Thursday, May 29, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

Everyone, let's play a game. Let's pretend we're not actually approaching the month of June. Let's pretend that we haven't seen any Spring tulips blooming and that we haven't yet left cookies and a carrot out for Santa and Rudolph. Let's pretend instead that we're approaching the month of December and that I just got back from celebrating Thanksgiving with my family. Everyone with me? Tremendous!

For the first time in nearly two decades, my family was all together for Thanksgiving this, er, last year. We decided to do something out of the ordinary and head west to Los Angeles instead of east to Georgia. Now that Asher is a busy little lady, Michael and Wynn didn't want to be those parents on a plane that you want to smack while their kid runs freely up and down the aisle. Personally, I'd rather watch that beauty run freely around the backyard anyway.

My family is awesome. It's taken years of healing hurts and moving past old wounds to get to a place where I can say that but I look at us all now and I'm proud. Asher being born (and now sweet Georgia whom we won't discuss yet because that will confuse you with my attempted time travel post here) has brought a depth to this fleeting life that has made us all appreciate one another just a little bit more. That's the good stuff, you know? That outlines the value of our time together over Thanksgiving.

Michael and Wynn live on a beautiful street lined with lemon and palm trees. It's as quintessentially LA as you can get but with an authenticity not often found in that city. They have a small garden in their backyard with herbs and flowers and a persimmon tree sits outside their kitchen. I'm a fan of their cozy, sweet home. My favorite time together is in the morning, mainly because Michael does his routine with Asher of "opening the house". They open all the blinds and say hello to the trees and birds and lemons… It's darling. Know what else is darling? Footie pajamas:
It's just not acceptable for a grown woman to be jealous of those. I could never look that cute.

Quick side note. My brother is the most incredible father I've ever seen. He personifies patience, unconditional love, tenderness and a whole slew of other killer qualities that I hope I find in a man one day. It about melted me down into a puddle of goo when he had to leave for work and say goodbye to Asher:
I can hardly handle the sweetness. He made sure to swing with her as soon as he got home though. If I were a betting man, I'd bet he had more fun than her:
Our visit overall was spent talking a lot about food and wine - especially since we all hadn't been together since Allison finished wine school and me culinary school - drinking great coffee, strolling up to Larchmont Village for scones at the farmers market and prepping our long awaited turkey day dinner. However, in the midst of all of that, Michael and Wynn arranged for a private VIP tour of Paramount which conveniently is a stone's throw from their house. I was straight up psyched:
Ain't even ashamed to be a tourist.

Due to both Michael and Wynn's connections, we were able to see rooms not open to the public and walk around areas that are normally closed off. It was badass and I loved every minute of it, particularly the archive room, Eddie Murphy's suit from 'Coming to America' and Forrest Gump's shoes:

The NYC sets were incredible, too. They replicate several different areas of the city, be it seedy spots down near Bowery, fancy brownstones in Brooklyn or pristine sidewalks on Park Avenue:
Did you know they actually hire people to walk around certain patches of cement they ship in and chew gum, spit it out and step on it in order to replicate a real sidewalk? It's insane how meticulous these movie sets are. I'm pretty sure I'd be a stellar gum chewer and spitter outer but they weren't hiring. 

It was such a fun surprise and experience. 

Being in 70 degree weather didn't make it feel like it was Thanksgiving but our feast sure did:
I don't want to brag so I will. It was a damn fine dinner now that a chef and sommelier are handling things. I envision delicious holiday dinners from here on out. 

At that point, we were still anxiously awaiting the day that Georgia would join our family:
I guess it's a little embarrassing that she's now two months old and I'm just now posting this. 

What an awesome, rich weekend. I love belonging to a family of artists. I believe there's a part of us that just might relish in moments of meaning a little more deeply than others. The sun shines a little brighter, the hugs last a little longer and the mere presence of just being together leaves a deeper imprint on our hearts. I love my family. They're my favorites and I'm more thankful than ever for them this last holiday season.

