Avital's Blog

Unedited snippets from the mind of a writer

On Running

Whenever I run, this thought involuntarily comes to me: “I’m going to do this for as long as I can.” And “long” doesn’t mean the next 60 minutes. It means the next 60 years.

It’s weird, because I hated running in high school. Being ordered to lap four times around the track under a blazing San Fernando Valley sun felt so tedious. I’d been a gymnast, so running seemed pointlessly one-dimensional in comparison.  

But that changed in my early thirties, when I moved to San Francisco, where I barely knew anyone. I had made the mistake before of moving somewhere new and failing to find a community. It had cost me joy, and I didn’t want to repeat that same error. So once we settled into our new apartment, I started looking into clubs to join. What with my career and all the other time-gobbling demands of an adult life, I was searching for something multipurpose.

Team in Training looked ideal: a fun, active group of new people to befriend while exercising and doing charity work. It seemed efficient—and it worked. Three years, four races, and five smelly pairs of shoes later, most of my San Francisco best friends are fellow TNTers. I’m fitter than before, and I raised $3,000 to fight cancer. 

Running is no longer tedious. It’s now forever associated with blossoming friendships, unconditional encouragement, and physical accomplishments I didn’t know were within me. At first, I could barely run five miles. Buoyed by tireless coaches and new friends, I kept finding myself able to push a little farther. The first time I crossed a finish line, I cried. I cried into the embraces of people who love me enough to travel hundreds of miles simply to stand there cheering me on in the rain.

What I didn’t know in high school is that running isn’t just about running. It’s about community. It generates a collective energy. It builds up your will to prove to yourself that you actually can do something you thought you couldn’t. Others tell you you can do it, and you actually, slowly start to believe them. I have never felt such a concentration of positive intention directed toward me as when I’ve run endurance races. Even complete strangers shout about how much they want to see you succeed.

That I’m slow doesn’t matter. I usually come in around 5,000th. So what? I’m not there to take first. I still feel like I won. Yes, I proved that I could put one leg in front of the other for two dozen miles. But my feeling of being a winner comes from the fact that for months, I trained with people who talked to me of both profound love and loss while we logged the miles together. Because friends and family—and sometimes people I never expected—stepped up to donate thousands of dollars to support our cause. Most of all, I knew I’d won because I found the community I was looking for. That was, and still is, my cherished prize. I haven’t trained for a marathon in a while, but over the past few months, I’ve danced at teammates’ weddings, met up for what one of them calls “epic dinner conversations,” and generally felt more a part of other people’s lives.

Yesterday, after the Boston explosions, it occurred to me that my running community—every running community—is a microcosm of America. My team had people with ancestry from all over the world: Egypt, China, Brazil, all united under a banner of sportsmanship. The basic assumption was that we could all accomplish what we had come here to accomplish. To question whether someone would actually be able to get to the finish line is blasphemy. The thought just never occurs.

What could be more American? There’s the belief in our collective and individual abilities, the importance of setting far-off goals and then achieving them, and the ardent cheering on of others who have set off down the road alongside us. Technically, yeah, it’s a race. But the competition is just a framework to help everyone get where they’re going. The camaraderie is always far more palpable than any rivalry. And when something goes wrong—when senseless injury befalls—you can bet that a crowd of earnest helpers will immediately surround all who need help.

There are elite runners who, after yesterday’s evil, won’t be able to run again. There are people who were in Boston solely to cheer on a loved one. They cared enough to be there at their runner’s finish line, and because of that, they lost their life, or a limb. Our nation will always hold these people close at heart.

I know I may not be able to run for the next 60 years. But I’m sure going to try. And when I can’t anymore, I’m still going to cheer. I’m still going to give any passing runner, especially if I see a grimace of determination on their face, that subtle nod of respect and encouragement. Because we’ve all got a long road ahead. And life is going to trip us up, make us fall. Injure us. But we are Americans. We are a people who not only cheer each other on but also help each other back up.

