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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. 🙂

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I Heart MST3K

21 Oct

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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.

NYC2WC

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 …. 🙂

Will NYC Be Our Home?

25 Jun
From "The Little House." One of my favorite books as a child. I think it is applicable here.

From “The Little House.” One of my favorite books as a child. I think it is applicable here.

Each weekend, we spend at least a day crossing off items on our NYC bucket list. Two weeks ago it was Coney Island. The past weekend was a trip to the Bronx Zoo. And each week, we add to the list – whether it be a new restaurant or pub that we heard rave reviews about or another park to visit. Lately, we have started compiling an East Coast list. We just need a few more dollars, a rental car, and some vacation time.

We still live here like we are tourists. And for as long as that may be, we will probably do the same. Through my work as a writer at a magazine, I have heard a few actors talk about their professional time spent in NYC. It’s usually the same: I was too busy, I should have spent more time exploring. And that statement doesn’t make me smug, it just urges me to continue on with the pattern we started since we moved here last August.

Sure, we technically live here. And when I say “I’m going home for the night”, it’s to our apartment in Jersey City across the water (which I will remind people is exactly a 6-minute ride across the Hudson – best commute time ever, or at least I say so.) But is this home? The apartment is decorated to my liking – cozy, inviting and a great place to relax and watch a movie. But is this home?

For now. And at least into the near future. Nate is a year in to his two-year creative writing program and was recently employed by Rutgers as a poetry teacher. I recently started my position at a national magazine, editing and writing features. For now, it’s great. On paper, it’s great. We’re at a place ripe with professional contacts, where our careers can take off. And being with the person I want to spend my life with, that makes it home.

But is this it? No, I don’t think so. While I’m no longer homesick as I once was, it’s not the place I want to plunk down my money to buy a house and start a family. Even if we moved out to the suburbs, it’s just not where I want to land.

My “home” bucket list includes: Green, room to grow, community, and family and friends. I’ve got to see some wild trees and flowers soon or I will go crazy! Buildings are only cute for so long 😉  Room to grow: After spending a few years in a writing field as a career, I’m ready to start another one: Teacher. And that requires a couple more years of schooling. Community: We’ve met some really lovely people here so far, but we feel far from involved in the place that we live. I’d love to share with my future children some of the childhood that I was allowed to experience. And family and friends. I guess that needs no explanation.

So this stint here may last for one, two, perhaps three more years. This move is a bit more dependent on where Nate gets a job after finishing his program. But hopefully someplace in the Midwest will be a great place to finally permanently reside.

We will continue to live like tourists, checking off and adding to our NYC bucket list for the time being. And while eventually this city will become just another place to travel to in the future, for right now, it is our home.

 

 

A longing for home

8 Apr

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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.

The perfect gift

24 Dec

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http://www.freemanjournal.net/page/blogs.detail/display/54/The-perfect-gift.html

http://messengernews.net/page/blogs.detail/display/78/The-perfect-gift.html

Before leaving New York City last week, I spent a hefty amount of time searching for perfect gifts for family. Each time I asked them for some advice, the answer would be “something from New York.” A lot of help. So I scoured lower, mid and upper Manhattan, hoping to come near something that could give me that “A Ha! Moment”. Nothing ever did. I looked in the small shops near Bryant Park. Too kitschy. FAO Schwartz. Too expensive. I went to boutiques, huge department stores, and even street vendors in search of said presents. I either found generic items that could be found anywhere or beautiful things that would unload my savings account. Nothing was perfect.

I had imagined that my first year away from family and friends would be spent sending back fun and cool items that couldn’t be found anywhere else. Need a baby gift? Bam, in the mail it goes. An engagement gift? Here you go, a one-of-a-kind item. While I do find interesting stuff that I had never seen before or clothing styles that are much different than my own — I have yet to find something that can’t be purchased in some form on the Internet. (As of this writing, I am still in search for the perfect NYC wedding gift for a good friend that had her wedding in September! I am now thinking that a gift card will soon be in the mail.)

After such a shopping overload and nothing yet wrapped to go in my luggage, I kind of gave up. My mom had been calling me for gift ideas of my own and I couldn’t even give an answer to that. I sat in my local park (no, not Central Park) and thought about all of this hoopla for awhile. I wanted everything to be perfect – gifts and whatnot – and most likely for selfish reasons. I wanted to come home. In all of this frenzied shopping, all I really wanted was to be near my family and for the time to be perfect for all of us. And honestly, I didn’t want any gifts. I just wanted a plane ticket home.

I have walked the street in front of Macy’s. We have spent time skating at Bryant Park and seeing the giant tree at Rockefeller Center. NYC is a beautiful, exciting place at this time of year. And yet, in all of it’s majestic glory, I just wanted the quiet of small town Iowa.

It was after this moment of clarity that I realized my gifts didn’t have to be perfect. More likely than not, my own family wanted me home too (well, hopefully).

