Category Archives: friends

the outdoors, northern new mexico and more pots

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Last weekend, we drove up to Northern New Mexico, where one of A.’s coworkers owns 220 acres of land that’s been in his family for a century. He’s an Army guy who went to West Point and carries a gun on his hip (but I didn’t see it). It was the first time I’d chatted with his wife, and she was easy to talk to and had many qualities I admire (easy going and a problem solver).

We stayed in the house that’s been in the family for 100 years. It was built in 1898 and there are no hallways. The house feels like it’s out of the ’50s, with a TV from that era, a kitchen with a stove that has an opening to burn wood and a toilet that’s so low it was easy for my 4 year old and 2 year old to get on it.

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There were Readers Digest books from the ’40s on the shelves. The floral curtains and the smell — oh that smell — reminded me of my grandma’s and grandpa’s house in Flint, Mich.

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The next morning, we drove up to the land. Open, beautiful land where elk and bears roam at almost 9,000 feet. The leaves were starting to turn color. A. brought a newly crafted tire swing for the boys, and another guy made ribs on the slow cooker. I had decided to go home that night because L., at 2 1/2 months, is a bit young to camp — he’s already had two colds in his short life — and the temps got down to the 30s. But I enjoyed my morning/early afternoon out there and I know it was the right decision, even if I missed the ribs and the stars. Just being out in the fresh air and staying in what felt like a museum invigorated me.

Another thing that has invigorated me: I opened my Etsy shop (Erin Killian Pottery) more than a month ago and already have 15 sales and 9 good reviews. I was worried I’d be overwhelmed — you know, with three kids under 5 including a newborn — but I haven’t felt like that at all. It’s a fun challenge.

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The pace has been perfect — a sale every few days. With the two older boys in preschool three days a week, I’ve been able to get an hour in here and there to throw more.

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And I was pleased with my last firing. One of the potters at New Mexico Clay, where I do my firings, said, “They’re looking really good,” and she sounded surprised when she said, “You did all of this with a new baby?” Well, babies do sleep a lot and L. is particularly chill. (Besides a few days of gas, but gripe water helped with that.)

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I bought a book Mastering the Potter’s Wheel: Techniques, Tips, and Tricks for Potters, which has some important tips for me and is also inspiring. I keep waiting for my love of pottery to wear off and it hasn’t happened yet. So I’ll keep on throwing and keep on growing and keep on finding ways to feel invigorated. I’m sure the cool fall air will help with that, too, and getting ready for family to visit soon. Here’s to making the most of life and living in the moment. Hugs to you all.

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a midwest vacation

C. and I have been on the road for more than two weeks — visiting my parents in the Detroit suburbs and my brother and sister-in-law and niece in Chicago. The last few days, C. was saying, “Go home, go home?” Yesterday, we arrived at the tiny Inyokern airport — which was virtually empty (United only offers two flights there daily), and A. was standing in the doorway, and C. ran toward his papa and giggled insanely.

The last two weeks, we mostly relaxed and visited family and friends. We swam, played in the sprinkler, saw penguins at the Detroit Zoo, visited family in Port Huron — and I watched A LOT of Tigers baseball, which I enjoyed, but I’m happy to be back in our quiet house without a TV. (Well, our TV is under the bed in our guest room for special occasions.)

My favorite moments were seeing C. snuggle up to his grandparents and ask for them every morning when he woke up, long conversations with girlfriends (that’s what I miss most since moving to the desert), catching up with two friends I literally haven’t seen in more than five years, watching 19-month-old C. and his 13-month-old cousin bond (babies can really get each other, can’t they?), and delicious meals, including carry-out pad Thai in Chicago (ohhh how i miss good Thai food).

Now I’m ready to be back in the quiet so I can launch into some creative projects, cook more, read more and write more. Happy Friday to you.

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girls’ night in the unforgiving desert

The last several years I lived in D.C., I met my girlfriends S. and A. weekly for drinks. “Girls night” was generally on Thursdays, and often late. A. worked full-time at Georgetown University and went to law school in the evenings. S. was a lobbyist for hunger issues and represented food banks. I worked for NPR. We were all professionals and all dating.

