A few years ago, I unearthed a travel journal from a month-long trip to Europe that I took in 2006. As I reviewed its pages, I was struck by just how many details of the trip I had completely forgotten. And if the memories of a once-in-a lifetime trip that was so impactful to me could fade away – how much of my day-to-day life is lost? Sensations, emotions, achievements, losses, experiences from the mundane to the exceptional, all transforming from that specific moment in time to become that day, that week, that year, that life…

As I get older and gain a better understanding of how fragile, how brief, and how precious life really is, it's become even more important to me to me experience it to its fullest and to try to retain all of those little moments that might otherwise get lost. It's with this idea that I started the process of recording these moments – a travel journal, of sorts.

A travel journal for life.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

C-BUS

Last weekend I went to Columbus to visit my dear friend Robb.  We spent the weekend relaxing together - and we ate. A LOT.
We ate...

and ate...

and ate...

Ya don't get cheeks like these by NOT eatin'!
We ate because eating is fun, but also, it was approximately 900 degrees outside and it was the one thing we could do in the comfort of blissful climate-controlled coolness. 

But we did do more than just eat…  we also saw movies (where we consumed our weight in popcorn and Twizzlers).  The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a “must see”! Bernie is interesting, but a “wait till dvd”.

Kiki liked the fan but didn't think we were funny.



We tried to do some sight-seeing and window-shopping, but the oppressive heat inevitably led us back indoors to lay in front of the fan.  Which was fine with us since laying around giggling at our own stupid jokes is our favorite thing to do anyway.


Prism Tree Sculpture outside the Science Center




On my last evening in Columbus, the heat did let up enough for us to be able to enjoy an evening out and about.  We walked along the river, through the park and downtown. 

Sculptures along the river





C-Bus is lovely when it’s not 900 degrees.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A GARMIN FOR LIFE?

Over the long weekend, I took a road trip to see my lovely friend Robb. It’s the first time in quite a while that I have driven any distance by myself. I’m usually a drowsy and/or distracted passenger while my fearless husband deals with traffic and shoulders the responsibility of navigating us safely to our destination.
During this road trip, I couldn’t help but reflect on the complete absence of nervousness and anxiety. Both of which, in my earlier years, had been constant companions on solo driving excursions.  So much so that even short trips, if I wasn’t already well-acquainted with the route, would cause panic attacks.  Occasionally, I would even opt-out of trips because the stress of negotiating unfamiliar routes was just too much for me to handle by myself.
I wondered what had I been so afraid of?
I used to be afraid of traffic.  I hated feeling carried along with a flow of traffic that was beyond my comfort level in speed and proximity.
I used to be afraid of getting lost.  I don’t know why, but I always felt as though I was bound to get hopelessly and irretrievably lost – never to be seen or heard from again.
I wondered what had changed (beyond the purchase of my trusty, if not a little bitchy, Garmin) that I was now able to forget these concerns and travel so worry-free, even on a busy holiday weekend? 
I like to think that the transformation is because I’ve gotten braver as I’ve gotten older – that I no longer feel intimidated by other drivers because I understand how to be aggressive and use the fast lane when necessary and when to stay at a comfortable pace in the slow-lane. I like to think that I now understand that I’m not going to get irretrievably lost – I might miss an exit or take a wrong turn now and again, but will always be able to get back on track in a relatively short amount of time. I now understand that I can always stop if I want. I now know I can always ask for directions.  I like to think that I’ve learned that there are far bigger-badder things to be afraid of in life than simple daily tasks.  I like to think that I now see the bigger picture.
I like to think that the confidence I’ve gained in driving reflects the confidence I've gained in general and that I now apply, to every aspect of my life, the same ease and understanding that I apply to driving…
But it’s probably just the Garmin.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

WHERE THE SOCKS GO

"Why do all my socks disappear - where in the WORLD do they go??" 

Just last night, this was my question to Mike.  He just shrugged his shoulders in response.

Today, when I got home, he was comfy and kicked back on the bed with his feet propped up.  "He is cute-as-a-button", I was thinking to myself when I noticed this:

See the pink stripe??
I guess I now know the answer to my question from last night.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

HELLO NEW SHOES, BYE-BYE THEM BLUES

Electric Blue Suede Cork Heels = Happy.
Sometimes, life is really stressful.  Sometimes, it's really easy to get bogged down.  Sometimes, I'm very thankful that little things make me super happy. 

I bought new shoes this past weekend - new shoes that I had completely forgotten about until they were unearthed from the pile of laundry that I'm working on tonight.

For now, the blues of the week are forgotten as I dance around in my new shoes, doing laundry, and listening to this song on repeat.


Monday, May 21, 2012

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY


Three years ago, on this day, I married my best friend and the very best man I know.

