I don't have to make a meme to express just how insane 2016 was. "Favorite things" stopped being operative and "things that keep me sane" was a more accurate description of my relationship to art and objects. Below, five of the reasons I haven't moved to a trailer deep in the desert and nailed boards across my window (don't worry, I would have taken my children with me).
1. Helen's Wines/DomaineLA
You know how people in the Middle Ages thought beer was actually hydrating and consumed it in lieu of water? Maybe they were onto something. These two LA-based female-run wine shops are my havens. Helen's Wines (nestled in the back of the delicious Jon and Vinny's) makes you feel good about being a wino, because it's run by Helen Johannesen, a kick-ass female sommelier whose taste and style are feminine and playful but still, well, boozy. How can you not love a wine rec that starts "Try this wine, it's dope as fuck!"? And equally dope is DomaineLA, run by Jill Bernheimer. Domaine is an attitude-free wine haven with an Insta that is filled with rescue dogs and employees scoring baskets in the tiny b-ball hoop set up in the parking lot. So both my favorite wine stores are run by women. Coincidence?
We are all inundated with true crime these days, but this podcast is especially riveting, well-researched, and, with short conclusive episodes, perfect for your morning commute (if you like murder and stuff, that is). The host reminds me of a young Terry Gross, if Terry Gross were into getting to the bottom of money-laundering scandals and stuff.
3. Women continuing to make noisy noise about equal pay
It's been over a year since J. Law laid it down on the subject of equal pay in Lenny Letter, but we are still seeing the effects as women say no to the stigma of demanding more. Just this week, Emmy Rossum announced she wanted a salary that made up for the many years she was paid less than her male co-lead on Shameless. Um, yeah dude.
4. Heather Taylor Home
After the election, I didn't want to do anything except rage, eat, and watch my programs, so the idea of cooking a Thanksgiving meal for 25 grieving Democrats was not high on my list of things to do. But my friend Heather Taylor, a designer of gorgeous table linens, came over and brought literal cheer in the form of pink and golden embroidered napkins that made getting out of sweatpants seem actually appealing. She saved the holiday! Damn, I love knowing talented, entrepreneurial women.
5. Judd Apatow trolling his trolls
If you know Judd, you know he doesn't drop the joke until he's good and ready. He also doesn't let trolls go unchecked, and he responds to them on Twitter in a way that makes them feel as insane as this election made us feel. Judd trolling the trolls is yet another reason he's one of the best of the white men. I hope he never stops, if only for my pleasure.
2016 was a wild and woolly mix of total wackness and utter beauty. For every broken elbow, there was a chance to speak at the DNC about the country I want to live in. For every painful and friendship-altering moment of honesty, there was an equally healing one. For every Donald Trump, there were beautiful adoptable poodles and the triumph of the feminine spirit. For every grandma death, there was a collection of people to hold me upright and make me giggle. I learned just how naive and lucky I was, but also just how much I could withstand and STILL stand. And then of course, you, our always blessed Lennys. But let's get material for a second — here are five things that made 2016 both cozy and transformative, and only one isn't completely selfish.
1. Sharing my lucky life (in the form of 💰💰💰)
It turns out I love to give more than I love to receive. Yes, I am more shocked than anybody, considering my childhood Christmas demands (how many fucking Cabbage Patches are you asking for, Lena?!). But even before the election results made us go on crazy donating benders, investing in causes rather than coats really did my soul good. Those Rihanna for Puma slides in a second color? Nope, how about a girl at GEMS gets school supplies instead. A neon bralette I surely don't need and shan't wear? Let's send that over to The Ally Coalition and feed homeless LGBTQ teens. We all have something to give — skills, time, experience. But a little cold hard cash never hurt anyone.
2. Sedona, Arizona
A distinctly blue pocket in a red state — or maybe it's more rainbow, since Sedona self-identifies as a progressive healing community. The aging hippie in me rejoiced as I explored the red-rock vortexes, bought crystal souvenirs at the Center for the New Age, and even had my aura photographed. Jenni says she's never seen me engage in healthier text and email behaviors (aka, actually putting the phone down on occasion). The spirit of the place is loving, connected, and totally befitting of hemp pants and a long braid. I wish it were a more convenient spot to work from; I'd get a trailer and settle in.
3. Battle Creek heating pad
As a woman with seventeen years of killer cramps quite literally under my belt, I've become something of a heating-pad connoisseur, and Battle Creek has come out the clear winner in the heating-pad war. I selected a nice big one I can wrap around my torso or place under my feet on cold nights. Sometimes I just clutch it like a sad, desperate baby. Because this is my life!!! My choice! You have no right to judge!
