Saturday, September 24, 2016

Where is Everybody?

Remember that Twilight Zone episode, Season I, Episode 1, “Where is Everybody”? I’ve been wondering that a lot myself recently.

Back in Raleigh, I lived within walking (or at least jogging) distance from the majority of my closest friends. It was nothing to text someone, “I’m coming over” and be there in just a minutes. Even when I moved out to the edges of the city in the no-man’s land that straddles Raleigh and Durham (AKA Brier Creek), I was still able to keep in touch with everyone. But then the mass exodus began!

Friend 1 moved to Boone, Friend 2 moved to Greensboro, Friends 3 and 4 to Germany! Friend 5 ended up in the Way Far Outskirts of Northern Raleigh/Almost Rolesville, creating a 45-minute commute every time we wanted to get together. Friend 6 and her boyfriend went to Florida, and then I moved to Durham, far from Friend 7, who used to be my upstairs neighbor. Friends 8 and 9 still live in Durham, but lead hectic lives that don’t allow us much time to hang out. Friend 10 got into a serious relationship and disappeared. And friend 11, my blessed roommate for over a year, took a job in Charlotte.

Durham is rife with awesome people, and Kyle and I are trying to connect with other folk in the area. We met one cool girl from Texas that we hang out with on occasion, and we’ve joined a dance class in the hopes that someone cool will come along (all very nice people, but so far, no one we’re hanging out with on a regular basis). We’ve been to two Meet-ups, and joined six more earlier this week in a determined act to be proactive. It’s not that there’s a lack of stuff to do. We go to music festivals, art festivals, First Fridays, and plenty of cool restaurants and bars. But we're suffering from a lack of people to go there with.

I know living far from loved ones is nothing new (my three BFFs from college have lived apart since 2001 but still text every day) but it is new to feel suddenly alone. Kyle and I love spending time just with each other, but we miss the group camaraderie we used to have, too. Is this what happens in your 30s? Everyone becomes busily entrenched in their own lives and no longer has time for cook-outs, weekend trips, or a 5:00 drink? I know Kyle and I are guilty of it, too, since most of the week we just work and come home. But I sure miss the connections we used to have.

I keep thinking about that Langston Hughes poem:

I loved my friend
He went away from me
There’s nothing more to say
The poems ends
Soft as it began --
I loved my friend.

So, friends, I just wanted to let you know that I miss you all dearly. And since you all recognize yourselves in the descriptions above, please know that you’re not in numerical order by affection, but by date of parting!

Maybe in another year I’ll be writing about my awesome new friend group and all the cool things we’re doing. Or maybe it’ll be another post about how it’s just me and Kyle and the cats. Either way, I don’t want out of sight to mean out of mind. Even if I don’t see you on a regular basis, let’s still stay in touch. I don’t want distance to mean goodbye forever.

Friday, July 22, 2016

One Year Anniversary

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Kyle and I arbitrarily designated July 13, 2015 as our Official Going-Out As Boyfriend-Girlfriend Day, and I’m happy to announce we just passed the one-year mark. (I suppose we could technically count in all those other months since 2013, but we don’t worry about accuracy.) To celebrate, we decided to take a beach trip to the Outer Banks--the first time we’d been there together.

The weather forecast threatened rain both Saturday and Sunday, but we decided to try our luck anyway. We left Durham under cloudy skies, hoping they would go away, but by the time we stopped for lunch at Pizazz Pizza in Nags Head, it was raining steadily. I was vividly reminded of the All Girls Beach Trip my mom and sister and I had made to the Outer Banks in 2014, during which it rained without ceasing for five days straight. (That trip involved a lot of shopping trips to prevent cabin fever.) Kyle and I decided to do the same, and spent a good hour perusing the aisles at the local Wings waiting for the rain to let up.

