Resting above the cornfields in no hurry or concern, the snow reflects dim and dull atop the browns and greens of lifeless stalks. Tracks from a tractor leave their footprint, their path uncertain yet distinct. The fog coats the air with a thickness that is nearly tangible. In the distance, the silhouette of bare branches cut through with jagged edges and reaching arms.
The mist forms something of a mixture of snow, ice and rain. The air is bitter and unforgiving. In case the grey skies above weren’t telling enough, the icy layer of snow casting it’s translucent glow above the fields reminds me that winter isn’t melting away without a fight. This is no time to be outdoors.
Inside, folded under the white and blue and beige shades of sheets, down and knits, my eyes rest asleep. Nestled between the bare skin of my forearm and stomach, Misha curls herself up into a tight ball, tail wrapped around like a pillow of sorts. The weight of the covers crush above us, thick and heavy and warm. I am sleeping. Dreaming, but of what, I cannot remember. I am deep in dreams. The kind of dreams that make you smile in your sleep but have no logic, no plot and no location. These are the dreams that give you feelings but cannot be explained through words. They are blurs of the imagination, a trip on a drug that leaves your memory lost in the labyrinth.
I love you so much, Alex says. I awake. I hear his words. He is back asleep before my mouth can form any sense of an utterance in return. Misha’s nose is wet and cold against my thumb. Outside, winter sits still. Inside, we rest.
*Filed under Home Life*
I’ve been asleep in a room where the windows encompass you in a full circle, open wide and airy out onto the world, far below. Where the balmy winds rush through from one side to another, slowing briefly over the bundle of sheets above our bodies. The only sound for miles is that of the afternoon showers, heavy and steady yet gentle as a dove. The bleached, washed out white is the only color besides the pale, naked skin on the bed. It’s the only color that matters. It is pure. As I awaken, the nudes and whites have been replaced by the crimson glow of a sunset from the heavens. Somewhere in the midst of the afternoon, the rain washed out all of our anxiety and stress, leaving behind the sound of twilight. We’re sharing this world with the animals in the trees and the birds in the distance. We’re sharing this moment with every single person down below, unaware of us, of our view of this same, exact moment.
How impossible is it to bring that same sensation back to reality? You can’t package it up, tie a bow on top and ship it back home to wait until you get off the airplane. We shouldn’t try to replace it- it stays in our memories, back in Costa Rica, back in our honeymoon. We should strive to find the same raw, romantic, irreplaceable moments in our every day. We will find it in the unmade bed surrounded by dirty socks and sweaty gym shirts. It is there, hidden behind “normal”.
*Filed under Married Life, Wanderlust Life*
Looking back, it all becomes a big question. What’s it all really for, anyway? To be a teacher?
To all of my teaching friends: please don’t take this next paragraph personally, keep on reading. I sometimes worry that the statement “those who can’t do, teach” holds true. After 2 years of graduate research on the topic, I’m afraid to announce that yes, our dumbest college graduates make up the majority of the teaching profession. They may have made it to college, but their SAT and ACT scores are some of the lowest of the bunch. Here is where we find the problem with education in the great USA. How did I get here? I didn’t sign up for this in college.
So I sit here and look back on everything I did in college not to become a teacher. The 16 credit hour semesters chugging away at public relations and art history while always thinking about how to be better. Why stop at joining the honors society? Become honors society president (which I did). Be happy with a really high GPA? Nah, add an honors thesis to top it off (which I did). Why graduate a semester early if you can? Stay and take more classes (which I did). Take on an easy summer job? Scope out those paid internships and work your life away, instead (which I did). See the pattern? Yet, my public relations portfolio is sitting on the shelf in our guest bedroom gathering dust. I haven’t needed it since my first job offer out of school- to be a conference planner.
