Friday, May 30, 2014

Best First Wedding Anniversary Gifts Ever - Boudoir & Wood

Blue shoes photo cred @saramoe

Mike and I got married October 27, 2012 in a bookstore in New York City. We spent our first wedding anniversary with a morning trip to the Taj Mahal followed by dodging cockroaches on a train in India and watching Breaking Bad. We knew we would be on the road for our first year milestone, so we decided on no gifts because a honeymoon around the world should cover our bases. But, I cheated this promise before I even made it. 

A few weeks before we got married, my friend, Sara Moe, who is an incredibly talented photographer, writer, and mother, offered to throw in a boudoir photography session along with the wedding package she was doing for us. Since the first wedding anniversary is traditionally paper, and every bride is looking their best just before they get married, this was the perfect gift! The hardest part would be keeping it to myself for a year. For anyone who knows me, getting all prettied up and taking sexy pictures was definitely not a comfortable idea. However, with the help of a couple friends, Sara's very calm nature, and some champagne, Sara put together an amazing shoot that turned out to be kind of empowering and super fun.                                                                                                                         
Walnut & Maple Keepsake Chest made by @artifactwoodworks

On our wedding anniversary, I surprised Mike with the boudoir pictures after we survived almost crashing into a cow because our tuk tuk driver was drunk, and had made it safely to a hotel room after a 9 hour train ride. We finished the night with the only place in Khajuraho that served pizza and beer. 
Needless to say, Mike felt bad that I had cheated the promise which he had honored. He didn't have any gift for me. But, like all of Mike's gifts, he waits until he finds the perfect item and this time he nailed it. 

Curly maple top to keepsake chest by @artifactwoodworks
While on the road, I stayed in touch with friends mainly through Instagram.  During this time, an old and dear friend from high school started up a pretty impressive woodworking hobby that has quickly become a start up business. For every piece he posts a picture of, I fall in love with the next one that much more. I had mentioned to Mike that maybe I would commission my friend Mike Corwin for a couple things once we were back and on our feet. 

Two days ago, after a very intense week where Mike and I are discovering the dips of marriage like struggling to find a job, transition, settling back home or into a new city for him, he came through the door with my old friend, Mike, and this gorgeous handcrafted walnut and maple keepsake chest. I felt like I literally had my breath taken away. I was so shocked to see my friend, so touched by Mike's thoughtfulness and attentiveness, and so awe-struck by how beautiful this piece of craftsmanship is!   A few details on this awesome anniversary gift (still totally in the theme of paper):

The chest is constructed from walnut and hard maple, mitered construction with hard maple splines for decorative reinforcement, an oil/varnish blend with wax topcoat, a custom hard maple pull and brass hardware to pull it all together.
I have a terrible confession: I still don't have any of my wedding pictures printed and none of my photos from traveling. But now that I have the perfect place to hold the moments I have cherished the most in my life, I am anxiously awaiting their arrival. 

I also hope to acquire many more custom pieces from my friend, Mike Corwin, who you can follow on Instagram @artifactwoodworks.  His website is in the making. 

Did I mention he is also a dynamite musician? Get him while he's hot, folks. 

Me and Mike Corwin

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

When I Was 18, and We Used to Go To IV

Notre Dame Graduation 1999
When I was 18, I spent my freshman year at LMU while many of my closest friends packed up their cars and moved to Isla Vista (IV), a neighborhood in Santa Barbara that houses students from UCSB and for my friends, Santa Barbara City College. I made fast friends with a suite-mate, Tara, who would one day become my Maid of Honor at my wedding. My friendship with Tara started on a road trip up to IV when we realized her radio was broken and we would be forced to make conversation for the two hour drive. It was a trip that sealed our fate as life-long friends and a trip that sealed our love for the freedom a weekend in Santa Barbara gave us. 

Me and Tara
My friends from high school welcomed Tara with open arms and we solidified our sisterhood with shots of Fahrenheit 151 rum, cigarettes, and all of the debauchery that comes with being 18 and away from home for the first time. We spent our Friday and Saturday nights hopping from house party to house party along the IV streets. We were introduced to fraternity keggers, and raves and inducted into the hall of embarrassing hangovers as we held each other's hair while we each took a turn kissing the porcelain god. We made out with boys and then made out with each other's boys and met up for breakfast at Denny's. We, the ladies - me, Tara, Jessica, Karen, Michelle...

