Tue May 21 2013
After getting engaged, getting sick, and then hosting friends for a few days, I am back with a vengeance. And by vengeance, I mean “poem.” And by “poem,” I mean thing that I wrote after reading and loving and being inspired by an actual poem, written by Barbara Ras. (Big thanks to my friend Rose for sharing it on her blog.)
You Can’t Have It All
But you can have the wood behind your house and its hidden multitudes
of birds, rabbits, and deer. You can have the rise and fall of a dog’s warm, furry chest
beneath your palm, as you sit on the couch trying to work.
You can have the hum of the refrigerator and the cyclic rumble and whine
of the washing machine, the noises of home, which remind you
there will always be a familiar place to come back to. And when it is August,
you can have heat and abundantly so. You can have hope
though it will often be bittersweet, like the chunks of dark chocolate
that you nibble on throughout the day, sugar melting on your tongue,
until you realize hope isn’t the same as conviction.
You can have the softness of your soulmate’s cheek,
pressed against your lips. You can have the garden of imagination,
creeping upward into the sunlight, less than wild,
but more than the seeds that others plant
and never water.
You can reach for your mother’s heritage, sometimes,
and brush it with your fingertips. You can pray to the god you don’t believe in
when you worry about those you love. You can’t fix everything,
but you can find the best parts of yourself in the worst of times
and polish them brighter than silver. And you can be grateful
for tank tops, the cool air on your bare arms, too little, too much, grateful
for TV shows that make you laugh and cry, for books
that take you to another world, and for deeper adventures,
for airplanes, for trains. You can have the dream,
the dream of Greece, the ruins of Greece and you walking among history.
You can have your grandmother listening to you play piano,
in a Christmas memory, you can have waves and chalkboards, the fogging
of windows, and oil sizzling like radio static as it jumps from the skillet.
You can’t expect success to float down to you like a leaf
but here is your friend to teach you how to keep swimming,
how to fight your fear of drowning, onward,
until it doesn’t matter how far or fast you go, only that you continue,
and here are bluebonnets, bunk beds, photos developing in a slow fade
under dim red lights. And when adulthood isn’t what you expected,
you can summon the memory of fairy wings tied to the costume
of your childhood, the M&M Blizzards and chili cheese fries
that you ate with your parents every time you went to the sailboat.
There is the wind you still hear on the roof, like a friend,
it will always sing, you can’t have it all,
but there is this.
Sat May 11 2013
I promise not to go on about the engagement forever, but a few people have asked about the scrapbook Andy made of his other proposal ideas, so here are a handful of my favorites.
Andy and I don’t have a song, but we do have a movie. And that movie, of all things, is Mulan. Because as soon as I found out that he hadn’t watched it, I borrowed my roommate’s copy and marched over to Andy’s dorm room. (I was a sophomore, he a junior.) It was the perfect excuse to spend an evening together, and after a couple hours of sitting next to each other on his futon, buzzing with electricity anytime our knees or elbows bumped, we finally confessed our feelings for one another.
For the Mulan Proposal Plan, Andy was thinking of taking me to a movie theater, ostensibly to see something else (i.e., something current), but the surprise would be an empty theater showing Mulan for just the two of us, followed by his proposal at the end. A super sweet idea, but Andy was worried that the suspense and excitement would fizzle out over the course of the movie.
Like the Mulan plan, this one hinges on our shared history. New House 5 is where we met — the top floor of my freshman dorm, for which Andy was my RA. And then he was RA again the year after — for a different set of kids, but I visited him a lot. And then I was the RA on that floor for the next 2 years. So many of our fondest memories, both together and independent, are rooted in New House 5. It was and forever will be a home in our hearts.
Getting engaged there would definitely have been meaningful and wonderful, but since everyone we know has graduated by now, I’m not sure he could have taken me back without arousing suspicion.
The seeds of Andy’s final proposal plan are probably first visible in May of 2010, with the Art in the Window scheme. This concept hinged on the fact that whenever we travel, we buy a piece of art as our souvenir. (Andy loves stuff, but I do not, so this is our compromise. No snow globes or keychains for me, thanks!) His idea was to lure me into a specific art gallery, and then after I expressed fondness for whichever item, the owner would say that he had other similar, better offerings in the back.
In the back room, the owner would show me through a series of paintings or sculptures — each created by one of my family or friends — which together would tell a story. Andy would unveil the final masterpiece himself: his proposal, in art form.
