Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Little Push...


*This oldie-but-goodie photo from an earlier entry just seemed to fit with this theme. I couldn't help myself.

I think the real trick and challenge to adulthood is being able to balance priorities. I wanted to make a metaphor to adulthood being like a juggling act: balancing many balls in the air at once, hoping one doesn't fall, lest they should all fall. That metaphor doesn't exactly always work because it assumes that all priorities have equal weight, which is not always true. Well, in the case of Jenn, pictured above, the babies are obviously all equal priorities. But for me, for example, I have to work to pay bills so, therefore, working has to be a more weighty priority to me than some other things in my life.

Take this blog for example. I love this blog. I love the idea of it. I love that what we discuss are really important, relevant, challenging, and inspiring issues. I love the comments and feedback from everyone that helps us deconstruct themes and ideas and find collective meaning in them. I wish I could write in the blog every single day (after all, the key to having a successful blog is blogging regularly.) However, I have work + grad school + homework + boyfriend + house hunting + eating + sleep + cats + exercise to deal with. All of those things are my priorities, and they usually get a spot in my life before blogging.

It is easy to neglect things when you have so many other things to think about.

Most days I feel like my bandwidth is full -- I can't balance even one more little thing or I might just crash. Balancing life is truly overwhelming, and sometimes other parts of my life suffer as a result. The latest casualties of my competing priorities have been: my working group for one of my classes, my health, and my blog.

Sometimes though, all you need is that little push to remind you that you can refocus your energies on a part of your life that had been temporarily stalled. This morning I got that little push...

I was talking to my mom and she said, "So, your brother tells me you have a blog? I didn't know you had a blog." For as much as I advertise my blog online (Facebook and other blog sites via comments) I guess I had neglected the old-fashioned way of getting the word out: via telephone to tell my mom. (Note: My mom is very hip, she does have Facebook.) More striking however, was that my brother was the one that told her about it. My brother reads my blog!!

Now, this may not seem like a big deal to some, but you must understand that my brother is a very discerning fellow when it comes to his literature. He is an avid reader, and has probably read more books than anyone I have ever known. He also reads all kinds of blogs, I think mostly of a political nature. The point is: the fact that my brother reads my blog REGULARLY and thinks it is actually GOOD is a huge compliment. In fact, it was so inspiring that as soon as I got off the phone with my mom, I decided to blog immediately. That was just the little push I needed.

Balancing life is often overwhelming, and it is easy to feel we can’t devote the time we really need to certain things, whether it be eating healthy, exercising, blogging, or anything else. Sometimes we all need a little push, a catalyst to help us refresh our perspective on something and recommit to it. That catalyst can come in many different forms, and for me, it came in the form of a brother…

How do you experience random impetuses of inspiration that help you reprioritize? Is the balancing act of responsibilities as hard for everyone else as it is for me? I can’t even imagine adding other variables (like kids!) into the equation. Navigating these competing priorities with grace has to be one of the major challenges of adulthood.

So, does any of this every get easier? Or more fun? Do we get any better at this whole balancing act as we get older?

Any thoughts or ideas, let's discuss in the comments. (Oh! Oh! And maybe even my brother will comment! Yay!)

(Photo of book from Second photo courtesty of J.J.)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

On Loving Your Job: An Exploration of Utility, Passion, and Genocide

I have thinking about the topic of "what I want to be when I grow up" a bit more thanks to your great comments.

I think I left a very important point unaccounted for in my previous post. That is: should we pursue something we love as our career? And, if we happen to not be working in a field we love, is loving our job the most important thing?

It would be nice if what I loved was law, or medicine, or math, or business -- something marketable. But, what if the thing that you really love is not marketable? Then what? Do you settle for something you don't love to pay the bills and do what you love as a hobby? If that is the case, still 80% of your waking life is doing something you don't love. Depressing.

So if you are not doing something you love, then you probably settle for something you are at least pretty good at. I read an article recently called "Work Rules" by William Grieder (a prominent American journalist and economist) and he said something that punctuated this point for me. He wrote, “The inner narrative of one’s life often is embedded in one’s work, in the satisfying routines and sense of fulfillment, in the sheer pleasure of doing things well.” I think that is pretty true.

Taking Grieder's quote as being something pretty true, let's examine a few interesting scenarios:

* What if you are not that good at your job? You don't love it and you're not that good at it. You do it because you are stuck in a niche, and/or you need to work in order to live. Depressing, really.