America Ferrera herself is one of the best things that happened to me in 2016, so I decided to check out her show Superstore. I expected to be amused, but I didn't know I'd become obsessed. This deceptively sweet and totally cutting-edge sitcom is about a bunch of employees in a big-box store — but it achieves the Norman Lear dream, discussing massive social issues like classism, abortion, and gun control while also normalizing these experiences and creating a multiethnic world where the characters do something quite revolutionary in this day and age: no matter their differences, they treat each other like humans. Also, it contains my favorite line of the year: "Come on, I needed to re-tighten my ponytail. I can't go out there looking like a slut."
5. Khloé Kardashian's Good American jeans
Say what you want about Khloé K (though not to us, OK, she's our girl and we won't hear it): the woman knows her denim. My butt has never felt so appropriately cradled or so totally celebrated as it does in these jeans. I love how inclusive the sizing is and that they're made right in LA. I get pretty sultry the moment they slip on, and I love the variety of washes and slashes and funky details. No matter what men's-rights activists say — I AM a Good American!
1. Best Legging: Outdoor Voices 3/4 Tri-Tone Warmup Legging
Sometimes I feel like I am secretly a viral marketer for Outdoor Voices, because these leggings are hands down the best running pants I have ever owned. Because I live a leggings lifestyle (read: mom of two tiny children), I wear these at least three days a week. As activewear, they really feel like second skin — they are high-waisted without feeling like they are suffocating you, and gave really excellent support for my postpartum abs when I was just getting back into running. As fashion, they are cute as hell, and I regularly get compliments on them.
2. Best Hand Soap: Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day Basil Hand Soap
When I first used this in a restaurant bathroom, I was skeptical — isn't this gonna make me smell like a pizza? But it's a really beautiful, fresh scent that makes me happy every time I wash my hands.
3. Best Distraction: Apartment Therapy
Sometimes I just can't fucking deal with news. I can't take another report about the latest numbnuts Trump is considering for his cabinet of horrors. I need a respite on the Internet, and I've found it in home-décor websites. There is zero politics in home décor. Apartment Therapy is one of my faves, but I have also spent lots of time perusing Remodelista (who doesn't love a before-and-after?).
4. Best Winter Boot: No. 6 Shearling Boots
I'm cold all the time, so I start wearing these as soon as it goes below 50 degrees. They are adorable and have a nice walkable rubber heel and I am gonna wear these into the ground.
1. Late Night With Seth Meyers
At some point in the past year, my feelings for Seth Meyers went from "Yeah, I dig his show" to full-blown obsession, and I'm going to be honest with you, I am fully embracing them. During this shit-show election year, watching him "make sense" of all the crazy political shit happening in this country was was informational — but more important, it was stress-releasing. But my love for the show is not just about Seth, no, it's also because he gives lots of airtime to his staff writers, particularly Amber Ruffin and Jenny Hagel who have my hands-down favorite segment on the show, "Jokes Seth Can't Tell." I'm thankful for this show literally every day.
2. Rihanna's Anti, and DIANA's Familiar Touch
There was SO much good music this year: Beyoncé's Lemonade, Solange's A Seat at the Table, Kari Faux's Lost en Los Angeles. But the two albums that will forever mark this year for me are Rihanna's magnificent Anti, with its super-chill vibes and sexy as HELL guitar solos that are pure '80s in the best ways. And following those sensual vibes is DIANA's Familiar Touch, which is basically what my soul sounds like 24-7, and whose live show earlier this month fully gave me back my LIFE!
3. Settlers of Catan
On Thanksgiving night, after feasting on mashed potatoes and various pies, I downloaded the Settlers of Catan game on my iPhone, and then I proceeded to play it from Thursday night all the way to Sunday. For three glorious days, I was completely oblivious to whatever shit Trump was pulling, to all the horrible stuff going on out in the real world. Sure, this isn't a sustainable way to live — and not that I would want to just bury my head in the sand for the rest of my life — but I needed a full time-out from the world, and Settlers provided that comfort for me. I only play one or two games a night now, so, you know, I'm not an addict.
4. The most perfect hoodie
I bought this Nike Tech Fleece hoodie on a whim, and I'm so happy I did because I can already tell it's going to become my go-to this winter. It's super-warm, the arms are slim, and the oversize hood means I don't need to wear a scarf. Looking into acquiring it in every color, but I am also OK with wearing the same one every day? IDK, it's winter, it's not like I'm sweating in it!
