9.29.2011

Famous dude statue: Joseph Pulitzer at City Hall Park


Here he is, good old Joseph Pulitzer, "an immigrant, he rose to fame and fortune and never in the process lost the common touch." Quite a plaque. I'm sure William Randolph Hearst is rolling in his grave somewhere just thinking about it.

Fun Fact: the New York World building used to stand near this statue.

You can find it: Center St. at City Hall, across from the exit of the Brooklyn Bridge.

9.26.2011

Famous dude statue: William Tecumseh Sherman in Central Park



Have you read The Greater Journey yet? One of the artists that McCullough writes a lot about is Augustus Saint-Gaudens, the artist behind the Sherman statue. I was nearby the other morning and snapped this pic. The statue looks a little worse for wear (see all those splotches on the bronze), but it's still pretty amazing. McCullough has called this the best horse statue of all time. Wowzers.

Fun fact: the woman leading Sherman into (out of?) war is the goddess Victory.

You can find it: 59th and 5th Ave.

9.25.2011

Fun weekend projects

This weekend we spent time with friends, relaxed and got a LOT done. I was very happy to spend some time on crafty projects too. Such as:

Wedding Scrapbook- When you get married, you end up with a giant pile of cards and a whole bunch of random papers and memorabilia. For a while, it all sat in a box in our living room. That got old. So I bought a simple scrapbook from the Paper Source near our apartment, a bunch of filler pages and some archival sticky tape-like substance. The result? An awesome, organized representation of every moment from engagement through wedding.

This cost about $100 and was totally worth it. I tried to make something that I wish I'd had from my grandparents' wedding. Hopefully a future generation finds it interesting.






Zucchini, sweet potato and raisin muffins- Via Daily Garnish. These were delicious, healthy and inspired a dinner of sweet potato fries and zucchini fritters. Yum.



Baby shower gift- I can't say too much here, but I worked on a gift for the baby shower I'm hosting in a few weeks. I learned to do counted cross stitch when I was a kid and thought it would be fun to mess around with it again. So far, so good.



Recipe book from the shower- My mom and sister hosted my shower back in May and they'd asked everyone to submit a recipe. I used the pack of recipe cards to standardize everything and get it set in this recipe book. Another wedding project done.



Little kid bday present- I can't say much about this either yet, but I did a photo shoot with the cats for a fun birthday project for a friend of ours. Here's a HILARIOUS photo of Ollie helping me find something to eat in the fridge. Please don't judge our fridge. 


9.24.2011

Les livres de 2011: round 5

Day 1 of the honeymoon in Powell's.

I can't remember where I heard it, but I recently read something along the lines of "you can never be lonely when you're reading a book" and it weirdly choked me up! I've been working hard on a couple of presentations for tech conferences lately, one of whose thesis is that design is communication. It's based on the fact that writing is communication. So I've been writing and presenting and talking out loud to empty rooms about how writing is an author sending ideas and stories to the reader on the other end of the line. And boy, sometimes I really feel that. Sometimes, with great books, I really feel that an author and I are chatting on the phone together.

A bunch of these are for the Biography semester which is just... well, it's awesome. And yet it's totally overwhelming. Because here's the thing about reading the life stories of people: YOU WORRY THAT YOU HAVEN'T WRITTEN ENOUGH LETTERS. What the heck is going to happen when our grandkids write the biographies of people of our time? What will they reference, Snooki's tweets?! What's that source material going to look like? A chat session between Prince William and Princess Kate? Gah! 

Oh, world. You just have no blueprint for the next generation, do ya?

Let's review some books.

32. Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert
Alright, alright. It's comical how many times Lizzie G is on this blog. But I can't help who I love. I read this book in the three days before we left for our wedding. It served its purpose of relaxing me, keeping me focused on the MARRIAGE and not the NAPKINS, and was a perfect example of feeling like the author's on the other line. 

You know how there's that secret list of people whose blogs you read or whose books you read, how every time you read them you think "WHY ARE WE NOT BEST FRIENDS ALREADY?" The reality is that they have no idea who you are, but you just know that you two could totally become BFF over tall skim chai lattes. Lizzie G is the top of that list for me.

The point: this is a good book for anyone in a relationship. Good refresher, healthy dose of perspective. 

