for the record

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Have you ever told a stranger that you loved them?  No?  Okay, that’s normal – good for you.  But guess what?  I went to the airport Friday, and when I bought a magazine and Raisinets for the plane, the cashier turned to me and said, “I love you sweetheart.”  I was stunned, of course, and I wondered why this stranger felt the need to profess her love.  Thinking quickly, I figured it might be cultural (‘i love you’ instead of ‘thank you’ or ‘have a nice day’) and so I simply said, ‘i love you too’ (didn’t want to be rude).  As the words left my mouth I realized the woman had actually said, “i love your sweater.”  Oops.  Time to board my plane.
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Consciously cultivate silly and laugh through the awkwardness.  Not the advice most people offering during heart-to-hearts and other moments-of-import, but the simple prescription almost guarantees laughter and good times.  Our anniversary trip to Chicago (to attend a friend’s wedding) began with an awkward moment for the books, but the silly moments and big, big laughter lasted all weekend.
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Round-trip flights from Chicago to Minneapolis are $75 on Spirit Airlines.  A great deal, right?  But did you know it costs $100 to bring a carry-on bag?  It’s hard to justify the relative cost of a bag when you’re excited about visiting friends for under $100.  And so, dear friends, we didn’t bring any carry-on luggage for the weekend.  Jon wore his suit on the plane, I stuffed everything I needed into a tiny purse, and we arrived wrinkled and underprepared for the weekend of endless rain.  My one outfit was drenched and soaked right after landing.  We bought clothes after the flight, and I returned with my new shirts tucked inside my jacket.  Classy,  right?
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How was your weekend?

lucky stars collide

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It’s hard to imagine many things happier than living together in a city filled with friends.  That’s all most of us can ask for, right?  To be grounded in a city where we feel connected to the people around us.  To be able to throw a dinner party at the behest of a phone-call or two.

A month after we got engaged, Jon received a job offer from a company in Mondovi, Wisconsin – a town of 2,700.  Mondovi’s claim-to-fame is that there isn’t a street-light in the entire town.  Residents may roam freely.  

When we first met, Jon’s job required working late-nights (midnight on a week day) and weekend hours (usually Saturday and Sunday from noon-five).  I wanted to be able to spend more time together, and Jon promised to make that happen.  Perhaps, I shouldn’t have been too surprised when he came home with a bottle of champagne and a map.  Beggars can’t choosers, after all. 
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Deciding to leave Chicago – my sweet family, my friends, and my job – was incredibly scary.  I’d moved half a dozen times in my life, but this was the first time it felt like leaving home.  

Why the sudden unease?  Previous moves had come with a built-in social network, a group of friends that would make transitioning more comfortable. When you start college, for example, you’re beginning a new life with thousands of other people that are embarking on a new journey. With a bit of luck, you’ll experience the ups-and-downs of college alongside people that will become lifelong friends.

We lived in Mondovi for just over a year, and then Jon’s company moved us to downtown Minneapolis.  Once again, I felt uncomfortable about the move and the prospect of making new friends.  Rumors that Minneapolites were as cold as the weather made me nervous:

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New Years Eve marked 7 months in Minneapolis, and Jon and I decided to spend the evening sipping champagne and playing games with friends.  I went shopping for party crowns and horns and hats before the event, and as I tried to match celebratory gear to my friends’ personalities, I felt overwhelmed with gratitude for all the truly kind people I’ve met here.  

The Minneapolites that I call friends are down-to-earth, genuine, and fun.  Mixing a group of them together for an NYE party made for a perfect night.  When the clock struck midnight, I kissed my sweetheart and thanked my lucky stars that our adventures had landed us in such lovely company.
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sippin’ sweet tea

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Bits and pieces of memories fade, resurface and transform when we recall important moments from our lives. The happy thing about photographs is that they have the transcendent power to capture these memories, to immortalize the visual details, and help ‘paint the scene’ when we ‘remember the times.’

The absence of a photograph, however, speaks just as loudly, perhaps providing even more detail, than an album of memories. How is that so, you wonder? The undocumented moments occur when we’re too caught in the moment, too busy laughing, enjoying, and just, well, being, that we forgot to snap a photograph or 7. And you know what? Those moments, despite my love for photography, are my favorite kind.

Fill my days with laughter and activities and people that make me forget about my phone and my camera. Give me sunshine that begs to be enjoyed rather than documented. Let me sit in the grass, read away the morning, and then spend the afternoon hitting balls with my brothers. I’ll drink sweet tea and chat with my baby cousins as the sun goes down.