Luckily for us, it stopped long enough to let us stroll up and down the gray and empty beach, but we were a long way from the car when the bottom dropped out again. This time, we ended up absolutely soaking wet. With dripping wet hair and clammy clothes, we decided to drive out to the guest house we would be staying in and take a hot shower. After a 30-minute drive to the northwest end of Roanoke Island, we found the sprawling, wood-frame house at the end of a long, narrow driveway, facing the sound.

Despite the fact that there was no hot water in our bathroom (apparently the other guests had used it all up before we arrived), we were able to warm up with hot tea, blankets, and interesting books in the sun room. And just when we thought our entire vacation was going to be spent on the couch learning about what to do in case of a hydrogen bomb explosion, the sun came out!

It was only about 4:00, so we decided to spend the couple of hours we had at the Elizabethan Gardens and Jockey’s Ridge. I’ve been visiting these gardens since I was a child (I’m pretty sure I have a picture of Jacquie W. and I there in 1996) and they haven’t changed at all since then, except that some of the statues have lost some of their luster. But hearing the sound lap against the sand and seeing the bright flowers with their background of green still fills me with peace and joy. (Happily for me, Kyle liked it, too.)

Every time I go to Jockey’s Ridge, the state park made up of enormous sand dunes (well, maybe not as enormous as they used to be), I feel like a child. This time was no exception: The two of us ran around like idiots, raced each other up and down the sand dunes (he won, obviously), and tried to see who could do the most cartwheels and headstands.

We left before the clouds that had started pouring in decided to do anything else, and that was our day!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

The morning dawned beautifully: all traces of clouds and rain had left during the night. After easing into the day with bagels, coffee, and books, we went to explore Manteo’s waterfront. Manteo is a cute little town (the farthest east in North Carolina) right on the water. An old replica of the Elizabeth II ship sits in the harbor along with the dozens of yachts and boats, and restaurants and shops line the street.

We couldn’t find a restaurant open for lunch there, so we left the island for Nags Head. There was a cute café called Waveriders right on the main road that served us delicious BLTs and cucumber salad. Then it was off to the beach for the next four hours.

If Saturday the beach was almost deserted, Sunday was packed ten times as much. Brightly colored umbrellas and tents lined the shore and the water was full of families playing. Even though the water was freezing (it took a while to get used to), it felt great in the 90 degree heat. We spent the day like everyone else at the beach: swimming, walking, reading, and getting sunburned.

Towards the middle of the afternoon, we made our way down the Outer Banks to Bodie Island Lighthouse for one last hoorah. Just our luck, though, the ticket booth was down to just one admission that hour. Tired as we were, we decided not to wait, and instead began the three-hour drive back to Durham, sunburned, sandy, and satisfied.

We’ll never have another July anniversary: if things go as planned, our wedding will be in April. This year sure was lovely, though. Next time, we’ll be celebrating in the spring, sitting under a cherry tree in Japan!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Turning into an official Durhamite

It's been three weeks since moving into our new house in Durham, and we sure are becoming real Durham folk. Take today, for instance. I feel like such a damn hippie.

First, we start off our hot Saturday morning at the Eno River hiking a trail with our Duke medical student friend and her dog. When it gets too hot, we take off our shoes and socks to wade in the water, which quickly turns into getting completely soaked. (We're 1/20th of the way through our Durham summer bucket list now that we've been there!)

Back at home, I wash out our clothes and hang them on the clothesline in our backyard to dry. Then we discover we're almost out of laundry detergent, so we bike the mile and a quarter to Kroger for baking soda and bar soap, which we then pare down and mix into a big tub that's already filled with Borax and washing soda, for our own homemade laundry detergent. (This isn't the recipe I used, but it's close enough. Also, I might have some issue with Borax and Fels-Naptha, but it'll do for now.)

I pick some squash and cucumbers from the garden for dinner (you know, the plants I bought at Barnes Supply Company on 9th Street), and give them a good 20-minute watering.

I mean, honestly.

Hiking, biking, being environmentally this really what I'm turning into?! What am I going to do next, get some backyard chickens and a dog that likes to sit with me and Kyle at Fullsteam?

