It was nearly eleven by the time we touched down in D.C. last Thursday. The snow from earlier in the day a dozen states Westward had been shaken off and replaced with a cool wind, as if the worst had passed. My cab cut through the blackened evening along the GW, which might after all this time still be my favorite road to anywhere. It curved upon the monuments, steady as soldiers and lit for display, and something in that view brought a version of my life seven years back, back to life. For this was the site of my searching and finding. Of our necessary dissolution and ultimate resurrection. This town was the site of my fiercest ambition; the manifestation of a vision against all warnings, when the only direction I had to go was up from where I stood. It was a season of counting every single dollar, because the cards were cut and every safety net was gone. And I learned to be genuinely grateful for each meal procured and the generosity of others who opened their homes – for a meal, for a night, for a month, so I could sleep in a spare room or basement bed and figure out how to construct a blueprint of a life out of these matchsticks spread around. It was a season of falling, over and over again, accompanied by the realization that this kind of endless descent can also come with the sensation of being caught. By a whole village of hands you didn’t even realize were outstretched. This was a season of moving every few months in the kind of nomadic endeavor that can only truly be accomplished when all of your belongings easily fit into two suitcases in the back of a car. Add a lamp for good measure. This was a season of battling traffic, shuttling the route between Maryland and Virginia as you do. It was a time of deep honesty and new truths and the genuine love of friends. Of going out for ice cream and cooking in. Of living questions more than finding answers, and navigating a way to get comfortable with that open end.
I looked around the room at the wedding of one of my dearest friends in that town on Friday night – surrounded by so many faces from that stage of life years ago, people who helped keep me from hitting the ground in every way – and couldn’t help thinking of the foundation that tumult had laid. In some ways I can still tap into that feeling of directionless abandon. It rings relevant in me in a way I’m not sure I could describe or will ever shed. Still, a lot has changed in the years since, you could say. Goodness has bloomed from within the fissures. The monuments are still standing. So am I.
It took a whole year. To clear the dust and unlock the right doors. To take off our shoes and feel at home in this place of undulating hills and quaint charm and understand that this is a town more than a city and, hungry for a skyline as I am, that can be a good thing.
I’ve grown accustomed to the well trained climate and ubiquitous bay, the embrace of the waterline that envelopes this place. Disoriented as the lack of seasons found me at first — how summer felt all wrong wrapped in cold and laden with a thick and hanging fog that crawled up off the bay and onto the streets like a wet dog in the middle of the afternoon— it also mercifully offered an escape. Coming from the middle of the midwest where you could not outrun winter in a car if you tried, the ability to drive out of the weather and into the sun in under an hour is a phenomenon not lost on me yet.
In the beginning navigation was my nemesis, without the familiar grid and ease of a subway ticket to pay your way across town, whole swaths of the city remained a mystery and the nearest reach became familiar to the point of exhaustion. But slowly, one determined weekend at a time it began to unfurl in a series of wide parks and wooded trails, niche restaurants and clever bars, house parties and long walks, with a character all its own. It took a whole year to shed the desire for a bodega on every corner and welcome instead the pantone panoply of residential rows that house the growing masses here and disconnect one neighborhood from the next. What we gave up in reach, we found we gained in proximity, and the ability to walk between friends’ apartments and on to our favorite spots on Chestnut St developed its own sheen.
It took a whole year to find affinity in the gleam of the metallic bus lines that arch over this city like capillaries, taught and slack in turn, life lines, thin and sinewy in their unthinkable expanse. To see that 7 miles square wasn’t just finite but a comfortable finality. And a launching point to miles beyond. To vineyards and mountains and quiet and sun, and stretches of sand nearby that are so welcome in the summer months.
I’ve gotten used to the shadow of another hulking bridge on this opposite coast and come to find the recognition of home in its red hue. And the ability to see that Golden Gate or it’s counterpart to the East Bay began to feel familiar, though no less astounding, from most peaks in this place. I’ve learned to relish the accomplishment of walking horizontal up vertical hills, and the reward of a view that all the low buildings bring, a wonder really in this real estate hungry age.
