1/30/11

The Unknown

I'd been putting the blog off during the work week, and not just because it's been busy. It got to the point where I actually wrote "blog" in my planner, to be checked off today like a much-needed therapy session and with the affirmation of a week well documented. Do people do that? Should blogging be prioritized? Perhaps only when writing is much cheaper than a therapist.

On this Sunday afternoon I can step back and survey the damage - the last full week of January not sifted through a sieve with care, but choked down rather like cough syrup, with a distinct aftertaste but the understanding that it will only make me healthier, stronger, more alive. It was a week that I entered with questions and expected answers. And yet, at the end of the day, I find myself with a laundry list of questions that had been avoided; questions that had been buried in the recesses of my mind and labelled, "Nuh-Uh. Don't Even Start." Questions like, "Where will you be in December?" and "Is it realistic to assume that you'll find an entry-level job in New York City?" 

It's been a week of important phone calls. "Important" in the sense that their outcomes could change the path of our future. "Important" in the sense that they led me to work on 3 online applications for a total of 5 1/2 hours on Friday, which brings me to a grand total of 14 applications completed in the last month. And I'm weary, but I know that few things worth having come easily. 

At church this morning, our pastor spoke on the verse in Luke that tells us: "Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!" (1:45) The verse is a response to the virgin, Mary, after she was told that she would have a child, and that child would "be called the Son of God" (1:35). Mary didn't know how the promise would be fulfilled, but she was blessed because she believed. Mary didn't say, "I'm not so sure about this. Can we go over the logistics again? And can you make sure my parents don't disown me? Let's discuss what's in this for me."

I haven't been called to the divine office that God had for Mary, but I can learn something from her response. Though I don't know what the next year will hold, I trust that I have a God who is faithful, who is just, and who places people in our lives who abate our fears and remind us of His love

This weekend, in spite of a week that came at us with the appearance of an ill-fated storm, we celebrated the latter, joining with friends to welcome the wonderful, opportunity-filled unknown

Melissa, Rebekah, James and Andrew came over for dessert after Gordon's operetta on Friday night. 
Rebekah and Andrew kindly modeled the Strawberry Shortcake.

The giant catastrophe in our kitchen after pancakes with Rebekah on Saturday morning.
Worth it.

And my gorgeous friend, Heather Lobe?
Girlfriend is ENGAGED. We had lunch to celebrate.

How happy is this girl!?

Carissa, telling you how it is.

Cupcakes from Cupcake Cafe.
An imitation Crumbs Bake Shop. Close, but not the same.

I'm pretty sure they like each other. 
The newly engaged: Heather and Neil. 

 
Salt of the earth.
L-R: Heather, me, Rachel, Lily, Carissa and Christina

Dinner at Salem Beer Works.
Their loaded mashed potatoes are incredible.

Have a blessed Sunday.

1/27/11

Billy Collins

This semester I'm taking a Poetics course, which, of course, has me thinking quite a bit about poetry.

Today I began reading, albeit in the eleventh hour, the poetry of Billy Collins. He is well worth studying. Currently a professor at Lehman College in New York, Collins was appointed as Poet Laureate of the United States from 2001 to 2003. His work is a poignant confession of his interaction with life; he is honest, contemplative and realistic. I'm developing what I call an "academic crush" - a term coined to define that sense of adoration generated from the most profound respect.

Am I a dork? Absolutely.

The Chairs That No One Sits In 
By Billy Collins

You see them on porches and on lawns
down by the lakeside,
usually arranged in pairs implying a couple

who might sit there and look out
at the water or the big shade trees.
The trouble is you never see anyone

sitting in these forlorn chairs
though at one time it must have seemed
a good place to stop and do nothing for a while.

Sometimes there is a little table
between the chairs where no one
is resting a glass or placing a book facedown.

It might be none of my business,
but it might be a good idea one day
for everyone who placed those vacant chairs

on a veranda or a dock to sit down in them
for the sake of remembering
whatever it was they thought deserved

to be viewed from two chairs
side by side with a table in between.
The clouds are high and massive that day.

