Saturday, November 17, 2012

July - Nov 2012

Lately I've found myself so full that I've just no room left for words. Sorry 'bout it, and here's a little recap of the past five months, in photos. Yes, this is a cop-out, but it's better than nothing.

July: We got a new baby. Welcome to the family, Prince Harry-Buttons Jones.

Hi Mom!
Who thought I would turn out to be such a menace? 
I love my brother Ian. Sometimes.

August: Toured Colorado via rental car with the USA Pro Cycling Challenge. VandeVelde, allez!

I love Aspen.
I also love Cadel Evans, but not enough to wait around for an autograph.
VandeVelde in yellow in Aspen. Foreshadowing!
We had pretty good seats.
We ride fancy bikes, too!
VandeVelde (L) vs Leipheimer (Y) in the time trial.
Also, I turned 27.

Sept: Clay turns 31.

I like him a lot.

October: Engaged! Welcome to the family, Jennifer Ann Jones (Jones pending).

The pretty!
You know what's fun, is trying on diamonds at Tiffany.
We are getting married at Full Moon Farm. How cute is that?
I mean, come on.

More October: Hurricane Sandy!!! This was the scariest few hours of my life so far. We are okay; New York is not. But New York is pretty used to persevering, at this point.

Where are you, Manhattan?
Need to hang onto the ground so we don't fall off. Nobody is drunk.

November: We went to Belize. Unintentional engagement-moon; very pretty, lots of bugs.

Boats at Blackbird Caye.
Sunset behind our cabana at Blackbird Caye. 
Day trip to Half Moon Caye - see definition: island. Idyllic!
Clay and Chris snorkeling around Half Moon Caye reefs.
The most darling hipster-esque ruins of a 200-year-old lighthouse at Half Moon Caye.

That's all. Maybe one of these days I'll write you a little story about some of this stuff.

Friday, June 15, 2012

A few thoughts about the retreat.

This post is about my experiences surrounding the yearly retreat put on by the fine folks at Yoga to the People. All thoughts and opinions are un-commissioned and my very own.

If someone were to write for you a short paragraph on me and the various things I'm likely to do, it would maybe say, 'enjoys a House Hunters marathon,' 'still carries her TI83+ calculator,' or, 'will argue for the merits of Kristen Stewart's acting career.' The phrase 'social anxiety' might be involved. But absolutely nowhere in that bio would be written the phrase, 'tends to sign up for silent meditative yoga retreats in upstate New York, in the company of hordes of people she has never met who are probably super amazing at yoga.'

It might mention that I enjoy an occasional yoga class from a polite, midwestern point of view, but that would be the most you'd hear of it.

There I was, anyhow, downward-dogging and hiking and master cleansing and crawling into some lunatic's sweat lodge in the middle of freaking nowhere, struggling to erase the nagging thought that I had no way to contact Sir, who had been in the ER with a bad bout of food poisoning just a few days earlier. And, of course, all the while trying to remember to breathe with purpose and keep my shoulders down in warrior two and not speak or think about pizza and write in my journal and keep an open mind and enjoy the nature and meditate and receive and relax, for pete's sake.

I had signed up for the retreat months ago on a total whim in the darkest depths of my aforementioned difficulties, grasping desperately at the opportunity for a few days of silence. It wasn't even with my yoga studio; I just happened upon it on the internet while looking for a place to practice near my office, should The Darkness ever end. I saw the words "meditative yoga getaway" scrawled in Papyrus and plunked down four hundred bucks without a second thought. The retreat crept up on me unawares as I continued to dig my way out of The Darkness, still somewhat submerged as the final pre-retreat days burned away. Thankfully, my best friend stepped in and signed up to go with me before the weight of my action could really have any major effect. This happened roughly two days prior to the retreat, at which point I had still yet to contemplate the potential outcome of my hasty actions, such as, 'this will involve riding in a van for three hours with people you've never met.'

Again, not my cup of tea.

But I went, because I needed to try to relax. I went with Christy at my side and my mat on my back. I turned off my cell phone. I wrote in a notebook. I wrapped myself in LuluLemon, the most magical stuff on this good earth. I did all the poses, I hiked and (against my better judgement) I sweat and I tried, I really tried to be silent and breathe and relax and quiet my mind and just be.

But I just could not. It really just wasn't my weekend.

This is not the fault of the retreat. The retreat was really, really beautiful. The location was beautiful. The people running the retreat were beautiful. The people at the retreat were beautiful. The classes were some of the most beautiful yoga instruction I've ever had the pleasure of receiving. The poses were beautiful, the silence was beautiful, the experience was beautiful; everything was beautiful except for me. I was a wreck.

I wasn't even a wreck, really, I was just my normal anxiety-ridden self, only hours from home and clad in spandex. Where was my transformation? I wanted immediacy, I wanted to feel like a different person. I wanted to be magically transformed into a blissed-out yogi without a care in the world, spouting peace and harmony while twisted into a delicate pretzel. I wanted to be sobbing at the enormity of the effect the weekend had on me and my psyche. But I just felt like me, with slightly stronger arms. I felt a little silly even, having run away to try to find myself and finding, instead, that 'myself' is exactly who I was upon my departure. My practical brain puffed up like a peacock, spitting salt into the wounds of my broken-down, embarrassed spirituality.

Upon my return home, Sir pressed me for details and I crumpled as I admitted that I must have done it wrong. He laughed kindly at my distress, reassuring me that couldn't be true. It was about timing, he was sure of it. If only the retreat could have been next weekend, once The Darkness was over and things were easier. Next year it would be better. Next year, I agreed. Next year I would be better.

Timing is a bitch.

