my favorite first lady

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience by which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.” -Eleanor Roosevelt


like the rolling stones said...

You can't always get what you want,
But if you try sometimes you might find

You get what you need.

Want: Trip to Clemson
Need: Quality downtime

Due to a seriously annoying lack of gas, I canceled my trip to SC at the last minute. I woke up at 7:30 on Saturday morning, spent an hour waiting in line at the Shell on the corner, only to find out they had a $25 cap. And then I found out from Danna that the fuel situation in Clemson is equally grim. It was a disappointing turn of events, but it ended up being a much-needed quiet weekend. Plus, now I have a squeaky clean apartment, an empty laundry basket, a half-full gas tank, a stocked pantry, a few chapters completed and a 10-hour-night of sleep to show for it.

Want: A UGA win
Need: An SEC reality check

The only unsettling, un-peaceful event of the weekend was the nauseating UGA loss. I could rant and rave for a paragraph at least. But I won't. Maybe we needed to be knocked off the pedestal. Maybe now we'll show up ready to play. Maybe now we'll want it more. Because as the legendary Vince Lombardi taught us, success is not as much about strength or knowledge as it is about will.

Want: North Georgia State Fair
Need: North Georgia State Fair

Pig races, petting zoo, candy apples, funnel cake, scrambler. Friday night I was fortunate enough to share these things with four of the people I love the most, my parents and brothers.

one out of three ain't bad. But damn, a Georgia win really would have been gratifying.


'twas the night before friday

Progress: this morning I only hit the snooze button two times before getting out of bed. This is huge. Lately I've been snoozing for a luxurious 40-50. I hate that I do it, but it is like a physical addition. (Do they have snooze rehab?)

But this morning was different. I awoke with a jolt, bright-eyed and ready to take on the day [insert corny theme music here]. OK, the real reason for my unusually alert start is that I slept with my windows open, and at 7 a.m. it was barely 74 degrees in my bedroom. Away to the window I flew in a flash, tore open the shutters and threw down the sash. This is cold when you're used to 78 — Ryan and/or Laura, I can hear you scoffing all the way from Brookline.

Once I was shocked awake, excitement set in, not unlike Christmas morning. There are three things happening over the next two days that I am, to put it mildly, singularly and absurdly excited about.

1) The North Georgia State Fair, Marietta GA
You know the adage — you can take the girl out of rur
al New Hampshire, but you can't take rural New Hampshire out of the girl. Can't decide if I'm looking forward more to eating Funnel Cake AND a Candy Apple, riding the Scrambler or watching Robinson's Pig Paddling Porkers (a swimming/racing porcine event, if you didn't know).
[Found this gem in the iphoto archives: my brothers at the fair in October '06.]

2) D-Dawg Reunion, Clemson SC
Assuming I can find a gas station that actually has gas, I'm taking a mini road trip to visit my best friend from
high school, Danna, aka D. Lo, aka Horseface. She moved to Clemson almost two months ago and I've been dying to visit her, see her new house and her pup Charlie. (Check it: Looks like if I can make it to the border on half a tank, I'll save a buck).
[Another shot I dug up: Danna circa 2001. Still makes me laugh every time.]

3) UGA vs. Alabama, 9/27 ESPN 7:45
One word to describe it: historic. The 9th game between top-10-ranked teams played in Athens in UGA history,
the 2nd blackout ever and the first time in 10 years that ESPN's GameDay will set up camp in the Classic City. It will be a glorious display of the world's finest game.
[Paint it black, boys. Paint it black.]


what it's all about

It goes without saying — but I'll say it anyway — between the election and the economy, it seems a wave of change is building. Stability, in any form, is increasingly hard to come by. When faced with change, whether big or small, I find it is easy to panic. It can be hard for me to remember that the only way we ever grow, is to first change. An age-old truth, maybe best stated by Marcus Aurelius: "Everything that exists is in a manner the seed of that which will be." We are built for change. We never stop growing.

I'm grateful that I have had, and continue to have, people in my life that challenge me. People with different, sometimes starkly contrasting, views and opinions. People who make me look twice and think harder. People who can be as logical as I can be irrational, as reticent as I am demonstrative, as flexible as I am obstinate, as serene as I am excitable, as extroverted as I am introverted and as patient as I am, well, not always. These people — some loved, some unloved, but all deeply appreciated — have helped me grow.

"When you're finished changing, you're finished." -Ben Franklin

[Photo props to coworkers: Laura, illustrator/designer & David, photographer. Featured hands: yours truly, two-time hand model for various projects]


just keep swimming

I'm not sure of the original source for this anecdote but I love it. My Dad gave me a copy on a little scrap of paper, which I've carried around in my wallet for years.

