Tag Archives: Family

Home For Christmas?

27 Nov
Q and I, Christmas 2012. If you notice, she's choking me by pulling my new necklace, but I'm pretending not to notice. I did, btw.

Q and I, Christmas 2012. If you notice, she’s choking me by pulling my new necklace, but I’m pretending not to notice. I did, btw.

I hate missing out. The last couple weeks have been kind of mopey for me, as I wasn’t sure I was going to make it back to Iowa for the traditional holiday celebrations. As much as I have been acclimating to the area, I haven’t missed a Thanksgiving or Christmas back home before. But flights at this time of year are crazy expensive. Of course, I don’t have much to complain about as I have racked up quite a few frequent flier miles this year with weddings, a bridal shower, and my own nuptials. But the family traditions, that is something I have a hard time with missing. Turkey Day isn’t as big of a deal for me, even though the Black Friday shopping with my mom and sister is something I always looked forward to. It’s Christmas, well Christmas Eve to be exact. We attend Mass, have a big oyster stew dinner, open a few gifts and play games. This has been our tradition since I was a small child, and it hasn’t changed. Sure I could Skype, but that would probably make me more homesick.

I spent days scouring sites for plane ticket costs. My favored non-stop route started at $900, which made me pretty sick to my stomach. It did not fit at all in with my short-term budgeting. But I had used up all my time off at work for the wedding, and I didn’t have many other options. Come another time, my mom said, we can make it Christmas any time of the year. And as much as I wanted to believe her, I grumbled and groaned about how it wasn’t the same. It wasn’t.

New York is amazing at this time of year – with the lights, the shopping, the excitement, it’s hard to find another place that feels as … magical. But it’s not home. All it takes is for me to hear “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” or one of those similar tunes, and I just crumble.

Finally, in all my complaining, my husband offered that I just go home for the holidays. To buy my expensive ticket and get back to Iowa. He wanted me to know that if it meant that much to me, he could stay and spend Christmas alone. It’s odd how a statement like that will change how you feel about the situation. I mean, I love my family and want to be with them, but this guy is my family and I couldn’t imagine spending the holiday without him. And the fact that he made such a generous offer at his expense, well, yeah he’s a pretty good guy. So we decided to stay put unless flights got a little cheaper. I wasn’t blissful, but I knew I could manage to have a really great Christmas with new traditions with him.

And then I found out I had miscalculated how much time off I still had left, which left me with a few days of wiggle room. And then all of a sudden, an airline had a crazy sale, and we realized that we could go back – with some strict budgeting and tighter gift spending. We will be flying back to NYC on Christmas morning, but that is okay with me.

I’m so happy that I will be able to go back to Iowa, but now, I’m more psyched about this whole marriage deal I have. I got lucky and snagged a really great person to be my partner. He’s willing to sacrifice his own happiness for me, and I’m pretty grateful. So while everyone is having their turkey celebrations, we will be heading off on a tiny honeymoon celebration together, which I’m pretty stoked about. So, I must say, the holidays are turning out to be pretty great after all. 🙂


So Blessed

5 Nov
This photo was taken by my now sister-in-law Nicole.

This photo was taken by my now sister-in-law Nicole.

Wonderful. Absolutely, spectacularly wonderful. On my flight back to New York City, I can’t think of anything I would change about my weekend in Iowa (except for it to have been longer). I saw many of the people that I love all in one place. I spent time in a beautiful place at a gorgeous time of year. And I married the love of my life.

And while a majority of my time was devoted to the wedding, I was able to savor the pace of life back in Webster City. Trick-or-treating with my one-year-old niece, all dressed up in a donkey costume. Having family meals at my childhood home. Cuddling with my anxiety-ridden kitty Suki. Hiking through Briggs Woods and stopping by the local library.

The wedding was beautiful – at a winery near Ames, with decorations to go with the season. The backdrop to the ceremony was perfect with the ever-changing colors of the tree leaves peering through the glass wall of the reception hall as the sun set.

What I take back from this experience is how truly blessed I am. The amount of love and generosity shown to me by everyone we encountered was astounding. Dear family and friends worked tirelessly to make sure that each detail was accounted for. Tiny snags were quickly mended and everything went seamlessly. My wedding party was everything that I could possibly ask for. If I needed anything at any time during the process, each of my attendants were completely willing to perform each and every task. My matron of honor (also sister) made sure that there was nothing I could even think of that needed to happen that hadn’t already took place. And while each one of us live in different areas of the country, we all shared so much laughter and conversations – it was like nothing had changed between my childhood friends. Our families were just … awesome. My parents, dear lord I tear up thinking of what they had done for me. And seeing all of my family and friends – old and new – all in one place … wow. Even though I wish I could stop at each table and have endless conversations with all that attended, just seeing people, some that I haven’t seen in years, was so great.