I boarded the homeward bound train wishing I had photographs of Thanksgiving in Chicago, but as I muse about my lack of documentation, I am grateful for the special moments that made me forgot about my camera. Those moments helped make memories more valuable than a collection of photographs.
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full (of thanks)

Jon woke me up this morning with tea, a granola bar, and a kiss.  The breakfast was thoughtful and perfect, but the best part was that he was home — he usually leaves for work at 6, I wake at 7, and then we see each other when he comes home in the evening.  Sharing my morning with him is my favorite way to start the day, and in this case, it’s indicative of something even greater: we’ll be spending the next five days together in Chicago.  As in, five days of vacation, family, food, theater (we’re seeing Wicked!!), and absolutely no working.  Let the laughter and silliness begin.
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spontaneous dance party

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A stranger from Indianapolis wrote me an email saying that I was lovely and we should live together.  Perhaps share a two bedroom near the park? Let me know!  XOXO, Kali.

To be fair, I was the weirdo that posted an advertisement for roommates on Craigslist.  Kali was the first to respond, and we instantly bonded over a mutual love of painting, poetry, holidays, baked goods and spontaneous dance parties.  We found a small mansion in Lincoln Park, scouted out another 2 roommates to fill the house, and moved in a month later.
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Jon had a pool party the weekend I met Kali, and so I invited her along to meet my friends.  She’d only known me a few hours, but she grabbed her bikini and followed me downtown for some afternoon fun.  We were sitting on the bus, only 5 minutes from Jon’s building, when it started pouring rain all around us.  I made a comment about the rain ruining the fun, and she said something I never forgot

“Not every day is happy, but there is something happy about every day — let’s put on our bikinis.”

I prompted her for details about where we should do that, and she told me to run behind the dumpster. Ummmm K?  So we did.  To prevent soaking our clothes, we put on our swimsuits, and then we ran the last 4 blocks (through downtown Chicago people — Kinzie/LaSalle) to Jon’s apartment.  We arrived soaking wet but incredibly happy, and we suggested to my dear boy that we take umbrellas to the hot tub.  Problem solved.
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Living with Kali made every.single.day happy: we had Trader Joe picnics in the living room, swapped clothes in both bedrooms, and took turns leading designs projects in the house.  The greatest design project, by far, was a mural of the Chicago skyline that Kali did in the main room:
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Can you tell she’s a graphic designer?  It’s obvious, right?  She currently does marketing and design for a beauty company, but she just started her own freelancing business, June Mango.  Her designs are vibrant, fresh and indicative of her sweet&quirky personality:
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Awesome, right?  Right now she’s actually in a competition on Minted, and you can support my BFF by voting for Kali Edwards in the State of the Art Challenge.

If you’re more into making friends than voting, head over to her blog and say hello.  She’s the best, and, what’s more, you don’t even have to write a creepy Craigslist advt. to meet her 🙂
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the smallest detail

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My favorite time of day is the first couple of hours before the sun comes up.  The quiet of morning makes me feel quite alone in the world, and I enjoy strolling the vacant streets with a cup of coffee.  The walk wakes up my legs and the coffee jolts my mind, and, ever so slowly, people trickle out of their homes and into the streets.  The poetic and incredibly beautiful thing about people in the morning is how determined they seem to begin the day just right.   

If you watch closely, everyone seems to understand their place in the world around 8am – business associates hop determinedly onto bosses, students crack open their books, and shopkeepers swiftly sweep the floors.  As the day progresses, people inevitably feel tired or angry or sad, but in the morning, it just seems like endless hope.

I woke at 7am the first time I slept at Jon’s apartment.  It was a Saturday morning, and I figured he wouldn’t stir for at least another 3 hours.  When I  rolled over, however, I found him watching CNN and sending emails on his laptop.   He kissed my forehead and hopped out of bed:  “You’re up — Let’s get coffee.”  I wiped the sleep from my eyes and thanked my lucky stars for finding me an early riser.  Two mugs today, please.

We crossed the street from our downtown apartment and entered the coffee house on the corner.  I just about keeled over when he grabbed The WSJ like a reflex.  The WSJ is my favorite paper.  

We ordered two black coffees, snuggled into a booth, and divided the paper.  We spent the next few hours reading out loud, swapping stories, asking for opinions, and laughing over the same events.  We occasionally turned away from the paper to indulge in some quality people watching.  
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This is a long story, Reader, but I’m trying to convey the magnitude of our first, seemingly ordinary, Saturday morning together.  Three years later, the Saturday morning routine has become a relationship habit — we wake, brush our teeth, and then we go searching for caffeine and news.  