Maybe the biggest change of all was the change of pace. The trade in of long hours for early mornings. For less evenings out and more nights in. And 4am free for alls for a 2am last call. Not all bad things, or bad things at all. It was surprising at first, the general ease and content of people here. The ability to spot them daily in droves out running or walking or kite surfing along the bay. This is, if nothing else, an active sort of place. And forgive me this, but the word balance comes to mind, elusive as it seems. For months we marveled at the number of people we met in this town who were so peacefully non-traditionally employed (unemployed?)…the sheer number who were between start ups, had just left a start up, were working on their own idea for a start up, giving it 6 months to a year. That kind of entrepreneurial leap, to be at ease without a steady paycheck nor structured plan, seemed so foreign to me, but admirable at the very least.
I grew into life here the way friends become more than just friends I think. Quietly, slowly, an accumulation of moments that one day turns into a realization that this is too good to ignore. Sure, we go to bed earlier, and don’t stay out as late. It’s about time for that anyway. And we still wrestle with the push-pull of urban life, the conveniences against the costs and the difficulties that are all but assured. But I find myself often now pausing in the moments when we crest upon a hill at the apex of this town and I can see stretching out before us the full expanse of the bay, past the bridge and the marina below, past Marin and onto Tiburon across the way. The way the houses look like colorful chicklets lined up and down the streets. I find myself enjoying the constancy of the water outside, the short walk to a cold beach, and the way the house lights at night define the mountainous terrain.
It took a whole year for San Francisco to stir something in me in a way that New York did near immediately. To learn to stop expecting the subway and instead just call a cab. Because parking is futile and there is still much to see. To feel like it fit, at times at all. To think more about staying than leaving in the long run. We broke each other in like a new pair of shoes, and now I fear it’s the kind of place that will be hard to ever shake. The kind of place I’m fighting, instead, to stay.
Thank you all so much for the well wishes! You all are truly thebest. I’m overwhelmed by your kindness and David and I are so stoked about what’s ahead. Ok, a little nervous, but 99% stoked (!)
I know I’ve been holding out on you, but you see I didn’t exactly mean to keep it a secret so long… at first it was just an epic challenge waiting until Thanksgiving to tell our families in person (you should have seen the shock!), then our friends, then there was the question of when to tell my work, which ended up being after the holidays. And just like that, here we are, nearly 6 months along… man, it didn’t feel like it at the time, but that went fast.
No denying it now though, I feel like I am literally growing by the day. Which might actually be true right about now…
The first few months were a knock out (as is to be expected), but I can’t really complain. It comes with the territory, and I felt like myself again by the second trimester, so no harm, no foul. The fun really began when we started seeing the ultrasounds (for that, there are no words) and of course when we got this in the mail from Katherine & PKS … I don’t know why, but the world’s tiniest Patagonia somehow made the whole thing real.
We celebrated some more good news over the holidays… my sister in law is pregnant too! In fact, we’re only a few weeks apart, which is so very fun. We couldn’t have planned it better if we tried. Here’s to cousins!
For his part, David has been incredibly helpful and supportive so far. In fact, for awhile he and I were racing in the bump department as well, but I think I’ve got him officially beat now…
As I’m sure you’ve gathered by now, I’m sitting this ski season out (well, what little snow there is to ski in Tahoe this year anyway). However, I did get ONE day in before I was too far along, thank goodness. I have literally been dreaming about those turns since August, so it was a welcome relief to get at least one snowy day in out there, though rest assured I was taking it easy on the blues. Promise.
