New York

Yesterday, at rehearsals, I ordered some pizza for the few remaining crew left there in the evening. Upon delivery, a tall, thin man with a heavy accent entered our office and while setting the pizza bag down, looked around and asked if we needed a mechanical engineer for the building. I explained that we were only renting a piece of the floor for a short time and wouldn’t have any information to share with him on what the building would need. He sighed and shook his head. “In my country, I was a Mechanical Engineer for 15 years before coming here. Now I can only deliver pizzas.”

I felt helpless as the man walked away and it got me wondering — we do so much worrying about whether or not our refugees and immigrants are stealing our jobs, we forget to worry about whether or not we allow people that become US citizens the right opportunities. Opportunities that not only allow them and their families to excel, but offer our country the chance to grow stronger with their contribution.

I can’t imagine going to school and working as an engineer, giving that career choice all my time and money and effort, and then needing to flee my home for the good of my family. We are so lucky, on American soil, to not have to fear tube bombings, genocide, and religious-fueled attacks. We don’t live under the weight of terror. Our children are allowed to play outside.

I could never imagine growing up in my parent’s home, attending holiday dinners with my family, collecting memories of playing with friends, making mistakes, my first love, my first solo drive, my first house, the marriage to my husband and the many, many precious memories of raising my own children in my home, in the place my family grew their roots… and then having to leave it. Not because I got a better job. Not because the school systems were different or I wanted my children to learn another language but because men pulled families from their home at night. Because families were tortured and brutalized. Because I wanted my children to have the one basic right all children should be offered, unconditionally; the chance to grow up without fear of death, torture or illness.

I can’t imagine leaving my sisters and brothers, my parents (or their resting place), my cousins or nephews or whomever, behind without an idea as to whether I would ever be able to see them again, to come here and be told my education is worthless. To risk everything so I could make minimum wage dropping off pizza to kids without a clue of the original sacrifice our immigrant ancestors made to come here centuries ago.

I don’t have all the answers. I know we have to consider educational standard differences or limited land resources when we talk about the process of inviting immigrants to gain citizenship here but there has to be a way. There has to be a version of help we are able to provide or else we are preserving a land and a people that are culture-less and, in my mind, unworthy.

We are of one blood. One breath. If we could only fasten our courage and our hearts to the thing…

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Uncover

I have been reading this enrapturing novel, the third in a series of seven, filled with romance, history, challenges and a scattering of philosophical questioning. One of the last segments I found myself pouring over was of our male character conversing with his wife after years of being separated from each other due to war.

He goes on to say that war, and the absence of her, had frightened him into believing he may have been unfit for any further human interaction — to which she protests, as any good wife would. There is then a spelling out of the divinity uncovered in the answering of one’s soul to another (I mean, not literally but thats how I have imagined the writer intended this moment be relayed). How one could see himself as a brute and the other to only see love and tenderness. How one can see the strength of soul, mind and body, so driven and steeled in their blood that they would never believe the worse being described of the other. The moment ends like this: “You have that — the strength. Ye have it, and your soul as well. So perhaps my own may be saved.”

I’m going to do it again. I’m so sorry, but I’m going to talk about my husband again (so those sensitive to the topic of love, I will not fault you for ending your read here).

Upon reading this line, I felt a glowing begin to warm my organs and trail through my veins before evoking a radiating smile upon my face. I couldn’t help but think of the relationship my husband and I share; two people that are neither perfect except to be entirely imperfect. Two people who both lived very different versions of ourselves before meeting. I think upon this idea because it’s difficult, as a strong-willed and strong-minded woman, to imagine that it took someone else’s (a man’s) impression on my life to change the things I desperately wanted to have changed for years before our encountering. And better yet, he never asked me to change. It was only his presence that was needed to draw the diseased parts of me out, parts that had cast shadows upon years of relationships and life decisions.

