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

 

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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.

Home

I don’t know the formula for creating a Home. I don’t know how long it takes for an apartment, a familiar street or a city to move beyond the physical to the comfortable and the safe. There are hooks near the door where I hang my keys. But those hooks could be anywhere, on any wall, waiting for any keys to give their existence purpose. 

A man yelled profanities from his seat on the 6 train, heading downtown. He wore socks, no shoes, and had draped an American flag towel over his face and body. I couldn’t see his face but I imagined the world from his eyes, light and blurred movement from the other side of his cotton curtain. The repetition of his words-such angry words-scarred me and I hurried off the train, leaving my high heels behind. I was going home. Was he? 

Nostalgia as a Home. At brunch on Sunday, I sat across from three people who I’ve known and loved since I was 16 years old. Each of them are living dramatically different lives from the nights of summer bonfires and drive-in theaters. We don’t speak often, me and these three people, but time melted with each cup of steaming coffee until I saw them again as the people who knew me best. Despite all those years. I left the restaurant and felt a sense of longing as if I’d forgotten something but couldn’t remember what it was. Shoes on a train. 

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As migrants and refugees continue to bleed over the borders of their own lands into a watercolor of checkpoints and fading hope, I wonder about Home. Leaving Home. I imagine these people saying goodbye to every familiar Home they have ever known. Will the immune system of foreign government accept or reject these transplants? 

As long as they have each other…I traveled soundly knowing my parents were thinking about me, were wondering about me, were keeping my Home safe inside their love.

“It was a million tiny little things that, when you added them all up, they meant we were supposed to be together… and I knew it. I knew it the very first time I touched her. It was like coming Home… only to no home I’d ever known… I was just taking her hand to help her out of a car and I knew. It was like… magic.”

Sam Baldwin (Tom Hanks), Sleepless in Seattle

On my daily commute, I see the same people sitting on the same sidewalk and standing near the same Starbucks entrance with their cardboard signs. I see them every morning having left my apartment for the day’s activities. I wonder about these people, wonder about their definition of Home. I do not pretend for a moment to imagine how it must feel to lack a roof over my head or a space to unwind from the world. A private place to call my own. Nor do I know the stories of these people as they kept their eyes focused on the ground in front of them.

Homesick (def): the sickness caused by the perceived lack of or longing for Home. We have a human understanding to help those who suffer from such an illness, never knowing when we might fall victim to such a disease. 

30 is the new…what?

Meg Jay says 30 is not the new 20

I listened to this podcast while at work, crunching through e-mails and writing new client messaging. Jay’s voice floated through my earphones and froze my fingers poised over the keyboard. 30 is not the new 20, she said. And according to her, it’s time we stop acting like it. 

Millennials, born from 1981 to 1997, appear to have all the time in the world. We’re casually dating through unanswered texts, missed connections and fears of being single the rest of our lives. Apparently, we’re also marrying later although my Facebook feed of engagement rings and wedding photos say otherwise. We’re at jobs we like well enough, that pay well enough, while holding out hope that our rose-colored careers will eventually appear. At the age of 23, 27 and 30, we’re kicking the metaphorical can down the road in the (false) belief that the road is endless. 

We coin excuses. When asked why we don’t leave our jobs or leave our jobs too often, when we’ll go to school or graduate, when we’ll get married, buy a house, have a child, settle down, the answers are:

Next year. When I’m 30. When I’m older. When I’ve saved. When I find the perfect person. When I’m 35.

I wonder about my generation. I wonder if I’m part of the statistic or an outlier at the end of the bell curve. In some ways, I think Millennials are caught with this gnawing question: Is there something better? 

We’re the generation of increased opportunity and decreased satisfaction. There are so many people who we could choose as our marriage partner, companies who could pay more or treat us better, places with a higher quality of life, weather and quantity of Whole Foods. I fear we will become the generation of the Fisherman’s Wife. 

Blue Ridge Labs, now a program of Robin Hood, has a unique fellowship program where intelligent, tech-savvy individuals collaborate together to help solve poverty-induced problems in New York City. I went to the final presentation for this year’s participants and was blown away by the creativity, focus and drive of people not much older than myself. Millennials. Their apps include lending circles for college students, tenant surveys to combat absent landlords, and a website to quickly text all group participants in a surrounding area. For these fellowship-ers, their “30 is the new 40” mentality is anything but their peers’ ennui.

So there’s hope. And perhaps the way the rest of us can get out of our “30 is the new 20” slump, is to stop thinking exclusively about our own happiness and start asking how we can make a positive difference in the world. Right now. 

