How would you describe your childhood? This was a question I read on a list of safe topics for the holiday dinner table. And I liked it. I asked a few people. And got some thoughtful responses, beginning with “happy” and “a roller coaster.” Then I thought I should figure out my own answer.
The first word that came to mind was “playful.”
I can’t think of my childhood without thinking of my playmates. I grew up in a neighborhood with several cousins in addition to my brother and sister. We were all close in age and imaginative. We made up so many games! Croquet was a favorite in the summer. I don’t even know the real rules of the lawn game because we made up our own. We also liked “steamroller,” where one kid rolls across the floor and the others run and jump over the steamroller. If you touch the steamroller, though, you’re out. We played so many games of hide and seek. We had water fights. We went sledding and threw snowballs. We took the pedal boat out on Grandma’s lake. Sometimes we even played board games — usually by the written rules.
I had school friends, too, and read books by myself often. But overwhelmingly, when I think of childhood, I think of my siblings and cousins. I’m really grateful for them. Even now as we’re all scattered — UAE, Germany, Washington, California, Alaska and Minnesota — we’ve still got each other’s backs. And we like to pick up right where we left off. Silly String fight, anyone?
I’m so inspired by this woman and her late husband. I’m also proud to be (distantly) related to her. Here’s the synopsis: Nora’s then-boyfriend was diagnosed with a brain tumor. An eternally positive person, he says he can handle it. They married anyway, had a baby, lived life. This year, she not only lost her husband, but also their unborn baby and her father. She shared her story in an honest, vulnerable, humorous way. She didn’t pretend to be superwoman. She admitted her fears and shortcomings. We can all learn from Aaron’s “it’s all going to be OK attitude and Nora’s humor and strength.
I also loved how they just had faith. They didn’t let the diagnosis or inevitable medical bills stop them. They went to shows. They had a child. They lived, believing everything would be OK. Not that Aaron would miraculously overcome the tumor, but that whatever happened, they’d be OK.
I found it all inspiring. In part because I struggle to trust. I have had a great history of things working out. My move back to Seattle was no small feat for the universe to pull off, but man, did it deliver. So I have no reason not to trust. I have all sorts of reason to trust. So I’ll read Aaron & Nora’s “love story with some cancer” and remind myself to live and trust.
Sometimes things happen for a reason. And sometimes that reason reveals itself quickly.
This day-after Thanksgiving, I’m not thankful for sales at my favorite stores. I’m grateful to all the people in my life and to be back in Seattle. For being home to 8 million people (and less than 24 million rats, my parents informed me), New York was a lonely place for me. My family and friends of a decade were the motivation for my move. Although I miss the energy and opportunities in New York, it’s incredible to be back around my people.
After the death of my beloved aunt, my friends were taking me to brunch, coming over with wine and lining up to give me a hug. Those far away were calling. Multiple people invited me to Thanksgiving dinner. It makes a girl feel so very loved.
I was recently asked, “what makes you happy?” Without hesitation, my answer was, “spending time with people I love.”
That truly means everything to me. Whether my parents are calling to tell me what my niece did or my nephew is asking me to put the cat on Skype or my cousin is telling me about his latest twist on tator-tot casserole, or Courtney is texting me about her Saturday night or Tara is dropping by to make soup or Sarah is sending cute photos or Cluff is sharing Seahawks stats or James is sending funny SnapChats or Pam is telling me about the Whidbey birds over Lync, it all makes me smile.
When my Uncle Dan was in Seattle, he and his friend took me and my then-bf to dinner. Our plus-ones were sitting there kinda bored while Uncle Dan and I caught one another up on what’s going on in the family. At one point his friend chimed in, saying something along the lines of, “you seem to actually like your family.”
Uncle Dan and I exchanged a look, like “well, yeah.”
That’s when I realized not everyone’s family is like mine. Family was never an obligation for me. I love Thanksgiving dinner, cousins’ graduation parties and calling Grandma.
In our virtual world, many of us keep in touch on Facebook. My aunts are often quick to congratulate me on new jobs or like my photo posts. It feels really good.
When I became an aunt, I started seeing my own aunts differently. I noticed how they look at me the way I look at Isabella. Everything Isabella does is incredible to me. I am so proud of her accomplishments. I love hearing her stories.