Monday, May 26, 2014

(Spring?!) Snowshoeing

I'm sure if I really thought about it, there are a bunch of things I'd never envision myself doing. Shark diving and going on a cruise definitely come to mind. Another random thing that comes to mind would be planning a mountain snowshoe trip - a night snowshoe trip at that - followed by dinner in a yurt. I sure did have to google what a yurt is when I was told about this.

Before I left Denver, I made a little list of things I'd like to do before I moved. Being a Georgia gal turned New Yorker, the mountains and snow aren't things I'm accustomed to enjoying. I've totally had snowshoeing on my list though so when one of my good friends, Alisa, mentioned going, I really got excited.

One thing I will never get used to in Colorado is that it can be 80 degrees one day and pouring snow the next. Playing in the snow in April just doesn't seem normal but hey, it keeps life exciting. As I mentioned, this was a night snowshoe adventure so we got to the mountain around 5:30pm and started the trek up to the yurt for drinks and dinner:
It was only a mile to the yurt but it was no joke. I'm sure all the deer enjoyed hearing me huff and puff my way up. I mean, seriously. SNOW. In APRIL. It sure was pretty, though:
Honestly, it's just breathtaking in the mountains. The majesty of it all will never get old. I like how the mountains make me feel so small and remind me that the world is so big.

When we got to the yurt, I officially felt like an eskimo:
How cool is that?! We found out they do sleep yurts too which I kept thinking would be so fun for a group of friends. We sat out on the deck for a bit to enjoy a little vino before dinner which was lovely. 

I just fell in love with the inside of the yurt. The wood burning stove was my absolute favorite part:
I could happily wake up each day and have my coffee here. Maybe I would befriend a squirrel and I could do something rustic like crack walnuts to feed to him.

They do most of the cooking down at the base of the mountain and transport it all up by snowmobile which I thought was neat. Another part of this adventure for me was eating elk for the first time:
I'm serious. ME in a yurt eating elk. This is not my average Saturday evening but man, did I enjoy it. By the way, I'm pretty sure we could feed a small country with that pile of potatoes.

I think I should really note the significance of me in a headlamp, too. Not much more to say about that:
It was eerie walking back. It was dead silent aside from our snowshoes and this is all you could see:
You really could feel the power of being so small out there. Seriously a cool experience. 

I'm so glad I did something like that before saying farewell to Denver. Now, if only I would've gotten myself on skis. Another time...

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

New York City: Chapter 3

The Big Apple. The city that never sleeps. The Capital of the World. New York City, my home.

In February of 1999, I booked a one-way ticket to Manhattan and moved in with my brother. I was 18 years old and fearless. I was ready to take on the world and, because I knew college simply wasn't for me, I figured I could get no better education than what the world of New York City would offer me. I was right. In the year that I lived in Brooklyn and worked in Manhattan, just about everything that makes me who I am today took shape. It was not easy and I barely got by at times but it was spectacular. I made so little money that the folks at my local grocery store knew me and could tell if my week was good by whether or not I could splurge and buy ground beef for my pasta sauce. I lived off of eggs, hummus, pasta and Raisin Bran Crunch cereal which to this day, I cannot eat. I'm that sick of it. Still. I rose and fell during that year and loved every minute of it. I ended up moving back to Atlanta for a few years with the intention of giving community college a whirl in hopes of returning to the Big Apple and entering the agent trainee program at William Morris.

Five years later, I got a call from my sister saying her firm in DC had an opening in their Manhattan office and she asked if I'd want to move back. Um. When do we leave, Allison?!. Timing was fortuitous on both ends as I was just finishing my Associates program when Allison was set to be moved. Two weeks after I got my degree in February of 2006, just shy of my 26th birthday, we moved into our little 420 square foot apartment on York Avenue in the Upper East Side neighborhood of Manhattan. I had no job, no direction and no plan but I was back. Finally come April, I started working at KBC Financial and thus began my evolution into a New Yorker. For 7 years, I lived passionately and with gusto in this city that never sleeps and, once again, loved every minute of it. In May of 2012, I took life by the balls and left New York again. This time for Italy which even I can admit is better than Manhattan. In October of 2012, I returned to the city for a mere week and a half before moving across the country to make what I thought would be my final home in Denver.