As I plowed through the early days of the week, The Darkness suddenly lifted, earlier than expected, a jarring and immediate change. I had known it was coming, but still it left me incredulous, feeling about ten pounds lighter. I took it in for a few delicious days, relishing in my newfound freedom, doing not much of anything at all, lest it should return. On day three, I accepted that I really and truly was able to do whatever I wanted, so I took a yoga class, finding myself roughly a thousand times more joyful than I had been in months. My downward-facing dog was triumphant! Palms planted, energy flowing through all ten fingers. Strong arms, strong back; my heels grazing the mat and my triumphant ass grazing the sky. I flowed and balanced and posed through the asanas like a warrior queen, a person I hadn't seen in months. New York gussied herself up for the occasion, busting out the major sunshine and the most succulent of warm breezes to follow me around as I bounced along, head up, light in my feet. I barely recognized myself. Everything I wanted from the retreat was suddenly accessible, and not tucked away in a mountain paradise, but right here in New York, in my own house and my own heart. And like that, my four hundred dollars started to feel like a very weighty investment, indeed, a deposit straight into the bank of my self-preservation.

My fervent, fevered thanks go out to the folks of Yoga to the People for helping me along my path, for cracking open my ribcage to receive joy at my own pace.

Retreat can be so very valuable, a time for healing, even if you find yourself unable to recognize the process. Transformation is patience, something I've never had much of; transformation is self-love.

Sometimes you have to give it a minute to take.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

New York anniversary, year 2.

There is a feeling that New York fosters within the bowels of the subways, a moment that feels as though someone has cooked it up specifically as a smack in the head for anyone who was thinking they could remove themselves from the wonderful demographic cesspool that New York is so famous for and escape to the suburban pockets of uniformity of their youths. This, of course, is the moment when you realize that the person sitting next to you on the subway is getting off at the same stop as you. I mean, sometimes this person looks like you, but, let's be real, more often than not they look like nothing you've ever seen before and can't believe exists in polite society, and now they are getting off at your stop. With you. Moving in tandem through your neighborhood, potentially living in your building. My narrow midwestern mind has a moment of panic as it tries to process how this person could possibly be existing on a parallel track to my own. New York smiles quietly at the literal and metaphysical tableau it has created just for me, gently cracking open my skull and prying until the light and air starts to hit me right in my under-used brain.

New York is a constant reminder to each and every one of its ridiculous inhabitants that we are all the same.


I remember the exact instant that my small brain expanded to house the information that I was part of a connected ecosystem, that my tiny actions on this earth could potentially impact every other human being on the planet, if not every creature. Maybe some people are born with this sense of scope hard-coded into their brain, but I was definitely not. I'm guessing I could say the same for many of the folks who grew up in nice shiny bubble communities in the midwest. Not that I'm knocking any of that. It certainly was nice.

Anyhow, I was eight years old and we were moving from one lovely suburb of western Michigan to another when this particular expansion took place. Despite the fact that a move meant I would have to switch schools, I had generously decided to forgive my parents for this as it meant a new bedroom for yours truly, and I had long since proclaimed my current bedroom to be tragically undersized (my tendency to over-dramatize situations has not progressed much since then). I remember that in the midst of my triumph, my mom was stressing out because the people trying to move into our current house were anxious for us to get out so they could move in, but the owners of the house we wanted to move into were stalling on closing because they had not yet found a new house to move into. She was explaining the situation to me on the verge of tears, and I did not understand what she was making such a big deal about. My brain was registering one one channel only, and that channel was the huge purple bedroom in my future - how could anyone possibly be upset with times such as these ahead of us? So she ditched the realtor-speak and went for a simpler explanation.

"The people buying our house can't move in until we move out, and we can't move out until we have some place to move in, meaning we need the people in the house we're buying to move out. And they don't want to, which means we have to wait. Us moving depends on whether they move."

At that moment, the light-bulb went on and I realized that not only did our move depend on their move, but there were people trying to buy the house of the people trying to buy our house, and that THEY couldn't move in until we moved out and the people buying our house moved out of their house and into our house. And someone was trying to buy the house of those people as well! And the same went in the other direction, for the people who were moving out of the house we were trying to move into. What seemed like a singular event ("let's get a new house!") was in fact a much, much larger affair, and involved jumping into a line of millions and millions of people all moving houses at the same time. You couldn't, then, decide to change your own situation without impacting innumerable other people, people you will never meet but that were involved in the transaction you made when you were eight years old and begged your parents for a larger bedroom.

I don't remember my reaction to this, but I do remember trying very deliberately to digest the shock and take in the enormity of the truth I had just uncovered. I don't think I've slept quite the same since.


Today marks two years since I moved to New York City, another year of catalyst added to the heat of my particular journey of self-expansion. I closed year 1 on the beach in Miami; year 2 at the office preparing all kinds of planning presentations, so I hope you'll forgive me that my reflections aren't quite as blissed-out as they were last time around.

Everything has changed, but not much has changed. I still hate the heat, I still miss Chicago (the tulips on Michigan Ave in the spring! ack), and I still create all kinds of stress for myself from the energy and dichotomies that the city presents. But the whole thing appears as a more mature sort of struggle, through a lens of gratitude for the proliferation that my life here continues to foster. Life is, after all, pretty grand.

Someone told me this weekend that the first two years are the hardest. As these have been two of the best years of my life, I certainly hope they're right, and I continue on.

I continue to try, I continue to take it in, I continue to expand, I continue to arrive.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

My Best Intentions, or, How the spirit animal of Elizabeth Gilbert kicked my whining ass into gear.

I've been barreling through a lot lately. This isn't really the forum to discuss such a thing, so I won't. But I will offer up a prayer of acknowledgment to the universe that I know it could be a lot worse, and am so grateful that it isn't. And that I'm so thankful that it's nothing to do with Sir or our relationship or our health or my family's health or anything like that. Things will be okay.

My go-to option for self-soothing is always to hurry through whatever book I'm currently reading and get myself back to center with some Eat Pray Love. Scoff if you must, but clearly you haven't read the book (and may have seen the terrible, terrible movie). My love for this story, for the author Elizabeth Gilbert, is immeasurable. She is speaking directly to me. I want to be her, or at least be her best friend and confidante. I want her to teach me. Even on my best days, I read Eat Pray Love in between every other book I read, as a palate-cleanser. When I'm feeling particularly anxious, I just put it on repeat. Per the aforementioned, I'm currently on the third go-round of this particular jaunt.