The woman looks up from her book.
The man takes a sip of his drink.
Then there is nothing but the sound of their looking,

the lapping of lake water, and a call of one bird
then another, cries of joy or warning -
it passes the time to wonder which.

1/23/11

15 Degrees

I'm going a little stir crazy.  
I know because I've been looking at job postings and flights to Europe all weekend. 
At 15 degrees, it's too cold to go outside. There's snow everywhere. I have rain boots and Ugg boots - neither of which can substitute as snow boots. To make it worse, snow is forecasted again for the coming week. Stop it. Just stop it, right now.

I'm feeling so much like a brat today that I've already put myself in solitary confinement. You can only do so much studying and cleaning in one weekend. And sometimes, when it looks like winter just had the stomach flu all over your once sunny, beautiful world, not even the purchase of new work pants and a movie titled "Manhattan" will help. You hear that, winter? You've outstayed your welcome.

So today I'm making a list. "Things to Do Before Graduation". To-Do #1: Find a job that transfers me to New Zealand from January - March. I'll let you know how it goes.

1/20/11

Words

I will warn you: this is lengthy.

Last year I read Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. It was well written, brutally honest, and insightful. The movie version does not do it justice - it was disjointed, semi-irreverent and at times a bit pretentious. Sorry Julia Roberts. I loved you in Notting Hill and Runaway Bride.

In any case, Gilbert at one point observes, or hears, rather, that cities have a "word". Citizens of any city around the world will walk around with their particular city's word on their minds: some dwell on "Achieve", others on "Power", others on "Conform", and so on. Lately, that concept has come back to me, not because I've been reflecting on the places I've lived, but because I've been reflecting on the years of my life.

Most recently my college years.

And in the least new-agey way possible, I believe that years can dwell on a singular word. Sometimes that word whispers, sometimes it yells in your face and slaps you around a little bit. Sometimes it weighs like guilt on your chest, other times it confirms purpose. And sometimes - like on the first day of the last semester of your undergraduate career - it hovers like a bad breath that conveys a sense of urgency and of expectation.

Is it okay to be that honest with you? I think I'm going to be. Transparency is good, right?

So, after hours lying awake in bed over the past week or so, I've determined words for the last 4 years. 2007 would have been failure. Not the kind of failure that leaves you crying in a corner (though sometimes, and rightfully, it did), but the kind of failure that disguised itself and appears in its fullness only now that I'm removed from it. It was failure in relationship, failure (not literally) academically, failure to overcome what I should have so clearly grown out of at that point.

2008 would have been overcome. An appropriate word, I think, to follow failure. It was the year that I decided to be more than the sum of my parts. It was a time to discover, to take failure and do something with it. To reconcile, love, and appreciate gifts that don't come freely.

2009 was growth. In that year, I became more of what I'd like to be - not because I willed it, but because I have a merciful God. It was a year of tearful and hopeful prayer. The year of a marriage proposal, a challenging academic program, a summer of babysitting terror and a shift in priorities.

2010 is undeniably change. The growth was a necessary part of the change, as there were previous years when change would have left me weak and numb, wide-eyed and quite possibly in the assumption of a fetal position. Change was ugly and lonely at times, but it was meaningful and well worth it. Can I say that enough? Change was worth it.

I wanted to give 2011 a word at the beginning of the year, but had a difficult time choosing. I'm not sure if you can pre-determine what the year is going to hold. This year, especially. But, in 20 days, I can tell you what it will require - strength and trust. We are stronger than we know. I remind myself every morning on my last lap. I remind myself when my own insecurities get the best of me. I remind myself in my marriage. I remind myself in social situations and in struggles that I face on my own.

And that's where trust comes in. Trust is a word that comes up so often in our daily vocabulary but only rarely, if ever, do we stop to think about what it truly means. Trust is indefinable until its acted upon. It's often used as an ironic mask for fear or uncertainty. But trust is not the absence of fear or uncertainty, I'm realizing. Trust is the absolute certainty that there is a God whose way is perfect and more powerful than our fear and uncertainty. (An adaptation from Ambrose Redmoon, I recognize.)

I'll stop now, because I may be broaching the point of sermonizing.