* Would it be worse to love something, but not be very good at what you love? The thing you loved most you would not be able to derive satisfaction from in the way Grieder suggests. That would be pretty depressing also.

* Do you always love what you are good at? Maybe you are good at math, so you pursued it as a career, but you hate it. You would realize your talent was marketable, you were successful, you derived satisfaction in the workplace because you were successful, but you hated the work. I envision this being the case with some S.S. soldiers during World War II (or even some American soldiers now), or the person that flew the Enola Gay. Let's take the case of the Enola Gay pilot. Here the guy is, an esteemed and accomplished young military pilot, good at the job of flying, and thus being tasked to drop a bomb that decimated over 80,000 innocent people.[*]

[*]In these cases, it is easy to think that the person dropping the bomb on Hiroshima, or the S.S. soldiers, might have had some humanity. Maybe they thought, "I am good at being a soldier, but I HATE what I have to do." Sadly, many of these executioners were very willing and proud. Colonel Paul Tibbits, the American pilot of the Enola Gay, waved and smiled for cameras right before he took off to bomb Hiroshima. He had no regrets about what he did. In fact, he was quoted in 1975 as saying, "I'm proud that I was able to start with nothing, plan it, and have it work as perfectly as it did... I sleep clearly every night." In March 2005, he stated in an in interview, "If you give me the same circumstances, I'd do it again."...Add this asterisk section([*])to the list of depressing things.

So, again, I am at a loss. Any thoughts on these things, my dear readers? Are you all working in fields you love? If you are not, do you care that you are not? Or are you okay with just makin' the buck? Comments on these, or other issues are very welcome and helpful in our exploration of adulthood.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

On Becoming Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Carl Jung, or a Dolphin Trainer: An Exploration of "What I Want to be When I Grow Up"

When I was a little girl I used to want to be a veterinarian. But not just any veterinarian, a veterinarian for big horses (inspired from my James Harriet books.) Then, I got over horses and decided I really wanted to be a dolphin trainer. Then, I wanted to work with tide pools and my mom suggested to me that I might want to be an "oceanographer." So, I was on the oceanographer kick for a while. Then, I decidedly pronounced that my passion was to be a journalist, and that is pretty much what I thought when I was 18 years old and entered college at the University of Maryland.

At some point along the way, after dropping out of UMD and being "existential" for a while, I took an Art and Feminism class at community college and decided I had to be a museum curator. I graduated with a degree in Arts Management, and went to work at an art auction house. I was on the track...I could almost taste my curatorial glory.

Now I am grant writer. A grant writer. Not a dolphin trainer, not a museum curator --but a grant writer.

Not that there is anything wrong with grant writers (especially because I get to use my writing skills to help a whole lot of people that need it.) But, if you had asked me 5 years ago if I could picture myself as a grant writer I would have said no way.

Interesting the way the fates lead you.

Is my experience normal? I mean, my friend Janelle, for example, always said she wanted to be a Supreme Court Justice, and low and behold she is a recent UCLA law grad, and is on the path that she had always envisioned for herself. I will not be surprised years down the line when she becomes a Justice.

My friend Michael always knew he wanted to pursue something science-oriented, and then at one point decided unequivocally that psychiatry was his calling. Low and behold now he is a psychiatrist working at Stanford. Not surprising at all. He is one smart and motivated kid.

Is it that some people just know? And how is the knowing that is associated with Janelle and her Supreme-Court-Justice-track any different from the knowing of my dolphin-trainer-track? I mean, I reallllllly wanted to be a dolphin trainer. Is it a matter of follow-through? Is it a matter of personality type? Perhaps Janelle just has the personality type that when she says she is going to do something, she means it, and she does it. Or is it a deeper passion? I mean, obviously, I can't even swim, so I couldn't have been all that passionate about being a dolphin trainer. But I did feel I was pretty passionate about being a journalist (I was a journalist at the age of 11, after all), and about being a museum curator. Maybe Janelle and Michael's passions are of a passion-level I can't even comprehend, because I have never felt?