33. The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig
One of these years I'll write about our honeymoon, but in the meantime I'll share that Chris and I had a honeymoon registry. Along with a couple of material goods registries, the honeymoon registry was a total win for everyone involved. We got to do fun things on our trip, our friends got photos of us doing said fun things, the money was well spent. I recommend. 

One of the items on the registry was a shopping spree at Powell's in Portland, a gift offered by the lovely Eliza. So while I'm running around Powell's like a beagle on the hunt, I decide that I need something cheap and fiction-y and new. Something light to read by the pool. 

Enter a totally random book about a one-room schoolhouse in Montana in the early 1900s. It was a charming little read, particularly for an East Coast girl. I am somewhat geographically challenged when it comes to anything west of Chicago, so it was good to add a story and a state to my understanding of the world. 


34. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
I've been hearing about this book since Chris' stepmom read it for her book club a couple of years ago. It was on my holds list at the library but, because of its popularity, I wasn't due to read it til 2040. Enter Powell's shopping spree. 

This is a nonfiction book about a black woman named Henrietta Lacks who lived in Baltimore in the 1950s when she was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Through a random chain of events involving local scientific studies and an absence of patient permission laws, her cells found their way to a research facility. These cells are still alive today; they're called HeLa cells and apparently anyone who's ever worked in a lab knows about them (and has probably worked with them!).

This is the fascinating story of an uneducated family who struggles to understand what it means that their mother's cells are still alive, the history of patient privacy laws and the story of a woman whose cells have paved the way for tons of scientific discoveries since her death. Gripping and compelling; I read it in 24 hours. 

35. How I Planned Your Wedding by Susan Wiggs and Elizabeth Wiggs Maas
My Mom read this book while we were wedding planning and bought me a copy for my shower. As anyone who's gone through the wedding process well knows, one's threshold for wedding info has a low ceiling in the final months. Though I'm happy to report that post-wedding, I can once again stomach wedding stories! Hooray!

This is a cute story about a mom and her daughter, the ways they tangle and their perspectives as they get closer to the daughter's big day. It gave me some good perspective on how my mom was probably feeling and I'm sure it did the same for her. A good book to read early in the process... or post-wedding. It made me relive ours, for sure.

36. The Greater Journey by David McCullough
Having had the "today is the day I'm moving to France" moment three times in my life, I recognize the feelings. Excitement, nostalgia, disbelief at opportunity, and a deep knowledge that it may get worse before it gets better, all make up the 24 hours before you move across the ocean. The amazing thing about The Greater Journeynails that abroad feeling. 

He describes their hesitation at taking ships across the ocean, a relatively new way to travel. Packing trunks, preparing for many years away from their families, they were artists, med students, politicians. He paints the picture of the anticipation, the hope and the anxiety. Then, he clinches it in one breathless sentence to close the first chapter: "Not all pioneers went west."

BAM. 

This book is Paris porn for anyone who knows the city. It makes you want to be there, it reminds you of the time you spent there. It taught me so much about who America was back in the day (hint: a young, inexperienced nation). It provided a healthy reminder that Americans have been standing on the shoulders of foreign giants for a long, long time- and that it's not some kind of crippling lack of manhood to admit that.

McCullough is an amazing storyteller, a diplomatic historian. I just love him.


37. Bossypants by Tina Fey
I had dinner with Kelley last week and she mentioned reading this book. "It's so funny," she said, before admitting to laughing out loud on the R train. I couldn't wait.

Chris offered up his iPad so I could have my first e-reader experience and I figured this was a good book to try it out with. I didn't love reading on the iPad - but I DO love Tina Fey.

Here's the thing: it's not as funny as I expected. I think lots of that was the hype (other than Kelley, at least 5 other people assured me that I would die laughing. I am still alive.), but part of it was also the context. Tina starts the book with a couple of grim stories from her childhood and I wasn't sure if I should laugh or sympathize. It picked up towards the middle though, particularly one story about shooting a magazine cover. 

Either way, I remain a loyal Tina Fey fan. We got out the old 30Rock DVDs and I spent a few hours heartily giggling. Is it just me or was that show the most hilarious in the first season? 

