What to Expect When You’re Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is here, and with it the wholly unrealistic expectations of peaceful family togetherness and a tasty home cooked meal.

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In order to have a truly enjoyable Thanksgiving and limit the amount of times your head gets banged against the wall near the festive corn and pumpkin display, certain things just need to be accepted as inevitable:

  1. Canned foods and instant recipes will abound. Who has time to make homemade cranberry sauce when the in-laws are knocking down your door and the mantle hasn’t been dusted since last Thanksgiving?
  2. Christmas will be acknowledged. Come the weekend after Thanksgiving, it’ll be December. So those boxes of Christmas decorations lurking in the corner of the living room will just be skillfully ignored.
  3. No matter how loudly you speak, Poppy will not be able to understand you. Even if you can get his hearing aid working and his attention focused, once he finally discerns the word “twerk” the conversation will self-implode.
  4. Skinny jeans will be banned from the premises. Both looking good and stuffing yourself until you pop cannot exist together. Bring the sweatpants with the mustard stains; family doesn’t judge you.
  5. Your family will judge you. Your grandmother will notice the untidy state of your hair and mother will ask if a second helping of pie is really such a good idea, and do you need that much whipped cream anyway?
  6. The pets will want in on the action. Can you really blame little Josie for jumping onto the fine china? She’s not use to you putting in any effort and just wanted a closer view of what exactly “trying” looks like.
  7. You will want to quit your job. Crescent rolls are all that matter in life.
  8. Nothing will ever change. The fruit cake will still taste like boot, you’ll still fall asleep during the football game, and the panic of the impending holiday season will upset the mound of potatoes settling in your gut.

As long as you prepare for what’s ahead, there is no reason that Thanksgiving can’t be a perfectly lovely holiday that allows you to spend time enjoying the company of others and their attempts at cooking. And when Christmas arrives, simply duck and cover.

A Nail Night to Remember

One special night each week, in my never ending effort to spend time with friends, keep my fingers feeling pretty, and avoid homework at all costs, I host Manicure Monday in my dorm room.

Girls from all around the hall flock to the 70’s patterned furniture in the lounge to cozy up with some friendly talk and brightly colored nail polish. On occasion, we’ll thrown in a movie to make the boys wandering by feel welcome, though none can bear the smell of nail beautification polish long enough to stop in for a hello; though the fear of a feminine ambush may be what’s keeping them at bay…

Somehow, despite the noticeable lack of testosterone and funky smelling furniture that an open window just can’t sort out, I still manage to have a rockin’ time. I’ve boosted my self esteem, I’ve visually and creatively expressed my mood, and I’ve found a way to bond with the girls around me despite having no opinion to offer on whatever popular shows are playing on MTV.

I truly hope that when I get older/get money/get a place to live I host people at my home in a fashion similar to Manicure Monday, hopefully extenuating the bonding aspect of get-togethers and minimizing the smell of chemicals that we’ve grown accustomed to from nail polish.

While away at college it seems almost too easy to make and retain friends. Aside from bouts of essays and finals, all of the people I care to spend time with are easily and readily accessible to me. And I know that won’t always be the case. I really hope that I make a sincere effort in the future to host murder mystery parties, football extravaganzas, and random board game nights, to keep the spirit of life and friendship alive and kickin’.

With our 70’s furniture, I seem to live in the past. With my longing for murder mystery parties, I seem to dwell in the future. I need to stop wishing the present away and simply commit to enjoying the time at hand, mostly, at my freshly manicured hand.

The Longest Distance

The longest distance cannot be measured with a ruler. The longest distance cannot be expressed in terms of miles, kilometers, or even something as expansive and all-consuming as light-years. The longest distance is not something tangible that can be seen, moved, altered, or touched. The longest distance exists as a result of long distance.

The longest distance is when your realize that you have to wait another week to see your significant other even though you’ve already gone two without their hug and when you make it a day without witnessing their smile it feels as though the world is a dimmer place. Casually overhearing someone pronounce the word “apricot” wrong and not having anyone to understand. Realizing that texting while waiting in the ice cream line just isn’t the same as having a conversation in person, and not even daring to go to the Italian ice line for fear of bittersweet sugar-laden flashbacks. Not knowing which details of your day are important enough to share on Skype and if the friendly cafeteria lady’s joke is worthy enough to take time away from relationship matters and as many “I love you’s” as can make up for the poor video quality. When you lose a loved one and need the solace and comfort of your significant other’s arms but have to wait until tests and schedules align just right, that’s the longest distance.