Over bottles of wine and cheese plates, we debriefed each other on dates, gave each other advice on work, talked about world events and shared exciting trips. It was our time to vent, over-share, laugh hysterically, and, most importantly, trust. At one point, S. said, “Can we do this always and forever?”

A. and I both fell in love around the same time, and we talked each other off ledges in the early days as we worried about one thing or another. Over time, we both realized we met our life partners, so we looked to S. for fun dating stories. One time, S. brought her computer to the bar and we helped her write her Match.com profile.

Then, not two months later, two weeks after I returned from a vacation with (my husband) A. in Tanzania, I showed up and said, nonchalantly, “I think I might be pregnant.”

They looked at me, incredulous: “Why are you not running down to the corner to get a pregnancy test?”

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our first visitor

My best friend arrives on Wednesday from D.C., and oh my! I’m working hard to get our house in order. It’s our first visitor in our new home and I’m so freaking excited.

I’ve been trying to buy not-too-expensive but still nice furniture in a hurry. But, sadly, we won’t be quite ready for her visit.

We’ve been eating off our rickety, wine-stained patio table while waiting for a table from World Market to arrive (ordered on Dec. 11). And the days ticked by, and no table, and I kept thinking, “Oh, it’s the holidays! And we’re far away from civilization! Surely it arrive tomorrow.” I even called the shipper after the New Year and a woman told me the table was “in the valley” and on the way. Wrong. Turns out, it was lost. So we have re-order it and wait… again.

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A. has also decided to make the furniture for the guest room (I’m having trouble finding pieces that fit for a reasonable price.) So A. eagerly bought a table saw — “I’ve always wanted one,” he said — and he spent hours sketching Friday evening. “Do you trust me?” he asked.

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This means the guest room won’t be furnished by Wednesday. Oh well — homemade furniture is way cooler. And S. will have a queen bed to sleep on.

At least we’re unpacked. Our books are off of the floor. Photos — including a beautiful one of S., are on the wall.

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I’ll buy some flowers and we’ll keep her warm and well fed. I know she’ll enjoy the bright blue skies, sunlight and views of the mountains.

She texted me yesterday asking questions about the visit, and then said: “One more question. Can I take you home with me??” I responded that we may just have to kidnap her.  But I’ll be happy if she enjoys her visit so much that she wants to come back.

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a cabin in the woods

A. and I talk all the time about how my dream house is in Maine. It sits on a cliff overlooking the ocean with bay windows and high ceilings so light can fill the rooms. There are dense woods in the backyard. The house has a furnished attic with a simple desk and a windowsill bench with lots of pillows — private, and a perfect place to write. It truly is a dream — I’ve never been to Maine. I concocted the house while reading some kids’ novel. I have no idea which one, but it doesn’t matter.

This weekend, A. and I met up with friends in Spruce Knob, West Virginia, for a climbing trip. Our friends found a two-bedroom cabin for seven us (plus two babies). And when A. and I arrived on Friday evening, the place took my breath away. It was nestled in the woods with high ceilings, wood beams and a bay window overlooking a deck and a fire pit.

S. and J. were sitting in the dimly-lit dining room, quietly putting together a 1,000-piece puzzle — something else I used to love to do as a kid. After I put C. down for the night, A. and I jumped in and the four of us drank red wine, ate my homemade chocolate-chip oatmeal cookies and worked different sections of the puzzle.

We finished it the next morning (and then I started on another). Other friends arrived, and some went climbing. I met them at the crag later in the afternoon with C., and got one climb in.

That evening, we sat around a fire roasting marshmallows while J. played Ryan Adams and the Beatles on the guitar. And I felt relaxed and happy.

Maybe someday A. and I will be able to build a house somewhere in the woods. I doubt will have enough money, but a girl can dream.

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our new neighbor used to be my massive crush

Fifteen years ago, I met Jeremy.

