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the everyman memoirs

The official blog of author Tali Nay.
NOV
25

The Archives

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You're looking at the books currently being readied to be added to the Cartier Rare Books and Archives at the world headquarters of the Gemological Institute of America. There's my little Jeweled, sandwiched in between such titles as Color Encyclopedia of Gemstones, Silversmithing, and, my favorite, Exquisite Agates.

It's maybe a bit misleading, in that my book is not a reference book, nor is it really informational at all (aside from the tidbits you learn as I go from story to story). But when one of my former gemology instructors told me the book was being put into this collection, I was tickled. Even more so when he sent me this picture. I mean, as a gem lover and an author, what better place could there possibly be for my sparkly memoir?

As for Exquisite Agates, if that doesn't scream coffee table book, then I'm not sure what does.

 

NOV
20

I Ain't Afraid of no Ghost

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Because it's only official when you've gotten a library card. New York Public Library, here I come.

NOV
17

Love Letters

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I had the chance earlier this month to see one of Carol Burnett's last performances in Love Letters. She's a hoot, but what has stuck with me since the show is the letter writing. We've all written letters, like maybe once or twice, to a childhood friend when we moved away or to a family member going through a rough patch, but that's not really what I'm talking about. I'm talking about years. I'm talking about sharing our lives with someone through regular written correspondence.

Love Letters is easily the simplest show I've ever seen on Broadway. It follows the lives of a man and woman using nothing more than the letters they wrote to each other over the course of a lifetime. From childhood birthday parties to the complexities and heartbreak of adulthood, they cry, they laugh, they dream, they hope, they hurt each other, they love each other. It's a show that really examines the power of such correspondence...especially in this abbreviated and instant society we live in. Think about the last time you actually wrote someone a letter. Was it this year? This decade?

I've had stints of this kind of correspondence....two of my siblings have spent multiple years abroad where the only way I could communicate with them was to write letters, and it's not just that the letters themselves act as a kind of journal for my life (and theirs) during those years, it's that this kind of communication really strengthens bonds. I find that I miss it, the letters. I miss having someone to write. I miss having something more substantial than bills and ads in my mailbox. Which is what prompted tonight's purchase on my rainy walk home. Some of you (I'd say about 80) will be getting letters. Feel free to write back.

NOV
14

Homecoming

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I just spent a week in Cleveland. I know it's not home anymore, but it still felt an awful lot like a homecoming. Speaking of homecomings, I should probably have chosen a picture of the Cavs game I was able to go to (what ended up being their first home win with LeBron back...I was in attendance at the last home win he played as a Cavalier before leaving, so it felt only fitting to attend the first win after his return), but instead I'm subjecting you all to the parting gift my office presented me with. 

It's amazing how attached to a city one can get. I loved being back in Cleveland this week, to the point of getting teary when I drove away from the office building for the last time today. It was like moving all over again. And this always happens to me. It doesn't mean that I'm second guessing the exciting new chapter I've just begun, it's just that attachment is emotional, and it runs deep, even if you've already moved on. It doesn't mean I don't love New York, it's just that I loved Cleveland first. It doesn't mean I resist change (I just freaking cut all my hair off, yo), it's just that it's hard to leave places and people that have come to mean something to me.

So here I am. Back in my NYC apartment after having battled an epic taxi line, lugged a 50-pound suitcase up the stairs of my elevatorless building, and endured the welcome home brooming of the woman in the apartment below me who thinks my 6-pound cat makes too much noise. If I show up at her door wearing this shirt, it will not be my fault. Bitch, I'm from Cleveland.

NOV
09

Pixie Cut

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Because I always wanted to.

NOV
06

Olive Kitteridge

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I'm currently reading Olive Kitteridge (and no, it's not because of the new mini-series...what do you take me for?), and I must say I'm impressed with Strout's character development skills. Some of the people in the book only get a few pages, so to be able to convey enough in those pages to leave your readers not only understanding a character's background and motive but also wishing they could keep reading about said character is a skill indeed. 

Oddly, the one person I don't find myself wanting to know more about (or connecting with at all, really) is Olive. You could say she was dealt a bad hand, but you could also say she's just not a very nice person. I was however drawn to the passage where she looks at a childhood photo of her husband. She imagines telling his kid self what will become of him. "You will marry a beast and love her. You will have a son and love him. You will be endlessly kind to townspeople as they come to you for medicine, tall in your white lab coat. You will end your days blind and mute in a wheelchair. That will be your life."

