9.30.2010

"... and all manner of things shall be well."


I just finished re-reading Elizabeth Gilbert's Committed and enjoyed rediscovering the phrase that she repeats to herself when she's really worried: "All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well."

A lovely little meditative phrase, don't you think?

9.27.2010

Confessions of a 29 year-old human

Here's something I recently realized: when you have a terribly busy day that includes lots of potentially stressful conversations with clients, you can take comfort in one thing: within 24 hours, it's going to be over. Last night Chris and I were on the couch talking about the upcoming week and I told him about all of the crazy calls I had planned at work today.

"But in 24 hours, I'm going to be right here on this couch and I'm going to be fine," I said. And that's exactly where I am right now.

That's a big deal. That means I'm sort of learning to deal with stress.

*
In the past two weeks, I've had spontaneous dinner and coffee with friends. I wandered Atlantic Antic with Doug and Courtney and I spent much of the weekend sleeping. Not having every night planned is working; I feel happier to see people when it's on my own spontaneous terms. Plus, last night I spent an hour responding to a hand-written letter that Fanny sent me from London. It was so cathartic to let some ink do the work of conveying my most inner thoughts. And even though she's far away, it still feels like we spent time together recently.

That's a big deal. That means I'm sort of learning to deal with friends.

*
I read a lot of blogs. Some bloggers I read recently attended Mighty Summit, a conference for women bloggers, designed to inspire them and help them get moving on their life lists. It's made me think about big goals I have for myself, not the kind that you can buy a plane ticket for, but the ones you can't imagine yourself achieving. 

I don't feel like my goals are big enough.

I want to open the fences, the doors that keep me separated from writing things like "publish a personal essay" or "write a book of poetry" or "get my company to recycle." I want to care enough about something - one thing - to see it happen. This weekend we visited the newly opened Brooklyn Bridge Park, a hugely ambitious project to get 14 miles along the waterfront ready for bikers, runners and park lovers. There's only a small section open today - and this has taken 12 years. I want to dedicate myself to something for years, to feel a deep passion for a project like that. 

I want to contribute.

I know I have it in me.

*
Court's going to have her baby this week (or, I suppose next week if the little guy is really being lazy). There will be a new person on our planet. What will he do? How will he contribute? I'm not even close to being his mother and I have hopes for him, dreams for him. 

My sister is applying to nursing school for next summer. What babies will she help bring into this world? Who will they become? 

And who have I become? And what did everyone imagine for me when I was so tiny, still growing inside my mom, the girl behind the heartbeat, a promise of a person to land here on this planet? 

That's a big deal... I'm still trying to figure it out.

9.24.2010

Asking "what if."

One of the things I do at Arc90 is to help clients with the strategy behind a website. Businesses and organizations tend to redesign their websites very infrequently, the result of which is that the navigation of a website gets long and unwieldy as they try to fit more options for their users as time goes on. When they approach our company, it means it's time for spring cleaning.

Imagining a new site map is sort of like rearranging a cluttered room. What are the largest pieces of furniture? We should move those first. These are primary actions to users- the main tabs on a home page, for example.

Then, what are the secondary pieces, the lamps and the nightstands and the shelves in a room, the sub-navigation on a site. Finally, what are the accents and accessories and how do they fit in the conversation?

Information architecture is pretty fascinating. It's a lot like writing or solving logic puzzles and when you really nail a new site map, it's a proud moment. It means that you understood what the organization is about and how their values and desires play out, priority-wise. This is the work I spent much of my week doing and that's an important thing to know because it was on my mind tonight. Information architecture and redesigning dreams was fresh on the brain while I was laying on the couch reading the Internets and suddenly my life kind of shifted.

Something relatively significant dawned on me, the kind of thing that you're not sure how big it is until you sleep on it and see how much sticks the next morning. At one point I asked myself, if I were a website, what would my main navigation be? What would my site map look like? What are my priorities and the most fundamental aspects of my life?

And all of a sudden, I realized that I can't do everything. Just as a home page is useless with a million main tabs, a person spins her wheels when she tries to accomplish every possible hobby that exists. That's what my 20s have been about; I've explored learning several languages, cooking, exercise classes, various career options and many living locations. It's time to start specializing.

This blog has never become larger than it is because it was never a priority. This blog has been a secondary action in my life, a hobby that I get to when I'm not too tired and something that I avoid promoting for fear of being considered arrogant. There's a big chunk of French-ness in me, one that looks down upon using the Internet for social interaction, but working at Arc has really pushed back on those beliefs. (Side note: the fiction writers of the world also tend to frown on the Internet and technology as well... a fact that has contributed to my hesitation to invest more here.)

What happened tonight was I considered this: what if this blog were a top-level nav item? What if it became something that contributed to something larger than myself? I don't know how or why yet, but that's not important. What's important is that I got a tiny flash of what it could look like in a year, with some TLC and a business plan.