Some of my friends might say that I have always wanted to be a writer. Now I am a writer -- kinda. A technical writer of grants, which really isn't the same creative fun as just being a "writer" in general. So, maybe I did kind of follow a dream, but it certainly wasn't intentional. I chalk my grant writing job up more to luck and fate than to passion or talent. (Though now that I have been working in it for a while, I am very passionate about the population I help. Maybe that is how passions arise? You experience something -- just like my experience with James Harriet books gave me a passion for animals -- and then you become invested.)

Now, I am in graduate school for writing. Is this sealing my fate? Am I now a "writer"? I am not convinced my path won't change again. It seems to change so frequently anyway.

How is it that people can be so sure of their path? And does this assurance result in a more content life? I mean, I feel anxious most days because I never know what I am going to do with my life exactly. Maybe Janelle and Michael have a kind of bliss because they know they have made it to the path they have always wanted.

I also often wonder how my path would have changed had I made some different decisions. What if my parents had not gotten divorced and I had not dropped out of UMD? I may actually have become a journalist. I definitely would not have moved back to California and gone to community college, and then I would not have moved to San Francisco, not have found a passion in art history, not have worked in the arts, not have met Brian, not have moved to San Diego, not have become a grant writer.

But all of those experiences evolved me in a really profound way. And ultimately, what I want from this life is to learn all the lessons I can and to evolve from every experience. So, while my professional[*] path may be a bit more twisty than Janelle or Michael's for example, I am happy that it has taken me to where I am. I just wonder when I will find my niche, and I really do yearn for that niche...

[*]I say 'professional' because I want to differentiate this from an 'emotional' path. I think that regardless of if you are a lawyer or a dolphin trainer, everyone has their own equally twisty and bumpy roads to contend with on their emotional paths.

Oh yeah, and I am still open to becoming a dolphin trainer.

[photo by]

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Fair-weathered friends

There were a few terms my parents taught me at a very young age (I would say by the age of 6.) Those terms were: "attention seeking behavior" and "fair-weathered friends." While neither of those terms are necessarily related, they certainly imprinted on my psyche pretty indelibly.

For some reason, in about 5th grade, my group of girl friends -- a small group of social outcasts who spent most days in the library at lunch -- decided to start calling me a "lesbian." "Mara's a lesbian!" they would yell, and I would spend the duration of lunch chasing them around the school. I didn't really understand the term fully at the time. All I did know was that they would scream "Mara's a lesbian" and then leave me, alone, in the library. I had never felt self-conscious about lunching in the library previously, but when I found myself lunching in the library ALONE, I started to feel pretty low. So, I would chase them around the school, hoping to catch up with them so that I didn't have to be the loser-in-the-library. My chasing them, however, would just egg them on. "Ohhhh, she's following us! She must love us! She's a lesbian," they would shriek and giggle, always out-running me.

Yes, kids are cruel. But that is for another entry.

My mom would ask me every day when she picked me up from school how my day was and if I learned anything new. I was always too embarrassed to ask her what my friends meant when they called me a lesbian, and why they made me chase them around the school. I knew that whatever they meant it was something shameful and I couldn't tell my mom. (For the record, I don't think a person who is gay is shameful, and neither did/does my mom, but as a young girl in a Catholic school, messages about homosexuality are often pejorative, to say the least.)

So, I would sob, "Mmmy...mmmyy...friends were really meaaannnn to me today." And my mom would wipe away my tears, draw me in close, hug me, and say, "Mara, those are what we call fair-weathered friends.[*]"

[*]Interestingly, it turned out those girls were NOT fair-weathered friends after all. Most of them are still some of my best friends today. But the term really resonated with me. But I digress...

I remember when my next door neighbors (two boys I had grown up playing with) stopped hanging out with me at the age of about 12, and I said I didn't care because they were 'fair-weathered friends'. And when I first felt heart break from a boy I just told myself to move on, get over it, because he was a fair-weathered friend anyway. I remember when my dad left my mom and moved to Cambodia (weird), I said I was fine with it because, apparently my own father was a fair-weathered friend and I didn't need any more of those. When one of my closest friends from adult-ish life (I probably met her when I was about 20), told me she no longer wanted to be my friend, and gave no reason at all, I wrote her off -- a fair-weathered friend if I had ever known one.

I don't think I really understood everything when I wrote off as fair-weathered friends the school-yard girls, my neighborhood playmates, my first heart break, or my dad. After all, people grow up and grow apart, and as much as I wish I could, I couldn't have understood the complexities of my parents divorce. And as for the girls on the playground, they probably had no more clue what a "lesbian" was than I did.