It's an overly simplistic summation, surely, but the reduction is still true. In that it is composed of true statements. And what struck me as I read this passage yesterday is that for all of us, the same sort of summation can be made someday. It's not the short length of the summation or its oversimplification that has me so pensive, rather the setness of the paths we ultimately take in life. It may seem like there are decisions to be made (and there are), but at the end of the day, there is only one way things are going to shake out for each of us; one series of decisions that will lead us to one end state. That will be our lives. Yours. And mine, too. 

NOV
01

Meeting your Favorite Poet: Be Cool

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It's like this. Billy Collins is my favorite poet. Although I'm in an eternal argument with my parents around whether his work really constitutes poetry, I find it delightful no matter the classification. 

Billy was in Brooklyn this past week, and though it was my second time seeing him, it was the first time I actually got to meet him. When you're the kind of person dorky enough to have a favorite poet, dorky enough to trek across town to meet him, dorky enough to end-of-the-world-style panic when your re-routed subway train makes you late, dorky enough to ask someone to take your picture while sitting in your auditorium seat waiting for Billy to come out, then you are probably also the kind of person who will totally dork out when actually face to face with him.

As I approached the front of the line after the reading, it occurred to me that I had no idea what to say. "Nice job." Or maybe, "I love your work." I decided to tell him that it was my second time seeing him (a true fan, see), and I told him which of his poems was my favorite. It's a poem that praises the familiarity of home and routine, especially in contrast with the stress and annoyances of travel, and as a staunch homebody, I always took great comfort in it. Only when I heard him read the poem in Cleveland the first time I saw him, it became clear by his tone that he was not, in fact, siding with the homebodies. He was mocking the very idea that staying in one's own environment could be superior to exploring the world. I felt a little disillusioned, and as I told Billy this story last week, I wished he would tell me what I wanted to hear, which is that my initial way of looking at the poem had been right. But he didn't, of course. Yet even as he was confirming my gross interpretation error, I couldn't wipe the dopey look off my face, hovering at the table even as he'd moved on to sign the next person's book.

Maybe no one can expect to be cool when in the presence of a literary idol. Maybe no one can expect to correctly decipher an author's intent 100% of the time. And I can live with that. Although I'd be lying if I said I didn't wish his "To Tali" inscription had come with a more personalized post script. Something like, "From a fellow homebody." It would have been our secret, Billy.

 

OCT
29

Remembering Sandy

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I say this as if I experienced some sort of hardship, some great loss or personal struggle because of the impacts of Hurricane Sandy. Which, of course, I didn't. True, I was here. In NYC. Not yet a New Yorker myself, I was on a trip with my then-boyfriend for his birthday. And while we had to deal with inconveniences like all our events being cancelled, no way to get anywhere, and nothing to eat other than the small bag of groceries we had the sense to purchase, really the only reminder of our predicament (other than being forced to survive on Macaroni & Cheese from a box) was the damn crane a few minutes from us that they kept showing on the news.

But I do remember being scared about the unknownness of the storm. Going to bed that night amid the howl of strong wind and having no idea what the state of things would be in the morning. It's a sensation I had never experienced until living in the east. (Yes, I consider Cleveland to be east. And NYC is even *easter*.) The power of forces like hurricanes and tornadoes, the relentlessness of lightening during a lightening storm, the sheer volume of snow and depth of cold. You don't get any of that out west. It just rains.

Maybe it's the fact that you just don't have a prayer when up against a natural disaster, maybe it's that I now live in such a large city, but I find I'm much less tolerant these days (read: not at all tolerant) of movies that depict the fictional destruction of entire cities. In this day and age, doesn't that just hit a little too close to home? In any case, it's been 2 years. That's incredible. So is the rebuilding we've seen. So are the progress, expansion, and triumphs still to come. Almost nothing amazes me more than the resilience and strength of the human spirit. That is what I'm toasting to tonight.