The people on the C train must think I read very, very slowly.

I had just come to the part where she learns about David's guru and is surprised to find she'd like her own (page 25 of the paperback) when my own tired, defeated heart stood up and declared the same.

"I, too, want a spiritual teacher!"

Or, you know, maybe a mentor. Maybe Elizabeth herself could mentor me. She lives in the tri-state area (I think); I live in New York City. I bet ol' Liz is dying to give up her precious free time to have coffee with a twenty-something in her quarter-life crisis, musing over witticisms in some tiny café in the Village and offering sage advice on writing and yoga and travel and life.

It was so brilliantly simple.

Except it wasn't, and about five seconds of Googling led me to the conclusion that she wasn't looking to be sought after for mentorship, or anything really. After a split second of deflation, I decide that it's okay with me that she doesn't want to be found, because that seems pretty in line with the character she paints for herself in her books. And, there's nothing worse than finding out that a public figure you admire isn't exactly how you thought they'd be. So instead of a mentor, maybe she can be my spirit animal. Spirit-Liz will have plenty to offer me, I'm sure of it. And I do hope that my Spirit-Liz will come in handy, because I could really use the guidance.

What Would Elizabeth Gilbert Do. Maybe I'll make bracelets.


The worrying grain of sand in my oyster-shell, the singular thought that whole of my melancholy spins from and comes back to is always the same: I want to be a writer. And I do. I really, really want to be a writer. I would also like to win the lottery. In my cautious and over-practical mind, it feels like these thoughts have equal merit and possibility, which leads me to act on them more or less evenly, which is to say, not at all.

I wish I could tell you that my aspirations to be a writer are admirable, refined, guided by years of study and devotion to fine literature, but really, they're all knobby knees and elbows, tripping over themselves with crazed eyes and coffee breath and no real excuse for themselves. They're a herd of gawky teenage wildebeest in the safari of my anxiety-riddled mind, knocking over the gazelles and scattering the hornbills as they thoroughly ruin what really did have the potential to be a pleasant panorama, if only I could shut them out.

Sitting on the subway last night, consumed by everything and feeling very sorry for myself indeed, I felt that old herd of longing start to stampede in my already over-saturated mind. Spirit-Liz stirs in her meditation, opening one eye but saying nothing.

"I WANT to be a WRITER!" My aspirations exclaim in their impatient frenzy, running and jumping and braying and panting, as wild and desperate as ever.

"Really?" Asks my Spirit-Liz, looking down on me kindly, one eyebrow raised.

My aspirations slow their stampede and look up, hurt. "Yes, of course really!"

"Oh, okay." Spirit-Liz smiles knowingly, closing her eyes.

Stampede over. "What IS it?" My aspirations explode, exasperated.

"Well, its just that you don't LOOK like someone who wants to be a writer."

That shut me up.

So this morning, I set my alarm early and crawled meekly out of bed, so early the cat was still stretching and looking at me funny (I am, to say the least, not known for being an early riser). I made a pot of tea and unfurled my yoga mat in the office, moving through sun salutations until I could feel the blood flowing and the landscape start to still.

And now I'm here, with my bare feet and my NPR t-shirt and my very best intentions.

And I really wish I could stay.

My other spirit animal.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Spotted: Stanley Tucci (not the real one)

I saw Stanley Tucci on the subway this morning.

To be honest, surely he was not ACTUALLY Stanley Tucci. Stanley, I'm sure, does not wear a gray wool blazer over ill-fitting jeans with scuffed black boots. He most certainly does not carry a blue nylon messenger bag to his job in an office building somewhere in the realm of Varick and Houston. He probably doesn't really even take the subway all that often.

All the same, he could not have looked more like Stanley Tucci. He was the Stanley Tucci of some alternate world, where the trains had gotten stuck the morning of his first Broadway audition, where Prizzi's Honor was never produced and where Meryl Streep didn't agree to play Anna Wintour in that one movie about the clothes. A world where Stanley Tucci is nothing more than a small, mild-mannered bald man from Westchester with an apartment in FiDi and a job in advertising, a guy who used to be "really into drama club, that sort of thing."

I wonder if he's ever run into Stanley (the real one) on the street in SoHo. I wonder if they acknowledged each other. I wonder if the universe imploded.

Monday, April 2, 2012

NCAA finals.

"Is this like, some fancy important game or something? Why is the Fray singing the National anthem instead of someone's high school choir?"

"It's the NCAA championship game."


We're not always on the same page. But we are always on the same team. That's most important, I think.

Meanwhile, Ian pretends that he would like to be traded. Teenagers.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Life Lessons: moving edition.

Moving is one of those things that forces you to learn something about yourself. In kind of a gentle water-boarding sort of way.

Maybe it's because you're in the physical act of unraveling and sorting through the contents of your life and you can't help but uncover something in the process. Or maybe it's because the stress of the thing is enough to power down your once spongy brain matter until it becomes what feels like a dense cube of stupidity and sob-triggers, and it is there that you learn what really makes you tick. Either way, there comes a time in all moves when some sort of monumental learning occurs.

I, for example, have discovered what it is that makes a house a home.

This is not something I sorted out over the course of the past few weeks. I did not learn it while apartment hunting or while starting to pack. Instead, it's something that hit me in the face at 11pm last night, after hurriedly removing everything from the walls when I found out our unit inspection was getting moved from Monday to Friday. Once I had pulled myself together enough (damn you, brain cube) to complete the task, I set down my power drill and putty and stared at the room in shock. Our home was gone.

It's not love, family, books, a cat, a KitchenAid stand mixer or a fluffy duvet. It's drapes.

Our sweet bungalow was as cold and barren as a dorm room. All the heartbreak and attachment and longing and pain I had felt at leaving those 800 square feet went out the window with the fumes from the spackle.

It's the same space, I know. It just doesn't feel like it's ours anymore.

Drapes. Who knew?

And like that, I'm ready to move.

It was like this!
But now it's like this.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


I haven't written anything in a while. Generally, this indicates that I have come upon one of two situations: either nothing is happening or everything is happening. This is a case of the latter.