Group Rocks

Trees for the Soul

FRIDAY FRIDAY FRIDAY. I cannot wait until the age of retirement when Friday becomes just another day; a world where Mondays and Saturdays are once again created equal. My father, who remains ageless, is thinner and creatively healthier than he’s been in a long time. I think everyone needs to retire every 2-5 years, just to re-align physical and mental health. 

But I’m still in a world of the five day work week, meaning the precious hours of weekend time must be packed with fun, friends, productivity and relaxation all at once. This weekend for instance, I’m traveling up to Connecticut for a hiking and camping getaway,  waving goodbye to the concrete monoliths in exchange for sweet country air.

“The redwoods, once seen, leave a mark or create a vision that stays with you always. No one has ever successfully painted or photographed a redwood tree. The feeling they produce is not transferable. From them comes silence and awe. It’s not only their unbelievable stature, nor the color which seems to shift and vary under your eyes, no, they are not like any trees we know, they are ambassadors from another time.”
John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley: In Search of America

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I stumbled across this quote while reading Travels with Charley on the morning commute. Steinback takes the reader into his world as Rocinante (his trusty automobile) nears the Pacific shore. Here in the forest of the redwoods, moss and densely packed pine needles muffle footsteps and bird calls. Sunlight filters through the canopy far overhead, branches scarping at the clouds. I remember this world of greenery and ancient growth from a long ago family vacation as a child. The trees cultivate a instant sense awe and wonderment; reverence for a cathedral build by bark and leaves. 

Are humans born with an innate connection to trees, to rivers and beaches and mountain ranges in the distance? I can’t say. Perhaps it’s where a person grows up that determines where he or she feels most familiar and at home. Some may fit best in a city or surrounded by human activity.But given enough time, enough quiet and reflection, I believe each of us would find a kinship to the redwoods and any trees (albeit smaller) growing with dignity and vitality. 

I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m not the biggest fan of camping (the rain, the tent, the sleeping on the ground). But when my little group of friends picks our spot in the woods on Saturday evening, I will silently thank the pines and the oaks who act as watchful protectors for the sleeping couples under the stars.

Redwood Forest, Circa 2006
Redwood Forest, Circa 2006

The Particular Sadness of Dropping Lemon Pie

About two weeks ago, I created a beautiful no-bake lemon pie. I whipped cream cheese and sweetened condensed milk together with freshly squeezed lemon juice before delicately scooping all the ingredients into a graham-cracker crust. I gave my pie all evening to rest in the fridge before Pie & I boarded the N and the 4 train, making transfers at 59th Street/Lexington Avenue en route to work. 

At work, dear reader, my little lemon pie came to its demise when it fell off the kitchen counter and landed upside down on the floor. A new co-worker I hadn’t yet met rushed to my aid. She made that ‘gasp’ noise that people tend to do when desserts topple to the ground.

“It wasn’t homemade, was it?” she asked as I scooped cream cheese from between my fingers. “It was,” I said “but things like this happen. “

My pie incident is not the saddest nor the most interesting thing that has happened in my life. Since then, I’ve set phone appointments with VPs, became certified in my field, and drank margaritas late into a Monday evening. But the memory of my pie still lingers. I had put love and energy into something that faced an untimely death and for that moment in time, life didn’t seem fair. 

I still haven’t touched my baking utensils–the measuring spoons, cups, nonstick trays–as I mourn for the pie that was never enjoyed by those for who it was intended. I felt as if New York City swooped in and tried to teach me a lesson. People don’t bake here. The kitchens are too small. There just isn’t enough time. New York buys glossy cupcakes on the way to a friend’s birthday party on the Upper East Side and swings by its favorite French bakery to pick up a legendary chocolate mousse pie. In store windows, I pass desserts as perfect as the people: tailored suits and polished heels ready for another day of success and perfection. In these moments I miss my messy Massachusetts kitchen where perfection was replaced by a constant flow of  lumpy pound cakes, underdone brownies and a thin layer of flour covering the counters and floor. 

The pie was originally intended for my boyfriend’s sister to order to properly celebrate her upcoming European backpacking adventure. Instead, I showed up empty-handed with only vague tips and advice to offer. I now remember recommending a book to her; a book she later read and agreed it was a perfect summer read. That book was called: The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake.

Parting with people and with desserts can be such sweet sorrow. 

—-

Here is the simple (and embarrassingly) Betty Crocker recipe:

 

pie

 

The Fear of Maintaining Authenticity

A college friend contacted me a couple of months ago. Nick was interested in starting a travel website and wanted some guidance. He had a full-time job, friends and a social life in Washington, D.C. This was just something he felt passionately about and he wanted some support.

