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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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. 

New Orleans: Part 1

Today marks almost one week to the day since I returned from New Orleans. This city dazzles in necklaces of gaudy indescribable beauty as a lady who sips Pimm’s Cups and watches the sudden rains wash Bourbon Street clean of guilt and grime. NOLA is a woman who has seen the world–the best and the worst of human nature–and her veins run thick with Southern history. She was the one American city I was dying to go and having met her, I wouldn’t say she was American at all, but a country and a force onto herself. 

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St. Louis Cathedral, Jackson Square

And so, it seems only natural that our small band of college friends would reunite, for the first time in exactly a year, to celebrate the joys of living in a city that cerebrates life itself. I don’t know if I will ever again experience a trip with friends that was so complete in all aspects of the journey, a trip so full I suffered from almost no moments of regret. Each day since I’ve tried to put my finger on exactly what caused so much joy and the only thing I can see is New Orleans herself, the beautiful combination of people, music, food and culture all falling into place. 

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Street performers attracted crowds for daring juggling acts and magic shows. Restaurants with white table clothes and strict dress codes shared the same street as strip clubs with flashing neon lights and smiling girls. Live music shook and tickled the air: marching bands paraded on the street, lonely guitarists asked for tips, full jazz bands played late into the evening. Beer was cheap and people of all ages, shapes and sizes carried their filled plastic cups throughout the city looking for the next adventure. The locals talked to the bachelorette parties and the tourists found the local cafes. Anything seemed possible.P1060397

 I couldn’t stop marveling at the attention to detail. The musicians took such time in their riffs and their harmonies. Each house with a balcony had ironwork that deserved a photograph and a sigh. And the Mardi Gras floats. On our first morning we took a tour of Mardi Gras World and saw the floats that are designed, created, and decorated each year for the special celebration. We learned the history behind the crews, who gets to ride on the floats and how they get to stay up there so long (hidden bathrooms on board). The artists worked full time, all year round to get their creations ready for the debut. In a world of tradition, being the best seemed like destiny. P1060416

The weather was beautiful. Most days were hot and sticky but the temperature and humidity didn’t seem to bother anyone. Every day was a party no matter if the sun was shining or your face was slick with sweat. Just a couple minutes south, the Mississippi River wended slow, a muddy body of water that threatened the city like a sleeping snake. Our hotel on Royal St. was just a block east of Canal St. where the streetcar ran and one block south of Bourbon St. where the nightly debauchery would take place. It felt like we were at the center of a churning, boiling fabulous world. P1060440

I’ve only just sent the scene. And I haven’t even mentioned the food or the drink or the night I played a small tuba in a crowded bar. All to come. Just know that if you have not yet had the chance to visit New Orleans in the last week, it’s about time you go. 

On Finding Permanence

I know life is too hectic when returning a friend’s phone call or e-mail feels like a chore. After work it seems there is always something to do or someone new to see. Most nights, I return home with just enough energy to flop on the couch before dragging myself to bed and planning out the next 24 hours. What am I going to eat for lunch? My weekends too are filled with movies and parties and new bars to try. I’m spending money left and right, quite the opposite of my traveling days.

IMG_2423Today, my boss informed me that they extended my contract for another month. The full 90 days. And that feels like a step in the right direction. A step toward permanence. And here in this city–when the R train switches to express or doesn’t run at all, when the cloudless sky turns instantly to snow or rain, and when finding time to do your laundry is the hardest task of the month–permanence isn’t all that easy to come by. IMG_2419

Not that I’ve always been a fan of permanence. Traveling abroad felt quite the opposite. Every day it seemed like I was staying in a different hostel, eating meals with different people, and learning to say hello in different tongues. As travelers, my new friends and I would laugh in the face in permanence and in those sad souls who had to go to the same job and sit in the same room with the same people each day. How did they survive with such a steady routine? Their lives seemed so small, devoid of color and true adventure that we proudly displayed as badges on our backpacks and in our journaled words. But in the month and a half since I’ve moved to New York, I’ve begun to understand what I scoffed at on the road. I realize how much I’ve craved some kind of rhythm and familiarity. A place to hang my clothes. A neighborhood I can navigate alone. I cling to my friends and can’t imagine my transition would have been possible without them. Small moments have become so important–dinner with my boyfriend once a week, hugs from my roommates after a particularly long day, the stranger who picked up my glove as I got on the subway– all bringing life’s blurriness back into focus. Small moments and a library cardIMG_2407

During my first week in Astoria, I walked to the Queens Library to get a set of books and dive headfirst into reading again. It felt like the right place to start. I had a grocery store, a pharmacy and now, a library. But when I arrived, the kind grandmother-ly woman at the front desk informed me that I needed to have verification of my name and address. No such luck. I left dejected and empty handed. Since then, I’ve been reading books that the former roommate had left and honestly don’t know if I can handle another young love romance novel. Sorry Nick Sparks. 