And yes, I even spent that whole week in Switzerland in town on the ground, looking up at the Alps while David skied some truly crazy terrain with our friends. I didn’t mind missing out on the slopes as much as I thought I might actually. Hot chocolate and sleeping in suited me just fine. I can tell you now though about how funny it was spending NYE totally pregnant and definitely showing and as always not much more than 5’ tall, in our group of about a dozen (mostly new) friends, where all of the women were I kid you not 6’ tall models or nearly so. I have to say, stone cold sober, I had the best time ever though. Dancing with our crew at Farinet, we rang in the new year with the most insane crowd gathered in the square below in Verbier. When the clock struck midnight everyone out there popped so many bottles of champagne it looked like sprinklers went off in the crowd, and the fireworks carried on all night long. I nursed the same glass of bubbly all night (I swear I have never consumed anything that slowly in my entire life) and somehow still stayed out till 2am (by the grace of jet lag alone). Then we went home with our friends for some late night mac and cheese and Elf and an all-morning sleep-in. Quite possibly, the best NYE yet.
Back on the home front, we’ve been in full on nesting mode lately, tackling a list of projects that’s slowly dwindling down. Since we had a rare few days uninterrupted and in town, we cleaned out every corner of this apartment this weekend, including the hall closet because I kid you not, I think that’s where this child is going to live. I wish I was joking, but blame it on the insane San Francisco housing market right now; it’s either that or double our rent from the looks of things so far. But babies are small, right? ;) I think we’re going to try and make it work. Enter the joys of city living… more adventures in resourcefulness from our one-bedroom apartment to come. Stay tuned…
I have found myself back on planes recently. This new (bigger, better, bi-coastal) job has meant returning to my old ways after nearly a year-long hiatus from the familiar slog from security lines to gate check to pure exhaustion. I have to admit, twisted as it may be, it feels good to be back at the old pace again, though maybe that’s just the comfort of returning to what I know. I am busy, after months of hanging on in uncertainty, and it feels good.
I’ve been boarding planes for other reasons lately too – bound for friend’s weddings and home for the holidays. We spent over a week in Chicago this year for Thanksgiving. Two weekends bookending family dinners, sister dates, pizza & Notre Dame nights with the H crew, Bears games, Michigan Avenue city light strolling, brunches with friends and one absolutely epic night at the Aviary with thesecrazycats.
It was good for my soul to be home. To be with my family. To wake up in my old house and pour coffee in a Christmas mug and start the day. It didn’t hurt that my mother’s pumpkin pie was on the agenda that week as well. It was enjoyed for breakfast at least once, maybe twice. No shame.
As a gift to my parents, my sisters and I spent an entire day cooped up in the basement sorting through our childhood. The mess got bigger (scarily bigger) before the piles got cleaner and the relics to be kept were contained neatly in bins. But that was not before we’d died laughing (cried laughing even) at old art projects and school book reports, at ancient diary entries and pre-school letters to mom, at Natalie’s boxes of gymnastics medals, Andrea’s boxes of horseback riding ribbons and my utter lack thereof (do participation trophies count? No? oh, ok… ;). We emerged at the end of the day for pizza and a fire, the daylight having passed, feeling accomplished. It was a long time coming and finally put to rest. I think what they call that is relief.
It had been nearly 6 months since I’d been back and Chicago always makes me feel like no other city does. In a word: present. Despite the cold. It was a funny thing to be in such close proximity again to my origins, in people and in print, for more than a weekend at a time. Having recently taken a number of personality and aptitude tests for work (I love that stuff to death) it was amusing to see the evidence of my polar opposite attributes carried out in the flesh: highly structured / highly creative; highly strategic / highly tactical; highly outgoing / highly restrained. Well, those are my parents in a nutshell, each at an end of the spectrum, somehow mixed up in me. My sisters and I are often amused at how we’re at war within ourselves… whether to seize the day (and fly to Puerto Rico on a whim): my mom, or be absolutely practical: my dad. The push-pull is a conundrum we live in but I suppose it makes for a balanced approach.
It snowed when we were in Chicago and everything felt new again; first snows have a way of doing that I suppose. I watched it come down from Andrea’s bedroom window in her high rise through the early morning and into the day and remembered what it was like to watch snow falling on the cathedral across the street when we lived here (what now feels like years and years ago). I do love this time of year.
