Together, we all grow.

Since the night of the presidential election, as I offered final slices of homemade pizza and watched the tenor of the room change, there hasn’t been much else on my mind. I’m embarrassed to admit that I stopped reading the news for a week, at least. I did NOT want to write about the election, about the lead up or the final results. I was in emotional and mental overload of facts, headlines, opinions and angry words.

It’s been over a month since the election. I still go to yoga, write emails at work and drink with friends. The–shall I say–trepidation about the present and curiosity about the future still lingers in my mind. Every conversation could, if pushed, tumble in an avalanche of recent articles and fierce opinions. With events like the unfolding horrors of Aleppo and unchanging concerns about America’s impoverished, I try to reposition myself and keep each passing object in context of the larger whole.

This December, my roommates purchased a fake Christmas tree for our living room. As a rule of thumb, I hate artificial trees. I hate their perfect symmetry and the lack of earthy piney scent. I miss artfully appointing the tree to hide a large blemish or crawling on my belly to pour water into the base. But my opinion changed when I came home after work to see a stunningly beautiful tree, shinning and decorated, in my living room. The pre-lit branches gave off a soft glow and if I concentrated really hard, I could also smell the pine needles and open air.

In politics as in my own home, I’m trying to keep an open mind.

Months ago, while inspecting some withered herb plants indoors, my mother informed me of the importance of airflow. Air movement replicates the wind or a breeze, she said and the stem of the plant learns to resist and grow strong. Without such resistance, small stalks hang limp and the soil’s moisture becomes a breeding ground for unwanted mold and blight. Even the healthiest seedling cannot thrive in a stagnant environment.

We, the people of America, are simply a garden of seedlings. We cling to what we know, resist those who challenge us or shame our beliefs. There is no breeze of opposition. We fight to grow strong amidst stagnant thoughts and fear of the other.Our news sources act as mirrors, reflecting what is already in our own minds to be regurgitated for anyone who will listen.  In this way, we will never achieve our full potential or reach the top of the canopy. In this way, we have already begun to rot.

I have STRONG beliefs and STEADFAST convictions. More times than I care to admit, I fight others to prove I’m right even if the reason becomes clouded or lost. While there is nothing wrong with holding tight to our beliefs, we must allow our ideas to be tested and tried. Those who are not challenged grow lazy. If we believe in power of free will, should we not exercise that power to choose and question every day?

Listen to all voices. Fight for good. Be true to others and patient with yourself.

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On Sherlock Holmes

I will write about Europe. I promise. The trip was, in fact, quite amazing. My only complaint is that the whole affair was entirely too affable. There was no significant obstacles to overcome or challenges to be met with creativity and force. Vienna was beautiful. Venice was elegant and delicious. Torino and the surrounding area of Asti provided breathtaking views for an unforgettable wedding. Everyone was happy. Weather was lovely except for one Monday afternoon when the sky poured rain; a couple of wet socks never hurt anyone. I have yet to test Boyfriend Billy’s true traveling abilities because everything went so darn swimmingly.

So on to my newest obsession: Sherlock Holmes. My love affair with the man, the myth, and the legend began with the BBC television show “Sherlock” of which many of you are aware. If you haven’t seen any of the episodes, I recommend you stop reading this blog immediately and watch it. Each episode is long, about 1.5 hours, more like a small movie than a regular television show. The stories follow Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson through the most amazing adventures, all based off existing stories written by the famous Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Series 4 will be out in January 2017 and Benedict Cumberbach has admitted that this will be the last season.I have deduced that my most recent obsession is for more than Cumberbach’s piercing blue eyes and steely resolve (and magic skills). I’m drawn to Sherlock’s genius sleuthing skills and impassioned compulsion to seek the truth for no more but the sheer thrill of the unanswered question. I love the relationship between Holmes and Watson. Both characters contains essential elements that the other lacks. Together they make up a most perfect pair who I would willingly follow on countless more adventures through the dark and mysterious streets on London. Were all of us as lucky to find such a true friend…

IMG_5031.jpgAbout a week ago, I wandered into The Strand on my lunch break. There is something I find calming about walking up and down shelves of books. I never know when a new title or wellworn classic  will unlock new ideas inside my dusty head. As fate would have it, I stumbled across The Greatest Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, on sale no less. I knew I had to have it. It’s been my trusty and heavy travel companion ever since. It feels fitting that I found the book at The Strand, a bookstore that shares its name with the monthly magazine that first published the adventures Sherlock Holmes back in 1891.