Years After His Death, Discovering the Stories of my Saba

A few months ago, my mom called me. She said, “Did you know someone wrote a biography of Saba Shmuel?” Saba is the Hebrew word for grandfather and no, I’d had no clue that someone had written about my father’s father, the grandparent I’ve always known the least about. 

He died in 2006, so I’d resigned myself to the fact that his stories had gone with him, and that I’d never know much more about the man who raised my dad. I knew that he was in the Russian army during World War II and that the Germans had killed his entire family: father, mother, brother. And that he was a good musician. And that I loved him. But really, that was it. I guess I figured he wasn’t the sharing type. Or that his experiences had scarred him so badly that he was too traumatized to rehash them. So I respected that and, against my natural journalistic impulses, didn’t ask questions. 

Fortunately, a co-worker of his—fascinated at first by my grandfather’s thick Yiddish accent, then by the richness of the tales he had to tell—did ask questions. And then that co-worker spent the first years of his retirement trying his hand at writing. Writing the riveting accounts of that my Saba did, as it turned out, have the constitution to relive. Many of them are breathtakingly dramatic. In one sitting, I read about incident after incident in which, had something gone just a sliver differently, I’d have never been born. 

Reading that book was the most existential experience I’ve ever had. And one that, though I’ve always been a writer, drove home the generation-spanning importance of a true story told. To illustrate that point, I’ll retell an event from my Saba’s biography

Stalin, as is well known, had no qualms about sending hordes of sons, brothers, and fathers to get mowed down. Soon enough, it was my grandfather’s turn to be in that sacrificial front line. To survive, he knew, would be more than miraculous. As he marched toward almost certain death alongside hundreds of armed others, the band struck up its uplifting, patriotic repertoire.

Impulsively, my grandfather stepped out of line. He sprinted to the band conductor, ignoring his commander’s yells to get back into marching order. “I’m a musician!” he yelled. “I’m a musician!” His commander threatened death. The conductor, who happened to outrank the shouting commander, held up a hand to shush the officer. “I need a horn player,” he said. “Let’s hear what you can do.”

The mass of marching men halted. Someone handed my grandfather a horn. For a moment, all was silent. And then the air became full and jubilant with the triumphant sounds of the small-town trumpeter who, as a child, had risen above his shetl circumstances to win Kiev’s most prestigious music competition. His talent was obvious to anyone. The doomed crowd broke into cheers for this infantryman who’d just auditioned, impromptu, for his life. The conductor nodded and ordered the commander to cede this man. My Saba became a vital member of the army band, a fact that saved his life many times over. 

Since reading about this brazen moment of his, and others almost as Spielbergian, I’ve become more aware of the grand importance of biographies. Knowing about these pieces of his experience has changed the way I think about my own life and the way I see myself. I have a more informed identity, and a richer, more meaningful understanding of what enabled my existence. 

My grandfather’s whimsical bravery, his way of endearing himself to everyone, his stubborn habit of making sure he could always offer a legitimate service, are now a part of me. When I’m facing something difficult, I think of my Saba and feel proud that his vibrant blood courses through my veins. I was born only because of his talented toughness, and I need to live in a way that honors that.

Loud and Clear, Universe. Loud and Clear.

Yesterday I’d fulfilled the promise of one of those buy-9-get-1 free drink cards at my favorite boba shop. I walked away feeling quite satisfied at my get but didn’t make it a block until I saw an older man sitting on the sidewalk. His head was bowed and his hat was out, asking. Something about the way his face looked made me pause after I passed him by: It was downtrodden, defeated, humble.

Part of me, the part that hurries, told me to just keep going. But I found myself digging out a dollar. I guess I figured I’d just gotten something for free, so why not. I turned back around and bent down to put it into his faded cap, wished him happy holidays. He turned up his weatherworn face, which now showed a glimmer of hope and kindness that hadn’t been there before. Again, I walked away feeling satisfied with myself and promptly forgot about the man. 

