Friendships, Family, Freedom (Or, Notes from Sabbatical, Weeks 8-11)

Why do kids in California return to school so early? It’s the end of summer! It’s back to school! Like, what? It’s only the middle of August. Last week in L.A., we hung out with friends visiting from Brooklyn, and their kids don’t go back to school until after Labor Day. I think it’s the same for Emilia’s cousins in England. Perhaps this shift earlier into August has occurred over time, but I’m not sure why, and it’s pretty annoying. Especially since “summer” in the Bay Area is only just beginning, climate-wise.

The last several weeks were a mix of travel and Emilia’s transition from preschool to elementary school. We stayed in Anaheim and went to Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm, and Legoland, and also spent time with friends in Echo Park, Encino, Venice Beach, and Pasadena. It was fun, but also exhausting. But I’d rather keep busy on a trip—and put forth the effort to see friends, especially friends with kids—because overall the dynamic makes for a better time for all three of us. Being out and about when in an unfamiliar place is usually challenging with Emilia when Nick and I are her primary form of entertainment. This is the case even as we navigate a theme park with so much to do and see. Being a naive parent, I think I assumed that a kid would hit a certain age and magically just run out onto a playground and start playing with other kids. And many of them do. But it doesn’t work that way for her and us, and if she’s gotten any of my genes, she’s certainly more on the observant and reserved side than not. All of this is to say that our L.A. trip was really great in that we filled our days with playdates when possible. I also liked what I saw of South Pasadena and would stay there again; the more we visit L.A., the more I love it—especially the East Side, where our various friends live—but overall I don’t know if I could live there. I’d really need to be OK with all the traffic—every day, at both long and short distances, and at any time. It would wear me down.

Post-trip, we had a few free days before Emilia’s first day of kindergarten. She finally decided she wanted to wear her helmet (she refused to put it on for months, which meant that she was not allowed to ride her new bike), so we went out onto the trail to practice. We’ll keep the training wheels on while she gets the hang of it, but it’s nice to see her zoom down the greenway and watch her experience this first taste of freedom. I remember when my brother taught me how to ride a bike on our very long driveway. I was so excited to explore the streets of our neighborhood by myself. In no time I was biking on my own half-a-mile away to the small market that sold Dreyer’s ice cream. I oftentimes didn’t have any money, but I’d go into the store and walk through the aisles to the ice cream section to just look at the flavors. I was only 4 or 5 years old! What a different time we live in. I find myself overly protective of her while I walk alongside her as she rides; we’re in more of an urban neighborhood from where I grew up, and there are so many erratic drivers and dangerous intersections here. But I still feel a little sad that she isn’t able to experience what I did at this age. I guess I now understand why some people move to the suburbs or hunt for cul-de-sacs when searching for a home?

I think about other ways, then, to give her some physical and mental space to experience independence and choice, especially while living in such a small home (we are currently in a unit that’s less than 900 sq. ft.). She has her own room, which she doesn’t like at the moment because it’s “not set up the right way.” We’ve started to purge old books and toys, and I want to help her organize it more so she wants to spend time in it. Right now, she spends most of her time in a 4 ft. x 5 ft. nook behind our sofa—a little corner of the living room where she has a bookcase and art table and keeps all of her favorite things: craft supplies, trinkets, artwork, small stuffed animals, and weird random items that really belong in the trash. (She’s basically a little hoarder.) It’s interesting to watch her play in there quietly; we are not allowed inside (she made a sign that says “STOP” so we cannot enter her space). I would love for her to have a much bigger room, but buying a house, especially in this market, isn’t really in the cards for us right now.