And last, but definitely not least, my beautiful husband. From the love poem he read at the ceremony to the laughter we shared over cheap take out in our hotel room near the airport last night – I can’t imagine anyone else that I would want to spend my life with. In all the planning, we spent a lot of time apart. But when we put our wedding clothes on – taking pictures and saying our vows, I kept thinking, “Oh yeah, you. I’m here to marry you. And I am so happy at this very moment.”

The last two days have been exhausting, yet I smile at the thought of all that hoopla and excitement that we were able to share with people we deeply care about. Hopefully someday in the near future, we can be closer to quite a few of them and spend more day-to-day time in their presence. But for now, I am just completely happy and so unbelievably blessed.

I Heart MST3K

21 Oct


I bought a stockpile of “classic” Halloween movies a week ago. Unfortunately, I accidentally shipped them to my parents’ house in Iowa.

So I guess I won’t be seeing them until after the fact. Last year, I was too broke to consider purchasing “The Addams Family” movies, “Hocus Pocus”, “Beetlejuice”, or my sister’s favorite television show “The Munsters”. I couldn’t fathom spending a few bucks on a pre-owned copy of the ’80s magic that is “Teen Witch”, without thinking about my empty bank account.

So what’s a girl to do without these masterpiece videos? Netflix, of course. For a thrill, we’ve gone through Hitchcock’s classic “Psycho”, delved into “Paranormal Activity” for a sleepless night, and “Blair Witch Project”-ed myself.

But what about the humorous, the lighthearted that my trick-or-treating self enjoyed so much in earlier days? I looked no further than what is absolutely near-and-dear to my heart: MST3K. For those of you non-nerds that haven’t immersed yourself in a 24-hour extravaganza of Mystery Science Theater 3000, you are missing out.

Introduced by my dad, we never could get enough of this Minneapolis-based show when it first appeared on Comedy Central. The Thanksgiving holiday wasn’t devoted just to turkey, no, it was also about “Gamera”, “Zombie Nightmare” and other D-rate movies. Listening to robots and humans make fun of the horrors of cinema made us have such gut-wrenching belly laughs, there was nothing like it. We had quite a few of them dubbed on VHS tapes, and after school or on Saturday afternoons, my two siblings and I would spend hours rewinding the parts we found the funniest. It got to the point where we would find old movies on television and try our hand at sarcasm – sending us in a fit of hysterics over our own humor.

The best were the shorts – 15-minute films that were obviously shown to the youth of the ’60s in P.E. class. My personal favorite was a half-hour black and white promotional flick from Iowa State University. In an effort to recruit the female persuasion to their home ec studies program, the college created one of the most sexist and hilarious films of all time. Add in the snark of Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot, and you have got just the best thing around.

My fiancee has been subjected to my family’s humor time and time again, and he has been forced to watch a couple of our all-time favorite episodes. Instead of watching a traditional holiday movie last Christmas Eve, we chose “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” – it just seemed fitting.

We were able to find a few of the episodes on Netflix a couple nights ago. We chose “The Final Sacrifice” on Saturday evening. On Sunday, neither one of us could stop repeating some of the more memorable lines from the show. So imagine my surprise, when Nate and I sat down to watch an hour of TV and he suggested, “Um, could we watch another one of those?” I didn’t even suggest the beloved series, he did it all on his own. How ’bout that?

I knew I picked the right guy.

Spoiled Adult Children

30 Sep
No, no you don't.

No, no you don’t.

Since this whole wedding thing is inching ever nearer, I have been looking into the future. Maybe it’s the upcoming date, maybe it’s seeing my own niece grow up – but, I’ve been really thinking about this whole “mom” thing right now. And observing very, very closely.

This weekend, we celebrated my birthday (because one day for a birthday, really? C’mon!) so we went to Panera, as we like to do. We haven’t been to the restaurant since living in the Midwest, so we were super excited to learn that there was one in Downtown Hoboken. We excitedly chittered and chattered after getting off the train. I was going to get broccoli and cheddar soup with a chicken panini. Nate: Samesies! Sometimes going to a chain restaurant can be pretty amazing because it tastes basically the same anywhere. Usually, we try to go to new places around here, but for Panera, we made an exception. I knew what I was getting, so that was pretty awesome.

