For months I have been admiring the beautiful little altars Nichole of California Sister has been making. They are beautiful, and I loved the idea of a spot to gather inspiration, focus my breath, and put forth intentions. I’ve been watching and waiting for juuuuust the right one to come along and resonate with me. Ever a can-doer and also not entirely patient, this week I finally decided to try my had at making my own, and I am so pleased with the results.
For my little altar I scoured FB marketplace and then went thrifting, where I eventually found an inexpensive wood clock I thought I could repurpose for my own ends. I carefully took it apart, peeling away old gobs of glue and disassembling the clock mechanism, and then sanded the whole thing to help my paint adhere. Two coats of spray paint+primer did the trick, and then I hand applied gold leaf to the glass before back-painting it black to make for a decorative background for the top area of my altar. The piece de resistance was the leather-mounted lion’s head I repurposed from a cool old bottle I thrifted. He is my altar figurehead.
For me, the lion represents my fierce loves and fierce protectiveness and loyalty. The way I try to radiate light to the world around me. And the beauty I want to embody, like a big cat’s sensual grace. The items I have placed inside for now include:
a tiny handpainted Chinese bottle, to honor my family and my heritage
a little photo of my two dogs who have passed on, to keep them close
a smooth heart-shaped labradorite stone, for romantic love and also as a reminder to choose myself
a sweet-smelling votive, to be a light in the dark
a baby disco ball given to me by a dear friend many years ago, for friendship and memories
a fairy I’ve had since I was young, to remind me to dream
Thank you, Nichole, for your talent and inspiration. I’m not entirely sure yet what small rituals or practices will grow from this new little space of mine, but for the moment I’m content to focus, breathe, and enjoy. I brought in a single plumeria yesterday, just for the simple tiny joy of it. Right now, that feels like enough.
Yesterday my dad passed away. He was 88 years old. I sat there listening to my half-brother cry on the other end of the line as he delivered the news, stunned and numb for what felt like an eternity. Then I burst into tears.
My dad had the most fascinating, full life anyone could imagine, from growing up in Trinidad and a youthful sojourn in the merchant marines, working as a psychiatric nurse and a double decker bus driver in Scotland, and then emigrating to the U.S. even though he was barred entry here for years due to his Chinese heritage. He worked as a self-employed mechanic, raised two families, and loved his children fiercely. He was generous, loved going to the horse races (where I spent many a happy summer in the infield), was an excellent cook, and entertained us with Charlie-isms like “throosers” for trousers, “DOHg” for dog, and the very British “alumEEnium.” To this day I don’t know how much these quirks of speech were a result of 3 continents’ worth of accents, or how much they were his own little idiosyncrasies. We loved it either way. Most summers he spent a little time “up north” mining for gold with friends, he was a great bowler and miniature golfer, and he left this world on his own terms – independent, living on his own, and old enough see his oldest grandchild start high school, just like he wanted.
I wrote this poem a few years ago for him, when he was having one of his many health scares. I didn’t share it with him at the time, though. He was so very afraid of dying, and I thought the allusions to it in my poem would be troubling for him as he convalesced. I finally gave him a framed copy of it for Father’s Day this year, and I think it may have been his favorite gift I ever gave him. To say he loved it would be an understatement — he held it and read it over and over, mouthing the words and cradling the frame gently in his arthritic hands. He marveled that I had written it “all on my own,” and said I had “brought a tear to his eye,” — but I already knew. I could see the tears shining there. He told me almost shyly that he wanted to try to memorize it, even though his memory had gotten so much worse over the years. I was honored and so, so humbled. That was our last visit, and I am so grateful I was able to convey to him just how loved he was before he died.
so passes the golden autumn of this world into a dark/light place made of lengthening shadows and warm tender moments alike. poignant relief marks the passing of each second and season, pearls on a string slipping away through fingers roughened by time, all the more cherished for that which has gnarled them. fear not, though a shadow passes over your eyes at the thought of things unknown. in the end, you are loved.
— Charla M. DelaCuadra
I love you, Daddy, and I miss you already. I’ll always be grateful for your love. I know you were proud of me. I share your name, and you’ll always be in my heart. Thank you — for everything.
You know how sometimes your brain can be on overdrive? Not for a little while, but for several days or weeks? Lots of things swirling around, lots of opportunities for growth to be had, lots of love and heartbreak, maturing, digging, seeking, pondering, and finding. Sometimes those days or weeks require something small, focused, and a touch mindless, even if just for a little while.