This of course leads me to thoughts about “home”—about our family finding our place, about friendships—that stir up many feelings. I wrote about this a bit on Longreads in my response to Grace Loh Prasad’s essay on motherhood, family, and community, and have been thinking about her reflections again after we returned from L.A. and spent time with a few close friends and their kids. Those sorts of connections from my college years continue to be my strongest friendships, even though I rarely see these people (maybe once or twice a year). I am grateful to see them, yet also get sad because distance prevents us from creating stronger bonds between our families. In her essay, Prasad reflects on a lack of a social network in California, and how envious she is of mothers who have close friends and family, and also ties to other mothers, in their immediate area. I added how difficult it is to make friends with other adults, and lasting friendships with other parents. Nick and I have begun to make stronger ties with some parents at Emilia’s former preschool; however, we have all moved on to new schools, so I wonder which relationships will stick, and also realize that these sorts of ties will naturally evolve or break because of our kids’ lives and preferences.

In her essay, Prasad also talks about her own mother through the lens of a gigantic spider sculpture in Tokyo—she describes her mother as a “weaver of community” and the glue that has kept their family together. My huge extended Lucas family recently came together for a reunion in Napa: several clans together, tied by blood and all related because of my grandfather and his siblings and their descendants. It’s incredible to see this group of people grow over the years—me and my first and second cousins and others all grown up raising their own kids. Today, my parents and aging aunts and uncles are the ones that keep in touch and maintain connections between these bigger families. As we drove home from the party, Nick asked me who of my generation would continue to do this—to keep this massive family tree intact, to encourage all of these branches to continue intertwining—and I said I did not know. His comments made me think about Prasad’s thoughts on family in a different way, and while I have no idea if we will maintain that family web in the future, it’s somewhat comforting to know that it could exist. Oddly, this is one of the reasons I still feel strongly about the Bay Area, and California in general—this huge familial network.

The morning of Emilia’s first day of kindergarten went fairly smooth, until it didn’t—she refused to brush her teeth and leave the house, which then led to a near-tantrum. Somehow we snapped her out of it and she hopped on my back and we walked to school. I experience anxiety more and more as I’ve become a parent, and I’d felt anxious about this first day for weeks; I was very nervous and thought everything would go wrong. We gave her a big hug as the kids lined up behind their teachers to go inside their classrooms; she started to walk in the line and follow the kid in front of her, but she kept turning her head in our direction to make sure she could see us and to check that we were still there. I clearly picture her little face turning around—first with a bit of fear, then again with tears welling up. She suddenly got out of line and ran back to us, crying. We hugged her again, and a staff member came over to guide her into the building.

I was very emotional and thought about her all day. And when I picked her up, and I saw her come out to me with her backpack and a smile on her face, I must admit I cried. I asked if she had a good day, and she looked at me with wide eyes and nodded. And then after another hug, she said: “It was a lot,” and she said it in a way that made me look at her in a new light. She’s growing up! She’s feeling emotions, having experiences. All on her own. On her second day, the woman who brought her out to me during pickup mentioned that she’d cried a bit during after-school care but “pulled herself together,” which is ultimately a positive thing to hear.

It’s been a big few days for all of us. So I’m ready for Friday—which is also my birthday—and hopefully a restful weekend to reset. (I’m treating myself to a Thai/deep tissue massage!)

Twitter, Blogging, Sparks, Connections

The other day I tweaked the homepage of this site. The complex years-long relationship I have with this site means that I feel weird, anxious even, to call it what it is—a blog—but it is a blog and has remained a blog even when I’m not blogging.

After tweaking the homepage, I dove into some of my older posts and clicked on links, a fair amount of which are dead and lead to 404 pages, even across on this site. (I never properly redirected links from to when I’d changed my domain name.) Links to many other blogs and websites I used to read and reference often, like my friend Miranda’s old blog,, no longer exist. Nick’s previous blogs, at and, have also been taken down. I also scrolled old comment threads and recognized the usernames of so many bloggers and strangers I used to interact with often; I spotted names of travel writers-turned-acquaintances and friends everywhere, like Mike and Spencer and Miss Lai Lai and Jodi and Sharon and many others.

With the bird site continuing to implode and people finding new corners of the internet at Substack and Threads and Mastodon and other platforms, I wonder where everyone has gone. What new spaces have been established. If those spaces have actually recreated the ’00s magic of blogs and other online communities, or whether most attempts have fallen flat.

