Valentine’s Day and other performances

A couple years ago, Tim and I agreed to no longer celebrate Valentine’s Day. There are a lot of reasons for that. Yes, we knew it’s a really commercialized quasi-holiday, and we knew prices of flowers and delivery are jacked up because of that. We knew it wasn’t an actual milestone in our relationship, and (at least for me) I knew I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life laboring over creative new gifts for a day that I didn’t care about. But perhaps the eeriest, most 21st-century reason we decided to stop participating in Valentine’s Day: I realized that I was craving the public acknowledgement and validation more than anything. I wanted Tim to send flowers to work, not bring them home; I wanted to post us drinking wine together to show that I had someone.

A few years ago, a person I knew — let’s call her Sally — was delivered a giant, multi-part Valentine’s Day gift from her partner. Another person — let’s call her Ann — took a photo of herself holding up one or two of Sally’s large gifts. Ann then posted that photo online with a caption that read something like “I hope you’re as beloved as me today!” with a couple hashtags, but NOTHING that explicitly said that she was joking and that those were not her gifts. Those who noticed this online and knew the truth behind the photo rolled their eyes together. I’m sure most of those people have forgotten this. But I remember it still, and I think it beautifully illustrates the “performative” culture that has become of Valentine’s Day. Yes, I think a huge part of this equation is a result of social media. But it’s also human nature of one-upsmanship. Twenty years ago, I still would have wanted the flowers delivered to my office instead of at home, so people could coo and admire and maybe be jealous, all of which would be for my own validation. And twenty years ago, those who didn’t get deliveries could have felt upset with their partners for not shelling out for office delivery, or been reminded of their lonely feelings.

Of course, not all people without partners feel lonely, and not all people with partners who don’t send flowers to work are upset about it. It’s also not inherently wrong to want a gift or a physical reminder of affection, nor is the desire to share something online that makes you happy. The problem is that the culture of “Instagram or it didn’t happen” runs so deep that people can post photos with someone else’s gifts and their network of friends will see it and maybe feel jealous or lonely, and it’s not even real. It’s that I found myself caring more about others seeing my flowers than I cared about actually receiving them. The better way to handle this is to do and to post what truly makes you happy. Just because it happened does not mean it needs to be shared. And if you don’t share, it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

There’s a tricky second layer here that I also want to try to address, and that’s remembering others who are struggling. Yes, when something delights you and you want to share with the world, go for it! For every happy post, though, there can be someone else who sees it and is reminded of their loss, their struggle, their pain. Of course you can’t please everyone, and of course you aren’t expected to hide your life just so someone doesn’t feel sad. But you can remember this. Valentine’s Day displays can remind someone of the painful breakup they experienced or the loneliness they feel in their current relationship. The same is true of pregnancy announcements and gender reveals (another massively performative event, btw). There are so many people struggling to conceive or to stay pregnant, and while it’s a joyous occasion for the expectant parents to be celebrating, those who struggle are reminded of the deeply painful and emotionally exhausting stage of their lives. Those people are happy for you, too, but they are already reminded every day that they can’t (yet) have what you have. And the same is true this Valentine’s Day. While you can’t fix the hurt that others experience, you can remember them when you catch yourself posting so that other people see. If you really want to share, then share! Do an awesome and colorful gender reveal and let me see your VDay flowers! But if you check your heart and realize that you’re doing and/or posting because you want validation from others (likes, comments, heart eyed emojis) or because you want people to believe something about you, stop. You’re caught up in the illusion. Skip buying a blue/pink cake when your pregnancy hormones only make you crave grapes, and skip posting that photo of the nice card that you received but that isn’t so special that it made your heart skip a beat. You won’t miss it. And neither will anyone else.

