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January 2013
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March 2013

What I'm Into (February 2013 Edition)

Hangout 2.15.13
Google Hangout is one of my new favorite things. It is so much fun, especially when your friends are spread out all across the country. That about sums up my knowledge of Google+. Also, it may not be that cold here but it sure is nice to hang out with friends from the comfort of your home. I've been in total hibernation mode this month. Spring must be around the corner!


Read and Reading:

As a diehard White Sox fan, I didn't know what to expect from a novel centered on a Cubs fan and yet I couldn't put The Comeback Season down. Five years after Ryan's father dies, she's still adrift and searching for where she belongs when an unexpected friendship begins at Wrigley Field. Given the start of Spring Training, it was fun to relive the 2008 season, even if it was from the wrong side of town. Smith's breakout YA novel got me thinking about jinxes, luck, and what I really believe in. Trigger warning: also deals with pediatric cancer.

Author Robin O'Brien of The Unhealthy Truth has been described as the Erin Brockovitch for food. Thoroughly researched, O'Brien presents her findings on the way genetically modified and genetically engineered food affects us to our detriment. Her writing style grew tiring and the book is clearly directed toward mothers but the information is hard to ignore.

Fans of Romeo and Juliet will likely enjoy the YA/paranormal take in Juliet Immortal and Romeo Redeemed. Although I must note, Romeo Redeemed's ending didn't make much sense to me. Still, I liked the examination of good and evil and the sometimes thin line between the two.

Creative folks should read The Crowd, The Critic, and The Muse  (Gungor). Gungor is definitely an outside-the-box thinker. Each chapter left me feeling inspired.

I get to read an advance copy of Shauna Niequist's Bread & Wine! Review coming soon.

Currently reading: The Omnivore's Dilemma (Pollan), The House of Belonging (Whyte), Mudhouse Sabbath (Winner), Walking on Water (L'Engle),  When Helping Hurts (Corbett and Fikkert).

(I read 16 books this month.)



Must-see TV: Once Upon a Time,  Revenge, Vampire Diaries, Real Housewives of Beverly Hills

The Americans is clearly a cable show. A few scenes in the pilot were definitely hard to take. But I love the show's premise and the acting is superb. As a child of the 80s, it's fun to see the fashion and old technology. Plus, I know hardly anything about the Cold War and it's fascinating to see the Russian take. Plus also, Keri Russell.

The Vampire Diaries has been blowing my mind lately. No character is safe, no plot twist too unlikely.

(Whispers: not really watching The New Girl or The Mindy Project. The last few episodes were meh.)



Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 1 is one of the best comedies I've seen in some time. Teen girls everywhere are glad I didn't see it in the theater.

Resolution: go to the theater more often. I only saw one Best Picture nominee this year and that is shameful.



New Discovery: Tristan Prettyman, Al Lewis

I am love, love, loving Erin McCarley's latest album.  Especially the song What I Needed.


Most Uplifting Video:

I'm kind of obsessed with Kid President.


Amazing, beautiful, must-see video by Shane Koyczan. "We grew up learning to cheer on the underdog because we see ourselves in them. We stem from a root planted in the belief that we are not what we were called." Warning: it might make you cry.

New In My Reader:

In her own words, Christena Cleveland "attempt[s] to integrate social psychology research, faith, current events and my own experience as a reconciler. My goal is to demystify cultural divisions in the church (and beyond) and help leaders acquire the skills to overcome them." Her thoughtful posts on race relations and reconciliation are must-reads.



This Roasted Vegetable and Rice Salad is going to be a staple from here on out. Mercy.

Easter Candy is back! This means I'm adding Cadbury Creme Eggs to my Mug Brownies again. Hello, decadence.

I recently ate at blvd, a new restaurant by Arnold Myint. We were greeted at the table by a basket of savory waffles and a giant soft pretzel. An auspicious start to any meal.


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Legend of the Gate 5 Gang

Brooke and I started it all with our decision to get the Ozzie Plan. We'd always meet up at Gate 5. Since she lived and worked in the city, she was always waiting for me to stroll in from the Green Line. We'd dig out tickets from purses and get in the much shorter Gate 5 lines. This particular gate seemed like the best kept secret of Comiskey, even though it was adjacent to parking lots and closest to the Red and Green Lines.

It was the clear meeting place for any game thereafter, whether I went with Brooke or a handful of other Sox fan friends.

I don't remember who officially declared us to be the Gate Five Gang but it stuck. Brooke, Mark, Jill, Todd, and me. We were super fans. Nay, we were the Best White Sox Fans Ever.

We even made t-shirts to prove it.

We've gone to many a game in varying combinations but the whole gang has probably only attended one or two games together.  Which makes it all the more funny to call ourselves a gang.