Where did things steer off course? You could blame the recession. You could blame my itch to be in the classroom. Sure, but this is my point. Does it really matter? I’ve read hundreds of resumes just like my own. Young minds, bursting with energy, experience, background and a clear drive for success. They have majors in fields like engineering, public relations, math, biology, Spanish. Some even have a law degree or their MBA. And they sit in front of me, magna cum laude, president of Lambda Pi Eta, the Communications Honor Society, 4 fantastic internships deep, published and paid for, not to mention a years worth of experience in non-profit government consulting. They’ve traveled the country for this job, yet they are begging me to send their portfolio through with a nice, confident check next to ”highly recommend”. They take each question I throw at them with ease, tenacity and brains.
Do I allow them what was allowed of me? Do I give them the same opportunity to steer off course, leave the fireworks of success that are bound to follow them through corporate America, in the lab, or the courtroom? This could end bad. Do I do it? Only if…. only if I can see that they have the same commitment I made three years ago. Our students are thrown in the gutters of society because they were born into the wrong tax bracket, the wrong race, and the wrong side of the city. To be quite honest, your run-of-the-mill educator with their low SAT score won’t cut it. These kids need the best we have to offer. And I know it’s the best as I look up at the clean, polished, nervous as hell young adult in front of me. Their resume tilts up towards me from my lap with a glory to be proud of.
And what does he do? He recommends me in.
*Filed under Personal Life*
“Do you want to see my cheerleader costume?” Loud and proud, tall and full of smiles, sticking out of a Power Rangers tent with static hair fraying in every direction. This is how I met my best friend. There I stood still and quite, teetering back and forth, hands behind my back.
“Come with me!” And she gently took my hand leading me in a quick run upstairs to her bedroom. I don’t even remember my mom leaving to go to work that morning.
Twenty years later, Katie is still there, influencing my memories and raising the bar on my idea of a friend. We never went to the same schools. We never lived in the same neighborhoods. We never even played sports together. In fact, we’ve somehow found a way to continuously move further and further away from each other. First, different counties. Then, different states for college. After that, we managed switched states and she moved to Virginia while I moved back to Maryland for our first jobs. And now? We’re practically 6,000 miles away from each other on opposite sides of the world.
It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t change our friendship. It doesn’t change the fact that we can pick up where we left off- even if we left off nearly 2 years prior. It doesn’t change the tremendous amounts of fun that ensue when we are together. We always found a way to keep ourselves busy. Or, in trouble. There was the time we decided to cut up oranges for a snack and I sliced my finger. Instead of telling her mom (a nurse, by the way), we tried to take care of it for over a day before we finally decided we should tell an adult. I cherish that jagged scar on my ring finger. It reminds me of a relationship as important and just as special as that I have with my husband- that of a best friend. It also reminds me of endless summer days where time barely moved. A trip down the driveway to the mailbox was an adventure in itself. We never watched the time- only the sun in the sky. Worries were fleeting moments that never stopped us from enjoying life.
Our ability to hear each other- the gentleness in the way we understand what is worthy of sifting like flour through our thoughts, what is a waste of time and what can demand our attention, cannot be replicated. The result is a rich, ever faithful friendship that I am thankful for every day.
She’s always been there for me- knowing exactly what I need to hear or need to do. Thankfully, she was able to make it back for our wedding. Having her by my side that week, writing my to-do lists, reminding me to breathe, and making sure I found time to eat was a true lifesaver. We didn’t have enough time together. We never do. There’s always stories that went untold and plans that never came to fruition. Isn’t that the way it always is with best friends?
Katie’s coming home for the holidays- a great surprise to all of us in her life. It will be more of the same- so much to do and so little time. It doesn’t matter. Hasn’t stopped us before…
I come with flaws. I come with terrible, self-absorbing habits that are 25 years old and will never give out. In the wrong light (or right, depending on who you talk to), I am cold-hearted, apathetic and have a thick enough skin that you would think I didn’t even have a heart. I have scars. My scars are deep and varied. Some were wounds for years while others turned immediately from wound to scar tissue. They make me who I am. I have influences. Leave your opinions at the door and understand that there are people in this world- living and dead, close to me and strangers- who have made me me- for better or worse. This patchwork of people and experiences sets me apart from even the most kindred of spirits. This is my identity. And I’m beautiful.