I had to be prepared to change, as my husband did as well, and the work needed to be our own, but our relationship laid the bedding for bulbs to be planted where blooms would later appear. I felt saved. After a decade of feeling the remnants of my tattered childhood, uneasy in my own skin, I had met a person who whispered to me the incantations of a snake charmer. I emerged from my dark hiding place surrounded by a cloud of his love, abound with acceptance, support and comfort.

I can happily divulge to you that he shares in this exact same feeling. The equation to becoming a happily married couple isn’t only in the delicate balance between choosing a person with the correct amount of similarities or differences, or a person with passion for you both physically and emotionally, but in finding the person who has a passion for who you want to become and encourages you down life’s road in search of it. He challenges you in a way you’ll never know you are being challenged. (Ok, that’s a lie. From time-to-time, I know I’m being challenged and I challenge him right back, but thats neither here nor there). And you change gradually, gracefully, eagerly until one day, you’re the mature, kind, tender and warmhearted person you had envisioned yourself to be. And you pay your bills on time. Thats key. Let me tell you.

It’s funny to think, when you attempt to think objectively, that two humans could be made for each other. It almost feels against nature that one find only one other to compliment their lives so unbelievably well but then, there it is, sitting right in front of you lacing up it’s shoes to go inspire underprivileged children in a career move they never dreamed of (until you’d met). And the world feels so right, despite all its complications. The mess of strings and sludge to be waded through ends with hope and happiness after all, burning a hole through the impossibilities that once were and making a space for all our souls to be saved. For what is grass without sun and water but dried weeds awaiting the potential for transformation.

Marriage

Marriage is such a funny thing. When you’re single, you spend years thinking about finding that special, unique person that fills you up in such a way that you feel comfortable giving them your entire world — and from what I hear, when you’re married, you spend years thinking you only have this one familiar person to share everything with. Me, the non-standard girl-of-her-time, I’m not sure where I’d place myself.

I was proposed to, I don’t know, six or seven times (four by the same person) before getting married. That isn’t a brag. That, in no way, should be taken as me bragging. Some of the offers came from men I should have never been with. Men who were happy mistreating me. Some came from men long gone but not long forgotten from my life. Men who changed the course of my path and influenced me in a way I’ll never be able to explain. Either way, marriage terrified me. That is, until I met my ex (yup, ex, so I’m sure you know how that ended up).

I was so passionate, so in love, so deeply immersed in my feelings for him, I couldn’t see how my inability to communicate that love effectively (starting with the love for myself) was all along tearing us apart. Suffice it to say, I asked him several, probably terribly drunken nights to marry me. No ring, nothing planned, just a burst of emotion and thought. When we ended, more than imperfectly, the devastation was so catastrophic that it was as if a supernova had imploded causing massive internal destruction and sending all the broken pieces into a million different directions.

But there were pieces.

And when putting myself back together, a couple items shifted. The light was let in from the dark tunnel I’d hidden my heart, and my mind was exposed to a new life, a new image, an intriguing new course that I curiously tiptoed down. And straight into the arms of my husband.

To this day, I can’t tell you what it was that lit up inside of me with a giant neon sign screaming “THIS IS HIM. YOU’VE FOUND HIM” but it did. It did. It did and 3 months later we married.

If you’re wondering, a marriage like that — spontaneous and new and relatively uncovered, is hard. It’s beautiful too, though. So beautiful. You’re learning about a person at the same time that you’re agreeing on budgets that work for the two of you (golf vs. travel vs. savings for children and everything in-between) and getting to know the woman who wishes you to call her mom. The first year had tough moments but we rode the wave of discovery. A discovery of passion and love that took on a meaning that neither of us were familiar with.

Now, into our third year of marriage, we are everything to each other. The spark is maybe a bit dimmer than when we were new (as it always gets) but sometimes, like today, when it’s cloudy and rainy and dark, I sit in my office working on advancing the next tour I’ll be leaving for and I’ll stop and think of him. I will stop and be overwhelmed with the idea that I could be walking out the door to a night without this man.

