Monday, September 30, 2013

Falling in love with fall... it doesn't have to suck

          It’s that time of year again: fall, or as I like to call it: “the time for drinking a half bottle of wine and singing along to Joni Mitchell for hours”. It’s true that I do not accept the end of my precious summer season with as much grace as I should. Since I am one of those people who perpetually runs cold, in my mind, fall is the beginning of cold toes and fingers, dry skin, increased allergies, and shorter days; a time for another oppressive New England winter glaring at us over the horizon. And as I have said before, it’s not that fall is the worst season. It’s just that it’s like the track that comes on after your favorite track of the album. The sound of even the intro of the next song, though a perfectly decent song, can be grating because it means your favorite song is over.

          Sure, I try very hard to let myself be seduced by foliage, by all things pumpkin flavored, apple cider donuts, new scarves and sweaters, Oktoberfest parties, and excuses to drink more hot tea, but when it comes down to it, I am not an autumn person. I am convinced that while Thanksgiving is probably the greatest holiday of the calendar year (because it revolves entirely around eating and family), it was probably invented to keep us all from killing ourselves once the remaining leaves have fallen off the trees and it’s dark at 5:30 pm. I alarmed a co-worker the other day when I referred to fall as that “symbolic death just before winter hibernation.” She agreed with me that it’s not her favorite season, but she just hadn’t heard it put quite that way before.

          To add to this, living in Boston in the fall means everyone watches football every weekend. I did not grow up doing this. My family watches tennis and college basketball exclusively. (Let's be real though: I also have never watched a spectator sport of my own volition.) Football games in particular though, are mind-numbing to me, not to mention long-winded. I feel like every time I make a concerted effort to look at the screen during a game, someone is being evaluated for an injury. (If this isn’t a deterrent enough from playing such a game, I don’t know what is.) Even Tom Brady, while nice to look at, just becomes one of the many imperceptible dots running back and forth in seeming anarchy on TV. I must admit that the very sound of a football game in the background automatically makes me want to retreat and slink into another room.

          Football is certainly not the cause of my dread at the return of fall. It only exacerbated a sentiment that always existed. As a kid, I can't say I remember absolutely loving fall, but I did look forward to Halloween and I did like jumping into a pile of leaves. I didn't have the allergies I have now though. After Halloween was over, in the midst of shorter days, I usually consoled myself with the fact that I had my birthday to look forward to in November, and while I still look forward to birthdays, in a few years/decades, that may not still be the case. Yes, I am a disgrace to people born in the fall. I desperately need an attitude adjustment when it comes to this annual season change.

          So, the husband tries to watch every Sunday game possible during this season, but with our busy schedules, that's not terribly many. This year, I have discovered that if I choose not to shut myself in the office/music room and weep while listening to Joni Mitchell during football, (although the ritual can be quite cathartic at least once a year), I can actually be extremely productive during said hours of the week! I can practice, read, cook, or write all while basking in the glow of pumpkin-scented candlelight. And if we go somewhere to watch football with friends, there is usually at least one delicious dip to be had and good company to enjoy. My autumnal mind frame is a work in progress, but the prospect of buffalo chicken dip with friends is comforting.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Another type of Top 5

My immediate family has sort have been “adopted” as extended relations by a group of three wonderful sisters who all used to babysit for me.  Two of the sisters even live next door to each other in a bustling “Compound”, full of kids who are more like siblings than cousins, running back and forth from one yard to the next.  It is sort of a crazy place, also often referred to as “the vortex”, because I spend a few hours there and the next thing I know, I’ve had no less than three meals and several glasses of wine and my “aunt” is trying to throw an old nightgown at me and convince me that I should sleep on the pullout couch, as though I were still 10 years old and still inclined toward sleepovers.  “I’ll make a big brunch before we all head to the festival on the green tomorrow!”  Recently, my mother was leaving the Compound, (a rare and difficult feat), saying how nice it is to be honorary members of their family.  The response: “I’m sorry Jo-Anna, but you’ve been demoted.  You are family.”

These honorary cousins have this great game.  It’s an ongoing thing called “Top 5”.  Everyone is constantly compiling and revising their list of Top 5 things that they hate.  The only rule is that you can’t include anything obvious in your personal list.  For example, you can’t use “mean people” as a top 5, because everyone hates mean people.  Also, vindictiveness is not the point of this game.  Something on a Top 5 list has to have a charming level of obscurity.  The lists have been evolving with revisions for years. 

My own personal Top 5 include:

2. Those plastic straw wrappers that are found on juice boxes (They stick to everything!)
3. Rapid channel-changing
4. The word “chutney”
5. This one seems to be ever-changing for everyone, but for right now, we’ll go with “Sweet jello dishes on savory plates of food”

Here, for your entertainment, a random sampling of some great all-time Top 5’s from the family:

1. Turkeys
2. Men in jean shorts
3. Birds in general
4. De-greasing pizza with napkins (greasiness being part of the inherent essence of pizza)
5. Hot fruit
6. “Murses” (man purses)
7. Weathermen
8. Obligatory group clapping
9. Automatic toilet flushers in public restrooms followed by non-automatic sinks
10. Kites (“What’s the point?”)

Feel free to share your Top 5!

Top 5 Things I learned weddin' plannin'

@ Leah LaRiccia Photography 2013

          You learn a lot of things planning a wedding, not the least of which is that weddings are expensive and stressful. That little sticker detail the bride and groom put on the hotel favor bags? Those stickers alone probably cost 50 bucks, not to mention the time and thought that went into choosing such an incredibly forgettable detail.