Apparently, I only write in medium-happening situations.

Since starting a new job wasn't stressful enough, we decided to move a few months early so that these events could coincide. It's good to do these things at once, I suppose. If you're going to overhaul your life, might as well just rip it all off at once, like a band-aid. No point in spreading out the stress.

That's how I ended up sitting alone in our now-barren living room, worrying silently over email on my new assignments while surrounded by a veritable fortress of dust bunnies and cardboard boxes. Sir, very conveniently, has just taken off on a week-long business trip, leaving a great deal of the packing to Ian and me. We are trying our hardest not to fault him for this, which has been easy thus far since we mostly just miss him.

Ian doesn't understand what's going on, but all the activity around the place has him very concerned. Ian, despite our best efforts to toughen him up, does not seem to be made of hearty stock. He spent so much time supervising, skittering around, hiding everywhere and stress-vomiting yesterday that he's been passed out nearly all day today. We've tried to explain to him that we're not leaving him, that all the stuff will be okay and how much windowsill space there will be in the new place, but I'm not sure he's gotten the memo. It's very cute to watch him sleep in the sun and yet I can't help but feel badly for putting him through all of this.

But then I remember about the homeless kitties shivering on the street and I tell myself to get a grip.

Friday, February 17, 2012


I have now spent five days unemployed. One glorious week, and it's gone.

While I was in the shower, the clock hit 6 p.m. and like that, my week was up. I am disappointed in myself, disappointed to note that it would appear that I have not contributed one thing to the world in the span of this week. I had so much time, and what have I done with it?

I have not spent time with family. I have not volunteered my time to others. I cringe to realize that I have not cracked open my Rosetta Stone, have not learned a single word of French (sorry, Sir). I have not studied up on my new employer. I have not read anything non-fiction. I have not really written, save for that mediocre bit on the kindness of strangers and my trip to Milwaukee.

But I shouldn't say I've done nothing.

I have slept. Not only have I slept, I've napped, thoroughly. I've eaten an abnormal amount of fresh fruit. I celebrated yet another year cooking dinner with my better half on Valentine's day, our easiest and most successful V-Day dinner thus far. I have limbered up, attending a record-breaking three (three!) yoga classes this week. For the first time in months, my heels grazed the ground today when I hit my final downward-facing dog. I also busted out two spin sessions and a pathetic 2-mile run. I helped my friend the photographer run all over DUMBO shooting the most gorgeous, talented and sweet little ballerina. I did four loads of laundry and cleaned the air filter in the kitchen. I re-read the second Harry Potter novel, and am just about half-way through the third. I took the cat to the vet. I apartment-hunted. I vegetated. And five days later, I am unbelievably blissed-out.

No, I shouldn't say I've done nothing.

In five short days of lounging, I've managed to slough off years of frustration and anger and misery and brought positive energy to the world in the form of just one so-much-happier soul. My contribution this week is in attempting to rid the planet of one more miserable individual, and leave the place a little bit happier than it was last week.

My cousin Allison gave birth today, to a sweet little girl named Riley Jane. I went shopping for a new yoga towel and ended up with hammer pants (and a new yoga towel, and another pair of pants and a jacket).

Sometimes it's your turn to give birth, other times it's your turn to give yourself new life. All things in perspective.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Sweet, sweet Milwaukee.

Less than two hours after leaving La Guardia, I de-planed in frigid Milwaukee just in time to catch a very important announcement over the PA.

"Excuse me! If you are, um, a young woman, with kind of a brownish wool coat, you left your Walmart shopping bag at the Starbucks near the center of the terminal. We're holding it for you at the Starbucks so come on back over here! Thank you, so sorry to interrupt! Have a great night!"

I actually paused to stare, dumbfounded, at the loudspeaker.

Milwaukee is a gem of a city tucked along the banks of Lake Michigan, about 90 miles north of Chicago in southwestern Wisconsin. New Yorkers, I found, are entirely unaware of its location on the globe and why anyone would possibly bother visiting. Their blank or slightly concerned stares when I had mentioned I was planning on making the trip were nothing short of hilarious.

"It's like, freezing there, right? It's like up near Canada? I mean... what will you do there?"

I guess it is pretty cold.

I had spent about six years here, college and then some, and was back in town for the first time in years to visit a friend from school. It's a beautiful little city, filled with phenomenal dive bars, staunchly loyal Packer fans, surprisingly great restaurants and some of the most wonderfully kind people I've ever met.

They are so polite. They are kind and funny and encouraging. They apologize when they bump into you, and hold the door every time. Apparently, they return your shopping bag when you leave it at the Starbucks at the airport.

We packed so much into 48 hours - tapas, sangria, bikram yoga, pancake brunch, sports bars, Marquette basketball, dinners, a Mardi Gras parade at the Hofbräuhaus and at least six hours at the piano bar, fawning over some hottie piano player like a couple of MU co-eds. It was a fabulous little bite-sized vacation that left me longing to find a way to stay wrapped in the comfortably warm words and gestures of midwesterners.

Upon returning to NYC and settling into my staycation week, I ran up to the gym for a yoga class. I made sure to get there super early so I could sit for a while in silence, get my breath in check for the class. Weekday workout bonus - spotted Dakota Fanning on the rowing machines with her trainer, squee!

My silence was delicious and lasted approximately two seconds, until another woman joined me - a woman who, apparently, had set up one of the gym's yoga mats for herself at least a half hour prior to class starting and then left, and was FURIOUS to find that it had been removed by the cleaning crew. This woman was in about her mid-sixties and threw a legit temper tantrum right there in the yoga studio, with me as her only audience. My jaw dropped as she screamed at me for at least five full minutes - she didn't understand how ANYONE could POSSIBLY be so INEPT and just COMPLETELY STUPID as to move her mat. This is the LAST THING she FUCKING NEEDED, they were always RUINING her DAY. JUST FUCKING RUINING IT. And then she set up a new mat (which took approximately four seconds) and stomped off to talk to a manager about the inadequacies of the maintenance crew.

In a yoga class. I'm not joking.