38. Mrs. Astor Regrets by Meryl Gordon
I found this gem in the bargain bin at Barnes & Noble last weekend. Though I'm a sucker for 17th and 18th century New York stories, something about this 2005 drama hooked me. Brooke Astor, the widow of Vincent Astor, was a famous philanthropist and beloved New Yorker who lived to the ripe old age of 105. Towards the end of her life, her only son (and guardian) got into hot water for not taking care of her. And by that, I mean that he started taking expensive paintings off her walls and selling them, then keeping the money himself. 

I just love that, in this day and age, we still have Rockefellers and Astors. I find it so fascinating. Forget the Kardashians; these people are just as gossipy. A decent book if that's what you're in the mood for. 

9.18.2011

Weekend recap. This might be boring to you!

Some peppers from my garden.
Remember how fun it was to change around your college dorm room? You'd bunk the beds, then de-bunk them, then one Friday night you'd try to get both your dresser AND desk under your bunked bed? The possibilities were ... ok, they were with end. There are only so many ways you can arrange 4 pieces of furniture.

What am I getting at? Well! We here in the Newly-Married-And-Kind-Of-Wanting-Our-Place-To-Look-More-Grown-Up category have embarked on a living room upgrade! It is convenient that our kitchen is ALSO our living room because that means we are also getting a kitchen upgrade. And who said small living spaces in NYC were limiting?!

Anyhoo. I went on an Ikea frenzy the other night and ordered approximately 40 bookcases for our living room. Ok, it was only 3. Sometimes I lay awake at night dreaming about how many books we can fit on those bookcases and how much random crap we can put in decorative baskets that will be placed IN the bookshelves to function as drawers. Finally, a place where our binoculars and extra rubber bands can live in organized harmony! Ikea delivery should be here within 2 weeks, so watch out, world!

We spent yesterday relaxing like it was our jobs. (N.B. it is most definitely not our jobs.) It was the rule of the day. We woke up and got bagels, which we ate outside in the September weather. Then we came back here and I napped while Chris played video games. (For those of you calculating, yes, it is true that I napped around 10am. I realize this probably should count as sleeping in.) Then I started and finished Bossypants by Tina Fey on Chris' iPad.

Verdicts: Tina's funny, meh experience reading my first digital book.

Then we took a walk to Housing Works to donate old clothes, a trip to Barnes & Noble, and finally a lovely dinner out at Bar Tabac.

Today, to make up for all that R&R, I got up and ran 3 miles before 9am. Then we showered, went to Starbucks, and I wrote my presentation for the Web 2.0 conference in 2 hours. DONE! I mean, there's still work to do, but holy crap does that feel awesome. Sometimes I think I miss homework and then when I *actually* have something homework-ish, I am not all about it.

Other accomplishments of today included finishing our thank-you notes from the wedding, baking a cake, making spicy sweet potato soup and rearranging the furniture.

All in all, a perfect blend of chill time and getting stuff crossed off the "to-do" list.

PS If I may mention one irritation... why is it that every time I vacuum, the cats decide to RIP EACH OTHERS' FUR OUT AND SPREAD IT ALL AROUND THE APARTMENT WHILE WE SLEEP? I woke up this morning to find that I needed to vacuum again. Perhaps I will go straight to the source one of these days and use the attachments on Oscar. Sheesh.

9.15.2011

This week's balance challenge.

Last night I took my first HTML class. I want to write more about that, but today's topic is what happened after the class.

Background: I worked late a bunch of nights last week and Chris has been working late a bunch of nights this week. I'm also taking on new responsibilities at work. When I got off the subway last night near our apartment, I checked my work email and immediately regretted it because I knew I'd spend the rest of the night distracted by the messages and mile-long to-do list that grew since I'd last checked in.

Do you guys do that? Check your work email at night or on the weekend? I used to have a strict NO policy on that, but then I let it slide. There's something awesome about being able to move decisions along while you're standing on line at the movie theater or impressing new candidates by getting back to them so quickly. But for me those pros have one major con, which is that I become distracted from my environment and the rest of my night, particularly when the emails are about large, thoughtful decisions I need to make the next day at work.

In any event, I walked in the door and wanted to be super-excited about my little HTML page I'd made, but I was distracted. And then Chris went to mess around on his computer for a while, so I sat and ate microwave popcorn on the couch, worried about how I'd get up to run in the morning and thinking about work. The knot of stress worked itself bigger as I brushed my teeth and got in bed to read my Cornelius Vanderbilt book. Then I tried to read a magazine. Then I tried to do a crossword. And I still felt like a stress-ball.