For someone who left nearly all social media over the past five years, where do I find these people? Truly connect like before—before we expected others to reciprocate, before we were obsessed with content and engagement and growth? Do I want to reconnect with everyone again? Am I looking for individuals, or am I longing instead for those sparks that ignited when individuals were tossed randomly and organically into the same space at the same time? It brings me some comfort thinking about recreating all of that, but I also know that I fall into those nostalgic traps in which I wish for something familiar, something golden, something from a better time. (Read: my 1997 category.)

A few weeks ago, Geraldine DeRuiter at The Everywhereist wrote about Twitter:

I’m one of the luckiest people in the world, and Twitter played a crucial role. But when I look back through it, I find the fossils of my youth, the years when I was all potential. Here, from the other side of my accomplishments, I find myself wishing for that world, one full of uncertainty and newness, when everything was still in front of me.

26 to 43 is an immense journey; mine is charted on a single social media platform.

Twitter was not just a tool we used in our careers, but a scrapbook for our lives. My friend announced his son’s birth. I shared news of my brain tumor and impending surgery. I’ve seen engagements, and weddings, and funerals announced. Lives lived, in an endless stream. We shared news events, we celebrated and grieved together, we watched as the world slowly slipped into something ugly (or perhaps the ugliness was always there, and some of us were just becoming aware of it) and some of us tried to rally against it. And some of us just tweeted, and thought that was enough.

Shortly after Musk took over Twitter, I got locked out of my @cherilucas account. Support was useless, as you can imagine, and I gave up trying to regain access. Luckily I’d tweaked my bio there before that happened; perhaps clairvoyant, I wrote “Not checking Twitter anymore.” I haven’t paid much attention to what’s been happening since, although I read about the X rebrand this week. While I’ve received so many professional opportunities and networked with Really Important People across media over the years, I was not as invested in and deeply enmeshed in the fabric of Twitter in the way that Geraldine or other writer/journalist-friends were/are. But that doesn’t mean I don’t understand what’s been lost.

I “met” and exchanged my first real-time messages with my future husband, a Cairo-based travel writer, on Twitter. We became familiar with each other on Twitter. I used to stare at his old avatar—his face framed in blue cloth—and tried to imagine his face animated and moving and talking, wondering who he was. If he was cute in person. Or whether I’d like him.

So despite the circus and chaos around all things Twitter these days, and even though I feel disconnected and mostly apathetic from it all, I genuinely feel sad as these pages turn. Because I, too, benefitted from Twitter, especially when I’d joined 15 years ago. And it inspired me in countless ways. I sadly don’t have a record of some of those early tweets received and sent between me and Nick, or between me and other people I ended up meeting and becoming friends with in real life, or between me and editors and future colleagues who reached out to me when they read something I wrote that moved them. But at least this blog has stayed mostly intact, and fortunately with many old conversations preserved. There were so many times that I nearly deleted it.

With my short and loosely curated list of folks I’m following via, I’m currently getting a small dose of local news and random chatter each day, and also rediscovering blogs that I used to read and visit specifically, pre-Twitter stream. (It’s been nice, for instance, to look through the archives of Christopher Butler.) I’m not at the point of recreating an old-fashioned blogroll and visiting individual blogs each day to see what people have posted, and perhaps will never be, but I’ve been experimenting with more intentional web browsing and visiting specific sites that pop into my head. It feels strange in some ways, but also refreshing in that each visit feels like a finite task—I close the browser tab when I’m done, and then if I want to keep exploring, I’ll search for something specific, whether related or unrelated. (I’m beginning to understand the concept of a digital garden more and more.)

In a way, I now control the direction and depth of my rabbit hole.