OCT
26

Coney Island

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4 subway swipes (6 train and D train, 2 ways): $10

Nathan's Cheesy Fries: $5.71

Luna Park Wristband: $20

1 ticket for the Cyclone: $9

Ice cream cone: $4.35

First time on the Boardwalk: Priceless

 

OCT
23

Guest Writer: The Cat

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This city is going to make me fat. I know I'm only 6 pounds, but I’m still a girl. At any rate, it's gone. It's all gone. The stairs are gone. Even all the rooms are gone. But I'm a glass half full kind of cat, plus I sleep upwards of 18 hours a day, so I can do without the rooms. And the stairs. And the bay windows. And the couch. And the cable box that was always warm. I digress.

Here is what I know.

I am in a place called New York. T has wanted to come here for a long time. She romanticized the idea if you ask me, a term I only recently became familiar with, because she loves a movie called Breakfast at Tiffany's. I would love something other than kibble for breakfast, so I watch this movie eagerly. There is never any breakfast, but there is a cat, so I like it. Even though if you've read the book, Holly isn't actually able to find the cat at the end, which is a pretty crucial detail. I am a very literary cat. 

New York is noisy, like the woman downstairs who hits the broom on the ceiling whenever I run around. And the noises outside the door. People are always hurrying. And stomping. And slamming. They also watch TV, take baths, open letters, cough, get paged from someone out on the street, and walk from one side of the room to the other. And I can hear it all. So Broom Lady is just going to have to deal with me and my 6 pounds.

There is a cat across the hall. A tom cat. He's bigger than me and his owners let him walk in the hallways. Sometimes when our door is open he will come in. I don't like him being so forward, and I hiss, even though he intrigues me and I’ve never had a boyfriend (unless you count the father of that litter of kittens I bore when I was living in the streets of Cleveland…but that was hardly a relationship). The neighbor cat does have the name of a really good Counting Crows song, so maybe there is hope for him yet. I am a very musical cat.

Speaking of music, T left her guitar behind, and I miss it. It reminded me of Holly, who also sings and plays. The broom lady would have a hissy fit (an expression I believe only cats can use) but I want the guitar back. T plays the Counting Crows. If I could write a song for their band, well, it would have to be mopey, and it would go like this:

 

It's darker here when no one is home.

The food is exactly the same.

We are higher off the ground.

The box on the wall hisses but is very warm.

We sleep in the same space now.

Some of my toys are missing.

 

Oh, and no one knows this, but you can actually climb up underneath the loveseat and hide inside it. No one can get you out. 

And I haven't had a single hairball incident since the move. I am a very classy cat.

 

OCT
15

How to do Laundry in New York City

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Step 1: Locate closest laundromat.

Step 2: Schlep clothes (and detergent) down all flights of stairs in your elevatorless building, down the block, and across the street to said laundromat.

Step 3: Once your heart has stopped palpitating from such exertion (true story), locate the Access Card machine and get out your credit card.

Step 4: When you realize the machine is cash only, leave your clothes where they are (them things be *heavy*) and return to your apartment, go up all flights of stairs in your elevatorless building, retrieve cash from your wallet (or the ziploc baggie in your purse), go down the stairs again, and head back to the laundromat.

Step 5: Insert the first of two $5 bills into the machine.

Step 5: When you realize that the $10 required to get an Access Card must, in fact, be a $10 bill itself, leave your clothes behind and repeat step 4, only move on to step 6 after leaving your apartment building.

Step 6: Go to the small market around the corner from the laundromat and buy a pack of gum to break the $20 you just took from your wallet/baggie.

Step 7: Go back to the laundromat and get an Access Card with your newly-in-hand $10 bill.

Step 8: Determine which machines are the washers. This will take approximately 30 minutes.

Step 9: Put clothes in washer, detergent in compartments on top, start the cycle, and get the stop watch going on your phone so you know when to come back.

Step 10: Return to your elevatorless apartment building and go up all those stairs.

Step 11: Go down the stairs, leave the building, and go back to the laundromat.

Step 12: Put your wet clothes into one of those metal cart things sitting in one corner of the room and wheel them over to what you think is probably a dryer only because it isn't a washer and your deduction skills are usually pretty on point.

Step 13: Put clothes in dryer, insert Access Card, select cycle, and hit start.

Step 14: Study the numbers flashing at you in order to figure out how long the drying will take so you can once again start the stopwatch on your phone.