So (as is inevitable) I finally padded out to the living room and got my husband up to speed. By that, I mean that I told him the long (long, long) list of things I'd committed myself to and things I was stressed about. There were tears. There was the concern that I was disappointing everyone on planet Earth. (I get a little dramatic.)

And then we made the list- I wrote every single thing that I'm responsible for or concerned about on a piece of paper. I was only allowed to choose three to prioritize; the rest would have to wait for a few weeks. I would take a photo of this list, but it's embarrassingly long and detailed.

Example? I'm having a baby shower for a friend in October and I wanted to rip out of all of the summer garden vegetables and replant flowers so that they would bloom in time for the shower. I think we can all guess that THAT got axed.

In the end, I circled three:
1. Husband time
2. Eating healthy
3. Work

"Look!" Chris said. "Health, wealth and relationships. That's the three fundamental things that people prioritize."

And he was right. There's something about coming out normal that's damn refreshing.

The fall-out of crossing off a million other things is that the baby shower will be decorated with fresh-cut flowers. I'm going to run when I can, but not commit to anything just yet. The cats can wait a month to go to the vet and organizing our finances can chill for a bit while I get used to my new responsibilities at work.

Also? We're going to look into getting a cleaning person.

That sentence makes me embarrassed. Why do we need someone ELSE to clean up the cat hair and litter that abounds?! And yet here's what it comes down to: if we can afford it, I would much rather spend the few nights a week that we're home doing something together vs. cleaning the apartment. To prioritize quality time and allow someone else to worry about the mess, this is both luxurious and common sense. My practical, German roots rebel against the idea, but it's time to make good decisions for our little family, not hold stubbornly to past traditions.

Crisis averted! Until the next time, when Chris might just get one step closer to sending the laundry out to be done. Ahhh, the ways we change.

9.13.2011

1 month in.

Today is the one month anniversary of our marriage. I haven't even finished blogging about the wedding, let alone the honeymoon, but that will come. This afternoon I checked in on a blog that I used to read a long time ago and read through the writer's devastating depression and resulting divorce. It crushed me a little, I'll admit, and it reminded me how large and intimidating marriage can be.

I think, if there is a goal to name, I will call my marriage goal "keeping a short leash on unhappiness." Because when unhappiness is tiny, it is manageable. You can help each other through it, you can tease it out of the other, you can goof around or sensitively listen while the other cries. It is not yet a wrecking ball.

The trouble seems to come when unhappiness and distance is permitted to grow and get into the roots of a marriage, where it rots. Suddenly it's awkward to show affection or let things go or feel at all on the same page. If you're in a marriage where things are slightly off, RIGHT THEM! Right them right away. Take a weekend away to reconnect or make the first step in affection or do what you can to close that gap. It might only get bigger.

*

Sarah, my lovely friend, came down the aisle with her dad on Saturday and I was overcome with emotion. (Let's be honest- crying at weddings is sort of my thing.) But this time it was because I was flooded with so many memories of her writing to me in Paris about this guy named Justin, of us laying in her room when we were roommates, talking about the kind of guys we wanted to marry, of how she romantically decorated a mirror once with images of couples kissing. And there, under the lovely Connecticut trees, she was being married to her perfect guy. It was like a miracle.


As the minister spoke about marriage and what they were entering into, it reminded me of the vows Chris and I took only 4 weeks earlier. I remember holding my breath a little, remembering that we too were signed up for this lifelong project. And I realized that one of the first challenges of such a project was not letting time get in the way of remembering those vows. A busy few weeks and lots of late nights working had taken me so far away from the moment of vows that it scared me for a second, how close it had been to my soul and how hidden it was when I got busy. 

It seems prudent to keep the vows and the promises they signified on a short leash too.

*

Life is, clearly, never going to get less busy. A wedding is more than a diamond or a dress or a party. And a marriage must be fed with good, strong moments together on a regular basis. 

When I had lunch with my old boss earlier this summer, I asked her about the happiest married couples she knows. What was their secret? I wondered. She told me the story about a Swiss couple who gets a babysitter every January 1 and takes a hike (and a picnic lunch) up into the mountains. There, they talk about the upcoming year. They decide what trips they'd like to take with the children and they talk about the goals they want to achieve as a family. And when they come down from the mountain, they are on the same page.