There was an art festival going on downtown, so we expected the restaurant to be busy. We are pretty easy going, and there was lots of little kids running around, but we thought, “eh, we are in it for the food.” We plopped down at a booth and started talking about our upcoming marriage counseling session that night. Suddenly, a balloon slammed in my face. Heh. We were sitting in a small booth and across the room, a few couples had taken refuge at a few tables – eating with their many small children. They had lined up strollers and toys all around their space, making it impossible for other patrons to squeeze in at other empty tables, even though space was extremely limited. The couples were busy gabbing, not paying attention to any of the children who were running every which way, knocking into people carrying food and drinks. It was annoying, but we ignored the situation.

We continued to talk until an older woman approached the party table(s). She asked if they could move a stroller so she and her friends could sit at a table that was surrounded by all their stuff. The young couples looked around, startled that anyone would approach and interrupt their conversation. One blonde pony-tailed woman half-looked around and then said, “Um, no” and went back to her super important conversation. I was stunned. So was the older woman. They were taking up so much room, and couldn’t be bothered to be courteous.

While we were finishing our food, people were trying to walk down this aisle while these kids were twirling and dancing away in their path. “Excuse me,” adults said, squeezing by. The kids thought they were really cute when people tried to scoot by and they couldn’t because they had formed a road-block line. Super cute. Finally, one of the mothers decided it was time to discipline one of her children after ignoring them for so long. She took a little girl by the hand forcefully and screamed in her ear in a private space. Actually the private space was a half a foot from my face. I must have been invisible. I finally looked at her and said, “Excuse me, please.” She continued to ignore me.

Usually when we go to Panera, we like to sit and enjoy our coffee, read a bit or just catch up. Not today. When we were finished, we hurried with our coffee to go somewhere a little quieter. Like the crowded art festival.

In the land of Hoboken, there is a stereotype that is also pretty common in wealthier areas of NYC. Young, hip couples who are able to afford nannies. Whether both parents are working or not, it’s a common situation. These were definitely wealthy people who had the means for such an employee (by looking at their many purses, bags and fancy strollers). And although they were well off, I’m pretty sure these people lacked one major thing: Parenting skills.

I have done a lot of babysitting in my days, here and in the Midwest, and I’ve been around many families with small children. Kids can be unpredictable, can be fussy and scream and cry in a store, it happens. I don’t fault the couples who bring their small children to church, even though sometimes it might be best to leave them in the nursery. But there are some cases where children are spoiled with things, lots of things, but don’t receive what they actually need: Time and attention. They are allowed to behave how they want, and adults think this ill behavior is “cute” or “just acting their age.” I call it bratty. I call how the adults were behaving extremely bratty. What “cute” families!

Maybe it’s how I grew up, but I know we would never have been allowed to act that way. I know my niece and younger extended family members would not be able to act that way. And any adults that I know and actually like would never behave as the spoiled older adult children had behaved at Panera.

So I had a moment outside of the restaurant when we were walking to retrieve my birthday present from a store: Am I “mom material”? Was I being too harsh on these people that caused me to get a bit tense and stressed in their presence? I shook it off. No, I might be haughty in saying this, I just have standards when it comes to parenting. These people just didn’t stack up to the many parents I consider role models.

Since it was a marriage counseling day, I took this situation as another counseling session: These are the people I don’t ever want to emulate. I want to be a parent, I just don’t want to be a self-serving jerk who cares more for themselves than others. I’ll try 🙂

Cheesy Motivational Posters Are My Jam

3 Sep


Four hours. When we arrived at Chicago Midway Airport, a surprise greeted us. Another delay. It’s not like we aren’t used to that by now with Southwest Airlines, but all the same, it threw off our planned schedule a bit. We weren’t looking forward to getting into New Jersey at a much later time, to wake up early Tuesday to continue our normal routine. Bleary-eyed, we would surely depend on our trusty Keurig to brew up a dark-roast saving grace.

