Tag Archives: love

rain, a funeral and thanksgiving

It rained here for three days, a strange event in the desert. The clouds rolled in Thursday, the day after we found out my mom’s brother died — one of eight siblings, and the third youngest. Plans were swift — on two days’ notice, family flew cross-country and we drove four hours to Atascadero on the California coast. My cousins and aunts and uncles packed into my aunts’ houses and hugged and cried and laughed and sang and drank and ate. After the funeral Sunday, we had the traditional Pennsylvania Dutch New Years’ meal of pork and sauerkraut, mashed potatoes and cabbage.

The whole time, I kept thinking of this article: “Always Go To The Funeral.” It’s true — a mantra to live by. And I kept thinking about how precious life is. And how much I love my family. And how thankful I am my parents — who live in Michigan — can join us and A.’s parents and brother for the holiday. And how I’ll tell A. and C. how much I love them over and over and continue to squeeze them tight. Happy Thanksgiving, all.

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taking a moment to be thankful

When A. and I were in New Jersey less than two weeks ago, A.’s best friend J. asked me if I was happy living in the desert.

“I’m pretty happy,” I replied. “Not extremely happy like this guy (I pointed to A., who was sitting on the carpet), but pretty happy.”

We joke that A. doesn’t need to be social — in fact, he likes being far away from people — whereas I miss long gab sessions with girlfriends over a glass of wine (and no kids around).

And then, about a week ago, I was walking the aisles of Albertsons while A. took C. to the playground (cause he has every other Friday off), and I admitted to S. on the phone that I said I was “pretty happy.” And that I was ashamed. Because, really?

I’m healthy. I’m in love with my husband. He’s healthy. We have a hilarious, loving 18-month-old who giggles constantly and says, “Mama, kiss?” and leans in with sparkling eyes. And he’s healthy and he takes three-hour naps and sleeps through the night. All of our parents are doing well. We live in a house full of light with a backyard full of fruit trees. We aren’t wealthy, but we aren’t penny pinching. And I’m “pretty happy?”

No, I’m really happy. I just wanted to take a moment and say that. I’m really happy. And I’m thankful. I’m thankful for this adventure and the ability to explore a different part of the country. I’m thankful I met A. I’m thankful we have C., who’s a crazy amazing kid. And I’m thankful we have our health. Sometimes, it’s nice to recalibrate and think a little bit harder about what comes out of our mouths. Because someday we will hurt, all of us. Me, A. and C. It’s part of life. And we’re not hurting at all right now. We’re exploring, relaxing and growing.

Here are a few things we’ve been up to this week.

1. Every morning, C. and I have been picking grapes off of our vines outside. As I open the back door, C. gets excited and shouts, “Gapes, gapes!”

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2. I’m finally, finally into a novel. I enjoyed Eowyn Ivey’s “The Snow Child,” which I read two months ago, but haven’t cracked anything intriguing until now. I’m reading, “The Sense of an Ending” by Julian Barnes, and I’m pretty sure I’ll finish it in three or four days.

3. This week, the sunsets (and the super moon) have been spectacular.

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4. This little dude has been chasing me around the house with full belly laughs that can light up even the darkest day. And he’s been singing “Old MacDonald” quite clearly, which is a total joy.

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What about you?

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overnight date to mammoth

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A. and I drove to Mammoth on Thursday afternoon for our first overnight date since C. was born. We drove along the Eastern Sierras on virtually empty roads as the sun cast shadows on the mountains. When we arrived early evening, we both bought shiny new ski pants, drank beer (A.) and a white Russian (me) at a buzzing ski bar and then got the most delicious Thai food we’d ever had at Thai’d Up (A. kept calling it Thai Me Up).

The next morning, we hit the slopes and it was a bluebird day. I skied for the first time in 13 years (I switched from snowboarding because I figure I won’t want to risk a hard fall when I’m 60). And it was the first time either of us had been on the slopes in a couple of years. By early afternoon, I was cruising so fast I could hear the wind whistling through my red ski coat. And by 3 p.m., both of our legs were mush. I was so shaky, I barely made it down the last slope.

On the way home, we stopped in Bishop for a frothy latte and a dip in the art supply store (I bought watercolors!). And then on we drove, back along the Sierras, and we studied the peaks we plan to explore (including Mt. Whitney) during our stay in the desert.

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wedding day: ‘OK, it was worth it’

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A few days before our wedding day, A. said to me, “I have trouble believing that all of this money and effort is worth it.” We were putting together programs (we had our favorite singer-songwriter David Berkeley write a personal song for us that we walked down the aisle to, and wanted people to see the lyrics). A. was designing the escort cards with Greek letters to communicate to the waitstaff what everyone was eating (Pi was pork, Sigma salmon… yes, we really did that for you math geeks). I was trying to keep track of everything we had to bring: fixings for S’mores, Bells beer, a wagon, etc. etc. And we were TIRED.

But the day of, there was a buzz in the hotel room where the ladies got their hair and makeup done. M. popped the champagne, and after I gently rubbed off some of the foundation (why do they always go overboard?) I felt better.

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We got on the shuttle from Frederick to Thurmont — A. sat in the back, and I sat in the front so we wouldn’t see each other.

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We drove past trees full of red, orange and yellow leaves to Thorpewood, a mountain retreat on 150 acres in Maryland.