I love the Christmas tree in our living room, and the ones in the neighborhood peering out from open windows with their own festive lights. I wait all day for the light to go down so the lights can come on. Walking around has become a holiday hunting sport in the evenings: the lights strung up on balconies, the decorations on front doors, the Christmas cards stuffed in the mailbox when I get home. The other night we saw a parade of sailboats with masts lit up like Christmas trees crossing the bay. These are, hands down, my favorite weeks of the year. It hardly feels like anything should come after it at all, what a sorry month January always seems to be.
Just as we’ve gotten settled back into our rhythm on the West coast, we’ve got more planes ahead of us now. The theme lately is pack light and buckle up. On Friday night we leave for Wichita to spend a merry Christmas with David’s family in the heartland. Then a quick pass through in Chicago to see my grandparents in particular who are up from Florida, if only for a day. Then, believe it or not, we’re off to Switzerland to visit Nathan, Tanya & little V (!), try out skiing in the Alps, see a few more friends from London in Verbier for a wild NYE and then return to real life by the first week of January and of course the craziness at work picks up right about then. It’s going to be a race to the finish for 2013. But festive and full of people we love, which is pretty much the best holiday plan I can imagine. I hope you all are having a wonderful holiday season too, wherever you are, whomever you’re with. I know these weeks are not always uncomplicated, nor all merry and bright, but from our house to yours here’s wishing you all kinds of love. xoxo
Since the beginning of September, I’ve been spending my Tuesdays after work in Oakland. First I take a bus, then a train under the bay, then another bus from the coliseum for good measure. Nearly 2 hours each way by the time it’s all said and done. Man alive, it’s a haul, and lord knows I am beat by the time I get home, but I have to say, it’s worth it. Because what’s at the other end is a classroom full of 6th graders.
This summer I decided to volunteer with an organization called Citizen Schools that connects “citizen teachers” who have time and a skill to share with after school programs in underprivileged areas. I cannot remember the last time I was able to commit to being in the same place for 9 straight weeks on end, but I saw the Fall stretching out before me (before I took this new job that is…) and they needed someone to teach - no joke - blogging. Turns out that’s considered a life skill these days! Yeah, surprised me too. But despite my tacit turn around here lately, I figured that was something I knew at least a little about. So in September I started making the trek to the East Bay.
It’s been a long time since I’ve been back to a middle school or around kids that age. You forget just how young that is, what a burgeoning age. 6th grade. My goodness. They are boisterous and earnest and oh-so-defiant, but mostly just looking for a reaction, testing the boundaries. My first thought was to set them up with a Tumblr account, but it only took one week in the classroom (and seeing way to many google searches for images of Grand Theft Auto and guns) to realize unleashing them on the internet and vice versa might not be the greatest idea just yet. Give it a few years… Thankfully we found kidblog.org… a mercifully contained space.
I have to say, aside from the time I’ve enjoyed spending with the kids, one of the biggest take aways I have had this semester is a whole new level of respect for teachers these days. All of you out there leading classrooms everyday are AMAZING. I get done with an hour and a half trying to get 30 kids to focus, partnered with a real teacher no less, and am drained to the bone! How do you do this all day? You all are so impressive. Seriously.
A few weeks left, a few more class posts ahead. It’s been a good semester back in school.
I’ve been quiet. Things have been slow and I have been quiet. I tend to operate in that way. The busier things are the more I take on. The quieter things are, the more I want to stay at rest. Sorry about that, did you wonder where I went?
Fall is unfolding on the West coast and I am learning the shape of each new season here as it comes. We have been out and about though and meeting friends and making plans. I have been thinking a lot about the direction of things as I’ve been in the midst of making some big decisions, namely regarding my job, all for the best. I got a new one internally last week in fact, and just like that all the uncertainty of the last year and half seems to be worth it after all.
So bear with me, the words are coming slower than usual right now but life looks like it’s on a bit of a chaotic upswing and you know what that means: more to come.