Yeah, probably.

Monday, May 16, 2016

My Life-Sized Laura House

When I was eight years old, my siblings and I received a wooden playhouse for Christmas. The 6-or-7 foot tall, one room building had a pointed roof with black shingles, a tiny porch, and two glass windows placed on either side of the Dutch door, whose halves could be opened fully or with only one part open. For the first year or two, the place was filled with beanbags, half-read books, snacks, and talk of magical lands. But as my brother and sister grew up, they gradually lost interest in playing outside in our house, and I found myself the only one interested in it.

Instead of being lonely, the sole child at play, I found that house a fantastic escape. I had just started reading Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books, and found our playhouse to be the perfect replica of all of Laura's houses, from her cabin in the Big Woods to her first house with Almanzo. My dog Scotch and I spent the majority of my childhood playing in and around that Laura House, as it quickly became known.

The house was situated at one end of a grassy pasture, near my dad's barn, and it made perfect sense for me to play Laura there. Wearing an old dress, apron, and a bonnet my dad got for me, I filled up old feed bags full of pine straw to make a mattress for the hard wooden bed made from discarded pallets. I put an old table made from an oak tree in one corner. On the mantle, a clock that didn't work, a few candles in metal candleholders, a tin plate, and a cup. (Somewhere, I don't know where, is a video of 11-year old me giving a tour of my fully-furnished Laura house to a lady from church. There's a video I would love to find!)

I can't count the happy times I had out there, dressed up like it was 1870 and running around with my dog. But eventually, I grew up too, and by the time I graduated from high school, my Laura house was a hold-all for curing hams, sweet feed, or hay for the farm.

So what does my playhouse have to do with my life as a 33-year old living in the city? Because for the first time since I was 13, I feel like I have found my real-life, life-sized Laura House. Not counting college dorm rooms, I've lived in nine different places since I was 18: houses, apartments, townhomes. In every one, I tried my hardest to make it feel like home, and I think, for the most part, I succeeded. But in every place, something was missing. It just didn't feel completely right to me. It was either too new, or too antiseptic, or too crowded, or just too wrong.

Until now!

My new house in Durham--the one whose keys we received on April 30 and the one we've been moving into piece by piece for the past two weeks--is exactly what I've been looking for. It's kind of old and uneven, it has electrical and plumbing problems, and the outbuildings are almost falling apart, but it has the warmth and the character I've been looking for since I started living on my own.

At this place, I've got a huge raised bed garden that Kyle worked tirelessly on (thank you!), filled with newly-planted seedlings; a back yard with a mulberry tree whose berries I've already made a cobbler from; a clothesline (a CLOTHESLINE!!!!); and a front porch for my wicker chairs. In this house, the windows are open, the pots and pans hang from the ceiling, and the china cabinet is full of stacked dishes. It's my Laura house, just bigger than one room.

And the best part? I won't have to sleep on a mattress made of pine straw!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

New York 2016: the Japan Experience

January 14-17, 2016

I'd been to NYC twice before, visiting my wealthy lawyer friend and my super-cool business friend, both in 2010 and in 2014. Through them, I was able to get a good balanced tour of the real New York City lifestyle and the necessary tourist destinations that I needed to cross off my list. The years roll by, though, and one moved away to Denver and the other fell out of touch. So on this trip -- I was tagging along with my boyfriend while he attended a week-long conference -- I was a little worried I'd be left wandering around by myself for hours on end. (Despite the fact that I made it around Tokyo like a pro for two years, New York still scares me.) 

View from the hotel
But I had nothing to fear. My well-prepared bf, who foresaw my reluctance, made plans with his college friend Jana to come down from Syracuse and hang out with us for the weekend: a win-win for everyone involved. It was easy for the three of us to get along with each other with no trouble at all. And although it was a new adventure to actually look up places to go and find them with a map instead of following someone's footsteps, I liked exploring the unfamiliar with someone new. It's much less intimidating than trying to do it alone. Besides, Jana did most of the planning, so technically all I had to do was follow her!

