A fashionista’s reason for liking winter

Hats!

Just a few of my choice favorites include:

This is what a snow day will do to ya!

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Buon compleanno

When I was about 6 years old, my great grandmother passed away. My grandmother, who had devoted her time to taking care of her, decided to sell her house in a city in New Jersey that was, at one time, overly-populated with Italian immigrants. The faces in her neighborhood were changing. Things were different. And my grandmother, who still to this day refuses to learn how to use a microwave, is not one for change. She moved in with my parents and I when she sold her house, and our relationship inevitably changed.

She is a stubborn woman. Having friends over when I was younger was a struggle as she constantly yelled. She hated people touching my things. She hated loud kids. And she did not hide this fact at all. We are way more similar than we are different, so our screaming matches were fierce and filled with tears.

But, at the core, we loved each other. She would sneak me cookies when my mother wasn’t looking. She’d make zeppoles with me during my phase of incredibly unhealthy eating. She’d give me money to shop down on the main avenue. These are things that grandparents do, and she did them well.

I was 15 when she moved to a senior citizen apartment building in town. Our relationship got much better when we weren’t in each others hair 24/7. I would go there everyday after school to pick up a snack before going to work. She looked forward to it. As I look back on it now, I realize that it gave her something to look forward to. Something to live for.

My grandmother has been through a lot health-wise over the past 8 years. Between bouts with cancer, heart trouble, and broken hips, she was soon unable to care for herself on her own. There were lots of family talks and tears this past summer when it was decided that she would have to move into a long-term care facility. It was quite possibly one of the hardest decisions my family has ever had to make, but it was necessary. And, truth be told, she is actually happy there. She loves her aids and nurses. Family members visit her everyday. And we know that she’s safe. It’s not that bad a deal.

Yesterday was her birthday.

She is 90 years old.

I’d give anything to see her live another 90 years.

She’s truly one of the strongest people I’ve ever met in my life.

So, here’s to the woman whose life I made a living hell for 9 years. To the woman who has overcome so much in her lifetime. To the woman who makes the best damn potato and rice balls I’ve ever had. To the woman I slowly see more and more of in my own self . . . buon compleanno, nonna. I love you.

 

A year can change a lot

2010 changed me. For the better? I’m not sure. But definitely for the different. I hype up Chris Velan’s music a lot, but he really is wonderful. And I love listening to the following song around New Years. Maybe, if 2010 wasn’t really your year, you’ll find this inspirational. I definitely do. Happy New Year, kiddies!

Songs of truth

Day 24 – Make a playlist to someone, and explain why you chose all the songs.

I’m starting to skip around with these truths because I could pretty much answer most of them with one word. I’m snowed in, and inspired to create this playlist. I love creating playlists. Last year I had an online radio show that I adored putting mixes together for. Unfortunately, the time slot I was given was tricky and my Mac was not alltogether cooperative with the software the radio station used. So, here is my playlist truth. I’m doing this as kind of a retrospective. Looking back at songs that remind me of a certain time in my life. That really stand out as being a kind of soundtrack over the years. Who’s it for? Possibly my future beau, but, more so, this is just for me. So that I never forget how important these songs were to me.

Green Day – Welcome to Paradise – This song defines the summer of 1995 for me. I realize it came out a year before, but as I was only 10 at the time, my mother didn’t let me buy the album until the following year. It reminds me of good, carefree times. Of kissing my friend S’s cousin who was visiting for the summer (I’m quite certain he was my first…). Of walking down to the “Ave” getting Italian Ice with change collected at our lemonade stand. Of prank calls and water gun fights. Of catching fireflies and drinking Kool Aid Bursts until we got sick. Those were the days…

Jimmy Eat World – The Sweetness – Fast forward to the summer after junior year of high school. Driving down the street in hand-me-down cars, the windows rolled down, singing at the top of our lungs; buying a pack of cigarettes only to smoke one, nearly choke, and vow never to do it again; attempting to make mixed drinks and trying to erase every memory of what type of liquor we actually used. These were still the innocent days. The days right before the world changed. The days before the word “terrorist” was used in daily vocabulary. The days before the world corrupted us…

Thursday – Signals Over the Air – I left college in the fall of 2003. I moved home, got a job at a bank and took a good, hard look at my life. My father never thought that I’d go back to school. He didn’t talk to me for months. It wasn’t until I got in to the local university that he even looked in my direction. I remember sitting in my car, listening to Thursday’s War All the Time album on repeat. This wasn’t really an amazing time in my life. I fell in with a bad crowd during the time I was out of school. But I quickly got back on my feet and straightened my act up. Still love this song (and album) though.

