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The theme of “get busy living” has echoed in my ears for some time now. As a cancer survivor and an active volunteer, I know the theme has become a bit of a mantra for the Stupid Cancer community. Get a whole punch of passionate, motivated and courageous people who have already stared cancer in the eye together and give them a challenge. Puhleeze. We know who is winning this one.

I like to think I embody “get busy living” all of the time, but let’s be honest, it’s not  easy. Living every single day to the fullest is not always possible, sometimes it’s just to your own person fullest. And at least I can say that IS what I do. Yesterday just happened to be  day when I did it really well. I like to think it’s because I had a special brand new angel with me.

The best gifts are the gifts that you enjoy giving more than the receiver even enjoys receiving. Giving “good” gifts has been something I truly enjoy for a variety of reasons, but mostly because it tends to be something that the person wouldn’t purchase for themselves. I bought my dad a flying lesson for Christmas last year (yes, it is September, and yes, we did just redeem it). The guys at Global Aviation in Farmingdale were great and I highly recommend the experience. My favorite “get busy living” moment was sitting behind him in a plane and having hims say, “this is awesome.” I wowed dad. It’s like a little victory party just for me. The views of Long Island, the ocean and the horizon were incredible and we are so lucky to have had that time in the air.

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When we got back to the house, my dad asked, “what’s on your agenda?” And for the first time in way too long I was able to answer, “nothing planned.” What an incredible blessing to have an entire afternoon with nothing required. Granted, I had a huge pile of paperwork, schoolwork and laundry all looking right at me, but I knew they would still be there regardless of what I did with the rest of my day.

With a dear friend in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, it was a great day to suggest the flea market. She happen to have nothing planned as well and was eager to get outside. We walked around a mix of new and used items, ethic foods and drinks and possibly one of my favorites, framed pieces of art. These types of frames are ones that you can imagine in your living room or in the hallway. Each telling their own story. One that isn’t even yours. A magical place, in a frame.

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Trying to gather my other Brooklyn girls I suggested dinner at Madiba, a South African restaurant on Dekaulb in Fort Greene. Stop reading this and go there now. I’m not kidding, go. Fine, if you insist I will tell you about the experience and then you can go when you have a chance.

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Madiba happen to be celebrating its 14 year anniversary last night. We walked into a magical moment in time, just like the frames I had seen earlier in the day. The scene was energetic and nostalgic. The people were joyous and proud. The table were full of people from all over the city and community and the world. Owners, Mark and Jenny Henegan have dedicated their restaurant to Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. They are “dedicated to the future of South Africa, a future that promises greater cultural harmony, economic development, and
collective enjoyment of ‘a World in One Country’.”

Celebrating in the lead were Mark and his brother, Denis. Not only were they celebrating the restaurant’s anniversary, but welcoming their parents coming to Brooklyn, to their place, for the first time in a long time. There were dignitaries, longtime customers and friends, staff, community, first-timers and family all under the same roof. And here we were, three first time patrons, enjoying libations, saffron, cumin, prawns, curries and beets. As if we had never had these things before. There are no words to describe quality new handmade goodness hitting your mouth for the first time. I was once told my roast was like “sex in my mouth.” That’s what I would have told the chefs at Madiba that night.

I had a chance to say hello to Mark on the way out, first congratulating him on 14 years of success and then for having us, we felt like we were a part of a family celebration marking the genuine love of the country, food and people of South Africa. And yet, he said, “thank you” to me.

In the theme of “get busy living” I leave this day as a memory and a reminder of the ability to make things happen regardless of what is in its path,  best said by Mandela himself, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

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After a weekend in the “country” I am headed back to my “other” life. When I first moved upstate there were so many emotions and uncertainties. And here I am living somewhere else and still have just as many uncertainties. I’m a better person for taking the risk, but the real question has become, now what? There are a few things I know for sure:

1. Moving to the country was one of the boldest things I had ever done and there are many people who would have never taken the leap. I am proud of myself for doing it in the first place.

2. The decision to leave the country and pursue career opportunities elsewhere was one of the hardest things I have ever done. And there are many people who would have just stayed. I am proud that I have the will to make decisions and carry them through with conviction.

3. The relationships I have are gifts from heaven. Although I have yet to meet the “one” I have strong and supportive roots in many places and spaces. These people are loving, supportive, kind and cheer me on in all that I do. I walk into a room and people actually cheer. It’s an insane and amazing reaction to get from your peers. Apparently, as I was told this weekend, “I see why everyone is so obsessed with you.” Humbled. And thankful.

4. People are not going to change. My Dad’s theory reins true, we are pretty much fully developed by seven years old, the rest of it is further development of our basic personality. We can expect or demand change from someone else. We can only do our own changing and growing. Including the way we react to behaviors we don’t care for. It’s our work we have to do.

“Ahh, Home
Yes, I am Home
Home is when I’m alone with you.”
~ Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes

Dear Baby Sister,

As you graduate from one of the most amazing places in the entire world, the level of pride and excitement I have for you is exploding from my every being. It is such an incredible moment in time that we are celebrating tomorrow. You are graduating from New York University with a bachelor of arts in communication and a minor in production. You kicked some major internship butt at a number of amazing places and flawlessly aced tests, papers and presentations with what could be interpreted with your eyes closed. I envy every test you barely studied for, your memory surpassed mine years ago. I envy the opportunities at your doorstep. I envy the summer you will stay in the city. I envy the deep breath you will take when walking in a student and leaving a graduate.

I remember projects completed on our dining room table. There would be papers, notes, markers, glue and pencils scattered about. I remember notes and books left at the computer after a writing session. I remember deadlines and television watching being a constant battle. I remember the piano singing beautiful music as it was a more desired friend than a textbook or paper.

I wish nothing but the absolute best for you as your graduate from college and start your career. My best advice is not necessarily how to get through your first job, but things that I have learned from the city and the country, who knew I would have some of both:

  • keep an extra pair of tights in your bag
  • laugh at yourself
  • write letters and thank you notes
  • call your sister
  • drink lots of water
  • fold a twenty and store it in your wallet
  • tip well
  • call your sister
  • always say please and thank you
  • remember who  your biggest fan is
  • don’t forget that Mommy and Daddy will always be there, no matter what you do or don’t do
  • call your sister
  • have an alternate mode of transportation
  • never say never
  • trust the people who love you
  • call your sister

And here are a few other pieces of advice when / if needed:

Peter Shankman’s “An open letter to the two kinds on the M-11 bus this morning
The Washington Post’s “Advice for the Class of 2011
Some cool famous people, “Inspirational Advice for College Graduates

The fact is that advice isn’t necessarily going to have all the answers. You will make things happen. You will make good decisions. You will continue to be the rockstar that I know you are. You will rule the world, as we all know you will. Congratulations on your graduation, my baby sister.

I love you, I love you, I love,
Thea

“You’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting,
So… get on your way!”
~ Dr. Seuss in Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

Why, hello there little peaches that I picked from my backyard. It’s very nice to meet you and your little friends.

From the HOUSE peachtree

When told of your arrival, most reactions from my country bumpkin’ friends included a sweet serenades of this:

I personally was thinking with much excitement and joy this:

And about all of the wonderful things I could make with you. Especially this from the Pioneer Woman. This from Smitten Kitchen. And this from Joy the Baker.

Happy 4th of July to my sweet little guests, you are going to be a major star at the housewarming party this weekend.

And from 1991, and no other reason that I heart this song, sweet America:

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