It goes beyond measurement, it goes to the core of your being. Feeling a part from the one you love.

My boyfriend and I each know what we want from life, each other….and our respective colleges. It is this hard won absolute knowledge that protects us from the usual long distance pitfalls: cheating, boredom, financial instability, a lack of trust, miscommunication, new interests, scheduling hassles, partying scandal drama, a fear of commitment.

We soar above it all knowing that no obstacle or fight or loneliness is worth giving up our relationship and our future together.

For 3 years, I’ve battled the longest distance. I’ve kept it back with postcards, candygrams, nightly Skype dates, good morning text messages, good night text messages, and the rare and highly valued visit. With 1 more year to go, I am determined to stave off the longest distance and defy the odds.

My long distance relationship has survived, my relationship has grown strong, and my heart has remained full.

When measured with love, the longest distance is no distance at all.

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Fast Cars and Family

We make it a point in our lives to hang out with friends. We always try to fit in that newest episode of The Big Bang Theory. And there is rarely a time in our lives when we opt out of the opportunity to take a vacation or road trip down to Kings Dominion.

We place such high priorities on so many silly things in our lives, and yet, family isn’t always very high on that list of things we simply must make time for.

I personally try to make a specific and conscious effort to say yes to life, and yet, I have no problem saying no to my family. Somehow, they have been excluded from my life’s aims. They are just the people whose home I share. The people whom I summarize all of my other adventures to. The people whom I just assume will be patiently awaiting my phone call or visit.

I take them for granted.

And I shouldn’t.

My family means so much to me. Having them around brightens up my day, maps my future, and enlivens my past. I am so grateful for (almost) every interaction that I have with them. And I need to start actively engaging them in my life instead of passively relating to them.

That’s why when my Dad asked me if I’d like to stop by a car show with him and my brother, I gave him a definite and resounding yes.

Yes, I would like to spend time with my father and brother and make memories that involve more than just arguments about the cleanliness of the house. Even if the only thing that I get out of this adventure is looking at some handsome cars with my family, count me in.

So when you look through these pictures, know that yes, they are simply pictures of cars; but the photographer is not simply a photographer, she is more of a daughter and more of a sister than she has been in a long while.

Ocean City Dreams

Every year my family takes a trip Ocean City, Maryland to visit my grandparents and have some fun in the sun.

I’m sure you all can guess exactly what comes with the promise of a family vacation:

  • Yelling and screaming over the TV channel
  • My grandparents’ refusal to turn on the air conditioningIMG_2194
  • Losing to my Mom in cards
  • Taking far too many pictures of my cat
  • Wishing my Poppy didn’t wake up the house at 5 in the morning by stirring his coffee
  • Trekking sand around the house all week despite making 1 trip to the ocean
  • Not having enough time to visit the boardwalk because your family is still playing with the cat
  • Sitting in traffic in the church parking lot after a slightly pathetic 4th of July fireworks display

This is the only real vacation I get for the summer. To some people, it may have seem like a wasted trip, more like a test of my patience than an enjoyable time. But, after vacationing with these people for all of my life, I’ve learned to look at things a different way.

So in addition to all of those riveting events, also came:

  • Sleeping in and bumming around watching American Pickers
  • A warmth that thawed me out from the constant stream of air conditioning I’ve grown accustomed to and will forever keep me heated
  • Trying to sabotage my Mom in cards and finding innovative ways to at least beat my DadDSCN0905
  • Taking far too many adorable pictures of my cat
  • Spending quality time with my silly and even more adorable grandparents
  • Relaxing on the beach and gaining a slight tan
  • Always finding room in my stomach to gorge myself with buttery scallo9ps
  • Watching fireworks with my one-of-a-kind family

One of my absolute favorite parts of this trip was getting to take pictures of our adventures. Even though we go every year, I’m always too busy living in the moment to take pictures. Don’t get me wrong, I feel like that’s a great mentality to have, but when you want to share meaningful moments on a blog, pictures are nice too.

I hope you enjoy this!

I hope you enjoy this!

And even though the fireworks weren’t as good as they’ve been in the past, it’s still balls of light, color, and sound exploding into the night sky and occasionally making a smiley face. And that’ll always be worth seeing. When fireworks are involved, how could anyone not look on the bright side? (Pun intended…)

My Lil’ Baby Jo

IMG_2261There’s just something about a family pet that warms your heart and soothes your soul.

