10.30.2011

O&O

We spent a lot of time inside this weekend, mainly because of snow. Here are a few shots of the cats, who loved having us around all weekend. These snugglepants make our house a home.






Honeymoon: 3 nights in Palm Springs


And finally we were in Palm Springs. We skirted LA because I was afraid of spending 89% of the trip in LA traffic and went straight on through. It was a longish ride from San Luis Obispo, but when we got to the Parker, we were MIGHTY glad to be there. We spent the next 24 hours jumping in and out of the pool, drinking pina coladas by the pool, and listening to Housewives of LA make irritating conversation in the pool. (e.g. "You simply MUST come with us to Hawaii for Christmas! It's decided! I'll book tickets on my iPhone right now!)

We moved to the Ace and told them they were our last Ace to hit. No one cared that much. I was disappointed! But I got over it and we went in the Ace's pool. We had a couples' massage, we ordered delivery pizza for lunch, we saw a famous actor and one night we took our book lights and read under the stars (thanks, Jess and Sean!). 

And that's where the honeymoon ended. After 12 amazing days, we boarded a plane to Milwaukee, where we had a second wedding party for Chris' family and friends. We were tan, smiley and tired of eating out. It was a good time to head back East.

Final pix on Flickr here.




10.29.2011

Honeymoon: 1 night in San Luis Obispo


When we last left our heroine, she was about to ride a horse for the first time. After we were outfitted at the stables, we noticed a giant gray horse. "I hope you get that stallion!" I said to Chris. And turns out, he did get that horse- except she was no stallion. Star was a lady horse.


I was given a speckled horse named Emma who was old and slow and a little bit moody. "Come on, Emma," I'd say, gently nudging her sides with my heels, and she's stay right where she was. It was funny! And endearing. Good old Emma, damning the man.

Obviously we met a French family and obviously we made friends with them and obviously they invited us to visit them in their large mansion in France. That part was good too.

Along the way, we had lunch at Nepenthe. The driving through Big Sur was my favorite of the CA portion of the trip. Cliffs and coasts and sea lions the whole way... 

Then we stopped at the Hearst Castle, where we did a tour (make sure you book ahead!), enjoyed super-blue skies and marveled at a man we knew nothing about prior to the trip. William Randolph Hearst was one rich dude and, may I say, a marvelous-sounding dinner party host. He screened new movies in his private movie theater and flew in choir seats from Italy to decorate his front room. 

As we were driving out of the castle's parking lot, we laughed at something the tour guide said. Hearst collected exotic animals and kept them in pens at the castle, though he had to sell them off one-by-one as he needed money towards the end of his life. The guide said we might still be able to see some zebra in the fields along the road. Well WE DID! Zebras and cows were hanging out in the same enclosure, all just standing about awkwardly.

Zebra sightings. Just another day on the Honeymoon 2011 tour.

More pix on Flickr here.


10.26.2011

But what are we really doing?

Bonsai tree in the DC arboretum.
I like getting to the bottom of things. I used to think that meant I had an obsession with truth. Every time the word "truth" was used in a book I was reading, I would underline it. I would pay close attention to how that word was being used.

I was not sure how this related to lying, but I suspected that I was less interested in the opposite of truth and more in the gushy "getting to the bottom" of a reality, of a relationship, of a desire.

This morning I was prepping for a meeting that was happening later this afternoon. The meeting was to write a mission statement for one of our projects here at Arc; we were asked to write a few statements on our own and bring them to the table at 4pm. And as I was working on this, I realized that I kept focusing tighter on the subject at hand, like a surgeon zooming in on the monitor as he cuts.

"But what are we really doing?" I thought to myself. And then I'd write the answer. Then I'd ask myself again. "But what are we really doing?"

And slowly, surely, I started to center in on the crux of it.

