California Lo-ove

Last week I headed to SoCal to spend some much-needed time with two dear friends from my grad school days, Melissa (who lives there) and Bekah — and, of course, to get a spring break tan. Just kidding about that last part. We all know I wore SPF 70+ the whole time. I do have some new freckles, though. Prior to this trip, I’d never been farther west than Kansas City, so this was my first time seeing the Pacific Ocean. We visited Hollywood, Santa Monica, Corona Del Mar, Malibu, and elsewhere in L.A., so I feel as though I got a good taste of the West Coast.

Here are a few of my thoughts and observations from the week:

1. Praise the Lord for air travel and direct flights. I drove to St. Louis to meet Bekah on Friday after work, and the next morning she and I hopped on a plane to LAX (with dreams but not cardigans) and arrived there by like 10:30 a.m. Arriving so early made it feel as though we were getting an entire extra day of vacay. I love living in the future. I also love sitting next to mah bestie on a plane.

2. The only thing more amazing than the number of languages I heard spoken in Santa Monica was the number of selfie sticks I saw there. I knew such contraptions existed, but I didn’t know who actually bought them. Now I know who buys them: European tourists.

3. All the palm trees led me to believe initially that California was quite similar to Florida, but the longer I stayed, the more I realized that, though California caters to Florida-esque activities, Californians — or at least those around L.A. — live at a much faster pace than Floridians. The pace of life around L.A. reminded me of Pittsburgh. People seem to be in a hurry. The traffic is ri-dic-u-lous.

I don’t think Clay Aiken has a star on the Walk of Fame, so I settled for Barry Manilow — which, let’s be honest, is pretty close. Look to our right behind us, and you’ll see the Hollywood sign.
I don’t think Clay Aiken has a star on the Walk of Fame, so I settled for Barry Manilow — which, let’s be honest, is pretty close. Look to our right behind us, and you’ll see the Hollywood sign.

4. We tend to use “Hollywood” as a synonym for the entertainment industry, but when you’re actually there, it feels like any other neighborhood (save for the palm trees). I expected driving through Hollywood to be like driving through an episode of The Hills or something, but we didn’t see Lauren Conrad or, much to Melissa’s dismay, Zac Efron. (But we did see a guy who looked like an Indian version of Ben Wyatt from Parks and Rec, if that counts.)

Wetsuits make us look like legit surfers, but I promise, IT’S ALL A MIRAGE. Here we were with our surfing instructor/new friend Justin.
Wetsuits make us look like legit surfers, but I promise, IT’S ALL A MIRAGE. Here we were with our surfing instructor/new friend Justin.

5. Wetsuits are so hard to put on. Putting on a wetsuit is sort of like putting on Spanx — if Spanx were three times tighter and covered your entire body. That said, WETSUITS ARE AMAZING. They keep you totally warm in the cold water. I’d never given this any thought before. Additionally, though wetsuits are super tight, I found they made the beach much more enjoyable because the only two un-fun parts about going to the beach are 1) covering your entire body in sunscreen and 2) exposing said body to the masses. Put on a wetsuit, and you don’t have to do either of these things. I never want to wear a regular bathing suit again.

6. Surfing is just as fun as would be expected, and I am just as bad at it as would be expected. I did manage to catch a few waves (as the pros say), but only while lying on my stomach on the board, which is the step you master before getting on your knees on the board, which is the step you master before getting on your feet on the board. So what I did was like two steps removed from actual surfing.

Our surfing instructor, a.k.a. Melissa’s friend Justin, graced us with these words of wisdom while we nommed on In ’n Out burgers after our lesson: “Catching a wave is the best feeling in the world, second only to being born again.” Quote of the week.

So much food. Look at our cookies
So much food. Look at our cookies

7. SO MUCH FOOD. We ate so much food. California may have more restaurants than people. There are so many options that making a decision about where to eat takes 45 minutes and a pro/con list and prayer and fasting. The best thing I ate, though, was probably the double chocolate caramel sea salt fudge cookies that we made in Melissa’s cookie laboratory. She works in research and development for a wholesale baking company (putting her engineering and food science degrees to work). Her lab has every cookie ingredient imaginable. It’s like being on a Food Network show, except that I would’ve eaten far fewer ingredients if I were being filmed for television.

Hiking in Malibu
Hiking in Malibu

8. Californians only know about California. (I thought this was only true of Texans.) The rest of us just live in “flyover states.” Melissa’s friends kept referring to Missouri and Kentucky as Minnesota and Kansas. MINNESOTA AND KANSAS.

I did speak to two people who were marginally familiar with Kentucky, and they mentioned the classics: fried chicken and horses. “My mother gets all her horses from Kentucky,” said a man in Malibu. I wanted to be like, “Why, of course she does, our thorahbreds are unrahvaled in this faaahn country.”

I'm so creepy.
I'm so creepy.

9. One of the best parts of the trip was getting to visit Melissa’s church and meet her new friends. Now I have faces to match with names, and one glance at the bookshelves in her friends’ house had me convinced that she’s in good hands. (I judge books by their covers and people by their books. Sorry not sorry.) I snuck this pic of one bookshelf to show everyone back in Missouri who loves and misses Melissa that clearly she is in good hands — or at least in the hands of people who read good books.

These girls — such a blessing to me!
These girls — such a blessing to me!

10. Part of me didn’t want to be that girl blowing up Facebook with pictures of her vacation, but most of me knew I would want to look back on the pictures, so I blew up Facebook anyway. (Am I the only person who sees Facebook as my own virtual scrapbook of memories?) Some of the best parts of the trip couldn’t be captured in an Instagram photo, though. Because, as fun as surfing was, it was not as fun as chilling in Melissa’s room with her and Bekah and laughing so hard about I-can’t-even-remember-what.

When we scheduled this getaway back in February, I had no idea how much I would absolutely need to be with these girls this past week. Throughout the trip I found myself marveling at the Lord’s provision and timing. He knew when I would need some QT with mah people, so he provided it at just the right time. I am so so grateful for these girls' friendship. Even though we're usually at a distance, they are a constant reminder of the Lord's goodness to me throughout the ups and downs of these 20-something years.