Over the course of the weekend, we took in as much of Greenwich Village, Soho, Chinatown, Little Italy, Hell's Kitchen, and Midtown as we could, leaving our ritzy hotel at the Hilton Times Square every morning in search of nothing in particular but something cool to see. Neither of us wanted to visit anything famous like the Statue of Liberty, we just wanted to go shopping! And shopping we did; both of us spent more than we needed to at some really fun boutiques and vintage clothing stores.

Happily for Kyle, he didn't have to tag along and be bored while we were shopping, but he was able to accompany us for breakfast (diner food! bagels!) and dinner most days. Plus he had nights free to spend with us. 

The biggest difference between this trip and my other two NY trips was the sheer amount of JAPAN we found. Jana and I accidentally stumbled on Sunrise Mart (a Japanese market), Panya (a bakery), various ramen shops, and even an izekaya (a type of casual restaurant/pub) during one of our walks. We also spent a lot of time at Muji (my favorite store from Japan), Uniqlo (like Gap, but better), and the Kinokuniya bookstore, a place so laden with cute things I thought I'd explode. (Later, Jana and I found a Korean bookstore, which definitely rivals Japan with its amazing stationery choices.)

Tonkatsu curry
And the food . . . oh! the food! Tonkatsu curry at Go-Go Curry our first night, ramen the second, and an izekaya feast my last night in town, complete with okonomiyaki, takoyaki, karage, nikujaga . . . all those things that taste so much better in a restaurant than when I try to make them at all. It was such a strange experience to sit in the restaurant surrounded by Japanese speakers, eating authentic Japanese food: it was just like being back in Gunma! I filled up on everything I'd been missing for the past three years, wishing I had a few more bellies to fit all that food into. Next time I will eat even more!

I don't really care for the craziness of Times Square or the claustrophobic feeling that comes over me every time I start down the stairs to get on the subway, but I really enjoy visiting New York City and soaking in its new experiences. I'm grateful that Kyle invited me along! And you know, sometimes he has business trips to Greece and Germany, too . . . 

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2015: A Year in Review

If you'd like a review of important 2015 news, click here. Pop culture, here. And for my own dull life, please read ahead!

January: I also drank beer.
January: A cold month. I lived with B on Chesterbrook Ct and worked 20 hours a week. I'm also not sure if anything blog-worthy happened this month . . .

February: I also bought a chair.
February: Still cold. We had a ton of days without work because of the constant snow and ice storms. I took the Praxis on February 10th, as my first step towards becoming a public school ESL teacher. I also went to the mountains with two other couple-friends February 13th-15th on a snowboarding/ski/cabin trip and to a dress-up Oscar Party on February 22nd. Neither event was particularly pleasant. At the end of the month, I visited my aunt in Littleton and felt nostalgic for home. And I watched a lot of House of Cards and became engrossed in Frank & Claire's lives.

March:I went running a lot. 
March: Getting warmer. After a four-month relationship, B and I broke up and he moved out. I don't know if anything else happened, besides discovering a "secret" inlet at Jordan Lake where I could relax--and think a lot--in.

April: I made a lot of dishrags.
April: Warm with lots of thunderstorms. From the 2nd to the 6th, I visited my older sister in Indiana and was well-taken care of. I also enjoyed the symphony with Sarah and lots of antique shopping with Tine. I took the Praxis for Spanish on the 30th, and continued to think a lot.

May: Comfortable porch
May: Quite warm. Kelly moved in to my apartment for what ended up being only a few weeks. On the 2nd, Kyle and I went to the Longleaf Film Festival downtown (and stumbled upon a gay pride parade and a 1930s restaurant). Memorial Day weekend we watched an outdoor showing of "Ghostbusters" with some friends, spent a day in Bath, and had a picnic with everyone. On the 27th, Kelly and I picked up the keys to our new townhouse and she moved in, but I waited until the end of my lease in June.

