Tag Archives: happiness

Venezia

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Three and a half scorching days under the Mediterranean sun have turned the tops of my shoulders and cheeks into the color of ripe nectarines. My hair has remained a mess of windblown curls, liberated by the heat of the sun instead of an infrared ceramic coil of a blow dryer. My feet are enjoying a break from the uneven cobblestones of Prague, but I still managed to break a pair of sandals and detached the sole of my favorite pair of flats (which, in all fairness, have now been superglued back together three times). In this heat, where you can nearly feel the melanin bursting under the surface of your skin, it’s all strapless bras and hair ties.

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Crowds congregate near small water spigots, dipping their heads under the cool water and filling water bottles while dogs lick puddles around the drain in their own effort to cool off. A large group of teenage boys are splashing and laughing in a language that sounds like Dutch. One reaches in his pocket for a phone and begins lip synching Marvin Gays, Lets Get it On as it plays from his iPhone. We can’t help but blush a bit and laugh along with them at the silliness of it all. We don’t understand the words, but our shared laughter is universal and unmistakable.

At dinner, we ask for a table outside by the canal so we can watch the sunset. Instead of making us wait, we are brought a table and chairs from inside. We are sitting next to a woman and her son and his grandfather. They speak very quickly, laughing and singing in the way that Italians do when they speak. A man with an accordion comes up to our table and plays, while the little boy dances and gives him euros, one coin at a time, slowly sucking the pulp out of the moment so it isn’t over too quickly.

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The next night, we go out with Mei, who we met at the hostel, and have cocktails by the water. She tells us of her travels, her home in Malaysia, and all of the places we must visit in Asia. We ask a French filmographer seated at a table next to us to take our photo. We ask about his work, but he is short and rejects our offer to join us. (He did take a good picture though.) To our left is a man Lauren quite accurately refers to as “Fabio”. He has long Italian features, muscles bursting out of his clothes and a thick accent which he over apologizes for. He has a chihuahua named Papi who we pet and baby talk while we ask him about Venice and share the few words we have in common. I ask how he feels about the endless crowds packing the streets and he says, “Tourism is very good no? Good for Venice” he rubs his index finger and thumb together and smiles widely, his bleached teeth in complete contrast with his dark, sun soaked skin. He picks up our drink tab at the end of the evening, and after our profuse thanking dies down, he touches the tips of all his fingers together and kisses them in a sweeping motion “tourists!” he says.

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After the sun sets, we walk toward the center of the city in hopes of finding a lively bar and more friendly Italians to usher us into the early morning hours. We come across one of the few open bars, order spritzers, and take them outside to sit on the steps of a fountain. We are next to a group of college students who are laughing and drinking and passing joints around between them, mumbling and teasing each other and filling the square with echoes of laughter and the rising and falling of the language. I begin talking to a 19 year-old girl next to me who is studying Arabic at the university. Her friends quickly join in after they realize we bought her second glass of wine. And so, our laughter and linguistic twangs blend with theirs and hangs in the air somewhere between the drifting smoke and the edge of the ozone layer. We drink together, share small pieces of our lives, and exchange curse words with each other, laughing and saying them too loudly through the empty streets.

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So once again, Italy leaves me feeling full. Full of spirit and life and excited for people and these mini relationships that are fleeting in the physical sense, but linger in my mind. People see pictures of Venice and imagine themselves floating down a canal in a gondola and eating gelato from a still-warm waffle cone. And it is that. It’s sherbet colored sunsets and calzones as big as your head and overpriced cocktails. But it’s also a people, a slower pace, a love for food, and passion for life that no photo or blog can sufficiently capture.

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Buongiorno Milano!

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Shopping Center

Milan’s cobblestone streets are flooded with Italian women wrapped tightly in fur coats and men in designer jeans and studded belts. Nodding heads on subway cars look more like Ralph Lauren billboards than tired passengers heading home from a day of work. This city has a pulse and it beats rapidly, deeply through the night and early into the morning. Where I can pass as a local in some places, Italy knows better. My pale skin, pale hair and blue eyes cause long stares and incoherent words under soft breath. Men whistle as they pass by, staring too long with eager lust in their eyes. But even the greatest offense sounds beautiful when it is muttered in Italian.

This language shakes and breathes and dives in and out and up and down. Every word sounds like a call to action, a battle cry, a plea to join a cause. And the people lift their arms high, and put their hands close to your face and speak with a passion I’ve not experienced in my most heated moments. Hymns sung to Beethoven’s Fifth in an intense and frightening way to an ear that knows no better. The metro hums with chatter and booming laughter and a sense of famiglia encapsulates the city and all of the people inside it.