“As the weeks went by, my interest in him and my curiosity as to his aims in life gradually deepened and increased. His very person and appearance were such as to strike the attention of the most casual observer. In height he was rather over six feet, and so excessively lean that he seemed to be considerably taller. His eyes were sharp and piecing, save during those intervals of torpor to which I have alluded; and his chin, too, had the prominence and squareness which mark the man of determination.” A Study in Scarlet, page 8.

Now that’s my kind of man.

I can’t help but imagine a world where all mysteries could be solved by sheer observation; all the answers we seek are around us, if only we had the time and the knowledge to look. I believe that, at times, we all act as amateur Sherlock Holmes, attempting to play the role in our own lives. We attempt to piece together the past in order to understand and interpret the events in our present and future. Indeed, some puzzles are easier to solve than others and often we lack the necessary evidence to complete the picture. At these moments, we long for a crystal ball or a looking glass to make the most complex darkness appear as clear as day.

I know I, as well as Dr. John Watson, can learn a thing or two from the great master himself. 

“You don’t seem to give much thought to the matter in hand,” I said at last, interrupting Holmes’s musical disquisition.

“No data yet,” he answered. “It is a capital mistake to theorize before you have all the evidence. It biases the judgement.”

Have a great week everyone.

To Italy with Amore

Does anyone remember August?

The last few weeks have blurred in my mind, repeating an endless cycle of air conditioned nights and hot sandy days. For three weekends, I’ve packed the same bag to a new location just to return each Sunday and melt onto my bed, summoning strength for another Monday morning. IMG_4694But here we are, just days away from September. Sweet, beautiful September with cool breezes and changing leaves. I missed you, little 9th month of the year. After the hurried weekends and hot weeks, the fall has come to save us all. The sun is setting noticeably earlier but no one seems to care. My tan lines remember the summer and I’m all too ready to pull out the light jackets and colorful scarves. 

But suddenly time has stopped. With just four days left in frenetic August I hear each minute, lapping like the Hudson River against the pier. Rhythmic. Unhurried.  I’ve lived the last weekend ten times over. The sands in the hourglass are moving against gravity in slow motion uphill. Four long days before EUROPE. 

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My trip in 2014 felt like the experience of a lifetime. I do not regret a single second of the cities I walked and the people I met. Including this little ladyThe chance to return to Italy and watch Serena marry the love of her life feels like the perfect invitation to dust off my passport and pack a suitcase once again. What’s better than watching love happen in one of the most romantic places on earth? Having someone to share it with. 

I remember walking along the canals of Venice and watching the sunsets in Santorini. I have incredible memories of the pizza in Bologna and the waterfalls in Croatia. I truly believe that anyone who loves to travel should try it alone, at least once, just to experience the true freedom to explore and thrive. But there were moments- on the park bench in Nice and in the colosseum in Rome-where I wished I had someone with me to share it with. There would be no one back home who could reminisce, no one to say “remember when…” during a particularly delicious meal or fortuitous meeting with a stranger. There are times of aloneness when you reach out your hand  and wish someone was there to interlace fingers and squeeze tight. 

This time I’m traveling with a plus one. Finally I have the chance to show him who I am at my best with a guidebook in hand on unfamiliar turf. I will show him the gondolas in Venice and tell him about the Australian sister-brother duo I traveled with through St. Mark’s square. I’ll take him to the pizza place I loved and make him eat gelato at every hour of every day. Together we’ll visit Vienna (for the first time!!) and laugh our way through operas, museums and famed cafes.

And then finalmente, we will take a train across Northern Italy and arrive in Torino to reconnect with two of the loveliest people I’ve ever met for their wedding no less! In the beautiful countryside near the town of Asti surrounded by their friends and family, it’s a dream come true. This time, I will reach out and know someone will take my hand. I’ll squeeze it once, twice, just to make sure he’s real. 