My Aunt Peggy in Seattle does all those things in person. I stayed with her for a month when I got back to Seattle. When I cried, she came out and sat with me on the couch, put her arm around me and listened to me cry. When I told her I got a job offer, she dropped what she was doing in the kitchen, gave me a hug and celebrated with me. Every day when I got home from work or wherever I was, she asked if I had dinner or wanted hot chocolate. She told me stories about my grandparents and her, my dad and their brothers as kids.
I had no way of knowing that within a week of me leaving her house, she’d have a serious heart attack that would change everything. She’s fighting to survive, yet when I visit her in the hospital, she still asks if I’m OK and if I like my new job.
My family will take all the good vibes and prayers you can send our way. We’ve got some hurdles in our way.
“Are you feeling excited about anything?” Navani asked me the other night when we were texting. As I mentioned, I was feeling blue about a number of things, capping the night off with learning that my Papa had died.
At that moment, no, I couldn’t think of one thing I was excited about. Thankfully, as tends to happen, I felt more positive in the morning. Those anxious feelings gave way to more reasonable thoughts. Yes, things aren’t exactly as I’d like them to be today, but was I any closer in New York? No, that’s why I made a huge move to get me closer to my dreams. I knew it would be uncomfortable for a while. Now I’m in the uncomfortable. Here’s what I’m excited about:
Writing a book! How cool is it to leave my job to write a book? Eveyone I’ve told has been so excited about the project. It’s huge! I’m really doing it.
Magazine writing. I am taking a class now with an executive editor at Redbook. She’s helped me hone my ideas and write pieces to sell. She taught me the ins and outs of this market and what to expect. Let’s do this!
Severance + unemployment. OK, it’s tough to work full time plus write a book and pitch story ideas to magazines, but when your life is subsidized with severance and unemployment, it’s a little easier (even if there’s an end date circled on your calendar.)
Being surrounded by friends again. Have I mentioned how many awesome people I know in Western Washington? I don’t have a number to tell you exactly, but my tribe (to borrow Pam’s word) here is big.
I’m excited to live in a space bigger than the shoebox I lived in in NYC. I’m all about living a minimal life, but man, it’s nice to have a bedroom with a door that can close. What a tiny luxury.
I drove 1,696 miles by myself! I did it. 24 hours just me and Gatito. We’re a good team.
I’ve been so stressed this week. Like, sick-to-my-stomach, I’ve-developed-a-rash stressed. Why? Oh, I just quit my job, my boss was in town (he’s a good boss, for the record) during another intense news cycle while the how-tos of my job change daily (sometimes hourly), so I constantly wonder if I’m doing things right or if I missed some email, telling me the sky is now yellow, and I am now the photo editor, not the content editor. I struggled through some freelance writing and to finish a class project on time. I’m moving in two weeks (!) and more.
So, I declared it stress-free week. Obviously I still have to do my job well, but anything I can let go, I’m letting go and doing what I love instead. And there’s so much I love. Want to know what’s making me happy right now?
The show, “Welcome to Sweden.” Have you seen it? I’m a bit obsessed with the country of my heritage – and the people remind me a lot of Minnesotans.
Kangoo. Last night, I just felt like bouncing, so I went to Kangoo. I walked in 5 minutes late and didn’t care one bit. When the teacher saw me, she ran back and got me my size. She knows me so well. (PS does anyone know of Kangoo classes in Seattle?)
Yoga retreat with Liz or the amazing Kristin. Seriously, listen to her talk for 2 minutes and you’ll be all “ahhh!”
Magazines. I bought a ton as research for the Women’s Magazine Writing class I’m taking. I have always loved the glossies.
My amazing friends who offer help before I even ask. Pam told me I could ship boxes to her house, and she’d hold onto them for me. Tara listens to my ridiculous rambles and helps me see things differently all the time. I’m so glad I have them in my life.
My friend Betsy is having a baby girl! I can’t wait to hold her and read her stories. Does she like “Madeline,” Betsy?
Writing my blog, other people’s blogs, articles for class, whatever. Makes me happy. I really can’t wait to do more of my freelance projects.
My urgent care bill was $100 less than I expected! Always good news, right? (Think I can get it reduced further since it was a misdiagnosis?)
