Monthly Archives: June 2008

Let there be new light!

For the last 42 years, the same light fixture has hung in the entryway of my apartment. An interior designer with seriously questionable judgment picked it out for my grandmother in 1966 (along with the avocado colored half table and a beaded curtain to divide the kitchen from the dining room). By the time I came along, it was truly dated, dirty and generally not in the world’s greatest shape. It was also a hazard to anyone over six feet tall, as the tip dangled down to forehead height.

Scott is a fairly tall guy, so he was constantly avoiding the light fixture. About a month ago, we started seriously considering replacing it (along with the one over the dining room table) and then last weekend, I decided to just go ahead and buy a new one. I searched around and found one that was inoffensively modern and place the order. It arrived Wednesday and Scott decided to put it up right then and there.

Using my eight-year-old 16-in-one screwdriver, he took the old one down.

Soon we were left with a hole in the ceiling. Lucky for us, the bits used to connect and install light fixtures 42 years ago are essentially identical to the ones that are used now, so everything fit perfectly.

And here we have Scott, standing under the new light fixture, which hangs far out of head hitting range. Here’s hoping that this is the first of many apartment improvements we’ll make.

Learning to stop looking down the road

I realized this morning that one of the things that has been keeping me from writing here has been the feeling that I need to somehow bring the blog up to date. However, every day that I go without beginning that update means that there is just more to write. I find the amount of detail I’d like to offer overwhelming in its volume and so I write nothing at all. So I decided to just dive in, sans a comprehensive recounting of the mundane events of recent life and just talk about where I am.

I had something of a revelation recently that had to do with contentedness, joy and the practice of allowing myself to accept my happiness. I’ve spent many years of my life wishing myself forward, wanting to be anywhere other than where I actually am. I got in the habit of mentally existing a few miles down the virtual road when I was in elementary school. I wasn’t particularly happy in those days, as my tendency towards sincerity (coupled with a love of reading and a chubby belly) made me a target of teasing and playground harrassment. All the trusted adults in my life would tell me that it would get better as I got older and so I started focusing on that time, believing fervently that life would transform when “I got older.”

And they were right, things did get better as I got older. My sincerity and care for other people transformed from a handicap into a virtue of my personality. While I never really lost the chubby belly or the love of reading, these things slowly stopped causing me to stand out. However, the thing I never lost was that belief that my future life was always going to be better than the life I was currently living. So even in times when things were good, I couldn’t appreciate them because I was already focused on what was coming next as opposed to what was right there.

Right now, I’m in one of those phases where things are remarkably good. I have a boyfriend who I adore and with whom I am deeply comfortable. Living with him is fun, never boring and only occasionally irritating. Wonderful people continue to wander through my life and choose to befriend me. I love how close my extended family has gotten since cousins Amy and Jean moved back to Philly from Portland. There’s also going to be a new baby in the family this summer (she’ll be the younger sister to Derek, who has become one of my favorite photography subjects) and we are all excitedly awaiting her arrival.

I have a job that I like, where the people are nice, my commute is a block and a half walk and I don’t feel like I’m being punished for some wrong I did in a previous life. In addition to the full time job, I’m also still working as the lead blogger of Slashfood and every day I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to be a food writer and editor. I feel so proud of what Scott, Angie, Thad and I have created with Fork You (last weekend’s Fork You Live was particularly wonderful, even I was amazed at how delicious the food turned out to be). And I’m going to be writing for my cousin Serena’s Grass Routes Travel Guides, helping with the second edition of the Portland book and co-authoring the Philadelphia one.

The blessings are abundant.

There are also still struggles. My parents are experiencing upheaval on multiple fronts, and don’t know exactly what the future holds for them. It is sometimes painful for me to look on from the outside, knowing that there’s really nothing I can do except listen, love and hold the knowledge that they all things are essentially well. There are others in my family and community who are in crisis, mired in uncertainty, sadness, pain.

I’m learning that no matter what’s going on in the lives of others, I can still appreciate and enjoy my own happiness. New agey folk always talk about living in the moment, and while I’ve always recognized that it was something towards which I should be striving, I never really understood how you could actually get to that space. Now I’m learning to relish the stuff I have, to focus on the all the good things that are happening in my life instead of dwelling on the bad or the things I want that I don’t have yet. I think these may all be steps towards that previously un-attainable goal of the now.

This is not to say that I’ve gotten to a place that is perfect or that I don’t do daily battle to maintain my balance or presence in my current time and space. But it’s getting better and it is a joy.

Girlfriend's Guide to Gaming

Val, Corrine, Roz and Nicole
A couple of months ago, I got an email asking me if I was interested in becoming a “Brand Enthusiast” for the Nintendo DS Lite. While I’ve never been someone who goes out of her way to play video games, when the opportunity to play things like Tetris or Sudoku come my way, I have a hard time saying no (typically I get hopelessly addicted, to the point where when I lay down to go to sleep at night, I see the game pieces or playing boards on the backs of my eyelids). I accepted the offer and signed on to be a DS Lite cheerleader for the next year.