Me and Jessica

Tara and I would drive home from a weekend in IV in pain and laughter as we geared up for the week ahead back at LMU, but really just geared up for the next weekend when we could go back to see our friends and make new friends in Isla Vista. 

This past weekend I was in Santa Barbara for the first time since those carefree weekends in IV. I was sitting in a classy bar on State Street with a glass of chardonnay, seated next to my husband, as we waited for my brother's play to start that evening. We asked the bartender to turn on the Kings game which led us to a news channel which flashed the horrific events that happened in IV the night before. There was no sound, only images - yellow caution tape, shattered glass, flowers, students on street corners and a Youtube video of a young man or woman, I could not tell. 

"Seven Dead in Mass Shooting, Isla Vista."

My heart sank. I thought of me and Tara. I thought of Jessica and Karen. I thought of Dante and Sean and Tim and Sami. I thought of all the people that I still carry such a deep love for, despite the years and the distance. The kind of love that only comes when you grow up and make mistakes together. The kind of love we founded in the halls of high school and a freshman dorm, but cemented on the streets of IV. I thought of us, fourteen years ago, standing on those corners. And then I saw versions of us, frightened, paralyzed, looking to make sense of something that never will. I thought of all that happened in between our time in IV and what happened in IV just hours before I returned to my old stomping grounds after fourteen years away. People are married, have doctorates, babies, and some have even passed on. Not all of our stories have turned out happy, but we all had the chance of the last fourteen years. We all had life after IV. 

Me and Karen
My heart is truly breaking for the families of the victims and for the victims themselves. This was not how it was supposed to end. It's not how it is ever supposed to end. 

My disgust for gun lobbyists and the NRA has been a cauldron of anger that I have been so afraid of, I have remained silent for fear it was all going to come out in a fit of snot and tears and rage, an exposure I have been afraid of since my own family experienced their own loss at the hands of gun violence in 2010.  

In 2012, I was working in an elementary school in New York watching on my computer the horrific events of the Sandy Hook Elementary Shootings unfolding before me and the nation. 

Just this weekend, I was in Santa Barbara in a bar, the day after the mass murders in IV. 

I am still afraid of my rage. Afraid it won't stop if it starts to pour out. But hearing Richard Martinez ask the nation, "When will the insanity stop?!" and blame his son's murder on the NRA and "craven, irresponsible politicians"  was more than witnessing heartbreaking courage, it was a duty. No one wants to have to use their child's murder for a political argument. But I argue that the debate over gun control in the United States is beyond politics. Our lack of gun control is a human rights violation of the most egregious kind - it's legal. California has some of the tougher gun control laws and still, this young man who had a history of taking anti-psychosis medicine, a history of trying to push women off of a ten foot ledge not even a year prior, a history of mental illness, and published manifesto videos on Youtube, was able to legally purchase semi-automatic weapons with extended clips. 

I stand with Richard Martinez. Fuck gun rights. What about our right to live?

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Things I Learned From Your Mother

Happy Mother's Day...

Dad, I learned from your mother to look for the stories in the everyday. I learned the pleasure of people-watching and how a little bit of imagination and strong intuition makes everybody a character.

Mom, I learned from your mother the importance of introducing children to culture at a young age. I learned that things I once loved as a child will always come back to me and later become a respite from the challenges of adulthood. Nothing calms the nerves like the quiet of a library, the space of a museum, the collective pause when the lights go down before the show.

Aunt Gail, I learned from you the importance of speaking your truth, even if other people don't like it. I learned there is love in discipline, respect in chores, and understanding in conversations around a hot tub.

To my three godsons, your mother taught me how to "woman up" and in a pair of heels, no less. She teaches me that support is always only a phone call away.

To my cousin Gary's four  beautiful girls, your mom teaches me the power of being pragmatic, how to keep a level head no matter how loud it gets, and that no matter how many kids, you should always make time to blow dry your hair.

Mike, your mom taught me the importance of Sunday family dinner and how a curl up on the couch is sometimes the best medicine.

To my mother-in-law, your mother showed me how to hold court at any family function - you sit in the kitchen.  And on that note, Emilia, I learned from you the way to anyone's heart is through the kitchen.

To my three cousins, Emma, Hannah and Grace, your mom taught me how to honor your kids just by listening to them.