My New Yorker friends tell me I'm too polite, why am I always apologizing, I need to be more confrontational, I'm so naïve. They are so in charge, they are so empowered. They've looked at this situation and decided that there is something wrong with me, that I am the one who needs to re-evaluate her interpersonal skills.

You know what's empowering? The high you get from interacting with pleasant people all day long. Isn't there enough rage in the world without needing to scream out every person who touches your yoga mat?


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Zak and Sara.

I had a serious love affair with Ben Folds during my senior year of high school. And by "serious love affair," I mean I rocked out to the Folds in my candy-apple red Pontiac Grand Prix, used the songs in sports montages I was cutting for our school video production team and blasted it on my stereo on repeat while reading Perks of Being a Wallflower in my bedroom for the twenty-fourth time. The pages of that book, by the way, are so beautifully oiled and worn from page-turning and re-reading, they feel a little bit like leather.

I especially liked Zak and Sara, partially for the piano runs and partially for the crazy dark lyrics.

I wrote a short story about Zak and Sara for Mr. George's creative writing class. I remember being somewhat hesitant to turn it in because (if I recall correctly), Sara kills herself in the story. I wasn't a particularly dark teenager, it's just that I'm pretty sure she's headed in that direction in the song and I wanted to represent it correctly. Fortunately, Mr. George was a cool guy and apparently got what I was going for creatively, because I don't remember being asked to visit the guidance counselor or anything afterwards. And I'm pretty sure I got an A.

I really wish I still had a copy of that story.

Monday, February 6, 2012


I am a perpetual renter.

I've been happily renting for five years now, skipping from city to city and apartment to apartment as happy as a kid with a one-bedroom cupcake. Renting is irrefutably tied to breezy city living, which suits me very well. I've had phenomenal luck finding wonderful spaces bursting with amenities - home ownership, so it seemed, with minimal responsibility involved. "Why would you possibly want to own," I would blithely proclaim, "when you can rent?"

Apparently there's at least one really good reason: that space, that glorious piece of real estate, does not in any way, shape or form, belong to you. And unless you're willing to take that next step and become an owner, you should not count on it to be there when you want or need it.

We have been squatting for almost two years now on a gorgeous Brooklyn one-bedroom, a true New York anomaly. Plenty of space, sound-proofed walls, brand-new finishings and appliances, natural light pouring in through every double-wide, doubled-paned window. We're tucked in a nook behind the Manhattan bridge overpass in DUMBO, quite possibly the cutest little four-block stretch of cobbled streets and greenspace that the East River bank has to offer. We're one of the only buildings in DUMBO with reasonable rent, one of the only buildings that hasn't gone condo. It's my first New York apartment, my first adult apartment (with paint and purchased furniture), my first home together with Sir. I want to stay in this apartment for the rest of my life, or at least the next ten years. Or maybe five years. Suffice to say, we were definitely planning on renewing our lease in June.

I guess I've never stayed in an apartment long enough to know that permanent renter-status isn't always a possibility.

As of February 1st, in fact, that option is no longer on the table. We had heard rumblings in the elevator, but now here it was in black and white, staring back at me like an ugly purple bruise from the top of my inbox. Sir and I scanned and rescanned the brief letter from the rental company that explained the situation in broken-English legalese. I read aloud, he paced. It sounded a little something like this:

"Blah blah... selling the units as condos... first right of refusal for 60 days, at which point we will begin marketing your space... yada yada will not be renewing your lease... shit."

In other words, if we like it, then we need to put a ring on it. And I felt a tiny bit shocked and hurt to be given an ultimatum. Isn't my love... my rent money... our lease... isn't that enough?

It is not. It says so, right there on the screen.

All matters of whether or not I've conscientiously saved a sizable down payment aside (I definitely have not), I'm not entirely sure I'm ready for that kind of commitment. The thought of being tied to a city and a space is giving me a tiny panic attack, making me want to run and scream and flail my arms and put a Jen-shaped hole in the wall.

As a person who dives headfirst into relationships before ever even thinking to check the depth of the pool, I've always thought of myself as about as commitment-phobic as a golden retriever. But apparently when it comes to living situation, I can only handle my commitment doled out in one-year-at-a-time-sized slices. Per my recent track record, I haven't been able to commit to a city for more than a year and a half since I left Milwaukee, let alone an apartment. I haven't felt particularly trapped by any of my living arrangements, yet here I am. Why can't I stay in one place? Am I a person who is looking for an easy escape, should things go awry?

And if so, what's wrong with that, exactly?

I think for the first time in my life, I am beginning to understand why people get freaked out by marriage.

*A note*
To be clear, I am aware that we live a wonderful and privileged life and that losing our amazing apartment does not count as a personal tragedy. I am not looking for any sympathy on this. Actually, we are both control freaks and have already found several options for new apartment buildings that will suit us just fine, even if they are not 100% as perfect as our DUMBO bungalow. I just found this little episode interesting. That's all.

Sunday, January 29, 2012


House parties are sort of a mixed bag for me. There's something about being casually social in a large group of people, a handful of which I know somewhat well and the majority of which I do not know at all, that simultaneously excites me and has me practically retching, scaling the walls in search of an exit.

The weight of the potential is both exactly what I'm looking for and entirely too much for me to handle.

I don't recall feeling this way prior to my adulthood and the death of my single-girl status. I'm fairly certain I confidently canvassed large gatherings without blinking an eye; birthday parties, roller-skating parties, high school dances, college orientation week. I had an impenetrable facade of bravado, underneath which lay the knowledge that my social standing, my sense of self and my brand image could be defined by the events of an evening.

I think it's not knowing exactly who I was or could be that made the idea of going to a party that much more interesting.

A note: I am not one of those people who is always surrounded by a group of friends. With the exception of a few brief years of high school and college where I attempted to assimilate into a larger flock, I am basically a one-friend-at-a-time sort of girl. Don't ask me why - certainly, there are benefits to having a self-sustaining mobile ecosystem around at all times to provide protection against awkward social circumstances - but I just have never been able to sustain that kind of setup for any prolonged period of time. People with groups, ladies who are concerned that they might end up with twenty-four bridesmaids: you will probably never understand this post. Please disregard.