About a month ago, I was reading my horoscope in Elle at the salon. It said such good things about the month ahead that I got excited for my summer. It said July 24 would be the best day of the whole year. Naturally, I made a note on my calendar. Here’s how it went:
5:55 Alarm goes off. I grab my phone and turn off the beeping and respond to a text I received while I was sleeping. My cat meows at me for food. The vet told me to cut back on the all-you-can-eat buffet. Gatito isn’t happy about it. I fill his bowl, take a shower, make scrambled eggs with asparagus (special treat. Usually I have bell pepper in my eggs), get dressed in my favorite black work dress — because if something great is going to happen today, I want to be dressed appropriately — and make a salad.
6:51 Uh-oh, I missed the window for catching the early train. I still need to straighten up my apartment, scoop out the litter box and take the trash out because my landlord is starting to show my apartment today. On my way down the stairs, I peek at the unofficial spot where residents in my building leave things we no longer need. The box I left there yesterday is gone except half a roll of baby shower wrapping paper. Makes me happy that people wanted my scrapbook stickers, old fan and some cat toys.
7:22 I get off the C train and cross 42nd street for Starbucks even though I missed the early train, so I’m cutting it close. As I wait to cross 42nd again, grande vanilla latte in hand, I scan the people around me. The Times Square crowd is odd in the early hours. I see people clearly going to work, obvious tourists in baggy shorts, stopping to check street signs and maps, but a third group fascinates me. They’re the younger tourists who clearly dress they way they think New Yorkers dress — we’re talking evening attire before 8 a.m. And they don’t look like they’re still wearing it (or wearing it again) from last night.
7:33 A man and I take the elevator up together. He also has a Starbucks cup in his hand. We don’t talk until I’m stepping off and he tells me to have a great day. I automatically say, “you too!” and refrain from mentioning that I’m planning to have the best day of the whole year. While I walk to my desk, I regret wearing my nude flats and not my black heels. I like a little extra height.
9:20 Quyn texts me that she’s going to urgent care. A few minutes later, she tells me they’re admitting her to the emergency room. I ask her if she needs anything or wants me to meet her there.
10:37 Quyn says it’s just a virus and she’s going home. I’m relieved.
11:45 I’ve been running the site this morning and the numbers are good, but I want one more fresh slide. I ask my co-workers if they’d seen anything good. After a discussion, I decide to elevate a couple bikini stories. They lead the page all afternoon. I’m torn between being glad my slide is doing well and disappointed that a bikini story is out performing more important news.
12:30 I’ve handed the page off to the afternoon team, and go to the kitchen to get my lunch. I only packed a salad today, not my usual yogurt and fruit, so I go upstairs to buy a banana and grab some cookies, too. The best day of the year includes some cookies.
2:00 While waiting for a team conference call to start, I check the paddleboarding schedule at the boat rental place I have been going to the last two years. I bought a Groupon for a Twilight SUP tour. I’ll use it tonight if I can. No dice, I sign up for a Friday class instead. I try to think of something fun to do tonight instead.
2:45 The call ends about 15 minutes early. I’ve got 45 minutes before my next call, so I look over some emails I stashed in my read-later folder. I check to make sure I’ve made the necessary changes to the CMS. Then ask a co-worker if she wants me to write something for her. She gives me an easy slide that I finish in a few minutes.
2:58 I text Quyn, asking if she wants me to bring her pizza.
3:30 Usually I go home at 3:30, but I had to stick around for another conference call. I listen, but literally say nothing until my boss calls me out, and asks if I have anything to say. I don’t really.
3:50-ish My officemates and I talk about the call we just had. It’s a complicated matter with no good answer, but it feels good to commiserate together. Then I pack up my laptop, mouse and headset. I have Friday off, but am working from home Saturday and Sunday.
4:00 My laptop is so heavy as I walk to the subway. I push aside any thoughts of stopping at Duane Reade or the grocery store — as I do every week when I carry my computer home.
4:07 Quyn replies, saying yes, bring pizza. Since I’m already on the train home, I text that I’m going to drop off my computer, and then I’ll be on my way.
4:16 I put in a Seamless order for carryout at our favorite West Village gluten-free pizza place, change my clothes and run out to the subway back downtown.
4:50 This is the slowest train ever! I am afraid the pizza is getting cold. It should be done now.
5:02 Arrive at Wild. The host tells me it’ll be a few more minutes. OK, I guess I didn’t have to speed walk from West Fourth Street.