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Strangers on a train

I took the Amtrak train back to New York City yesterday afternoon. In the row ahead, I could see two passengers, one man and one woman, on opposite sides of the train aisle. The man looked to be in his late 50’s. I watched him spit into his hands before running them through his thinning white hair. The woman, possibly in her late 40’s, wore thin reading glasses and had one small suitcase. Periodically, she leaned against the window, eyes focused on the blurred Hudson River rushing by.

As the train pulled into Penn Station, these two strangers began to converse. I overheard the woman was apologizing for her earlier disinterest in speaking with the man. 

“This is my last ride back to the city. I just needed to be alone. To think,” she said. “I’m about to move out West and live with my daughter. It’s a good thing but to think I’ll never live here again…after all these years.” Her voice wavered.

The man leaned into the aisle and rested his arm on his knee. He tried to offer some general words of understanding. The man was visiting his son and mentioned a previous divorce and difficult family relationships. Based on overhearing an earlier phone conversation, I’d gathered that his son or the ex-wife wasn’t willing to pick him up  at the station despite all of his luggage. He had angrily hung up on the anonymous party. Well fine then, I’ll just get a cab. How’s that for convenience? He did not reference the call but spoke generally about the importance of family. Crazy Italian family, he said, over and over. 

As the train doors opened and passengers filed out, the conversation has escalated and the man had begun to cry. He was still speaking, interjecting with “but you know” after each breath, even though I don’t think the woman truly did. 

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A woman leaving her life to be with her child. A man trying to find his way back into a family with uncertain ties. And me, a stranger without a single word of encouragement to offer. 

A day later, I find myself thinking of these two characters who chose to share a little of themselves on a crowded train  I wonder about the type of people who easily open up to admit sadness and fear. Are they judged by their peers? Do they care? I admire their ability to let go. That sort of open confession has never been my way. Maybe I’m blind to the world, my world, as it is and as it should be. But maybe I don’t want to know. 

But recently, even without asking, I’ve received lots of advice and unwanted opinions. Humans are so quick to judge, to sum up a person’s complicated parts into one lump sum. They  offer up opinions as if  they were gifts to be treasured and obeyed. We forgot what it feels like to be on the receiving end of such “gifts”.

Listening to the voice inside one’s own head becomes harder and harder to hear above the fray. 

I want the courage to open up despite unknown reactions and unkind truths. I want to admit fear and distrust in my own decisions. And I should also stop giving advice so freely without a second to understand the weight of my thoughts on the hearts of others. Our words should be groomed, fed and well-tended before they are released from the gates into the outside world beyond. 

Perhaps, dear reader, we can try to be brave together. We can open up a little and let the world know that sometimes we don’t have all the answers. We have not figured IT out. The unknown can be beautiful too. 

Talk to a stranger on a train. Maybe I’ll sit next to you. And we can practice letting go together.

 

 

To those who fear:

I make dinner. There is a zucchini in the refrigerator from Monday’s farmers market and some rice in the cabinet. I cut the green vegetable into thick half-moons and listen to them sizzle in the oil, sliding over each other in the pan. The rice is boiling. Sporadic bubbles appear and are instantly gone beneath churning currents. I cover the rice and season the zucchini. It’s a warm and sticky Sunday evening, hours before another week. Tomorrow is another day.

There is little in the daily news that inspires hope. Recent personal events make me question the ifs and the whys in life; these two words have burrowed deep within my stomach. I feel the words beginning to rot, yet answers never come. Great trepidation for the future of which I have no control. 

What is this fear that seems to surround me? 

Zika. Terrorism. Death. The future. Family. Security. Money. Cancer. The “other”. Hillary. Muslims. Trump. Western thought. Death. Sickness. Guns. No guns. Climate change. The wrong choice. Betrayal. Loss of sanity. Loneliness. Inadequacy. Loss of love. No love at all. 

The zucchini is done. Using my wooden spoon, I gently flip each slice and check both sides have browned. The rice needs water. I use the electric kettle and add more steaming liquid before replacing the lid. My lunch for the week is nearing completion.