Whatevs. We make up our own rules on the Southside.

(They no longer blog but it's worth reading Mark and Todd's different takes on a game we all went to in 2006, featuring the return of Frank Thomas, a rogue squirrel, and an unexpected win.)

Brooke, Jill, and Todd have all since married and started their families. It's a little more complicated for us to all be free to attend a game. Especially since I moved out of state. But I dream of a day when we'll all reunite at The Cell and cheer on our team.

With the presence of our collective fandom, the White Sox can't help but win.

The Gate 5 Gang has been on my mind with the start of another season.

Spring Training imbues baseball fans with hope. We are all optimists at the start. We look at the team and the trades, the strengths and the weaknesses. We look at player performance and figure out gaps but it's all hypothesis at this point. No matter what, we think, "this could be the year."

So it is with the White Sox. Paul Konerko is the only vestige from the 2005 World Champion team. I need to spend time familiarizing myself with the new names on the roster. I may not be able to watch many games from here in Nashville but there's nothing like baseball season.

Baseball brings people together. We are united in our victories and losses. We prepare for the worst but hope for the best. We keep coming back year after year after year.

Because this could be The Year, after all.

This is what I love about baseball and life. The sense of possibility. This could be my team's year. It could also be my year.

I need to do my part. I often know what I need to do. It's my turn to step up to the plate. The rest might be out of my control but I'll never know if I hang back and procrastinate or distract myself with other stuff.

The Gate 5 Gang teases me about my relentless optimism when it comes to the White Sox. I have an unfailing belief in my team. And yet I so often struggle to apply this sunny disposition to my own prospects.

No longer.

This is my year. This is my chance. I'm taking the first step. I'm taking another leap of faith.

No matter the outcome, it will all work for good.

Why wouldn't it?

Are you excited about baseball season? Are you as optimistic about your prospects as you are for others?

The California Cousins

Leigh2Grandma and her beauteous granddaughters


I wanted to be like them when I grew up. I viewed Clara and Emily through awe-colored glasses, ever amazed by their wit, beauty, intelligence. They were only a few years older than me and they were my cousins. Mine.


Their parents divorced the year I was born. The girls consequently grew up on the East Coast, interspersed with time with their dad in Wisconsin. I saw Clara and Emily at Christmas and the other occasional holiday, some regular summer visits, too. We treasured being all together, this mass descending on my grandparents' house ready to eat and play and talk for hours.


I don't know how much I talked at family gatherings in my younger years. I wanted to soak everyone up and I also wasn't sure what I had to contribute. I was plain old me and everyone else was fascinating. There was no competition, no one making me feel “less than,” but I couldn't compete, especially with my dazzling cousins. Nor did I want to. I paid close attention to Clara and Emily's jokes and music recommendations and anything else they wanted to share. Maybe in hopes their awesomeness would rub off on me but also because time together was precious. I might not see them again for another six months or a year.


When my uncle remarried, the girls and a couple of their friends choreographed a dance at the reception. They stood on the steps outside the house and I don't remember the song that played but I can still picture them swaying and smiling on that humid day.


We're the only girl cousins and so for the many holidays and birthday parties Clara and Emily couldn't attend, it was me and the boys. Somewhere along the way, we grew up. Their visits became less frequent once they reached high school. I don't remember the last time they celebrated Christmas with us. Even so, I looked up to them. I still do.


They've been back to visit a handful of times this past decade. A family reunion, a quick weekend to say goodbye to our grandmother and then a week later for her funeral. They live in San Francisco and it's not cheap to fly back to the Midwest. They've missed out on the garden variety gatherings. Adam's wedding and my brother's, too. They couldn't come back for our cousin's funeral or Aunt Sue's, nor the funerals for so many great-aunts and great-uncles.


While home for Thanksgiving, Uncle Bud told me Clara, her boyfriend, and their baby boy were coming to visit the week after Christmas. We hadn't seen each other since Grandma's funeral 5 years ago. There was no way I'd miss out on the chance to see them; their visit would be my last hurrah before returning home to Nashville. Even better: Emily joined in on the fun, freshly back from Europe.

The first Saturday in January, the whole family (minus my brother and sister-in-law) convened at Grandpa's house. We ate and talked and laughed for hours. I snuggled Clara's almost 1 year old son any chance I could get. I talked with Clara's boyfriend about books and writing and, oddly enough, Scientology. (Look, I am strangely fascinated by Scientologists and I wanted a Californian perspective.) I looked around the room, overwhelmed by the love it contained.

And I caught up with my California cousins.

I'll always be a bit in awe of them. How could I not be? They are amazing women. But now I see our similarities. I see how I have just as much to offer and the way they look forward to seeing me as much as I look forward to seeing them.

