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the everyman memoirs

The official blog of author Tali Nay.
NOV
29

Give Thanks

In the week leading up to Thanksgiving, I participated in the #givethanks challenge, the goal of which was to flood social media with a wave of gratitude. In many ways, it's harder to be grateful these days, especially now that we're into the holiday season and so many people's plans (mine included) to see family are having to be cancelled. I'm close with my family, and it's quite devastating for me to not be experiencing the traditions that have been a part of my life as far back as I can remember. Plus, this all just sucks. All the staying home and lack of travel and events and activities, all the businesses that are closed (some even permanently), all the families affected by those who have lost their lives.

That said, there are always so many more things to be grateful for than to complain about, and I really enjoyed having a week to really think about those things. Everything from toilets and washers and dryers to family and friends to the body's ability to heal itself. Or how about the opportunity this year has given us to check in with our families more often, to spend more time with our pets, to become better cooks or bakers (or runners or gardeners). For me personally, I'm grateful for my job and the opportunity to have employment during this time, for the opportunity to have become educated, for a strong support circle including friends, family, and a kind and service-minded church community. 

And even though this one isn't as significant or important in the overall scheme of things, I thought a lot during the week about how grateful I am for books. I'm grateful that there are so many to choose from, and that there are writers who have such beautiful and inspiring ways of telling the stories of their lives. I tend to stick to non-fiction, and I love hearing stories--both beautiful and tragic--of real people who are experiencing aspects of real life, whether positive or negative. I'm grateful that I'm a good reader, in that I can read fast and (mostly) comprehend everything. I know reading is a struggle for some, and others never got the chance to learn to read at all. Which makes me even more grateful that it's something I can do and enjoy on a daily basis. 

I know the Thanksgiving season is now over, but if you're looking for a way to immediately feel better about yourself or your circumstances, take the #givethanks challenge yourself and post daily for a week about things you're grateful. Or simply make a list and refer to it often. It's a fact that people who list the things they are grateful are happier, and I think we can all use more happy, this year and always.

NOV
12

When You Want Shortbread

When I went to Scotland a few years ago, I had this little shortbread shop on my list of places to go while in Edinburgh. It's certainly not what I would call a tourist destination, and in a city full of museums and castles (and Arthur's Seat, for crying out loud), it may seem strange that this was such a must-see. It would seem less strange if you knew how much I love shortbread--I just have to sort of ignore the fact that it's pretty much straight butter--but still, one might say an odd choice. I did those other things too, the museums and castles and even Arthur's Seat, but perhaps my favorite moment of the entire trip, at least the one I kept trying to re-create as I continued exploring the handful of Scottish cities I'd chosen to visit, was when I opened the door to Pinnies & Poppy Seeds Artisan Shortbread Shop and stepped inside. To this day, and for the rest of my life, I will never have smelled anything so delicious. 

I was late to the game when it comes to international travel, something I didn't start doing until later than most, but that I was able to do consistently in 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019. My goal was to keep the trend going and take one big, foreign trip every year, a plan that was of course foiled by this blasted pandemic. While I want to make clear that the most tragic aspect of COVID-19 is the lives that have been lost and the grief and suffering endured by those who have felt those losses most dearly, for those of us fortunate enough to only be dealing with the side effects of quarantine and lock-down, one of the saddest things I've witnessed is a general abandonment of our various shortbreads. We all have those things and places that speak to us, that compel us to try, to visit, to see, to achieve. It's not just that the pandemic can make a person feel like these things are no longer attainable, it's that they are in many cases actually no longer attainable. Worse, it can make a person feel foolish for even thinking such a pursuit was realistic in the first place. I have listened to the tears of friends and family who worry their windows have closed, and, in some cases, don't have it in them to try again. To the world I say, is there to be no more shortbread???