But this evening weeks later, I returned to the library with my paycheck stub in hand and barely containable excitement. I handed my paperwork over with a flourish and I signed my name on the dotted line. Holding my prized possession tightly, I walked up and down the shelves and smiled as if I was greeting long lost friends. Here were the stories I’d been waiting to read. Here was the knowledge, in plays and travel books, that I couldn’t wait to get my hands on. And here, in this small piece of plastic, was another small sign that I was finally proving my residence in a place that still feels so very new. IMG_2426

Another step toward permanence. Not forever perhaps. But at least for a couple weeks. Then I can always renew. 

Time to Talk

Good morning world! 

Tuesday is already here so shake off those Monday blues. I bought a book at the library yesterday for $1 called “The Complete Guide to Blogging.” Haven’t started it yet but seeing as I would pay that much for anyone’s advice, I can only gain knowledge from a basic how to. I would assume the first thing about blogging is actually to write and while I have an extra couple of minutes I’d like to share some new found wisdom.

I have developed a preconceived notion that staying connected with people I love is a time draining, intensive process; one I need to schedule into my planner for hours at a time. Over the last week I have spoken with a number of people over the phone and via text message. Hearing from them and recounting my own life has been incredibly rewarding. Ah yes, I think, this is why we were friends in the beginning. How could I have waited this long to follow up and check in? 

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It turns out I DO have enough time:

2 min- text to college roommate followed by 🙂

5 min- short e-mail to high school BFF

10 min- purchase some stationary and write a letter to your grandpa.

20 min- phone call to that close friend you never seem to talk to enough.

40 min- Grab the nail polish, hop on your bed and dive into a great conversation.

Make a list of those people you miss and begin reaching out. You’ll be glad you did. Chances are they will be as delighted as you to hear a friendly voice. Probably should put your mom on that list too.

A Blue Crumbles Christmas

The Pandora station is set to Let It Snow, online gift sales have skyrocketed and Hershey’s kisses in red and green are flying off the shelves. Finals weeks is in full swing and stress levels are high. Starbucks’ gingerbread lattes are back, the boys next door are sitting around a fire wearing Santa hats and my calendar is on its very last page. Christmas time is here. 

On Thursday, members of the Bucknell Dance Company went to a local senior citizen home to perform for some of the residents.  We arrived a little before 2pm and the room had already been prepared, an amphitheatre of wheelchairs and Velcro sneakers. I pushed play on the CD player and the dancers began. This is what the holidays are about, I thought as feet jumped and bodies spun in time to the music, sharing our joy with others. At the end of the performance, we passed around small cards with pictures of snowmen or candy canes, the words Happy Holidays scribbled in blue pen. It was a small gesture to be sure but I couldn’t think of a better way to spent two hours on a bright crisp December afternoon.

 Late last month, my friends from freshmen year created our very own pre-Thanksgiving dinner to celebrate friendship and attempt recipes our moms had painstakingly explained over the phone. There were logistical issues–foldout tables, number of chairs, size of the turkey–but by 6pm, the food had arrived and everyone had a place at the table. Plates were filled with turkey, salad, mashed potatoes, green beans, sweet potato casserole, fresh-baked bread, roasted vegetables, cheesy potatoes, pies, cupcakes and wine. We gave thanks to long-lasting relationships and great food while asserting our independence. All too soon we would be conducting our own orchestras, harmonizing the casseroles dishes with the turkey pan and number of placements required for a Thanksgiving meal. It was a glorified game of playing house and by the end of the meal, the men were going back for second helpings of pie while the women took to the kitchen, complaining about the lack of counter space and missing Tupperware lids. 

Our house, fondly named Blue Crumbles for its historically weak building foundation, recently geared up for the holiday season. Tonight we will be hosting A Blue Crumbles Christmas complete with festive chocolates, cheese dip and my mulled wine recipe from Denmark. The tree is decorated, the lights are up and the stockings are hung with care. Although none of us can believe the fall semester of our senior year will be over in a few short days, we are celebrating in the only way we know how. Hot chocolate, friends and a little bit of peppermint schnapps.

My life is still very much that of a college student. I attend class, do homework and see friends without the added worries about a mortgage, enough vacation time or reconnecting to loved ones. No matter how many people get accepted to graduate school, get job offers or finish Teach For America placement tests, the words grown-up and mature remain distant spots in the horizon. But these are not fixed destinations for we are always growing and maturing, experiencing new “firsts” and meeting new people. The holiday season is the chance to examine the beauty in your life in the same way one examines a snowglobe amidst flakes of white.

But for now, let’s be thankful for good food, great friends and families who love us. While fear of the future– fear of the unknown–will never completely subside, we should all snuggle up with a blanket and a cup of hot chocolate knowing the figurings in the swirling white snow are just where they belong.

Happy Holidays.