I wish we the inhabitants of the world could hold one another and ask forgiveness for all the things we’ve ever done or said and have yet to do and say. The longer I live in this world, the more I realize how the Many suffer.The Many have been abandoned by their parents, rejected by society or left to function with less than a whole self. The Many go to sleep wrapped in fury at those who have made them feel, in some way, less than. Less than loved. Less than smart. Less than respected. Less than human. 

The zucchini, rice and chickpeas are finished. I split the ingredients into two plastic containers: lunch for Monday and Tuesday. Snap goes the red lid. A mundane task completed for another day. Snap. A sound so complete. Snap. A moment without meaning. 

Snap and death, a thick black period at the end of a thought, a final punctuation on all that has come before. We lament the future that never will be. Now, we cry, when there is so much left unwritten? But the pen has come and accentuated the dot in permanent black ink. We watch it dry on the page and still we tear at the paper trying to erase what is already done. We think we need the story to continue. We weren’t prepared, didn’t have time to close to the book and place it on the shelf. We don’t know how we will go on.

Tonight before bed, I will imagine a bright star in the night sky, high above the street lamps and traffic lights. On this star, I will wish for the next president of the United States to have compassion, grit and superb listening skills. I will wish for all family members who have witnessed profound tragedy and grief to experience temporary freedom and peace. I will wish for a moment of clarity among the Many who feel life is cheap and tainted and unclean. I wish for you, dear reader, and all your precious beautiful moments that lay ahead. They will come again.

Tomorrow is another day.  

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A Simpler Time

“Life seemed to be a lot simpler then.”

-My Grandfather

The year is 1953. As the final sonata is played for the Korean War, lucky families are listening to the first transistor radios. Puerto Rico becomes a self-governing commonwealth of the United States. And in their hometown in upstate New York, my grandfather and grandmother marry and begin their life as a family. sony_transitor_radio

Life was different, as life tends to be, in years or decades past. Growing up in the Great Depression, my grandfather was lucky when there was a nickel for milk at school. He and his peers grew up to fight in the wars, marry young and promise their children an better life.

“In those days, people got married a lot younger than they do today,” my grandpa wrote me. “At 23, I was the proud father of a beautiful baby girl named Cindy.” And the same year my mother was born, my grandfather started his job as a printer at the local newspaper, a job which he held faithfully for over 38 years.

Life seemed a lot simpler then.

The year is now 2016. I look around at my own life and try to draw parallels back to my grandfather’s journey. I compare trajectories of the working young adult, level of education and current marital status. Working?  Some of my peers, these so called millennials, have worked for almost as many companies as numbers of years spend out of college. My “career path” alone spans two states and four companies in as many years. Married? Most of my friends do not boast a ring on their finger and I’m three years older than my grandfather when my mother came into the world. save-the-date-logo

 We rely on fast promotions in lieu of job security and promised pensions. The idea of company loyalty is a myth of the past, akin to horse drawn carriages and the neighborhood milkman. Then there’s love. If we don’t find a partner in high school, undergraduate studies, or graduate classes, we often resort to online dating. In her book All the Single Ladies, Rebecca Traister describes the increasing marrying age for woman in the United States. Currently, the average age for a woman getting married is 27, up from 23 in 1990. And that’s if they marry at all. Suddenly, the marriage conversation has shifted from WHEN to IF. Even with a steady boyfriend, my answer to marriage is still a big…maybe. The world of jobs and love has rebranded itself; the rule book from my grandfather’s generation was tossed aside years ago. 293892_4013625783339_1407785132_n

I will be attending two weddings this summer, making a grand total of four since I graduated from college. I truly believe these wonderful young men and women have made heartfelt commitments of love with open eyes and caring hearts. But the vast majority of my friends are still unwed and plan to remain that way long past the now “average” age of 27. Brides are no longer 18 or 19 fresh out of high school but 29 and 30 ready to have children and begin a joined life in matrimony.

I wonder what my grandfather’s generation would say in comparison to their own lives: joys and disappointments, opportunities and setbacks. As I struggle to find similarities between my reality and this simpler time I can’t help but ask,

What have we lost? What will we gain?