When I’m away at college, I miss my darling little kitten-cat Jo Jo baby so much. Though she didn’t immediately remember me when I moved back home, she has just started to get comfortable with my lingering presence in her house.IMG_2301

I get to give her sweet kitten kisses, rub her little white belly, play with her adorable white paws, and scoop her up for cuddles that she wishes were shorter. I’ll flick around tiny paper balls for her to chase, and strategically leave her lion toy around the house in places that encourage silliness. I never have so much fun interacting with my younger brother as I do playing with our cat (and I’m sure he feels the same).

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I know that my love for this little girl is ridiculous.

I expect others to make cat-lady jokes at my expense.

And of course, I’ve never stopped referring to her as “My Lil’ Baby Jo” when I bring up her presence.

It just so happens that the happiness that I feel when expressing my love and enjoying the company of such a sweet little critter is worth the odd stares and questioning looks every time.

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O’s Magic

Since before I was born, I’ve been an Orioles fan. I may not be the most avid or knowledgeable baseball watcher, but I truly enjoy the sport, and even more than that, I love attending the games.orioles logo

I’ve always gone to the O’s games with my family, but around last year I realized that it had been a good 4 years since we’d last ventured into Camden Yards. So for Father’s Day 2012 (delayed due to hectic schedules and weather complications), I decided to give my dad tickets to a game of his choosing, which we used by watching the Orioles play the Rays.

camden yardsDespite the threat of rain, constant humidity, and eventual loss of the O’s, we had a great time as a family. The beautiful Baltimore skyline greeted us as we drove into the city early that morning for a bit of exploring. We took a stroll by the warehouse right next to the park and paid a visit to Boog’s BBQ stand where I got a picture with Boog Powell himself. After satisfying our craving for deliciously overpriced ballpark food, we took our seats in one of the top decks. But the height of our seats and the fact that they were a mere $17 didn’t deter us from having a lovely afternoon. We could see perfectly and had plenty of people around us to add volume to the cheers reverberating throughout the stadium.

Unlike Ravens games which can get intense and loud, the Orioles games are oh so calm and relaxed. There is a real family atmosphere to be found with all of the children toddling around in their orange jerseys while grandparents patiently wait in lines for the tots’ cotton candy. Despite the child behind us kicking my mom’s seat and playing his video game rather loudly, everyone was so well behaved and courteous, further adding to our pleasant experience.

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IMG_2092I truly love spending time with my family, and the strong sense of community that the O’s could provide for me was great too. Every now and again you just need to know that you’re a part of something larger than yourself, and it may take yelling “O!” during the National Anthem with thousands of strangers to feel that sense of unity.

Junior Year, A Life in Summation

Wow. Life moves quickly. Not only am I unsure how I’ve already reached the end of my junior year of college, I’m also confused as to where my sophomore and freshman year went.

At the beginning of this year (one roommate, a new major, and countless hikes across campus ago) I was coming off a pretty rough time. I hadn’t really found a niche for myself in college (which was all too familiar to my high school experience) and I spent more time traveling home than livin’ it up college style.

My goal for this year was simple; say yes to life. And looking back on my time now, I can truthfully say that I said yes and experienced much of what college life had to offer (while still focusing on my studies)

Some of my experiences include:

  • Participating in Terp Thon and raising money for Children’s National Medical Center374409_4651322164662_876425834_n
  • Hosting Manicure Movie Monday in our lounge
  • Starting a job at UMD Dining Services and meeting some of my best friends
  • Taking more pictures than I will ever need
  • Throwing paint around with friends and strangers at HoliDSCN0474
  • Becoming a part of Sign Language Club and visiting Gallaudet University
  • Going on a dinner cruise at the Inner Harbor
  • Partaking in a murder mystery dinner and successfully avoiding accusations
  • Attending all of the movie nights and randomly themed UMD events
  • Listened to the Dalai Lama give a lecture on peace
  • Gaining an insane amount of weight from not watching my health and then working it all off522422_10200226503339411_1759804122_n
  • Participating in an Alternative Spring Break and becoming an advocate for domestic violence victims
  • Making an effort to hang out with friends and get in touch with people
  • Running my first 5K to benefit Yeardly LoveIMG_1931
  • Attending all of the UMD men’s soccer games and becoming part of the Crew
  • Crossing two items off of my bucket list (dying my hair red and attending a concert)
  • Receiving 12 free UMD t-shirts
  • Cheering my football team onto a Super Bowl victory
  • STARTED A BLOG!