Embracing Idleness (Or, Notes from Sabbatical, Week 7)

I have officially reached the point in my three-month sabbatical when I’ve googled “Automattic sabbatical” to find blog posts written by my colleagues about their own time off from work. Writing about one’s sabbatical—either before, during, or after—isn’t necessarily a job requirement, but it’s encouraged. I already sensed what the gist of these posts would be: ambitious to-do lists and self-improvements projects to tackle, epic travel bucket lists, plans to optimize those three months. (The post I wrote after my first sabbatical in 2017 is formatted as a checklist, which is evidence of this default setting for efficiency and productivity.) But in reading others’ sabbatical posts, I was more curious to find morsels of wisdom about doing nothing—moments of clarity where people realized they preferred to slow down and just be. I think my two weeks of daily pool time in Hawaii has helped me get to this state.

More than three years in, unfortunately one of us has finally caught COVID: Nick tested positive a few days after we flew back and has been staying and resting at a nearby Airbnb. I’m grateful that we even have the means and ability to isolate. Emilia and I continue to test negative. So the house has been more quiet, and with Emilia at school from about 9 to 5, I’ve let the mundanity of each day—making a latte, taking a shower, folding laundry, watering the plants—to freely fill my mental and physical space in a way I wasn’t allowing at the start of my sabbatical. Normally, these tasks would be completed in the in-between—that frantic space in which I tend to operate and do all the things, the finite place to which non-work life is sadly confined. But right now, these ordinary tasks feel different when I do them with more leisure.

This is not to say that I work too much when I am working, or that my work is stressful. (Nick may disagree on the former, but over the past decade I’ve gotten much better about balancing work and life—I’m not putting in the insane hours I used to do when I first started at Automattic.) I genuinely enjoy the work I do, love the people I work with, and feel lucky to be where I am professionally. I thought about all of this as I read a 2019 post by a former Automattician, Chris Hardie, who wrote frankly about his own sabbatical. He realized during his time off that most of the stress he carried was not work-related.

Still, I guess I had bought into that cultural narrative enough to think that when I went on sabbatical, some certain amount of stress would just lift and go away for that time. …

It’s the other stuff: the bad things happening in the world, the hopes and anxieties that go with parenting, insecurity and self-doubt, the complexity of marriage, relationships and community, wrestling with my own mortality.

Another colleague, Ken Gagne, is fully location-independent and nomadic; he wrote about preparing for his sabbatical in a more recent post from the spring and said something that reminded me not to put so much pressure on myself to produce:

First, there’s a lot of pressure to make something of a sabbatical: write a book, build a shed, learn an art. 

In another sabbatical post, A.I. Sajib goes on to write:

I’m deliberately not giving myself measurable goals for this time.

While I’ve always been in awe of my colleagues in general—it’d be no exaggeration to say that we hire the very best people across engineering, business, design, and web development in the world—it’s also exhausting to keep up. Everyone is razor-smart. Driven. Empathetic. Visionary. That combination creates a pool of people who are passionate not just about their job, but their crafts and hobbies to the point where they’re constantly exerting their best efforts, even when they’re not working. This is not a bad thing. At the same time, burnout is real. So I welcomed others’ very personal thoughts on their own sabbaticals, especially around how they found (or didn’t find) balance.

Anyway, it’s nice not to be on all the time. It’s nice to be idle.

Notes From Sabbatical and Photos from Hawaii, Weeks 3-6

Sabbatical weeks 3 and 4 (the second half of June) flew by. With the exception of yoga each day, it felt like I did nothing, and yet I felt I had no time to sit at my laptop to write anything. The two main things to note from those weeks were that a) my follow-up chest x-ray after getting pneumonia showed improvement, and b) Emilia turned 5 and had a lovely little birthday with her friends at a park. It was “under the sea”-themed, and I set up a bunch of kids’ tables for art activities, inspired by the Kidsville craft stations at the Joshua Tree festival: parasol and rock and shell painting, various paper crafts, playdoh and sea slime, make-and-paint your own puzzles… and we also set up her teepee with books for story time. It was a lot of work for a party that I wanted to be “minimal”! Somehow it just never works out that way. But everyone had fun.

