Saturday, August 16, 2008
This was where Orientation for JVC:East '98 took place. It was where I met my incredible housemates--Katie, Mary, Megan, Julie & Scott--that I spent a year with in Jersey City. It was where a lot of things I thought I knew were completely turned upside down. It was where I really started to learn about spirituality (as opposed to just going through the motions at Church), simple living (beyond just getting dollar drafts), community (learning to live with and support each other, but not having to be best friends), and social justice (a term that, embarassingly, had only recently entered my lexicon.) It was where I experienced some great moments of revelation, as well as overpowering feelings of self-doubt.
And of course, it was where I met the man I would someday marry.
NR and I were invited back to Blue Ridge last week, to speak to the JVs who were finishing up their year of service. It was quite a trip to see Teege running around the oregano fields where we first met, and to wax nostalgic with NR's old housemate (who's now on staff)--whining about endless rice & bean dinners, crazy students/clients/co-workers/housemates, but realizing what a truly amazing and transformative period it was for all of us.
We decided to make a mini-vacation out of it (hey, when you have a kid, you're not going to pass up free lodgings and food!), so we drove down Wednesday, had dinner with the current JVs (who seemed alarmingly young...which means I'm alarmingly old!), put Teege to bed, and chilled on the porch of a cottage with some Coronas and lots of memories. We watched the sun set and the moon come up over the horizon above, talking for hours. It's a rare gift to just sit and talk--especially in the silence of nature--when you're new parents, so we cherished the moment.
So as I reflect on the 10th anniversary of JVC '98-'99, I am full of thanks. Grateful for my hilarious and talented students at St. Mary's High School that year, who made my first year of teaching such a joyous one. Grateful for my housemates--who challenged and humbled me in the best ways possible, but also lifted me up on my darkest days. Grateful for a city which I would eventually call home for nine years. Grateful for learning to think beyond myself, step outside the spotlight, and discover how to be a supporting player rather than a drama queen.
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
Monday, April 28, 2008
Friday, March 28, 2008
Thursday, March 27, 2008
So...what's up with "gin up" these days?
I like to consider myself up on the parlance of the times. And I am, to quote my dear friend Chris, "a lover of language." But this is a new one for me.
Not only that, ever since Obama gave his "groundbreaking" (really? more on that later) speech on race in America last week, the term has been popping up everywhere. I counted at least three usages in the Inquirer this week.
Am I an old fart? Or just dumb? ("Honey...we're both," I can already hear my hubby sighing.) Or...is Obama just too trendy and relevant for me?
Okay, so back to good ol' Barry. I tend to stay away from politics in my blogs, because there's nothing I hate worse than a half-informed person on a self-indulgent rant. So I'll say this. I REALLY, really like him. I think he's genuinely positive, kind, optimistic, fair-minded. I really enjoy the fact that he's steered clear of the mudslinging. So he had a crazy pastor. (As a Catholic, all I can do is wryly sympathize.) I'm sure he's a good senator. I'm sure someday he could make a terrific president. His daughters are adorable. Michelle is class personified. But I'm a wee wary of how blindly people are jumping on his lil' choo-choo of "change". I've asked several devoted followers (in a completely innocent, "I really honestly want to know, I'm not baiting you" way) what exactly they like about him, and all I get are blissful sighs and glassy-eyed stares off to the distance and lots of talk about "change" and "future." Okay, sweet. Sign me up. But when pressed to name his acconplishments as senator, no one can give a straight-up list. So...what IS he all about, really?
There's a radio ad down here right now, targeted directly to the young 'uns, about how "he gets what our generation is all about." Okay, cool! Um...what is it that he gets? I've watched the debates, I read "Dreams of My Father" (okay, well, most of it), I read his speech (which was really beautiful, and timely, and necessary...but was there a new school of thought voiced that I missed? I've been having the same conversation with people for years.)
Fret not. I finally registered as a Democrat this year (after 12 happy but frustrating years an Independent). I voted for Kerry, whose name I still can't say without shrugging indifferently. And come April 22, I will most definitely be voting for Obama and his mission of change. I just want to be assured of what that change will be.
Friday, February 29, 2008
So goes one of my favorite songs by Philly boy G. Love.
Dreams have been the subject of note these days. I just finished teaching Death of a Salesman and A Raisin in the Sun to my seniors, so we have beat the subject of the "American Dream" to death over the past few months. (Side note: I really didn't think P. Diddy was THAT horrible in the film version Monday night on ABC. He's definitely not picking up any Emmys, but he wasn't the train wreck I was expecting. And Phylicia Rashad is a freaking goddess.)
So...what is the American Dream? Damned if I know. I really don't think there is a cookie-cutter dream assigned to us today. It's no longer the house, 2 cars, 2.5 kids and a dog. It seems (and so my students agreed) that the American Dream of the new millenium is simply to find true happiness through success (whether it be personal, financial, what have you.)
We had an in-service day on the topic of time management. (Funny that it took about 4 hours to learn about how to manage your time...when all I could think about was everything I needed to take care of as soon as the meeting was done! By the end of the day, I had doodled a frighteningly long "to-do" list on the back of my very thick training manual...)
Anyway, one section was devoted to prioritizing goals and deciding whether they were to "prevent pain" or "achieve gain." (Don't you love the precious little catchphrases that corporate trainers whip up? "Fight back the fear!" "Management is measurement!") At one point, we had to turn to a colleague and share something we wanted to do in life that we have not yet done. She shared that she wanted to do the Inca Trail and learn the guitar. Completely cool.