Holy cow I’ve done a lot. I know I’ve missed listing a ton more activities, but I’m just grateful that I’ll have this blog to look back so that I can relive all of these wonderful experiences.

Also, don’t expect much from me this summer, because I’m pretty sure it’ll take me up until September to recover from my junior year.

A Daughter’s Love, A Mother’s Day

mother's day heartAs I hope everyone was aware, the most anticipated and stressful day, Mother’s Day, was this past Sunday. Even though I’m away at school and knee deep in studying for finals, I welcomed the break to tell my mother how much I appreciate and love her for all she’s done. I had a 4 Phase Mother’s Day Surprise Love Attack strategy, and I welcomed the chance to put it into action.

It began Saturday night when I decided to drive back home for Phase1. I didn’t get home until late Saturday night and as I opened the garage door, I saw my mom’s jaw drop in surprise at my presence. She had no idea I’d be making the trip back home, as the last time we talked she had sadly agreed that we may as well put Mother’s Day off until next week. Delay the one day of the year dedicated to such a wonderful woman? No. Phase 1, shock and awe, complete.

Phase 2 of the Mother’s Day Surprise Love Attack involved me, my brother, and my father taking my mom out for a delicious breakfast of blueberry egg and cheese bagel sandwiches at a restaurant we’ve been frequenting since I was a child. This Phase was just as much for me as for my mother. She loved the consideration and the opportunity to relive our former Sunday morning tradition, and I loved my buttery bagel.

IMG_2082Phase 3 involved helping my mom cook dinner. While most people tend to go out for this special day, my mom opted to eat in for a delicious dinner of scallops and asparagus. Despite her insistence that she be the one to prepare the meal (which I was oh so grateful for), I helped prepare some fruits and vegetables for the occasion. It was so much nicer to relax at home than to spend such an intimate day in a crowded restaurant brimming with strangers and overpriced specials.

This is the last picture we took where all of us are in the frame. It was more than 8 years ago...

This is the last picture we took where all of us are in the frame. It was more than 8 years ago…

Next, came Super Phase 4 of the Mother’s Day Surprise Love Attack, and the presentation of my mom’s true gift. I provided her with a homemade card and the promise of taking family pictures sometime over the next couple of weeks. I wanted to give her a gift that truly expressed how much I care about her and our family, and by cementing our love in a series of cheesy looking photographs, I know that we will always have a reminder of how much we care for one another.

Overall, the day may not have been outrageously special, but I’m just glad that I could spend some time with my mother and tell her how much I appreciate everything she has done for me, because she has truly sacrificed everything to provide the best opportunities for my future. Her patience, dedication, and love are gifts that I will always recognize, and her effort to provide for me is a gift that I never intend to waste. It’s a bit sad that I only take the pains to acknowledge and celebrate these feelings one day of the year. All of the people I love should know exactly how deeply I care for them, and they deserve to hear my heartfelt expressions of love throughout the year.

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Charm City

baltimore skylineI’ve lived just outside of Baltimore, MD my whole life. As a child, I never frequented the city unless it was to visit the prairie dogs at the Zoo or pay testament to Barney on Ice. Once I grew up a tad and  figured out how to properly work the light rail, I could really begin to appreciate the beauty of the city and everything Baltimore had to offer (my Super Bowl-winning Ravens). I fell in love.

I don’t consider myself a city girl by any means, but there’s just something about Baltimore that pulls on my heart strings and makes me feel like I’m comfortably at home but also capable of discovering untold adventures. Everything that Baltimore offers is dear to me and I am so grateful that I’ve grown up next to such a prominent and delightful town.

I think Tracey does a pretty good job of describing Charm City:

In Baltimore, I’ve:

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The Harbor was gorgeous at night

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The prize was meeting Torrey Smith. GIVE ME MORE CARDS!

Played Bingo in Ravens stadium.

Celebrated my anniversary on the Inner Harbor.

Gotten an internship with a premier medical center.

Tolerated my brother at baseball games.

Beauty and the Beast!

Beauty and the Beast!

Bonded with my Dad on the 20 yard line.

Relived my childhood with my Mom.

And created memories that are bound to last a lifetime.

We all have that one special place around where we grew up that just calls to us, and for me, that’s Baltimore. I hope that one day I can find some way to give back to the city I love. For right now, I’m content to just reflect on all the wonderful experiences it’s lent me and continue planning for more memorable times.

baltimore harbor