The logistics of this would probably have been a nightmare, but I’m glad that the core concepts — meaningful creations, friend involvement, sneakery — made it into the final proposal.
I think this might be the coolest, but also the riskiest, of Andy’s scrapped ideas. First, he would have had to sneak the ring with us to Ecuador without my seeing. Then, he would have had to plant the ring in a secluded snorkeling area. Finally, he would have had to propose underwater (!!).
While I adore the idea, the reality is that we were housed in a room smaller than some SUVs. He wore swim trunks most of the time. The currents were strong, and the wildlife were unpredictable. Either I would have seen the ring, or else a sea lion would have stolen it.
Plus, this was the trip where I discovered I was allergic to the sun. I would not have been happy to be proposed to when I looked half lizard, all bumpy and itchy and red.
And of course, the one that finally planned out. When Andy made this page for the scrapbook, he didn’t have all the details ironed out — namely, how he would present the book to me — he just knew that this is the one he wanted to go with.
It wasn’t the most elaborate or exotic of his ideas, but it was so thoughtful. So well-executed. So… me.
The scrapbook holds about a dozen other proposal plans — planting a tree together, watching a meteor shower, serenading me on-stage with Keith Urban — but the ones above were my favorite.
A rather unassuming looking book, but now one of my most beloved in the world. Along with THE STORY SO FAR, of course.
Mon May 6 2013
So, here’s what I thought was going to happen this weekend:
- Dinner out on Friday night.
- Wake up early Saturday morning to join the We Heart YA girls in reading to underprivileged children at Joseph-Beth.
- Brunch afterward with the WHYA girls.
- 9 holes of golf with Andy and a friend.
- The usual reading/errand-running/TV-watching.
And here’s what actually happened:
Yes, Andy and I got engaged.
(No, that’s not how he proposed. I just thought Riley was cuter than my hand.)
More details, for those of you who are curious:
Andy has, unbeknownst to me, been dreaming up proposal ideas since 2008. They have ranged from the extremely private (just us) to the extremely public (Keith Urban concert) but always involved a level of sneakery, since he knew I wanted to be surprised.
7 months ago, Andy finally settled on The Idea.
Because writing and storytelling are so important to me, he decided he wanted to incorporate them into the proposal. So first, he made a book. A children’s book, sort of. It’s called THE STORY SO FAR, and it’s about us. How we met, fell in love, started a life together, etc. Told in alternate rhyming stanzas. Illustrated with pictures of us from over the years.
In a bold move, this book was hiding somewhere in our house until last week.
Two weeks ago, Sarah emailed to say she had volunteered us (We Heart YA) to read to underprivileged children as part of an all-day event at Joseph-Beth. She asked if I would meet her at 7:30 AM, before the bookstore opened. After moaning and groaning about the early start time, I agreed.
A couple days later, I was telling Andy about it, and he said it sounded like a cool way to give back to the community and asked if he could tag along. Since waking up early on a weekend seemed less painful if we were doing it together, I said sure.
The day of the event was Saturday, May 4, 2013. Our alarm went off at 6:30 AM. I snoozed it a couple times, then finally dragged myself out of bed to take Riley out and feed him before we left.
On the drive over, Andy was in good spirits, teasing me about being tired. He said that maybe this would be life-changing. I just rolled my eyes, since he says that all the time, about silly things like going to dinner at Ruby Tuesday or meeting up with friends for putt putt.
When we arrived at Joseph-Beth, Sarah was already there, and Stephanie was just pulling in. The four of us got out of our cars and were greeted at the door by Dave, whom I recognized from various author events at the store. He took us over to the children’s section where we would be reading to the kids. There was a theater-like area, and a chair with a short stack of books on it. I told Dave I had never done this before and asked how it would go. He gave me a funny look.
Dave: “You’ve… never been to Storytime?”
Dave: “Uh, well, the kids will come in and sit there, and then you’ll sit here and read to them.”
Yes, thank you, Captain Obvious.
(At the time I was thinking, “Well, duh.” But in retrospect, I suspect that my question caught him off-guard because it seemed like maybe I was catching onto things!)
Anyway, Dave wandered off, and since we were four smart adults, I figured we could handle Storytime ourselves. Andy suggested we take a look at the books on the chair. First was EXTRA YARN by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen. Second was CHLOE AND THE LION by by Mac Barnett and Adam Rex. Last was THE STORY SO FAR by…
My immediate thought was that this was a very strange coincidence. Then I wondered if Dave knew Andy somehow and was playing a practical joke. Finally I began to realize what was happening.
