Liebster Award

Last week, Liv from Morning Coffee Bliss nominated me for the Liebster Award. Thanks girl!

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Here are the rules to the Liebster Award:

  • Thank your Liebster Blog Award presenter on your blog and link back to the blogger who presented this award to you.
  • Answer the 11 questions from the nominator, list 11 random facts about yourself, nominate 11 blogs who you feel deserve to be noticed, and create 11 questions for your nominees. (Blogs must have 200 followers or less. Let the blogger know you have nominated them.) 
  • Copy and paste the blog award on your blog.

Responses to Morning Coffee Bliss:

1. If you had 3 wishes, what would they be?

Obviously I would like world peace, to end hunger, etc. But this isn’t Miss America, so I’m gonna make these personal wishes: 1. To be a wildly successful writer; 2. To travel all over the world; 3. And the biggest one — peace of the heart and mind.

2. Out of all of the things you’ve done, what are you most proud of? 216

I’m proud of all the times I’ve done something that scared me — but maybe the biggest one was living in Costa Rica for months by myself and not only getting by, but making it feel like home.

3. What is your favorite childhood memory?

I had a pretty great childhood so there’s no way I could pick just one… but the first thing that came to mind was that one time when I was in elementary school, my mom took me out of school in the middle of the day to go to the park. How great is that? I know people are obsessed with attendance and producing high-achieving six-year-olds nowadays, but I 100% plan to do that with my own kids one day.

4. If you could accomplish only one more thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?

If it could only be ONE thing…maybe to become a mom.

5. Who do you admire the most and why?

Well my mom and dad, of course, but that’s kinda boring. So I’m gonna go with Leslie Knope! When I’m struggling to be awesome in life, I like to ask myself, What Would Leslie Knope Do?

6. What is your favorite movie and why?

Honestly, it might be Mean Girls (no shame)There was a year of my life where I watched it once a week and I still quote it near-daily. Other favorites include Amelie, Little Miss Sunshine, Moonrise Kingdom, City Island, Dan in Real Life, Anchorman, and Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

7. What is your favorite book and why?

As an adult I’ve read a lot of books that I’ve loved, but not one that stands out as something I want to read again and again. So I’d say the lifetime achievement award goes to Just as Long as We’re Together by Judy Blume — I must have read that book at least ten times when I was a kid and I still think of things from it all the time.

8. If you could travel anywhere, where would you go? 

There are a bajillion places on my list, but Greece might be #1.

9. Name three things you like about yourself?

I’m genuine, I’m open with my heart, and I’m always trying to grow as a person.

10. If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your younger self?

Whatever you are crying about right now will not matter to you at all in a few years. And don’t wear socks with sandals.

11. What do you enjoy the most about blogging?

I like seeing what comes out when I write, because it’s not always what I thought I wanted to say when I sat down. I like hearing that people can relate to something I’ve written, especially when it’s something I was a little nervous about sharing. But maybe my favorite thing is that now that I’ve started doing it, everywhere I look I see something to write about.

11 Random Facts About Me:

1. I’m obsessed with chimpanzees; after I read the book Next of Kin, I’m pretty sure I alienated all my friends and family because all I would talk about were chimp facts.

2. I am afraid of gangs, people in masks, spiders, and ostriches.

                            Omg.

3. I love to floss.

4. The Hallmark greeting card that most applies to me is the one that reads: “There is a certain amount of wine that will make you say, ‘Damn, I’m a great dancer.'”

5. I love to sing and dance but I cannot sing or dance (see above).

6. I cannot watch the Christian the Lion YouTube video without crying.

                  Sobbing.

7. I cannot drink tequila without crying.

8. I HATE painting my nails, but I always have to have painted nails.

9. I want to punch people in the face when they call me ma’am.

10. I once got chased by a wild stallion.

11. There’s nothing I love more than staying in a hotel.

My Nominees

I’m nominating five:

http://smartassy.com/

http://didwedosomethingtodeservethis.wordpress.com/

http://alladventureouswomendo.wordpress.com/

http://daydreamingofparis.wordpress.com/

http://everythingisblooming.com/

Questions for my nominees:

1. If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?

2.What celebrity did you have a crush on as a child?