My own opinion on the matter is that shortbread is not over. It may be changed or different. It will certainly be delayed. But it is not gone. On good days, you can even convince me that my quest to visit the shortbread store would have been no less noble had I arrived to find the door locked, the store closed. On bad days, such a thought breaks my little angel cake heart, but let's focus on the good days. Let's remember that things will get better and that if we had the courage and gumption to pursue a thing once, surely we can summon the courage and gumption to pursue it again. Or even again after that. And for those whose windows truly have closed with this pandemic, do not for one second think yourself foolish for trying. Trying already sets you apart from those who assumed it impossible from the start. The effort is success already, see?

This is not to say that I'm immune to the pandemic blues, because they damn near paralyze me sometimes. I found myself looking up the Pinnies & Poppy Seeds website today just to cheer myself up, only to find that they have had to close their store. A reminder if ever there was one of all the dashed dreams, ruined fortunes, and overall melancholy that has seemingly enveloped the world. I'm glad I have the memory, is something I suppose I could tell myself. The memory not just of that initial inhale inside the door, but also of selecting the flavors I wanted to buy, of watching my selections be placed in a small box and tied with string, of schlepping the box around a beautiful new country, and of curling up in a different hotel room each night with a cup of steaming tea and a piece of shortbread. Yes, I'm glad I have the memories, but if you want to know a secret, without the shortbread store, I'm fairly certain the trip would have been just as amazing. I know that's hard to believe when all you want is shortbread, but in times like these, let's do our best to re-imagine what shortbread can be. 

 

AUG
04

When you want a Mint Julep

It wasn't just that, though. It's not that I even wanted a mint julep. I wanted a Disneyland mint julep--the super sweet, non-alcoholic beverage purchased in New Orleans Square and accompanied by a bag of warm beignets. One could argue that the mint julep really had nothing to do with it, that really I just wanted to go to Disneyland. Or, more to the point, I want a world in which we can go to Disneyland, and anytime we want. It's an escape that I count on regularly, and I know it's a first world problem, but I miss it.

I've actually attempted multiple copycat Disneyland treat recipes while in quarantine, and what they all have in common, including the mint juleps, is that they taste nothing like the real thing. This could, of course, just be a product of my kitchen skills (when the BF recently told me a meal I had cooked was in his top 5 of things that I make and I asked him what else is on the list, he couldn't think of anything), it's probably because nothing short of being there is going to taste at all like the real thing. And there are so many real things, beyond just Disneyland, that I miss terribly. 

I do feel the need to point out that all the mint used to make my mint juleps was grown from my very own herb garden, something I doubt I would have attempted outside of quarantine. And I feared my gardening skills were akin to my kitchen skills when my first attempt yielded nothing but a single tiny sprig of cilantro--a sprig that was eaten by a bird just when it had begun to look promising. My second attempt has flourished, and I'm taking a rather unusual amount of pride in harvesting my own basil to make homemade pesto (which, yes, is actually something I have now done) and snipping cilantro to put in my soups. 

I also used quarantine to start running for the first time in my life. As in I have never been a runner. Ever. It looks awful to me and always has, yet I'm such a sucker for the idea of working toward and finishing a race. As surely the only person on earth who cried at the end of Brittany Runs a Marathon, I figured it was worth a shot. (Running, that is.) And although every run confirms to me that it doesn't just look awful, it IS awful, there is satisfaction in doing something that is hard, something that is new, and something that can be improved upon over time. I was surprised in the progress I made in just 6 weeks, and even more surprised still that 6 weeks is all it took to develop a debilitating case of pes anserine tendonitis. So it may take another 6 weeks before I can so much as take a walk, but what, really, could I have done? Besides maybe learn that I am incredibly over-pronated and gotten the appropriate amount of stability before beginning a running regimen. But that's neither here nor there.

In short, I'm finding small joys in new areas, and on most days, that feels like a win. I've also been savoring the experience of finishing my new manuscript. When last I wrote, I claimed I was really going to slow down, so as to more effectively savor the writing process. Right. I totally finished it. More on that later. For now, it's time to water the herbs and ice my knee. Just another day in quarantine.