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I put on my dress downstairs in the dressing room and I felt beautiful (and I wasn’t sure I would.)

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We took photos and wandered around the venue…Image

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While my brother rehearsed the ceremony in the loft (he was AMAZING and made both me and A. cry).

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By just before 4 p.m., the ladies took a golf cart to the pine forest —

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And while A. walked up the aisle with his parents, I hung back by myself in the cart, anxiously waiting.

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And by the time my dad walked me up to the trellis where A. waited for me, holding C., I was relaxed. Happy.

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I put C. down at my feet, and he played with the pine needles and didn’t make a peep the entire ceremony.

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A. and I wrote our own vows. A. made me laugh —

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and I couldn’t get through the first words — “When I met you more than 3 years ago, I knew you were different” — without crying.Image Many people later said they cried along with me: A.’s uncle said in his New York Italian accent: “What were you trying to do to me? I haven’t cried at a wedding in 40 years.”

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At the cocktail hour, I drank red wine, which had several people worried I was going to spill (I didn’t.)

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We had butternut squash soup shooters and crispy avocado rolls —

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and I tried to talk to as many people as possible. Even though we had 115 guests, it felt like this: “Hi! How are you!” Hug. “Oh, hi! Haha, yes, thank you!” Hug. “Ohhh really? Hi!” Hug.

During dinner, I was trying to make the rounds after checking on C.

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I was at the Caltech table, when our babysitter came up to me, holding a flushed C. The babysitter looked concerned, upset and sheepish all at once. “He just threw up,” she said. At the time, C. was almost 11 months and had never been sick. “Oh dear,” I said and I reached to grab him. He was covered in towels and had a glazed look. His cheeks were the color of the red tulips in my bouquet. “He’s warm.” A. was there, too, and we agreed to take C. up to the loft to take his temperature. 101.9. “Go talk to C.,” A. said, referring to the pediatric-oncologist in the house. Oh my god, thank goodness for C. She suggested we give baby C. ibuprofen (which my sister-in-law had) and try to get him some sleep. (By the next afternoon, his fever was up to 103.3, but went away by Tuesday morning on its own.) The lovely N. held him all night, and assuaged any worry I might have had.

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Then it was time for speeches. Adam’s brother E. gave a speech that had A. literally sweating and me doubled over with laughter.

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S. gave a speech that made A. bawl (“Any mention of C.’s birth makes me cry!” he says).

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I awkwardly thanked everyone for coming and then said something about how we know what happens when I talk — I cry — so let’s go dance.

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And that’s what we did. We danced.

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I haven’t had that much fun at a dance party in years. My cousins were hysterical, my friends were fun as usual.

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I never made it to the fire pit outside to roast a S’more. I forgot about our desserts (my mother-in-law’s homemade Italian cookies, cake from Queens and pies from New Jersey). There were a few people (regretfully) I didn’t say hi to. But all in all, I left that night feeling full of love — and madly in love. I wouldn’t have done anything different. And A., the man who always said he’d never get married, said to me the next day, while nodding his head: “It was worth it.”

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*All photos by Channing Johnson (and more here), All Rights Reserved

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love

The other evening, I ran across this journal entry.

Sept. 26, 2009 (Three-and-a-half months after meeting A.)
I haven’t said this to him yet, but this I know to be true: I am in love with A. I love everything about him, and I can’t keep my hands off of him. I’m happy when I’m with him, I’m happy when I’m away from him and I’m confident he has strong feelings for me, too. It’s scary, oh so scary, to feel this way – but my god, do I adore that man.

When I found the entry, I was sitting next to A. on the couch, and I read it out loud to him and tears welled up in my eyes from happiness. And I laughed at myself for crying at how much I love the man.

Camping at Annapolis Rock, October 2009

This morning, our nearly four-month-old son is playing on his tiny gym, talking to himself (blowing the bubbles in his mouth) and I’m sorting through contracts (DJ, photographer, hair and makeup) to plan our wedding.

I’m amazed at how quickly such major life changes have happened. And I feel ridiculously lucky to have found A.

That is all.

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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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an emotional union

On Saturday, I found myself bawling — bawling — at a wedding.

What was particularly ridiculous about this was that I had only met the groom (well, one of the grooms) once.  He was A.’s boss when A. was in Afghanistan. And so there I was, sitting in the Carnegie Institution for Science in Dupont Circle, craning my neck to see the ceremony. The chairs were set up in a circle, and the grooms were in the center of the circle, under the high ceiling, beaming at each other and holding each others’ hands as they read their hand-written vows. And groom H. told groom B. how he loved waking up to B. every morning and falling asleep next to him every night and how B. was his best friend and life partner and he was so in love.

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an amazing surprise

On Monday morning, I woke up at 6:45 to go for a run with S. We’ve been getting up to beat the heat, have girl time and gain extra energy for the day. A. sent me an email asking me if I was going out to run, and I said yes and didn’t think much of it.

I moved slowly — I was extra tired. I had a bowl of Special K, put on my workout clothes, filled my water bottle and walked out onto the porch, but there was a chill in the air. So I left the front door open a crack and ran back up the stairs for a long-sleeved shirt. When I came back down, A. was walking through the front door. I stood on the landing and looked at him, shoulders hunched, shocked and thinking I was seeing an apparition.

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