May we always choose to climb a mountain together, no matter what comes our way.

9.11.2011

And now, back to normal life.

I know that Labor Day traditionally marks the end of summer, but with this past weekend over, it now finally feels like fall. One of my dearest friends got married this weekend (I'll write more about that soon) and as she and her new husband head off to Hawaii for their honeymoon, I find myself coming home to ground ourselves in our new lives as married people.

My mom drove us back to Brooklyn this afternoon with the gifts from our wedding and I spent the afternoon and evening finding a place for everything. Now that the last hurrah wedding feast is over, I'm looking forward to eating healthier, seeking out fall fruit and (excitedly!) finding my way back to running.

Once the weather got hot earlier this year, I was less motivated to run. Plus I was busy for a while, we traveled, yada yada. But now! It's perfect weather for a run and tonight I found myself researching local races. I put together a training plan for the next 6 weeks to get back in shape for a couple of 5ks and a 10k and I'm thrilled that my excitement for running is alive and well.

Slightly unrelated: I'm not sure why it took me 30 years to get a sweater organizer, but that's the truth and tonight I hung ours in my closet (thanks, Josh!). People. GET THEE A SWEATER ORGANIZER. You are guaranteed to feel 85% more organized. It's basically the best thing ever.

Alright. Off to turn into a pumpkin and have an early bedtime. Tomorrow morning restarts running! It's going to be a little rough considering all the pie I ate last night, but you gotta start somewhere.

P.S. Blog shout-out to Abby (aka yesterday's Maid of Honor), who told me this weekend that she reads my blog. And to her mom, Gwen! I had no idea these posts got to your eyeballs and it makes me happy that they do. Here's the fabulous Abster herself:

9.04.2011

The pleasure of a wander.

Wandering with Maddy in London, Feb 2011.
Our friends Angela and Lucie moved to Brooklyn from Paris while we were on our honeymoon. They're only here for a year but oh, what a year I predict it will be. We took them to Governor's Island for a picnic yesterday, where we ate sandwiches and edamame and Italian pastries fresh from Greenpoint. Then we walked around the island and got our exercise in for the day.

But there's a funny thing that's been happening in my brain since we saw them. While picnicking, Lucie asked me when I started to change my mind about New York. When did I start to like it? And it took me a second before I finally said, "I guess I started to like it more when I went out INTO it. When I didn't stay home in my apartment actively disliking it."

I talked about how learning the history of the buildings and the neighborhoods has helped me appreciate the city. Although it will never be as old as Europe, there's a lot here! Doing walking tours, reading books and just generally encountering the same streets again and again (and again...) helped me break what is a giant city into smaller bits. And now I really do love New York for what it is.

After we left the girls, I thought more about why I love Paris so much. I'm currently reading The Greater Journey (anyone who knows Paris would LOVE this book...) and I'm able to trace the movements of the people in the book because I know the streets mentioned. When I don't know the street, I look it up on the map provided in the front of the book and BAM. I'm there. But why do I know Paris so well?

It's because I did a LOT of walking there.

If I were living in Paris on a pretty and warm Sunday like today, I would have chosen a neighborhood to investigate. I would have taken the metro there and then found my way home, walking through the winding streets, learning the monuments by foot. I would have purchased a pastry or sandwich along the way, happy just to wander and absorb the city. Walking in Paris wasn't only a mode of transportation; it was an activity, an aesthetic way to pass the afternoon. It's not a coincidence that I drop 20 pounds every time I move there!

My experience wandering Paris is what allows it to be a "moveable feast" to me (a la Hemingway). At any moment, I can imagine myself at the Arc de Triomphe, wandering down the Champs-Elysees, down past the Place de la Concorde and the Tuilerie Gardens and along the river. Past the Pont des Arts, the Pont Neuf, the Louvre and down to Notre Dame. Or better yet, up towards the Marais. Sometimes, for clarification, I'll pop onto Google Maps to remind myself the name of a place or a street and it's like I'm there again. (This paragraph will make no sense to anyone but people who have lived in Paris. Ah well, it's a treat for those who have!)

Earlier this afternoon I considered wandering in New York. I barely know the Upper West Side and I thought about taking the subway up there and wandering down as far as I could before I tired myself out. I don't know why we aren't accustomed to this in New York. There are plenty of pretty walks to be had, but we're usually rushing past them to get where we're headed. In New York, the goal is more important than the ride. And that's exactly what hijacked my afternoon walk idea. Instead of something slow and meandering, we walked to Target, then to a friend's house to catch up, and then straight back home.