I think I'll keep him.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

A SUNDAY STROLL DOWN MEMORY LANE

My friend Sean has invited me to participate in his big neighborhood (Highland Park) yard sale on June 2nd.  I’m so excited about this, for one, because anything with Sean is always a good time, but also because I have accumulated an alarming amount of crap in my teeny tiny house over the years. Since this annual yard sale is famous for being very highly trafficked, it provides a perfect opportunity to clear things out and maybe make a little cash!  I’ve been making a valiant effort to work a little bit each day on organizing things and picking things out for sale and yesterday I came across a basket full of old pictures, mostly from my early 20s and boy-oh-boy, were there some gems!  I didn’t get much organizing for the sale done, but I sure did laugh.

Me and Jess - Circa 1997
 Super cute of us, right?  As Jess said, “so young and full of hope.”

The more important thing about this photo, though, is that it’s hard evidence. Evidence of the fact that I did, indeed, wear overalls in the late 90’s - something that I had sworn that I never-ever did and even went so far as to mercilessly make fun of my friends who were admitted overall-wearers.  (Sorry, Natalie.)  Busted.


Me and Wode - Circa 2001
 
This is a “night out” photo.  One of those nights that I look back on now and think “how, oh how, did I have the stamina for that?” and probably got up for work the next day, too!  Those were the days.
The funny thing about this photo is, that while the red-red lip gloss looks normal in this picture, I remember going into the restroom at the end of the night to find that it had smeared and was covering half of my face.  It had apparently been that way for quite some time and none of my friends bothered to share that information with me.  Red-red lip gloss, folks – it ain’t for amateurs. Busted again.

Robb - Circa 2002
There are no good stories about this picture.  It’s just one of my all-time faves of my Robbie. 

Bruddah and me - Circa baby face
And then there’s this – because OMG.  How adorbs are we?  Clearly this is before birds began to freak me completely out.

The end.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

VENTURE OUTDOORS (to a brewery and a casino)



My friend Janet and I trooped down to Point State Park today for the Venture Outdoors festival with all the best intentions of being outdoorsy and active.  And we started out with gusto! Geared up in our athletic wear and armed with bottles of water, we headed out on our great adventure.
Let the adventure begin!

First stop: bike rental station.  They were out of bikes to rent, but they informed us that the station back in town was still renting.  “Meh”, that would require walking back into town.  We forged ahead, sans-bikes.  

Next stop: kayaking station.  There were about one hundred people in line for kayaking.  “Meh”, that would require standing in line in the sun for longer than was comfortable.  We forged ahead, sans-kayaks. 

Dragon Boat
At least it was pretty!
Third stop: dragon boat station. This stop was (sort of) a success!  We made it into the boat, that was the successful bit, but it was all downhill from there.  The group that we were boating with never seemed to grasp the concepts of rhythm or timing resulting in a clamoring of paddles in the water and a fairly slow-go of things, to say the least.  It was a really pretty day on the water, though.  So there was that. 

Final stop: fishing station.  Just kidding, we didn’t even consider that one because, well, ick.

Janet won! (I didn't)
So convenient - and free!
Since it seemed we had reached our limit on outdoorsy and active, we decided to take the new North Shore connector (yay public transit in Pittsburgh!) over to a brewery for lunch and a beer followed by some gambling at the casino.

So our "Venture Outdoors" proved neither terribly outdoorsy nor active – but it was fun none-the-less and I was apparently outdoors long enough to earn my first sunburn of the season.
It doesn't take much...  Yeesh.

Friday, May 18, 2012

A PIZZA MIRACLE!

Too crisp, too doughy, too cheesy, not cheesy enough, too greasy, too saucy, too dry, too spicy, not spicy enough...  We've found pizza places that both of us like, but only if we order separate pies with our own individual specifications. After eleven years together, Mike and I had yet to share a pizza that we both loved.

Until tonight.

It's a pizza miracle!
At Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza in Robinson Township, we found it: The elusive thin-crust-not-soggy-but-not-too-crisp-crust-delicious-sauce-well-done-pepperoni-perfect-amount-of-cheese pizza.  We shared it.  We loved it.  It was a pizza miracle!!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

THE BLUE MEN AND BRENT’S UNFORTUNATE BIRTHDAY


Megan is my cube neighbor at work as well as a lovely friend that I frequently rope into being my plus-one for random adventures on which I’m way too scaredy-cat to embark solo.  Her partner, Brent, is equally lovely and like my husband, supportive of our endeavors together (most likely because it means they don’t have to be involved in such shenanigans).
A Blue Man

Megan and Brent had grand plans for Brent’s birthday today – The Blue Man Group is in Pittsburgh this week, so they planned on dinner followed by the show.  Unfortunately, Brent got called away on business at the last minute, effectively putting the kibosh on their plans.

For Brent, anyway.