Not three hours later, in a crowded BART station, I was rushing down to catch my train. My eye caught on something on the ground: a crumpled dollar bill. Though the station was teeming with people, the space around this dollar was strangely empty. I double-checked that its rightful owner wasn’t obvious, then bent down to pick the bill up and stuffed it into my pocket, feeling glee. 

After getting off BART, I got into my car to start making my way down the road. I stopped the radio’s “scan” function when it hit a Christian station and started listening to the preacher. (I’m not a particularly religious person but sometimes I like to listen to religious radio as I drive, just to understand what drives so many.) His sermon, as it happened, had a loud-and-clear take-home: Whatever you decide to give away will always come right back to you.

My Moment With a Michelin-Starred Chef

Late last month, chef Daniel Corey was awarded a Michelin star for the second year in a row. Just a few days later, I was invited into his kitchen at San Francisco’s Luce restaurant to help develop recipes for InterContinental’s new Kitchen Cookbook app. Though I write about food a lot, I was humbled to have been asked to work alongside someone who, at 34, has already nabbed such a coveted ranking in his field.  

I was nervous to meet and collaborate with him but I shouldn’t have been. Even though his food knowledge is encyclopedias beyond mine, I quickly saw that Daniel Corey is a kindhearted, soft-spoken teacher of a chef.  He put me at ease with self-effacing humor and his calm, even-keeled manner—envision the opposite of how Gordon Ramsay acts. Corey keeps a photo of the Dalai Lama in his office, which obviously has an influence on him. No matter what goes wrong in the kitchen—and a few things did while I was there—he maintains a patient, lighthearted humor about it all, and a zenlike, unruffled way of being.

Which would be admirable in any environment, much less a full, sweltering kitchen in the pulsing heart of San Francisco, a city in which the food-and-wine scene can be cutthroat and deeply judgmental. But just as impressive as his coolheaded modesty is his creative talent. Our assignment was to come up with dishes that people using the app could replicate at home. To develop ideas, he asked me to name my favorite ingredients and dishes. I told him that pappardelle always makes me inexplicably happy and that I’ve been obsessed with caps, morels, and truffles ever since I attended Mendocino’s wonderful mushroom festival. He took information that and ran with it, teaching me how to make pasta and putting me to delighted work running our hand-kneaded dough through a whirring machine. (Our collaboration, over the course of a few days, yielded three recipes: hand-cut pappardelle with fall squash and kale, a warm potato-and-mushroom tartlet, and a divine chocolate pot de crème.)

Journalist that I am, I peppered him with questions as we worked: What made you want to be a chef? “I wish I had a story like I’ve been cooking since I was on my mother’s knee,” he answered, “But I don’t. I just really like eating.” Having grown up in Southern California, Corey has always been an avid surfer; he’d get out of the water before anyone else was even awake and just prepare food for himself. After high school, he went straight to the California Culinary Academy, where he learned much of how he cooks today. 

His creations seemed to me a dance between simplicity and complexity: His pasta is basically just two ingredients—egg yolk and flour—but the sauces he whips up for it involve a perfection of timing, chemistry, and inspiration. When I expressed awe, he responded with a refrain that he kept rephrasing in different ways for me: “Cooking is intimidating but it’s not hard.”

That democratic take on high cuisine, coming directly from a heralded high-cuisine chef, was eminently refreshing to hear. He made me feel that I, or you, could replicate his magic if only we tried. That the curtain and snobbery and intimidation surrounding fine food should be torn down and that any recipe, whether it calls for beans or truffles, should be prepared with kid gloves off.  

To be clear, though, Corey’s beautiful concoctions consistently turn out sophisticated enough to shut up even the meanest, most jaded of critics. With food starting to fill the role in our society that art used to, Corey is an example of what should be admired. He thinks hard about his recipes and seems to have an all-you-can-eat buffet of fresh ideas in his head—let’s replace the basil and pine nuts in pesto with kale and hazelnuts! Let’s use potato shards as tart crust! Let’s whisk peanut butter for the chocolate pot de crème!  