Holy crap he’s going to propose!
Only a second or two passed before Andy turned to me and said, “We’re not here to read to children.”
My head whipped around to find Sarah. “WHAAAT?”
(I assure you, it was a GIF-worthy moment.)
Andy suggested that I have a seat, and he would read to me. As I sat down, I began to realize just how fully I had been duped. This was a proposal. There were no children. There were never any children.
Andy’s hands were ever-so-slightly shaky as he opened the book to the first page, and in that moment, I very nearly cried. But then the shock took over again, and all I could do was sit calmly, smiling and trying to process everything while he read me his sweet rhyming words about our lives, our love.
His hands stilled and his voice gained strength with every page. When the story was nearing a close, he handed me the book and said that I should turn to the end. I did, and when I looked up, he was down on one knee, with a ring. He spoke the words that were written on the last page.
Will you marry me?
Breathless, I managed to say, “Yeah. Of course I will.” Not the most romantic or enthusiastic-sounding answer, but I assure you, I was over the moon. I put on the ring, and we kissed and hugged.
“You should thank Sarah and Stephanie for this,” he said as we stood up together.
“I’m going to kill them for this,” I joked.
But of course I didn’t. I thanked them, and Dave, and then spent the rest of the weekend wrapping my mind around what had happened. Around all the careful planning that Andy had put into it. You guys, there are so many little things I’ve left out, seeds that Andy planted over the course of several weeks so that they would bloom naturally and I would not suspect a thing. The man is a diabolical genius and we are all just lucky that he uses his powers for good!
Andy had given certain people advance notice of the proposal, so many of my calls to friends and family were more or less like, “Hey, I’m engaged! But you already know that…” Still, it was nice to share the news and the story.
Later that night we updated our relationship status on Facebook — which was bittersweet, since I took a strange sort of pride in not ever having had a relationship status on Facebook before — but the outpouring of love and excitement from everyone made it totally worthwhile. (Also, let’s be honest: Social media is just such a good, convenient method of letting people know what’s going on.)
Last but not least, on Sunday, Andy gave me one additional gift: A scrapbook he had made of the top proposal ideas that didn’t pan out or that he had decided against, for whatever reasons. Going through that was like getting proposed to a dozen more times.
Now we’re just going to enjoy this phase for a while. After all, we dated for almost 8 years, so why rush to plan a wedding? (We do agree that we’d prefer something very small and low-key, though.) So technically, not much has changed.
And yet, calling him “fiancé” gives me a little thrill every time.
Fri May 3 2013
Tue Apr 30 2013
Hard to believe it’s only been two weeks since the Boston Marathon. Unfortunately, coverage of that tragedy coincided all too well with my recent posts on journalism.
Millions of words have already been written about what happened, so I simply want to leave you with this:
“There’s one thing we can do to render terrorism ineffective: Refuse to be terrorized.”
To close out this series of posts, I wanted to talk about one last aspect of modern-day journalism: interaction.
In the old days, news was a one-way street. Reporters gathered the information — interviews, research, photos/audio/video — and then put out the stories. We read them. The end.
Well, I guess if you really wanted to respond, you could write a letter to the editor.
But nowadays we are not limited to that kind of silent consumption. We can be contributors, in a variety of ways. For better or worse. (Maybe both.)
- Thanks to the proliferation of digital cameras, smart phones, etc., it’s easier than ever to participate in “common man reporting,” as I called it earlier. We can gather the information now — interview, research, photos/audio/video. All at the touch of a button.
- Thanks to the internet, we can also publish the stories ourselves. Via Facebook, Twitter, email, personal sites, and more. The whole web is like a 24/7 broadcast, in a way, and each of us has our own channel, if we want it.
- And even if we don’t want to do any of that, we can still hold a microphone to our virtual mouths. Comments are like our generation’s letters to the editor. Only they tend to be a lot uglier, with worse spelling and more all caps.
In theory, I’m glad that everyone can have a voice. Because voice is power, voice is vital. Too many bad things have happened throughout history when people were denied their rightful voices.
But part of me wonders why some individuals feel the need to air such vile and vicious thoughts online. Why are they clamoring for their meanness to be heard, to be validated? And what do they think it adds to the news?
Maybe we all need to learn how to sit quietly within our own minds.
(And some people definitely need to be taught manners and common decency. Sadly, arguing or engaging with those people online is pointless — counterproductive, even.)
Anyway. Those are my thoughts. That’s my voice, being shared on my channel. For better or worse. Maybe both.