June: Jordan Lake sunset
June: Hot. I spent the month leisurely moving into my and Kelly's new place, finally staying there for the first time on the 27th. My three best friends from college came down for the 5th-7th for a scintillating weekend of watching the IT Crowd and eating Chinese food. Kyle and I took a weekend beach trip to the Outer Banks just to watch the sun go down and come back up (and to see the night sky full of stars), but I learned that sleeping on the beach isn't nearly as romantic as it sounds: No one ever mentions mosquitoes. The following weekend, Tine and I took a day trip to the beach on a beautiful day, I enjoyed the lack of bugs. And I saw Jurassic World and was happy.

July: I also made ramen.
July: Still hot. I had been spending a good amount of the summer stressing out about where to work, but then I got hired to work part-time (30%) at an elementary school, so I quit worrying. Kelly and I spent a few fun nights watching baseball at the Bulls stadium. I went to Portland, OR to visit my brother and his family from the 9th-13th, coming home right in time to start a 10-day orientation that would officially make me a public school ESL teacher.

August: I also pickled peaches. 
August: Still hot. I turned 33 on the 2nd, and Kelly and I threw a housewarming party on the 16th, just shy of 12 weeks after our official move-in date. I got hired 40% at another elementary school so I became a real teacher! I also started taking an online class to start working on getting my license. On the 24th, I got it in my head to make a quilt by hand, and started piecing it that evening. The last weekend in August, my dad and I went to the Watermelon Festival in Winterville.

September: Ararat, VA
September: Still hot, mostly. Kyle and I went to Hillsville, VA for Labor Day and stayed in a bed and breakfast more like the spare bedroom in someone's house than an actual B&B, but good nonetheless!

October: Pumpkin
October: Coolish. It was a busy month: three-day trip to Boone, day at the State Fair, family reunion in Littleton, and a pumpkin carving/scary-movie watching shindig at my house. Oh yeah, and Halloween night with S and friends at the scary haunted trail that I kept my eyes shut for the whole entire time.

November: Florida beach
November: Cool. And it was another fun busy month: C&T, J&M, and Kyle & I spent a weekend at a cabin in Bryson City, coloring, cooking, and playing board games while it poured rain outside. A coworker and I traveled to St. Augustine, FL to present at an international conference, and I ran a 5K on the beach with my friend Lindsey the day after. Thanksgiving was spent in Michigan with Kyle's family.

December: Finished panel 1 of 6
December: Crazy, crazy warm. This is the month everything ended: online class (got an A), night class (finished on the 3rd), and school (the 18th). Dad, Kyle, and I drove to Marion, VA to watch the taping of "Song of the Mountains" on the 12th. And I had a gigantic Christmas party on the 19th--19 people came over for dinner and presents! I couldn't think of anything work-related during the first week of break; instead, I just spent it cooking, eating, and watching Christmas movies. The 25th-29th were visiting days: two days with my mom in Winston-Salem, a day with my dad in Wilson, and another day with my aunt in Littleton, before finally coming back to Raleigh. New Years Eve will probably be spent with a group of friends somewhere in the city celebrating the year!

And oh, what a year it's been! Moved into a new house, got two new jobs, and slid into an amazing relationship. I'm excited about what 2016 will bring!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Things I Should Be Scared Of