3. What is your strangest habit?

4. What’s the worst piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

5. What is your favorite guilty pleasure?

6. Are you a dog person or a cat person? (Or a fish person…?)

7. What is the first thing you do when you walk in the door at the end of the day?

8. What is the one task that you irrationally hate doing?

9. What has been your favorite age of your life so far?

10. Which celebrity do people say you look like?

11. What do you love about writing?

Just tell ’em that you knew me back when

Last night, I cried in my car for approximately seven seconds. Then I stopped to focus on what’s really important in life – getting a parking spot. And there’s no crying in parallel parking, especially when it’s the only spot on your block. (If there’s one thing that can override any other emotion, it’s my burning desire for that spot.)

But for those seven seconds before I saw the parking spot – tears. And what triggered them? Why, a song, of course. I’ve blogged about how music is a time machine, but it also has an uncanny way of hitting you with a hefty sack of emotion out of nowhere, even if it’s just a fragment of a line that does it.

This is what happened to me last night. The culprit? I was listening to the new Ben Folds Five album (so so good), and there’s a line that goes like this: The brightness of air/Out walking somewhere/And when they ask you/Just tell ‘em that you knew me back when…

Doesn’t seem like much, right? I know. But for some reason the last part cuts to the core of me every time. Just tell ‘em that you knew me back when.

And it’s because, lately, I’ve realized there are very few people in my life who knew me back when.

Isn’t there just something so comforting and so important about those people who have known you forever, or the ones who knew you at a really formative time in your life?

I think the reason they’re so important is because they help us keep alive all those past versions of ourselves that are both still part of us and kind of completely gone at the same time.

Like when I hang out with a friend I met this year, she knows me as I am now, and that’s nice. But when I hang out with a friend who’s known me since eighth grade, she knows me – the totality of me, from awkward middle schooler with braces all the way up to today. We have shared memories, sure, and that’s part of it. But it’s more that we just have the kind of knowledge of who the other person is and how they got to be that way that’s hard to establish with those we meet later in life.

A few months ago, I got together with a new friend. As we sat at the bar having a beer, she said “Ok, what’s your relationship history? Go!” I liked her approach, because I knew what she was after – it was like she was saying – Quick, give me the CliffsNotes version of all your greatest loves and heartaches, so I can put into context anything you tell me about your life now. So we swapped histories, and it was good – but not the same as actually reading the book.

Growing up, I moved around a lot. To my mom and dad who are reading this – it did not traumatize me. In fact I think I got many positive things out of it. But I’ll admit, I’ve always been jealous of people who could say, “Oh us? We’ve been friends since we were in diapers/in preschool/before we were born.” I’ve never known anyone that long.

Of course, there’s always your family. But I think your parents, especially, have a unique view of you that’s both more and less accurate than other people’s. There’s something precious and special about the way they know you – witnessing, from birth, every step of your life and your development into a fully-formed person. No one will ever know you quite like they do. But at the same time, they have a certain perception of you that’s so tied to you being their child, it may be hard for them to see sometimes the totality of you as an adult. And that’s where friends or significant others are able to see you in a different, and necessary, way.

I have a theory that this is why so many people wind up going back and marrying their childhood sweethearts (and why there are so many movies about it). Because that person knows them – not just the polished-up adult version, but all the versions that came before.

(Lest it sound like I am romanticizing my own childhood sweetheart, I can assure you after his complete psychotic break with reality, this is not the case. But, I get why people do it.)

And I think one of the hardest things about certain friendships and romantic relationships ending is when that person was with you through a time of your life and a version of yourself that you really don’t want to forget. When there ceases to be anyone around who knew you then…it can feel awfully hard to hold onto.

I have an old friend I don’t talk to often, and we really have nothing in common anymore. But it’s comforting whenever I see her. When she laughs and shakes her head at something I said, or says “that’s so like you” – she knows what that means.

Relationships and, sadly, even friendships come and go. But for sure the hardest ones to let go of are the ones who knew you back when.

When you’re not where you thought you’d be

A few years ago, I was having brunch with a friend at a café in Boston. It was late so we were the only customers, until another woman walked in and grabbed a table.