It's a rare person who doesn't get discouraged. Whether it happens to us or to an associate we're trying to cheer up, the answer centers around one word: perseverance. The value of courage, persistence, and perseverance has rarely been illustrated more convincingly than in the life story of this man (his age appears on the right):

Failed in business: age 22
Ran for legislature—defeated: 23
Again failed in business: 24
Elected to legislature: 25
Sweetheart died: 26
Had a nervous breakdown: 27
Defeated for Speaker: 29
Defeated for Elector: 31
Defeated for Congress: 34
Elected to Congress: 37
Defeated for Congress: 39
Defeated for Senate: 46
Defeated for Vice President: 47
Defeated for Senate: 49
Elected President of the United States: 51

That's the record of Abraham Lincoln.

So now you know why I named my fish after him. After a quick weekend in Boston (a staggering total of 40 hours), it can be
lonely to come home again. Thankfully, this little guy is there to greet me: Abraham the Betta, aka Abe the Great, aka Honest Abe, aka Mr. Lincoln. Sure, he doesn't exactly wag his tail, but he is a good listener. And he is a survivor, for sure: I've had him for 2 years this month. If he could talk, he would tell he's lived through some murky times. See the resemblance?


loves me, loves me not

Hundreds of rose petals. These were leftovers from a work project. I figured I'd take them home and find something to do with them. Wasn't sure what. Then I had a wonderfully halfwitted idea...
Because, well, why not? My neighbors probably already think I'm a bit touched anyway. (Not that I've officially met any of them, but they've seen me many a Sunday out on the patio, beating throw rugs, dressed in a getup that could hardly be considered respectable, sporting the white-girl fro, singing to myself, etc., you get the picture). Anyway, it will be a nice sight coming and going for the next few days until they wither. And before too long, they'll be covered by leaves.


a common cobweb

"Nothing will sustain you more potently than the power to recognize in your humdrum routine, as perhaps it may be thought, the true poetry of life — the poetry of the commonplace." -Sir William Osler


what the living do

Ever since I read this poem in a college course, I've loved it. Marie Howe's inspiration for this particular poem was her brother John, who died of AIDS. On a day when so many people are mourning loved ones, I thought it was fitting to share. Sometimes I think the best way to honor those who have passed away is to become more conscious of our own living — to practice being present, to be grateful for each breath and to realize the enormous gift we've been given.

What the Living Do

Johnny, the kitchen sink has been clogged for days, some utensil probably fell down there.
And the Drano won't work but smells dangerous, and the crusty dishes have piled up

waiting for the plumber I still haven't called. This is the everyday we spoke of.
It's winter again: the sky's a deep headstrong blue, and the sunlight pours through

the open living room windows because the heat's on too high in here, and I can't turn it off.
For weeks now, driving, or dropping a bag of groceries in the street the bag breaking,

I've been thinking: This is what the living do. And yesterday, hurrying along those wobbly bricks in the Cambridge sidewalk, spilling my coffee down my wrist and sleeve,

I thought it again, and again later, when buying a hairbrush: This is it.
Parking. Slamming the car door shut in the cold. What you called that yearning.

What you finally gave up. We want the spring to come and the winter to pass. We want
whoever to call or not call, a letter, a kiss — we want more and more and then more of it.

But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the window glass,
say, the window of the corner video store, and I'm gripped by a cherishing so deep

for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I'm speechless:
I am living, I remember you.

from scratch

Ever since my brother's encounter with Sonic, I've become a bit of an ingredient-phob. So I was happy to find this recipe for a homemade sports drink in Women's Health:

1) In a pitcher, dissolve 1/4 c sugar and 1/4 tsp salt in 1/4 cup hot water
2) Add 1/4 c OJ, 2 Tbsp lemon juice and 3 1/2 c cold water
3) Stir, chill, done
I tested it out the other day, and it is actually pretty good. The recipe makes about 4 servings, which will last me a week or so. It's not quite as sweet as your average sports drink but that could be a plus, depending on your taste. The definite advantage is that it's a cheap alternative, and you know exactly what's inside.

Added bonus: I don't like to support Gatorade anyway because it is named after the football-team-of-which-we-do-not-speak. So it's a win-win.



This is Dawn. We work together. This photo almost perfectly captures her fantastic sense of humor [credit: Blake Tannery]. Today is her birthday, and I'm grateful that a) she was born, b) she inspired me to start blogging — had to throw that in there and c) she keeps me laughing every Monday through Friday.