The weekend before last we crossed the country the long way for a much overdue trip back down South.
Between family, college friends and a crew of guys whom David lived with one fateful summer (who have nearly all since married and gone forth and multiplied), we have a whole cohort down there of people we love and don’t see nearly often enough. Everyone has real homes now and most have a football team of kids. Oh what a difference a few years away makes… but is there anything better than seeing your friends settled and happy? It’s pretty good if you ask me.
There are few things I crave more these days than home. Almost anyone’s home. Where a family lives. It brings me to life. We got to spend the weekend soaking up a lot of that. Staying the night in my college roommate’s new, gorgeous space. Taking a walk in my old friend from D.C.’s tree-lined neighborhood. I’m going to sound crazy, but it was actually tempting to move just one more time, right there. We stayed at J & L’s place for much of the weekend, and I couldn’t help but flash back to the trips we took when we were all dating, the call we got to tell us they were engaged, that time at the beach when she was 6 month’s pregnant with their first, and the trip to Charlotte where we met that little one when she was just a few months old. She turned 4 that weekend we were there, with her little sister and brother in tow, and a dozen other little girls in princess dresses no less. It is a wonder to me to see how markedly they age, how 4 months is different than 2 years is different than 4. Children are just a wonder to me.
The happy event that brought us to town, as it so often is, was a wedding. You see 4 years ago we took a road trip through Europe with Nathan and Tanya who live there. It was summer and we were moving fast and David realized he had left something important behind in Monte Carlo just as we were getting back to Switzerland, naturally too late to turn around. So he booked a cheap flight overnight. 12 hours alone in Monte Carlo. In that amount of time only he would manage to make new friends, feast at a closed restaurant, party next to Bono (I kid you not) and end up sleeping for a few hours on a sailboat. He was home by 10am. One of the friends he made that night, he kept. And we’re so lucky for that. We’ve seen him in 4 cities in the past year in fact. That Saturday night we watched him get married to the loveliest girl. Life is so funny how people come into your lives sometimes.
And of course, if you know David at all, none of that would surprise you in the least. ;)
“It’s a terrible thing, I think, in life to wait until you’re ready. I have this feeling now that actually no one is ever ready to do anything. There is almost no such thing as ready. There is only now. And you may as well do it now. Generally speaking, now is as good a time as any.”— Hugh Laurie (via nofatnowhip)
“We are, as a species, addicted to story. Even when the body goes to sleep, the mind stays up all night, telling itself stories.”—Jonathan Gottschall, The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human (via thatkindofwoman)
I honestly don’t know what I did before podcasts (or my iphone for that matter, hard to believe that was only SIX years ago, good lord). They have become such a habitual part of my daily life, the way I get my news, the way I pass any unoccupied time. I find myself pressing play while walking anywhere or waiting for the bus, while cooking or cleaning or running outside. The ability to multi-task helps make dull, mindless tasks interesting, and honestly through these outlets I’ve learned so much.I thought I’d share some favorites from my regular playlist that honestly have enriched my life.
The Moth - for a good, entertaining story told live on stage without notes (impressive)
TED Radio Hour - for a dose of inspiration, curated bits of TED talks paired with interviews with the speakers (leaders in their field) all around a given theme
This American Life - for my hands-down favorite hour of radio each week, Ira Glass hosts writers, journalists, and comics to take on a new topic every week
Radio Lab - for palatable science (not normally my favorite subject for the record), the hosts explore a question and try to debate out an evidenced-based conclusion with experts on the air
Freakonomics - for an intriguing discussion on the hidden side of basically everything
BBC World Service Global News - for a solid debrief on what’s going on around the world every day (the late edition is also effective at putting me to sleep every night…something about those accents I suppose)
Planet Money - for a truly interesting perspective and non-financier’s explanation of what’s going on lately in the world of money — the why behind the headlines, if you will
Marketplace -for a daily rundown on the markets (or maybe I just love Kai Ryssdal’s casual way)
Marketplace Tech Report - for a 5-minute update on the day’s tech news (especially relevant out here in tech country)
NPR App - not technically a podcast, but for what it’s worth I like the ability to get the national stories from Morning Edition or All Things Considered on demand and pick which ones I want to hear
The truth is, I’m normally more visual, more arts and literature centric. But I’ve found these offer a worldview that expands my own, and that’s what keeps me coming back, unlikely as it may seem, to listen on the regular to stories about science and finance.