“Have you ever thought of teaching cooking?” I asked him after being the beneficiary of his lucid instruction. He replied: “I feel like I’m a teacher every day. When I show someone in my kitchen how to do something and watch them get it, it’s the most fulfilling feeling I can have.”

Nothing New Under the Sun (Or, Why Journalism School Still Matters)

There’s nothing new under the sun.

I repeat the above cliché as a nod to all that’s been written over the past few weeks about the apparent downfall of original, reliable journalism. In light of the Jonah Lehrer and Fareed Zakaria situations, people from all corners of the internet are bemoaning that in this digital age, real reportage has just about had its day.

I, for one, am happy about all this. Seriously. I’m happy that Lehrer and Zakaria were caught and I hope that others who do what they did keep getting caught and filleted. But not for schadenfreude reasons (OK, maybe a little for schadenfreude reasons) but because it proves that we as a society have not reached a point low enough to let people, especially respected people, write things that smear truth and pass as fact. It shows that we still care enough to monitor for lies and plagiarism and call others out on it. It gives me faith that people are interested enough in the integrity of my profession to tar and feather those who aren’t quite.

It shakes any of us who might have settled a bit too deeply into the comfort of our La-Z-Boy version of journalism (FYI, having multiple tabs open on your browser does not count as reporting). These debacles instill in us that uneasy feeling that we should have when we cut and paste from, say, Wikipedia, even if it’s just into our own research notes for a piece. They shame any of us who’ve ever merely regurgitated a press release.

The good thing about this is that it can, at best, inspire a return to originality, or at least an aspiration toward it. At worst, it’ll make some writers feel as guilty as they should for the sloppy work that they’ll keep churning out.    

And just maybe, this will make aspiring journalists believe that a master’s degree in journalism might really be worth it. I’ve never understood why so many media professionals tell young people that it’s not. I can’t even start to enumerate all the tools that my graduate journalism program armed me with as I launched into my career. Really. If I listed them all out, you’d get tired of scrolling.

I mean, a neuroscience degree is impressive and all, but it’s not a journalism degree. If Mr. Lehrer wanted to be a neuroscientist and a journalist, he should have gotten degrees in both. Zakaria studied political science.

As everyone has been repeating, Lehrer and Zakaria are both really smart guys. Like, really smart. Which is why they (and the people who hired them) thought they’d have no problem adding “journalist” to their vast list of accomplishments. But the thing is, you can’t just take on a new craft without really having learned its deep and basic practices, even if you’re a brilliant intellectual. I could try to put a bookshelf together and call myself a carpenter but I guarantee that it’d fall apart if you opened its drawers once too often. Why? Because no one taught me how to be a carpenter.  

Being a journalist looks easy and basic. Its floor-level tenets, like “Don’t make shit up” and “Don’t type your words in the same way that other people have typed their words” are simple, yes. Deceptively so. In practice, it takes a lot of stories written, a lot of mentors’ scathing critiques, to really start getting the importance of it all.

To begin with, I’m a believer in learning the intricacies of your craft before claiming yourself to be a practitioner. When I was a teenager, I didn’t even feel comfortable taking a babysitting job without having taken a childcare course and getting CPR-certified. I know I take pre-preparation a bit far sometimes when I could actually get started taking action sooner – but there’s a flip side to that: If you think you’re somehow naturally prepared for something that others have spent years studying, you might be setting yourself up for embarrassment or worse. Ideally, you’ll want to make your mistakes when you’re still an apprentice, still an intern, still in school. Otherwise your career is going to get messy with stains right quick.