Step 15: Conclude that H1:06 must mean an hour and six minutes, and set the stopwatch accordingly.

Step 16: Repeat steps 10 and 11.

Step 17: Open the dryer to fetch your clothes, but close it again when it registers that your clothes are still soaking wet.

Step 18: Insert Access Card and push buttons until H1:06 is once again on the screen.

Step 19: Realize that H1:06 only dries your clothes for 6 minutes, and continue entering Access Card until the 6 has increased to something more thermically realistic.

Step 20: Knowing you will now only make your evening reservation if you leave your clothes drying and then unattended for a couple of hours, leave your clothes drying and unattended for a couple of hours.

Step 21: Tell your friend over dessert at Serendipity about Step 20, and when she says things like, "You can't do that," and "Your clothes won't be there when you get back," begin to internally panic.

Step 22: Make bets with yourself on the walk back to the laundromat about whether your clothes will be there. Scold yourself repeatedly for being so naive, I suggest something like, "Stupid, stupid, stupid!!", and begin to think about where you can go that night to buy new sheets, towels, and underwear.

Step 23: Arrive at laundromat and see your clothes sitting in the dryer.

Step 24: Load them back into the hamper you hid behind the leftmost row of washers.

Step 25: Repeat Step 10, this time with all the clothes.

 

So, really, pretty easy then.

 

OCT
13

Storytelling: NYC Edition

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They are the most human part of us. Stories. They are why I write, they are what I like to write, they are the only part of an otherwise boring lecture or presentation or sunday school lesson that will make an impact on me in any way. I'm sure if you think about the lectures, presentations, and sunday school lessons that have made up your own life, you'll agree that stories trump all.

There is a storytelling organization here in NYC that I am just becoming acquainted with. I attended one of their events a few days ago (at a beautifully charming venue, the stairwell of which is pictured here), one featuring stories from World War II. Most of the storytellers were in their late 90s and lived through it, the war, and between stories of escaping Belgium and traveling on foot through France (it took a year), setting off explosives and being shot in action, flying planes to help train new soldiers, racial discrimination even after arriving home from serving our nation, these men and women were positively captivating. Not because they were expert storytellers, but because life often needs little fanfare or finesse in order to shine through.

Harry Truman's grandson told the final story of the evening. Not a veteran himself, but he's often asked to speak on his family's behalf whenever the anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings approaches. He told of a tender experience meeting a Japanese woman whose grandfather was killed in the bombings. This led to more involvement, more introductions, and Mr. Truman Daniel ultimately ended up attending a memorial ceremony in Japan a couple of years ago. What struck me about his story was the lack of hate or animosity between countries. Rather, there was love. Kindness. Comfort. Strength. And how fitting that what the families of the Japanese victims want most of all is that their stories be told. So that we never forget. So that we never do this to each other again.

I was entertained, uplifted, and most of all, I was moved. You could get that way from a theatrical production, maybe a play or a movie. You could get that way from a well-done novel, too. The difference is that this stuff really happened. It has a sense of meaning beyond anything people could dream up. It's real life, in a story.

 

OCT
08

The Apartment

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Let's talk about the apartment. Which won't take long. Because this is New York. Where else can you pay such an obscene amount of money for such a small space? Lest you remind me that I signed up for this, rest assured I'm not complaining. Quite the contrary. I love being so contained. There's so much less to keep track of. To worry about. To lose. To clean.

Not to say there aren't adjustments to be made. Namely, the noises. Again, I'm not complaining, because strangely, being so aware of my neighbors is almost comforting. I spent many a night in my spacious (meaning way more space than one person needs) Cleveland house feeling spooked due to my utter aloneness. Of course, the downside is it means that silence is, well, rare. And, hence, treasured. I try and write a few words in those moments, and with my deskside window overlooking a garden two floors below, it's enough to make up for the fact that I will be awakened at 2 AM by my neighbor's TV and that when the man across the hall draws a bath, I will hear every splash. (Bathroom sounds carry in particular, and hopefully everyone on the third floor has already forgotten that I got carried away last night myself and started singing West Side Story.)

I'll get the hang of it. Hopefully before I get to On the Town.