And that's where I'm at. Raw and exposed. I'm not running at this year with arms flailing, screaming its welcome and diving into its opportunity. I'm cautious, dipping each toe in the water before I make a steady descent. But I am prepared to fight. I'm prepared to trust and I'm prepared to challenge. I'm prepared to do a little more failing, overcoming, growing and changing, too. I'm blessed, more than ever, to have a husband right there with me.

Please check out this video that encouraged me greatly last night. Shared by my dear friend, Melissa. You'll need to pause the playlist at the bottom of the page.

1/17/11

Defending Food


Since my senior year of high school, I've been fascinated with the study of nutrition and its history in both Western and Eastern cultures. I believe that what you put into your body has a profound effect on how you feel and how well you perform throughout the day. Your level of discipline and adherence to the modern rules of nutritionism (eating organic, reading labels, etc.), along with how frequently you exercise, will indicate the overall health of your immune system, metabolism, brain functioning, bone density... the list goes on and on. I believe these things. I follow the rules of health and fitness to the best of my ability as a college student, working girl and newlywed.

So when Michael Pollan wrote the following words, it caught my attention: "Nutritionism is, in a sense, the official ideology of the Western diet and so cannot be expected to raise radical or searching questions about it" (Pollan 11).

I had read Pollan before - his Food Rules is a brief list of commandments for the Western consumer. The list has been expanded upon in In Defense of Food with introductions on the history of nutrition, its major obesity-causing problems and what the American public should be looking for when purchasing food. While I was first skeptical of his sweeping statements and simplistic approach, Pollan proved himself to be potentially the greatest food critic to greet the 21st century - and he greets it with a heavy handed wake-up call.

Consider the following from In Defense of Food:
"What would happen if we were to start thinking about food as less of a thing and more of a relationship?" (102)
"If Ames [biochemist] is right, then a food system organized around quantity rather than quality has a destructive feedback loop built into it, such that the more low-quality food one eats, the more one wants to eat, in a futile - but highly profitable - quest for the absent nutrient." (124)
"Diabetes is well on its way to becoming normalized in the West - recognized as a whole new demographic and so a major marketing opportunity. Apparently it is easier, or at least a lot more profitable, to change a disease of civilization into a lifestyle than it is to change the way that civilization eats." (136)
"Eat more like the French. Or the Italians. Or the Japanese. Or the Indians. Or the Greeks." (173)

The last is my favorite, as I love all but Indian food. And, knowing this, my grandmother made us two French meals while we visited their home this weekend. As always, it was a treat. Check Something Delicious in the next day or so for Grandmum's wonderful recipes!

In the meantime, read In Defense of Food. It changed my views of nutritionism and changed my definition of what constitutes "food".

1/14/11

Disney: Part 3

Tonight is our last night in Florida! We've had a very relaxing, much-enjoyed vacation week, but we're ready to be back at home, see our families, hang out with our friends, buy books for the coming semester, return to our jobs, and assume a better exercise (and healthy eating) routine.

Here's a recap of the last two days...

Magic Kingdom on Thursday.
Seeing one of Blake's high school friends in the parade.
Finally getting to PhilharMagic.

Friday at Epcot.
Our Disney tradition: the photobooth (started on our honeymoon).
Manatees.
Sampling at "Club Cool". The Mexican soda is delicious.

Falling in love with Earl of Sandwich, the most delicious sandwich-maker in the world. We went three times in 24 hours. I plan on writing them a letter to show my appreciation.

Our last night.
Pastries and tea at the France pavilion. Have I told you that I love France? And French food? And the French language? And almost anything pertaining to or coming from the country? Because I do.

1/12/11

7th Monthiversary


A conversation between husband and wife while watching Scrubs on TV...

S: "Wait! They clipped that part. He's supposed to say, 'Let me just check to see if we're a match'."
B: "Oh. I don't know if that happens right after... no, you're right."
S: "I don't know which is more upsetting: the fact that they clipped the show or the fact that I know every line of this show by heart."
B: "How about the fact that we're watching this on TV when we have this episode on DVD in the other room?"