Naturally, there are tons of travel websites and blogs on the Internet. Every day, it seems another person is backpacking around the world and telling a story about it. Nick had some good ideas about building readership, generating new blogs and keeping topics relevant to a subset of the 18-30 year population. But there was this nagging fear in both his mind and mine. How would his travel website be different from all the other content out there? What made his idea unique?

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I often worry about being unique or “maintaining authenticity” in my day to day activities. I want to write my own words, dance my own movement, and form a new career that only I could have achieved. It scares me to think that I’m being influenced by others–peers, parents, those who have come before, and those whose voices seem to be the loudest–to choose differently than my “authentic” self would do.

Don’t reinvent the wheel. Think outside the box. Make a statement. Take a stand.

As a sophomore in college, I choreographed my first dance piece. I promised myself that I would create all the movement on my own without any outside influence. I didn’t want to copy others or steal another’s creative work. This would be all mine.

The piece sucked. It was disjointed and lacked continuity between movement and transitions. The dancers didn’t seem to fully understand the message I was trying to get across and I can’t blame them for their confusion. Instead of learning from the dance masters and borrowing from the greats, I tried to build a masterpiece from nothing. That was when I learned the value of imitation. The Martha Grahams and Alvin Aileys of the world knew what they were doing as did my college professionals I took class from every day. I needed to practice and mimic and study those who came before. You cannot break the rules until you know them. 

Currently at work, I’ve been struggling again. There are successful salesmen (all men for the time being) who have learned the company and have mastered their art of finding clients and closing deals. I was adamant about doing it my own way without bowing down or admitting to needing their help. Pride perhaps? Fear? Maybe a little of both. But these are the people who will give me options and present me with techniques. I must try on their methods in order to decide which one fits best before designing one of my own. 

In starting his own website, Nick must read other websites, understand the market, and learn what boosts online traffic. In the beginning, he should imitate the professionals and learn from their knowledge before forging out on his own. Nick’s travel website is going to be unique because it comes from Nick* and no one else.

* If you’ve ever taken a road trip, travel for work, or studied abroad (and considered writing about it), contact me! Nick is very excited and driven but it can’t happen without support from others who are willing to share their own view of the world. xoxo

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And I’m back.

For the 2+ months I haven’t blogged. Not once. And there is no excuse as the pictures piled up on my iPhone and words ran through my head. So what was going on all that time?

  • I got a cold and went to bed at 9pm for a week.  
  • Boyfriend Billy and I had a delicious sushi dinner on the Upper West Side. 
  • My mom and I decorated the bunny cake for Easter. 
  • I traveled back to Northampton, Mass to visit my former home. 
  • The weather got warm.
  • I planned my 25th birthday party.
  • The weather got cold. 
  • I made friends with my co-workers. 
  • I finished reading No Country for Old Men.
  • Some Bucknell ladies and I booked plane tickets for New Orleans. 
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Easter bunny cake

New York finally had its first 75F degree day. The sun comes streaming through my bedroom window earlier each morning, eliciting movement and disgruntled groaning. The restaurants on 30th Avenue in Astoria are beginning to put out tables and chairs for outdoor seating. Spring feels so close I could hold it. 

And with the coming season, I’m still learning the same lesson I’ve learned countless times before:

Things take time. 

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Financial District

Accomplishing an item on my To-Do list–consolidating bank accounts, building a gym routine and planning weekly lunches–feel like mini accomplishments. I’m realizing that building a life here in New York is more challenging than traveling alone or moving to Massachusetts. What does it mean to own a New Yorker status? I’ll have to learn the subway lines without looking at a map and stretch my budget to include infinite happy hours and monthly rent. I’ll need to stop fumbling at work among experienced sales professionals and stop gazing in awe at the skyscrapers downtown. It’s been almost five months (FIVE MONTHS?!) and my daily life still feels delicate and new. 

Boyfriend Bill & Me
Boyfriend Bill & Me

But my people are here and that had made all the difference. With help from the darling roommates, I rented a private room for my 25th birthday party (on Saturday!) and the overwhelming list of RSVP yes’s made my heart swell. Friends from college and high school are scattered throughout the boroughs and the boyfriend makes plenty of time for me despite the one hour commuting difference from Queens to Hoboken. New York has the only thing my European adventure lacked, a core group of individuals with whom I can share my highest highs and lowest lows. This place and these people had captured my heart despite the frigid winter and gnawing reality of an unknown future. 