Nickel Creek – Jealous of the Moon – In the summer of 2006 I wanted to work abroad. I had a very specific place in mind. I wanted to go to Ireland. My father refused to let me and I’m actually quite glad he did. Had he let me, I wouldn’t have gone the following year and I wouldn’t have had an experience that changed my life forever. Anyway, I remember listening to this song non-stop around the time we were arguing about me going or not. I would sit in my car and cry fat, salty tears, wishing that things were different and that my father woud just let me be who I knew I was supposed to be.

Snow Patrol – If There’s a Rocket Tie Me to It – A little over a year later, I played the album this song is on non-stop. It brought us closer together while we were apart. And this song felt like it was made just for me.

Rascal Flatts – When the Sand Runs Out – He loved this band. The country girl in me loves them too. When he sat in my car, flipping through my albums, he picked up the one that this song is on. He popped it in and when this specific song began to play, he looked at me in awe. “I’ve never heard this before…I think it’s my new favorite.” Later on I’d make him the album. I wonder if he ever listened to it. I wonder if, when he does, he thinks of the girl that made it for him, and wishes things were different.

Bon Iver – Skinny Love – The moment I heard this song I was just struck with the raw emotion of it. It really touched me in a way that makes me very hopeful for the music of the future. I still love this song just as much as the first time I heard it – maybe even more.

A Fine Frenzy – Almost Lover – Tears streamed down my face as I parked in a rest stop on the NJ Turnpike. I kept replaying this song, even though it played a huge role in the crying. But this was just one of those time that I needed to cry. And God it felt good. Beautiful song. Still makes me teary-eyed.

Brett Dennen – Make You Crazy – Summer of 2009. Driving down the shore with the windows down, blasting this tune. It was a summer of learning. Of experiencing. Of healing. This guy helped me do just that.

The Black Keys – She’s Long Gone – I love The Black Keys. I find their music extremely sexy. This is the last song that played when we were together. I guess it’s kind of fitting in a way…

Phoenix – 1901 – This song never ceases to put a smile on my face. And that’s exactly what I need these days.

Almost a master

Three years ago I was going through a quarter-life crisis. I found myself at a crossroads, as many recent undergrads do. I was a college graduate with a pointless degree. I spent my days sitting behind a desk, typing aimlessly away at a computer, feeling like I was wasting my youth doing something that made me miserable. Needless to say, I was not so happy with the direction my life was headed. I vividly remember sitting in my cubicle in December of 2007, deciding that I had had enough. I had enough of the 9-5 office grind. I was fed up with business casual attire. I was annoyed with the Spirit Committee shoving fliers in my face to go see The Lion King. I needed real human interaction, and got very little of it on a daily basis. I thrive on communication and challenges. On that frigid December day, I made a decision that would change my life as I knew it.

I decided that I needed to go back to school.

The next few months were a blur of serious soul searching, filling out applications and studying for the GREs. By March I had been accepted into the program I wanted, and by May I found out that I would be a graduate assistant for my first year of school. I’d get a free ride for one of the three years I’d be in the program. I was elated. This had to be a sign that I was making the right decision. That it would be worth it to throw away the career I was slowly building. I had my doubts, don’t get me wrong. I cried, I debated, I changed my mind a thousand times. But on the thousand and first time I became completely dedicated to this new life I was going to begin.

In the summer, I fell in love.

In the fall, I began my program.

I didn’t feel like I needed to make any new friends – what for? I had plenty already. I was happy enough with the social life I was  leading. I didn’t need to add any new people to the mix. And then I started talking to J. We soon began to spend countless hours together, mostly talking, occasionally studying. She became my study buddy, but so much more. She was my confidant. My partner in crime. We complained to one another. We stressed out together. We laughed together. We procrastinated together. Slowly, I began to speak with the other people in my program, although I wasn’t really sold on all of them. There were a few people that I for sure felt that I would just never be friends with. And I was cool with that.

During the second semester of my first year, my heart broke.