We spent the first two weeks of July in Hawaii: the first on Oahu, in Honolulu, and the past week on the Big Island, in Waikoloa Village. I’ve wanted to bring Emilia to Hawaii for some time now, and it was great to get her into the resort pools and the lagoons connected to the beach each day. She’s now a very tan little thing (she thankfully got my genes, not Nick’s). I’ll say, however, that the time change coming back to PST is pretty brutal, which is something we’d never really experienced before in pre-kid times. It’s been a rough transition, but hopefully our inner clocks settle soon.


The lagoon at the Hilton Waikiki Village, which was a short walk from our hotel, the Modern Honolulu. We spent part of a day here and rented a paddleboard for a bit. Emilia went in and briefly tried to “fish,” but a tiny cut on her hand unfortunately derailed the afternoon. (It happens.)
Another view of the lagoon, with the Hilton’s Rainbow Tower in the background (and Diamond Head at the far right).
The elevator at the Ilikai Hotel overlooking the Ala Moana Harbor, heading up to the top floor restaurant, Pesca.
A view above Hanauma Bay in the afternoon, after everyone had left the beach. (They get visitors off the beach shortly after 3pm each day.)
The reef at Hanauma Bay. Saw some colorful fish.
Took a yoga class with Yoga Floats at Ala Moana Beach one morning.
Trying to get into tree pose before falling into the water.
We were unexpectedly pleased with most of the food at the hotel restaurants we tried. This was the loco moco (top) and poi pullman bread french toast (bottom) at Tropics Bar and Grill at the Hilton Waikiki Village.

Big Island

The lagoon at the Hilton Waikoloa Village on the Big Island. We paddleboarded and swam with sea turtles, which loved to cluster around one of the waterfalls.
Playtime at the sandy beach at Kings’ Land in Waikoloa. Great place for little ones; there’s a waterslide just off to the left as well. She spent a lot of time here.
Enjoying a circular pool at the tot beach.

Notes from Sabbatical, Week 2

When everything around us shut down in March 2020, so did my rigorous daily yoga practice. I still remember vividly that first week of quarantine, when no one had any idea what was going on or what was going to happen. I was still on Instagram at that time, and when Emilia, then just about 20 months old, wandered our huge garden in our previous home in Sebastopol, I scrolled through videos of people sharing their own versions of lockdown: Gal Gadot and other celebrities singing “Imagine” in a silly video, people across Italy singing on their balconies in unison, others filming themselves howling out their windows at the same time each evening…

That mental shift was hard, as was the physical shutdown of my own body. By March, it had been several months since I’d stopped nursing Emilia, and I’d begun the journey of reclaiming my body. (I really enjoyed breastfeeding and becoming one with my Spectra pump for those first 16 months, but I was also excited to move on from being a milk machine.) But when my gym and yoga studio closed, I’d felt like I took a big step backward. I had no idea that that pause in my exercise routine would last more than three years.

What do you plan to do during your sabbatical? people have asked me. I mentioned that I was giving myself permission not to think about that for the first week. But the one consistent answer I’ve given to that question is “doing yoga every day,” and I’m happy to say I joined a yoga studio last week and finally, after three years and three months, have started doing yoga in person again. Throughout the pandemic, I’ve done a mix of classes online—through my previous gym; then YogaWorks; then classes with Adriene and Cat Meffan and Two Birds; and more recently through classes via CorePower Yoga. But I’ve never been able to maintain a routine for more than a few weeks through any of these options, nor have I felt like I’ve gotten a solid workout at home. (I’m definitely an it’s-not-a-workout-if-I-don’t-sweat type of person, as dumb as that sounds.)

Since last Friday, I’ve gone to five yoga classes—and it’s just felt incredible to return. It’s also interesting how quickly the body remembers what it used to do despite how long it’s been. And finding a yoga studio that you like can also take time, so I’m glad I’ve found a place that’s close to our home and feels like a good fit for me in the long term.

