Halloween Weekend

This week I simply had no motivation to enter blogosphere. It might have been the absence of internet for 2 days, the seasonal change or the overall mental exhaustion. In any case, I'll try to update you on the highlights of the last few days in a succinct fashion.

Thursday was uncharacteristically warm for late October, so Blake and I went down to the beach with a group of friends to take advantage of the great weather. With Halloween cupcakes and apple cider donuts in tow, we sat in the sand under the soft light of an autumn moon, filling our stomachs with sugary goodness and filling our souls with the reminder that summer will come again.

The next day was 20 degrees cooler and those artificially-sweetened cupcakes sent me home from my workout class with a stomachache that will keep me from eating frosting for at least a few weeks. Ah, reality.

On Friday afternoon, we picked up my friend Jessica and headed down to Connecticut for the "red-carpet casual" Wall Street Exodus premiere party. For those of you who don't know, Wall Street Exodus (the project) is an initiative through Thousand Times, LLC (the company) which seeks to build sustainable businesses in Teupasenti, Honduras with the help of 12 former Wall Street executives. The project will be featured as a television reality series in (hopefully) the coming year. The party on Friday night was attended by advisors and participators in the project, and we were invited because I had worked as production coordinator over the summer. It is a truly remarkable group of people who make this project possible, and I was grateful for the opportunity to share in the celebration of the pilot and promotional products. I'll probably have photos to share once the photographer posts them online.

We stayed at my parents house on Friday night and spent Saturday morning in the kitchen with my Dad, eating his pesto eggs and discussing the latest updates in his aeronautical hobbies. On the way out of town, we stopped for a short visit with Blake's family. Our visits to Madison never seem long enough.

My good friend Heather and her boyfriend Brian were hosting a Halloween party down the street from our apartment, so we had to come up with some last minute costumes. Note well: do not visit any Halloween/party store within 20 miles of Salem 2 days before Halloween. In Salem and its surrounding towns, Halloween is not a one-day event. It is a week-long process that brings out the cute, the terrifying, the inappropriate and the downright strange for a display of the diversity and poor taste of mankind. A local advised me to shop a week in advance and to avoid the back of any seasonal costume store. I didn't listen. Shame on me.

We're Katie Couric and a random male newscaster, can't you tell?

Melissa, Heather and me getting into character.

At this point, my wig came off because I was pretty sure that it was going to give me a rash on my forehead.

So after sorting through the chaos of two malls and two party stores, we emerged from the world of the weird with two wigs and a reformed sense of a once-appreciated holiday. But the party was fun, and today we've stocked the trick-or-treat bucket with candy for our first Halloween as a married couple.

Secretly, we hope no one comes. We love Kit-Kats.

Enjoy your Halloween celebrations!


The Still Point

This weekend was humbling for no particular reason. It was just the perfect set of circumstances to make me step back and realize how tremendously and so often unappreciatively blessed I am.

As I sit, realizing myself in the form of writing to you all, I can't deny that there were days in the last year when I was at a breaking point. Whether this exhibited itself in vulnerability, insecurity or surprising days of obsessive-compulsion, its cause was - as I spoke of in an earlier post - single-minded motivation. Which, again, isn't terrible unless it becomes debilitating. And it did. Without exposing too much of this to you all in the form of cyber-communication, it was debilitating to the point of anger and frustration that I, who had experienced so little loss, could feel loss in its deepest recesses.

But I have not been given a spirit of fear. I do not have a spirit that is shadowed by despair. In each instant, I am faced with the joy and possibility of life.

I once wrote about the fragile moments of morning in the newly warm days of June when I began packing my childhood belongings. The time is fragile like the "still point of the turning world" that T.S. Eliot writes of in Four Quartets. These are the moments of stillness when life appears so beautifully designed and so imparted with love. And there are fragile moments of night as well. Or of midday. Or of weekend.

Blake and I drove out to Concord on Saturday morning to hike along trails in our zipped-up North Face jackets, admiring trees on fire with orange and red, smiling like we do when we don't even know that we're smiling. Blake sat and read while I napped in the sun that drenched our yellow quilt with a warm afternoon glow. Later we carved a pumpkin and baked the seeds so long that they turned crispy and tasted funny. And it hit me while we were cutting up vegetables for dinner. A still point. I love my husband and my beautiful, broken life so much that it hurts.

Oh, how incredibly blessed I am.