So while other people may have spent money on lavish gifts from expensive stores in midtown, I went to a Times Square gift shop for some tacky items. To Century 21, a crazy cheap discount store, for clothing that is technically from NYC. And to Target and Amazon.com for some gifts that would be shipped directly to Iowa. And while they aren’t the “perfect” gifts, they are presents that I am sure my family will enjoy. And whatever gifts come under the tree for me, I am glad to receive them. But my perfect gift has already arrived. From baking and cooking to watching movies while eating Chinese food — spending time with my siblings, parents, niece have made for the best Christmas present I could possibly ask for.

Merry Christmas!

Living with the ‘rents

10 Dec
Moving back in with my parents wasn't an easy decision, but it was the right decision.

Moving back in with my parents wasn’t an easy decision, but it was the right decision.

http://www.freemanjournal.net/page/blogs.detail/display/49/Living-with-the–rents.html

Laundry folded. Check.

Dishes washed. Check.

Ironing completed. Check.

Bills paid. Check.

Floors swept and mopped. And check.

It was after a list-worthy Saturday when I finally realized how much my life has changed in the past few months. No, I’m not talking about my big move to NYC from small-town Iowa. Instead, I’m talking about how life has changed since moving out of my parents’ house. Yes, I’m fully admitting to that now.

Since September of 2009 until recently, I spent most of my free time back in my childhood bedroom in Webster City, Iowa. This is quite a phenomenon for many 20-somethings living in the United States. You go to college, graduate, and financial woes or some kind of bad luck strikes. For me, I had a cushy desk job and decided that I wanted to go on a more “creative” career path. Yet, I didn’t want to default on my student loans or eek out the rest of my savings account. That is where my parents came in.

I used to be embarrassed to tell others that I had moved back in with my mom and dad. To say that would imply that I was a failure. To my parents and I, it seemed like a good solution, although I could feel the judgment of others bearing down. At first, it really bothered me. So only my family and a select few knew my entire situation. In a small town, it’s not that easy to keep such a secret. “So, you STILL live with your parents?” The “still” always had a hint of surprise that was obviously for my benefit. I remember buying a somewhat expensive art piece at a local store. When I went to pay for my purchase, a woman came up to me and exclaimed, “You don’t need to buy that. Where would you put it? You live with your parents.” I didn’t know her that well personally, so I just walked away and didn’t say anything in reply.

Besides the self consciousness I felt, the lifestyle was pretty great. My parents’ home is very comfortable, warm, and inviting. My mom is kind of a modern June Cleaver — she bakes, cooks, cleans, and spends a good deal of time picking out the right greeting card to send “just because.” She always sends leftovers over to sick friends and there is always a pot of coffee ready. Because of this, I kind of, well, took advantage. My clothes were always ironed. There was always a home-cooked meal in the fridge to heat up after my second-shift job. And there was always someone at the kitchen table to talk to if I ever needed it. The key word here is ALWAYS.

This hospitality didn’t end with one parent. Oh no, did my car sound funny? Dad to the rescue. Need financial solutions? Ask dad, the accountant. Did I have a problem that needed solved? My father is excellent at pondering the deep things in life.

Not only was I comfortable in my childhood cocoon, but I was also able to knock out a big chunk of my student loan and car debt. I was able to attend an out-of-state writing conference and apply for grad school, while living amongst great company. I was able to start stock piling bedding, kitchen utensils, and other items for my future apartment — things I wouldn’t have been able to afford if I had to stretch my paycheck further during that time.

It wasn’t until this past year, when I felt the urgency that I needed to move on. That I needed to give my parents space and try it on my own. I will admit that it has been hard. I mean, I have lived on my own before, but getting used to being completely in the adult world has taken time. Now, I’m back to pureeing my own vegetables for homemade soups and stuffing the heck out of a chicken. My mother has taught me well.

While some may think I was a bit enabled, I appreciate more than anything the time I spent at home. My relationships with my parents and siblings have never been better, and the closeness is something I cherish greatly. I can’t thank my mom and dad enough for the kindness bestowed on me. It is something that not everyone is able to brag about.

Recently, I talked with a few friends who are going through the same experience that I had. They griped about the judgments of others, while knowing that this is where they need to be at the moment. At one lunch date, I spent time with a childhood friend who admitted to me in a shameful whisper that she was in a similar predicament and in hushed tones begged me not to tell anyone else. I tried to tell her that it was nothing to be ashamed of. It’s kind of the sign of the times: The scarcity of jobs, trying to save money for a good future, and just needing that comfort of home to get back on your own two feet.

When I graduated high school, I never thought that I would spend a great deal of my mid-twenties hanging out and living with my parents. But I’m glad for that experience — for so many reasons. And hopefully, someday hopefully, I can be able to repay my parents for their abundant generosity.

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