For me, 2016 has been the year of the podcast. I listen to them constantly. I simply can't get enough! Aside from helping me cope with my daily commute and occasional bouts of insomnia, podcasts like 2 Dope Queens, Call Your Girlfriend, Code Switch, and Women of the Hour have kept me sane during what felt like the longest year ever.
I burned soooo much sage this year. Call it placebo, call it spiritual (maybe it's a little of both?); nothing calms my nerves quicker than a smoldering smudge stick. As the memory of 2016 fades to black, I am 100 percent certain that I will continue to sage my way through the new year.
I'm really obsessed with socks. Cotton, wool, sheer, printed. Whatever. I am a firm believer in the transformative power of a good pair of socks. I mean, who knows, maybe the key to living your best life lies in sporting a comfy but fashion-forward pair of socks?
4. Bodega Cats Instagram Account
As we learned from this year's controversy, bodega cats are vital and precious creatures. @bodegacatsofinstagram is an endless scroll of fabulous felines lounging on ATMS, canned goods, and packaged snacks. This account will seriously fill your heart with joy. I can only hope that this year we can all be as audacious as the bodega cat at rest.
1. "Telefone," by NoName
My favorite album in a year of phenomenal music. NoName is the daughter of booksellers, and her work is like a modern-day Toni Morrison novel — the language is intricate and folds in on itself and playful and poignant and mostly just pretty.
2. "Making Oprah"
This podcast charts the rise of the Oprah Winfrey Show from a small regional morning show to the entertainment juggernaut it had become by the time it left the air in 2010. The podcast is full of great insider information — a producer recalls that the first promos for Oprah in Idaho in the early '80s cluelessly used Stevie Wonder's "Ebony and Ivory" to try to sell her to a white audience. Mostly, it's just a reminder of how wonderful Oprah's show was. Full confession, I was an Oprah hater for much of my teens, but the past year's worth of television and the current political divisiveness in this country make me long for a time when everyone watched at least one show, and the show was put on by someone as kind and curious as Oprah Winfrey.
3. "Who? Weekly" Podcast
I love tabloid magazines but can only tolerate the trashiness for a bit before I feel a bit guilty and sick. Who? Weekly is just the right amount of tabloid froth — it charts the shenanigans of all those D- and E- and F-list celebrities that always seem to be hanging around Instagram and the back pages of InTouch. This is one of my favorite shows to listen to when the world is way too overwhelming and you have to take a break from despair.
We can all agree that 2016 was the worst for many reasons. But as tumultuous as the end of 2016 has been, for me the year started out even more challenging. For the first time in my life I didn't just naturally feel OK; I was going to have to take a real stab at this whole "self-care" thing, and I was willing to try anything, from Ayurvedic cleanses to desert tightropes, to feel better. Here are a few of the things that made me feel whole (and energized, curious, motivated, and in love with laughing) again:
1. Cedarwood oil
I'd always been a really good sleeper — as in, nine undisturbed hours a night. So a sudden inability to fall asleep and regular 3 a.m. wake-ups were not OK, especially when it meant I couldn't get through work without a nap (thank G that Lena and Jenni are super-into an at-work nap). Finally, I tried running a diffuser at bedtime with a few drops of cedarwood oil, which is thought to stimulate melatonin production. I've been sleeping like a baby, and it feels kind of magical to do it without any drugs. Not that I'm not down with drugs. I ♡ SSRIs too!
2. The Prime, by Dr. Kulreet Chaudhary
Jenni turned me on to this book by an integrative neurologist trained in Ayurveda. Jenni, like pretty much everyone I've ever spoken to, knows I have a passion for the gut and how it can influence our likelihood to develop illnesses like asthma, our weight, our moods, and our allergies (I'd been diagnosed with a pile of them, both food-related and environmental). The Prime, a four-step "cleanse" on which you eat normally but add elements like herbal tea, supplements, juice, and bone broth in an effort to "reset" your gut, has markedly improved my health and well-being. I crave healthier foods, I don't react to many of the foods I'd been told I was allergic to, and I feel more energized, alert, and engaged.
3. Putting the phone down
Like Lena, I also went to the desert and put my phone down. Granted, I was forced into it by a strict no-phone policy at the resort where I was meditating, hiking, and doing those ropes courses that teach you something about yourself. I'd been spending a truly obsessive, detrimental amount of time on social media, and that weekend broke the spell. Afterward, I deleted Instagram and Facebook until I felt I could have a healthy relationship with them again, and after a couple of months, I was able to re-engage without cycling through nausea, rage, and tears every time I checked my feed. I'm happy to say I'm still pretty phone-free on the weekends — even without the threat of being silently reprimanded by "reminder card"–toting resort staff.