Maybe tomorrow I'll wander. Or maybe with Lucie and Angela here this year, I'll get into the habit of calling them to meet me on a street corner and we'll wander together. I'll point out the historical facts I know along the way, they'll see the streets with fresh eyes, and our friendships will grow as the blocks accumulate.

Friend walks. I love it. Photographic evidence to come!

9.03.2011

Guide to roadtripping the Pacific Coast.

PHEW. I haven't been able to muster up the energy to upload all of our honeymoon pictures to Flickr yet, but tonight I managed to write up our recommendations for things you should do if you're considering a trip out west! To read the travel guide, click here.

Things of note:

  • I left off our hotels in San Fran and in Carmel because we didn't love them and I wouldn't recommend them. 
  • If you're thinking of skipping Oregon, that's the wrong decision. Other than Big Sur, the prettiest parts of the drive were southern Oregon. Plus, people were nicer there.
  • I don't really like California. Maybe it was preconceived notions, but I didn't like the vibe of the people and somehow I just can't take them seriously! This may be my New Yorker blood surfacing here, was just interesting to realize.
  • We drove 1503 miles in 12 days. We paid one toll- $6 to cross the Golden Gate bridge in San Fran. Crazy!
  • Here was our itinerary, for those who want to reference it:
    • Portland, OR (2 nights)
    • Newport Beach, OR (1 night)
    • Gold Beach, OR (1 night)
    • Mendocino, CA (1 night)
    • San Francisco, CA (2 nights)
    • Carmel, CA (1 night)
    • San Luis Obispo (1 night)
    • Palm Springs (3 nights)
And now, some pictures to whet your appetite for the west coast...











9.02.2011

The ceremony.

Post-wedding, hotel room shot.
Though I'm an extrovert, I don't like being the center of attention much. I'm a decent singer, but can't do karaoke. And I can speak publicly, so long as the content of my speech is the focus.

So you can understand that the prospect of having a string quartet announce your arrival while you're hoping that your hair, dress, make-up and shoes are holding up well, is a bit daunting. Not to mention the fact that everyone's just LOOKING at you, EXPECTING your emotion. Even reveling in it! Because who doesn't like seeing real emotion? In a world of reality television, authentic tears are endangered.

So as my Dad and I turned the corner to come down the aisle, I broke the fourth wall. I waved to everyone. And in that way, everyone laughed, or smiled at least, and I could laugh a little -- and in that way, I felt less like an actor and more like a member of the group.

So there you are on your Dad's left arm, and you look up towards the minister, towards the place where the bushes come together poetically, towards your best ladies and the dudes you know so well. And suddenly, this SUPER-HOT COMPUTER PROGRAMMER is standing there! (Oxymoron? No!) And he is waiting for you to stop waving at everyone and get the hell down the aisle! And you just have this moment like, "whoah. WHOAH. whoah."

Our minister had us face the crowd the entire time, which was lovely because I could look out and see individuals. My aunt looked awesome! Maddy and Katie were there and so was Fanny and Sima! And all of the Arc peeps and I remember seeing my High School buddies towards the back. It was like one of those dream sequences when you wake up and think "what the hell was my Aunt Jean doing in the same place as some of my residents from 3rd floor Prosser?", except it's your wedding day. Total dream.

Our minister was so, so wonderful. She was charming and funny and most of all, calm. She told a story about having emailed us several days earlier to ask why we loved the other and why we wanted to get married. It was the first time I'd heard what Chris wrote and it's an understatement to say that the man is, himself, an amazing and thoughtful writer.

I remember my sister crying and my mom crying. I only cried a little when Skersh read the e.e. cummings poem that I've always dreamed would be read at my wedding. I remember reading that poem out loud when I lived with roommates just a block from where I live now. I remember wondering who those words would apply to one day, hoping very much that I might just find a nice guy to be my best friend.

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)

I remember that Chris had trouble getting my ring on but that his slid on pretty easily. I remember that he got choked up during the vows and I looked hard into his eyes, willing him on, being strong. I remember looking over and seeing Evelyn looking pretty with her cello. 