A Blue Man Autograph
Megan asked me to join her in Brent’s absence.  And since I love the Blue Men and I kinda like Megan too, I jumped at the chance.  We had a lovely evening with Caribbean food for dinner at Kaya and a really fantastic show (seriously – sensory overload – it was amazing).  After the show, I got to see the Blue Men up close (yep, they’re just a freaky as you’d expect) and I even got an autograph!


Sorry about your unfortunate birthday, Brent.  

Really…  I am. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

THE STUDIO ON FIFTH AND A FRIEND IN A FLORAL


The Studio on Fifth
Today, some friends and I attended a big opening for a new event venue in town, the Studio on Fifth.  It was a lovely event with amazing decorations and lighting, mouth-watering confections at every turn and stunning floral arrangements.

Autumn and Jen
I was admiring one of these stunning floral arrangements; an expansive table full of red-roses and the aforementioned mouth-watering confections, when I noticed something else.  There was a girl in the middle of this arrangement, which is unusual in itself - but stranger still, this girl was smiling and waving at me.

Right there in the middle of an arrangement, I ran into an old friend that I hadn’t seen in months.   


You just never know where you will run into an old friend in Pittsburgh.


Did I mention confections??




Monday, May 14, 2012

HAVING FUN? STOP IT!

“If you start having too much fun…  stop it.” 
The result of too much fun.
Our mom cautioned my brother and I with this statement just as her mom and grandmother had warned her and her sister. Some families pass heirlooms from generation to generation - we pass little nuggets of wisdom like this. Just a friendly reminder that whenever you enjoy yourself a little too much, life is sure to throw something in your path that will bring all the fun to a screaming halt.  So you’re likely better off to just recognize when the “too much fun” is occurring and stop whatever it is that you are doing in order to circumvent the inevitable downfall.
The reminder rang in my head this morning when I woke with a sore throat, pounding sinus pain, uncontrollable sneezing, and achy bones. This past weekend, I ate terribly, I raced death-kart-go-carts, and I hung out in a smoke-filled bar.
I had WAY too much fun.  I should have stopped it.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

A MIGHTY HANDSOME PLAQUE

Each year, IUP recognizes an outstanding graduate student with an award supported by the Margaret Mahler Memorial Fund.  I was the recipient of this award for 2012.  This past weekend, I attended the graduation ceremonies to receive the award and was honored to hear some of the kindest words I think I’ve ever heard about myself (from people who aren’t my mom, dad or husband, that is). 
   

“We are especially pleased to recognize this individual for this award, as she exemplifies the spirit of our program through her personal commitment to her own lifelong learning as well as to helping others learn and advance themselves.  Her academic work while enrolled in our program was exemplary, indicating the high standards she holds for herself.  Her professional work as well as her involvement in her community demonstrates her desire to help others learn and grow.  There was no question that she was the best choice to receive this award this year. It was a pleasure to have had the opportunity to work with someone of her caliber during her course of study.”

It was quite an honor.  And it’s a mighty handsome plaque.


Saturday, May 12, 2012

DEATH KARTS

Let's do this.

 "This track is not safe, these karts are not safe, you nor I are safe, the possibility of injury is likely and if you get hurt, it's your fault, not ours. Sign here if you understand, get a helmet and pick a kart." 

The competition.
For some reason, this all sounded reasonable to our little group, so we dutifully signed and happily jumped in our death karts for an hour of gas fume permeated, whip-lashed, bruised knee, sprained wrist, stubbed toe, racing fun.

Thankfully, the death-kart track saw no death today, but I did draw blood - and I chipped a nail.


Death-kart crazy eye!
The injury.

Intimidating.

Death-karts FTW!

Friday, May 11, 2012

GOOD TIPS

I talk to my mom on the phone almost every afternoon after work.  Inevitably, during our conversations, she tells me about something she saw on Dr. Oz at some point during the week.  “You really should watch, Jen… he has good tips sometimes.”  The problem is, that I can’t STAND Dr. Oz, but after about the fifth time we had this same conversation, I broke down and DVR’d several episodes that looked promising.  I zoomed through the episodes in one sitting (since I kept my finger on FF through the majority of it) and deemed most of it useless.  However, I watched one segment about how to gain more energy (something that I desperately need), which featured a woman named Kimberly Snyder, author of The Beauty Detox, who shared 4 different beverages geared, not only to increase energy, but to make you beautiful.  And since there are few better motivators for me than the promise of energy and beauty (mostly beauty), I rushed right out and got the ingredients for the beverages.
I’ve managed to integrate some of the beverages into my daily routine – my most enjoyable is a cup of ginger and cayenne tea first thing in the morning.  Dr. Oz and Kimberly suggest using fresh ginger, but I use Yogi tea.  It’s much easier and it comes with lovely words of wisdom that start my day off on the right note.
So while I’m not likely to tune in to Dr. Oz again, it turns out that mom is right, he does have some good tips sometimes.  And so does Yogi Tea.  Today’s nugget:  “Delight the world with compassion, kindness and grace.”  Something to strive for, indeed.