Don’t get me wrong, he can drive me absolutely crazy. I could go nuts just thinking about his beard hairs, freshly cut, all over the bathroom sink or the weird piles of dirty socks I find scattered throughout the house but… but what if their weren’t any of those socks to find?

Sure, sometimes when you’re married, your mind wanders down that path of “what if” from time to time (my husband and I have been unimaginably open about the fact that you aren’t human if that thought doesn’t race across your mind every once in a while, over the course of the rest of your life) but I truly find myself repulsed by the idea of anyone else in my arms. It’s him. It’s him to this day, from that day when the neon light shook me with it’s radiating light and told me to pay attention to the man of my dreams sitting in front of me.

It’s that simple.  This weird, unconventional, surprising marriage has taken on a life of its own — a me of its own. A different girl for a different life and a different love, one that can’t be duplicated or subbed-in for at any moment, at any time. A marriage for dreamers.

Write

I am a writer.

That’s actually really hard for me to type out, especially on a day like today, but I guess it’s relatively true. Last year the CEO of a creative agency discovered this modest talent of mine and put it to work. Oddly enough, my talent with the written word also shown a light on my abilities as a brand strategist. I won’t bore you with details of either position but I will say that I was very simply hired, from then on, to work as a freelance copywriter and brand strategist with their organization.

I’ve been writing since I was a child, which is sometimes surprising to me. When I was in school, I excelled at mathematics. Despite loving to read, I almost never read the books asked of me in school. I was terrible with grammar and spelling and I loved run-on thoughts so, naturally, I assumed English wasn’t for me. I focused on pushing myself in my accelerated math classes and never looked back (well, of course, until now).

In the last handful of years, my memory has deteriorated. My family likes to share stories of rebellious moments in my youth or funny adventures we shared and I never remember any of them. Like those memories, I feel like every math formula I ever learned has gone and left me. Countless, sometimes tear-drenched hours of math study right down the tube. But you know what memory hasn’t ever left me? The memory of writing my first story.

I was in 6th grade when my teacher asked us to write a descriptive fictional piece. To this day, I can smell the candles lit on the fireplace mantel and feel the red velvet fabric of the drapes decorating the study. My story was a murder mystery with every moment absorbed by the description of random, sitting objects and how it played into the tragic events of that murderous evening.

When I turned my story into my teacher (name, forgotten), she was so taken aback by it that she pulled me from another class just to read it aloud to a group of 8th grade students. At 32 years of age, that would be an accomplishment to text home about but at 11 years old, I was mortified. The look in each of those threatening 8th graders’ eyes was a miserable reminder that I was not only unpopular but now sorely disliked. If I had as much as an inkling that I enjoyed writing, it dissipated in that one single moment.

Fast forward a few decades. Now I write for a living and, like everything else in my life, I have dumped a lot of passion, research and straight up work behind it. Before getting paid to write pieces, I wrote everywhere. In magazines from the seat-back pockets on planes, on coasters left behind in restaurants across the country, in notebooks I carried around in my purse and on several blog-styled websites. I used to grab a seat at bars packed with guests on a Friday night, just a hardback notebook and pencil in hand. I loved letting my mind explore the chaos around me, picking and pulling ideas and narratives from the cast of players at my disposal. My writings were imaginative though unfocused –but they were my expressions with only myself to play judge. Now, I submit pieces that are immediately scrutinized, and will go on being scrutinized until the project is complete.

Here, think of when you were six and you crafted a drawing for mom and dad. Think about getting home and happily pulling it out of your backpack, raising it up to display thick red lines and yellow squiggles. Then think about your parents grabbing the paper from your hands and telling you everything that was wrong with it. Anyone doing anything in a creative field (graphic design, advertising, writing, etc.) will tell you, this is always and forever how it feels to have someone critique a piece of your work. Our type of work comes straight from the heart and the talent of our own hand and imagination.