While I am always grateful for times of growth like this, it is hard. And draining. So what did I do today? After I got dressed and walked the dogs, somehow I wound up in our hallway facing my bookshelves. For the next couple hours, I sorted and purged. I organized, alphabetized, puttered, and shifted. The biggest questions I had to face were, “will I want to read this again?” and “if so, can I do it easily online or through the library?” Done and done. A couple books I kept for purely sentimental reasons beyond my read-it-again criteria, but by and large, the sentimental and the read-it-again columns neatly matched. And it was so. very. satisfying. I now have a few stacks of well-loved YA fiction to pass along to my niece and nephew, and still more to donate to the local library book sale, or to sprinkle into the little free libraries in my neighborhood. I now have no recent additions leaning haphazardly here and there for lack of space, and perhaps the best part — I had a couple hours of very Zen focus on a single enjoyable, achievable task.
This afternoon I’m feeling a little less frazzled, a little more calm, and a little more even-keeled than I have in a few weeks. For the anxious overthinker in me, that is a huge win. Big questions are good to grapple with, but sometimes we need small things to give ourselves time to rest in between. What kind of little win can you gift to yourself this weekend? May I suggest a bit of decluttering or organizing? For me, at least, this little thing felt big — in the best way.
This morning I took a long walk around the neighbor with my dogs. I overheard a fellow dog walker across the street ask, “what time’s the party?” and when I rounded the corner, a little girl was twirling around in her front yard with a big bouquet of pink balloons, a shiny pink “5” floating proudly in the middle. Her mother was puttering in the yard as she twirled, and just past her in the driveway was a big inflatable slide, surely huge and and shining with promise to her little birthday girl self.
As I continued past the house, all of a sudden I caught a whiff of kids’ sunscreen, and I was instantly transported. I couldn’t help but grin, a huge ear-to-ear smile that took me totally off-guard. It was one of those olfactory memories that comes out of nowhere and takes your breath away. That smell was pure childhood summer to me — vacations up the CA coast, beach trips and running around the infield at the racetrack. Sunshine and swimming in a lake. Sandwiches, sodas, and giggles. I could practically smell the Italian bread we’d buy on our way to the races, a scent that mingled with sunscreen as my sister and I squirmed away from my mom, much more interested in lunch and the cookies that would follow than whatever hypothetical sunburn might befall us. In my mind’s eye I could see the geese that would honk and hiss at us despite our well-meaning offerings of bread (it was too good for them anyway… oh, that bread!). The grass under our feet as we ran from the far end of the infield to the other, determined to try to get a glimpse of those beautiful horses twice in one race. The feel of a cold can of black cherry Shasta I’d eagerly fish out of the cooler. Or the feel of the warm lake water of Havasu as we splashed outside the houseboat, life vests bright in the sun, and my dad eternally tidying and hanging up soggy towels. The games of Acey Deucey we’d play those evenings, betting with piles of little river stones, our foreheads slightly pink from the day despite repeated applications of sunscreen.
I had a happy childhood. Summers felt like a golden time, and that unexpected waft of sunblock on the breeze this morning made me remember just how beautiful summers can be. This year, as we stretch our wings and rediscover the world outside our front doors, I’d like to try to hold onto that golden, joyful summer spirit. We didn’t care if we were sweaty and tired. It was all about the joy of the moment… and those moments smelled like sunscreen.
Welcome to June, and happy Pride month to all LGBTQIA+ folx. I see you, and I am sending you love. If you are out and proud, I see you. If you are closeted, I see you. If you are transitioning, I see you. If you are struggling to define yourself, I see you. This month is all about you and your freedom, your rights, your visibility, your love, and your being. You have a place. You don’t have to shrink away to better “fit in.” Your place is wherever you want or need to be.
Pridefinderis a handy-dandy resource to help you find in-person and virtual pride events all around the globe. The IGLTA also has a global gay pride calendar, both equally useful if you’d like to travel or find an event locally.
In need of some underthings? Savage X Fenty is offering a Pride capsule collection that walks the walk. The collection was shot in Los Angeles entirely with individuals from the LGBTQ community, both in front of and behind the camera. They offer an inclusive size range of 30A-42H and XS-3X as well as small to XXXL, and a portion of the collection’s proceeds benefit five different organizations, including GLAAD. Yes and please!