I'm not sure if this is searching for the "truth," but I know that I used this exercise when thinking about getting married. Here's how it worked:

Fact: We're having a wedding.
But what are we really doing?
Fact: I'm wearing a white dress and Chris is wearing a gray suit.
But what are we really doing?
Fact: We're having a party with our family and friends.
But what are we really doing?
Fact: We're having a ceremony that others are coming to witness.
But what are we really doing?
Fact: Chris and I are promising to spend our lives together, among other things.
But what are we really doing?
Fact: Chris and I are embarking on a project. This day kicks off that project and there are a number of promises we're making related to our commitment to the project. Others will witness those promises and help us honor them.

There. That feels about right. And in this light, concerning ourselves with wedding colors and gift bags in hotel rooms felt RIDICULOUS. Right? Like, totally out of scale. Getting to the bottom of the "truth" of the wedding event was really helpful when it came time to tell the florist we weren't spending $2,000 on flowers. And other insane things.

Here's another one:

Fact: At some point in the not-so-distant future, we would like to leave New York.
But what are we really doing?
Fact: We want to have more space.
But what are we really doing?
Fact: We want to start a family sometime before my eggs rot.
But what are we really doing?
Fact: We want to slow down the pace of our lives a bit and re-prioritize.
But what are we really doing?

Well. That's as far as we're at right now. And that's ok! Sometimes you don't know what the next step is along the way. Sometimes you really only know the first fact. For example:

Fact: I am not actively writing my book.
But what am I really doing?

I have a couple of guesses. I think I might really be avoiding it because I'm intimidated or because I'm not actually ready to do it or… possibly… because I'm not good enough to do it. Tricky, that.

The job is to figure out what the next fact is. And then the next one. And on down the line until I get to a point where I can act against the "truth" of it. That might take a while. But you know, I think that's ok. If we were able to get to the bottom of everything right away, we'd have a lot more on our to-do lists.

So if you don't know what you're really doing, I think the answer is clear. Ask yourself some questions. And if that doesn't work, just wait longer.

10.24.2011

We interrupt these honeymoon posts to share an updated Life List.

Since we're headed to Camp Mighty in only a few short weeks, the task of updating my Life List to hold 100 items has been hot on my mind. I only had about 25 up until last night, but then the long train ride last night coupled with a sick day today has resulted in ONE HUNDRED LIFE GOALS OF POWER!

What's amazing to me is how some of them seemed to come out of nowhere. I'd be sitting there, thinking about owning a dog, and then from nowhere I'd think "FUND A SCHOLARSHIP FOR STUDENTS TO GO ABROAD." Except instead of it coming from Nowhere, I think it came from Thewhere, as in The place where the deepest things only you know live.

Interested in making one of your own? Maggie Mason wrote a helpful post and remember- this is not a list that you make to seem reasonable to other people. At least one person is going to doubt your ability to complete some of these things. That person is not of your concern! If you can think of it, stick it on the list. Who cares if it never comes true? The mere act of pronouncing it starts the being possible, even in the tiniest way.

Here's my list, in all its glory:

1. Snorkel in Costa Rica
2. Paint a self-portrait
3. Write a letter to Barack Obama
4. Video interview my extended family about what it was like growing up
5. Track down some long-lost relatives in Germany and have dinner with them
6. Redesign my blog (or pay someone else to do it)
7. Publish a book
8. Translate a novel from French to English
9. Fly to Paris for my birthday
10. Spend a summer abroad
11. Own a bike and use it to commute to work.
12. Visit the Grand Canyon
13. Be economically comfortable
14. Run a 10k [Completed- 10k in DC in 2011]
15. Discover a fish I like to eat and learn how to cook it
16. Buy a sewing machine and make something usable
17. Make homemade butter/cheese/ice cream
18. Grow a watermelon and eat it
19. Visit Texas [Completed- SXSW in 2011]
20. Learn another language conversationally
21. Use my blog to supplement my income
22. Raise children
23. Have a wedding on our own terms [Completed- August 13, 2011!]
24. Learn one computer language
25. Accompany my brother (singing) at a concert in front of other people.
26. Learn to like at least one kind of eggs.
27. Swim with a dolphin.
28. Attend the New Yorker Festival as a speaker/guest/panelist.
29. Teach a class.
30. Get a professional headshot done.
31. Start a Saturday morning tradition that I continue for a year.
32. Open a B&B. Have my sister design it.
33. Master 10 dinner recipes that I feel comfortable cooking for a group of people.
34. Have a reunion for my residents from 3rd floor Prosser.
35. Organize a 1-day conference where unpublished writers come to share their work, write and make writerly connections.
36. Make a sizeable donation to Muhlenberg.
37. Take a trip with my siblings.
38. Take a trip with my mom and sister.
39. Run a half-marathon.
40. Run a race in a foreign country.
41. Go to Middlebury language school for another summer.
42. Make personal contact (letter, meet, take to lunch, etc.) with the following writers who have influenced me: Elizabeth Gilbert, Charles Baxter, William Trevor, Ann Patchett, Audrey Niffenegger
43. Attend TED
44. Create an office space that allows me to work, interrupted, at long stretches of time. It should be comfortable, inspiring and able to shut out the outside world.
45. Host a foreign exchange student.
46. Try having bangs.
47. Live in a house with fruit trees in the backyard.
48. Learn how to change a tire.
49. Invite Ingrid Michaelson to a party at our place. (Goal is, she accepts.)
50. Spend a period of time living close to family.
51. Do a multi-day hike and camp overnight.
52. Find an awesome pillow that is not too thin or too fat, but just perfect.
53. Rewatch Lost.
54. Have photos of family and friends framed and visible in our home.
55. Go on a safari in Africa.
56. Research and write a walking tour… then give it!
57. Be able to identify 10 birds by sight and sound.
58. Work on a farm again and milk cows.
59. Start a business with my husband.
60. Grow a tree and plant it in our yard.
61. Have a yard.
62. Surprise Chris with a weekend away.
63. Find a church/religious place that's for me.
64. Work in a bookstore.
65. Meet Dave Eggers.
66. Create an online community around No Is For Wimps.
67. Visit all the 826 Valencias. [Completed: San Fran, Brooklyn, Seattle, DC]
68. Learn to blow dry my hair straight.
69. Get a dog.
70. Have my dog trained to be able to go to nursing homes and bring him/her there on a regular basis.
71. Join a rowing team and get SWEET arms.
72. Get my MFA (if only because of the dedicated time to write).
73. Attend weddings in other countries. [Completed so far: India]
74. Gift a plane ticket for a friend to come and visit us.
75. Host a dinner with Chris for the top 3 people who have influenced each of our lives. Pay for travel expenses for those 6 people and host a long dinner where they can meet and we can thank them.
76. Speak French with my children so they have a base knowledge of the language at least.
77. Host a board game night and invite the board gamiest people I know.
78. Go to a movie and sneak into a second one after the first is over!
79. Write a wedding post and have it published on A Practical Wedding.
80. Pet an elephant.
81. Start an annual tradition with Chris that focuses on planning for the next year.
82. Once kids are old enough, make a fancy Back to School dinner every year.
83. Learn to tap dance.
84. Visit my host family in Aix-en-Provence.
85. Have my sister as my doula for the birth of at least one of my children.
86. Invest my/our money in a forward-thinking way.
87. Memorize the names (and order) of all the US presidents.
88. Visit Jefferson's home in Virginia.
89. Visit Hemingway's house in Florida.
90. Take at least one trip alone every year. Could be as simple as a long weekend to visit friends or fam.
91. Visit Pompeii.
92. Try Bikram yoga.
93. Get certified as a Yoga instructor.
94. Witness the birth of a baby (not my own).
95. Help found a scholarship to send students abroad.
96. Give myself a $1000 shopping spree to create a new wardrobe I feel good about.
97. Plant hydrangea plants in our yard and cut the flowers as they bloom to make the house homey.
98. Attend the Clinton Global Initiative.
99. Cook my way through one cookbook (however small!)
100. Tell a story on This American Life.

101. Help change a struggling city into a thriving one.
102. Use my communication skills to help people understand something difficult. Could be national healthcare, the DMV, Green Card applications or something else that's known for being a black box.