This all being said, I can deal with that. I can. It sucks. It’s hard. It even hurts sometimes, but its work. It’s business. You live, you learn or you deal. I can do that. I’m strong enough for that. But what if I added, now mom and dad tell you that the image you drew of mom walking the family dog was really an octopus riding a donkey. You’d be like “Wait, what? No. Excuse me, no. No, that’s mom. I mean, maybe mom doesn’t look EXACTLY like that, but that’s mom. I can do some work to make it look even more like mom, but that’s mom. Plain and simple.” Except it’s not. They aren’t backing down. It’s an octopus and they don’t want an octopus riding a donkey on the fridge. “Go back and draw another picture of mom,” they say. “And this time, make sure it looks like mom.” Like….whhhaaaaaat? I did this a few times. I did this song and dance with folks over their idea of a concept and mine, formulated through the study of business dynamics. In the end, they are paying me to do work and the client should leave happy but also, it should be correct and do right by your business. Right? I mean, if you decide you have a wholly different definition and view of mom (or octopuses, for that matter) than what can be found in, say, a dictionary or a photo album, that doesn’t make it the right version. Right?

My mother-in-law said something to me a few weeks ago that has been reverberating through my mind ever since. She said “you cannot force someone to have integrity. You can only have integrity yourself.” That’s true. Too true. Frustratingly true. I know that. I am seeking to honor that statement but I find it a difficult concept for me to grasp, knowing full well that it would assist me in being able move forward in my day, my project and probably my position. I put a lot of work into what I do. I am constantly researching business and topics that resonate within my field, stretching my knowledge with each word. So why should I not expect that of others? If I put countless hours into the continuation of my studies, pushing to do and be better and to deliver more, why must I then except being devalued by someone who knows less? It is infuriating. Obviously.

Well, Charlie, self-righteous much? Totally. Though I have played the backup singer for a while now. It was actually my little sister who recently reminded me that value, especially for women, comes from demanding you be valued. So, I have. I am. Or, at least, I’m trying. To feel like I can demand I be treated with value though, means I also need to add to my value. Now, I cannot just suggest where I see flaws in the design, I can cite them with tangible examples. But to what point? And at what price? But more on that next time. Right now, I need to find my grit, push past the pain and draw mom and dad a pretty picture.

New Years

It’s funny how the idea of a “new year” affects us, isn’t it? We say goodbye to 365 days with so much anticipation. The idea that a new calendar will inevitably bring the beginning of a new start, a clean slate, better ideas, new chances at happiness, fresh opportunities. And in a way, it’s not wrong. But the idea that one specific day in time will suddenly spark those chances, without first inspiring a change in ourselves, is unrealistic – at least, that’s what I’m coming to find out.

A new year does, indeed, bring new chances at happiness and fresh opportunities. It could mean a promotion at work or the chance to travel somewhere for the first time. It could drive the opportunity to savor a new taste in an unfamiliar location, seated in an unfamiliar restaurant or spark the coming of a new person in your life with whom you build a beautiful relationship. New Years Eve is celebrated because it means we’re saying goodbye to the opportunities we didn’t take or the ones that failed us, while looking forward to the ones still to come. However, I didn’t see it like that – until today.

Today, I woke up after an exciting evening with my closest friends. An evening spent playing card games around a table of laughter, our tummies full from sharing our homemade dishes with one another; Admiring our strengths, our gifts and our appreciation for the joy and comfort our friendship brings the next person. I woke up next to the love of my life, filled with the wholeness of having found him and being so lucky as to wake up to this kind of love every day. I woke up expecting my life to be ever-perfect moving forward, because that’s what New Years has meant to me – but that’s not how my day worked out.

It’s 5pm. I only just brushed my teeth 2 hours ago. I’m still in my PJs. I am currently ignoring the text messages and calls I’ve been delegating and responding to upon my first sip of coffee this morning. I am heartbroken for my family that is starting this new year one family member short and another to soon have moved on from this world, as well. But I am also reminded of something now: every day, each day, takes power. Takes choice. Takes determination. Change comes with growth. Growth comes through lessons. Lessons are learned through experience and so on. But each day, that’s a choice. A motive to guild you. That’s a goal you have to work towards.