You should never stop celebrating what you want, how you want. But first, make sure it’s truly what you want. And remember that making sure everyone knows about it is not the end goal. As everyone is KonMari’ing and detoxing and coming off of Dry Januarys and looking to better themselves, I hope that everyone will also take time to ask themselves: Why am I doing this? Is it because it makes me happy? Is it because I feel it is expected of me? Do I feel that I need others to see this for me to really enjoy it? You know in your heart what is right. Absolutely love flowers? Let us know! Your heart sang opening up a handmade card? Wow, I’ll like that pic in a second flat. But your SO got you something and you feel it checks off a box but you don’t feel like you are ecstatic or really seen or feeling the love more than usual? You are a perfect candidate for not posting (and perhaps evaluating if you really want to carry on this tradition)! No one is going to be refreshing your Instagram feed to see if you received something. No one is going to think that your life or relationship is less-than because they don’t know exactly what you did on February 14, or what happened when you told your parents you were expecting, or when you tried a bucket-list bottle of wine or WHATEVER. Share what you love, but keep it real. I don’t want to see you post a photo of a bottle of Screaming Eagle and find out later you thought it wasn’t even that great or that it wasn’t even your bottle. I don’t want to see you pose with someone else’s VDay gift without clarifying that it’s not actually yours. Tell the truth on social media. I’d so much rather see the craft project you did that you’re really proud of, or the super happy smile you got from seeing your favorite artist live. Post for yourself, not for others. Know that you don’t have to get engaged or have a baby or celebrate any day in any performative, spectator-filled way, or at all. Simply do what feels right for you.

Palm Springs Travel Guide

I went to high school in the Palm Springs area. None of these recs are based on that experience, though. I was pretty boring in high school and also, obviously, couldn’t enjoy the boozier elements of the valley. In the last several years, though, tons of tourism money has been bolstering the area and influencing the restaurants, bars, and overall scene of the Palm Springs area. It’s a retreat for Angelenos and San Diegans alike. Walk its streets and you’ll hear the echo of a bachelorette party’s high heels go clack-clack-clack. Take a deep breath and smell the cotton candy-flavored vape of some nearby pseudo-hipster. And then, read this and get to planning your Palm Springs weekend.

Food & Drink:

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Cocktails @ Workshop
  • Workshop Kitchen + Bar: One of the best places in PS for brunch or dinner. The interior is a bit industrial, with private booths and one big communal table. The drinks and the food are special and would be right at home in a bigger city.
  • Truss & Twine: right next door to Workshop and perfect for pre- or post-dinner drinks. They serve snacks and are really great at listening to your preferences and prescribing cocktails. This is my favorite cocktail bar in the area.

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    Breakfast fried rice @ Purple Palm
  • Purple Palm: V cute place. I have only had breakfast/brunch here so can’t vouch for other meals, but it was truly fun. The interior has gorgeous old-world tiling, and if it’s not too hot, the outdoor seating has fun people-watching by the pool.
  • Azucar: So, so cute. Upstairs there’s rooftop seating. Great for doing apps plus an entree.
  • Birba: Legit pizzas and wine. Sit outside and enjoy the ambiance. Easy.
  • Chi Chi: super cute, tucked-away place in an old school PS hotel.
  • Norma’s: At the uber-hot Parker hotel. Make ressies now because it’s one of the most popular places in town! But if you’re craving dinner at the Parker, dry Mister Parker. It’s pretty upscale, dim, well-decorated. Grab a drink at the very photogenic Mini Bar before.
  • King’s Highway: Super cute, themed like an old diner @ the Ace Hotel. Great for breakfast. There’s an old-school photo booth there — look for it near the bathrooms (I think?). It prints out real B&W ink photos that can smudge — so retro.
  • Tonga Hut: A classic tiki bar. Not a proper dive bar, but a bit divey, if that makes sense. Has classic games to play (Jenga, Connect-4) and can be quite fun for a drink. Get a painkiller. Trust.

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    Cork & Fork’s boring parking lot still has a great mountain view
  • Cork and Fork: This is in La Quinta, about 30 minutes from PS. If you’re staying closer to that end of the valley, this is your spot! Sharable plates and lots of local ingredients.