But that’s how the world works, really. What’s that saying, life happens when you are making plans, or something like that? I could get easily discouraged and get in line with the rest of our flight to complain about the delay, but what would that do? I can’t change the weather or persuade air traffic control to quicken our flight, so I must do something else. Nate caught up on his lesson plans for his upcoming classes. I visited a few blogging sites I enjoy, did some reading, watched a ton of CNN commentary on Syria, and booked my flight home for my bridal shower (on a different airline, BTW).

After a bit of reflection on my four plus days home, I have to kind of pat myself on the back on becoming a bit more flexible than in the past. I came home for a beautiful wedding featuring my beautiful cousin and her new husband. In my grey bridesmaid dress, I excitedly celebrated with the rest of the wedding party. And in between getting ready for the big day and other related events, I squeezed the life out of every inch of each day. From doctors’ appointments to my own bridal fitting, I crammed so much in with lesser than normal amounts of sleep. It’s become the norm since being out on the East Coast, to fly by the seat of my pants when I come back to the Midwest. We came back in May for another family wedding, and I tried. So many appointments. So many people I had to see. So many things I wanted to do in my hometown. When we pulled up to the airport for our return flight, I was frantic. The weekend had flown by so fast. I didn’t go walk by the river, I didn’t get to the library, I didn’t get to see everybody on my list. I started to cry. It’s been hard living away from home, and coming back for little spurts hasn’t been easy.

But then we had my brother come to visit NYC for the first time. He made a gigantic bucket list of places he wanted to visit. And in that short time, we crossed off more than three quarters of those activities. But not all. He just shrugged and said, “That’s okay! Hopefully, I can come back. I’ve had a blast!” I know that he would have enjoyed visiting Little Italy and seeing the Ghostbusters firehouse and going to a comedy show, but we had squeezed and squeezed and squeezed all that we could. And the time didn’t go so quickly, because we also really enjoyed the trip. We had long conversations at the video arcade bar. Went to fun restaurants and tried new things. Like those cheesy motivational posters hanging in every guidance counselor’s office, it really wasn’t about the destination – it was the journey. (So cheesy.)

This time, I yet again squeezed. This time, I slept a couple hours less each night than the norm. But I did have some good quality time with the people I really cared about. I sat on the porch and combed out my favorite anxiety-riddled cat. Listened to the adorable gibberish of my one-year-old niece. And sat on the couch with my parents and talked about so much. Nate and I applied for our marriage license and survived our first marriage counseling meeting (and had some great conversations in the process). Lots of nuptial planning was completed, a lot of grilled food was eaten, and I sat and drank wine at my first bonfire of the summer (I love Iowa so much.) I stared at the clear diamond-lit sky and went on a long walk on my favorite hiking path. The time went quickly, but not as quickly as I had anticipated. There was quite a few things I didn’t accomplish, but I don’t have that panicky feeling of “I failed! I didn’t get everything done that I wanted to! I need more time!” like I had before. It was okay.

So I sit here, knowing that laundry won’t get done and our suitcases won’t get unpacked anytime soon. But it’s okay. I will sit here with my fiance, read more out of a great novel and take it easy. There’s nothing else to do. Life does happen when you are making plans. And as super eye-rolling “oh brother” as it sounds, the greatest thing is realizing it.


26 Aug
Excited to see Miss Quynn, the little daredevil!

Excited to see Miss Quynn, the little daredevil!

Two sleeps. That is how I used to countdown to exciting dates, and this past week has been no exception. When I was younger, it was because of our annual summer vacation, Christmas, or my birthday. I’d begin packing my suitcase or preparing my favorite outfit for the occasion and dwell in the anticipation. And then I’d sit in wonder, imagining this whole beauteous occasion over and over again. Ahem. I have a packing list prepared, a list of to-do’s before we leave and of course an entire wardrobe to squash into one tiny suitcase. While Nate watched his beloved Breaking Bad last night, I went to bed early to make the day come ever nearer. (Unfortunately, I just stayed wide awake for another couple hours.)

My Google map indicates that as soon as I get off work on Wednesday, I take the R uptown to the World Trade two stops, run quickly in my high heels to the PATH and take it to Newark. (Not that I didn’t already know this, since I take this route routinely and constantly, but it’s a good reminder, I tell myself.) We have our twenty dollars in cash ready for our taxi from the Newark Penn Station to Newark Airport, which feels a bit like a second home to us. I can already imagine the feeling in the pit of my stomach while we await our flight (queasy nervousness, hoping desperately for no flight delays because of our tiny layover window in Chicago.)