10.22.2011

Honeymoon: 1 night in Carmel, CA


When I was a kid, there was a long stretch of years that my family vacationed in Cape May, NJ. I've never been to Disneyland or Disneyworld; instead, my family spent a week every year in a town with Victorian Houses and a cross-stitch shop. In some ways, I am very grateful for this type of repeated travel; I know Cape May well. When I returned once as an adult, I sought out a shop where they sell Christmas ornaments and salt water taffy and I realized how much of my Mom I have in me.

On these trips, my parents would make it a point to stop at a fruit stand along the highway to buy Jersey peaches and tomatoes. I'm not quite sure what the magic is about Jersey fruit, but eating roadside peaches always reminds me of vacation on a beach to this day.

As we made our way out of San Francisco, we noticed more and more fruit stands along the side of the road. Finally I told Chris we had to stop... and we grabbed cherries, strawberries and a couple of peaches for old time's sake. The best kind of snacks on a roadtrip.

We made it to our hotel in Carmel and I'll admit it- I was ITCHING for a swim. We had been in California for several days and my misunderstanding of northern California weather had left me shivering in sweaters for days. So although we were the only ones in the pool at the hotel, a swimming we did go. 

Carmel was pretty, but expensive. We did the 17-mile scenic drive, which happened to be the same weekend as a giant, fancy car show. This made a lot of sense when we learned about it, as we'd spent the previous several hours with minds blown by the fact that everyone in Carmel seemed to drive a Porsche. Turns out, it was just for the weekend.

Meanwhile, we'd been telling people that we were ending our trip in Palm Springs. "Palm Springs in August, huh?" they'd say. "It's pretty hot down there!" Indeed; it was supposed to be 120 degrees. The horseback riding we had planned wasn't going to happen, as horses apparently don't like carting humans around in such heat. (Who can blame them?)

So while checking out the local Carmel guide, it felt serendipitous to discover that there was horseback riding available near Big Sur the next morning. We called, we booked it. And we set our alarms to wake up early for my first experience riding a horse. 

More pix on Flickr here



10.21.2011

Honeymoon: 2 nights in San Francisco


Mendocino was a bizarre town. We stayed in a little cottage shed at a B&B, had a dinner in a nearby restaurant and all I remember about that dinner was eating soup and laughing pretty much non-stop. We were looking forward to San Francisco - it would be Chris' first time there.

San Francisco is not warm and by that I also sort of mean not inviting. I've been there before to visit friends, and each time their hospitality far outshone the city. When Chris and I arrived, we checked into our hotel (air miles spent for 2 free nights at the Clift!) and found it, again, somewhat cold. Compared with the B&Bs we'd been staying at along the way, the Clift was the height of formality.

There were no obvious "must-sees" on our list. And so the first morning, after breakfast, we headed to the zoo. Deciding to go to the zoo was one of the decisions that truly made the trip feel spontaneous. Isn't the zoo something you want to do every morning instead of going to work? I know. Me too.

And so my favorite memories in San Fran have to do with gorillas and drinks at the bar in the top of the Marriott. We had some big talks over drinks in that bar, some mighty big talks. At the base of those discussions was our reluctance to be in a big city like San Fran after the GREENness of the trip up until that point.

To me, this is what a honeymoon is for. To be far away physically from the place you call home, but also far away mentally. To be in a dreaming place. To be thinking big because you can, because you don't have the checkbook on you and because a whole bunch of people just said they'd support you in your life.

It was like floating.

More pix on Flickr.


10.20.2011

Honeymoon: 1 night in Mendocino, CA



My maternal grandparents drove across the country several times in the 40s. My Nana wrote letters back home, explaining how they saw a "real Indian" for the first time, how the deer were different in Montana, how my Uncle Dick had fun playing with some local kids. But for all their trips, they never made it to the Redwoods. And as my Nana got older, she would talk about this missed opportunity.

"Boy, I bet that'd be something to see," she'd say. "Those big trees!"

When we were planning a trip down the coast, I knew we had to see the Redwoods. And my, were they something to see.

