THE MEDICINE I NEED

One of the most consistent memories I have of my Baba is of her sitting at her kitchen table, painting her nails. She would keep her naturally long nails well manicured, the polish ever shiny and free of chips. She rotated between the same few muted shades of rose, coral, or cream, and there was always the faintest aroma of acetone as you approached that side of the table.

My Baba is my dad’s mom, and largely responsible for seeing me through my teen years when my father’s wife had decided that I was far more than she’d care to deal with. She lived alone in a sprawling California ranch style home in the equestrian neighborhoods of the Burbank hills, and an entire wing of her house had naturally evolved into my retreat space. A few years later, I’d live there with my young husband and our brand new baby. But long before I nested there in my days of early motherhood, in the late 90s that wing was my safe place.

She was my safe place.

I’d gotten in the habit of taking myself for monthly pedicures and had grown accustomed to having polish on my toes. When all the salons were ordered to close, I sighed and started attempting at-home pedicures. They’re neither easy nor relaxing, but the result is more or less the same.

On a random trip to Target a few weeks back, I decided that I’d select a new shade of nail polish. I always limit my browsing to the small section dedicated to the slightly-less-toxic brands of polish when I spotted the Olive & June display.

Obviously, I’m familiar. I mean, I am from LA, duh, but I hadn’t realized the products were available in store. I immediately grabbed a pretty light blue, and recognized it to be one of the original Olive & June shades, which is named after a girl from my high school soccer team whose gone on to become a successful lifestyle influencer. Sold!

Back home, I painted my toes, loved the color, and proceeded to read all about the company, its founder, and its philosophy, which is mostly about manicures.

I work with my hands, so keeping polish on my fingers has never really been high on my list of priorities, but I do like my nails to look well maintained. Olive & June has developed an entire system for at-home manicures, including a tool to help assist non-dominant hands with painting. It’s actually pretty brilliant.

Thinking it’d be a fun summer project for Jade and I – learning to give ourselves high-quality manicures – I bought a tool kit and a few shades of polish. As a reward for finishing my reports last night, I gave myself what I’m sure will be the first of many manicures.

There is a lot of room for improvement, and after years of caring for them incorrectly, my cuticles aren’t in the best of shape. However, I’m super inspired to keep up this habit. Especially since the entire time I was painting my nails, I was thinking about my Baba.

Tomorrow, Jade comes back from her dad’s house and we’ve got plans to practice painting our nails. Even though the polish we’re using hardly smells at all compared to the noxious stuff my Baba used, I can only hope it’s an odor my daughter associates with peace.

TO RELEASE ME FROM THE LONGEST AFTERNOON

I finished writing my end-of-year reports, submitting them just in the nick of time. I am so gld to officially be finished with the 2019-20 school year. GOOD RIDDANCE.

Yesterday, my oldest child, my first baby, the person that has affected my life more than any other, celebrated his seventeenth solar return. That kid. He’s incredible, and being his mama is the greatest honor. Obviously I will be his mother for always, as he will forever be my son, but I am painfully aware of how fleeting my time with him is, how quickly he’ll be off to the next chapter of his extraordinary life.

We had an intimate gathering at the beach, just his nuclear family and the two friends he calls his very best, and we each bestowed upon him our wishes. It was humble and somewhat impromptu, and as we made our way around the small circle we’d formed offering our hopes for his bright future, Emet looked at me and said, “This is super cool, mom, thank you.”

An instant, frozen in my memory for as long as I shall live. You’re welcome, Emet. I love you so.

But oh, to have those reports behind me is a different kind of celebration, a release of the weightiest weight. Now that they’re out of the way, I’m hoping to be flooded with inspiration. At the very least, there is space in my brain and that is always a great place to start.

WISHING THE RELFECTION WOULD TELL ME SOMETHING

When you’re content, write it down.

I read those words yesterday and my mind has been racing ever since. I often struggle to find any words at all when I am caught up in a series of unfortunate events, yet when the stars are aligned and I am in that elusive flow state, words pour from my fingertips faster than I can think.

Sometimes, in the very darkest of seasons, I turn to writing as a kind of centering practice, because clearly I associate writing with a certain brand of homeostasis. Somewhere in the desperate searching for a sensible sentence or two, I manage to find even the most narrow pathway back to myself.

It is when I’m faced with what I suppose to be ordinary challenges, or perhaps slightly out-of-the-ordinary-but-not-altogether-dismal circumstances that I struggle the most to put words together. Also, when I’m lazy.