Sir and I went to a surprise birthday party for a coworker of his last night, hopping the F train to West 4th and wandering across the chilly Village until we came upon the building where our birthday-having friend and his lady co-habitate. It was one of those fantastically New York buildings, with the heavy old elevator doors and a cascade of wizened fire escapes trickling down the darkened brick facade. We buzzed up and took our places, relaxing into the scene in very much the same way that a lone sheep will melt into the flock. We caught up with old friends and made small talk with friendly acquaintances. We hushed ourselves and gathered quietly in the dark, truly and thoroughly surprising our friend upon his return home. We slapped him on the back, congratulating him on surviving another year of life, and resumed our mingling and former level of din.

This was all well and good for about fifteen minutes, after which point it became painfully apparent that Sir was much more familiar with this crowd than I am. I lost him.

I mean, he was there, right across the room. We've not yet achieved the social status that involves the types of New York City apartments where someone might actually get lost. But he was elsewhere, refilling on refreshments or involved in another conversation to the extent that I was completely and totally alone. This is not to say that he was being inconsiderate, just that I was outnumbered in this group of people who knew each other intimately. Everyone knew someone, everyone was occupied; everyone was consumed in conversation but me.

Oh, god.

I folded my arms across my chest, disguising the surely-visible pounding of my heart. I re-tied a shoe. I tugged at my hair, adjusting and re-adjusting my hat. I picked at the snack table, not really hungry. I scanned through my phone, pretending to be too wrapped up in phone-happenings to notice the party swirling around me. And I nearly collapsed in relief on the inside when Sir returned to me, and again a few minutes later when he declared that he was ready to leave. I practically skipped to the subway entrance, the dirty green glass globe shining like a beacon in the cold night air.

All psychoanalyzing aside, safe to say I am not the party animal I once was.

It is truly mortifying admit this about myself, and yet at the same time, I could not care less. It's the death of an ego - my younger self is appalled to see myself become such a needy loner-type, but my more mature self seems to have always known that this was where I was headed. Maybe it's aided by the pull of the universe, gently reminding me that the intended manner of survival, when you really get down to it, is as nothing more than perfectly complemented teams of two.

Maybe I need to get a grip.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Post about nothing.

I intended to write a lovely long post this evening about, oh, who knows what. Instead, you're getting pure pith, a post about nothing. Anyone who doesn't know that reference probably doesn't need to waste their time reading anymore of my stuff. I'll pause here for you to close the tab.


Anyway, instead of writing, I spent my evening cleaning uncooked quinoa off the kitchen floor and countertops. This is a particularly tedious project, regardless of the strength and capabilities of your vacuum cleaner. I don't know how familiar you are with quinoa, but it's fair to say that it is about the smallest food particle known to man outside of the dust-like particles grouping. It is just the tiniest amount larger than sugar. One-third cup of quinoa partially spilled, apparently, is roughly ten million quinoas. An enormous mess.

This glamorous life snapshot brought to you courtesy of Claymerica Industries. I am Running the Ship, so to speak, while Sir is in Miami on business.

Photo credit: Clay Parker Jones

One thing that happened to me when I moved here was that, unbeknownst to me at the time, I moved in with a Business Traveler. If he had been a regular roommate, I would probably have been thrilled to discover this fact. Unfortunately, he's my romantical life partner, so oftentimes I find myself a bit lonely, jealous and swimming in mediocrity and protein-rich grains while he globe-trots, beaching it along the way.

It's more noticeable in the winter, I think, because our little dwelling gets so chilly in his absence. Sir is a heater - not only is he an incredibly warm and charming young man, but he actually radiates an enormous amount of physical heat, just by existing in a room. This happens to the extent that I actually paused for a moment when I got to the part in the Twilight books where they are explaining how the werewolves, in their human forms, run at a higher temperature than their human friends.

Lucky for me, Sir's mom made me a pair of beautiful wool socks that I have taken to wearing to bed. After 26 years of not being able to sleep in socks, now I can't sleep without them when he's gone. I probably won't be able to explain this phenomenon until I have my own children, but to me this was a glaringly obvious occurrence of 'Moms always know.' Between the socks and turning the thermostat up four degrees, I'm somewhat able to make up for his absence, at least from a temperature standpoint. Even so, life is always a little more mundane when he's gone.

Please hurry home, Sir. Your photos are ridiculous, my life without you is chilly and average and there is quinoa everywhere.

I do realize that this post isn't entirely about nothing, just the nothing that exists when your everything is jet-setting without you.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Parlez-vous francais?


The little yellow Rosetta Stone box sits on my desk, calling cheerfully to me from across the room. I focus on my laptop, pretending I don't see it.

Excusez-moi, mademoiselle? Bonjour!

The polite little box is adorably persistent; I refuse to look.

Allo, mademoiselle? Parlez-vous français?

Annoyed, I glare at the box. The people on the box wave excitedly, happy to have grabbed my attention. They're stoked for us to learn French together.

I am too, I really am. I wanted the box. I asked for it. I love French, I love France and Paris and travel and languages and learning. I can't count the number of times I had told Sir how wonderful it would be to brush up on our French and go to Paris together. I'm pretty sure I even said the words "we should get Rosetta Stone!" and sat, eyes wide, waiting anxiously for his reaction. I was beside myself to find it under the Christmas tree, such a thoughtful gift.

And yet here we are, middle of January, and still it sits in its cheery yellow box, unopened and causing me delusion. I don't know why I am being such a baby about this.

I march across the room and snatch up the box, sliding an emboldened finger beneath the lovely smooth magnetic seal. I rifle hastily through the instructions and slide the disc into my laptop, adjust the ridiculous headset, and pause to breathe.

God, it would be so embarrassing to be bad at this.

But why? Why would I be bad at it? I've learned French before, happily dissecting the whole language into hundreds of color-coded flashcards to be memorized. Why would this time be any different? Because I'm OLD? That's ridiculous. People take classes and go back to school all the time. There's not even anyone here to compete against. And if I were to somehow fail, why would it be embarrassing? Who would know?