Nature (if it’s not 4000* outside):

  • Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve: This is a pretty neat place. On top of being gorgeous and ‘grammable, it’s a slice of ancient geology. The naturally-occurring water here is what’s left of when the Coachella Valley used to be a big lake nestled in between the surrounding mountains. There is an endemic species of fish — meaning it’s found only there, and nowhere else in the world — that lives in the water here.
  • Bump n Grind: If you’re staying in Palm Desert, Indian Wells, or Rancho Mirage, head here for a little fitness and be rewarded with amazing views. It’s a steep uphill hike/run trail. And FYI, I really don’t know any other trails closer to Palm Springs b/c I’m not an outdoor fitness queen, but I’m sure google/yelp can tell you!IMG_5078
  • Indian Canyons: Another little slice of history. Think a little bit of natural water (aka not just puddles left over from the very occasional rain), lizards and birds galore, and some cool remnants of the indigenous peoples that inhabited this area!
  • Joshua Tree National Park: Not just a U2 album. This is a giant expanse of high desert that has gained extra popularity with the rise of Coachella and this new generation of Instagram ~artistes~. But it’s actually very cool (and very hot). Some areas have Native American petroglyphs, which is just awesome no matter how interested in history you may be. Allow half a day at least to explore, plus drive time. Stop by one of the bars with live music on your way back down to PS.

And a couple bonus things:

  • Desert Hills Premium Outlets in Cabazon: especially if you’re driving on the 10 West back to LA (or driving in on the 10 East), please stop here and get four thousand amazing things for $200. My fave stops here are the Neiman Marcus, Saks, and Lululemon outlets.
  • Ace Hotel occasionally does Splash House. It’s a see-and-be-seen type pool party but friends seem to love it. (I’ve not been to the events, but have been to the ever-trendy Ace in multiple cities including PS.)
  • Social Cycle: a classic Bachelorette activity. You board a 14-person bicycle cart and make stops at 3 different bars over the course of 2 hours. Tim and I have done this twice: the first with my parents and their friends, and the second with my parents and his parents. I guess I’m trying to say it can be very age-inclusive as long as all members of your party are 21+.

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2018 by the numbers

2018 has been a strange year for me. It’s been my first year without a traditional office job, which provided a lot of structure and an easy way to find self-worth. Without that, I’ve had to learn a lot about what makes me satisfied. I always knew that travel and going places was an innate need of mine, but I also learned that simply getting on a plane was not going to make me satisfied with my life. There are a lot of things I found joy in, and a lot of things that caused me pain. I had to learn that without a traditional job, I needed to find purpose in more than just what freelance work I was able to get; I couldn’t expect my husband to make my happiness his job.  In all honesty, I’m still learning that, and I think he’s still learning, too.

Throughout all this, with all the confusing and complicated emotion of change, I know that my 2018 was really, really incredible. I sat down to take inventory of all that I did, all that I was able to do because of my nontraditional new schedule. Looking at these numbers, it may seem like my life has been a lot of fun. But there’s a good chance if you sat down and tallied up all the things you did this year, you’ve probably done just as many of the things you care about.

Here’s what I sought out in 2018:

Comedy Shows: 13

Theater: 16
Head Over Heels, Mean Girls, Dear Evan Hansen, Sleep No More, Hamilton, Soft Power, School of Rock, Aida (the opera, not the musical), Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera, On Your Feet!, Miss Saigon, Waitress, Chicago, Cinderella, A Bronx Tale

Films: 13

Concerts: 4
John Oates (no Hall), Tom Jones, Jennifer Lopez, Rod Stewart
*If you took JLo off this list, how old would you think I am?

Museums & art installations: 12

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Artist: Yayoi Kusama

Visited places within the US: 23
Las Vegas, Kauai, Charleston/Hilton Head/Savannah, Disney World, NYC, Malibu, Palm Springs, Temecula, Vegas again, Chicago + Iowa, Boston, Chico, Paso Robles, Palm Springs again, Spokane, Portland, Miami, Key West, Palm Springs again, Maui, Las Vegas again, Palm Springs again, Paso Robles again (today!)

Countries visited: 5

Flights taken: 34
*Not including layovers or multi-leg flights to one destination

Wineries visited: 20
*That number is growing today — we’re in Paso Robles for NYE!
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Distilleries visited: 8

Breweries visited: 4
* I guess 2018 was the year I stopped drinking beer: normally this would be a much higher number!

Bottles of wine purchased: 82

Rewards program (legit) status achieved: 3
Sephora VIB Rouge
Alaska Airlines MVP
Hotels.com Gold

What did you do in spades in 2018? Do any of your numbers rival mine?

How to make swag for your group vacation

Recent obsession: making custom swag bags for trips with friends or family.