A year and a half later, just one month ago, I returned to New York for the third time. I just can't shake this place. I fell in love with New York when I was 13 years old and I've never fully ended that relationship. Even while living in Denver, I traveled back to New York four times over the course of a year and I just couldn't leave it behind. When my former boss unexpectedly inquired as to whether or not I'd be interested in returning to my old position, there wasn't an ounce of my heart that wasn't 300% in. As mentioned, I've been back for one month and I can confidently say I'm never leaving again if I can help it. Unless I win the lottery and can relocate to a villa in Italy.

When I'd gone back to Atlanta to pursue my degree, I got myself in some trouble and clearly took much longer to get my Associates than I'd planned. During my time studying, one of my classmates became one of my greatest, dearest friends. I've mentioned Patrick on my blog numerous times but as a reminder, he's probably one of the greatest people I know. His selflessness is so far reaching, it can't possibly be measured. Those who take time to read my words here know that Denver was a deeply refining time of my life and very difficult. However, what started out as pain grew into joy as I remembered what New York City taught me as a 19 year old in how to be strong and stand on my own two feet. Although my life eventually became fruitful in Denver, Patrick knew that I'd walk away without a moment's hesitation should NYC become a reality again. When I told him my old job wanted me back, his reaction was much like mine many years ago when he said when do we leave?. He was ready and willing to hop in a U-haul with me and drive across the country. On April 9th, he did just that and joined me in saying farewell to Denver.

I gotta say, the idea of driving a U-haul nearly 2,000 miles was daunting. I'd done the drive once but in a minivan with no furniture. Quite a different experience. Turns out Patrick and I had more fun than I could think possible over the course of four days.

We visited with dear friends in Kansas City. We met an old friend for frozen custard in St. Louis. We spent the night with family in Ballwin where we were welcomed with great wine and a tremendous steak dinner. We started the next morning with homemade crepes, a specialty of my Aunt Renata's. We drove 15 hours and stayed in a hotel that may or may not have been part of a Dexter episode when we discovered a fly swatter in our room. And we said hello again to Manhattan only to say goodbye to my couch that wouldn't fit in the door of my apartment. I suppose if that's the only hiccup of the entire move, I'm doing ok.

Now, I'm settling into the routine of the city again. This, my third chapter and third season of life in Manhattan, will prove to be the best. I have no doubt. While the familiarity of my old job and living in the same neighborhood as my sister is comforting, it's an entirely new New York for me and that's exciting. I've grown, I've matured and I'm stronger than I've ever been which allows for a simple, sweet view of life that I've never had before. There's a quiet strength and peace I feel that lends itself to confidence that simply has not been present in my life. I've needed to learn some tough lessons and, true to how I've always been, I've only been able to learn said lessons through trial and hardship. I'm kinda hoping I'm through that phase of life and instead can now happily take the road less traveled. No matter how much I wished for certain things in life before, I'll openly admit that I'm not sure I'd ever have been prepared or ready for real happiness. Some of the insecurities and lack of self worth I've had in my past have prevented me from understanding how to live freely. I'm so proud of actually learning through these trials and applying what I've learned to life now and in the future. I'm really thrilled to see where I go from here as I've finally broken through chains that have held me back. Chains that I put on myself and chains that bound me to a life far less fruitful than now. I thank god for his provision and care over me and for what he has deemed me worthy of receiving. His plan is unfolding, bit by bit and day by day. What a hope I have and how exhilarating it is to move through this journey of life with such optimism. I will treat this life going forward with humility, grace and thankfulness as I now see through eyes of gratitude vs. longing. I have a feeling great and mighty things are to come and I celebrate this. Thank you, god, for patiently loving me and showing me the way. The right way.