To my Aunt Trish, I learned that humor is a very clever way to mother a few nieces and nephews. That, and a well-trained dog.

To my Aunt Rose, I learned from you that perhaps even better than being someone's mom, is being someone's favorite grandmother, or a niece's confidante.

And to Kirra and Aubrey, your mom showed me that even good moms have a wild side, especially when on vacation in New York City.

To my scottish Aunt, I learned from you how to embrace your in-laws by re-branding yourself an "outlaw" and winning everyone over with charm.

To my cousins, Jeremy, Breanne and Anthony, your mom taught me that the best part of hosting is being the one who gives the toast.

To Nate, Riley and Norah, I learned from your mom that well-taught manners are the building blocks to a healthy conscious.

And Jessica, I've learned from you that a healthy family is a happy family.

Jacob and Mitch, I've learned from your mom that a question and "a look" are often more effective than a yell.

Morgan, Kylen, and Cade,  your mom taught me that it's not a workout until you have burned 400 calories and that a fireplace and a glass of wine is a good way to get to know anyone.

To Natalie, I've learned from your mom how to gracefully change a tasteless also helps if you know French.

And to Miss Tristan, your mom taught me to believe the hype. It is just as hard as I think it will be, and just as rewarding. She also taught me that you can have anything you want at your wedding, even a sword fight.

And to one more Natalie, the one in New York, your mom continues to teach me how to believe in my worth...that and that you can rock any style at any age if you've got the confidence to back it up.

Mo, your mom taught me how to make room for your friend's kids - literally. While Scott, your mom taught me almost the same thing. They also both taught me how to laugh like everyone is listening.

And to Delilah, your mom teaches me everyday to exercise my creative soul and go forth in the world with a wicked sense of comedy.

Dashiell, Finn, and Hazel, I learned from your mom how to take a leap.

Mila, I have been learning about my self from your mother for more than ten years. She has taught me how we gravitate toward the people who have the qualities we wish he had. She has also taught me that it is important to cry.

Mora, I learn from your mother what strength really looks like and how to embrace your children's delinquent traits, because let's be honest, that's what makes it really fun. I learn from her  all the time that even with four children and several jobs, there is always time for friendship. And to that effect, your mom's mom, shows me thoughtfulness comes in the little gestures that at first you may not notice until they become engrained as tradition, and that tradition is what keeps a family together.

Tara and Che, I've learned from your mom that a truly warm heart and an honest opinion is the only thing a kid really needs...that and maybe a few killer dance moves.

Regan, I learn from you that a mother's love can be found on the plate.

And Court, I learn from your mom that the key to life is to never stop moving. A body in motion will stay in motion. Oh, and there is always room for Vermont knick-knacks.

Megs, you taught me the serenity found in a piece of chocolate...and a good stiff gin. You also showed me what happy kids truly look like and that they are way more resilient than we think.

Sara Nicklas, I learned from you that you can do it differently. And Claire, I've seen from you the beauty in passing down exactly what we know.

Tula, your momma teaches me how to find the poetry in the small moments.

Danielle, your mom taught me more than to straighten the fringes on the rug. She also taught me discipline through the way she disciplined herself.

Chris, I learned from your mom how to be your kid's greatest cheerleader.

Alexander and William, I've learned from your mom the importance of diplomacy in every situation and that enthusiasm is infectious!

Willow and Logan, Sadie and Jack, your mothers teach me that kids are the true comedy to life and raising kids down the street from your best friend makes for one unstoppable extended family.

Priya, just last week I learned from you that when the kittens are away, the momma mouse will play!

And Delia, your momma teaches me how to stay perpetually positive even in the face of staggering hardship.

To Haze, I learned from your mother that the way to heal your heart is to honor your pain.

To my godmother, I have learned from you that hard work is an act of godliness.

And lastly to my mom, I have learned from you what tough really means. I have learned from you that I can do damn-well anything even if I'm afraid of it. I have learned from you that I have an abundance of love in my heart and it will show up for anyone if I ask it to.

Friday, May 9, 2014

15 Things I'm Grateful For Right This Second!

1. This guy.

2. This weather.

3. This friend.

4. This country.

5. This idea.

6. These kick ass shoes.

7. This. As in this blog space. 

8. These families.  

9.  This couple. 

 10. This one, always. 

11. This First Lady.

13. This Crew.

14.  This amazing experience.


15. This day, today, everyday. 

New Zealand