I think this particular dry spell is a combination of the two, compounded by the variable of summer break. And end-of-year reports, ahem.

Reading, on the other hand. I just can’t get enough at the moment. I picked up a memoir from our local library, a collection of essays about coming of age alongside technology, written by the gal from whom I lived across the hall Freshman year at NYU. And now, her wit and knack for constructing a clever turn of phrase is preserved within a volume of her own making. Magic.

The moral of this phenomenal piece of nonsense is that when writing feels difficult, I have a choice to either work through it or wait. By constantly choosing to wait, I am also choosing for writing to not be my work.

Time to make a different choice.

FROM SEA TO SHINING SEA

I’m born and bred in Southern California, but I have lived all over this wild country. I spent two years in the Northeast, living in New York City. I spent 373 extremely long days living in Portland, Oregon and I promise I will never again reside in the Pacific Northwest. I recently spent eleven glorious months in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, and while Southern Appalachia might just be my favorite region in all the land, I just can’t seem to quit San Diego.

My point is this. Our country is sprawling and every bit as diverse in population as in landscape. We are capable of being a truly great nation where real liberty, equality, and fraternity exist as fundamental values espoused by and for everyone. We aren’t there yet, but we can be.

I have always always been proud to be a Californian. One day, I hope to claim the same kind of pride in being an American.

JUST MAYBE, LIKE A UKULELE

Once upon a time, when he was in college, my little brother declared that he would be running for Student Body President of his university, SDSU.

His last name is Boden, and always one to attempt a witty word construction, I suggested that his campaign slogan should be “I’m Votin’ Boden.” I was half joking at the time, and I’m fairly certain the suggestion was offered in the form of a singsong chant.

I’m votin’ who?

I’m votin’ Boden!

I’m votin’ who who?

I’m votin’ Boden!

Long story short: that became his slogan and, despite a minor scandal involving the twitter page I helped him create, he did ultimately win the election.

Today, that very same little brother has announced his campaign to run for San Clemente City Council, check out his website here. And if you scroll all the way to the bottom, you might notice a familiar phrase.

I’M VOTIN’ BODEN. (I mean, if I were I registered voter in San Clemente, that is.)

RIDIN’ THE RANGE ONCE MORE

I broke a sustained and intentional sweat two days in a row for the first time since the gym closed back in March and I already feel more like myself than I have in weeks. I got just about as good as one could get at staying home all day every day but at no point during quarantine did I maintain a consistent workout schedule.

Which is to say that I am feeling it, and it feels good. My muscles are sore and my body aches with the kind of fatigue that results exclusively from physical exertion. I’m definitely gonna sleep well tonight.

And then I’m gonna wake up early and go back to the gym.

WANNA BE STARTIN’ SOMETHING

I love July for many reasons, and not just because it’s the month of both my birthday and my oldest child’s birthday, but because it marks the midpoint of the year. For a gal who celebrates half-birthdays, you’d better believe I celebrate Semi-New Year’s Day.

Like any other bona fide nostalgic goal-setter, I have volumes of lists and journals and notes-to-self. Milestones like the start of the second half of the year provide the perfect opportunity to reflect upon the goals I set at the first half of the year and adjust accordingly.

Honestly, given that more than half of the last six months have been spent in quarantine, not much has changed either by way of what I want to achieve, or what I’ve achieved thus far.

Except for my home, which came together unexpectedly and with outstanding success, I can’t say that I’ve made much progress beyond very first steps. In some instances, like with my fitness, I have had setbacks. In others, I haven’t really even gotten started.

Which makes today exciting for me, because I could either be bummed that I wasted six months not doing much of anything or I could be stoked that I have six whole months to get stuff done.

It’s worth mentioning that I don’t really think I spent six months doing nothing. In fact, this season of sheltering in place with my sweet family has deepened and expanded and lightened my heart, my faith in something greater than myself confirmed through the tiny everyday miracles I’ve been privileged to witness with ever increasing regularity.

The work of these past few months is perhaps not measured by external factors like this many miles ran or these many garments sewn. The things I have achieved aren’t visible or perceptible or marketable, but undoubtedly everything I do henceforth will be somehow fortified by the strengths and perspective I have cultivated through the experience of raising children through a global pandemic.

Other than celebrating two birthdays, by the end of this month I hope to finally launch something I’ve been thinking about for an embarrassingly long time. I also hope to make it to the gym every day, and to use up the large stash of avocado stones in my freezer by dyeing enough yarn to knit myself a sweater. Yes, I have every intention of making this the month where the narrative changes from the passive to the active voice.