 

 

 

JUL
13

Scene Stealer...and a Book Update

This is, of course, a shot of my cat stealing the show during my reading for the San Diego Public Library website. She did it almost the whole time, turning around, stretching out, turning back around, and while I probably should have just re-shot the video, I went with it. Because this is real life people. We are at home, quarantined with our pets. I do think it was a fun idea the library had, to do these story time videos with authors reading from their own books, and if you are at all inclined to look through them, definitely do it. They are pretty easy to find once you get to the website.

In other quarantine news, I continue to write my new book at record pace. I'm 80% done if this one turns out to be the length that 3 of my first 4 books have been. I suspect it will finish a bit longer, which I guess technically means I'm less than 80% done, but the point is, most of the book is written, which is crazy. I feel like Newbie just came out. It's also a little bit sad, because the writing is my favorite part. Once that's over and I switch into editing mode, I lose the biggest part of the creative process. And then I miss it. So I think I might stretch out this last 20% of the manuscript writing and really savor every word. These days, anything that can be savored seems like just the ticket.

JUN
21

On The Road Again

It's been over twenty years since, as a high schooler, I set foot on the campus where I would eventually attend college. I was attending a summer honors program that accepted 25 high-schoolers across the country and gave them the chance to get some early college credits. I still think of this small farming town fondly, and last week I got the chance to visit. The college has since expanded into a full-fledged university, and the way this little town has grown and flourished was exciting to see. Of course, the sentimental side of me always pines for the way things used to be, and sometimes change in any form, even positive change, can seem, well, kind of sad. The dorm I lived in, for example, has been torn down and replaced by a parking lot. The pie shop where I celebrated my 19th birthday has closed. The green hillsides are covered with new apartments and condos, distracting from the purity of the view.

This visit was part of a 5-state road trip that seemed appealing after so many months of staying at home. With my co-pilot handling navigation, music, and snacks, we set out to see some different slices of earth as a way to remind ourselves of just how much there is outside of our own small corner of the world. The ultimate prize was a brief 24 hours spent in the company of some of my family, but the majority of the trip was driving, and in some ways, it's simply amazing how varied the terrain gets within just a few hours of the places where we live. Mountains, desert, and ridiculously hot weather. Each night spent somewhere new, each morning a different granola bar or piece of fruit handed over from a front-desk hotel worker. There's something peaceful about being on the road, being temporarily attached to nowhere, and despite the exhaustion of several days of driving, the less than stellar hotel beds and pillows, and the digestive distress that comes from eating foods you wouldn't normally be eating (just me?), arriving back home has felt, for lack of a better term, somewhat boring. I suppose that's the power of the open road, of not knowing what exactly you'll find just beyond that next mountain.

MAY
15

Reopening: Beaches Edition

It's an interesting thing living at the beach when all the beaches are closed. Though for the best, it's part eerie and part sad to look out over the coastline and see not a single person on the beach or in the water. Of course, the headline here in California has been that the beaches have begun to reopen. Well, they opened, then closed after opening day saw crowds blatantly ignoring social distancing precautions, and now have reopened again. 

In my own corner of the coast, I confess it's nice to see people back on the beach, and so far the crowds have been light. You can't sit or gather or "hang out," you've pretty much got to keep it moving (ie. surfing, walking, and running), which I'm sure is contributing to the low turnouts thus far. We'll see how things change as summer arrives, but it's nice to have the beach back as a possibility, if only as an alternate route for my daily walk.

Other ways I pass the time include attempting copy-cat recipes for Disneyland treats (the withdrawal struggle is real, folks) and plugging away on my new manuscript, which is now more than 40% done. It's certainly not ALL bad, staying at home, but I'm definitely looking forward to more things reopening. Particularly my waxing salon (that struggle is especially real). I'd love to look out over a crowded beach and instead of worry over the potential spread of a virus simply think to myself that it's just summer. 