I come with connections. Connections to more than flesh and bones. These connections are forever tied and it is a waste of time to try and sever them. To give a comprehensive list of the people who have become such an integral part of who I am would bore just about anyone. But, in light of her visit, I must highlight my grandma lolipop.
She laughs loud and big and smiles through everything. We carry on a conversation the way best friends do after 30 years. She is smart, bakes like none other and she is strong. It’s the similarities that make our connection so special. My parents would tell me I am “just like her”. We have the same smile, the same quirks, same dislikes and the same pleasures. I get it. I see it. But, when Alex sees us together, he just laughs. Yet, somehow, he handles the two of us with stride. Bless him for it.
I don’t get to see grandma lolipop very often anymore. My dad took her to Germany for Thanksgiving this year (something my super British, anti-Germany grandpa probably has a thing or two to say about). I hear their trip was incredible. I’m sure it was- nothing beats the Alps in the fall. When they came back, I was able to spend a few hours with her. We reminisced about the wedding, gossiped about the family, talked about her friends and my grandpa’s health back up in Michigan. We laughed and cracked jokes. She took Alex’s side in making fun of me. It was the best way to spend a Tuesday night.
Our time together has never amounted to much over my childhood- a few visits each year and that’s about it. But, when I look at my grandmother I see a beautiful women with her own flaws, scars and influences. She is only one piece of the patchwork of my life, but she has shaped me in ways that nobody else ever could. I see her strength and commitments to be models for my life. And, of course, I have to thank her for introducing me to the most annoying song in the history of the universe: The Lolipop Song.
“Oh I’d rather suck on a lemon drop than to try my luck with a lollipop,
‘cause I always drop my lollipop, and it gets all over icky.
I’ve tried and tried, but never could find a lollipop that’s halfway refined….”
Back in 2007. Top row (l-r): Grandma Lolipop and my little sister, Sara Bottom row (l-r): me, my dad, and my little brother, Stephen.
*Filed under Personal Life*
In my honest attempt to get back into a workout routine, I found myself at the gym at 6pm on a Saturday. Filling in my need for cardio, I stuck myself on an elliptical in the cardio cinema room in front of The Italian Job. I love Venice.
In October 2010, we took a trip to Venice to see my dad’s exhibition and to support him at his conference. We stayed in this gorgeous, super Venetian apartment, went grocery shopping on the Grand Canal, walked the streets like we owned the place and luncheoned at a palace outdoors by the Accademia bridge daily. Life was grand.
Being that my father had practically become a local, there really wasn’t an opportunity to get lost in the city. Granted, it’s the most difficult city in the world to navigate and maps do not help one bit. However, the first thing he did when we arrived was to walk us to each important destination- and then ask us to show him how to get back to the apartment. Our last night in Venice, the sense of adventure had finally worn completely on Alex and I. Google “Top 10 Things To Do in Venice” and you always see “Get lost”. We wanted to get lost.
So we set off. Our plan? Turn the opposite way than we typically did on each street (or alleyway) we encountered until we were officially lost. How fantastic. We didn’t have a map and we didn’t have a phone or even a watch. It was just the two of us, lost in the City of Love. We passed through the university neighborhood, the Jewish ghetto, and this unbelievable midnight market that must’ve stretched on for kilometers… We found ourselves in places that were out of a dream, tiny little crevaces of the city that were 2 people wide but surrounded by gelato on one side and live music on the other.
We continued to walk. Every once in awhile we’d try and follow the obligatory signs for Rialto or San Marco on the side of a building. They only disoriented us even more. Three hours later we literally stumbled upon the Grand Canal in front of a row of gondolas bobbing back in forth in the water under the moonlight. We knew, with only a few hundred feet to our right, we’d come across San Marco Piazza, from which we could easily make our way back to the apartment. The best part about the situation was that we were convinced we’d be closer to the Rialto bridge (on the other side of the city) that to San Marco!