I’m going home for my cousin’s wedding, and I am just over the moon excited. Even if I’ve been warned that the heat is unbearable, even if I have been told again and again that the time will go by so quickly. And even if I have a doctor’s appointment, eye doctor’s appointment, dress fitting, and so much more on my plate.

I can’t wait to spend time with my immediate and extended family. I can’t wait to walk into Kendall Young Library and hike the Briggs Woods Trail. I can’t wait to see friendly people I don’t know waving from cars, for politeness and manners and stuff, for small town life. I can’t wait to sit outside and actually see the stars.

I feel like a little kid, and I am totally okay with that. Give me the heat and humidity, all I want to do is kiss my little niece’s cheek and cuddle with my parent’s anxiety-ridden cat, that’s all I want.

There have been periods of time in the past couple months when I was so incredibly homesick. And there have been others where I am so glad to be here. For my career, meeting people, trying all the flavors that NYC seems capable of offering. That’s where I’m at today. Happy to be here.

Almost every weekend, I walk through SoHo or one of the villages (our favorite area of the city) and I get this slight thrill, always. “I’m here, I’m actually here. And not just on a trip. I’m a casual resident on a casual Saturday looking for a casual Bloody Mary.” I love playing the part of cool Carrie out on a stroll. Or walking to work. “Hey there New York Stock Exchange and very old gothic buildings, while I make my way through this mess of people to my workplace.” Listening to a Bangle’s album on my headphones, all I am missing is my white lace-up sneakers and perm to go with my ‘80s career-woman attitude.

And although I savor these moments like none other, I look forward to being plain old me in small-town Iowa most of all. No acting, just being. I’m not there to try and impress anyone or get ahead in the game. I’m just me.

So I have 48 hours until the day of my flight … maybe I should start counting down that way … hmmm …. 🙂

A longing for home

8 Apr


I miss it.

Going to be honest here, I miss the quiet of rural life. The sound of song birds in the morning and of crickets chirping at dusk. Perhaps the rustle of the wind in the leaves will grace your presence. And the smell. The heavenly smell of wet grass, mulberry bushes, and of fresh dirt. God, I miss it. Friendly faces of people you have known your whole life, and even knowing the fact that going to a Dairy Queen for an afternoon frozen treat is a big deal. Seeing the stars at night in a clear farm sky – feeling so small in such an infinite space out on a dirt road, it can make you weep in such beauty. I want to sit in my local library, curl up in one of their beautiful chairs while being illuminated by the green glow of the lamp beside me. Sit in a coffee shop and hear only quiet – sipping slowly on a freshly brewed beverage.

Big city life is overwhelming. It’s exhilarating, beautiful, and still so new. Getting off the subway, the street aromas can be invigorating and disgusting all at once. You are suddenly hungry for sweetened cashews and a loaded gyro. The steam heat will hit you from the grates below, as the stink of urine and the sound of street performers provide a sensory overload. People ask for money, to take their flyer – while you bump into people coming from each and every direction. Most of the time, I still find it a thrilling part of being in the city; while at other times, I just want to find a place to hide. I can’t go in a library without sitting next to tons of other people. And with everyone piling into a Starbucks to try to get an internet connection, I’d rather walk with my coffee and try to chug it along the way.

Yesterday, we escaped to the suburbs. To a 12-plex movie theater with a Wendy’s restaurant nearby. I marveled at the size of the parking lot, of people driving their cars from their homes. I happily exclaimed that the inside of the movie theater reminded me of one in a college town in the Midwest. And when we finally hit the fast-food chain, I couldn’t contain my happiness. The dollar menu meal – a cheeseburger deluxe, small chili, and chocolate frosty – was a thrill indeed. I looked out the window and could imagine that I was looking out at Omaha or Ames. We would be driving home soon, I thought. Instead, we headed on the Light Rail back to our apartment across from the New York City skyline. There is no car parked outside, and no set time to go back and visit the places I imagine daily.

To be that excited by a strip mall – in the back of my head it’s laughable. In the front, I wonder when I came plan my next trip back there.

For most of my teenage years and after, I have dreamed of living big – of a glittery expanse of city life. Me and my fellow cohorts would lament the lack of options due to our small town living – no concert venues or shopping malls for miles. There is something better out there for us, we’d say. Someplace we could actually belong.

Now, I dream of something different. I long for that little town that I have always called home and of the simplicity that I have come to appreciate ever so much more.

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