I was sitting on a folding table in the basement bar at my dorm on Sternenburg Strasse in Bonn, Germany, with a classmate from Kalamazoo College. It was spring of my sophomore year. We were there for study abroad. And Jeremy and his buddy Bill walked up confidently holding Bonnsch beers and introduced themselves.

They were both cute — I noticed Jeremy’s smile — but I wasn’t looking. At least I told myself that. I had a boyfriend of a year and a half who was studying abroad in Madrid.

But Jeremy quickly became part of our college gang. And within a week or two, he invited me to play soccer with a group of Germans — we both played for our college teams. I was the only woman, and the men, who would lie on the grass after the game smoking cigarettes, wouldn’t pass me the ball. Jeremy made a show of passing it to me when he got it. He told me I was the best female he’d ever played with.

After some time, we started to make dinner together in makeshift kitchen in the dorms. And before long, I had feelings. I wrestled with them, because I knew it was wrong since my boyfriend didn’t know I was hanging out with someone else. But when I was commuting to class on the S-Bahn, I’d look for Jeremy walking down the street. I couldn’t get him off of my mind.

One night, Jeremy was in my dorm room with me, and we were listening to the Dave Matthews Band and looking into each other’s eyes and talking about how nothing romantic could happen between us because I had a boyfriend. But I wanted more than anything for him to grab my neck and kiss me. I felt my heart tug and my stomach turn over that night — but I didn’t tell him what I felt.

Me and Jeremy in the Sternenburg Strasse bar in 1997. The photo was damaged in a fire in 2006.

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there’s just something about old friends

There’s just something about old friends. Friends you’ve known for years and years and years.

Yesterday, I took an afternoon train to Baltimore to see my best friend M. from college who lives in rural Oregon with her husband and two small boys. She’s an anesthesiologist and had to take her medical boards. She was staying at the Sheraton Inner Harbor.

It was spitting rain, the city was gray. But as I pulled up in the cab and saw her standing on the street, the gray day drifted away. I was so excited to see her. And we immediately fell into step like no time had passed. I was instantly comfortable and relaxed. I last saw her two years ago for a long weekend when her first son was 18 months old, she was pregnant with her second and they were still living in Portland, Ore. Now, just two years later, life is different for both of us.

But as soon as were in each others’ company, we didn’t stop talking. We went upstairs to drop off my bag, walked up the street to the Caribou Coffee and sat at two high stools and talked for three hours. Then we wandered to an Indian place up Charles St. and gorged on butter and garlic naan and chicken tikka masala and we talked and laughed and talked. By 9 p.m., we were both exhausted, so we crawled into bed and and watched light play on the ceiling and kept talking until after midnight like two schoolgirls. I’ve always said that M. is like a sister and it’s amazing that that doesn’t change, no matter how much time passes.

This morning, she left early to catch a flight back west and I slept till 6:30 and hopped a 7:30 train back to D.C. On the train, I profoundly missed her. I wish we didn’t live so far away. Luckily, we have a trip planned in July. I’ll get to meet her second son and she’ll get to meet A. I’m so excited.

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girl dates

In the past week, I’ve gone on two girl dates.

What’s a girl date, you say?

Definition
girl date noun
:When two women, one or both of whom are heterosexual, who don’t know each other very well or don’t see each other very often meet (often in the evening) to get to know each other better or reconnect by having coffee, a drink or going to a movie. [This is a rudimentary definition that still needs to be approved by Merriam and Webster.]

On Friday, I met M. at Poste, where we each ordered the house red wine and split some truffle fries (this flies in the face of my “better eating” post, but I swear I’m doing better). M. said she needed a drink because she quit her job the hour prior, and her nerves were still crazy. After sucking down the wine and talking about how to get through tough times (she recently broke up with her boyfriend), we saw The King’s Speech in a packed movie theater and then walked home about two miles in the dark, chatting mostly about what I should bring to Africa (she had tips because she went to Kenya over the holidays). [The answer? Binoculars and a button-down LL Bean shirt with SPF 50, both of which I have ordered].