But, I am grateful for my mom teaching me this phrase. It was a logical coping mechanism that gave me a way to understand rejection when I couldn't always explain it (as was the case with the girls at school, or my next door neighbor friends), or when I couldn't always understand it (my first heartache and my parents divorce.)

Now that I am an adult, this phrase makes more sense to me and bears more relevance. I have a friend or two -- ones who I was deeply connected with for years and years-- who are just that: fair-weathered. One of my dearest friends from high school (who actually lived with me for a while in college and still lives in California) will never return my phone calls, texts, or emails, no matter how hard I try or how persistent I am. (And this is not the case of just being busy. I have many friends who I only talk to about once a year, but I still feel I am close to them in spirit.) Today, I was thinking about this particular girl, my former bosom-buddy. I felt a profound sadness and loss for her, as if she had died. So, I called her again. Voicemail.

When is enough, enough? When do I give up trying to contact her? Why is it so hard now, when I actually understand my mom's wisdom, to just write people off as a fair-weathered friend?

Maybe I thought the Fair-Weathered Friend was just a myth that my mom told me to make me feel better. Maybe I thought that you could only be fair-weathered if you were young and immature. Here we are, this girl and I, 28 years old -- shouldn't we be over this fair-weatheredness?

I think the older I get, the more I realize how incredibly valuable good friends are. Of all the people I have met in my life, of all my myriad of friends, only a few are left standing. Those are the ones I know I can always count on. But what happens when one of those core friends becomes fair-weathered? Do you just write them off and let them go as another childhood playmate lost? I don't think I will ever understand it...But one thing I have learned from my mom's advice is that, in sunny weather and in stormy weather, I must try my best to be a compassionate, reliable, caring, and enduring friend. I hope I achieve that.

Leave ruminations in the comments, please.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Meghan and Reid: Now This is a Party.

This is one happy bride!


I’m sorry to everyone who has been waiting for my wedding post on Meghan and Reid’s wedding. With all the wedding blog sites out there, I didn’t realize that people were actually interested in my wedding entries on this little-blog-that-could. But, it sure is humbling and nice to get emails from everyone, even if those emails are saying “More wedding! Don’t tease us!” So, thank you so much for giving me a swift kick in the butt, and I know these pictures and this couple's crazy fun wedding weekend details will not disappoint!

What I love about this wedding is the real love story behind it-- with all of the improbabilities that people only see in movies-- that is climaxed in union with what looks to be the best party ever! While I love weddings, and I enjoy looking at pretty pictures (who doesn't love pretty pictures?), what I am interested here at WelcometoAdulthood is the ritual and the reason behind all the pretty dresses and the pretty flowers. I want to hear about the laughter and the tears, not the day-of-wedding planner or the wedding favors given to the guests.

I don’t want to be another “wedding blog.” Nor am I here to impress cyberspace with my super-hipster wedding recaps.

I am here to have a candid discussion about something that is so awesomely inevitable to all of us (even those of us who want to live in Neverland forever...): adulthood. In all of its glory.

I recently attended the wedding of my dear friend, Janelle. She said something in her vows that really resonated with me, and really embodied the vibe I want for wedding entries in my blog. She said to her partner something like this: I promise to love you. And while it may be easy enough to say here, because I am wearing this dress and everything is so beautiful and our family and friends are here, I really want this moment, and all its beauty, to be a reminder. In our darkest hours, when the beauty has faded, I want to remember this moment and my promise to love you, always.

With adulthood comes enormous responsibility – the responsibility to own our lives, to make choices, to form life-long partnerships. Certainly then, getting married cannot be overlooked in the series of small yet incredibly significant moments that make us Adult. So, I will continue to chronicle weddings as a chapter in our collective history. But, I will not dwell on the details: the fancy cupcakes, the pashminas that were passed out at the wedding, the expensive venue, the coordinated flowers. Really, as Janelle’s vows remind us, those things are not important. We have enough pressure to “keep up with the wedding Jones’” already from the plush bridal magazines and websites. Those are the places that you should go to for the aesthetic, for the checklists, for the duties of each of your wedding party, for referrals to fantastic and expensive bakeries.

Here, we will be grounded. And while things will still look pretty, we will be focusing on the ritual, the fun, the love, and what made that wedding really important/memorable/awesome/hysterical and special to the bride, groom, and their guests.