The opportunities a new year brings are the same opportunities awaiting anyone that looks to the future and decides to make a change, invest in a project – invest in themselves. This time of year, it is only a reminder that we must work to achieve greatness, in whatever form you wish it to take. I am choosing to spend the rest of this day with that in mind. I am choosing to accept that life puts obstacles in our path as often as it tends to remind you that only you have the power to choose how you feel, what experiences you take on and what lessons you learn from it.

May 2017 bring us all happiness in the form of laughter, in the form of new adventures, great experiences, life-changing lessons, and deeper relationships. May 2017 be every one of your years, because YOU made it so.

The Flight Of Our Stars

When I was a young girl back in Chicago, I went on a camping trip to Wisconsin with friends. In the middle of the night, four of us snuck out of camp and hiked down to a meadow. We threw out a blanket, flattening the grass around us, and lay down.

Immediately before our trip, I had developed a bad case of swimmer’s ear that eventually led to a busted ear drum. I would never regain full hearing in my Endless Nightleft ear and until the drum healed, I was only capable of hearing about 30%. So, as the girls whispered and giggled around me, I stared blankly up at the sky. Soon enough, their voices became muffled tones over the singing of crickets; fireflies danced around us and the smell of dew hung heavy in the warm air. Coming from Chicago, I had never seen a sky like this before. It felt like seeing the world for the first time. Shades of blue hugged every leaf, every blade of grass, every item of clothing we wore as the stars swung over us, a million at a time.

Somewhere in the middle of that moment, as we all found ourselves silent in awe, there was a feeling of togetherness, a melding of spirit and soul, but a similar feeling of being happily singular in the universe: like kings and queens of a world so beautifully perfect as it balanced all forms of life in just the palm of one hand, that we lost track of time.


Meeting Mike was like coming back to that meadow and lying down to get lost in the infiniteness of a steady, happy calm. Somewhere between the intertwining of souls and the strength and confidence of knowing exactly who you are while they blend, we fell. The newness of someone usually brings an uneasiness with it: a time in which you are unsure of what to do, what to say, how to react. There wasn’t one moment that I felt like I didn’t know him or more, like we hadn’t been friends forever. Three hours after meeting him, I sent one text out to my mother. “I found him,” it said. “Who,” she asked. “Him. The one. I know it.”

Since then, there hasn’t been a moment we’ve spent together that I am not completely, madly and sincerely in tremendously, compassionate love, spirally endlessly through a lit sky. A love that has no words, no explanation, no expression or act that can be recreated to prove who we are and what this is. It just is. In it’s beauty and wholeness, it found its counterpart and clung tight.

How can this be? What do I love about him? What is it? What happened? A thousand questions I’m not even sure I can answer because it isn’t something I see, it’s not one particular thing that happened. I can only feel it. When he cradles my face, it’s there. When he closes his eyes and kisses me, it’s there. When he looks at me, through me, into me, it’s there. He once said to me, “There is something I admire so much about you. You think you’re crazy but in all the chaos or the silly moments, you have this steadiness about you. I’m not sure I’m saying this right or can describe it, it’s just this perfect steadiness.” What he doesn’t know is that he is the root of that steadiness. My life was a ship, tirelessly battling the waves of one perfect storm after another, until he showed up. He was the compass I had lost. Now found, I know my direction and I sail confidently into the sun: beaten wood decks, tattered sails and all, knowing there isn’t a thing out there I couldn’t live through… knowing, now, there isn’t a thing I wouldn’t do or live through to be with him.

Peanut Butter & Rock N’ Roll

I can’t even remember how we initially got on, just that he compared peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to rock n’ roll.
Then he asked me a series of questions:
“More peanut butter or more jelly?”
“Crusts on or off?”
“Cut diagonally or down the middle?” 
And once they were answered, he said “I’m gonna make you the best sandwich you’ve ever had
.”

Fitzgerald's Intimacy