Week 2:

  • Finished Severance. What an amazing show and first season! We’ve kept the Adam Scott party going and started watching Party Down. (I’m also watching The Other Two—for me, it’s more of a keep-on-in-the-background sort of show, but I’m enjoying it.)
  • Watched Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves. I had never even heard of this movie until we were looking for easy, entertaining movies to watch at home. (It was either this or the latest Black Panther movie.) I love Chris Pine, so this was a fun one. I’m not sure if it was the edible, or the fact that I just don’t watch many movies these days, but I thought this was really good for what it was.
  • After watching D&D, I asked Nick what his favorite fantasy world is (which he said is a hard question to answer). But I think I asked it because I wanted a recommendation for a fantasy book to read—something accessible for a non-fantasy reader like me. (Note: I actually don’t read fiction at all these days, and I haven’t read a novel from start to finish in many, many years.)
  • Bought Joshua Tree Music Festival tickets for October. We will likely fly down this time around, and either rent an RV or camper van and have it delivered on site, or find an outfitter to rent our camping gear. We’re currently trying to convince other families to join us so that Emilia has a playmate.
  • Went bowling for Father’s Day. I managed a score of 135 in our first game before going downhill after that, and my dad and Nick bowled well. Emilia enjoyed her first time bowling with gutters and a green dragon ramp, which she used to push down her ball.
  • Started reading Detours: A Decolonial Guide to Hawaii, which is recommended in numerous articles and sites if you search for reading about Hawaii and decolonization, alternative tourism, and the recentering of Native Hawaiians and Indigenous narratives. (We’ll be going to Oahu and the Big Island in July.)

Notes from Sabbatical, Week 1

Today is day 6 of my sabbatical. I have three months of paid leave—an incredible benefit that Automattic offers to employees every five years. Being at the company for 11.5 years, this is my second one. I had many plans and hopes for my first one in fall 2017, but it ultimately took a different turn; I found out I was pregnant early on and while I could do all the things I’d wanted to do, like traveling abroad, attending a surf/yoga camp, and going on a silent retreat, the pregnancy changed my mindset and I spent most of that time taking it easy, versus trying to check items off a to-do list.

That expectation to be “productive” is strong again this time around, which is sad but also a (by)product of the world we live in. I told myself repeatedly that I’d spend last week—my first full week off—not doing anything. I said to myself it’d be perfectly okay to stare at the wall and let it seep in that I indeed have nothing I need to do. But I quickly realized that this sabbatical will be very different than the first. The 4-year-old still wakes up before 6am, still needs to get ready for preschool, still needs to be shuttled to swim and gymnastics lessons, still throws fits and tantrums, and still needs mama to sit on the floor next to her bed while she falls asleep each night.

The contours of my day, then, are unchanged. Which is not a bad thing—and I’m not complaining about having any form of time off. It just means fitting me time between the lines of our routine, which is something my younger nomadic self would probably find extremely depressing. You have three months and you won’t travel anywhere? Then I read stories in Rest of World and The Baffler about the nomadification of Medellin and Mexico City, and also think about all the tone-deaf Instagram captions posted by an old friend who’s living the expat life abroad, and I question whether I’d actually enjoy a very different life right now.

Most of last week was filled with unglamorous chores and errands—endless laundry and vacuuming; picking Duplo blocks off the floor; and Target pickups, Amazon orders, and toy store visits in preparation for Emilia’s birthday party in several weeks. I realized how quickly these sorts of mundane tasks can gobble up a “free” day, and when I made this comment to Nick, who isn’t working and has been juggling his master’s program with family duties and life, he smirked.

Anyway. It’s Monday and the start of week two, and I’ve finally found time to sit and think about what I want these three months to look like. What do I want to accomplish? How do I go about doing it without feeling the pressure to be productive? Time off shouldn’t feel this way, should it?

For the past decade, I’ve struggled to write. Writing in the sense of writing online, of creating and posting on the internet for the world to see, of thinking out loud and making definitive statements in public. None of this is new: I’ve said it repeatedly over the years, and really, nothing has changed: I remain paralyzed, and I’ve never figured out how to consistently maintain a blog, even after I took a job at a company well known for blogging.