At some point, we picked up a classy lunch of peanut butter, jelly and bread and took it up to a overlook that was supposed to showcase stunning views. Imagine our surprise when we ascended into a cloud.


It wasn't the most expensive of meals on the trip, but it definitely was one of the most memorable. And with this picnic lunch, we rolled into California, road trip style.

More pix on Flickr here.

10.19.2011

Honeymoon: 1 night in Gold Beach, OR



The southern coast of Oregon was some of my favorite driving the whole way. We started having less plans other than getting to the place we were staying. We allowed ourselves to pull over to the side of the road spontaneously to see sea lions and the views. It was the beginning of a real, spontaneous vacation.

When we got to the B&B, our hostess pointed out the river across the street. "Feel free to go hang out over there," she said, and so we did. I waded in the river and took in the expansive mountains around us. It seriously felt like the last place on earth. Work? Cats? Everyone we knew? Literally thousands and thousands of miles away.

Except not really. We pulled off the coast for lunch and randomly found our way to a Norwegian chip shop. There we were, enjoying a fried lunch, when a former Arc90 employee walked in, on his vacation from New York. I KID YOU NOT. It was the kind of coincidence that you don't understand, the kind of story that is so unbelievable it's spooky.

I've experienced those kinds of coincidences before- and each time, you wonder "why did that happen?" I pay attention when that kind of stuff happens because it feels like you're hot on the trail to the truth of your life.

More pix on Flickr here.



10.18.2011

Honeymoon: 1 night in Newport Beach


When you leave Portland and head towards the coast, you go through a few national forests. We couldn't stop taking photos of the trees. THE TREES! And the air! If I could have captured it on film, I would have.

We eventually hit the coast and got a look at some white driftwood and the mountains to the north; we had never been somewhere as beautiful. It was a good start to our ocean-filled drive down the coast and every time we pulled over to take photos, I couldn't believe where we were.

That first night, we stopped in Newport Beach to stay at a library B&B; all the rooms were themed after authors. We stayed in the Hemingway room and ate dinner with the other hotel residents. It was so much colder than we thought it would be. But it was so beautiful.

More pix on Flickr here.

10.17.2011

Honeymoon: 2 nights, 1 day in Portland, OR



We stayed at the Ace and we rode bikes across the river to a community garden where a gardener offered us fresh cucumbers and tomatoes. We went to Powell's, where we splurged on books and then we went to an Arcade. I had never been! I was terrible at every game but Dr. Mario, which I was slightly good at because we used to have it at home when I was a kid. We ate lunch from food trucks and ate dinner with Kathryn and Aaron.

It was beautiful weather and we were newly-married. We had bikes and books and friends. Chris called me his wife for the first time in a Starbucks. It was sort of like a dream.

Starting the enormous task of uploading honeymoon photos to Flickr. Check them out here.

Well. It's not the Sorbonne.

Have I mentioned that Chris is learning French? He goes to FIAF every Thursday night from 6-9pm and learns adorable things like "Bonjour!" and "lundi" and "Ca va?"

C'est trop.

I also go to French on Thursdays, but I'm in a different class. I'm taking a literature and history class and I still can't decide if I like it or not. Some weeks I think "LADY. WE GOTTA PICK THIS UP." and others I am grateful that we reread every page in class, but that is mostly on nights when I had a busy week and had to speed through the homework too quickly to absorb what the heck is going on with Cesar Birotteau.

It's not like I'm the master of this class or anything. Several of my classmates have color-coded new vocabulary notes in the margins, while I proceed with a "blaze through and skip looking up words" mentality since, you know, I'm usually reading on a SUBWAY. Carrying the old Oxford-Hachette around NYC is a stretch, even for me.

I am the only one in the class who is not retired and not a foreigner. Do I mind this? A little. Last week we had to change rooms because no one could hear the teacher. "Too drafty!" one shouted, pointing to the windows. "We must move! Je suis un troublemaker! Ha! Ha!"

