm and on top of wedding-related things that my apartment was perfectly clean and straightened up. Erica hasn’t seen my apartment yet, and I wanted her to see it at its best. But that was pure fantasy, unrealistic—and unnecessary. Erica has been my friend since seventh grade, and she doesn’t need my fantasy self. My real self is enough for her.

me and erica at her place

So, even though this is not how I imagined it, this feels like the right way for things to unfold: the two of us walking into my messy apartment, stepping over the wedding gifts and favors and decorations that have taken over every spare inch of floor space. I’ve baked muffins for the bachelorette party and they are cooling on the counter, still too hot to pack up into tupperware, and the bags of flour and sugar are out, and the batter-smeared bowl is unwashed in the sink.

Yesterday Erica injured her achilles tendon at the gym, and I move some papers off the couch so she can lay down, putting her foot up and nursing her sore achilles with a bag of iced peas. She exclaims encouragement and we laugh about old memories as I scurry around the apartment, gathering up various bags and items I’ll need over the next few days. Tonight we’re all staying at Dana’s for the bachelorette party, and tomorrow night I’m staying with my parents and brother in their hotel room. I’m not planning to come back to the apartment before the wedding.

Soon, it will be time to leave so we’re not late for the bachelorette festivities. Soon, Erica will climb off the couch and return the bag of peas to the freezer. Soon, I will pack the muffins into tupperware and she will help me carry my bags and veil and wedding dress down to my car.

But, for now, I savor this private little bubble of time with one of my best friends — one of the people who knows me best in the world — who makes me feel calm and centered simply with her presence. For a moment, I feel transported back to our seventh-grade selves. We are still those girls who sat in the grass on the quad eating our brown-bag lunches. We are still those girls, passing notes in class with stick-figure drawings of our dreams. We are still those girls, laughing about our misadventures, and cheering each other on as new adventures approach on the horizon.

 

Your turn {if you want}:

Grab your journal or open a new document on your computer and “free-write” without editing or censoring yourself. Here are some questions you can use as guidance:

  • Write about an ordinary moment from your life that has stuck in your memory.
  • Out of your everyday life, what moments do you treasure the most?
  • Where do you find your “calm in the storm”?

fabulous friday #51: recap edition!

Hi friends, and happy Friday! Sorry for the radio silence around here the past week or so… it’s been an especially busy time, filled with lots of emotion! I thought I would make today’s Fabulous Friday post a recap version of all the neat things I’ve been grateful to experience and celebrate recently.

Happy weekend! Hope you’re up to something fun!

Here are 5 things I’m loving right now:

1. Memorial Day weekend was Céline’s Celebration of Life, which was basically a big party honoring her memory and celebrating the amazing, one-of-a-kind, treasure of a person she was.

celine celebration of life

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect or how I would be feeling, and while the evening was bittersweet and there were certainly tears shed, it was an overwhelmingly loving and beautiful experience. It was a gift to be with my friends from college, and to spend time talking to and connecting with other people who knew and loved Céline from all different facets of her life. The party was themed “Around the World” and I dressed up as Ireland — an excuse to wear my gold dress from college that I always associate with Céline and our college parties.

celine celebration group

me and holly

I think Céline would have really loved it. I miss her every day.

2. My 28th birthday yielded all sorts of sweet surprises. One of my students wrote me this lovely card, and another gave me a piece of her own artwork — a stunning painting of birch trees! She is nine. NINE. I am in awe.

rosalie card

birch trees painting

And my darling Dana surprised me with these gorgeous sunny tulips! They make me smile every time I walk past. Thank you, Dana! ❤

bday tulips

bday tulips 2

3. For my birthday, Allyn surprised me with a cooking class in San Francisco at Sur La Table! It was my first time ever taking a cooking class and it was so much fun. Normally the class would hold up to 16 people, but we lucked out that we were the only two people who showed up — it ended up being a “private” class just for us! I think we got to do a lot more “hands-on” cooking ourselves than we would have if it had been a full class. And when the instructor found out it was my birthday, she brought me a cupcake with a candle in it and everyone sang me “Happy Birthday.” So thoughtful!

