Friday, May 13, 2011

Happy Anniversary, New York!

I thought about writing a long account of my last four years in New York, but the last four entries have been quite wordy (blame it on the creative writing degree). Long story short: Four years and five days ago, I called my grandparents on a Monday and asked if I could move in that Saturday, May 12. I bought a one-way ticket and hoped I could find a job in the city. Clearly, that decision has been working out for me.

So, happy four-year anniversary, New York! I know we had a thirteen-year separation, but I am glad to be back.

And to give you guys a break from the words, I've decided to construct a bit of a photo essay to show some of things I've done over the last four years (in no specific order):

I've walked the Brooklyn Bridge at least five times.

I've seen at least 20 Broadway/Off-Broadway shows (some of them I had already seen while visiting NYC over the years), including: 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Avenue Q, A Behanding in Spokane, Damn Yankees, Equus, Everyday Rapture, Hair, Hairspray, In the Heights, Legally Blonde, The Lion King, A Little Night Music, Next to Normal, Race, Rent, Spamalot, Spring Awakening, West Side Story, White Christmas, Xanadu, and Young Frankenstein.


I've played hostess to some fantastic visitors.


I've been to a lot of Yankees games (of course!) at both the old and new stadium, and even witnessed the Yankees winning the World Series in a New York City bar with other fans (so nice to be in the majority again). I also got to go into the Yankees boardroom . . . that was pretty awesome!


I was photographed (unbeknowst to me till a coworker brought it up) by a fashion blogger who I had previously labeled as a creepy old man with a camera. Turns out, he took it because I was reading the paper after Obama's win, and it had nothing to do with my hot-pink tights or funky backward knees.


I've continued playing a lot of sports: dodgeball, kickball (not pictured), football (though I didn't play this season), and softball (champions last fall!).

I've gone to three A&M/UT Chili Cookoffs . . . and am counting down the days till my fourth (nine, in case you were wondering). Not to mention the four Musters and countless A&M football and basketball game watches I've attended.

I've gotten closer with friends from high school (Ginna and Asad) and college (Ginna again, Andrea and Brad) thanks to the fact that we all moved from Texas to NYC.


I've been to the U.S. Open twice.


I've gotten to meet (or at least take a photo with) some cool celebs, including Christopher Meloni (of Law & Order: SVU fame) and Cheyenne Jackson (saw him on Broadway in Xanadu when he wasn't as famous, then he started doing work on 30 Rock and Glee). I also went to a press event for Billy Elliot that Sir Elton John showed up to . . . so I got to hear him play the piano and sing in an auditorium of about two hundred people.


I found a job I like, but what's more important, I've found coworkers who make it even more worthwhile to come in every day.


I finally got to play the piano at FAO Schwarz. (Every time I went there as a kid, the piano was broken.)


I've taken MegaBus and/or Bolt Bus many times to get out of the city for a weekend, mainly to visit Sara in D.C. Though I also used to take the bus to Philly (to see Jennie) and Boston (to see Ginna).


I've been to the Guggenheim, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the MOMA.


I've seen the seasons change! Yes, I realize this happens in most places . . . but not so much in Houston or College Station.


And well, I guess the most obvious . . . I met my husband. The top photo was taken about fifteen minutes after we met (don't worry, I didn't ask to have it taken, I'm not that creepy).

So that's four years in a nutshell, I guess. I'm sure there are things I've left out, there's just so much you can do in this city . . . and it has been four years after all. Let's make the next year great, New York!

Monday, May 9, 2011

We Have Exciting News!

Don't even lie . . . a lot of you clicked on this because you think I'm about to announce I'm pregnant. Yes?

This picture is here solely to push down the
exciting news by a few more lines.
I know, tricky, tricky.

Well, sorry to burst your bubble, but contrary to belief, a married woman in her twenties can have news other than a growing belly (which mine sadly seems to be doing for totally different reasons, so don't get any ideas). And shame on you, close family and friends, who thought I would announce a pregnancy to you via a blog post. Tsk tsk.