I train Sierra magazine’s interns how to fact-check. The training itself takes less than a day but at the end of it I tell them, “This is just an introduction. You’re going to learn as you go, and situations are going to come up that we couldn’t have even thought to address here. So part of your assignment over your next four months as an intern here is to come to me or one of the other editors whenever you have a question about how to verify whether something is true.” And they do. They ask and ask, and we answer, and by the end of their internship, they are fierce young reporters who understand the rigor of sending something to print only after you’ve run a fine-toothed comb through it. I went through the same type of boot camp back when I was a fact-checker at the L.A. Times Magazine. Months and months of re-reporting and fixing other people’s pre-published work embossed onto my brain that I, in my own reporting, can’t fudge the truth, can’t turn in lazy work, and, more than anything, can’t put words in people’s mouths – something I actually caught a lot of writers doing.

My boss at that magazine, an editor who’d studied theater in college (and who had an obvioius flair for the dramatic), looked at me with puppy eyes as I put in my two weeks and said, “But who’ll catch all my mistakes when you’re gone?” A nice-sounding sentiment, but I could see that he was genuinely concerned. After I left, it took just a few months for him to get fired for making up quotes and scenes. Last I heard, he was working in PR.

Honesty still means something. Facts do. The accurate representation of people you’re writing about too. This is not a new idea. Humanity’s commitment to truth is as old as philosophy itself. For all of history, what’s been accepted as fact has been passed from person to person, from society to society. This is what comprises our collective consciousness. Entering a falsity, no matter how trite, into humanity’s knowledge base is like tossing a cigarette butt into the ocean. It shouldn’t happen and when it does, the litterer should be scolded and fined.

That enforcers are out there (thank you, Mr. Moynihan) reassures me that humans still care about the truth and are still willing to do lots of work to protect it.

I’ll repeat it again: There’s nothing new under the sun.

To my mom on mother’s day

If I were a painter I’d paint you a painting. If I were a musician I’d compose you a song. If I were a florist I’d arrange you some flowers. If I were a carpenter I’d make you a chair. But I’m a writer so I’m writing you a piece. It’s about you. 

Here are some things I love that make you you (I’m writing them as I think of them, so they’re not in any real order): 

Your constant assumption that all people always mean well by all their actions.

Your gratefulness whenever anyone does anything remotely nice for you, and your genuine appreciation for even the smallest of gifts.

Your willingness to give praise generously and not just to your kids. It’s never contrived, fake, or forced – you always wholeheartedly believe all the things you tell people that make them feel better about themselves and their lives a little easier.

Your willingness to give anyone the benefit of the doubt. 

Your great gusto while cooking a perfect meal for ten when you only have five to feed. 

Your ability to be deeply moved by the small things, like a man walking his very old dog. 

How, despite your deeply sweet nature, you used your brains to make it pretty big in a field almost totally dominated by men. How you insist on having a challenging career that stimulates your mind and provides for your family. 

How you always always put family first no matter the sacrifice.

How you speak four languages but never brag about it or even ever really think anything of it. 

How, when everyone else is annoyed by a crying baby (on a plane, in a restaurant), you react with genuine concern for it. Whereas others sees their own inconvenience, you see a child’s dignity and its need for something.

The way you miss your parents and always tell me when this song or that food reminds you of them. It makes my heart ache not only for you but also for me because I know I will be doing that one day in the very far future. When I see a lemon on a tree that everyone else is just walking by, I will stop and notice it like you do. When something only slightly funny happens in a movie or a play, I’ll think how you would have just cracked up. Whenever I encounter an animal, I’ll be gentle and loving not because you told me to be that way but because you showed me how. 

Ima, though I’ve tried a bit, there’s no way to truly paint a portrait of all that you are and all that you’ve made me. I guess the best way to say it is: I love you. Thank you for everything you are, everything you’ve done, and all that you’ve made me. 

Wishing we could be together today,

Your daughter Tali

Goodbye to the Quirky Jewish Luminaries

I have a complicated relationship with being Jewish. I’ve worked hard to assimilate. I can easily hide the fact that English is my second language (I was exposed to nothing but Hebrew as a small child) and enjoy seeing people’s incredulity when they find that out.

When it came time, I learned English – and Americanness – with a vengeance. I now have a beautiful, shiny Anglo last name to replace the clunky Germanic one I was born with, which got away with having four consonants in a row.