 

 

OCT
04

Three Bucks, Two Bags, One Me

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Ok, so it was more like 3 bags (plus a backpack and my cat), but I arrived in NYC this week, this time to stay. You could say it's been a long time coming. You could say it's risky. Or crazy. You could say any number of things and you'd probably be right. Because I have no idea what this city holds for me. And between all the noises from the neighbors, the outlandish produce prices (I've decided to cut out all produce in order to keep my Brazilian waxes...stay tuned for a future post entitled From the Desk of the Clinically Malnourished but Smooth), and the overall comprehension of living here being very different than vacationing here, this will certainly be an adjustment. But it has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember, so while I don't know how things will ultimately shake out, what I do know is that I can see the Empire State Building anytime I want. And sometimes, like tonight, that is enough.

 

OCT
02

For Cleveland

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Yesterday was a big day for me. I left a city I loved. I know there are many who have put in much more time in much grander cities, but the thing about my six years on the great Cuyahoga is that Cleveland gets under your skin. Into your pores. It starts to grow roots inside you, even if your roots already exist somewhere else.

I'd never had my own city before Cleveland. I grew up somewhere, went to school somewhere, but neither of those were really my own. And think about that for a minute. A girl from small-town west coast. Far from home, didn't know a soul, no experience driving in snow. I felt like I had every reason to hate it. To want out. Not to say there weren't moments when I did (like how about every moment of this past winter), but what I wasn't expecting was this alarmingly fierce sense of loyalty that would develop in relatively short order. I mean, when you see montages of your city displayed on the jumbotron prior to sporting events and they give you goosebumps, you know it's got a hold on you.

I'll spare you the sap by simply saying that I'm pretty sure I will always feel like a Clevelander. I think when you leave a big enough piece of yourself behind, that can't be helped. Cleveland. The place where I became an author, an aunt; the place where I fell in love, then fell apart; the place where I discovered yoga, adopted my cat. It's the place that first made me feel like I was my own person; that my life was mine to make. It's a realization I now take with me to a new city, where a whole host of new opportunities, experiences, and (inevitably) mistakes await me. I'm looking unequivocally forward, but if I occasionally stop to look over my shoulder, I pray you'll indulge me. If you'd ever lived in Cleveland, you'd understand why I'll never completely let it go.

 

 

SEP
26

Less > More

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So, I'm reading a book right now called The Joy of Less. I'd lump it into a "tell me something I don't know" kind of book (full of principles such as "when one comes in, one goes out," and "narrow it down"...these are not earth-shattering concepts) if not for the fact that absolutely nobody is actually living this way. We get it; we can read a book like this and know we are the guilty ones for having so much crap we don't need--don't even use--yet what we cannot seem to do is get rid of it. The crap.

I'm using crap as a general term here, but the teensy bit of heartburn I feel as I sell, toss, or give away upwards of 90% of what I own is that my stuff is, in fact, not crap. My stuff is nice. So shouldn't I keep it? Don't I deserve to keep it? Haven't I worked hard to get to a point where my house is full of these nice things? While I'm sure there will be a moment after the move where I look around and say, "What happened to all my stuff?" and perhaps even shed a tear or two over being so stripped of belongings, my mantra through all of this is, "Something is only useful if it's being used." And most of my stuff is not. 

And let's also not forget that our stuff doesn't define us. Which can seem counter-intuitive. Because I can point to almost everything in my house and tell you a story about how it came to be mine. And there's a lot of life woven into these stories. Some of these stories are so significant to me that parting with the item will simply not be an option at this point, and that's OK. My point is simply that we must never get confused about what actually constitutes a life, and we must always remember that experiences trump possessions any day. And my hunch is that owning less actually facilitates more in terms of experiences. We have more room in our lives, in every sense of the word. That is what I'm looking forward to most.

SEP
19

How to Move a Cat

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I know, I know, there are certainly more important (and time-consuming) aspects of this move, namely the gargantuan task of getting rid of 90% of my possessions, but as the only living thing I am responsible for other than myself, Clementine is very much on my mind as I plan this move. And I'd like to not only get her there, but get her there in such a way that does not cause her to be scarred for life...or crap repeatedly in her pet carrier.

So, naturally, I'm going to drug her.

I have secured the necessary pills from the vet, have an airline-approved pet carrier on the way, and got her a little collar and pet tag in case she manages to slip out the apartment door and ends up wandering the streets of Manhattan.