Now that the scolding is over, the announcement: Mike has a new job! Hooray! Some of you may already know this, but I wanted to wait until today, his first official day, to post the news.

Ever since I met Mike, he has been hoping to find a job back in the city . . . one day. But the past two years weren't exactly a time to jump ship, it was a time to be thankful for employment, and to do what you needed to do . . . even if that meant commuting three hours a day. Of course, New York City is filled with commuters, but generally these people are spending an hour and a half each way to come into the city and then leave it, not the other way around.

There were many ups and downs of the job search, obviously more for Mike than myself, but when you're that close to someone, it's just as hard to watch him/her go through it. I went through it as a daughter many times, and now I was going through it as a wife. So on those days when I had to close my door and cry uncontrollably, I was generally on the phone with my mother . . . because who else could possibly know what I was feeling? I knew she would understand. After all, our family moved quite a bit as a result of Dad's search for work. When people ask me where I am from, and I tell them I've lived in New York, Virginia, Texas, North Carolina, back to New York, and my parents are now in Ohio, it's always followed by: Army brat? Nope. Professor? Nope. So what is it then? Food-service brat. (Which I guess, when dealing with me, has a double meaning.)

How did I handle all those moves? How did those experiences help me understand what Mike was going through? Well, read on for my reflections on this (if you're even still with me after the false pregnancy announcement). . . .

I remember sitting on our big green couch with my dad, his arms around me and my sister, as I asked him why there were boxes in the basement and how come he was home so often. As a kid, those were the only things I had picked up on and the only things that mattered. I can remember him telling us, as positively as he could (we were only eight and six at the time), that he had lost his job, and that's why he was home. I didn't get the bigger picture, or know there even was a bigger picture about what losing a job meant, until many years later. And when my parents told us we were moving to Virginia because that's where Dad's new job was, and that in our community there was not one, but six different pools with slides and diving boards, and there were tunnels that went under the streets so we could ride our bikes, I was ecstatic. I could totally be down with this losing-a-job/moving thing.

Yep, until three years later when my parents told us at the dinner table that we were moving again. This time it was for a self-decided job change. And since I was approaching twelve, and therefore a pre-teen, I took this to mean the end of the world. I didn't want to leave my friends, my softball team, our house, the six pools and tunnels (even though we weren't using them as often) . . . especially to go to far-away Texas. How my parents dealt with me during that stage is beyond me, though I do remember them being incredibly patient with me. (Okay, that's a lie, I had no idea they were being patient with me until now, because back then I had no idea I was being a brat and being very ungracious of the fact that my parents were doing what was best for our family. Update: After reading, my mother informed me that I was, in fact, not a brat. Apparently we remember things a bit differently. . . .)

So then there was the Texas run, which lasted ten years with a few minor bumps along the way. I remember my dad taking me out post-finals at the end of my freshman year: You're done with finals? Yes. No more tests or papers? No. So there's nothing to be worried about? No, why? Because we might be moving to San Francisco. Not again. And it turned out to be a not again, that time at least. At the end of my sophomore year, my parents bought a house to rent out to roommates, so that if they did move, I (and my sister if she came to A&M, which she did) would have a permanent residence in Texas as long as we were at school. This foresight would come in handy two years later when my father told me they were transfering to North Carolina, which happened while I was in Europe (as I discussed in my first post). I think I took this one relatively well, since I knew I only had six months of school left and had no idea where I would be heading then, anyway. So off they went to North Carolina (where I would move those six months later).

Nicole and I saw our parents that Thanksgiving, they had taken extra vacation days to drive down to Florida . . . which seemed completely normal. They drove again to College Station three weeks later for my graduation, taking a week off there, too. We didn't really think anything of it. And then they sat us down when we got home to North Carolina for Christmas: Dad had been out of work for months. They just didn't want to say anything because they didn't want to worry us or ruin my last semester of college. I was blown away by the lie, I was mad at them for not telling the truth earlier. I felt it wasn't fair for them to keep that bottled up just for our sake. But I guess that's what parents do time and time again.