I wasn’t sure if I could go on. I’m not positive if this is the way that everyone copes with heartbreak, but personally, I didn’t want to do anything. I wanted to lay in bed, listen to sad songs, cry and eat Phish Food by the gallon. I wasn’t doing any of my work. I was falling behind. Just getting out of bed to go to class was a chore. Studying was brutal. I couldn’t concentrate. I was beginning to feel like I wouldn’t be able to continue to program.

And then, one day, I snapped out of it. While we were in the library, J looked at me. She snapped her fingers in front of my face as I moped into my notebook. “Amanda! You’re doing this for you. You have an amazing opportunity here. You can’t throw it all away because some guy hurt your feelings. You’re going to be brilliant at this, but you have to get back on track. In two years, I want to graduate with you standing next to me.”

So, I worked. I studied. I read. I became a clinician. A damn good one, if I do say so myself. I went out with friends on the weekends, but during the week I was, first and foremost, a student. I spent countless late nights at school, paper writing with my classmates, who soon became some of my best friends. I grew amazingly fond of those same people that I was so unsure about in the beginning. They all became my rocks. I remembered why I went back for my graduate degree in the first place. I was proud of what I was accomplishing. For once, I was absolutely certain that I was on the right path.

Over my graduate career, I began to realize that my classmates are some of the most amazing people in the world. I couldn’t have asked for a better group to go through the ups and downs of school with. I’ve spent the past two and a half years with these brilliant, entertaining, wonderful individuals who have taught me more than I could have learned from any textbook. I am so so so blessed to have met each and every one of them.

So, why am I talking about this right now?

Well, today we took our last final exam. Ever.

As we finished, we waited in the lounge for one another. One by one we congregated, chatted about the test, and decided to make plans to meet up sometime soon. We all had places to be, but we just couldn’t bring ourselves to leave the building.

As we finally made our way down the steps and out into the bitter cold, I looked back. We would all be there again for various reasons. Presentations we would have to give, seminars we would have to attend. But not in this same way. We would never take another class together. We would never have to study our brains out til 4 in the morning in that building together. We would never again go senile in the computer lab, laughing at absolutely nothing.

We have all grown so much in the two and a half years since we met each other. Some of us got married, some of us had our first serious relationships, a few of us had our hearts broken. Along the way we lost a few to various life circumstances. Despite all the insanity, I’m fairly sure that those of us who got through the experience would never trade it for anything else in the world.

It scares me to think of what the future might hold. But it also makes me more excited than words can express. We’ll be scattered throughout the state, working in different areas, but we’ll always be there for each other. I know that no matter where we are, I can call each and every one of the 10 people I’ve just spent the majority of my mid-twenties with, and they would be there for me in a heartbeat.

So, am I happy with my decision to leave my comfortable workplace and embark on this crazy, whirlwind of a journey called grad school?

Is the Pope Catholic?

This year was about…

My first Facebook status post of the new year was the following:

“2009 was about learning. 2010 is about living. I’m excited to do some serious living.”

Looking back on this year, I have got to say that I think I succeeded in that living part quite nicely. I started off the year with a hot, tropical affair, however the rest of the winter of 2010 was kind of a blur. I remember a lot of school work. A few  emotional breakdowns. Stress. Wine drinking at 3pm while writing papers. Having to make certain family decisions that nearly broke my spirit.

In spring I got a crush.

At the end of summer I was crushed.

In the fall I took some trips, bought a car, finished my thesis, started my last semester of graduate classes ever and fell in love with sushi. I went (and continue to go) out a lot more than I ever have before.

And now? I’m working out everyday and feel pretty confident with my body. I’m meeting new people. I’m going new places. I’m trying new things.

I think I’m living pretty gosh darn well.

So, if 2010 was about living . . . what should 2011 be about? I’ll be finishing up school, starting my career, hopefully moving out. Growing? Maybe 2011 will be about growing.

But I’ll never stop the living thing. It’s way too much fun.

What was your 2010 about? And what do you hope 2011 will bring??

Quote of the day

“If you’re brave enough to leave behind everything familiar and comforting, which can be anything from your house to bitter, old resentments, and set out on a truth-seeking journey, either externally or internally, and if you are truly willing to regard everything that happens to you on that journey as a clue and if you accept everyone you meet along the way as a teacher and if you are prepared, most of all, to face and forgive some very difficult realities about yourself, then the truth will not be withheld from you.”

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