Duomo di Milano

Duomo di Milano

We visit the Duomo, a beautiful, skyscraping cathedral, if there ever was such a thing. Never have I seen so much art in one place. Every inch is ornate and ironic in the most beautiful way: the walls, covered in sculptures up to the ceilings, which you can barely see with human eyes; stained glass windows stretch beyond my grip of sight; the floor, a maze of complicated patterns and colors; paintings hang, two-up all the way down the church on either side. We try to make sense of everything our body is trying to absorb, but we fail and become overwhelmed, groggy from the dim lights and evaporating holy water. We leave the church, letting ourselves get lost, wandering narrow streets; every turn a new discovery, a new way to get lost again and again. We are asked for change, harassed by people on the streets collecting money for ‘Africa’ or to feed their hungry babies. We push past, pretending not to understand, and stop at a tobacco shop to enjoy a freshly rolled cigarette on a cold patio, surrounded by like-minded  locals.

And on a Thursday night, we walk into a small bar, where we are greeted by a group of men, laughing and eating cichete and drinking the local birra. Ciao! Ciao! Ciao!! echoes around us in a room with walls covered in old newspapers, slot machines lining the back perimeter. We swiftly and quietly order “due birre” from the bar and take our place at a small table in the corner. We quickly learn that’s not how Italians make friends. We are stoned to death with questions, and brought endless plates of formaggio and freshly sliced prosciutto,  deviled eggs, cheeses, salami, bread and  chips and dips. Every time we finish one plate, another one comes to replace it. Arthur works on a computer in the corner, ridden with unnecessary programs and a long history of user error. He tries to navigate Windows in Italian, and the men joke, calling him Bill Gates, gesturing to his over-sized head. They string together sentences in Italian and broken English, furrowing their brows when we don’t understand, then burning paper and building charades with toothpicks to help us along. They laugh because we don’t understand much; Armando, who knows the most English translates what he cans, and makes inappropriate gestures to either party in between his translations. The men tease each other with gay jokes and pepper their sentences with ‘fuck’ as often as possible. They apologize because I’m a girl, and immediately joke that they will take me home with them; their wives will forgive them tomorrow, they say.

IMG_0786Then a free round of beers come before the bar closes, but we stay inside, laughing and eating, filling the room with the sweet, choking smell of competing tobaccos. The owner pulls out his camera, points to his wall of photos, and we spend the next 15 minutes posing for pictures we’ll never see. We part ways, but not before receiving an invitation for the next night, which we know we will accept. And we will come back the next night, but it won’t be quite the same. These fleeting moments are never able to be repeated, and so we cherish them even more.

Day 58: The Beatles had it Wrong

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One of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn in life is that you need a little more than just love sometimes. It’s so nice to think that if you care about someone and they care back, everything will work out okay in the end.

What a convenient, little story book lie.

It seems so many relationships are crumbling around me lately, and it’s easy to see that my friends are better off for it, but living in that moment, with that pain, is much different when it’s happening to you. We jump back into the arms of people we know aren’t right for us because we get scared. We get lonely… If only we could see our own relationships with the clarity that our friends do.

So the love is definitely the most important part of a relationship, whatever the context. But if both parties aren’t willing to make some sacrifices, to choke on their pride, to devote the time that’s needed to make the other person happy, than the love can’t survive, and eventually, it will die.

And that’s the best part. Our hearts self-preserve, let us heal, and move us on. We develop antibodies toward a person who makes us unhealthy, and the things that used to make our hearts crumble eventually just become ‘things.’ As much as it may hurt, it will hurt less eventually. As much as you think you may regret letting go because “if only a few things would change it would be perfect”, you won’t. Because it never will change.

It’s so much easier than we make it out to be. When it comes down to it, a person who wants to be with you will. A person who loves you will never make you feel small. You will curl up in each other’s arms and you will feel your hearts beating together, feel protected. You will have outrageously wonderful sex that you didn’t even know existed. You won’t have to worry why he hasn’t called, or frantically search for clues as to what you did wrong. He will send you flowers if flowers make you happy, or she’ll take you to Comic-con if that’s your ecstasy. The right person will go the extra mile with you, for you. They will let you cry when you need to cry, and won’t bring it up or laugh about it to their friends later. There will be respect and patience and a stronger desire to win your heart than win an argument.