So for five months I witnessed firsthand my father trying to find a new job . . . while I was trying to find my first-ever job. I was fortunate enough to find a three-month temp gig (ironically at a temp agency), as my dad considered branching out into a franchised business, asking me if he were to get it, would I stay in North Carolina for at least a year to help him run it? I said I would, even though it wasn't what I actually wanted to do professionally. But after twenty-two years of sacrificing for me, it was the least I could for him. We were all devastated when it didn't work out. Then a job offer came up in Ohio, and as much as I loved my parents, I decided that instead of going with them, I'd move to New York on my own (but more on that later this week).

And all of that—that long-winded, verbose history—led me to New York. Led me to Mike. Led me to be a wife who can truly say, without lying, "I understand" to a husband who was frustrated by the job-search process, by hearing noes, or not hearing anything at all. Led me to being able to tell my husband that it will get better, and things happen for a reason, as cliche as that sounds, even through my own frustrated tears.

I am so proud of Mike for sticking it out, even when it was really rough. I'm proud of myself for sticking it out too, for taking the lead from my mother, knowing that support for a spouse can be the greatest thing in this situation. And I know that we got through this because we're a team, just like my parents did it time and time and time again.

If we had to go through this at any time in our life, I'm glad it was now, when the situation wasn't forced and when it was one of our choices to make a move. And when it was just the two of us, no kids. Because that's not happening for a bit, if we can help it. Sorry to fool you all into thinking otherwise. But I had to think of a fun and exciting way to get you to read my blog. ;)

Friday, May 6, 2011

A Letter to My Mother

In honor of Mother's Day this Sunday, I want to share this letter that I found while rummaging through old computer files. I wrote it back in October 2003 for my mother's birthday. To be honest, I didn't initially remember writing it, though once I started reading, the emotions all came flooding back. The sentiment resonates just as much now as it did then (I was a sophomore in college). I hope my mother doesn't mind me posting this, but I very much wanted to honor such a special and influential person by sharing with you all how great she is (if you don't already know). Happy Mother's Day to my friends and family who are mothers. But especially, happy Mother's Day, Mom. I love you.

October 15, 2003

Dear Mommy,

Before you came to College Station on Sunday I had bought you a birthday card and, although it wasn’t great, I figured I could just write in what the card failed to mention. However, I am not even sure I can come up with the words here to describe how much you mean to me . . . especially after Sunday.

First of all, your goal with Daddy to have a relationship with your kids, you have succeeded and exceeded with that expectation. As you two once wrote in a birthday card to me, I will still hold your hand and am unashamed to be seen with you in public. How can I possibly not act this way toward you? You have been there for me in every way and have given me no reason to ever not want to have a relationship with you. Sure, there are those times when we fight and we need a break from each other, but when it comes down to it—I know you’re still my mom and that you are there for me. If anything, our relationship has inspired me to be the mother (one day) that you have been to me. You are an inspiration and role model to me and there is no way I will ever be ashamed to have you in my life—even if you do scream out "'Bye Smirky!" with the windows down in Mosher Circle.

Also, I love the fact that you can make me cry when you’re trying to make me laugh and make me laugh when all I want to do is cry. And all those times I told you you wouldn’t understand—subconsiously I always knew that you would. One of the things I miss about being home is I have no one to hold me when I am upset. Yes, I have someone to talk to on the phone . . . but it's not the same. However, considering the circumstances, I’d rather talk to you on the phone and hear your comforting voice than not have anyone to talk to at all. I have been so blessed to have someone who can see the clarity in my life when all I see is the chaos.

Remember when I told you about the deep questions we were asked at Fish Camp? And someone asked, "What was the one thing someone did for you that made you feel really loved?" Well, my answer was you saying you’d come to College Station on Sundays to eat lunch with me while everybody did their religion thing. (2011 side note: I was unaware that A&M was predominately a Christian university, and as someone who was not raised in a religious household, that adjustment was very hard for me because people were constantly doing the church/lunch thing on Sundays. I felt incredibly lonely and out of place. Thankfully, in the second semester, Sara, Caitlin, and David noticed this and invited me to Fazoli's each Sunday with them. That, and my involvement in ALOT and Fish Camp, is what kept me at A&M when I considered transferring. Okay . . . back to the letter).