Nick, Emilia, and I spent a recent sunny Saturday at Dolores Park in San Francisco, hanging out with Simon, one of his friends from London. Somehow we started chatting about blogging paralysis and perfectionism and purging our online homes and accounts and all that. Nick is very similar to me in this regard—probably even more so, since he’s since deleted or stripped down his previous blogs and nearly all of his online profiles. He mentioned the concept of digital gardens, which I didn’t quite grasp when we were talking about it at the park, but after reading more about them and seeing examples in the wild, they seem like exactly the type of thing I wanted in the mid-2010s, when I struggled to write publicly and felt the pressure for each blog post to be a finished Work of Art. I won’t explain digital gardening here—there’s enough to read online already, from Maggie Appleton to Tom Critchlow and many others—but I’ll say that I love the thinking behind it about one’s personal online home (and archive of writing and knowledge) as a constantly tended space. (I also think becoming a gardener over the past handful of years makes me appreciate the concept on another level.)

After diving into a bunch of resources about creating digital gardens (like this one), I’d started playing around with a few tools often mentioned for getting started: Notion, typically used as a note-taking tool or task-management space; Obsidian, another note-taking app; and TiddlyWiki, which is called “a nonlinear personal web notebook.” I really love this description—especially the inclusion of “nonlinear”— but when I think practically and realistically about how I’d build and grow such an online space, or try to envision it, I can’t quite see it. Ultimately I’m not convinced that a digital garden is what I want or need, and if it’s The Thing that would help me actively write and think online in public again. But if you have not heard about digital gardens before, I’d recommend visiting the sites of the two people mentioned above—it’s an interesting way of thinking about our digital existences, especially if you’re fed up with our current streams of information (Twitter), linear installments (newsletters), and the traditional and chronological approach of a blog.

Whether I like it or not, this blog is still here, despite the countless times I’ve abandoned it to experiment elsewhere, on Medium or Instagram or Substack. It might be dormant for months, even years, but it’s a space to which I’ve always been able to return.

Week 1:

  • Spent the day at Dolores Park and ate a really good burrito in the Mission (I’ve not been able to find a good burrito spot in Berkeley/Albany, sadly)
  • Read about digital gardens
  • Started watching Severance
  • Edited video highlight reels from Joshua Tree Music Festival (can someone recommend an easy-to-use app to edit iPhone videos—one that doesn’t screw up the color and quality of video files?)
  • Ordered crafts activities for Emilia’s birthday party and spent way too much money (it’s quite strange to order sealed bags of rocks for painting)
  • Went exploring at Albany Bulb with Emilia and one of her favorite friends (see the image above)
  • Planning a front-yard landscaping project with succulents and drought-tolerant grasses

More from Joshua Tree Music Festival

Emilia’s Kidamento camera broke just days before we left for the desert. It’s a very kid-friendly camera that lets her print photos onto sticker paper, which is much cheaper than the film in more proper instant cameras). Since a new one would not have arrived in time, I ended up buying a Fujifilm Instax Mini 12 in case we wanted to take pics and give them to people we met along the way. It takes familiar retro-vintage pics, and while it’s rated as one of the best instant cameras out there, the quality varies widely from photo to photo.

Emilia still doesn’t quite understand how to look through a viewfinder, and I have to supervise her while using it since the film is more expensive than Kidamento’s paper rolls. Still, it’s fun and easy-to-use.

With her butterfly wings at our campsite
Eating lunch in the Music Bowl
Between the stages of the Music Bowl
Desert dad
Painting over one of last year’s murals at Kidsville
Painting a parasol at Kidsville
Playing around in the Music Bowl
In the Kids Chill Zone
Photo by Emilia
Photo by Emilia
Chillin’ in the wagon
Sundown is near
A Polaroid taken by our campsite neighbor

Playtime in the Desert

We recently returned from our first Joshua Tree Music Festival, held from May 18-21. The trip was rocky to start, but we powered through and ended up having a fantastic time in the desert as a family. We’ve very slowly eased our way back into social settings and events over the past year or so, and I’ve been wanting to get back into the things I used to do before the pandemic — and really, before I became a mother. This festival, being extremely family-friendly, felt like a good opportunity for us to get back out into the world.