Goodbye Astoria

Dear Astoria,

Do you remember when we said our first hellos? I was straight off a plane from Milan, re-teaching myself how to live out of dresser drawers instead of zippered suitcases. I still remember the bright November morning when I saw you, Astoria, for the very first time. My full bed and wooden couch rocked left and right past cafes, falafel trucks, banks, small groceries and streams of moving people. Steinway Street appeared to be another country: baklava in bakery windows, groups of men sitting stoically drinking tea and smoking hookah. Little Egypt, I would learn. The skyline of Manhattan loomed in the distance. I felt dwarfed by the noise and the power of this place, your buzzing soil.

That was one year and 4 months ago.

Each morning in the winter of 2014, I walked south past sleeping businesses-fashion stores Hug and Easy Pickins’, McDonalds, Modell’s, Starbucks, the prom dress store- all silent in the early light.

I took the R train all the way across Manhattan and down to City Hall. Do you remember? Everyone said I was crazy to take the local train such a long way. But I didn’t mind. It gave me time to read my books, borrowed from the local Queens Library. We shared many books, you and I.

Then the new job and a new commute. This time, I walked to the N,Q train aboveground or took the bus when my timing was right. I watched a coffee shop open and finally felt like I wasn’t the newest one on the block. In the summer, my roommates introduced me to the beer garden and the Greek restaurants along Astoria-Ditmars Boulevard. We ate at Sugarfreak, a New Orleans-style restaurant with beignets bananas foster, a memory of which still makes my mouth water. I joined a yoga studio and a gym while treating myself to fresh, hand rolled bagels on Saturday mornings. During one of my first 3 mile runs, I stumbled upon Astoria Park and slowed down to watch children playing in the grass and skipping along the river.

In Astoria, I found the mixture of culture that I had dreamed New York City would foster and nourish. There were young millennials running in new sneakers and old college sweatshirts alongside Muslim men and women on their way to prayer. Greek grandmothers would shop on early mornings in the grocery store as I stumbled in for seltzer or eggs. Old and new. New Yorker natives and foreign immigrants. Spanish speakers. Italian sausage makers. Young married couples and single roommates.

Daina and I stayed longer than we had planned; six months quickly evaporated into sixteen. In the final days before I moved, my nights were spent sitting on the floor meticulously wrapping each plate and mug in bubble wrap and placing them in cardboard boxes. They clinked against one another as if to say, Where are you taking us? Why can’t we go back to our cupboards and shelves? I didn’t have an answer except to say,

because it’s time.

Thank you for all you’ve done. I found a great young woman to take my bedroom. Be kind to her, Astoria, as you were kind to me. Let her listen to your heartbeat, the percussion of daily life. Show her the fresh feta cheese and the best falafel truck. Let her walk the friendliest streets and find the best way home. Nudge her through the doors of your museums and coax her over the bridge into Sunnyside when she is ready to explore. Her heart is open and ready. I was a stranger once too.

From your shore, Manhattan feels both overwhelmingly close and light years away. We are both older and I’d like to think a little wiser too. Take care of yourself, Astoria. I’ll be back soon.

Katelyn

P.S. I moved to Jersey. Don’t cry. 

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Queens Comfort, made famous by Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, has a line out the door every Saturday and Sunday 

 

 

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A magical breakfast from Brooklyn Bagel 

 

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Morning sunrise in Astoria Park 

 

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Beignets Banana Foster 

 

Day 1: Funemployment

Today is Day 1. I am a kite, cut free of its string to soar and drift as I please before falling slowly back to Earth. And by Earth, I mean work. My parents forbid retirement at age 25. 

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I awake to a clear and sunny morning, the sun’s rays illuminating the rooftops of Hoboken’s yawning buildings. The dawn feels unlike other Monday mornings and from my position near the window, the bricks and facade seem to stretch in greeting the new day. Boyfriend Billy, however, is less overjoyed to hear the alarm clock buzz for the 2nd snooze and hurriedly rushes around the bedroom in the routinely frantic search for glasses and keys. I roll over and go back to sleep. Funemployment waits for no woman.