When my two favorite travel girlfriends and I went on a cruise to celebrate Mary’s birthday, Kristina and I collaborated to make custom shirts, fanny packs, and sweatshirts for the occasion. It was so fun and pretty easy, so when Tim’s family accepted an invite to spend the Christmas holiday in California with my family, I knew I wanted to make “welcome bags” for us all.

It’s a real sickness. I want to make swag for EVERYTHING now.

First, I discovered a free design software online called Vectr. I was yearbook editor in high school so I kind of remembered how to use Adobe InDesign, and this was a decent and totally gratis dupe. I traced a map of the US to make the outline, then traced a cartoon cactus and lighthouse to add a little local flare. (My parents live in Palm Springs and Tim’s parents are Maine-based.)

It’s a little tricky to find affordable customized items for a small group (many items have minimum order quantities of 50 or 100) but after combing the internet, I found some amazing items. Here’s what I did for our group of 7 people:

+ KOOZIES

Tim’s folks are beer drinkers, so this was an immediate must-have. They were only a couple bucks each online and even with shipping these were my most affordable customized item. I used inkbrander.com. Think about what your group enjoys and create an item they’ll actually use.

+ TUMBLERS

This was the only tumbler available on Vistaprint’s swag site, Promotique. I used the same logo and it couldn’t be easier. This way we’d also have something fun to remind us to hydrate despite all the adult beverages we’d be consuming.

+ CHRISTMAS ORNAMENTS

Since it was Christmas, this was my most favorite idea. I love the simple frosted glass and how packable it would be for the family who’d be flying back home. Look for something appropriate to your theme or occasion.

+ WAX FOOD WRAPS

Not customized, but I love those Trader Joe’s waxed cotton food wraps and wanted to share the goods. You might want to do a similar gift of something inexpensive that you really enjoy and use in your daily life. (Kind of like how Candice Zamporini bought her family blow pokes. Y’know?) (If you don’t get my reference just exit my page now.)

+ SWEETS

Obviously! Candy canes, Dove chocolates, and stroopwafels felt perfect for Christmas.

Making a custom logo is a game changer and makes it feel ultra exclusive and special, but in reality it’s just a little extra work up front and you can use it (or versions of it) for all your custom swag!

Right now I’m also planning a bachelorette party and I am loving the items we’ve chosen. Every time I do a new swag bag I learn more and get better at it.

Have you ever made swag? Or maybe you have an event coming up that you might consider making some custom gifts for? I love it so much, please let me know all the details!

Don’t forget what you don’t see: The incomplete story of Instagram photos

July was a big travel month for Tim and me. I flew to Australia by myself, stayed on a boat in the Great Barrier Reef, and then went to Sydney to await Tim’s arrival later for a business trip. We stayed a week in Fiji afterward before heading home. In total, I was gone about 3 weeks.

My instagram account had never been more beautiful, filled with professional-grade photos of colorful fish and koalas and the iconic Opera House. I checked into amazing restaurants on Foursquare and drank pina coladas by the ocean. But the truth is, the trip started off on a really rough note.

My flight to Australia was actually 4 flights. Yes, there are plenty of direct, nonstop flights between SFO and SYD. But I used my Alaska Airlines miles to get there, and the routes were most inconvenient. I was flying SJC-SEA-YYV-SYD. Then, once I arrived in Sydney, I was taking a different airline up to Cairns for my Great Barrier Reef excursion. When Tim dropped me off at the airport, as I was waiting to check my bag at the Alaska counter, the fire alarm went off and the whole airport had to evacuate. It was a false alarm, thank God, but I think it may have been a bad omen. As I sat at my gate waiting to board, I got an email saying I’d been upgraded. Fantastic! I have MVP status on Alaska, so this is not unusual, but this time it was a first class upgrade. (I was already upgraded to their premium seats.) It was a short flight, but I was happy about the chance to start my trip off on a sweet note. When the first class passengers were called to board, I scanned my ticket. But the gate agent said I needed to see the folks at the counter. I waited in line so long that by the time I was helped at the counter, the whole plane had boarded. And it turns out, the computer system had an “error” and that first class seat was given away already. (They gave it to the guy in front of me in line, btw. I heard them assign it to him and say that he was getting an upgrade. So yeah, that seat was NOT BOOKED until one second ago.) I was cranky and demanded reparation and later got an email offering me a $75 credit. Whatever, it’s something, I’ll move on.