We've all ended up forging our own path. What are the odds?

Clara co-owns her business The Wedding Party. She started out as an employee and then she and her partner bought it out. And they've made it work! I secretly dream of some day flying out to the store to pick out my dress or the bridesmaid dresses. She's an amazing mother. I loved seeing the way she and Wallie take care of their son.

Then there's Emily. She started working with a rock band. Did she know anything about the music industry beforehand? No, but she's figured out each step along the way. The band has wound up on some amazing tours and they've made friends in high places. I could listen to her stories all day.

_047Clara, I still want your cardigan. Don't forget.

As we sat across from each other, trading stories about work and our dreams, I marveled at who we are. There's no telling what all we'll accomplish.

Clara and Emily are two of my biggest fans. I never could have imagined this when I was little. I had no idea what I was capable of offering the world.

The day flew by far too fast. There's never enough time to talk, to be. One of these days I'll make it out to San Francisco for a visit. We'll look forward to the next gathering, whenever it may be.

Everyone Starts Out Single

I sat on a stool next to the kitchen counter and drank a glass of water, while their dog perched in my lap. The almost 4 hour drive left me thirsty. It had been a full two weeks back in my Illinois hometown. I could scarcely wrap my mind around the trip's conclusion but here I was at my friends' house in Urbana. My road trip oasis. A respite before driving the rest of the way to Nashville.

Kristin put away the dishes in the dishwasher while Jason cleaned up from dinner. It was a breathtaking dance to watch, their seamless habits not thrown off in the least by a late night guest. We chatted about our respective Christmas celebrations and caught up on life. I love spending time with Jason and Kristin for such simple reasons. Fancy drinks, stimulating conversation about politics and religion, sharing books we've read and music we're listening to. Each time I leave, I wish we lived closer. They are my people and I am theirs.

We adjourned to the living room and discussed writing while Kristin folded laundry and Jason read a magazine. I was pleased we could be these kinds of friends. I was welcomed into lives well lived, the chores and Kristin’s daughters trading bedrooms upstairs and the usual Saturday evening routine.

Eventually, after a lively discussion on gun control, we retired for the evening. I tucked myself away in the spare room and emerged in the morning not overly bright-eyed but rested nonetheless.

The kitchen dance had resumed itself. Jason was preparing pumpkin pancakes, using a pumpkin puree he’d made. Kristin made the coffee and then brewed tea for me. They embody give-and-take. Their relationship is beautiful to witness, perhaps all the more knowing this is a second marriage for each. My bleary morning mind took in this egalitarian scene. I thought, “I want that some day.”

And then I thought, “I probably wouldn’t be here if I was married.”

I sipped my breakfast tea and talked about pie pumpkin preparation with Jason. I sampled a pancake and it was so delicious, I wished I was more of a breakfast person. All too soon, it was time to drive onward.

I don’t hide the fact I want to get married or that I’m reveling in my life as an unmarried person. Each side has its gifts and perks. Each side takes work, some ways more obvious than others. Neither is a prescription for automatic happiness.

I look at Jason and Kristin’s marriage and it speaks to me of my own possible future but I can’t ignore that which allows me to see them in the first place: my singleness.

Sharing my life with someone means exactly that: sharing. My schedule will no longer be entirely my own. Decisions will be filtered through the lens of our relationship. Not everything will change and I will work hard to maintain my top priorities but there will still be an impact.

If I was married, would I have been able to go home for Christmas for two weeks? If I had, would we have flown or driven? And if we drove, would we have taken turns driving back to Nashville instead of staying the night with friends? Would said friends be able to accommodate a married couple, instead of just me?

Let’s back up even further than that. During those two weeks, would my husband want to hang out with a lifetime’s worth of friends? Would all of these friends want to share their only time with me with someone else?

{Theoretically, yes. However, friendships need solo time interspersed with significant others and children. My trips back home are rarely long enough to do that with everyone.}

Everyone starts out single. We don’t question if people are called to marriage and we’re not always at the top of our games if and when marriages end due to divorce or death. We need to be good stewards no matter what our marital status is. One is not better than the other. Both statuses are good and to be treasured.

Because I’m single, I’ve focused on developing a rich community. My family extends far beyond those related to me by blood. Friends in my hometown, friends here, friends all over the country. My freedom as a single woman allows me to pour into these relationships even still. I don’t always do it perfectly- after all, there’s no one helping me with the dishes or paying the bills. I don’t have more time than those who are married; I don’t have to factor the needs of anyone else when it comes to making plans. Relationships are my calling.

I’m taking advantage of this gift. And it is good.


This post was originally published at A Deeper Family.