DON’T LET YOUR MIND RETIRE

I should be writing reports since the first drafts are due for editing tomorrow, so obviously I’m here instead, ready to ramble on about nothing in particular which is an awfully good way to sum up the last two weeks in general.

A whole lot of nothing in particular.

Yesterday, I climbed out of bed before anyone else as I usually do and I was SHOCKED to find it already half past eight! I proceeded to spend most of the day finishing my second novel of the month, the afternoon punctuated by a leisurely trip to the Costco with my best girl. Come bedtime, I had started another novel. Three in one month, a record.

Like every other family, we are evaluating our summer now that all previous plans have been cancelled. Ironically, this would have been the most scheduled summer we’ve ever had. And while it’s unfortunate that some of the fun things (Emet vacationing in Positano! Jade spending a week at sleepaway camp! Roux going to a local day camp for the first time!) aren’t happening, being at home together without agenda has been unexpectedly refreshing.

As a person with a wandering mind who’s so rarely afforded the opportunity to indulge in such a luxury as aimless pondering, I may as well be at an all-inclusive resort for the world of good this respite is doing me. On the eve of the midpoint of the year, it’s not a bad way to be.

Truly, I can hardly believe six months of 2020 have expired, and the vast majority of them in quarantine. Admittedly, we are ever so slowly easing our way back out into the world. By this, I mean a kid (or two) will occasionally join me on an errand. Last week, we learned that our beloved zoo had reopened so the little one and I visited three times in as many days. Rumor has it that tomorrow my gym will reopen, which is the place I have missed most during the closures. Apparently, cases of the virus are on the rise here in San Diego, but unless formally restricted, I plan to be one of the first members back in for a workout.

I came pretty darn close to accomplishing all of the little goals I set for myself at the beginning of the month. I might not have made even a single stitch of progress on my sweater, but I did read more than I planned to, and made an entire quilt that wasn’t even on my list to begin with.

Granting myself permission to unwind a bit, offering myself grace and space and acceptance, these are skills upon which I have greatly improved. I am certain its the kind of thing that comes with age, especially as I witness my own children simmer in the same kind of self-criticism I remember so clearly from my own adolescence.

Something else I remember: as a teenager, I almost always waited until the very last possible second to address any and all writing assignments and it seems as though that is a habit I’ve yet to outgrow.

GOES TO MY HEAD LIKE BRANDY

It’s coming on 10 PM and I’ve been suddenly struck with a most blustery second wind, which is fine by me since the earlier part of the day was a little choppy.

For starters, I didn’t charge my phone while I slept last night, meaning I was operating with red-level battery from the very beginning. Considering today was meant to be captured in photographs for my Project 26, it was a less than ideal way to kick off the day.

Nevertheless, errands were run, tasks completed, and one wild Huckleberry kept his mama plenty busy right up until just a few minutes ago when he was finally tucked under the covers, albeit a full two hours past his bedtime.

It’s not often I have actual energy to channel at this hour. While there are plenty of productive things I could be doing (writing reports, ahem), I’m heading straight for some much needed self-pampering.

Summer, am I right?

TO THE LAND OF THE PINES

As much as I enjoyed reading a lighthearted novel set in modern day South Carolina, I found myself nose deep in another book the very next day, this time a dense and intricate civil war scarred love story set in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina.

I’ve read this book once before (and tried my best to make it through the film version but one thing I’m not good at is sitting through movies that heavily feature bloodshed). I remember loving the complexity of the language that dressed a rather simple tale, and how captivated I was by the landscape and culture of the region. I knew it was the American south, but its exact location had faded from my mind.

Even when I first arrived in Asheville, I did not immediately make the connection. It wasn’t until a few weeks before we departed for our return to San Diego that I realized the place folks would reference as a great spot for hiking was, in fact, the very same Cold Mountain after which this book is titled.

Southern Appalachia isn’t a place one simply visits. It is a place that is as much a part of one’s being as any other vital organ, and eventually there comes a point when the magnetic pull of those ancient inclines becomes too strong to ignore, leaving no option other than to heed the call and head for the hills.

We speak often of returning, though it is no more than a distant dream. For better or worse, we have tethered ourselves to our fair seaside city and have committed to making big things happen here for our little family. But one day? I would not at all be surprised to find us sitting on the porch of a mountaintop homestead.

In the meantime, I’ll delight in knowing that as much as I’d like to fancy myself an Ada, deep down, I’ve always been a Ruby.