I wonder sometimes though about the impact of this shift from everyone seeing the same nightly news hour to such highly personalized, subscription-based news. How it will impact us over the long term. You pick the blogs you read, the sources you follow on twitter, the podcasts you subscribe to. Increasingly recommendation engines dictate what we’re shown (you read an article on fashion, oh, here’s another)… in a sense, past choices dictate future ones. And while there’s convenience in being shown relevant content more and more, algorithms are becoming our news editors, I’m afraid, and I wonder about the wisdom of that.
At the same time we have access to more information than ever, I think we are also at risk of becoming more insulated than ever — only seeing what we want to see, only hearing what we want to hear. The diversity of ideas that are likely to cross our path is at the same time deepening in areas of interest and shrinking in its breadth. Or threatens to at least.
So in an effort to preserve diversity and an open mind, and of course enjoy cleaning more, what are your favorite sources? I’d really like to know.
The first mistake we made when we decided to head up to the Mendocino National Forest the other weekend was not to take it as a red flag when we called the park ranger about the availability of camping sites, and she said…"you want to camp? well, yeah, sure…there should be plenty of space. no fires of course, but you can just camp where you like in the woods…"Red. Flag.
Now we are not big campers. David’s got the gear and all but this is not exactly my personal past time, suffice it to say. So when we set out, his idea was to find a trail head, park the car, hike in and find a spot to pitch our tent. My idea was to find a campsite with other humans and a designated place for a fire pit. But before we could even get to that, we had to get into the National Forest to begin with. Turns out we were attempting to enter from the wrong side of this enormous tract of land… that was the second mistake we made.
5 dead end gravel roads and two hours later, we were still circling the periphery and had seen far too many signs like this… Red. Flag.
The third mistake we made was not buying a map. A physical old school map. We are too techie for our own good these days, because of course, GPSs and cell phones, they don’t exactly work in the woods.
Which meant that we found ourselves navigating hairpin turn dirt roads like this basically on instinct. Further and further into the heart of darkness with no idea where we were going or if there was even a campsite within miles. Red. Flag.
You know what though, there were moments of brilliance. The kinds of views that stretched out and out as far as the eye could see. The kind that just make you think “California!” That was a highlight.
The fourth mistake we made was taking directions from the 2-3 mountain men (who had approximately as many teeth), because they were literally the only people we passed on our entire drive.
I don’t think I have ever been quite so remote. And while some people find great solace in the woods. To me, it was a bit unnerving.
It also led us to cross several of these. In our car. In order to continue on the road. Don’t be fooled by David’s face here, he was actually a lot more excited than he seems. It was a throwback to our honeymoon actually which we spent crossing rivers in our rented SUV down in Costa Rica, somehow managing not to float all the way downstream…
The fifth mistake we made was turning down a narrow dirt road that ended up being unpassable in our car. Which was about the point in time I realized that if we got a flat tire all the way out there, we were probably going to die out there. No one would find us. For days! RED. FLAG. This was also the site of my minor camping freak out, for the record, but let’s not get into that.
Over 6 hours of driving and not a single campsite or trailhead in sight, and we were getting a bit dejected. Just as we were ready to throw the towel in though and attempt to unwind our way out of the maze we’d entered (hopefully before dark), the impossible appeared. Around 4:00. AN ACTUAL CAMPSITE!
Complete with other humans and an actual fire pit. To say I was relieved and David was elated is an understatement.