There are cherry blossoms in Newark, New Jersey.

Anything is possible. 

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Cherry Blossoms in Newark, NJ

Black Russian Bagel

Black Russian Bagel (def): A pumpernickel everything bagel. Absolutely delicious in every way. 

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I love this bagel. Within this breakfast treat, there is the pumpernickel which is brown and hearty and wonderful and the everything-ness of an everything bagel. They complement each other perfectly and make an already amazing carb-y treat even more amazing

After momentarily distracting you with pictures of food, I feel it is my duty to warn you that today is none other than

Friday the 13th.

Don’t break any mirrors or open umbrellas inside. Avoid ladders and black cats. Or live dangerously but I did warn you. And speaking of scary days…

tomorrow is Saturday the 14th. Also known as Valentine’s Day.*

*Remember Bigfoot’s Birthday? Because unknown online strangers still visit this page every day.  

The day of bad luck followed by the the high-pressure, high-stakes, potentially loneliest day of the year??

Be nice 2015. 

I’ve been known to give a good pep talk in my day. Unfortunately there isn’t much that can be done for the 13th. Honestly, if I were you I’d do some risky things and take some chances. You can always blame the “bad energy” for your mistakes and embarrassing moments later on. The 14th, on the other hand, can be harder to handle. But people, it’s a day for CELEBRATING LOVE! Who doesn’t love love? Singles should buy themselves some flowers and get drunk with other singles. Couples should do something fancy or make a picnic, open a bottle of wine and play this new game. Married? Go through the whole day without blaming each other for anything and maybe buy yourself a pair of fuzzy slippers. 

And specifically for you, my dear reader, I wish that someday you find love with another person who is the everything to your pumpernickel–as complete as a Black Russian bagel. 

xoxo

Juno: the #blizzardof2015 or #Snowmageddon2015

“It’s here! Winter Storm Juno’s First Heavy Snowfall Arrives.” -The Weather Channel 

The blizzard is here. From Boston to New York, wind whips along carless streets as last minute shoppers trudge home with the most necessary kitchen staples. Eggs. Bread. Milk. Beer. Schools and universities have closed for tomorrow. Travel bans are in place and public transportation has shut down.The snow, which started as light flurries in the morning, increased steadily and by early afternoon most offices in NYC had sent their employees home. Since I was never put on the company wide e-mail chain, I missed the important memo and went home an hour later than necessary. But that’s just the kind of dedicated employee I am. From the office to the streets and back at home, it seemed everyone was talking about the #blizzardof2015.

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View from the office

And now? Peeking outside of my little Astoria apartment window, I see

…not much. 

Apparently the worst is yet to come. My roommates are in bed asleep, hoping a winter wonderland will await them in the morning. Nothing better than a “work from home” kind of Tuesday. Daina, my dear roommate, faced the crowds of the local grocery store and we now have days worth of delicious chicken tortellini soup. Our stash of red wine, while depleting rapidly should last another couple of days. And tonight our little group of four (Daina, Megan, Sam and I) sat around the coffee table playing Jenga and watching The Bachelor on TV like any normal group of people preparing for the worst storm of their lives. 

All of this–the shopping, the wine, the food, the great company–reminded me of the evenings spent in Northampton around our wood stove. I remember Nemo and Hurricane Sandy, holed up in 38 Henry St. with good friends and a cozy home. The Nor’easter of November 2012? I blogged about cookies and Election Cake. This year, I bravely attempted smitten kitchen recipe for Salted Carmel Brownies:

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Did I use a plastic spoon to stir my homemade caramel sauce, successfully melting white plastic into my browning sugar? Maybe, maybe not. But my multiple attempts at melting sugar and 9pm dash to the grocery story for parchment paper seemed like small prices to pay for the delicious dessert that eventually came out of the oven. My stomach is full, my head is sleepy and my heart is full knowing I have a snow day for the first time in a long while. 

During the 11:00pm news, a politician warned people to stay inside since people who fall down on the sidewalks may be invisible to emergency crews. Invisible. Refinery29 has some tips for ladies needing a list of things to do during their snow day including lounging in pjs, catching up on reruns and fitting in a squat workout. Swimsuit season is coming.And me? I’ll wake up in the morning, open my window shades and hope to be dazzled by the early morning brilliance of snow on a January day. I’ll try to clean the house and answer those pesky e-mails but hating tying myself down to “productivity.” Plus there is online shopping to do since the bf’s birthday is coming up way too fast so tonight I’m just thankful for newsworthy blizzards…and Amazon Prime. 

Stay warm. 

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