01 Story: What’s the best story you heard this month?
I spent Thanksgiving at my friend’s mom’s house in the east LA hills. It was a motley assortment of people—all ages, backgrounds—everyone clinking glasses and going for seconds. There was a palpable energy between my friend’s mom and her boyfriend—a newish older couple bathed in quiet delight. She was wearing flowing white; he was dressed like an Indiana Jones park ranger. I asked how they met.
“We met a long time ago. Known each other for 60 years I guess,” he said.
She watched him and smiled. “I was doing research about aging and sent a mass email. He responded. I didn’t expect him to because it had been so long… We've been talking ever since.”
I pressed them for more of their story but they demurely refused to discuss it. Later on, I happened to walk into the kitchen while they were clearing up. Again, there was a synergy between them though they were quiet as they worked. I started to say something but stopped myself. My friend’s mom walked over, put her arm around my shoulders, and whispered into my ear. “He was my first kiss. I was 14. I’m writing a novel about it.” Her entire body was beaming. She walked away and went back to scrubbing dishes, the two of them side-by-side at the sink. Their story was writing itself all around me, but I was only allowed a glimpse.
02 Nature: An encounter with the natural world
One of the perks of living in LA is having mountains in your backyard. I’m a newish mom with a 2-year-old and a 9-month-old, so getting out—let alone having time to exercise, work, or think—is a challenge. I got a rare bit of time recently and headed straight for the trail. It’s amazing what you notice when walking alone in nature. I passed a man in his 70s, tanned, shirtless, and running barefoot up the mountain. A woman and I stopped and watched the strangest red and black bird hop along the path ahead of us. I said hello to my tree, a craggy old thing halfway up the mountain with my initial randomly carved into its trunk. I felt alone and not so alone. A perfect balance.
03 Art Experience: An encounter with art (in any form)
I can’t stop thinking about the movie "Call Me By Your Name." Luca Guadagnino’s films unravel slowly, like the best novels. He pulls you into a sensorial experience that clings to your psyche long after the credits have rolled (and the credits are one of the best parts of this film). It’s an incredibly intimate portrait of first love with a sumptuous Italian villa setting. Timothée Chalamet’s performance is astonishing—not an actor playing a role but a character living a life onscreen. We were lucky to see a Q&A with Luca and Timothée afterwards. The entire room leapt to its feet in rapturous applause when they entered the theater. We later learned that 75% of the audience was seeing the movie for the second (or third or fourth) time and it had only been open a week. Can’t wait to see it again too.
04 Change: a meaningful change that impacts the way you live (either that you initiated or that entered from outside)
I want to change my look, whatever that look is right now. Disheveled Mom? Woman in Denial of Season-less LA? I relied too much on black when I lived in New York and now have too many neutrals. It’s time to electrify things and get out of my comfort zone. Vibrant green. Surreal brooches. Immaculate prints.
05 New Idea: a new way of looking at things or something to attempt in the future
I’ve had a hard time accepting my postpartum body, so I’ve been waking up everyday and hugging myself. I don’t know why we women feel like we have to look perfect, especially after the strength that goes into carrying and delivering children, but in this Instagram age it’s hard not to compare yourself to others. There’s a problem with how mothers are treated in this country too, with the way we’re perceived and policed. But it isn’t healthy to have disdain for a part of yourself that’s been through something traumatic and ultimately triumphant. If my c-section scar is smiling, why can’t I? Thus, hugging—embracing my stomach, willing myself to love the changes. It’s working.
06 Object (new): a new object that held significance
Zadie Smith’s voice. Have you heard it? It’s enthralling. Some friends and I recently saw in her in conversation with author Michael Chabon at UCLA and we couldn’t get over how magical and musical she sounded. My friend recently sent me “Crazy They Call Me,” a short story Smith wrote and voiced for the New Yorker. I’ve listened to it twice already. “Motherfu#*er, I AM music!”
07 Object (old): an old object that took on new/different kind of meaning
Our toddler son wanted his own chair in the living room so we bought him a 1960s pea green booster seat off Ebay. It delights us as much as him, but his stuffed animals sit in it the most.
08 Discard: Something you decided to rid from your life (or that you are particularly happy this month to see come to an end)
I recently gave up gluten, which is a feat for someone whose Instagram account used to read, “100% Gluten Spree.” I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease and have to change my lifestyle a bit. I’m surprised by how much better I feel, how much more energy I have. That being said, if I ever find myself back in France or Italy all bets are off. Life is too short sometimes.
09 Gratitude: something you have been specifically thankful for this month:
I’m thankful for the forgiveness of family, a friend’s listening ear, my baby girl's giggles, and the resilience of women. Also, chocolate ghee.
10 Proportion: A specific moment that reminded you of the scale of the universe. That you are part of a greater whole.
I believe in signs from the universe. I received a big one recently. I’m a writer who currently isn’t writing much. It requires quiet time and concentration—two things I rarely have with two small children. I’ve been hard on myself and feeling stuck. While I was writing my novel "Ana of California," I came to a particularly difficult period where I also felt stalled. I agonized for weeks and threw away many pages until my grandma Celia showed up. She was incredibly dear to me and passed away years ago, but there she was in my head—all around me—encouraging me to go back to the blank page on my computer. I started writing a grandma character into my novel as an exercise and something monumental changed. It became the life force that pushed my lead character and me through to the end.
I was driving my son to the playground last week. We were late and I was stressed. Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, characters from a new novel I was working on before I had my second child flooded into my brain. They were talking to me as I drove, giving me scenes and bits of information. Minutes later, a black Mustang with darkened windows sped ahead of me. I hit the brakes. It’s license plate read, “CELIA.”