Strength Training

On Monday I started a new class at the Gordon gym, which is deceivingly called "Strength Training". Originally, I had feared that this class would give me more arm strength than any (normal) woman could possibly want. Point being: I gain arm strength faster than a Massachusetts driver can make a stupid mistake (that's fast). This is not a joke. It might be a medical mystery. That, or the result of excessive gymnastics lessons as a child. I had nightmares about the impossible size that my muscles would grow to.

This is what I was afraid of.

Whatever the case, I had nothing to fear. This class is the best thing I've done for myself in a long time. When I got up this morning to aching legs and shoulders, I sang an (internal) Hallelujah chorus. It hurts because it's challenging me.

And yesterday as I ran around the indoor track, threw down 20 push-ups, endured too many crunches to count and experienced the inhuman torture referred to as "the wall sit", I exclaimed (internally, again), "Thank you, God, for giving me legs! Thank you for giving me arms! Thank you for giving me abs and hamstrings that can endure such things!"

So today as I survey the damage of a week of homework, intense workouts, messes in the kitchen, piles of laundry and streams of work email, I am thankful. God has been faithful. Every immediate need has been provided for. What better way to start the day than to be physically drained and praising my loving, intense, detail-oriented God?


Fall Family Meals

One thing that I loved about quad break: sitting down at the table with some of my favorite people in the world while celebrating birthdays, a break from our chaotic days, and the blessing of life.

I have been waiting months for my mother's amazing chili and cornbread.

Tomorrow is my father-in-law's (FIL) birthday.

Reasons why Chris Walker is the best father-in-law:
1. He tells me (and MIL) that (almost) anything I cook/bake is the "best thing he's ever eaten".
2. He might have teared up a little at the wedding.
3. He took the day off because I wanted to go to the beach.
4. He put a girly PEZ dispenser in my stocking.
5. He started referring to me as his "future daughter-in-law" when I was fifteen.


Where the Heart Is

Everyone (especially my Dad, who loves his girls)
is probably a little sick of hearing me talk about New York City. It's my happy place: full of life, career prospects, great food, incredible events and hidden gems of silence in the midst of its chaos. My mind is overwhelmingly full of the possibilities that this city affords.

But while my mind, my energy and my hope is in New York City, my heart is in my hometown. I am reminded of this each time I return to its restaurant-less, beach-loving, family-oriented bliss.

This weekend I am enjoying the much-anticipated tradition of quad break. I had planned to spend the long weekend with my good friend Erica in West Palm Beach, but the plans did what they tend to do - change. I've spent the last three days with family, soaking up their love as only a college student can understand. It's a place of blessing where your heart feels so comfortable, you can almost feel its relief from outside stress.

When I first began to wrestle with the thought of growing up, I would sit on the couch, flop myself over so that my legs rested against the back cushions and view the living room from an upside-down position. I imagined this was how things used to feel when I was smaller - when I didn't see things as they actually were. Somehow I liked that perspective, however warped and delusional it was. Now that I live in Massachusetts, send texts to my sister referring to our childhood home as "Mom and Dad's house", and am allowed to have my husband upstairs with me, I don't need to sit upside down to remember what it was like to be a child. Oddly enough, it's clearer to me now, not by power of contrast to my new life but by the recognition of the people who have made this house my home.

On Wednesday, my Dad took me out flying with him. He handed me the controller, promised he wouldn't let me crash his model plane and stood obnoxiously close as I quickly maneuvered the plane to near-destruction. True to form, he snatched the controller away in time to avoid catastrophe, probably a little agitated by my ineptitude. But, unlike my 7-year-old self trying to make a diorama and growing frustrated with his frustration, my 21-year-old self laughed. He expects a lot from me, but he also loves me beyond words and, no matter how old I get, he'll always be my Dad.

That's what home is. It's the mix of expectation and love that drive you to be the person you've become. It's the mother's arms that rush to hug you before you put your bags down. It's the note she leaves on the counter to remind you to call. It's the little sister who tries not to smile when you pick her up from Driver's Ed. It's the brother who brings 7-ft Elephant Ear plants into the house. It's the nights of Chinese food at your older sister's house. It's the days of shopping and laughing with your mother-in-law and teasing your brother-in-laws. It's the way your father-in-law won't call you anything but "DIL" (or "Dilly") for the rest of your life.

On the drive down, Blake finally acquiesced. "We can live in New York City if you get a job there," he told me. It was as if he had announced that Christmas was coming early. Everything within me jumped at the thought. Well, almost everything. My heart is at home. I think I'll keep it there.