If you’re in LA, the ONE Archives Foundation opens its “Pride Publics: Words and Actions” outdoor exhibition tomorrow! Free and accessible outdoor installations and a digital guide examine the intersections between pride and publicness, Expertly curated by multi-hyphenate Rubén Esparza, “the exhibition will examine themes central to queer public life and highlight trailblazers and their visions.”
I stalked her in the grocery store: her crown of snowy braids held in place by a great silver clip, her erect bearing, radiating tenderness, watching the way she placed yogurt and avocados in her basket, beaming peace like the North Star. I wanted to ask, “What aisle did you find your serenity in, do you know how to be married for fifty years or how to live alone, excuse me for interrupting, but you seem to possess some knowledge that makes the earth turn and burn on its axis—” But we don’t request such things from strangers nowadays. So I said, “I love your hair.”
I stumbled across this beautiful poem by Alison Luterman recently, and it resonated with me so much. The delicate admiration of one woman for another, for youth to the grace of age-won wisdom — it is a luminous meditation of a small moment in time that left me thoughtful and uplifted. May you also find a sweet, pensive state of grace this week.
It’s beautiful and sunny, and I blinked hard at the rays of sunlight as I emerged from our home to walk the dogs this morning. It felt like a perfect encapsulation of my state of mind right now. This week the CDC updated guidelines to the following: “Fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask or physically distance in any setting, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance .”
I feel a bit like a mole emerging into the sunshine. Last week I had dinner out twice with friends, all of us vaccinated, all of us grateful. I was drained afterwards, no longer entirely used to “normal” things like socializing or the energy it requires of me, a dyed-in-the-wool introvert. And I booked my first plane ticket in a year and a half. It was thrilling.
Now I am cautious and hopeful, still reflexively putting my mask on. Slipping it off outdoors yesterday evening felt sort of reckless, to be honest. Freeing. Like stepping into sunlight. I’m metaphorically (and literally) blinking at the dazzling outside-ness, and the widening possibilities. Mentally gathering myself to move out of hibernation. Girding my loins to re-enter the world. I want to do it with my eyes wide open. It’s springtime, it’s a new beginning, and I want to welcome in the light.
This weekend is Mother’s Day. It is a time to celebrate motherhood, yes. But it is also a very complicated holiday. “Mother’s Day celebrates a huge lie about the value of women: that mothers are superior beings, that they have done more with their lives and chosen a more difficult path.“ The lovely Ann Lamott expresses this complexity with beautiful candor, and her words got me thinking: I love my mom dearly. She is still alive to celebrate with, and I am lucky to have had a happy childhood. Also I have chosen to remain childfree. I feel like Mother’s Day is a holiday that is about my mother and not me, but maybe there is room for the aunt-ing and pet parenting and mother-hen-ing of friends I do, too? Regardless of how I eventually answer that question, I have enormous compassion for the day’s complications, and the women who bear them gracefully, silently, and with a certain amount of internal rage or sadness. I see you if you’ve lost your mother. If you are estranged from your mother or your children. If you have a difficult parent/child relationship. If you’ve lost a child. If you’ve yearned for children and cannot have them. If you have children and yearn some days for something different. There is nothing wrong with perhaps wishing for a solo glass of champagne instead of shepherding a crowd of kids and moms-in-law et. al. to IHOP when you don’t even like pancakes. I see you all, and I’m sending you love.
For a little enjoyment this weekend, here are a few things to make/buy/watch/savor:
This delightful tote is perfectly French and effortless. Wear it all spring and summer on your breeziest of weekends.
For some light and easy sweetness, may I recommend Julia Turshen’s Afternoon Cake? I make this regularly and it could not be simpler or more satisfying. Just use the nut flour of your choice (I like almond flour) instead of finely grinding your own nuts to make it even quicker. Makes one perfect olive oil cake, citrusy and not too sweet, to enjoy for any reason — or no reason at all.
I am deeply inspired by this “secret” antique revival trend spotted by Caitlin over on stylebyemilyhenderson. Mixing old and new is right up my alley, and the color and pattern combinations are swoon-worthy. It makes me extra-happy to have my childhood wood dresser mixed into our living room decor! Also I may or may not have my eye on some vintage nightstands…
And finally, I’ll leave you with the cutest video I saw all week, a stealthy otter worthy of his own spy film franchise. Because otters! Happy weekend, friends.