Of all the people I've met and quotes I've read (though that stack might not amount to much), no two are better paired than this lady and this phrase, courtesy of
Fellini: "Put yourself into life and never lose your openness, your childish enthusiasm throughout the journey..." Perhaps the cheeky ol' Italian had Dawn in mind when he said it. Either way, she adds a little dolce to la vita.


fading summer

"Ah, when to the heart of man
Was it ever less than a treason
To go with the drift of things,
To yield with a grace to reason,
And bow and accept the end
Of a love or a season?"
-Robert Frost

Resisting change, I believe, is one of the most basic human instincts. And I'm completely guilty of it. Though I love the start of a new season, I can never wholeheartedly embrace the change. There remains a part of me that clings to the familiar. In this case, a part of me that is not ready to pack away the flip-flops, sunscreen and flowing skirts. A part of me that pouts when the sun sets before 8:00 pm.

But I'm learning that one way to welcome a new season is to bid a proper farewell to the passing one. Given this, I'm trying to appreciate the last days of summer — noting the nuances of the season, and all that it carries. Because just when I start to think, I'm ready for fall (like when my legs, arms and even knuckles are swollen with mosquito bites), I find some new little piece of summer to fall in love with.

Take, for instance, your typical chlorine-soaked suburban swimming pool. Have you ever looked at the bottom? Like really seen it? It is dizzying, but amazing. The sun cuts through like tiny laser beams, dancing and scattering along the bottom, in a strangely chaotic-but-fluid rhythm, breaking patterns as soon as they are formed. Or, the way the water feels when you swim? It envelops and transforms your body into a foreign, nearly weightless being. Swallowing you whole, the water feels like a strong wind blowing against your skin, but from every direction at the same moment. [model: my cousin Emma, age 4 1/2]

I'm grateful for these last days of the season. But I know that, as with all things, this too shall pass. My obsession with summer will end September 21. My obsession with fall will promptly take its place, on September 22, with a vengeance.


i don't love baseball, but...

I do love spontaneity. 5:45 yesterday, my Dad calls; "Hey, I have 5 extra tickets to the Braves game. It starts at 7:15. Want to go?"

It was $1 hot dog night. I did not partake, but my dad did. We sat behind first base. When I say 'we,' I mean me, my dad and about 15 of his colleagues.

I also love: the first signs of Fall, my father who throws peanuts at girls standing in the way of the game (ok, fine, I gave him the idea), admiring the ATL skyline on the drive home.

[my dad demonstrating the
oh-so-politically-incorrect Braves tomahawk chop]


one dazzling moment

"When we are mindful of every nuance of our natural world, we finally get the picture: that we are only given one dazzling moment of life here on Earth, and we must stand before that reality both humbled and elevated, subject to every law of our universe and grateful for our brief but intrinsic participation with it." -Elizabeth Gilbert


50 years from now

My grandmother, Mimi, just turned 75 in early August. She was visiting us from North Carolina over Labor Day weekend and Nick, my 17-year-old brother, was determined to fit 75 candles on her birthday cake. A seemingly impossible task — oh, but not when Dad has a blow torch handy. This was the result:75 and it only took her two breaths to blow them all out. And she was so excited to see that many candles. I hope I make it to 75 candles.

Only about 50 more years until I'm that age. Thinking about that reminded me of this list I started keeping 2 years ago, "25 things to do before I die." I try to update it every once in a while.
The last time I wrote it was about eight months ago:Publish book of poems
Backpack in Italy
Road trip to the west coast with Trey and Nick
Have a boxer/lab mix
Work in another country
Work for the Peace corps or a nonprofit
Work for refugee services
Live in Boston
Redo an old house

Have organic vegetable and herb garden
Live on a farm

Learn to play an instrument
Learn how to speak the basics of another language
Get married to someone I'm madly in love with
Learn how to ski again
Learn to surf
Hike a volcano
Have 4 kids
Adopt a baby from another country
Volunteer at a nursing home
Buy Dad a motorcycle
Travel to Ireland with Mom
Go hang gliding
Run a 10K
Travel to one new place every year

I'm realizing that in the past eight months time, I've actually crossed four things off this list: I've learned to ski again, run a 10K, traveled to two new places and have started working with a refugee service (volunteering).

Maybe the reason I keep this list, and the reason why I love lists in general, is the added sense of accomplishment they bring.
When life starts to feel stagnant — when the weeks form familiar patterns, and long hours of working gunk up like plaque in my memory — lists like this one serve as a reminder that things do change, milestones come and go and each day is a chance to do something you haven't done before. (And yes, I am "that girl" who will occasionally write down an item on my daily to-do list after I've already completed it, just for the satisfaction of crossing it off.)

So it looks like I have a few open slots on my list of 25. Any suggestions on what to add?