I'm liking this vacation thing. I'm liking the pajamas that I'm still in and the book that I'm reading. I'm liking the relative warmth outside. I'm liking the thought of a good meal and dessert tonight.

And I'm loving being married. Happy 7th monthiversary to us!

Because we do actually have lives back at home, check out the new website for Blake's job. Note "The Partners and Advisors" under the "Who We Are" tab. I could not be more proud of who my husband is and how hard he works!

Disney: Part 2

Another update on our vacation...

Fireworks on Monday night in the Magic Kingdom.
Finishing up a few of the main rides in the MK - including one of my favorites, Haunted Mansion.

Animal Kingdom on Tuesday morning.
Watching the gorillas.
Riding Expedition Everest.

The Safari in Animal Kingdom.
No alligators this time.

Pool time.
A pleasant reunion with our long-absent friend, Vitamin D.

Downtown Disney.
Dessert at Ghirardelli Chocolate.
I worked out beforehand, so there was no guilt.

Wednesday at Hollywood Studios.
Getting our adrenaline up on Tower of Terror and Rock 'n' Roller Coaster.

Lunch at Beaches & Cream on the Boardwalk.
Delicious burgers and brownie sundae served by the sweetest waitress on earth.

In other recent news, check out my friend Sara Martisek's blog post from yesterday. She and I met in our internship at CBS News and have maintained a love for the beautiful city that we lived in for 5 months and compelling line of work that we're pursuing!

1/10/11

Disney: Part 1

Vacation is not the time to be blogging. But, as it is a rainy afternoon here in Florida, I'll post some highlights from the last 2 1/2 days in Disney! If you're following my Twitter account (along the side of my blog) you've already seen that we're having a great time!


Our first night in the Magic Kingdom.
My first turkey leg, which was almost as big as my head.
Blake had to help me finish it.

Epcot on Sunday.
Walking around the World Showcase and spending time in Future World.

A walk on the Boardwalk in the perfect weather.
Dinner in France.

Magic Kingdom on Monday.
The castle, Minnie's House and the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse - among other rides that left me with a headache from screaming.

1/8/11

Rise and Shine



When I woke up this morning, I made a deal with myself. I said, “Kid,” (I had to be a little condescending at 4:30 AM) “you don’t have to shine, but you do have to rise.” And, as I struggled to read the side of my contact case so that my eyes could begin functioning, the possibility of shining waved goodbye from the back of a speeding vehicle, with all of its bags packed.
Which is, oddly enough, also what we’re doing.
I write from the passenger seat of our Volvo as we drive through our halfway point – Rocky Mount, North Carolina. I’ve just woken from an hour-long nap to the sight of trees, open fields and small homes dotting the side of the highway. And it’s a good morning. Why, you might ask? Because we are 620 miles, 2 ham sandwiches, approximately 3 bathroom stops, and a full season of Modern Family away from Disney World.

This year we forewent Christmas gifts for each other and planned a second trip to Disney World to use the season passes purchased on our honeymoon. With a generous gift from my Grammy and Grandaddy, the trip became more feasible.
This brings me to my second question: is it wrong to brag about having amazing grandparents? Is it wrong to say that, if there were a store full of grandparents from whom you could choose, my two sets would be standing in the window, front and center? Is it wrong to admit that your grandparents are cooler than you? Three questions, I know. And if it’s wrong, then I don’t want to be right.
My mother’s parents are the ones who introduced me to TiVo, Modern Family and New York City. They love their grandchildren more than is probably healthy for my self-esteem. They’re encouraging, generous, incredibly cool people who have always been fully invested in relationships with their family members.

We drove this morning from the home of my father’s parents, without whom we wouldn’t have been able to make this trip, either. These are the people who always remember my best friend’s name, who took us to a restaurant where I had the greatest salmon of my life, and for whom hospitality seems a natural gift – with smoothies prepared in the morning, homemade brownies served with a smile and towels stacked beside our bed in the “honeymoon suite”. They are loving, trustworthy people who are genuinely interested in their grandchildren’s lives.

We are feeling the blessings of family as we make this trip, and we can be nothing but unendingly thankful for how much we are loved.