This is my point: Where else in the entire world can you wander around deliberately getting lost in the middle of the night without a care in the world? Venice is a romantic city- no arguments there. But it’s more than gondoliers singing love songs as lovers float the canals. It’s more than the 410 bridges and the 150 canals. I know why Venice is the City of Love. I spent 3 hours lost in it’s romance with nothing but my purse and my fiance.
The romance of Venice is the humming of the street vendors and the drunken slurs of the tourists as they pull their maps out (go ahead and laugh) in desperation. The romance is in the smell of the lagoon and the way it floods during high tide, reminding us where we are in the grand scheme of the universe… and forcing us onto elevated walkways. The romance is in the security of being only accessible by foot or boat- virtually eliminating the crime. This is what is romantic- taking a 3 hour walk around the City of Love in the middle of the night with your best friend without worrying once about your safety or your ability to (somehow, sometime) make it back home.
To navigate through life with the same sense of faith and trust… wouldn’t that be something? My spiritual views are underdeveloped and vaguely identifiable. However, I know this is what we all should strive towards. Just have faith. With the guidance of a little bit of street smarts and your loved ones by your side, you should be able to conquer every new corner and turn. No maps required. No phoning friends. Just your intuition and a little bit of patience. We get where we need to… eventually. It might not be where we expected to end up- in fact, it could be on the other side of the city like us. You can’t be picky- you are one of 7 billion humans that are trying to find their way as well. Our patience and faith took us to exactly where we needed to be to get back home. I’m starting to realize that those virtues should get us exactly where we’ll need to be the rest of our lives. So I’m going to start sitting back and enjoying life- regardless of how lost I might sometimes feel.
*Filed under Wanderlust Life*
Our wedding officiant performed a Celtic Hand Fasting during our ceremony where our hands were knotted together and our siblings blessed our marriage. This is what my brother said: “May you always be ready for adventure, and may returning home be the best part of your journey.”
Our honeymoon was perfect. It wasn’t that generic perfect that you see in magazines and little girls dream of when they are 8 years old. No, it was quite different. It was perfect for our relationship. Our physical bonds as well as our spiritual bonds were remembered, renewed, tightened, and knotted during the 8 days of our perfection.
It was real. It was two best friends on a crazy adventure in the middle of the rainforest. It was two soul mates purposefully not bringing along a single watch and not once looking at a clock because time had no value. It was us, as newlyweds, realizing that our love and our friendship will make it to the end just fine. It was the beggining of the rest of our lives together.
And then we opened our door in the middle of the night, weary eyed from traveling and ready to sleep. There, greeting us with quiet cries as if to say “Is it really you?”, were our two cats. Our family. Upstairs, tucked into bed with Baci and Misha, who both decided to sleep under the covers with us, we couldn’t help realizing that this is what it’s about. Trips and adventures will pass, but we will always come home to our family in our cozy house. It may not be the same family- different pets, children some day, too. And we hope it’s not always the same house. Still, it’s our little slice of heaven. Our honeymoon might have felt like heaven (and it sure looked like heaven). It wasn’t. Heaven is right here. Home.
*Filed under Married Life, Home Life*
Don’t let us fool you- this is just a major ploy to avoid family holiday politics over Thanksgiving. Except…. dad’s going to be in Germany with grandma, sis decided to tag along, mom’s got seriously fun plans with her friends, brother’s going to be with his girlfriend… no, I guess it doesn’t hold up.
So, here it is 11pm, finally dumping laundry load #3 into the washing machine- not like we’re going to need these sweaters where we’re going. Everything always hits the fan right before something exciting occurs. This time, our hot water heater goes out (something called a thermal coupler… anyone? anyone?), Alex comes down with one of those “I swear it’s not strep” sore throats, parent teacher conferences need to get done and oh, by the way, we’re out of cat food. I think it’s safe to say we’re ready to escape.
Here we go. American Airlines- we’re begging for one of those “Congrats! Since it’s your honeymoon…” upgrades. Fodor- show us what you’ve got. Frommer- we hope these maps are accurate. Baci and Misha- I’m bringing you home a baby sister. We’ll call her Jaguar. Play nice, she’s rather big. Ticos, please make my harness extra tight before sending me down the zip line. And lastly, keep the poisonous snakes away.