I Dream of France

Right now, I would very much like to be in France at a café - drinking coffee, eating a croissant, reading poetry, and speaking French with Rachel Hogue.

Later in the afternoon, we'd go for a walk along a country road, stopping at a market for fresh produce. We'd visit an art museum and laugh pretentiously at obvious tourists. I would wear a beret. As we headed back to our ritzy hotel, Rachel would strike up a conversation about Coco Chanel while drinking Chardonnay.

Carla Bruni would play on the radio as we fell asleep.

Instead, I'm in Massachusetts doing homework and eating spoonfuls of granola.

C'est la vie.


Collections and Orange Bread

This weekend was overwhelmingly comprised of homework and resume-reworking. It sounds boring because it is boring. Almost depressingly so. As if the insanity of my pre-quad break workload weren't enough, I was assigned Absalom, Absalom! - which is destroying my brain cells and ruining my appetite. Faulker and I are not friends. As a general rule, I avoid friendships with those who put me through painful run-on sentences and non-sequiturs.

But this weekend wasn't altogether lacking fun.

Yesterday, Blake and I headed to the largest mall in New England, which is not a mall at all - it's a collection. The Natick Collection. I think the difference lies somewhere in the amount that the average shopper is willing to spend on ridiculous things. There also seems to be a dress code. We passed four women in pants suits before I turned to Blake and asked, "Should I have dressed up?" My Aerie sweatpants never looked so out of place. But then again, I had never been to a collection before. Next time I'll know.

In spite of my woefully tasteless appearance, I did make two good purchases this weekend.

1. This book.
Please do not be fooled. Despite its slightly repellent cover, it has some great content. And it was on the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and BusinessWeek Best Seller Lists, which counts for something.

2. This bowl for our keys from one of my favorite stores, Anthropologie.

I love the store to the extent that I had to walk through it twice. I couldn't help taking pictures of all their great books to add to my wish list, which is growing rather long. If I had started on the clothes we might have been there all day.

When we got home I made pumpkin bread as a tribute to the season. We've already been over my inability to cook, but I surprised myself with how delicious this was. Thank you, Martha Stewart. Check out the recipe here (I substituted the 2 teaspoons of ground ginger for 1 teaspoon of cinnamon).


Wedding Pictures

This week we got our wedding pictures from the photographer! We could not be happier with the talented couple who shot our wedding, and would recommend them to anyone.

A few of my favorites...



We all have our motivators. I self-detected my personal (and very general) brand of motivation at a fairly young age: fear of failure. It was a fear that jump-started my mornings. A fear that whispered tasks in my ear as I awaited sleep. A fear that sent me, crying, to the principals office at 10 years old when I did poorly on a test. A fear that haunted me the year I didn't place in the Math Olympics. A fear that resonates in every resume, every interview and every work day I've ever completed.

But tonight I changed my mind.

My motivator isn't fear of failure. Rather, it is my own sense of expectation that I run toward and from at varying intervals. I now understand that fear of failure does not compel me to apply for a job. The monster is uglier than that, because it is a monster that changes shape. With each year, each goal completed, each road mark passed, the expectation increases and unfolds.

This is not an altogether negative fear. A healthy dose of expectation is appropriate and necessary for anyone hoping to take on a career in media. The fear is two-faced: it is my greatest strength and my greatest weakness. I derive strength from an inability to give up - to pursue that goal in such a single-minded way that it's achievement becomes inevitable. However, I know that expectation may also prevent me from blessings that God has in His timing.

When I run, I do so with a goal in mind. Some days have more ambitious goals than others, but I always take on the task strategically. I promise myself that once I reach that telephone pole or house or fire hydrant, I can slow down a bit. But when I reach that marker I keep going. Why? Because I'm proud of surpassed expectation. Eventually, I can run further and faster.

My prayer as I learn these things about myself is that I hear God's voice above my own. I pray that He guides me in moments when I need to slow down, in moments when I need to push past the marker, and when I need to change direction completely.

We sang this beautiful song in church today. I am continually reminded that, in spite of my sometimes misguided motivations, nothing can ever separate me from the love of my God:

"My name is graven on His hands
My name is written on His heart.
I know that while in Heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart."



Happy October!

Downtown Newburyport

Reasons why it's happy...

New jeans. Leaves finally turning. Brian (Heather's boyfriend) moving in down the street. Fresh fruits and vegetables from a local farm. Walks in Newburyport. Fall cleaning. Pumpkin lattes. Bonfires at the beach. Country music - allowed by Blake on a limited basis.

And these bad boys, which I can only justify during the month of October...