We pitched our tent and ate our sandwiches and started to explore the area. There was a stream right out back, not 30 yards away.
Which is precisely where we decided to have our happy hour, because Lord knows we needed it.
We sat on a log that crossed the water and watched the light fade and gathered some wood before we started a fire.
I don’t know what it is about this guy, these crazy adventures, these crazy risks, somehow things always work out for him.
Our sixth mistake was that we only had one sleeping bag, no pillow and no sleeping mat, which made that officially the worst night’s sleep of my life. But that’s neither here nor there. I may never go again, but that night, we camped!
Last night, rather than anything else, I walked the three miles home.
I am letting myself fall in love with this place. One lit driveway and peak topped and view over the crest of a hill at a time. I like the way the home lights flicker to define the mountains across the bay. I like the way you can track the streetlights’ reflection on the constellation of bus wires here in the city. There is a unique pace to this place. And I am steeping in it, until I understand it and feel like it is mine.
I have found my way recently back onto planes, and out of an unusual travel hiatus as of late. Into work meetings in other states. Into suits and heels and ideas blooming. It feels familiar and exhausting and good things are in the works. The other day I watched out the window as my plane snaked out of the weather, and before we hit the cloud cover near 7am I could see the fog enveloping San Francisco from above, curling around the buildings like fingers extended, a soft fist closing. I am reminded of what it feels like to come home to this horizon and unpack, and it feels good.
I have been spending time by the bay. Soaking up the summer here that is September and reveling in the notion of daylight hours spent without a full-fledged coat. I have been watching the boats. The way they foil out of the water. That is what they call it. Hydrofoiling, I’ve learned. And it is spectacular to see. 13 story tall catamarans hovering above the bay. These last 9 months I’ve spent watching them out the window, practice and race, twist and turn under the Golden Gate Bridge and just before Alcatraz, coming out of the water and again splashing down. I will be sorry to see the America’s Cup go when it ends later this week.
On Sunday I found a bar that plays the Bears games in my neighborhood. This fact alone, coupled with football season in general, made me so happy it’s inexplicable really. It wasn’t until I spent an autumn in London that I understood how deeply this sport is ingrained in the fabric of the fall to me. Then again, my first sentence was “go Bears, go, win the superbowl” afterall. It was taught to me too. I am still acclimating to the fact that these games now start at 10am out West. But I looked around on Sunday amidst a sea of orange and navy blue and felt like I’d found my people here. They’re at Monaghan’s.
My aunt and uncle came to town. First one set from my father’s side and then another from my mother’s. It has been a few years since I’ve seen the latter and it always shocks me how much I see my grandparents in my mother’s brother’s company. All that talk of sailing and genealogy, the Baltzer nose and that look around the eyes. It was hard not to feel at the same time a presence and a loss. They have been gone now several years.
The 14th of September, this Saturday, also marked the day we lost my cousin, Ashley, once again. Impossibly, it has been 10 years. A decade of days and nights and questions that don’t seem to have answers, still. A decade of changes and growing and Christmas toasts to the one with all the good mischievous stories it seems. It’s still not right. We are all going on anyways. There have been few defining moments in my life. The day I got that news was certainly one. And I am reminded lately of just how young she was, watching my younger cousins embark on college this month. That is the moment when everything is ahead. It’s hard to imagine still.
But I spent that day volunteering this year. Stepping out of things that I’m used to on a weekend morning – coffee, bed, brunch and the like – and instead getting to know the sassiest 15-year old with down syndrome who loved music videos, Selena Gomez, and belting her heart out with some serious dance moves. I was there because I joined the Junior League, with the goal of volunteering more in the community. Hopefully I contributed something that day, but the inevitable truth was that I left more buoyant than I arrived. Exhausted but lighter. So far, so good.
I think it’s true that we become better people when we serve. It starts off feeling outwardly focused, in some way you give, but then honestly, you change. You learn. You improve.
Lately, that is what I’m ruminating on. Full schedules and fall football and the joy of long night walks home.