And then the minister said "Jennifer, you may kiss your groom," and I whooped in my heart for feminism and kissed him. Then she pronounced us married and we walked down the aisle and high-fived.

Because all of that? It sure did deserve a high-five.

[Coming soon: the party...]

9.01.2011

Semester 4: The Art of the Biography.

Confused about Project Learn? You can check it out here.

Probably as a by-product of learning about New York all summer, I became very interested in some of the individuals I was learning about. History might be considered the combination of decisions made by important people.

I'm interested in people. And so for the fourth semester of Project Learn, we're going to tackle Biographies. Let me be clear: this biography thing could be 15 years worth of material for Project Learn. But since I'm restricted to 3 months, we're going to keep things simple. A diverse group of biographies and then some activities to highlight the importance of individuals.

Readings (choose 4 of 6)
Bossypants by Tina Fey
The Greater Journey by David McCullough
The First Tycoon: the Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt by T.J. Stiles
Vera by Stacy Schiff
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
The Emperor of all Maladies (A Biography of Cancer) by Siddhartha Mukherjee

Assignments
Visit my grandpa and do a video interview about his life
Visit the Vanderbilt mansion in Newburgh
Watch lots of 30 Rock
Create a family calendar with family members' birthdays, anniversaries, important dates. Make an effort to send cards to celebrate the important moments!
Weekly photo posts of statues (or art!) dedicated to an important person

QUESTION TO THE GROUP: Who are you fascinated by? Who would be at the top of your list if you were reading biographies? Share!

The days leading up to the big day...

The morning of my wedding, I spent a lot of time repeating a Liz Gilbert mantra to myself. I said it to myself while the stylist did my hair. I said it to myself for about an hour on my parents' deck while my family got dressed upstairs. And I said it a few times to myself after my Dad dropped me off with my dress at the main house at Lasdon. I hung my dress in the bathroom and then I paced around the suite a few times.

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

And then I looked out the window and saw my parents, sister and brother's girlfriend walking towards the house where I was hidden away. I will never forget how proud I was of my beautiful family just then.



Behind them, Becky and Alan were setting up the speakers for our sound system. My Aunt JoAnn had arrived with our homemade wedding cake. And the florist was setting up the splays for the ceremony. I realized I didn't need the mantra anymore: everyone had shown up. Everyone had done what they'd promised.

And for someone who planned much of the wedding herself? Well, that was the hugest sigh of relief I've ever let loose.

Here are the violet centerpieces before we left Brooklyn, all baby plants grown from my Nana's original:



Here we are doing crafts the night before the rehearsal. It was Chris' birthday and even though we were pretty burned out, Steve and Kate sat with us and helped us decorate the violets, burn mix CDs for favors and arrange the place cards in alphabetical order:




I won't forget that. Giggling about how Chris wrapped his groomsmen gifts, all of us a sleepy bundle of nerves.

The morning of the rehearsal, my Mom, Kate and I drove up to Stew Leonard's to buy cut flowers. Leigh and Courtney had volunteered to arrange our centerpieces (cut flowers meet jam jars for the win!). A few miles into the drive, our car was throwing sparks. I won't forget how we thought we might have a flower disaster on our hands, but how a helpful Santa-looking man arrived, jacked the car up, and put the car's heat shield in our trunk. Then he waved us on our way.



Don't let anyone tell you that $116 of fresh cut flowers won't look elegant. Because they are dead wrong. Leigh and Courtney put their Muhlenberg educations to work and they LIBERAL-ARTSED the hell out of those centerpieces!



But truth be told, it took me until that moment hidden away in the bridal suite to let go. Suddenly I grew a mountain of trust. All of my fears that people would be irritated or annoyed to help us disappeared and I believed that people wanted to be there, that they wanted to help us. And that we weren't an imposition on anyone.

This may sound funny, but I've realized over the past year or so that I have a pretty deep assumption going that people won't show up for me. At my 30th birthday party this year, I spent the whole night worrying that everyone wished they were somewhere else. And I let it ruin my night.

On August 13, I looked out the window and I saw people showing up. Not only were they there, but they were dressed to the nines. And maybe it was because of that discovery, because of that surprising realization, but I was no longer emotional about walking down the aisle. I knew I was about to walk into a crowd of lots and lots of love.

And one very important member of that crowd was a guy who has always shown up.

[Coming soon: the wedding itself...]