Here’s to a blessed 1 month anniversary, hidden away in our own pocket of God’s earth. Nothing matters except for the warmth of our laughter as we dangle our feet out over the edge of our future. Looking back on the depths of our love, we’re greeted with a new sense of history. In the stillness of our embrace and the passion of our gaze, here we are. And here we begin.
*Filed under Married Life, Wanderlust Life*
There is a gigantic, vivid schema in my brain surrounding the holidays. By the age of 10, I knew every word to Miracle on 34th Street and watched it as soon as Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade ended. Mom would always be busy baking pies. A cherry pie for my dad. An apple cobbler for me. And either a pecan or a pumpkin pie. It’s the cocoa I’m holding in my hands to warm my soul as we pick out our newest family member for the season at the Christmastree farm. It’s the sound of the sawblade slicing through our chosen tannenbaum, and then the smell of fresh pinewood soaking in the bucket on the back porch while we prepared the living room. It’s the unmistakable scent of fresh cinnamon sticks and gingerbread men dangling by crimson ribbon on the tree. Vince Guaraldi and Elvis Presley soaking the air with music. The endless cycle of claymation and Charlie Brown, with some It’s a Wonderful Life sprinkled in there somewhere. Brown paper packages tied up with strings. Coming home from school to find new gifts under the tree that I had to “organize” before my school uniform even came off. Hiding behind my blanket as I passed the gifts Santa brought us Christmas morning in order to go wake up my brother and sister- I promised myself I’d never take a peek without them. The dumping of the stockings. Pancakes. And the food…. But mostly, being with family and gift giving. And of course, December 26th trips to Hallmark for discounts with my mom. I love Christmas.
My childhood holidays were very classic Americana. Very, very Norman Rockwell. And always very, very, very blessed with everything I took for granted- and still usually do. So here I am, married, with divorced parents and divorced in-laws.
When Alex and I moved in together, we started our own tradition. Despite the chaos of 4 Christmases, we promised we’d find ourselves together, alone, at our home every Christmas Eve. We stay up late drinking Baileys and hot chocolate, watching How the Grinch Stole Christmas and eventually falling asleep somewhere in the middle of It’s a Wonderful Life. We sneek over to our stockings individually and fill one anothers with plenty of trinkets, our favorite sweets and a few unexpected surprises. In the morning, we crawl out of bed at our own pace and I make some awesome apple cinnamon pancakes. We sip eggnog as we unwrap our gifts to one another, in private. Later, we go for a run to make the gluttony of the holiday less painful.
By now, it’s usually time to take a deep breath, pack the car with gifts we have yet to give, and head on our way. I’ve traveled on Christmas day ever since I could drive (which coincides perfectly with the year my parents divorced). Forget the “double the presents” argument, this shit sucks. Nobody wants to travel on Christmas day.
Well, here we are. Trying to figure out Christmas once again. It would be one thing if it was just 4 individual parents. But it’s not. It’s a brother with a serious girlfriend, a sister with a serious boyfriend (thank GOD he’s Jewish), another sister, two stepsisters, a stepfather, dearly loved grandparents, not to mention the family I USED to be able to see on our trips to Michigan for big, humongous, gigantic “Griffinclan” Christmases, and my new extended family. That’s a ton of schedules to juggle.
Christmas has become a chore. It’s become political. Whose feelings are gonna get hurt this year? Also, just because we’re teachers, it gets even worse. Heaven forbid any of our winter break be spent as just that- a break. It’s an automatic assumption that our Christmas “family time” can extend to New Years Eve. This is enough to make me want to have a baby now. Then, the excuse is better. “We’re doing a quiet Christmas at home, just us”. I know this is something all couples deal with. I know we aren’t alone. It just…. sucks… and sours those childhood memories I cherish so much.
I completely understand, Mr. Scrooge.
*Filed under Personal Life*