cooking class

We learned to make grilled pizzas with homemade dough and toppings. That’s right, pizza cooked on a grill pan over your stovetop! It was much easier than I expected and turned out amazing. My favorite part was the thick, chewy crust. We made a classic margarita pizza; a Greek-influenced bell pepper and chorizo-topped pizza; and a pizza topped with seasoned lamb and mint pesto. They were all fabulous!

pizzas

Allyn had a fun time too and we are definitely hoping to take more cooking classes together in the future. Such a unique and cute date!

sur la table date

4. The evening of my birthday, my extended family gathered at my Aunt Annie’s house for dinner. It was wonderful to get to spend time with them all. As always, there was lots of laughter and storytelling around the table. And my grandma baked and decorated my birthday cake herself! Have you ever seen a more adorable cake?

birthday cake

ally and gparents

me with my aunts

me and seeeees

allyn with poodles

5. On May 30, Allyn graduated with his MBA! He has worked so hard the past two years on his degree and I could not be more proud of him. If graduating were not enough, he was also honored as the Outstanding Student of the Year, chosen by faculty and fellow students. Congrats, sweetheart!!

allyn graduating

20150530_163011

me and al graduation

Questions for the evening:

  • What are you loving right now?
  • What do you have on the agenda for this weekend?

a year of living simply: week 16

Hi, everyone! Hope your Tuesday is off to a terrific start! I’m soaking up time with my fam and crossing my fingers we get some rain here in California this week.

It’s time for this week’s simplicity…

year of living simply

Last week’s challenge was to look ahead on the calendar and prepare for upcoming holidays and celebrations: Father’s Day, graduations, birthdays. I bought and wrapped presents for my brother’s graduation, my sweetheart’s graduation, my dad’s birthday {coming up at the end of the month} and Father’s Day. I also bought some cards, though I still have to write in them. I noticed that the whole process of shopping for gifts seemed much more enjoyable when I was doing it with plenty of time in advance.

clothes for goodwill

This week’s challenge is to clean out your closet! At the very least, try to get rid of one item. Make an honest assessment. If you haven’t worn something in the last six or eight months, are you really likely to wear it tomorrow or next week? Why not give the item to someone who might love it, and make room in your closet for only pieces that you truly LOVE? {One of my goals of this year of simplicity is to only keep pieces that I absolutely love and feel fantastic in!}

I think we all tend to overestimate the amount of clothing we need. Wouldn’t life be simpler if we had fewer options to choose from when we stand in front of our closets each morning? I was super inspired by the way Jen Hatmaker only dressed with seven pieces of closing for an entire month as part of her book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. And blogger Courtney Carver has written about how much she loves having a small capsule wardrobe — learn more at Project 333.   

Questions for the day:

  • What did you get a jump on this past week?
  • What is one item you can get rid of from your closet?

my brother’s graduation!

My brother Greg graduated with his MBA from the University of Southern California this past weekend! I am so incredibly proud of him, and it was a blessing to be able to celebrate with him and my family. Here are some photos I snapped from the weekend…

greg with parents graduation

MBA graduation

Greg got the Arete Award from USC for his academic performance, community service and leadership! So proud of all his hard work!

me and greg graduation

It wouldn’t have been a USC celebration without the marching band!

greg and classmates

I am so proud of my brother and I had a blast celebrating him and his classmates. Congrats, Greg! I love you!

Question of the morning:

  • Are you attending any graduations this year?

a year of living simply: week 15

Hi, friends! Hope your week is off to a great start. I’m off to a morning PT session and some tutoring appointments before I head home to pack my suitcase because… tomorrow I’m leaving on a jetplane for Los Angeles for my amazing brother’s MBA graduation! I’m so darn proud of him. This evening, before I go, I’m meeting up with Dana at one of our favorite local places. So glad I get to see her before I leave!