I only know it because I’ve seen it, but I believe it. So don’t strive for a tragic sort of Romeo and Juliet love. Find a love that’s more easy than hard, more smiling than tears, more excitement than panic. It’s out there. You owe it to yourself to look around bit.

Day 50: Care Bear

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Today, I’m thankful for one of my best friends on the planet, Ms. Carrie Stribling. I could have easily written this post last week, while I was in Phoenix and staying with her and Jake. We had a great time entertaining ourselves all week, the same way we have since we were in grade school. But, after talking to her until late last night because I was upset, and continuing our conversation again throughout the day today (thanks to Voxer… you’ll get a post soon too my little voice-activated friend) I realized how valuable a friendship is that you don’t have to be physically around for.

So, let me take a minute and tell you why she’s so great. First. She works really hard. She not only works a full time job, but she also runs her own photography business, and she’s actually really good at taking pictures. I’m not saying that in an obligatory ‘she’s my friend so I have of’ sort of way. When I first saw her work I was shocked. Not because I didn’t think she was capable, but because I didn’t realize we were at a place in our lives where we  were able to be really good at something. She’s creative not just in her job, but in the rest of her life as well. She’s planning an adorable wedding, she can draw, she blogs, photographs, works for a design company… she has a vision and she makes it work. She took a risk to do the thing that she loved, even though a lot of people told her that it wasn’t a stable form of work. She started out slow, but now she has a steady stream of work, and her skills continue to grow with every shoot. You can see for yourself here.

So there’s that. The hard work, integrity thing that makes you say, “wow, that person really gives a shit about their life.” I can’t help but admire that in a person.

Second. It’s who she is as a person. It’s only fitting her “pet name” in high school was Care Bear. (Sorry, “nickname” wasn’t quite the right word there). Carrie doesn’t only give a shit about her life, but she gives a shit about other people’s too. We were joking tonight that we will always be the people that cling onto the leg of a person trying to run from us, the way a toddler does when it wants to be picked up. Carrie will always be the apologizer, even if she don’t completely understand the reason for it. Not to be insincere when apologizing, but to be completely dedicated to a friend and a relationship. And she always is. She notices when people around her are off, if only just a little. She’ll follow you to the bathroom to hold your hand when no one else even noticed you were crying. And she doesn’t tell you everything will be okay because she knows you know that. She just lets you be sad, and then she hugs you and tells you she loves you.

And I’ll end with one more – although I could go on for the remaining 90 days.

I love how much she’s able to love. I can honestly say she knows the darkest, most character-degrading deeds I’ve committed, and she loves me anyway. She’s had a hard time telling me things in the past, but she trusted enough to let me in so that I know her twisted, hard-to-tell stories too. And then there’s Jake. Soon to be husband, always to be a character. They just fit together. He’s thrust her into change (I know he’d appreciate my word choice there) and she’s made him an honest man. They’ve been through it, but she loves him so unconditionally. Little Ms. Life-Plan-to-be-Married-and-have-Babies-by-25 put in almost nine solid years and her blue print is with the engineers. Pretty soon she’ll have 14 kids and that many more to love.

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So, at risk of sounding like a complete lesbian, I just want to express gratitude for one of my very best friends, and part of my family. When I was out dress shopping with Carrie and her mom last week, her mom said that she thinks we all got to be so close because we all had brothers and no sisters. I think that may have something to do with it.

We found our own sisters in the world.

Who would have guessed our taste would have been so spot-on as third-graders. I love you Carebear. I’m so excited to see where you let life take you.

Day 45: Total Eclipse of my Heart

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Today, one of my best friend’s told me I get “sloppy”.  And ya know what? Damn right I do.

I am 24 years old and my life is at least a quarter of the way over. I’m not running for Congress or marrying a Duke of whatever so who cares what people think? Real friends know me and love me anyway. I’m worried about having fun while I know what the word means. If that makes me sloppy, so be it. Life’s too short to wear a tie to bed.

Tonight, I sang karaoke with a very hoarse, manly voice. Total Eclipse of the Heart? Oh yes we did. Thanks for singing backup John. We KILLED IT. And don’t forget, you owe me a child before I hit menopause. You can have one too if you want.

 I leave for home tomorrow and I’ve had such a great trip. Don’t get me wrong, there were some interesting moments. Some yelling, some confusion and a lot of awkward silence. But when it’s all said and done, I’ve got really amazing people here who really know who I am. Sure, we will get into fights. We will dig our claws in and twist. We will make the wrong decision and hurt each other. But even that is beautiful in its own right – to be able to screw up and say irrational things and be forgiven.