The 90 minute class consists of us going around the room and reading a chunk of every page that we'd read for homework. This gives us a chance to hear everyone's indecipherable amazing accents and reminds me a lot of the Art History course I had in Paris when the teacher would spend the entire class pointing out details of one painting.

"Look," he would say. "Here is a dog. You see, he is little! And next to him, a tree. What else can we see? A little man, waaaaaay back here. Charming."

I think he may have mistaken us for preschooler Americans instead of Master's students, but I admit there was something soothing about that class. Taking the time to smell the roses (and identify them one by one in a Caillebotte painting) was pretty damn relaxing.

Perhaps reading Balzac page-by-page will be the same.

10.16.2011

On life building.

The past five weekends have been blessings. We haven't traveled. We've woken up every Saturday morning here in Brooklyn, showered, dressed and walked to the bagel store where we order our usual and sit outside the bookstore as we watch the dogs pass by. The other week, two minuscule dogs passed with a hip owner.

"That's the worst thing I've ever seen," I said.

"But here comes the best thing," Chris said. A golden retriever carrying a newspaper in his mouth approached us, his owner leading him proudly along Court Street. It was, indeed, the best thing ever.

If bagels and Saturday mornings and dog watching are simple pleasures, what of the more complex? The weather this morning was so good that we decided to take a walk, a loop down by Brooklyn Bridge Park and back. During this walk, we discussed the pros and cons of planning large life changes in advance.

For you see, dear reader, the large life changes don't stop after the wedding. An entire journey of adulthood and its highs and lows stretches out before us. How will our kids go to college? When should we have those kids? Where will we call home? And what about global warming!?!

Sometimes I think one of the hardest things to wrap your brain around is that your life can be what you want it to be. It is so much easier to hide behind things like history and other people's judgements and what you feel allowed to do. But the tricky thing is to not only realize that the world is your oyster, but to personally select that oyster's size, color and shape.

What kind of life would you like to have? Wouldn't it almost be easier if you were handed one to live instead?

Of course, this is what almost every generation had before us. Their fathers and grandfathers were farmers and so they followed suit. Their mothers and grandmothers stayed home and so did they. In an small honest way, I envy these lack of choices. I envy the opportunity to make the best of a situation rather than construct the situation myself. Because of course, at the end of the today, the fate of my happiness rests in no one else's hands but my own.

*

A long time ago, my sister was a vegan. And she didn't just actively love lettuce; she also actively hated humans who used animal products. Maybe hate is a strong word. Except there was that time she used the duck cookie cutter to protest foie gras during Christmas... so, maybe not.

I digress.

Although I was somewhat weirded out by her faith to the animal activist community, the part that scared me the most was how fervently she believed in it. She had no doubt in her mind and I'd never seen her so inspired and passionate. I was confused about how to proceed and our relationship vacillated between my desire to learn more about something she cared about and our arguments about brainwashing. At one point, she said point-blank: "You know what your problem is? You never have any opinions."

This sentence has stayed with me for over ten years. I'm sure that today, even she would swat the statement away. But there was something to that, something that I fear even sitting here today. If I am too understanding and too flexible, I do myself no service. If I accept any life plan that comes my way, I do myself no favors. 

The strongest option is to choose. To define a life. To share that vision with others and say "here's what's happening." Because in the strength, there is conviction... and in the conviction, there is the power to make it happen.

*

Next weekend, we break the streak. We're headed down to DC and Baltimore for our annual fall trip. We won't be having bagels and we won't be watching dogs, but the memory of these past five weekends stays lit in our bellies, a reminder of what a quiet life could be like. 

I'm already anticipating the kinds of life conversations we'll have with my siblings, the kinds of talks that open doors to the next phases. Thanksgiving and Christmas and my parents' 35th anniversary next year. And, of course, on beyond that.

Cheers to a new week, a new stretch of successes and a bunch of opinions. I think I am learning to have them.

10.13.2011

Just because I don't see you everyday doesn't mean I don't care about you.