5:20 Pizza in hand, I buzz Quyn’s apartment. Quyn tells me about her vacation, I show her pictures of my niece and nephew and tell her about the new breed of tourists in Times Square. We get a bit more sentimental when we talk about how much we’ve grown since our New York moves. Around 9:30, I go.
9:37 I text Quyn that I finally found my way to the 14th Street station from her door without directions. It’s a first for me.
10:05 I get home. Gatito runs out in the hall as I open the door, so I let him do his nightly sweep while I fill my water bottle. When he comes in, I lock the door, wash my face, brush my teeth and sit on my bed to write my blog post. I takes a while because I keep stopping to play with Gatito and his laser pointer.
Was it the best day of my whole year? Not quite, but it was a great day anyway.
When I was looking for apartments, I found an otherwise perfect one – except it was on the first floor. My then-boyfriend said he would have considered that a convenience, not a safety issue.
I walk a block out of my way to my nearest subway station to avoid a man who openly harasses women from his stoop.
I once explained to an ex-boyfriend why I wouldn’t walk down an alley as a shortcut.
I’m not alone. I think every woman on the planet goes out of her way to protect herself.
In fact a college class was asked to write about what they do to stay safe. The young women described the intricate ways they stayed alert, which also limited their access to the world. The women essentially thought about rape all the time, according to “Men Explain Things to Me” by Rebecca Solnit.
The men in the class were reportedly astonished, like the two ex-boyfriends I explained my own precautions to.
A few chapters later, Solnit tells of a university where male suspects raped female students. In response, the university told women not to go out alone after dark – or not to go out at all.
Some pranksters turned the tables by putting up posters, saying that men shouldn’t go outside after dark, so the women could walk without fear. After all, men were the suspects, why should the women be limited?
Of course the men were shocked at being asked to “disappear.” But the other way around seemed perfectly reasonable.
I don’t have the answers for how to end this. I also have a feeling I won’t after reading the last 20 pages of this book.
But on Father’s Day, I find myself especially grateful for my dad, my grandfathers, my uncles, brother, brother-in-law, cousins and friends who helped make me the woman I am today. I’m thankful I have role models who taught me how real men behave and what a lady should never, ever have to put up with.
My dad taught me to read a map, change a tire, hang sheetrock, tile a bathroom, balance my checkbook and more. My brother, Domonic, and big cousin Tony tricked me every way they could think of, so I wouldn’t fall for anyone else’s tricks.
Don’t get me wrong, the ladies in my life: My mom, grandma, aunts, sisters and friends are also strong, confident people who can clean a fish, cook Thanksgiving dinner and raise intelligent, respectful, caring sons and and daughters.
But it’s Father’s Day, a day to honor the men who were there for us. So thank you, Dad, Domonic and all for teaching me to be cautious, but not live in fear. Thank you for giving me the tools to walk confidently and not take anyone’s crap.
And while we’re at it, we can shame the jackasses who force us to subconsciously make those intricate plans to stay safe.
Just for one day, let’s put a pin in talking about how awesome I am and instead talk about how awesome YOU are.
A bunch of girl power stories have come up this week. In fact, I had to put my “I Got This” t-shirt on this morning as motivation to keep up with all of you.
Ready for this?
Jenn is my 4 a.m. buddy at work. She works overnight in Seattle and hands the page off to me at 4 a.m. her time. She’s always in a good mood. The page is always in such good shape that I could go get a doughnut and come back 30 minutes later (but I don’t do that). She also freelances on the weekends, mows her lawn, is raising two adorable kids, makes cake pops to bring to preschool graduation. She even told off one of the father figures at the Father’s Day event at school who patronized her and wrongly assumed she didn’t work.
I don’t know how she does it, but someday I want to be just like her.
Another Jen in my life just qualified for a triathalon! She didn’t even set out to qualify, she just did by mistake. But she’s embracing the opportunity and training for it. But first she has to buy a bike and goggles. Go, Jen!
Coley has more part-time and occasional jobs than I can wrap my mind around (in addition to the full-time one). She is also a homeowner. With no fear, she took care of a bird situation in her attic and reinsulated it. She’s more than a pretty model!
I’m not sure these badass females want to be named, so I’ll withhold without their permission:
Badass No. 1 scared off an early morning intruder in her apartment, filed a police report and took the initiative to change her locks and report the super’s negligence.
Badass No. 2 installed a chin-up bar all by herself! She’s also training for a kayak race.