At the end of the day, there’s mostly laughter. The tears are mostly happy. There’s always a shoulder to cry on, a hand that will hold yours. There’s another round of drinks at the bar, another song we know all the words to. Where every other sentence is an inside joke. Where you can see an expression out of the corner of your eye and know what your best friend is thinking. We sing junior high hymns at Applebee’s and talk our way into happy hour prices after happy hour. We take pictures until our cameras die. We double over laughing. We sample each other’s cocktails.
 

Arizona has a special little corner in my heart. It’s beautiful to know that regardless of where I end up, I can always come home.

 

Day 35: Soulsong: Music that Moves Us

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Music has the power to transcend a murky soul or damn it further into submission. It takes us to a place where heartache heals, love prevails, passion ignites – where pain has a repeat button, and snotty tears break a shaking voice. And it’s so intimate in that way. We wallow with our favorite singer/songwriter when we need someone to understand that we haven’t moved on yet, but are too afraid to say it out loud, to admit to ourselves. We scream the lyrics to an empty room, wishing we had the courage to say those words aloud to someone… wishing those words were our own. We bob our heads at our steering wheels. We turn the volume up when we get ready on a Friday night, soaking in the energy of every pop!beat!ye-ah! We sing happily and freely with our friends at the bar, words uniting us, subtle reminders how similar we are. We cha cha slide, we macarena, we show how low we can go.

We associate songs to our experiences; those cries of pain to our own, or a distant joy that fuels us. We relate them to people; when we are in love, when we stop loving. They make us sick to our stomach – a reminder of a life you thought was yours, now mocking. And even though we shouldn’t listen to those songs – the ones that make us remember a time that now seems a million miles away – sometimes we do. And sometimes our hearts are broken all over again for it. But we are able to find another, and speak through a voice that’s not our own. We find strength through a streaming courage.

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Every time I hear the Spin Doctors I am reminded of driving to my brother’s t-ball practice in my mom’s minivan. Whenever my Format album is playing, I am transported to my 16-year-old self, the back seat of an old Civic, windows down, a car full of giggling girls. Lynyrd Skynyrd’s We Ain’t Much Different will remind me of my father until the end of time. I Want it that Way was my first couple-skate song in the fifth grade. I belted Lady Gaga’s Speechless to my steering wheel in a mellow dramatic frenzy for weeks on end when stitching up my heart. It still gives me the same feeling of empowerment, even more perhaps, now that I’m on the other side.

And, I know it almost seems too obvious, but Modest Mouse puts a smile on my face on the worst of days with “Float On.”

I’ve had Fun.’s Aim and Ignite album in my car for weeks (yes I’m still living in the age of CDs…) and every time I hear The Gambler, nearly without fail, I start sobbing uncontrollably. I’m not sure why- it’s not intended to be sad, nor do I feel sad when listening to it. It’s a love song. A life-long, old on the porch, sort of love song about falling in deep and having babies and growing old. There is something so beautiful about it to me that I just can’t hold back. I don’t imagine anyone else could really feel the same way toward it. And, that’s the beautiful thing about the music. It’s one of my soulsongs.

What are some of yours?

I swear when I grow up, I won’t just buy you a rose.
I will buy the flower shop, and you will never be lonely.
Even if the sun stops waking up over the fields
I will not leave, I will not leave ’till it’s our time.
So just take my hand, you know that I will never leave your side.

Day 22: What’s Inside the Closet

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Anyone who knows much about me knows I have some issues with commitment … It’s completely unintentional – I just feel things become stale when they stay the same way too long. Because of this, as you can imagine, a girl racks up some numbers. I’ll be honest- I have about 30 regulars, plus an additional 100 (okay maybe 150) or so that I use in between when the mood strikes me. I know that sounds like a lot, but if it makes you happy, it can’t be that bad – pardon the dated Sheryl Crow reference – right?

I mean, I don’t lose who I am in the process. I’d like to think I’m an open-minded person and this area of my life is no exception. I don’t discriminate. I’m accepting. Height, weight, color, price – I’ve seen the entire spectrum. I grant a lot of chances even after I’m bruised and blistered. Of course I have to throw a few out along the way, but overall, I like to keep my options open so I can move on to the next any time I want. I commit to all by committing to none.

Today, I may have found the one… or rather the two. These little black, pointed Sam Edelman’s may be my perfect pair of shoes. At least for today, anyway.