But within the past week, three people died: first Adam Yaunch, then Maurice Sendak, then Vidal Sassoon. Each of these people embodies, in his own way, what it means to be a Jew. The fierce creativity, the bucking of anything staid, the insistence on doing things his own way, the personal eccentricity that became pop-culture standard.

I love each one of them. I want to be like them. And I savor the fact that I might have, coded in my DNA, something of theirs. I know I have a strident urge to express myself. A wish to be different but loved for it. A chutzpah that begs to be let out – and a neuroticism that, every day, goes to battle with it. A constant and simultaneous feeling of massive pride and stuttering shame about where I come from.

Each of the famous men who’ve died since Friday had their own relationship with their Jewishness (Yaunch basically abandoned it for Buddhism, Sendak embraced it in all its Brooklynness, and London-born Sassoon joined the Israeli army), but none could separate themselves from their roiling minds, their effervescent ideas, their pervasive and passionate fears and doubts, and their deep yearning for acceptance and love from the greater population – and it is a much greater population: Jews are just 2% of Americans.

I think of Allen Ginsberg, Sigmund Freud, Gertrude Stein, Franz Kafka, Marc Chagall, Shel Silverstein – and God knows how many other quirky thinkers, writers, and artists killed in 1940s Europe before they could get famous or do their real work.  

“Pride” is a harsh word that I don’t really like. So is “empowering.” It’s maybe not pride or empowerment that I feel because of these people but hope, probably. Hope that something of our similarity, something of our blood, something of our tiny, earnest, funny culture, may exist in me too.  

On Marriage, Luck, and Wedding-Day Rain

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I’m married.

That’s the first time I’ve typed those words. It’s been a long time coming, and it’s a very good thing. I didn’t always know that it would be. For some reason, I wrote in my college journal that I didn’t think I’d ever do it. But these first three weeks have easily been some of the happiest of my life.

We’d been together more than 10 years before we said our vows so I don’t know if the phrase “honeymoon phase” applies. But for all we’ve been through within the span of that decade – including his 13-month deployment to Afghanistan and all that it took for him to come back – that’s what this feels like. A honeymoon phase. I feel freshly and wholly in love.

Maybe it was the rain.

It poured the whole day of our wedding. I mean, it didn’t let up once.  We were glued to my iPhone’s Weather Channel app in the days leading up to March 24. The chance of rain kept creeping upward: Ten days out it was 40%. By the day before it was 100%. One hundred percent. I didn’t even know that was a thing. Like, there’s not even a 1% chance that it’s not going to rain? Making a prediction of absolute certainty didn’t seem scientifically advisable but there that absolutist prediction was, on the most perfect, sunny day you can imagine, the day before our wedding. Everyone kept walking around saying, “Can you believe the forecast?” Still, we held out hope that a miracle would happen.

It didn’t and it did: From the moment we opened our eyes in our hotel room the morning of our wedding until our heads hit the pillow late that night (very early the next morning, really), it rained. It rained and it rained. It rained a cold, Alaska-sent rain that made me shiver each time I stepped outside, even after I’d sent a nice amount of champagne coursing through my veins.

Our ceremony, which we’d planned to have out in a grove of Santa Cruz redwoods and ferns, was moved inside. So was the cocktail hour, during which our guests would have explored the fairy-tale grounds of the venue we’d rented. There would have been bocce ball to play, a tree house for people to hoist themselves into, a koi pond to ponder, an explosion of bright-yellow tulips to behold, a freaking miniature train to ride around in on its miniature tracks.

None of that happened. What did happen was — well, let me paint you a picture: You know when it’s pouring or freezing or otherwise untenable outside and you just feel crazy lucky to have a solid roof over your head and there’s a fire roaring and just the right song playing and you’ve got the exact person or people you need with you and you’re swaddled up in a chenille blanket and there’s good food and something hot or strong to drink and life just feels perfect in its moment? Project that immense coziness out into wedding size and you start to approach the unexpected level of intimacy our rain created for us. Many of our guests told us with conviction that it was the most romantic wedding they’d ever been to. Their words, and our feelings, and the few photos we’ve seen so far, tell us that it had been filled with joy and gratefulness and fleetingness and most of all love.