With that, I give you: Meghan and Reid

Meghan and Reid met on spring break in Lake Havasu, California. They instantly connected, but Reid was from Montana and Meghan lived in San Francisco. Their spring break romance ended as quickly as it came, and the two parted ways to go back to reality. This was an improbable romance, at best.

Meghan and Reid kept in touch throughout the spring, and in the summer Meghan did something bold. She moved to Montana. Well, initially she went for just a visit, but ended up staying almost a year in Montana. Some things are just too good to give up on…

After 11 months of living together in Montana, Meghan and Reid both moved back to Meghan’s hometown in California. Reid proposed to Meghan on Valentine’s Day, 2008 with Meghan’s great-great grandmother’s engagement ring.

Here Meghan recounts why the wedding was so special and so F.U.N. (Trust me, you will want your wedding to be this fun, too. This girl’s got the right idea!) :

Many of Reid's family and friends (being from Minnesota, South Dakota, and Montana) had never been to California. So, we wanted to make the wedding really special, not only for us, but for them as well. Our wedding was kind of like a week-long celebration. Most all our out-of- town friends and family came into town the weekend before the wedding, and the festivities started early.

Sunday I had a lingerie-themed bridal shower while all the guys went golfing. Later, we all met at my Dad's house for a barbeque and drunken dance party. The next night, we hung out, visited and then had another barbeque and another drunken dance party at our house!

On Tuesday, we took everyone to Napa for wine tasting, which was a first for many of our visitors. On Wednesday, thirty (that’s right 30) of us went to a Giants baseball game, which was immediately followed by the bachelor party and the bachelorette party. They were separate, but we all met up at the end of the night because the boys and the girls were staying at the same hotel (which, I'm pretty sure we will never be allowed back to again!)

Thursday was a much needed recovery day, and Friday was the rehearsal dinner, which was so wonderful! One of our really good friends from Montana, Josh Dierman, played guitar and sang us the song, "Wrapped Up In You" by Garth Brooks. It was beautiful and touching... I cried!

We both always pictured having an outdoor ceremony, and we wanted an indoor/outdoor reception. We found our perfect spot: the ceremony was held at the San Francisco Theological Seminary on the Geneva Terrace, located in San Anselmo. It had beautiful views of Mount Tamalpais.

Reid made the arch for the ceremony, and we draped fabric over it and hung flowers from it. We wanted our ceremony to be very personal, so we added our personal touches wherever we could. We asked our friend, Vince (my long-time college friend) to officiate the ceremony, and he did a fantastic job! The ceremony was so moving that it even made Reid's Montana buddies tear up. :)

We wanted to provide our guests with a different sort of scenery for the reception, so the reception was held at the intimate Spinnaker Restaurant in Sausalito. It is located right on the water with beautiful views of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge. The reception was mostly inside, but facing the water were all open sliding glass doors led onto a deck with solid glass railings so that the view was completely unobstructed. The bar was also set up outside on the deck.

In order to save some money, I (with the help of Mom H., Aunt Renee, and Cousin
Rachel) did the flower arrangements for the reception.

Our first dance was to Big & Rich's "Lost in This Moment.” There was a ton of dancing to 80's music, country music, and even a little Britney.

Usually, I don't really like dancing because I am not the best dancer and am too self-conscious, but I don't know what happened... I rocked the dance floor! I pretty much danced the whole night... sometimes even by myself, in front of everyone. I think it might have been the wedding dress! (My dress was a Reem Acra A-line gown. I picked it out at the first store I went to and it fit perfectly after some alterations. It was soooooooo comfortable I really didn't ever want to take it off!)

The reception officially ended at around 11p.m., but it didn't end there for most of us. We headed out with all of our friends, still in our wedding clothes, to San Francisco and went to our favorite old college dive bar, Abbey Tavern. It was a great time! People were cheering for us and buying us shots! After we closed the bar down, Reid and I spent our wedding night at the Clift Hotel. It was really nice, except for the $11 dollar bottle of water that was in our room. But, after the night I had had, I was so thirsty I just had to buy it. And it was all worth it.


I love it! I love the fact that you had a whole week of wedding festivities to bond with visiting friends and family. Barbeques, wine tasting, a Giants game, and a wedding! Now that is a way to celebrate! And I love, love, love the visual picture of you in your “magical” wedding dress, rocking out alone on the dance floor!