And then last night, D. asked me if I wanted to go see a movie and we agreed on True Grit. (Mind you, I have seen two other movies in the theater the entire year — and now I’ve hit two in one week.) She invited me over for a quick dinner beforehand — and her husband J. ate with us and then drove us to and from the Avalon theater. D. bought the movie tickets, I paid for the two medium chais. All in all, it was a satisfying girl date with a really cool woman.

See, here’s the thing about girl dates. They can lead to (or in some cases help to nurture) really great friendships. They just take a little perseverance — and sometimes a little bit of awkwardness. It’s harder to meet friends when you’re out of school and a lot of people have children and most people are content with their friend circles. But if you push a little — if you meet someone and say, “She’s really cool, I want to be her friend,” and actually follow up on it, it can be amazingly rewarding.

I met my best friend in D.C. on the street nearly seven years ago (I’ve told the story about a bazillion times, but basically, I was holding flowers, she asked me if it was my birthday, I said “no” but then vomited out a long story about the flowers, and then we walked and talked for five blocks before I awkwardly asked her for her card). Shortly thereafter, we had a really awkward girl date at Teaism — and S. was convinced I didn’t like her. I don’t know how that turned around, or why (my memory fails me), but S. says it’s because I followed through. S. has become one of my best friends in life — and a main source of inspiration and support.

I firmly believe there is always room for new friends — as we evolve as people and learn what we need and don’t need and have patience for and don’t have patience for and who inspires us and who drains us and who we can really call in a time of crisis. Thanks M. and D. for the girl dates! Let’s go out again!

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a secret, revealed

OK, I’m ready to just come out and admit it. I’m going to reveal my long-held secret to the masses.

[Deep breath. Exhale.]

Every Monday, my roommate and I have a standing date to watch “The Bachelor.” And this date will not be broken.

This past Monday, I got an email from my friend C. The conversation went like this:

C: “Run tonight?”
Me: “I can’t, I have plans. Tomorrow morning?”
C: “OK. But I have to leave right at 7.”
Me: “OK.”
C, later: “Looks like there’s supposed to be freezing rain in the morning. Maybe we should just cancel.”
Me: “OK, yes. Let’s shoot for later in the week.”

There was no bending on my part. No, “OK, then, let’s just run tonight.” Nope. I’m pretty sure if I had to schedule surgery, and the only time available was at 8 p.m. on Monday, I would postpone the surgery.

The reason I felt I had to reveal this is because I was actually thinking about “The Bachelor” on my walk to the metro this morning. I was thinking about the women Brad (we’re on a first-name basis) had to choose from and how he seemed to be keeping around the women with children, which I find interesting. And then I thought, “Oh dear lord, I’m actually thinking about the bachelor.”

I know the show is stupid. And I know the women are setting themselves up for a really odd form of heartbreak. It’s dating on steroids — and I’m a voyeur. This week, when all of the women were crying in the previews, N. and I clapped and then laughed because we know it’s sadistic.

On Mondays, N. and I send each other e-mails (mind you, we’re roommates and see each other nearly every day.) We write, “BACHELOR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

And when we get home, the first thing we say as we walk up the stairs is, “BACHELOR!!!!!!!!!!”

It’s really fun to have this Monday tradition.

And now you know, so if you tend to call me on Monday evenings — and you feel like you’re being screened — you are. I’ll call you back just as soon as it’s over.

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‘i’m not cute, i’m handsome’

I met these cuties two weekends ago in Atlanta. My visit to J.’s was long overdue — Billy is 3.5 years old, Sarah is almost 2. I hadn’t met them yet, and felt guiltier with every day that passed that I hadn’t taken a weekend to visit. So P. flew from San Francisco and I flew from D.C. for some much needed girl time.

And my god, J.’s kids are beautiful and polite. The highlight was watching them run on wobbly legs through the house. “You’re so cute,” I said to Billy. He looked up from where he was playing with stickers on the floor and said in his little-boy voice, firmly: “I’m not cute, I’m handsome.” And when P. and I were sitting outside in chairs on the lawn, he came over, put his little hand in mine and said, “Excuse-e-me. Would you guys like to sit with me?” That little guy is going to be a heart breaker some day.

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