They sent me my very own DS Lite (embellished with a heart made out of pink rhinestones) and asked me to invite 20-30 of my best girlfriends to a party, at which they’d learn how to play an assortment of DS games. This party happened about a week ago (I’ve been meaning to write about it for a while now) and was held in a gorgeous loft space on 2nd Street, right at the point where Old City starts to become Northern Liberties. There were five young women who worked for Nintendo’s marketing company at the party who knew the games intimately and helped my friends and me work our way through Brain Age 2, Nintendogs, Mario Kart and Crosswords. We were each given a bracelet and when we had played each game, we got a corresponding charm to show that we been at that station. There was also a delicious spread of food, champagne and red and white wine.

It was a really delightful evening, where friends from all areas of my life got a chance to meet each other. At the end of the night, when we’d eaten up nearly all the food and had a working knowledge of all the games, the guides who had helped us all learn the ropes of the games handed everyone a brand new DS Lite and a copy of Brain Age 2.

I took a bunch of pictures that night and you can find them here. Roz took some as well and they are here.

Being community minded or Happy Father's Day

mo smiling

My dad has always approached fatherhood with a lighthearted sincerity. He believed that as a parent, it was his obligation to help us to become the best citizens possible. He was constantly reminding my sister and me that we needed to look upon our family as a community and always think about how our actions impacted the other members of our community. During my childhood, this meant always tucking shoes under the coffee table, so that other people wouldn’t trip over them, or turning lights off when we left the room. As we got older, he worked on broadening our perspective of community to include all of humanity. A good example of this is that when he taught me to drive, he instructed me to think about all the other cars on the road so as not to be the cause of someone else’s accident (and also that careful observation could potentially keep me out of an accident caused by someone else)

As a kid, I often got tired of hearing him repeat, “You’ve got to be community-minded!” I particularly disliked it when it was used in reference to doing chores (cleaning the cat box was my least favorite). However, as I’ve gotten older, I am so grateful for this early conditioning, as it helped me become a person who is aware of how her actions effect other people. In a world where so many people are oblivious as to how their behavior impacts the people around them, I am grateful that my eyes are open in this manner.

Of all the things I plan to teach the children I’ll have someday, being mindful of their community tops the list. Thanks Daddy, for giving me such a valuable education in being a good person!

Cleaning out a junk drawer

Recently, I’ve been struck by a deep need to get rid of things. I’ve been going through drawers and boxes, trying to toss the useless ephemera and clutter that constantly plagues me. I’ve been trying to do it in small bites, so that I don’t overwhelm myself and give up on the project entirely.

I went home for lunch on Wednesday, and decided that I’d use fifteen of the forty-five minutes I’d have in the apartment to clean out something. I chose the drawer under the television in the bedroom (a TV that hardly ever gets watched and should really be given away. I can’t quite bear to part with it, as my parents got it for me for Christmas my freshman year of college). I keep the television and accompanying VCR under a piece of pink fabric, to keep the dust away and also so that I don’t always have the blank screen staring at me. That fabric hangs down over the front of the drawer, keeping it hidden from sight and barely used. However, despite the concealment, it was full of junk. Mostly belonging to my grandmother.

After 6 and a half years, you’d think that I’d have gotten rid of all the bits and pieces that my grandparents left behind. Well, if that was your assumption, you’d be wrong. Each time I’ve have this need to clean out, I’ve focus on different areas of the apartment. There have been times when the inspiration has struck in the kitchen (which is nearly entirely mine by this point) or in the hall closet (which still contains much of their stuff, although I did finally get rid of the last of my grandmother’s clothes last January). I don’t know exactly how to explain it other than during each wave of cleaning, I reach a point where emotional exhaustion sets in and I just can’t get rid of another thing. On some level, each item I discard feels one less bit of connection to a woman I loved dearly and so I’ve always reached a point of emotional saturation, where I just can’t let go any more. Well, either that or I just get distracted and eventually forget to return to the task at hand. Whatever the reason, I find that there is still much of grandparents’ life detritus living in Apartment 2024 with Scott and me.

Going through that drawer, I found an old eyebrow pencil, three mercury thermometers, several teeny, tiny foreign language dictionaries and my grandmother’s last driver’s license (which I ended up returning to the pile from which it came) among many other things. When I was growing up, going through her stuff was one of my favorite things to do when we’d visit. I loved sifting through her jewelry box and rummaging through the carton of wallets that lived on the floor in the closet. I think some of resistance to finally getting rid of the last of her things is that it means that that particular childhood pleasure will be gone from me forever.

It’s a bittersweet thing, this growing up.

Scott on television

Scott on our (and the world\'s) TV

Earlier this afternoon, Scott forwarded me an email. He added one line to the sentence, which said, “OMG! I’m going to be on TV. But check out the dress code section!” They had specifically said that he wasn’t allowed to wear a Hawaiian shirt. So, while I sat quietly in meditation tonight, he settled down in a satellite studio and spent about a minute appearing on Attack of the Show (which I had never heard of before today).

I think Scott will have a clip of it up tomorrow, but for now, a still photo of our TV with a larger than life Scott. Very cool.