You know, there are so many things to be afraid of nowadays, I'm starting to lose count. We hear about scary stuff all the time, and with each report, I've got something new to freak out about. Something new is added to my list every day. (And please, my I-don't-get-sarcasm friends, realize I say these things tongue-in-cheek.)
  • Terrorists: They want to kill me to make a statement. 
  • Black men: They want to rob me or kill me.
  • White men: They want to kill me while they're shooting up a movie theater or a school. 
  • Hispanic men: They're all talking bad about me in Spanish, although they probably don't want to kill me.  
  • Syrian refugees: They all want to kill me. 
  • Travel outside the U.S.: I'm going to get killed. 
  • Travel inside the U.S.: I'm going to get killed. 
  • Rest Areas on the Interstate: I'm going to get robbed or killed. 
  • Bacon/Deli Meat: They're going to give me cancer. 
  • GMOs/Artificial sweeteners/Additives in my food: They're all going to give me cancer, too. 
As you can see, I've got a lot to worry about in the back of my mind. I'm sure there are even more things out there to be concerned about (if you think of any more, let me know), but I'll stop there for now. The good news is, there's one bullet point I can now take off of my list:
  • Having Thanksgiving dinner with my boyfriend's family 
Talk about nerve-wracking. Ever since Kyle invited me to come up and have Thanksgiving dinner with his family in Michigan, I'd been a little nervous. It's not like I hadn't met them all before -- I had my 32nd birthday party with his mom, stepdad, and sister while they were visiting him in Raleigh, for goodness' sake -- but that was when we were just friends. I didn't feel any pressure. But now, spending five days at his parents' house over a major U.S. holiday . . . that was something else.

Lucky for me, though, all of my worrying was in vain. Kyle's family lives in a small city between Flint and Detroit: his mom, stepdad, and sister in one normal house with two normal dogs and a normal catt; his dad and stepmom in a different normal house with a different normal dog (and no cat).

We left Raleigh on Tuesday afternoon and were in Athens, OH by midnight. After spending an uneventful night at a cheap hotel with a poorly-working heater and freezing cold bathroom tiles, we were on the road again, finally pulling into Kyle's mom's driveway around 4:00 in the afternoon. I was feeling kind of nervous but hoped no one could tell. That evening, his stepdad took us all -- Kyle,    his brother, sister, mom, and me -- to a restaurant called Mr. B's that I'd never heard of but enjoyed. (I was also bowled over by the fact that every single person in the restaurant was white; it was like being back at Milligan College.) I was also impressed that no one started any controversial political  conversation while at dinner, as is wont to happen at dinner with my family. After eating, we went to visit Kyle's dad's for an hour or two, getting back to his mom's house just in time to eat popcorn and watch "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles" in preparation for Thanksgiving Day.

Thanksgiving itself was super relaxing and really comfortable. More family came over: grandpa, stepbrother, and stepsister with their spouses and kids, as well as Kyle's brother's fiancée, so there ended up being 14 of us in total. It felt like Thanksgiving when I was a kid: rowdy, lots of conversation, kids running all over the place, and of course dishes and dishes of delicious deliciousness! My Southern sensibilities told me I should help cook or clean up, but I hardly lifted a finger. (I'm sorry, family.) And although there was no Monopoly marathon afterwards, we did play a good game of Apples to Apples over Rice Krispie Treats and chocolate pie. I also hit it off with Kyle's 7-year old niece; we played kitchen and read some Dr. Seuss.

Friday was a lazy day at Kyle's dad's: we arrived around 11:00 a.m. and stayed until almost 9:30 that night, listening to the cold rain fall outside and watching football and HGTV inside. Kyle's stepmom had decorated for Christmas, and with the fire going, the mantel decorated, and a candle burning, it felt just like it. It also helped that after dinner I wrapped up in a blanket and enjoyed some coffee and Bailey's with a slice of pumpkin cheesecake. There is so much to be grateful for!

Our last full day was Saturday. Kyle's niece and I spent the morning playing in the freezing cold Michigan weather (which I could only stand so much of) before Kyle and I took off to visit his dad one more time. Later, at my request, Kyle took me on a tour of the city he grew up in (Lapeer, MI,
population 8,884), complete with visits to his previous houses, schools, and hangouts. Around 5:00 we drove down to Novi (no-VYE, not no-VEE) to meet his friend G for dinner. Then it was back to Clarkston and time to get ready to go back to Raleigh.

I'm not sure what I expected from Thanksgving with someone else's family 800 miles from home, but it all turned out great. I guess now that I don't have to worry about visiting Michiagn anymore, I can start focusing my worries on something else . . . like what we'll be doing for Christmas!