New York will be an interesting experience for both of us. Not only because we will both surely pine for all the square footage we have enjoyed in Cleveland, but also because we have never slept in the same room. She goes nutso at night, bringing me her toys, jumping on my feet, basically doing whatever she can to demand my attention. So I close my bedroom door every night. Something you can't do when you live in a studio apartment. Lord help us.

SEP
15

One Way Ticket

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I've been traveling for the past 10 days, most of it in Chicago for work. Delightful city, maybe I'll post a few pics of the sightseeing I did, although it pretty much all involves me eating. And then eating more. Followed closely by more eating. Prior to Chicago, I did sneak in another short NYC trip. By now this is no surprise, surely. I did this in July, too. Also in April. And all the other times before that. What made this trip different--what I hadn't done on any other prior NYC trip--was that I signed a lease.

And so the next few weeks on this blog will be full of my moving preparations (chaotic) and goodbyes to the great, great city of Cleveland (weepy), a city in which I will leave a surprisingly big piece of myself and my heart. More on that later. For now let me leave you with images of possibility and new adventure, city lights and subway stations. If these images also contain a microscopic living space, much less disposable income, and uncertainty about things such as future plans, again, we'll get to that later. I've got boxes to pack.

 

SEP
04

They Called the Wind Mariah

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I should have taken this picture. I've been dreaming for months about taking this picture. I flew to Denver this past weekend and then drove to Colorado Springs to attend the Colorado Balloon Classic and take this picture. And yet, I did not take this picture. I did not, in fact, take *any* pictures. 

Not really sure why I latched onto this event when I first heard about it, but I guess the idea of seeing all that color sail away in the early morning sky struck me as, for lack of a better word, special; cathartic in some way. I felt an urgency to be there and see it, which is why I think I was more disappointed than any of the kids in attendance when both the night and morning launches were cancelled on account of wind. That's right, folks. Zero balloons. That's how many I saw. 

I'd be lying if I said I didn't mourn the balloons a little. I'd looked forward to seeing them for so long, and it's not the kind of experience you can get another chance at very often. But life is life, and weather is fickle. And I was still able to drive through the trees and mountains of Colorado, stare Pike's Peak and Castle Rock head on, and sit on a hillside overlooking the empty patch of sky that would have been filled with hot air balloons had Mother Nature dealt a slightly more calming hand that day.

For some reason what came to mind was the time a friend asked me--directly following the Oregon Ducks' 2012 Rose Bowl win, which of course was directly following their national championship loss-- to pick which outcome I preferred in general: a Rose Bowl win or a BCS loss. My first instinct was to say the win, because, hey, I'm no fool. But I told him I'd rather make it to the Big Game and lose, and I stand by that. Because we don't always get what we want, the stars don't always align in our favor, but I find there is satisfaction in being there anyway. Even if you lose. Even if you see zero balloons. It's enough to know that had the fates allowed, you would have been been on hand to witness something great.

AUG
26

Like Father, Like Son. Like Brother.

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There’s a part in Jeweled where I mention my brother’s wedding. How at the time, he being so much younger than me, there was a part of me that was sad about him passing me up in terms of major life milestones. It’s just not something I had ever pictured happening, him getting married first. Of course, now he’s been married for almost 6 years. (Me, still single.) And this past week he became a father. Talk about major life milestones.

It’s not sadness I feel this time at having once again been passed up, but it does make me think. And not just about my dwindling egg count. No, I’ve been thinking a lot about my brother. And every time I’ve heard him say “my son” this week, it’s like I hallucinate back to a much earlier time in our lives. Quite frankly, I don’t know where the time has gone. I don’t know how it is that back then has become so long ago; so far-removed. It’s not that I want it back, not exactly, because I think it’s kind of nice as we’ve all settled into adulthood, become Real People. But for my brother, his new arrival does mean a permanent pivoting. Toward the future and his new family. It’s wonderful and I wouldn’t have it any other way. And yet. I think I’ll miss those over-the-shoulder glances he used to throw my way, toward the homebird nest and our idyllic childhood. Something tells me he won’t be looking back quite as often now.

(And as long as I’m reminiscing about years gone by, let me say, and I can’t stress enough how crucial this is, that I also don’t know how the corners of my eyes have gotten so wrinkly lately. Should I be doing something about this?)