It never worked out last year, but the fact that you were willing to do that made me feel so special. And then last week, I called you when I was sick and you said you’d be here by 12:30. In spite of my pain, I felt so relieved, happy, and again, special. The fact that you drove three hours round trip to spend two hours with me, just to make sure I was okay, really meant a lot to me. I have bragged about you ever since and many of my friends are envious that I have a mother who would go to such lengths for me—and I just smile and tell them that I have a wonderful mother. I know that your trip is not even the beginning of what you’ve done for me in the past and I know there’s still plenty of times to come when you’ll selflessly go to similar lengths to help me.

I know that we joke about you taking second string to Daddy, but please don’t ever really think that that’s the case. I love each of you for your separate traits and for being different, and I love both of you together for giving me such a wonderful life, so much support (especially now when I am really needing it) and such great opportunities. Just like I have my memories with Daddy, I have my memories with you. Our favorite, oddly, is the stomach flu incident—I don’t think we’ll ever forget that. (2011 side note: When I was about ten, I woke up feeling sick. I walked to my mother's bedroom to tell her so, and as soon as I got to the doorframe, she told me not to come any closer, that she was sick, too. So for hours we both stayed in our own beds . . . until I started throwing up as well. Turns out we had the same bug. And after that discovery, we spent the rest of the day watching TV in my parents' room. Since Dad was out of town, Nicole took care of us when she got home from school—with a towel over her mouth, of course, so she didn't catch our germs. My mom and I were sick as dogs, but the taking care of each other throughout the day made it such a special experience. Okay, back again to the original letter.)

I also remember you singing “Goodnight Sweetheart” (as much as we hated it), your attendance to my games and tournaments and the whistling from the stands, running after me with the video camera as I boarded the school bus for the first time, the parties you gave me in school as a class mom, the time Hilary and I "skipped" school the day before Homecoming and you took us shopping instead, etc. Recently I have reflected on such memories in my life and I just stand back and say, "Wow," because I realize now truly how fortunate I am to still have you two so actively involved in my life. And with you, Mom, I really believe our relationship has gotten even closer now that I am in college and I constantly need you for support. I guarantee that that need is not going to end anytime soon—it’s only the third semester.

I may make fun of you for your computer illiteracy—you make fun of me for my grace (okay, lack there of). You still call me Smirky, I still call you Mommy. Nothing is going to change that, or how much I love you. Not college, marriage, kids. When you look back at this all, I want you to remember that you did reach your goal. In my eyes we have an amazing relationship and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Yes, we’re still going to fight here and there. Yes, there are still going to be times when we don’t get each other or I don’t express how much I appreciate you. I apologize in advance for those times and for me being "Pauline" (even though you’re right, there are times that I am proud of that). But please realize that no matter what, I appreciate you for being such a great mother and friend. I appreciate you for being there for me even when I’m not there for myself. And I appreciate you being there for me and giving me something to strive for in my life. One day I hope to make a goal with my husband (2011 side note: Whoa, I have one now. Weird.) to have great relationships with our kids, not because I didn't have that growing up, but because I don’t know it any other way. And when that time comes, I’ll be coming to you for even more advice, because what better way to learn about great relationships than to talk to you.

Happy Birthday—I Love You!


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Spring Has . . . Sprung?

Or is it still . . . springing? It's hard to say when you're a New Yorker. When I moved back here, I was excited about having four seasons once again. After ten years in Houston/College Station, Texas, where the seasons consist of early summer, summer, late summer, and a few cold fronts, the thought of seeing flowers bloom for a couple of weeks and the leaves changing colors is just exhilarating.

Tulip season!

Jinxing spring's arrival is another thing we love to do. At the first warm front, New Yorkers are all too exited to store the sweaters and boots back in storage units under the bed, and to bring out the flowery skirts and dresses, shorts, breezy sandals, and light blouses . . . even though we know we shouldn't. The moment we do that . . . winter makes its sour return, and generally for a number of weeks. It never fails. I tend to wait until late May before I even attempt switching the wardrobe. It may be in part due to laziness, but I also just don't want to jinx it.