It seems fitting that an improbable romance that turns into a long-lasting love affair should be marked with such pomp and circumstance. Somehow, the fates brought you and Reid together, and that calls for a party! I wish you a lifetime more of love and laughter. Thanks for sharing, Meghan!

Hair-brained Schemes

I am, and have always been, the master of hair-brained schemes.

For example, when I was nine years old, I thought it would be a great idea to write a short story and submit it for a Reading Rainbow writing contest. I wrote the story about a tree in our front yard that had a bird's nest in it. The neighbors always complained about this tree and asked us many times to cut it down. I took a stand against this and told my parents I would not let them cut down the tree, because of the disruption it would cause to the birds, and low-and-behold that tree still stands in our front yard today. That story won Honorable Mention.

That was not enough for me. The next year, I was 10 (and in a new category of 10-12 year olds), and I wrote another story. This one was about a girl named Elle who lived on the planet Venus and was very spoiled. For her birthday one year, her parents got her a trip to Earth via private spacepod. She boarded her pod, petulant and proud. However, while in space the pod had a mechanical failure and Elle was forced to do an emergency ejection from the pod. She floated around space for a few days, meeting with various constellations (Taurus, for example, told her that it was unwise to be stubborn -- he knew from experience) and talking black holes who taught her lessons about graciousness. Finally, after floating around for many days, she lost any hope that she would ever return home. She cried softly to herself, and suddenly Andromeda appeared to give her a little speech about being kind to everyone, gave her a star-filled hug, and escorted her back to her home planet.

That was a first place story, folks. Finally, victory was mine.

When I was 11, I took it upon myself to apply for a DJ gig at a local children's radio station, called Radio Aahs. Without telling my parents, I put together a collection of my successes: writing samples of my two winning stories, an edition of the "6th Grade Express" newspaper that I had edited. I also typed a resume, as best I knew how, on the typewriter, and mailed the packet in. It was about one month later that I received a letter that invited me to come to Planet Hollywood to audition in front of a panel of celebrity judges. I remember going to my dad, handing him the letter, and saying, "Dad, can you please drive me to Planet Hollywood on this day to audition to be a radio DJ?" The look on his face was priceless - it was a stunned look, mixed with pride and amusement. I got that job, and worked at Radio Aahs for quite some time. But that is another story altogether...

Last week, I devised another hair-brained scheme. I emailed HGTV to be on one of their shows, Property Virgins. Brian and I have been looking to buy a house for a few months now, and every time I view a house I narrate what I am seeing, like, "Oh this bathroom is nice. I like how it has double sinks, then Brian and I wouldn't have to share. Ohhh, this master bedroom is nice. Lots of light, but not enough closet space, etc." I just figured Brian and I would be shoe-ins for this show. And, would you believe it, they called me the next day!

So Sunday evening two nice ladies with a camera came from HGTV to our apartment and interviewed us on camera. They will show this to the Executive Directors and they will let us know this week if they will be featuring us on HGTV! Now, while I have detailed a few hair-brained schemes above that have been successful, I must say that many of my schemes are not. So, by no means am I expecting to be chosen for this show. But, it sure would be funny if we were!

I'll keep you posted!

Friday, October 2, 2009

And We're Back: Good Friends and 24 Hour Taco

The great thing about adulthood is making great friends who inspire you (particularly in times of woe) to pull yourself up from your bootstraps and keep on livin'.

As is the case with my dear friend Morgan and this very blog. "Let's resurrect your blog!" she wrote to me in an email yesterday. Attached to the email was this guest blog post, and a bunch of pictures. Now that is a friend.

So, this morning, for the first time in many days, I logged in to my blog and I felt happy. I did not feel too overwhelmed by my recent heaviness of adulthood, even though nothing had really changed -- my grandma was still sick, my life was still stressful, my family's grocery store had still gone under. But now, finally, I had someone who offered to carry a bit of a load that is very important to me (my blog!) And now, finally, I accepted the help.

A few words of introduction to Morgan's fabulous post...

One thing that I love about Morgan's entry is that it forces the reader to really work to contextualize place and time. Her descriptions of a local taco stand (we in Southern California know there is one on every corner, a favorite in every neighborhood) and the vast Texas landscape are incredibly rich.