We were in Chicago this past weekend, and even though we were on vacation, we woke Saturday morning and went searching for the local coffee shop, hand-in-hand.  The power of our relationship ritual was too great to be broken by something as simple as a vacation.  The consistency of our ritual, of the shared morning, coffee, and paper, is something that we look forward to and depend on.  We repeat this Saturday morning tradition, time and time again, because we both find it so fulfilling and happy — down to the smallest detail.   All of our Saturday mornings play out exactly the same way, in a sort of domestic haze, simply because we wouldn’t want them any other way.  We found a moment that we choose, time and time again, to recreate exactly.
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Do you have any relationship rituals?  Families, couples or friends?  Is there something that you look forward to doing, time and time again, with the people dear to you?

Here are some pictures from the weekend Chicago trip:
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public apology to pedestrians everywhere

ImageI named my first bike Wanda because I thought we would spend years “wanda-ing” around together.  We’re all wrong sometimes, right?  I bought Wanda right after I moved to Chicago, and I was more than a little nervous about riding alongside “late-for-a-date singles”, “pressed for time business executives”, and “every-minute-counts cabbies.”  

I figured I would risk being one of those people that everyone hates, and simply ride on the sidewalk. Next to the pedestrians.  Well well well. That was my first mistake.  Sure enough, just two weeks after riding Wanda I ran smack-dab into a hand-holding couple as they were exiting a restaurant.  I actually only crashed into the girl, but it felt like I had hit them both when her boyfriend started yelling about the importance of riding in the street.

Lesson learned & point taken.

Wanda and I began biking alongside the multitude of drivers in Chicago.  We were nervous, sure, but I also figured that we would be pros before long.  Everything seems tricky until it’s easy, right?  Besides, I made a solemn vow that I would never make another person sprawl out along the sidewalk. I had to commit myself to the city streets.

Can you guess what happened on day 3?

That’s right.  Wanda and I got hit by a car.  We were crossing the street when a car blew through a stop sign: Wanda went left and I went right.    

Two days later Wanda was stolen in the night during a particularly noisy Chicago rainstorm.  I didn’t look for her.  I figured it must be a sign.  From that point on, I relied on my two feet and the bus for all transportation purposes.

I met Jon two years later, and he took me bike riding around Lake Michigan on one of our first dates.  He loved riding, and he told me dozens of stories about how his bike had gotten him to every class at Madison for 5 years.  I rented an old beach hopper, and slowly told him the story of Wanda.   A couple weeks later, we went to the bike shop and he picked out a new bike for me.  He told me it was time for a new beginning. 

I’m happy to say I’ve been accident-free for 3 years now, and I’m learning the rules of biking on the road.  Luckily, Minneapolis is an extremely bike-friendly city, and there are dozens of trails and paths (even in the downtown) specifically for people riding two wheels.

Anyway! That was just a long story about what I was thinking during the rah rah rah experiment today.  For my project, I decided to make custom water bottle labels and then place them on bicycles around the city.  Maybe this was my small way of making amends for all the trouble I’ve caused on my bike over the years.

Below is the label I made. I know, it’s pretty awful and slightly embarrassing.  If any graphic designers are looking to make a new best friend, contact me.
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home sweet view

in my last post i said that jon was my home. that’s true. in all sorts of sentimental ways, our relationship makes my abstract home sweet, but in a very physical sense, i believe that a view makes or breaks a home.  wouldn’t you agree? in chicago, i rented a restored 1890s mansion with a couple of friends, and the home was a stunner: hardwork floors, filigree details lining the walls, bay windows, fireplaces- a chicago hotdog with all the fixins’.  what was missing, however, was anything to look at beyond the curtains adorning that beautiful bay window.  my bedroom view was simply the redbrick that was my neighbor’s house, and that lackluster view kept the otherwise impressive mansion from being anything exceptional.

now, the apartment jon and i shared in chicago had a view for the books — facing west (an untraditional view in chicago where the most coveted view is east toward the lake), and overlooking all the activity of the city.  the two of us spent many o days sitting porchside with cream soda and chatting about what the neighbors were doing in the building across, who was going home with whom below, and which places we would visit when we descended the 28 flights of stairs…

well, enough of that.  this was our view in chicago:

now, we are living in the country (cheating a little bit since we’re living in an apartment building, but hey- it’s still a rural area), and we have this view:

this view doesn’t afford us too many opportunities to muse about the behavior of the city, but it does allow us to draw constellations, watch the sunrise, and observe the changing of the leaves.  
jon took work off yesterday, and with the help of the movers, he had all of our things in the apt by the time i came home:

i was ready to start unpacking and decorating, but he asked if we could just have dinner and watch a movie. ha, as if he needed to ask.  i made sausage tortellini, and then we shared a bottle of wine on the porch.  we laid there with kinzie for an hour or so, just chatting, and i had that feeling that we have ended up exactly where we needed to be.
oh? and for the movie? we went throwback with a beautiful mind.  it’s an oldie but a goodie.