I'm happy to report that it took me a REALLY long time to respond.
Not to say I don't have dreams. But so many things that the speaker offered as possibilities...I had done. And there are so many experiences--really, ever since college--that have exceeded my wildest dreams. I'm still kind of in awe that I've lived them.
And life continues to bless me with happy surprises: how much I've enjoyed being a mom this year, buying our first house, being invited to present at NYU this spring, snagging a writing gig for a local women's magazine. I'm really not trying to brag; I'm just shocked and honored by the good fortune that my family has been blessed with.
Both of the plays my students read had to do with dreams being stifled, or just too big for the dreamer in the first place. My girls were completely fed up with the protagonists by the last pages. "Ugh, why is Willy so obsessed with his own funeral?" "Why can't Walter appreciate what a nice family he has?" The consensus seemed to be that a healthy dose of realism was sorely needed by these guys.
I'm definitely a realist, but certainly not a pessimist. I simply try--and don't always succeed--to seek peace and balance in my life. It seems that more often than not, when you make good choices for good reasons (i.e. beside yourself), you wind up reaping the benefits. As my dear friend Jen said during her toast at our wedding: "When you give glory to God, the glory comes back to you."
In closing...two wonderful friends have achieved incredible dreams over the past month. I just have to give them a big ol' shout-out because they have WORKED THEIR BUTTS OFF to make this happen--while remaining just plain good peoples. So here's to DOCTOR Christina McMahon, newly appointed professor of theatre at Santa Barbara, and Diva Julia Spanja Hoffert, who made her MET DEBUT!!! I am deeply awed and insanely proud of you both. :)
Thursday, February 07, 2008
Well, actually relocating--the owner is packing up and heading out to Portland, OR. (And really, can you blame her?)
This shouldn't bum me out--I don't even live in JC anymore--but this little shop has a special place in my heart.
The day we found out we were expecting, we were on cloud nine, but definitely in shock. That night, we stopped by Janam for a cup of tea and some shortbread. We curled up on a couch in the window, gazing at the neighborhood we'd lived in for years, basking in the glow of our news and talking excitedly about the future.
This part of JC (known oh-so-quaintly as "Harsimus Cove") has definitely seen some changes. Run-down parking lots have given way to luxury condos; an abandoned old community center is now a day spa. It's where I had my first apartment, my first teaching job, and where Nick and I first started our marriage. I know this particular strip pretty well, as I used to walk down it to the PATH every morning. I know the dry cleaners (who always spelled my name "Dana" on the receipt), the bagel shop, La Conguita where you could get insanely huge servings of pernil for about $5, the camera shop with the fat old cat chilling on the counter, the apartment with crazy brick sculptures in the front yard...Janam was a perfectly weird and wonderful addition to the corner of Newark & Grove. And now it's leaving.
Well, JC's loss is Portland's gain. Maybe some other dorky couple, scared to death but drunk with joy over their bun in the oven, will have a similar "Janam moment" out west. :)
Monday, January 28, 2008
Saturday, January 12, 2008
No, I’m not home sick on the couch. Nor did we have a wicked fight for which he’s atoning. Rather, I’m married to a singularly unique yet no longer rare creature—The Evolved Husband.
When we first started dating, I smiled bemusedly when he first offered to cook for me. “Aw,” I thought as he whipped up a delicious chicken parm, “this must be the ‘special occasion’ dish his mom taught him to impress girls with.”
Yet that chicken parm gave way to roast chicken with homemade gravy, sausage lasagna, salsa and guacamole from scratch, gourmet Saturday morning breakfasts (with my choice of fluffy blueberry pancakes or omelets with spicy home fries)…as I slowly realized that I’d hit the culinary jackpot with this guy, my burgeoning cooking skills took a backseat. (After all, I’m Irish, and we’re not exactly known for our prowess in the kitchen!)
Not only does he cook and do the grocery shopping, but he also vacuums, sweeps, mops, cleans out my car, takes the dog out, and does the dishes. He also takes equal care of the Teege—feeding, changing, bathing, and playing. This is on top of the typical “male” chores he carries out—yard work, painting, killing spiders, etc.
So what, you may ask, do I do, exactly?
Well, laundry. And boy, is there a lot of it. My biggest shock after getting married was how much laundry there suddenly was. Nick has never been a “wear and air” kind of guy—a sweatshirt worn for two hours, over an undershirt, is promptly deposited into the hamper. Throw a baby’s endless dirty clothes into the mix, and laundry is suddenly a Sisyphean task.
Cleaning the bathroom is another chore falling squarely on my shoulders. Early in our marriage, Nick remarked how glad he was that I “loved to do the bathroom.” Feeling guilty that this was not nearly as taxing as making dinner every night and dealing with the supermarket every weekend, I smiled sweetly and answered, “Oh honey, I don’t mind at all!” Thus, I sentenced myself to a lifetime of rubber gloves and Soft Scrub.
Oh, and I did go through nine months of pregnancy and a little event called childbirth.
Sure, I’m spoiled rotten. But I know that each task Nick does is out of love for us and the home we’ve created. A few days after our son was born, he braved the blizzard to shovel the car out of the snow so he could make yet another run to Target for diapers. As I watched him from the warmth of our living room, I thought to myself, “This man was born to be a husband and father.” He finds such joy in completing these seemingly mundane chores. It has certainly made my decision to return to work an easy one, knowing that he will happily shoulder the burden of homemaking with me.
Some prefer diamonds; some prefer pearls. I’ll take chicken parm any day.