Tonight after French class, I rode the subway home with a good friend. He has achieved a lot more balance in his life than I have and I questioned him about that. Given the fact that we live in the city where everything is possible, how does he avoid becoming overwhelmed? And doesn't he feel guilt for not seeing friends more often?

"Just because I don't see someone everyday doesn't mean I don't care about them," he said. "I might go 2, 3 months without seeing someone. But it doesn't mean that I've forgotten them or that I don't care about them."
The Pacific Coast, a place I don't see everyday.

Bam. Straight to the heart.

How often do we make ourselves anxious by typing the words "I haven't seen you in a million years!"? What would happen if, instead of writing this, we typed "I hope to see you in the next million years!" Or better yet, "I'm thinking of you and caring about you. And even though I haven't seen your face in a while, I miss it."

I reconnected with another friend earlier this evening and instead of saying "let's try to get coffee next week," as is my normal instinct at the close of a conversation, I got the check and told her she could get the next one. We did not specify when the next one would be. But there was an unspoken agreement that there would be a next one.

Tonight I got home to find a package in the mail from Bob and Betsy. My god, to have friends like this. A hand-crafted card wishing us our 2 month anniversary. And inside the package, a handcrafted necklace that featured a dried violet from one of the Nana plants at the wedding. I can't imagine how many hours it took Betsy to put such a thoughtful gift together. And the knowledge that she spent that time thinking of us... I am overwhelmed.

No one owes me a coffee. You don't owe me a visit, you don't owe me a letter. Owe is the wrong word. A coffee, a visit, a letter, a handmade necklace are always welcomed here. And as we wait for the next time we see each other, let's wonder about each other often and send good thoughts.

If I don't see you everyday, it doesn't mean I don't care about you. It really just means that I don't see you everyday.

P.S. Thank you so much B&B for the gift. It made our night.

10.12.2011

Grateful for a taste of what's to come.

Sweet mercy, I'm on a sign!
After my talk was over, I told Chris it felt like I blacked out for 20 minutes.

"I feel like I just blinked my eyes and it was over," I said. Suddenly I had moved to my last slide and people were clapping and a few of them had their hands raised. And so I called on them. I offered some advice when I could. I admitted that I didn't know any great A/B testing sites. I may have suggested that I'd be back next year with a talk about zombies and getting inside users' heads.

It was awesome.

Would you guys believe it if I told you that a couple of people came up afterwards to tell me that my non-techy tech talk was refreshing? That they LIKED the fact that it wasn't techy? How cool is that?

In the train ride home, Chris asked if I wanted to do another talk and I admitted that I did. (CUE MASSIVE EYE ROLL). I spent the rest of the ride brainstorming other topics that might be cool to explore. Narrative structures in wireframes? The presence of the author/designer in their "text"? I'm more than a little excited just thinking about it.

But for the moment, I'm sitting here on our couch, completely wiped out from the energy this day required. I'm reveling in the gratefulness of a supportive husband who came and sat with me in the hours leading up to the presentation, who took photos during my talk and who made small talk with people as they waited to speak with me. Lots of people ask me if it's weird to work with my husband and the answer is no. No way, because we are big fans of each other's work.

And even though I was super-proud of myself today, it was even sweeter to hear how proud he was of me too.





P.S. Thanks for the emails, FB messages, texts and in-person presences. You guys pumped me up and I'm very grateful.

10.11.2011

Maybe next year I'll aim to save the whales.

Prepping for the talk with my study buddy.
One of three goals I set for myself this year was to speak publicly about my work. Why did I pick that? I don't have a real fear of public speaking. I've done it before. The reason that goal was a big deal was because I'm slightly unsure of myself in the tech industry. Having a background in the humanities, I've found it hard to find a credible voice among technologists. And all that said, I thought that the experience of speaking publicly would seal the deal once and for all: if I got accepted to speak somewhere and I was able to pull it off, that meant that I had something credible to say.

OH. IF ONLY IT WERE THAT EASY.

I applied to speak at Web 2.0 this spring and heard back early this summer. Accepted. My funky little talk on ghosts and user experience designers, slated for 3:20pm on Wednesday, October 12. Of course at that point, it wasn't a funky little talk. It was a title and a paragraph description.