The layover in Seattle was uneventful, and I boarded our little plane to YYV. My layover in Vancouver was amazing: I went to a really nice lounge, had really fantastic wine, and showered before the long-haul flight. I was in Qantas Premium Economy, which is a really nice experience for the price, and the flight was so easy and fantastic — and I actually slept WELL. It was all-around great. And then, when we landed, I heard “Passenger Delzell, please see a gate agent.”

As I exited the plane, I asked someone why they were calling my name. Turns out, my bags had been left in Vancouver due to their customs process and it was arriving in an hour on an Air Canada flight. No big deal, as my next flight was still 6+ hours away. So, per instruction, I went to the Qantas baggage counter to let them know I was waiting for my bag. Well, the agent there saw it wasn’t arriving until later that afternoon. I was already going to be on my way to Cairns by then, so she took my hotel info and was going to have it sent there for me.

I had a premonition that my bag could get lost since I had such a wonky flight route, so thankfully I packed spare clothes and all my toiletries in my carry-on. I showered at SYD and relaxed in a lounge that had a free massage chair (!!!). I flew to Cairns and relaxed in my hotel room.

Hours went by and still no suitcase. I found a phone number on the luggage info I was given, so I tried to call. My foreign cell phone wasn’t able to dial the type of number, so I had to use the hotel phone. ($$$$$.) I then spent hours on the phone trying to figure out where my bags were. Turns out, they were STILL in Canada. It went from being one hour away, to a few hours away, to no reunion in sight. I was pissed, and the customer service rep took all my contact info and promised to keep me in the loop.

Okay, so I was without my luggage. I had planned ahead and had my toiletries and my credit cards, so I was fine for the next day or two. But here’s the problem: I had one more day in Cairns before I boarded a live-aboard boat. I was out of clothes, so I washed the two outfits I had with me using the hotel’s free body wash, and I hung it to dry and slept totally in the nude, praying my clothes would be dry enough to wear in the morning. I had no confidence that I would be receiving my suitcase anytime soon, so I decided to go out that day and buy a swimsuit ($160), sunscreen, a new shirt, a bra, and underwear. I tried to enjoy my limited time in Cairns, but it was tough. I felt stressed, upset, and increasingly worried my luggage would never make it to me. And then, as I was walking through the lovely Botanic Gardens, I got a call from an unknown number. It was the same customer service rep, with a flight number that my luggage was on (it was already in Sydney — this was a flight headed to Cairns!). It was supposed to arrive that afternoon, and of course it didn’t get there until after midnight. I cried tears of joy when it arrived and spent a few minutes just looking at my belongings, picking them up and being so happy to see these items as though they were relics from my past. (It was Marie Kondo-esque, how much I held my items and spent mental energy on treasuring them.)

Starting off my trip that way was stressful and I don’t recommend it. But I share this now because social media doesn’t tell the story of how I lost two days of my vacation to phone calls and hand-washing my clothing. The disastrous bits of the trip were more than compensated — with natural beauty, fun catchups with Aussie friends, culture, food, and later, an upgrade to a gorgeous suite in Fiji — and overall the trip was one of my most favorites in memory. But all those Instagrammable moments came with a price, and that price was wearing clothes that smelled like cheap hotel soap and hanging up my underwear in the shower while I slept. (Oh, and by the way, the only shoes I had this whole time: a very bold statement sneaker that did NOT go with the rest of my clothing. I still am a little afraid to wear them after the scarring experience of having to wear them with the wrong outfits in Cairns. Why didn’t I pack a pair of flip flips in my carry-on??)

So while the photos I posted were taken in times of happiness, the trip wasn’t solely defined by underwater wildlife encounters and tropical sunsets. Life’s not perfect. Sometimes you’re caught without a pair of underwear to spare and you gotta deal. Remember that as Christmas approaches and people share what amazing gifts they got, or destinations they visited, or the inevitable dozen engagements that will be announced in the next week. There are times of excitement and blessing, but there’s also times of having to wear your really weird high top sneakers with your dress, and just because it wasn’t posted online doesn’t mean a lot of people didn’t see you wearing them.