APR
25

The Argument for Kindle

Honestly, I never wanted one. I've never had any interest in giving up the reading of actual books. Holding them in my hands and turning the pages and hefting them with me on planes and keeping them stacked on my bedside table. I also never wanted to give up the library, and having reason to go there and select my next book. I've really never even considered getting a Kindle.

Had I not been gifted one for my recent birthday, I would have continued to stick to my guns on this, but the fact that the libraries are closed has put me in a bit of a reading pickle. In that my only option really is to use the Kindle. So I'm now in this, if a bit begrudgingly, and felt the need to just sum up how a non-Kindle user (a real book preferer) feels after having begun using a Kindle.

In short, I don't hate it. And I sort of hate that I don't hate it.

Benefits include: having immediate access to pretty much any book, how small and light and easy to transport it is, that you don't have to shine a light on it at night in order to see what you're reading.

Things I find annoying include: being limited to only seeing a couple of paragraphs at a time, having to pay money to read books as opposed to getting them for free at the library.

I still feel like my preferred method of reading is to have an actual book in my hand, and maybe I'll always feel that way. But that said, I am surprised by how much I do enjoy using the Kindle, and once libraries open back up, I can see myself still sometimes forgoing the books on my nightstand and instead choosing to swipe open the Kindle. But only sometimes.

APR
14

Quarantine Cats

This post communicates so much. That I've devolved into a near constant wearing of sweats and padding around the house in my socks. That my cat continues to live her best life. That I'm reading much more than usual. That I am indeed a gem. And that my single 10-pound weight means that I am obviously very strong.

What it doesn't so much communicate but what is absolutely true is that I am now more than 20% done with my new manuscript. My new book!! It continues to be a fun project to work on...since there are literally no other options. I may finish this one in record time. 

MAR
30

Quarantine Silver Linings

In a world where working from home has become the new norm, headlines are grim, and fear and anxiety reign supreme, it can be difficult to stay positive. And when we do manage to shift our mindset, feeling positive can feel, well, a bit inappropriate knowing there are so many out there who are suffering. But striving to stay positive has to be a part of our daily routine, and I for one have started to really focus on the small, happy things that are coming from this otherwise awful situation.

The writer in me is grateful for the extra writing time I'm getting. I've started working on my next book, my FIFTH (yikes!!), and I'm really enjoying the process. I know I'm totally biased, but I really think writing is one of the best creative outlets, and given how much extra time everyone is getting at home, if you're a person at all inclined to write, to wax prolific on any number of topics or plots, then open those blank Word documents and start typing!

The employee in me is grateful to still be working, and that, at least for now, my job is one that I can do from home. I know many are not so fortunate, and even though it's a tad boring and my house is super tiny, having the ability to work here is a huge blessing and I feel that every day.

The reader in me is grateful that Maybe You Should Talk to Someone is the book I got stuck with before all the libraries closed. I had been waiting for my turn for months, and it is one of the best books I've read in years.

The partner in me is grateful to have a significant other who is so technologically savvy, and who has set me up with a functioning work station and is so quick to help with anything I can't figure out. He's even gifted me a Kindle as an early birthday present so I can continue to have reading material. (More on the Kindle in another post. I have thoughts.)

The pet parent in me is grateful that my cat is so damn happy to have me home.

The daughter/aunt/sister in me is grateful that my family has been so much more connected. We've been using FaceTime and Google Duo, and even though we're ALWAYS apart, we've really not been leveraging these options until now. On Friday night alone, we talked with each of my siblings, and over the weekend I got to participate in some virtual game time with my nephews and watch my new baby niece shake her little fists. It delights me to see all the family time everyone is getting.

The consumer in me is grateful for Amazon workers who still deliver packages, to store clerks restocking the shelves, restaurateurs still cooking food for takeout, and producers still releasing binge-worthy content.

Most of all, the human in me is grateful for the doctors and nurses who are working tirelessly to help and treat those who are battling this virus. I'm not sure I'll be able to say at the end of this that neither me nor anyone I love got sick, and that's a terrifying thought, for all of us, but let's do what we can to foster positivity and be grateful for every little thing.