I can honestly say that creating this talk, a 20 minute talk complete with slides, has been one of the hardest things I've done in my adult life. Last week I was completely paralyzed and didn't open the document for 7 days. The fear that I don't have anything of value to say was alive and well. Kicking me in the gut, day after day.

"What the hell am I doing this for?" I kept asking myself. "This is not even part of my job. It's extra-curricular to the Nth degree. There is no need for me to do this."

And yet. I think it's pretty clear that there is a need for me to do this. Not because it's an expectation at work and not because I wrote about it on my blog and not even because it's holding to a commitment I made. I need to do this because this is the kind of person I've always imagined being, no matter what industry I ended up in. Speaking about who we are in our jobs, the metaphors that are most apt, the motivation and inspiration that can push us to be better at what we do on a daily basis. Whether I ended up in French education, marketing, technology or fly fishing, speaking publicly and coaching others was going to be part of it. Ignoring that instinct means ignoring an essence of who I am.

I spent the day writing index cards, rehearsing and finalizing slides. When Chris walked in the door tonight, I practiced for him. And now that I'm less than 24 hours from my talk, I am no longer afraid. Instead, I feel... excited?

I am! I have a new outfit! And most importantly, I believe what I'm going to speak about tomorrow. Yeah, I'll probably give a better talk in 5 years once I've had the opportunity several more times. But for a first talk in the tech industry, it feels finished enough. It feels ambitious enough. And at the end of the day, showing up and giving a talk, regardless of what anyone in that room takes away, will mean that I was successful in my goal.

Oh. And if you've been reading this blog for any length of time, it should come of no surprise that I've gone and thrown myself in the deep end of the pool. Cause I'm giving a longer version of this talk next Wednesday at a conference in Asbury, NJ.

Uh. Hooray? It's a little tiring to be this unafraid of life.

10.09.2011

Needed: another honeymoon.

Guys, I am tired. I know that's not why you come here, that you come here for the stories. Or possibly the cat photos. But it has been a pretty crazy few weeks readjusting to new stuff at work and trying to keep myself relaxed during the weekends.

Oh. And there's that pesky PUBLIC SPEAKING EVENT coming up this Wednesday. 

I keep attributing the busy schedule to New York City. Sometimes I imagine a new life with rolling hills around us and a neighborhood cafe and a Golden Retriever in the backyard. I am not stressed in those daydreams. I still work and I still work hard, but somehow I don't feel as though every moment of my life is accounted for.

But maybe New York City is not to blame. Maybe it's me.

I started reading a biography of cancer tonight. The first chapter is about the way Leukemia works, the fascinating description about how someone's blood with Leukemia might look milky rather than bright red because of the surplus of white blood cells. Leukemia comes from the Greek word for white (leukos). Leukemia is when white blood cells replicate and replicate in your blood. I imagine a bloodstream chock full of cells. 

This is cancer. This is not healthy.

I thought about that metaphor tonight, the replication, the fullness, the absence of space. And it reminded me a little bit of our lives here. There does not seem to be a way to take a deep breath without completely detaching from the whole thing. Our honeymoon was a great example of that. Today's day trip up to my parents' house was another example. But then the moment we slink on back towards the city, we become aware of the fullness again. 

I don't know. Maybe this is what life in 2011 is supposed to look like.

I mean, it's not like life lately hasn't been 99% awesome and fun. 

Pix or it didn't happen:










10.02.2011

Famous dude statue: George Washington in Union Square



George Washington! There he is, pointing at the Whole Foods in Union Square. Or IS he?

Whenever I think of this statue, I imagine all the break dancers who hang out around him. There's a nice, big stretch of pavement nearby where it's fun to people watch and do sweet tricks on your skateboard. At least, it seems that way.

Fun fact: Washington is depicted on the day that he got NYC back from the British, November 25, 1783. He's giving his troops a benediction.

You can find it: 14th Street and Union Square. Go to the Whole Foods and face the park. There he is!