She was young, maybe 30. I didn’t take much notice of her until she began talking to the owners, who seemed to be friends of hers. She confided to them that she was waiting to meet a blind date and was really nervous. My friend and I exchanged a glance over our mimosas. Blind date. Interesting.

But then we heard her say, “I never thought I’d have to date again, ever. I guess that’s what happens when your fiancé dies.”

We exchanged another glance, stunned. I looked at the woman. She was pretty  in a simple, natural way – tall, long straight hair, little makeup – the kind of woman who probably didn’t realize how pretty she was. The kind of woman who probably didn’t care.

The atmosphere in the café totally changed as my friend and I finished our brunch. It was clear that all of us – the woman, the owners, my friend and me – were waiting with bated breath for this guy to show up, hoping upon hope that he would be a good one, a real Prince Charming type. That he’d smile and she’d blush and we could leave imagining she’d found her second chance at true love.

We continued chatting but kept our eyes peeled on the window. Finally, he arrived. He was eager and awkward; you could tell right away it wouldn’t be a match. I saw a hint of disappointment in her eyes as he walked through the door, but she stood, shook his hand and smiled warmly.

I left the café rattled. I had just broken up with my boyfriend and was in Boston for some best-friend-bonding to take my mind off it – but I hadn’t been able to, not even for a second. Not during shopping, or manicures, or drinks with friends.  I wallowed the entire time. I just kept thinking, I’ll never be okay. And, what about the life we planned?

Well what about the life she planned? I thought, walking out onto the street. I was angry on her behalf. She didn’t deserve to have all her dreams stolen like that. To have the love of her life taken away.

She didn’t seem angry, though. She didn’t seem paralyzed by her misfortune or rendered hopeless by her loss. She had gotten out of bed, fixed her hair, put on a nice outfit. She had sat in that café, waiting for the first of what may have been many first dates, hopefully if nervously starting over.

Years later, I still think of this woman. Since that day, many things in my life have not gone as planned, and sometimes I struggle with that feeling of, I’m not where I thought I’d be.

Well, sitting in that café, she was not where she thought she’d be. But there she was, accepting that fact, and moving forward in spite of it. And she reminds me that, in many ways, we can’t control how things unfold in our lives. Whether it’s tragic bad luck, or the end of a relationship we thought was marriage-bound, or a rocky path to the right career – all we can do is ride it out and keep moving forward.

And if we’re not where we thought we’d be, maybe we’re still where we’re supposed to be – even if it’s hard to see right now.

Sometimes I wonder about that woman, and whether she found love again, and if she ended up happy.  I’ll never know, of course, but I suspect she did – because she kept trying. And that’s really the best anyone can do.

Celebrity crushes through the ages

I’ve had several conversations about celebrity crushes recently, which got me thinking about my own over the years. My celeb crushes (and real crushes, for that matter) have generally been pretty questionable and all over the map. While I’ve been holding steady with my current loves for a few years now, many others have been cut along the way. Let’s take a look back…

Note: this is not an exhaustive list

Rider Strong, roughly age 8 -11

I was so never into JTT like all the other girls in my grade, but Rider is the first intense celebrity crush I can remember. I pined hard watching Boy Meets World every week — so cute, so brooding, so damaged! I could fix him!  (Foreshadowing for later in my life? Yes.) My love knew no bounds… until I saw a horrifying poster of him in Tiger Beat, in which he sported super hairy legs and Teva sandals.

Those sandals put me over the edge — I was done.

Rider Strong

 

Stephan Jenkins, age 12-13

A whole portion of my bedroom wall was plastered with pictures of Stephan, cut out of various magazines as I sang along to every word of Third Eye Blind’s first album. They were the first band I ever saw in concert, at the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Maryland when I was 12. Even though we had lawn seats, I could swear he was singing right to me as he tossed white roses into the crowd (how romantic!?). A year or so later, after I’d moved to Albany, I saw them in concert again. This time, Stephan threw condoms into the crowd, and a middle-aged man grabbed my butt. I kind of soured on the whole situation after that.

Stephan Jenkins

Johnny Rzeznik, age 14-?