It's kind of amazing how these storms of inspiration come upon us, isn't it?

9.20.2010

Somewhere out there.

My Mom always wished that she'd had a sister, so when she gave birth to Katie, she was thrilled for us both. Sisters! Matching pink outfits and barbie playtimes and (eventually) earring and shoe trades. She never bargained for the kind of bitchy fighting that went down in High School. No one sews ornamental pillows about those kinds of sisters. But in the end we were close and we really still are.

I was six when my parents told us they were having another baby. That was Steve. And, if you know Steve, then you know what kind of craziness arrived in the family 9 months later.


Then, we were three.

The relationship we have is something my parents couldn't have dreamed of. Mom hoped for sisters; she practically got triplets. Poor Chris gets dizzy trying to figure out the number of nicknames we have for each other. The two of them are the sole reason I want to have three kids one day and if my kids have half the relationship we have, I will have put a metric ton of goodness into the world.

It thrills me to no end that Chris likes my family. When you come from a family of people you love, you want new loves to fit right in. That's important to me and hearing them all laugh together is kind of the best thing ever.

I traveled to DC this weekend to spend some quality time with Kate and Steve, just the three of us for old time's sake. And it was awesome and one of the best parts was sitting around in Katie's kitchen talking and another great part was when we didn't get a parking ticket for leaving the car in a grocery parking lot for a few hours and yet another great part was when we were watching the worst movie in history and it broke and we got free tickets. Also, the apple picking. Cause we didn't just pick apples. We also... well... I guess I'll just show you:



These took SO many tries and takes. No one looks flattering in any of them. But there was so much counting to three and dodging apples as they landed on our heads and avoiding picking up the sticky, bee-infested ones from the ground. There were hoots and hollers and it was a really good day. (More photos here.)

After I left them last night, I got the traditional "you made me feel homesick!" text from Kate.

And well, I guess they made me feel a little homesick too. That's the thing about family, the way it sneaks up on you when you don't see each other every day. The way that half of you is always somewhere else, with them.

And sometimes it feels like half of me is still in Paris and half of me is with my family and half of me is studying literature and half of me is vacationing in Galway. And another half of me is in Portland and another half is with my Nana somewhere and another half is at a huge party filled with all of the amazing friends I've ever made.

But what about the half you retain? The leftover part of you that slogs through the subway and wrecks itself at work and cleans the dishes on a Monday night and gets a tiny thrill out of it? The magic, it seems to me, is that that half is fueled by all those other halves, nourished by the memories and the dreams and the inevitables that exist somewhere, out there, in the world.

At least, this is what I tell myself when I feel tired.

9.19.2010

With civility.


I'm in DC visiting my siblings. This morning while Kate went for a run, I got up and went to church. I haven't written much about religion on this blog. It's a slippery topic. I love the way Elizabeth Gilbert puts it in Eat, Pray, Love:

"GOD… I pause here for a moment to explain exactly what I mean when I say that word, just so people can decide right away how offended they need to get."

Ha. So true.

I joined a Unitarian Universalist church earlier this year and I like going from time to time. I like being part of a large group of people singing, I like hearing someone speak thoughtfully about a topic (this morning, the sermon was inspired by Yom Kippur and focused on how we're all works in progress). I like being in a roomful of people who are friendly and who let me sit alone or welcome me into conversations if I'm in the mood. In case you're wondering, Unitarians believe one common thing: that there's SOMETHING out there. Call it God, call it Star Wars, call it Mother Earth. But there's something a little bit bigger than a human being and our place in the universe is worth discussing. That's my take, anyway.

This morning I enjoyed being anonymous here in DC, soaking in the vibes of the congregation. The minister's father-in-law passed away this week after being diagnosed with cancer only 3 weeks ago. He was visibly shaken and read an Alice Walker poem at the beginning of his sermon. It was beautiful and haunting and I wanted to share it with you all here:

"Good Night, Willie Lee, I'll See You In The Morning"
Alice Walker


Looking down into my father's
dead face
for the last time
my mother said without
tears, without smiles
but with civility
"Good night, Willie Lee, I'll see you
in the morning."
And it was then I knew that the healing
of all our wounds
is forgiveness
that permits a promise
of our return
at the end.

So beautiful, especially the civility in italics.

9.13.2010

Feast de Voyage: Portland

By the way, this section is updated. Now you can go plan your trip to Portland. Go! Plan!

DC recommendations?



I'll be in DC this weekend to visit my sibs and I'm looking for recommendations for things to do during the day on Friday while they're working. What neighborhoods are great for wandering? Is there a bookstore I HAVE to go to? And if it doesn't thunderstorm, which park do you recommend?

This is your turn to do a Feast de Voyage... go!

9.12.2010

Cooked in Brooklyn

The rhythm of this weekend has been make a mess, clean it up, make a mess, clean it up. Yesterday I was a cooking machine, which, I suppose is really just a chef.