1/6/11

27 Years

27 years ago tomorrow, my parents were married. Tonight we will be celebrating the occasion as a family, because we wouldn't be a family without that special event.

8 things I love about my parents' relationship:

1. They still laugh. A lot.
2. They recognize when to let things go.
3. They were able to grow individually while growing as a couple.
4. They respect each other.
5. They love their children and want the best for them.
6. They still try new things. Like electric bikes and parasailing.
7. They enjoy each other's company.
8. They are a wonderful example of a godly, healthy marriage.

The example of your marriage is one of the best gifts you've given me. I'm so proud to call you my parents and I love you very much! Happy Anniversary, Mom and Daddy!

1/5/11

Small Town, CT

As a wee, impressionable girl, I was slightly annoyed by the slow, overlapping lives of small town folk. Any time we went into the city I was refreshed by the privacy and relative isolation of middle-class New Yorkers. It made me dislike even more what seemed drab and motionless about existence in Small Town, Connecticut.

But now that I am grown, well-rounded and far more astute (heh), I can appreciate the best of both worlds. Connecticut has things to offer. There are even publicity jobs in Connecticut that might tempt me to live here after I graduate. I made a list today. And for those of you naysaying teenagers (you know who you are and I know who you are, because I was one of you) who claim that Small Town, Connecticut is boring - shame on you. Shame, I say. In the words of my wise mother, "bored is an attitude".

For instance, this past week Blake and I experienced our small town and surrounding area in all of its glamor and glory.

We received tickets to "Celebrity Autobiography", a play at Long Wharf Theatre, from Blake's older brother. Christopher has been working at the theatre for almost a year now, and we're reaping the benefits. Nothing beats a good comedy routine on a Thursday night, especially when it mocks the rich and famous. Celebrities say the darnedest things.

Yesterday my mother-in-law and I paid a visit to this little place. While the lemon bar gave me one of the most brutal sugar headaches of my life, the Acai Berry Smoothie is divine. And if tea time at a place called "Savvy Tea Gourmet" isn't chic, I don't know what is. We followed it up with a trip to the outlets. J.Crew had nothing. Shock of all shocks, I know.

We chose not to drink whatever foul substance this is. I don't trust green beverages.

Then today, Blake and I had a lunch date, which is one of the perks of being employed by a member of your family. Another fun thing: gift certificates. One of Blake's clients got him a gift certificate to this place for Christmas. It got a 28 from the Zagat guide, which must be good because they post it on their website. Best turkey sandwich in town (which means they gained victory over 5 other restaurants).

So, younger self, put that in your metaphorical pipe and don't smoke it. You wouldn't have wanted to grow up anywhere else.

1/3/11

Resolutions

Blake and I spent the weekend back at home in Massachusetts, unpacking Christmas gifts, visiting with Melissa and Dave and eating Chipotle.

On the ride there and back, I had time to make my list of resolutions for the new year...
1. No fried food.
2. Work out at least 4 times a week.
3. Stop stressing out about little things.
4. Spend more money on activities than on materials.
5. Shop organic.
6. Limit artificial sugars.
7. Graduate (3 classes to go!)
8. Find a job.

And #8 is the tough one. The one that left me pacing the living room in prayer at midnight. The one that has me creating binders and resumes and cover letters and writing samples. And it's already pushing me over the edge of #3. Every day, the reality of a future beyond college becomes more confrontational. Every day there are more questions and more fears that come knocking on the door of my stability and comfort.

I'm not afraid that God will bring me through it. I'm afraid that he won't bring me to something that will challenge me, that will make me realize my potential and utilize my passions. I'm afraid that God has given me a passion that He might leave unfulfilled, not because He's a God that delights in my pain, but because He's a God that knows a bigger picture. I fear any disappointment that might come before the blessings of trusting Him.

But, in the words of one of my wise, wonderful friends: God has kissed me with a promise. He knows me better than I know myself, and won't leave me - even in the middle of the night when I can't sleep.

"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." Psalm 139:13-14

Along the road, I'll keep doing everything I can. Most recently on my checklist: find work clothes.