The desert heat made the festival challenging at times, but what I loved about JTMF is that it’s independent and managed/produced by a community of volunteers and local folks. There are so many families and kids running around, and just happy, drama-free people. They don’t pack in the crowd, and there’s lots of space everywhere for people to wander and play. Music-wise, as a whole it’s a bit too mellow and granola for me — give me more loud electronic music, more fast beats, more bass — but we did discover some new bands we like: Balkan Bump, The Last Internationale, Trouble in the Streets, Sgt. Splendor, Golden Dawn Arkestra… Still, I was able to go out dancing for a bit on Friday night — when Garza was DJing during an unexpected rainstorm with thunder and lightning — and we were also able to stay out late on Saturday night to catch Balkan Bump‘s really fun, lively set while Emilia was passed out in our wagon.

JTMF is held twice a year, in May and October, and we hope to return in the fall!

This way to Kidsville
Welcome sign near the entrance
Entrance to the Queer Salon
The Queer Salon, a space for drag, queer, and trans art, performance, and talks
The kids chill zone, a shaded space for kids to hang out, watch performances, and do yoga
The kids chill zone, where Emilia spent a lot of time
The fidget fun board in the kids chill zone
Painting a canvas at Kidsville
Inside the Music Bowl, near all the shops
A view of the Music Bowl from inside the art gallery
The cafe stage and coffee shop
One of the festival’s artists at work on the massive, ever-changing mural near the entrance to the Music Bowl
Resting in the sanctuary, a quiet shaded spot
The Kidsville schedule of activities
Emilia and other kids transforming another sign from last year
Artwork near the food vendors
In the Music Bowl, near the entrance to the Boogaloo stage
Hanging out in the shade of one of the wooden structures
The boogaloo stage and lounge
Previous festival artwork and posters
Vendors selling clothing and accessories
Chilling with Nuna, our camp neighbors’ cool cat
At the entrance to the Music Bowl
One of many rainbows at the festival

Mother’s Day Weekend in Carmel

Had a little girls’ weekend in Carmel with my mom and daughter. My aunt — one of my mom’s sisters — and her partner live in Carmel Valley, so we visited them and went to the coast, had some proper pool time, and ended the weekend with a Sunday brunch at Folktale Winery. Momming is hard, and I’ve found this day challenging for various reasons over the years. But I’m glad to have spent some time with all of them over the past few days.

Palm Springs + Desert X

Team meetups have been at the core of my company’s culture since the beginning.

I used to go on these trips more frequently in the Before Times, meeting my teammates all over the world: Granada, Hanoi (more), Playa Del Carmen (not sure why I don’t have photos), Valletta, Palm Springs/Joshua Tree, Nashville, Chicago, Edinburgh, La Jolla, and again to Palm Springs this week.

Some of the photos in our Airbnb listing make this place look ridiculous and over the top, but in person it’s actually quite functional and comfortable, and is less like a villa and more like a small motel with a facelift, with coats of paint, fun wallpaper, neon signs, and Instagrammable decor. I deleted my Instagram account in 2020 and I don’t miss it, but sometimes I’ll visit and stay in places like this that remind me of how enthusiastic I used to be about taking photos. I’ll actually be returning to the desert in a few weeks with Nick and Emilia, and was thinking of pulling my cameras out from the closet for the trip.

Anyway, if you ever need lodging for a group of 10+ in Palm Springs that’s something in between a hotel and a house — and has separate private sleeping/kitchen spaces — I’d recommend this listing.

We stopped at a few Desert X art installations.

In town, Gerald Clarke’s “Immersion” incorporates Cahuilla basket weaving and a maze-like path on a gameboard that immerses visitors in the region’s Indigenous history. I only have the two photos below (though the bird’s-eye view of the entire piece is worth a look).

A short drive outside of town, Matt Johnson’s “Sleeping Figure” is a sculpture made of international shipping containers near exit 110 on the 10 freeway, and “speaks to the crumples and breaks of a supply chain economy in distress.”