During the rollicking party, people kept beaming at us and shouting over the music about what good luck rain is. About the French saying, Mariage pluvieux, mariage heureux (“Rainy wedding, happy marriage”) and the Italian one, Sposa bagnata, sposa fortunata (“A wet bride is a lucky bride”).

Rational being that I like to think that I am, I enjoyed the intent of these rhyming refrains but thought in the back of my head that they must have been conjured up to console some teary, far-less-joyful-than-I bride who’d been set on a perfect day for her nuptials.

But now I sorta kinda believe the romance-language hype: Water has always and everywhere symbolized cleansing, renewal, baptism. Fertility and abundance. It’s the requisite ingredient for new growth, for purification, for movement in the only natural direction that exists.

Tim has always known this. His mom remembers that when it rained and he was little, he’d sit in the street gutter in front of their house watching the water whoosh by. He’s a certified river-rafting guide. He’s got a master’s degree in hydrology. Tim in water is Tim in his element. How apt, then, that it should pour down on us on our day of union. 

The next morning, Tim’s mom texted us: “Wouldntcha KNOW it?!!!” and we both knew what she meant: This day was gorgeous, boasting a sky blue as periwinkle. As though rain was something that didn’t even exist.

Reading this post over, I should say here that I didn’t set out to write it to gush about our wedding. I set out to write about the renewing effect marriage is having on me – and us – so far. It’s quite likely that the giddiness we’re feeling would be just as real had our wedding-day rain not fallen and deemed us lucky.

Of course, life is long and who knows what sorts of fortunes and misfortunes it has in store for us. I’ve seen friends and family members, blessed until then, suddenly have to contend with slashing losses and menacing illnesses so I wouldn’t ever presume, at age 32, to declare myself an overall lucky person.

I do know I’ve been lucky so far, though. Astonishingly lucky. I sincerely do feel that I’ve won the husband lottery.

I know, too, that I’m verging on being cloying at this point but I’ll just end with this fact: Sometimes at night when we’re falling asleep side by side, I lay there telling myself, “This is what it feels like to be in his presence. Pay attention to what this feels like.” And it is the most cozy, intimate, loved feeling in the world.

Photo credit: Michele Beckwith

Focus, please.

That’s me talking to myself.

It may well be the zaniness of wedding planning (I’m getting married next month and I’ve never been the girl who’s had her nuptials envisioned since she was 4, so planning them is WAY more work than I’d ever imagined) but it also may well be the mental reluctance of moving into a new phase of life. A new phase of work, really. I’ve gone part-time at my main gig under the pretense of pursuing the type of work I’ve been aching to do for a long time but haven’t had the time for. And now that I have that time, I fill it grazing over my registry, figuring out how to make DIY place cards, engaging in Facebook pleasantries, and who knows what else.

Actually, I do know: Obsessing over the fact that I’m not yet doing the kind of work I told myself I’d be doing. Granted, it’s only been a month. But I feel I should have hit the ground running. Instead, I’m taking a looong time to ease myself into the hot water.

Writing this does feel good though. Getting blogging again. Maybe it’ll open something up. Maybe if the seeps and drips come through steadily enough, the dam will soon break open and the flood will come rushing out.

I told my dad how I’m feeling. As always, he had the perfect metaphor ready. He said that I’m crouching at the starting line of a race. The wedding is the starting gun, and when it happens, I’ll off and sprint headfirst into the career of my imagining.

Life Lesson From a Cat

On a whim once, I put a laundry basket over my cat to see what she would do. I thought she’d see it as a cage and try to get out. Instead, she relaxed and started purring. It had made her feel safe. I was moved by her sweet, unwitting reminder that circumstance is only limiting if you perceive it as such.