First I made broccoli-leek soup as a strong start to the "10-soups-by-Xmas" goal. Kelley was here hanging out, which was a good thing because that girl knows how to use a blender! Also, she is a worthy companion when trying to cut biscuits out of very sticky dough.





Here's how the soup looked when we were done:


The biscuits (or crackers, as they turned out) were made from the Loveless Cafe mix the Sarahs brought when they visited this summer. Pro tip: if you roll the biscuit dough too thin, they will be perfect for breaking into crackery-croutons for your soup. You're welcome!

Last night I made banana bread with peanut flour for the people down the hall who have just had a baby. Isn't that American of us? Finally, after almost 3 years in Brooklyn, I actually know the names of one of our neighbors. That drives me a little crazy about this city... we are united by our zip codes and divided by our love of avoiding those who live next door. Sigh.

With the weather getting more Portland-like by the moment, I decided to cook tofu and veggies for lunch (thanks, LK, for the tofu advice!) and a pot of vegetable stock is simmering away on the stove this afternoon, ready to be made into tomato-corn chowder later tonight.

It is so damn nice to be home. More pix from the 10-soups-by-Xmas project here.

9.09.2010

I'm doing too many things.

I know it doesn't seem like it. I know that, on an individual level, I probably haven't seen you in a month. Maybe even 2 months. MAYBE I'VE NEVER EVEN MET YOU, READER. Which means that I really, really owe you a coffee date.

Except that the only efficient way to do that would be to rent out a damn coffee house for a straight week and gather you all there.

Do not confuse this with bragging about the number of people I enjoy having coffee with. This is a post about what it's like to live as someone who is very curious about the world and INTO EVERYTHING. You're learning to knit? I'm jealous! Making homemade candy? Making dry wall? No fair! Let's book an evening between 6:45 and 7:07 to discuss how to can peaches.

Yep, that's how it is chez moi. And something has to change.

I cannot live in the busiest city in the world and have the busiest schedule. Two busys do not a happy girl make. So if I cannot live in the forests of Portland and maintain an active social life, I am going to have to hermit it up in New York City.

I realize I write this post every 6 weeks or so. Dramatic blogging activity calls for drastic measures. I hereby proclaim Fall 2010 closed for business. This is ironic, as my weekends are booked through late October. But unless I spontaneously decide to make dinner plans, I'll see you all after Christmas.

In the meantime? You can email me! You can write me a letter. You can comment on this blog (which will remain OPEN for business). You can text me or send me funny photos of your cat. We just cannot put something on the calendar until January.

I want to do some Yoga, but first see a doctor about why I have Yoga problems. I want to investigate the possibility of getting another cat. I want to spend quiet time in my apartment. I want to cook 10 different soups by Christmas. And I want to wander New York more, as the breeze gets colder and the leaves get all crackly.

So let's get spacious about our socialness! Write me a letter and I'll keep you in the loop.

The fog in the forest.


We were in Portland, OR this past weekend for my friend Kathryn's wedding. We spent most of our time in the city, but we rented a car one day and drove out towards the famous Gorge. Somehow we got turned around and ended up on a hiking trail in a deep forest. From the road we could see a thick fog that filled in the spaces between the trees several hundred yards away. It was beautiful. Chris said he'll never forget it as long as he lives and I agree.

Why is fog so beautiful? Maybe it's because it requires very specific conditions to occur and it never lasts. Or because it's pretty from afar but dangerous close-up. Fog, that vixen.

Later, when we were on the right path to the gorge, we suddenly came into an opening along the road where it seemed like the entire planet was viewable.


You could see where the sunlight came through the clouds and was shining on sections of the mountain. It was stunning and totally unexpected and it really opened something up for me, something that I last felt in Ireland when nature was a force that reminded me that I was small and yet that I could see everything. (More pix from our trip here).



I was in no mood for New York City (let alone Newark) on Monday night, and yet here it was, just as loud and bright and crowded as we left it. I felt closed up again, as if someone had zipped me back into the snowsuit I require to live here among millions of people. I went back to taking shallow breaths.

And then late last night Sarah called me and told me she got engaged over the weekend. The Muhlenberg ladies are scheduled to come over tonight for dinner anyway (more on that soon!) and I was so happy that I could celebrate with them tonight. When Katherine got engaged a few years back, I was in Paris and couldn't join them for a few months. The one thing that New York offers is a chance to celebrate these life moments with some of my best friends.

And so I try to find a way to keep treading water among the millions.

9.01.2010

8 reasons it does not feel like September.


1. It is 93 degrees out.
2. I'm not going Back to School.
3. I can't believe I've been living with Chris for 9 months.
4. I feel like Courtney has not been pregnant long enough to be due this month.
5. I have not yet mastered Balance Beam '10.
6. I never went to the beach this summer.
7. I'm not ready for apples. Want more peaches.
8. I only got one squash all summer.

Bonus reason: A hurricane is coming to NY this weekend. Wtf.