          If you are like me, planning something as grand as a 200 plus person wedding is more proof that despite everyone’s impression of you as a “laid-back” personality, you are actually the sort of person who lies awake at night thinking about the grammar of the menu card or whether you should cite poets on the translation page of the cocktail hour opera concert, (yes, that is a thing that happened at our wedding). I also would sometimes lie awake at night in anticipation, wondering how our wedding became a thing so closely resembling a variety show/three-ring circus. When I went looking at wedding venues with my dad and one coordinator showed me some photo albums, I couldn’t help but analyze (aloud) how the one photographer’s photos were too precious, while another’s were too perfunctory. My dad was, needless to say, embarrassed, and had to explain to the woman helping us that I am an “artist”, and therefore very picky. The picky thing— this is true. On more than one occasion, I have said “I wish I didn’t care about thus and so…”, because yes, that would have certainly made my life easier…

          So here I am, several months after saying our “I-do’s” and here are, in no particular order, some things I have learned about the wedding planning process. I am no expert on the whole marriage thing yet, but here are some reflections on the journey that made me a "Sadie, Sadie, married lady". (~my girl Babs in Funny Girl, of course.)

          1. It’s not cool to bore your friends with mundane details about the wedding all the time. With this statement, do not misunderstand me. It's not cool, but I did it anyway. B and I had a particularly long engagement for several reasons and I’m sure this contributed a lot to that special brand of stupidity I will call “wedding brain”. Your mind is on hyper-drive and all: Should we hire a jazz trio? Will the hydrangeas wilt too quickly? Should "Love like this remix" by Crooklyn Clan make the 'must play list'? (The answer to that one is yes.) Often times before social events, I set out specifically to “not-talk” about wedding stuff, only to find that I would end up being asked about it by some unsuspecting acquaintance who had no idea the wedding rabbit-hole we were all about to fall into. If I could do this over, I would have had a stock line, like one of my good friends who would say during her own wedding planning time: “If it’s okay, I’d love to talk about something else.”

          2. In a related vein, have sympathy for brides. That bride is getting a lot of opinions thrown at her and when she may seem super-opinionated at times, it could just be in that way that she is trying to assert what she wants when the whole thing has spiraled far beyond her vision the day. Have I mentioned the three-ring circus thing yet? This also goes for the groom of course. Have patience for his wedding brain too. My own groom frankly deserves a medal for the stress of the two weeks surrounding the wedding alone.

          3. Of all the details to obsess over, a good photographer is actually important. Since photos are one of the few things you get to keep, a good photographer, whose style you like and who makes you feel comfortable, will make the imperfections look beautiful too. When looking back at our wedding photos , they really do tell the story of our day because of the talented Leah LaRiccia and her second shooter, Shawn. Let me first describe the day. It was the record coldest Memorial Day weekend in Connecticut in years. It rained all day, and I mean poured, with the exception of five minutes. When the sun came out briefly during the salad course, one of my bridesmaids grabbed the photographers and B and I went outside for an impromptu shoot in the gorgeous, post-rain early evening light.

@ Leah LaRiccia Photography 2013

          After the wedding day, so many guests saw the outside photos and asked “When did you guys sneak off together?” I had the same reaction when I saw the candid shots Leah had taken of us during cocktail hour. I only realized after the proofs came in that she had surreptitiously captured B and I from the balcony above as we listened to our friend Sam sing “Heimliche Aufforderung” by Richard Strauss.

@ Leah LaRiccia Photography 2013

          This photo is a wonderful portrayal of a moment I remember quite vividly, when B and I drew closer together amidst all the bustle of cocktail hour. It says so much, not just about the beauty of the song and the poetry, but about how moved we were by all of our friends who put in the work to sing so beautifully throughout the entire day. The amazing part about this is that “Heimliche Aufforderung” or "Secret Invitation" is about a couple who sneak off to the garden together during a busy party, which we got to do later. We weren’t asked to promote Leah La Riccia’s work here, but she and Shawn were just our favorite vendors with whom we worked that day.

          4. Take some time on the day of to just look around the room at all the people who are there to celebrate with you. You may not see some of these people again for years. I’ll always be glad I took several moments to take in the way all those special people came together that day of that year. In the same vein, take some time to just look at your spouse. B and I were lucky enough to have the car ride over from the church to the country club, (an unforgettable moment in which he detailed exactly how many beers his friends had plied him with at the hotel bar the night before), but we also had five minutes to ourselves by the dessert table while everyone was on the dance floor, no photographer, no videographer. I’ll always remember that happily.

          5. That whole “my husband” thing will feel strange and wonderful. To me, I guess I didn’t realize it until I used the expression, but it always seemed like “husband” was a term that was earned over several years of marriage, not the instant you say those vows. I still remember the ring exchange, when the priest said to B in an instructional whisper; “Now, take your wife’s hand”. It had happened! It had happened just in that few minute span!

@ Leah LaRiccia Photography 2013

          Our first dance on that rainy day in May was “Come rain or come shine” for a particularly poetic punch line. The year and a half long engagement also served to contribute to my sense of relief more than my sense of sadness at the wedding's ending. In the end, it was all just as magical and beautiful as we had hoped and it had most to do with our friends and family— the work of our wonderful bridal party, the gorgeous musical contributions of our friends, the heart felt readings and speeches, the travel efforts of so many guests, and all our new firsts as a couple. Also, it was a wicked good pahty.

Photos @ Leah LaRiccia Photography 2013