Morgan's fiance, Brant, is in the Navy and is currently deployed (as we will find out from her post). For Morgan, half a world away, the comfort of Brant's company (and the memory of one of their happiest times) is recalled again and again with a visit to her local taco shop. There is a kind of quiet tone to this entry, and all the details count to expertly lay out a real feeling of love, happiness, longing, and comfort.

24 Hour Taco
By Morgan Leahy

At 5:58 am, my alarm clock radio whines on and I get an earful of traffic, and an update on the border waits at Calexico and San Ysidro. I wrestle with the sheets and get out of bed to another perfect morning in San Diego.

I spend the day at work, quietly typing at my computer and performing many and varied administrative tasks of great and small importance. At 11:00 I can’t contain a grin as my cell phone starts to vibrate. I carry it out to the parking lot where I talk privately for the fastest half hour of my day. I hear about Brant’s day in Kuwait, how hot it is, how well his dive went, what he had for dinner. Normal things make the distance between us feel less apparent. I hear about a funny practical joke involving a Red Sox fan and a Yankees license plate holder. I tell him how I had trouble sleeping, and I return to the office to finish my day.

After work, I have to feed a friend’s fish. It is as uneventful as you would think and I lock up her house and start to walk home just before dark. The sun sinks slowly into the Pacific behind me, and I walk up the hill towards home.

I cross three blocks and see Roberto's 24 hour Taco Shop across the street, my favorite guilty pleasure since moving here a year ago. It's too bad I won't be able to tell Brant about this. When he left for his deployment four months ago, he made me promise that I would not, under any circumstance, tell him about any stop at Roberto’s. Before the road West, I hadn’t known the least thing about Mexican food. I guess it really started a little north of the Rio Grande.

"Thank you," the man at the convenience store had said when we finished paying for our assorted snacks and walked out into the hot Texas sun on the third afternoon of our drive, in May of last year. We climbed into the car. Somehow he had convinced me to drive, and we sped off fast enough to get pulled over right away, but not fast enough to get a ticket. I cried. He took the wheel. And we tried again.

We drove out of a Texas afternoon, through a Texas evening, and into a Texas night. I said I could see for miles and I thought I was the first person to ever feel that way. We had the only car on the road, and gas stations, not to mention any traces of communities, spread further and further apart. We held hands in the car and stayed about as quiet as we had been the whole trip. We had no plans or expectations of where we would sleep that night, or how far we would drive.

"Gracias," The cashier at Roberto's said to me as I gave him a handful of coins, "Hot Sauce?"

"Si, roja por favor."

"Tienes un novio?"

"Si. You ask me every time"

"Do you like him?"

"Yes. Still do."

I grab the sweating plastic to-go bag with my heavy burrito inside and turn again towards home. It's almost dark.

Somewhere in the West Texas desert, we had turned at an exit that had signs for food and gas when it started to feel like we were playing chicken with the gas gauge. Driving up to a stop sign at the first intersection, we looked around and saw nothing, only the hills covered with a darkness so soft I wanted to wrap it around me. Ahead, a gas station sat on a small hill. It was the only light for miles.

We pulled into the parking lot, filled the tank, and walked inside the convenience store. An older man stood behind the main cash register and a young girl stood behind another counter that had hot food for sale. It was late, maybe 3am, so there wasn't much food left and I didn't recognize anything in the case. This was perhaps the third time I had eaten Mexican food before then, so I pointed to what turned out to be a chili relleno and hoped I would like it.

Stretching out on the grass near the curb with our dinner, I laughed as I looked at Brant. We had been on the road for three days, and the scenery, the food, and the company filled me with excitement. I felt like we were just starting out, and we were.

I arrive at my gate just as the last bit of sun is dipping below the Ocean. I take a seat on the front porch and eat part of the burrito, still reminiscing about our cross county drive. Then I step inside to email Brant.


And, for all those who have been asking, I will still put up the entry from Meghan's wedding, as I teased you with about a month ago.

In the mean time, please show our first Guest Blogger some love! What did you take from her entry? What was striking? Do you have a favorite food that transports you somewhere great? For me, it's hot jamon y queso sandwiches (con huevos). When I studied abroad in Madrid (on a budget so we had to stick with cheap, simple food), my dear roommate would make us these sandwiches for dinner at least 3 times a week. At the time, in our little apartment off of the purple metro line, nothing ever tasted so good...

Thanks Morgan!

We can't wait to hear more from you!