So you can imagine how nervous I am writing this post. But upon May's arrival, four consistent days of sun and sixty-degree weather, and my jovial mood, I really think we're heading into the better months. <Anxiously knocking on my wood desk.>

This past weekend, Mike was in the land where grown men become twenty-one-year-old boys all over again: Vegas. And in some sort of vindication, the weather in Vegas was windy and semi-cool (for Vegas, at least), while the city of New York basked in sunlight and warm weather. And I was sure to take full advantage of my alone-time-meets-springtime weekend.

On Saturday, the New York City Aggies had their spring barbecue at a beer garden. Once the morning clouds left and the sun was fully out, you could see all of our moods change. There's something to be said about sunlight deficiency disorder. It was humorous watching all of us girls (okay, just me and Andrea because we're always prepared) taking off our sweaters to expose our sundresses and bare shoulders, the men rolling up their sleeves to expose their arms, and all of us scoping out the sun's rays and rotating our chairs every now and then to make sure we were getting an even "tan." (The word tan used lightly . . . I didn't notice an ounce of color difference, which is much different than my days in Texas when I had a base tan year round, I guess that was a plus side of living down south.) 

The group eventually migrated to a frozen yogurt place (I feel guilty about cheating on TCBY, but 16 Handles was just so good). The fact that we even wanted something frozen was a sign of the changing seasons. Also, completely unrelated to my all-about-spring post, I missed Paul McCartney at 16 Handles by five minutes . . . something I will never get over. Just writing it down again makes me want to crawl into a fetal position and cry some more. Anyway . . .

The next morning, Ginna and I had brunch, and clearly we weren't the only ones who wanted to enjoy one of New York's greatest traditions in the beautiful outdoors. The wait for a table outside at Barking Dog was more than an hour, so we opted for the shorter wait and a table near the windows. While dining, we noticed tons of puppies and babies . . . whether this is a sign of spring, or just where our mind was at that day, is beyond me.

And when I got back to my apartment, all I wanted to do was clean, the kind where you put on some music and open up the windows to air everything out. I spent six hours cleaning . . . yes, six . . . yes, just our small apartment. Nobody ever said I was the queen of speed in this department (or running, as I am sure my parents and husband inserted with a laugh). I reorganized our entertainment system and mantel so the living room looked more like a habitat than a DVD store. I unpacked the rest of the frames we received from the wedding, and now I am praying that we'll have our discs soon so we can stop looking at the models. And, no surprise, the dusting took the most amount of time, for as fast as it accumulates in the normal, cleaner-air world, in NYC it seems to gather at least twice as fast.

Then it was time for the kitchen. I swear, the day I have more cabinet space and a dishwasher will be the happiest day. And finally, because I had been putting it off since the beginning . . . the bathroom. I think my back is still sore from the scrubbing I gave that tub. And as much as I love my husband, who tends to be far cleaner/neater than I ever am, he has a penchant for leaving rogue shavings from his electric razor and globs of toothpaste in random areas of the bathroom (one would think mainly the sink, but I find toothpaste on the floor more often than I should).

Once it was all said and done, I felt much better. There was a spring in my step now that spring was finally here (again, knocking on wood). I was actually ready for my Monday-night softball game, knowing I wouldn't be wearing sweatpants, a sweatshirt, and a beanie. (And that was great, though the municipal solid waste container near first base wasn't all that fresh and springlike, thank you, East Harlem.)

I only wish there had been enough time this weekend to get to the park to do some freelance. But then again, there never is enough time to get everything done on my list.

And so, during this spring day, I leave you with a little note I left Mike after my hardcore cleaning session . . .

Confucius says: Husband who leaves shavings and globs of toothpaste in clean bathroom and medicine cabinet is a dead man.

To which he later replied via Gchat once he got home: You're silly. Confucius doesn't speak English.