             Seriously, what was up with that hair?

Down came Stephan’s pictures and up went Johnny’s. This one was intense. Johnny is from Buffalo, NY, just a few hours from where I live. I was filled with melancholy over the certainty that I’d been born in the wrong time and place. We would have been soul mates, otherwise. I listened to “Name” non-stop, and even made a boy I knew learn to play it for me on his guitar. It was pretty sweet, but he was no Johnny. This crush simply tapered off as I started listening to better music.

Johnny Rzeznik

Chris Brown, age 22-24

                    He used to be so innocent.

This took place during a phase of age-inappropriate crushes. But you know when he sang, “Mama you may be three years older but you hot”? I considered that my go-ahead.

I THINK WE ALL KNOW WHAT HAPPENED WITH THIS ONE.

Chris Brown

Michael Cera, age 23

This was pretty short-lived. At the time, I had recently broken up with a Peter Pan-ish type. I had just discussed at length with my best friend how I needed a real man now; we both agreed it was a must. Moments later, she mentioned that her friend from college was friends with Michael Cera. I flipped out and started scheming ways for her to set me up with him. She just stared at me. “What?” I asked. “Kelly!” she said, sharply. “You JUST said you’re looking for a man and now you are swooning over the epitome of a man-child!” I couldn’t argue with that.

Michael Cera

Present day: Paul Rudd (4 life), Jay-Z, Joseph Gordon-Levitt

 

I recently told a guy friend my three celebrity crushes, and he replied:

“So basically…your ideal man is a skinny, charming, semi-intellectual, awkward rapper.”

Exactly.

I just want it to come back

I’ve mentioned before that I babysit a three-year-old girl. I’ve been with her for a long time now, and one thing I’ve realized about kids is that their sweet little emotions are kind of like a microcosm of all the bigger, badder emotions of adulthood.

Like when she’s really tired and becomes unable to function, draping herself over her trampoline and weeping dramatically – I get it. Because that’s pretty much how I feel on a regular basis; just as an adult, it’s minus the weeping (mostly) and the trampoline (almost always).

Last Halloween, she dressed up as a princess and I would guess it was one of the happiest days of her life. She was just pumped about every single moment of that day. The next day, though, she was totally out of sorts – crabby and whining and emotional. I really felt for her, because I knew exactly what was causing it.

I sat her down. “Sweetie, what is bothering you?” I said.

Her little chin quivered and she burst into tears. “I just want Halloween to come baaaaack!”

I hugged her, and my heart broke – not because I didn’t realize she’d be over it by the next day, and that Halloween would certainly come back again and again – but because I knew exactly what she was feeling. And I knew that, just as Halloween would come back, unfortunately that feeling would come back all throughout her life – and mine.

As a kid, it’s the after-the-birthday-party feeling. When you’ve just had more fun and, probably, sugar than you could ever imagine, and suddenly it’s over, and both your blood sugar and emotional state crash, and you throw yourself on the floor and cry.

But as an adult, it’s the “is that part of my life really over?” feeling. When you look back – on college, maybe, or a past relationship; past friendships, or a past experience – you look back on something and you think, “I just want it to come back.” But unlike Halloween, you know it won’t come back. It can’t.

Another time, she had gone to a block party with her family over the weekend. A few days later, I was driving with her in the car, and we passed the street where it had taken place. She sat up in her car seat and looked concerned. “Oh no!” she said. “Where’s the block party??”

In her baby mind, the block party was something that just existed. Something that was going on whether she was there or not – something she could always just go back to if she wanted. It floored me when she said that, because I think to myself some version of “oh no, where’s the block party?” kind of all the time.

You walk away from certain people or things in your life, but on some level you think you can always go back. And often, for a while, you can. And sometimes it might even suck to think the party is going on without you, but there’s comfort in knowing at least it’s still there. But inevitably, at some point, the party just ends. Everyone packs up and goes home, and you realize you could never go back now, even if you wanted to.

And sometimes you really want to. Sometimes, you just want it to come back.

Colors and pillows and ribbons

I know Girls is a polarizing show, but to me the genius is in the writing – it slays me in every episode. But possibly my favorite bit of dialogue from the whole series came from Shoshanna in last night’s season finale, because it could have come straight out of my own mouth when I was 21. It could have, and it should have.