So that’s what my day is looking like. Backing up a bit, how was your Mother’s Day weekend? I was bummed I was not able to be with my mom in person {though we are going to have a belated celebration this upcoming week when my brother and I are both home!} but I did get to talk to her on the phone. Suffice to say, I am beyond grateful that I am gifted with this amazing woman as my mother. I could go on for hours and hours about how kind, caring, supportive, funny, generous, and all-around wonderful she is. I love you, Mom!

Mom and Me

I did get to spend time with Allyn’s delightful mother Barbara on Mother’s Day. She is a firecracker, with so many hilarious and fun stories to share. She is also extremely enthusiastic and encouraging of my writing, which means so much to me. Plus she raised a pretty dang stupendous son who I love very much! 😉 She has welcomed me into the family with open arms. I was lucky to be invited to join Allyn, his mom and sister on their Mother’s Day tradition of going to the horse races! It was my first time ever going to the racetrack and it was a blast. The horses are gorgeous and I loved watching them run. We bet $2 on each race and I ended up winning a couple, so I walked out of there with $1.26 more than I walked in with! Woo hoo! Enough to pay for the $1 hot dog I ate for lunch, haha.

races mothers day
horseraces mothers day

Allyn and I left the races a little early so I could head home to cook Mother’s Day dinner for my grandparents and extended family! I am the oldest grandchild and, as you know, not yet a mother, and I was thinking that if I didn’t volunteer to cook, one of my aunts or my grandma would likely end up hosting a Mother’s Day get-together for our family. I wanted them to be able to relax on their special day, so I stepped up to cook the meal. I made a chicken & bell peppers pasta dish and snickerdoodle cookies for dessert.

chicken and peppers

snickerdoodles

mothers day

Everything turned out great, and it was so lovely for us all to spend time together. It made me especially happy to see my grandma so happy. She was all dressed up in this pretty new blouse my mom got her for Mother’s Day!

Doesn't she look beautiful?

Now it’s time for this week’s simplicity…

year of living simply

Our last challenge was to journal about your beliefs — about yourself, your life, your relationships, your world — and reflect on what you wrote. Is something you believe about yourself holding you back? Is anything an old, worn-out belief that is no longer serving you? How about letting go of it?

In addition to my limiting belief of myself as someone who has trouble saying, “No” — that, after a conversation with my sweetheart and some reflection, I realized may not be true about me anymore — I also examined my idea of myself as “not a morning person.” I love the feeling of waking up early with the whole day in front of me, but I have always thought of myself as more naturally a night owl… I’m going to experiment with going to bed earlier and getting up earlier, and see how I like it!

morning quote

This week’s challenge was inspired by Mother’s Day. It is such a wonderful and important holiday — with the intention of celebrating mothers and mother figures in our lives and thanking them for all they do and have done for us — but I think the true purpose of the day can easily get lost in hurry and stress. Everything is so busy that it is common to wait until the last minute, and then suddenly the day is upon us! We rush around getting cards and flowers and gifts, not focused on the meaning behind them as much as simply having SOMETHING to give.

But what if we approached things a little differently? Specifically, what if we gave ourselves more TIME? When you have a lot of time to do something, it is infinitely less stressful. You don’t even need to spend more time doing the actual thing; simply having more time before the deadline minimizes stress. Looking ahead on the calendar, many of us have graduations to attend in June, plus June 21 is Father’s Day. Your challenge for this week is to prepare for one or more of those upcoming events: brainstorm thoughtful gift ideas, buy cards, plan activities to celebrate. You could even write the cards and wrap the gifts in advance so you are all ready to go! If you have any birthdays coming up in the next couple months, you could plan for those, too. Also, remember you don’t always need to buy material gifts for people — a donation to a favorite charity or a day spent with you doing something fun are meaningful gifts that don’t add any STUFF to a person’s life! 
Greg and me

At Greg’s undergraduate graduation, three years ago!

Questions for the day:

  • What limiting belief did you let go of?
  • What is one thing coming up that you can get a jump on starting today?