Me. I would know. And then I would have to own up to being a twenty-six year old who's past her academic PRIME, for pete's sake. Not to mention one who's afraid of a box.

Enough, I tell myself. No more foolishness. This is an opportunity, not a hardship. Where is my confidence? Where are my cojones? More importantly, where are my highlighters?


Bonjour, box. Let's do this.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Rule breaker.

One of my more endearing qualities is that I am, above all things, a follower of rules.

To be clear, I am not a blind follower of every rule. Hitler, for example, came up with a bunch of rules that I don't think would have sat well with me, had I lived in Nazi Germany in the '20s. The rules I'm referring to are more along the lines of your modern-American traffic laws. This is not to say that I can't think for myself, just that I'm a rebel only when a very good cause is present.

But yes - I love rules. I don't just follow them, I love to follow them. I love to enforce them, bringing unnecessary tension to seemingly fun things like board games. I like to write them in my notebooks at work in neat handwriting, underlining the important parts. Sometimes highlighter, too. I love to tell people what rules they are currently violating.

"Actually, you can't create an authorization without all the buy details."
"'Scuse me! You can't ride your bike on the sidewalk!"
"Um, there's no smoking in here!"
"You need to turn your phone off, they've closed the cabin door!"
"This is the quiet car!"

And so on.

I think my love of rules stems directly from my love of being correct, being a model citizen, getting extra credit, avoiding trouble at all costs. In order to win, one must know that which will cause him to lose. I don't know if it was my conservative midwestern upbringing or my all-Catholic gene pool that brought me to this place, but rule-abiding, as a descriptor, clings to my white blood cells right alongside perfectionist and self-deprecator. It's exhausting and tedious, being in charge of the rules. But it's who I am.

Sir was raised in a more liberal setting, and as such has always regarded the rules as more of suggested guidelines, intended to be tested and scrutinized. And BROKEN, heaven forbid. We've had several discussions on the topic, almost all of them going something like this:

He: "Did you hear about so-and-so? Can you believe the reaction of the police?"
Me: "Well... that was brutal, yes, but... but... they were instigating it, they were breaking the LAW..."
He: "It's a dumb law."
Me, sputtering: "But it's the LAW!"

I'm sure he finds all of my neuroses adorable, although obnoxious might be a better word.

So anyway, I have these lace-up boots. I've owned them for more than a year now. They're probably one of my favorite pairs of shoes; they're cute, comfy and the wedge heel makes them pretty good for walking all over the place. But they have one glaring design flaw, a grain of sand that's been rubbing around in my oyster shell, irritating me to no end for the past 12 months: the tongue is totally out of control.

Do you know what I'm talking about? There's no loop on the tongue for you to lace through and stabilize the thing, and you end up with the entire tongue stuffed all the way to the left or right every time you walk more than 5 paces. It's incredibly annoying.

It was, however, this very situation that eventually incited me to become that which I simultaneously despise and secretly admire: a RULE BREAKER.

Despite the fact that every fiber of my being was telling me that we don't deface our own property (or anyone else's, for that matter), I thought very quietly to myself: what if I altered the tongue to create a stabilizing lace-loop? I could cut slits in the existing tongue, or affix some sort of material to the tongue to create the loop. Option A was probably better, since I didn't have the proper tools for stitching through leather and they weren't really high enough quality to start getting a cobbler involved. After months of contemplating this every time I wore those boots, I finally asked Sir if he thought it would be okay to cut my boots.

He looked at me blankly.

I mean, I guess why not? They're MY boots. Was some combination of Steve Madden and my mother going to come at me with a lecture about taking care of my things? Unlikely. Also, it was poor workmanship on Steve's part. He would WANT me to do this thing for him. For me, even.

So I grabbed one of Sir's utility knives and a cutting board and I cut slits in the tongue of my shoes. It took less than two minutes to implement from start to finish. And then I laced them up, slipping the laces under the loops, and put them on my feet, better than they were before. And in that moment, I became the master of my own destiny.

Also, it worked. Really well. I've been prancing around in my boots, tongue firmly in place and proud as can be, for roughly a week or two now. I should write ol' Steve a letter, to school him in this brilliance. You know, because he should alter his design to accommodate how the foot moves and really, it's the only correct way to make a boot.

I'm making a note of it.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


I was having a conversation today with Amanda Blair about the myriad reasons that I, at the ripe old age of 26, have become a homebody. I tick off my list of excuses for not partaking in barsy evenings, explain that going out just doesn't seem worth it to me anymore. I'm not opposed to it, but it seems going out to dinner has become more of my cup of tea.

It probably always has been, but that concept takes on a solid form now that I'm part of a team. All the little annoyances - the too-loud music, the crowds of people, the over-priced everything, the coat situation, the hangovers - had once seemed insignificant under the veil of potential. Now that I know that my potential is waiting at home for me in a darling apartment in Brooklyn, the cons take on a glaring sharp focus and the whole thing seems insignificant in comparison to what's going on in my living room.

She disagrees with me, of course. But she does a much better job of listening than I ever could, letting me make my points and acknowledging my perspective before educating me on all the wonderful things I'm missing out on by hiding away in Brooklyn every weekend. To hear her tell it, she loves getting ready, finding the perfect bar, laughing it up, dancing, having stories to tell. And while I'm sure she does love all of those things, I'm certain that the reality of the situation is that she's just so much braver than me.

My darling Amanda Blair. That girl, I swear. She has so much courage. She is a spitfire and a spark, sweet and genuine and fiercely loyal. She stomps all over this marvelous city in 5-inch heels and would probably be blithely unaware if it attempted to cut her down. People say New York eats you alive; Amanda invites it to her birthday party.

And she writes about it, the whole damn thing.

I think she thinks we're cut of the same cloth, us twenty-something NYC transplants. But there's an enormous difference between us that's made very apparent by our transplantation motives: she was chasing a dream, and I was chasing a BOY.

Well, a man. A man-boy. And a job. But still.