Breaking up with her significantly older boyfriend, Shoshanna breaks down in tears and says:

“I can’t be surrounded by your negativity while I’m trying to grow into a fully formed human. You hate everything! Seriously, you hate everything – you hate the sound of children playing, and you hate all of your living relatives, and you hate people who wear sunglasses, like even during the day. You hate going to dinner which you know I love, you hate colors, you hate pillows, you hate ribbons, you hate everything! I can’t be the only thing you like. “

Yeah. I was in this relationship when I was 21.

                            And this is how I felt about it.

I was once watching a movie with my then 29-year-old boyfriend, and one of the characters was a sweet little girl. “Isn’t she cute?” I remarked, smiling.

“No,” he said, flatly.

“What do you mean…no?” We then proceeded to have a conversation in which he refused to admit that any child in the world was cute except for his own sister. There were no other cute children in the world.

That pretty much summed up his outlook on life. Nothing was cute. Nothing was funny. Nothing made him laugh, nothing made him smile. He hated life, generally, and anything I liked, specifically. I spent all my energy trying to break through his misery.

So last night, I lived vicariously through Shoshanna’s amazingly-worded tirade, because she said everything I should have said but didn’t. Instead, I just waited and waited and waited for things to change, while his negativity swallowed me up.

When things finally ended between us, I felt like I’d been living under thick cloud cover for months and the sun had just burst through. Like a scene in a musical where everyone simultaneously closes up their umbrellas and starts dancing in the street. Like everything that had been drained from me had filled right back up again.

And given that Shoshanna was making out with an “adult male blond” by the end of the episode, I guess that’s how she felt too.

Travel Theme: Green

Today I’m linking up with Where’s my backpack? for her weekly travel theme. This week’s theme is green, perfect for St. Patrick’s Day weekend. I’ve never been to Ireland or anywhere famous for being green, but I have seen some pretty greenery in my travels.

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Hiking near Lake Placid, NY — This hike was breathtakingly beautiful. But I was, umm, not an experienced hiker. This lovely green spot was probably about halfway through what, for normal people, was a short hike. I started to whine shortly after this picture was taken. We were supposed to be hiking to a dam, so I kept asking “is this a dam?” whenever we rounded a bend. But finally, suddenly, it came into view. “LOOK! IT’S A DAM!” I shouted, and only as the words came out did I see the many other hikers turning to look at me, my echoing words having disturbed their peaceful dam-viewing experience. I was just really excited to be done hiking, you know?

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Costa Rican countryside — This picture was taken on a road trip to Monteverde National Cloud Forest. This scenery along the way was so amazing, we kept pulling over to take pictures and it took us absolutely forever to get to our hostel in Santa Elena. Driving in Costa Rica is an adventure. Shortly after this picture was taken, we had to ford a river — yes, like in Oregon Trail.

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This picture was taken during our sky walk in the cloud forest — just lush greenery and mossy green trees and canopies of leaves everywhere. And vines so strong you could scale them like the rope climb in gym class. Well, I could scale neither the vine nor a rope climb in gym class, but our guide Donald could, and it was impressive. Shortly before this picture was taken, we did the world’s most intense zip line, which involved climbing a 72-foot tower in the whipping wind and beating rain. The instructions? “Remain calm.”

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Random pond, somewhere in Chicago — I was fully unprepared for the searing heat of Chicago in July. There was a hazy point somewhere between the zoo and the architectural boat tour where we were pretty sure we were going to die of heatstroke/dehydration. When we came upon this pond somewhere in the city, we rolled up our jeans and waded in, fueled by pure, Bear Grylls-style survival instincts. It didn’t really help. But I still ❤ Chicago.IMG_0445

Vineyard, somewhere near Cape Cod — When I take a trip within driving-distance, I like to start wine tasting on the way in to town. Like before we get to the hotel. This was one of those times, and it was delicious. However the highlight of this trip was touring a cranberry bog and meeting a cow named Stella.

For your viewing pleasure, a bonus pic of Stella:

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day!