The sidewalks at 9:30am are all but deserted. The line at Starbucks contains a mere two or three caffeine-deprived yet relaxed individuals who patiently wait their turn without so much as a grumble or check of the watch. The world is completely devoid of morning commuters and I can’t remember the last time I’ve loved New York City so much.

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My biggest problems now consist of when to eat lunch, if I should exercise and just what exactly constitutes the maximum number of daily naps. My body’s significant decrease in stress restores harmony to my muscles and bones. In my silent apartment, words tumble from my thoughts and through my fingers; a stillness broken only by the street noise and gentle hum of the refrigerator. Without meetings to schedule and phone calls to take, time is made whole again. 

Why did I need to quit a job in order to reassess what matters in my life and focus on the people and activities that make me happy?  While I’m not gearing up for another backpacking trip through Europe, my time off feels almost as special. I finally have those magical minutes in a day to be a tourist in a city I barely know and reach out to people I love yet neglected for far too long.

So let that be a lesson to you, self. Stop using work as an excuse for failing to complete those little things you’ve wanted to do. 

The New Sneakers Feeling

(def.) New Sneakers feeling: the feeling that occurs directly after putting on a brand new pair of squeaky new sneaks.

As a child, it was the feeling of unwavering confidence that directly followed a trip home from the sporting goods store. I distinctly remember removing my new shoes from their box and tying the laces just like my parents taught me. Right there on the grass, I would jump and prance on the lawn before taking off down the gravel driveway and fly fly flying on shoes made for Hermes. I was the faster girl in the world and nothing could slow me down. 

After high school, the New Sneakers feeling was more contained. Instead of running circles around my dad’s legs, I would lace up and take an extra long run or get on a treadmill with seemingly untapped reserves of strength. But the feeling was short-lived. I knew better by now. Shoes weren’t magic; they were just shoes. And I was the same old me. 
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And then, the New Sneakers feeling began manifesting itself in different ways. I recognized it as the feeling that accompanied a big change or start of something new: the day before my trip to Europe, my college graduation, my 25th birthday party. At each of those moments, I once again felt like I’d laced up a new pair of cleats before the championship game. The world was my oyster and nothing could slow me down. 

Once again, I have the New Sneakers feeling. As of Friday, I’ll be leaving my current company for a new opportunity. And once again, I’m taking a risk and reveling in my newfound freedom. 

We spend so much time worrying about the future. We learn to fear change because of the unknowns that lie ahead. What’s the best move? What if we fail? What if we let someone down or have regrets?  I understand those fears. These fears keep us from making impulsive decisions and help us validate our current path. But these fears also keep us from the New Sneakers feeling we so desperately need to feel alive. 

Do you remember the feeling of your feet in new sneakers for the first time? There was no question of where to go, how fast or for how long. There was no fear of failure or defeat.

You already had the potential to fly

 

Home for the Thanks Giving

I’m not entirely sure I should be allowed to have time off. As soon as vacation begins, my brain drains out through my ears and I become incapable of doing anything productive. I woke up yesterday at the beginning of my six day respite from the office and did the following:

  • IMG_3855Watched Sesame Street, not ironically. (Still a great show).
  • Watched Live with Kelly and Michael. (Still a bad show).
  • Read an Jane Evanovich book in one sitting. For a fun drinking game in reading Love Overboard, drink every time you see the words kissing, pirate’s blood, and rip those panties to shreds.
  • Cried on a bus while listening to a This American Life episode.
  • Floss. (Teeth hygiene is very important).

I’m also sniffling. My head feels swollen and my nose won’t stop running. This fun bodily development began yesterday morning, probably as a common symptom of “leisure sickness.” My parents’ house envelops me with home cooked meals, free laundry services and soft couches. The energy I use daily to make trains and speed walk along crowded sidewalks has all but evaporated. All that remains is a sweatpants-wearing version of myself who uses all her physical effort just to pour a bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. 

In the spirit of giving thanks, I’d like to raise a glass to every parent and family member who generously welcomes home their 20-something hapless children who eat their food and spread various belongings across every room, offering nothing in return except dirty laundry and a sheepish smile. If you’re lucky, they might even tell you about their life before hoping in the car and trying to rekindle old high school relationships.

Thank you.