To give myself some credit, there is definitely a good amount of gutsiness involved in taking a chance on another human being, and even more so when that chance involves uprooting your life and starting over somewhere else. It is no easy thing to wager your lifestyle on a relationship. And now that I think of it, the overwhelming relief at realizing that everything was going to be better than perfect was probably enough to keep me on the couch for a lifetime or two.

Even so, I can't imagine going through that alone. I'm not certain that I could, but she sure did. If it was traumatizing in the slightest, I certainly can't tell.

Some people find everything in their homes, and some create them where they stand. Different types of courage, I guess, but I'll always be jealous of people who beam overt fearlessness from their very toenails on any given Tuesday. That girl could make friends with a paper bag.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Control freak.

I'm still laughing at myself in regards to post from yesterday. One of my more irritating qualities is that I have never, for a moment in me life, been able to relax and let anything just be. I'm not kidding - my first grade parent-teacher conference centered around how I needed to stop bossing the other kids around at recess (my dad countered that I was building good management skills).

Sir laughs at me, the perfect picture of chill. His laid-back way is incomprehensible to me, brilliance and creativity seeping from his pores as easily as breathing. I seethe with jealousy at how perfectly he embodies it (you know, like a loving, awe-struck jealousy).

Maybe if I try really hard and focus on achieving a specific peaceful end state, I too, can relax. Maybe there are relaxation techniques I could perfect and incorporate into my day-to-day. Maybe I can study relaxation in different cultures, find a way to take it in somewhere else, as the Western world is surely influencing me negatively.

I've just listed out the ways I plan on "achieving" relaxation. The very verb is wrong.

Relaxation aside, I need to give myself some more credit. If I hadn't been so stuck on being in control of My Writing, maybe I could have seen the words pouring from me. I may not have novels flowing from my fingertips, but I am a writer and I have definitely been writing. That was my 100th post. Measly compared to some, I suppose, but it's not a competition.

I need, of course, to repeat this to myself, a little mantra for me to try to own: it's not a competition. It's not a competition. It's not a competition.

I'm not buying it.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Writers write.

One of my resolutions this year was to write everything. I think I meant blogging, or storytelling, at the very least. After all, if I'm going to make the effort to help the tree fall in the forest, someone should hear it, preferably as many someones as possible.

This, I know, is selfish and not really the point of a writing resolution. If I wanted to be heard, I should have resolved to achieve internet fame and fortune, right? It sounds like that's really what I was after.


Energized, I spent all day weaving a story from an experience I had on the train this morning, tying back to a discussion Sir and I had this weekend in regards something I've been thinking about for a while. It was a lovely idea. I noodled it around while in meetings, jotted down items in various notebooks and (sorry Rachel) strung together pithy phrases in my head during spin class. I fully intended to create something this evening, post-gym. Something writerly and awe-inspiring. Something worth reading.

Before I could sit down in front of my computer, I got into it with a gym friend who was frustrated with her job. I left her in the locker room, but I just couldn't let it go - for whatever reason, I felt really connected to her plight. So instead of pouring out prose as intended, I wrote her an email.

It was a terrific email. It really was. I analyzed, I sympathized, I energized. I broke her situation down into numbers and percentages, various audiences and potential outcomes of her energy expenditures. I had an introduction and a fully-developed body before drawing everything up into a beautiful conclusion. I was witty. I was touching. I told a story. I was on fire.

It was probably the best thing I've written in a long while.

Sir came home just as I hit send and asked what I was writing. I heard myself tell him that I had intended to write something tonight, but instead had put my energy into an email and was disappointed to not have anything to show for it. His reaction was something like this --

"Yo dawg, I heard you like writing..."

Ah, me. I wanted to write? I had written, and written well. I wanted to have something to show for it? I  had made my friend happy. The tree had fallen, and a really important person had been around to hear it. I had done the thing, only I was too wrapped up in labels and audience-longing to call it.

Sometimes I'm such a dunce. Maybe resolutions are not end points, but lenses through which we see ourselves a little bit clearer along the journey, if only for a few weeks (until, of course, we forget about them and go back to a lifestyle of sloth).

Maybe I'll write the other thing tomorrow. The end.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Shiver for me, girl.

The last bit I wrote on here was about the October snow, and it hasn't snowed since.

Somewhere between my delight in that freak blizzard and the way the breath caught in my throat last week when my LaGuardia-to-O'Hare flight dipped beneath the clouds to unveil the frozen city on the lake, silvery-pale and glittering in the icy-thin sunlight, is where I unearthed a very tiny, very insignificant but altogether real nugget of wisdom about myself.

I like the cold.

I just knew, right there at the airport. No matter how many times I've denied it, it's been there the whole time, trapped under my skin like a speck of sand, like a pea under the umpteenth mattress. It had worried itself into a pearl, a Great Truth that I never knew existed prior to that very moment. I stepped through that revolving door, luggage in hand, felt the wind pierce my wimpy jacket and I just KNEW, as easy as breathing.

I like the cold.

I like the winter and the snow. I do! I'm going to say it like an affirmation, because I'm excited to know myself a little bit better. I like the cold!

I like it to the extent that I experienced a very defined sinking feeling in my chest this morning when the weatherman said it was to be "back up in the mid-forties by mid-day."

New York never feels clean to me, except in wintertime. It's the smell that the clear, dry cold brings, the way it stings your nostrils and punches you in the gut as you suck it deep into your whimpering, shriveling lungs in slow, controlled breaths. It doesn't smell like garbage, urine, or burnt halal, it smells like crisp, clean, perfect snow and silence. And it makes me forget about all the resentment I harbor for the city when it roils, putrid, in the unwavering heat and suffocating humidity of summer.

I don't know what this bit of enlightenment means for me, Sir and the locations of our future, but I know that right in this very minute, it means I'm growing all the more impatient for a real winter and some goddamn snow.

When will it snow, New York? Why do you torment me with weird mild winter weather and lingering humidity? WHY?

Christmas is over, but Santa, if you could please bring winter to NYC, I'll be waiting for you. I'll be the one with all the scarves.