March 25, 2013 § 3 Comments
I could explain it all to you, but I won’t. I have two sets of parents. One set is my parents, and the other are my aunt and uncle who are also my parents. Everyone is in my life. It’s our own unique and hard fought version of Modern Family.
This weekend was AM’s 60th birthday. She knew that I had Spring Break, but couldn’t bring herself to ask me to come, because she knows the volume of work I have to do and the level of exhaustion I am operating under. She also hasn’t seen me in Texas in just over a year. There are few things I personally love more than being in Austin with my family (she doesn’t have to beg), but my school schedule is really, really rigorous.
I knew when I started here that travel was going to be the first thing to go.
But A YEAR?
It’s too much even for a girl who loves this city and doesn’t have time to dwell on that fact that I haven’t set foot in my parent’s home in a year. (Don’t feel bad for me. I see them all often – they just come here instead, generously, so that I can stay on track.)
We left the city late, posted pictures as if we were going about our normal routine.
I sent 2 books ahead of time via Amazon which is my standard gift. You know for your standard birthday.
We picked up some cookies from Levain Bakery.
We got a cab from the airport in ATX and walked in the front door (scaring her half to death) just before her bedtime and announced, “Cookie delivery.” There were tears.
We had three glorious days. They went too fast. It hurts my heart even now.
The next night I surprised her again with her best friend, who flew in from Sedona.
She was waiting at the bar at Uchi when we got there.
We had a long, fun, wonderful dinner.
She thought UK didn’t get her anything – but we had been shopping for a necklace to match her eternity band. It’s a stunner.
You know who else is a stunner? This guy:
He makes our family so complete. I love how much my parents and their friends love him. It’s like falling in love with him all over again every time we do something like this. There is a deep joy watching AM&UK’s friends get to know him better and adore him. Luckiest girl in the world.
Here’s how they like me. Sandwiched between them.
Notice, I have on AM’s necklace and she has on her new one!
UK did such a great job. Em, AM, UK, Justin & I had such a great night – for anyone traveling to Austin – Uchi or Uchiko are really fantastic and their staff is wonderful.
We spent AM’s birthday in the manner that she loves.
Hiking the Green Belt, eating breakfast tacos, she & I snuck away for mani/pedis (I got some school work done), we drank VC on the back porch (this pic is missing Em – who took the picture):
Then we piled in the car (Em rented a car she never drove – the best) and met the Hole in the Wall Gang for a wonderful dinner party at Corazon at Castle Hill. Where we took this picture – which I think makes it clear that I come by my personality honestly:
We went home and ended the night dancing to Justin Timberlake’s new album – dancing to JT is family tradition.
It was hard to leave.
The amount of work to be done is immense, and I am behind.
It was worth it.
I stopped to post this blog – because as I was beginning to sink into a sense that it’s insurmountable.
I reminded myself that I can only do what I can, and maintaining my sanity is important.
A girl can loose her mind when she’s gone from Texas too long, the trip may have been a tease, but it was wonderful.
There are so many things that we have to miss because we don’t have a choice, why miss what we don’t have to?
Sure I may sleep a little less, be a bit more homesick, but my soul is full. Happy Birthday AM, I am so glad your birthday wasn’t over Easter.
June 12, 2012 § Leave a Comment
I am one of those people who has a knack for complicating things that need no complication. For example, someone will ask me a question and after about a three minute answer Justin will say, “They asked if we live in Boston” and I was talking about global policy… However, the men in my life simply are complicated.
My main man is a dashing ginger, hailing from Little Rock, Arkansas – less than a mile from where my Dad lives. Who knew that a complicated journey to each other would resolve itself in such a simple way? Having my Dad in Little Rock has been incredible, and his support of me, my marriage, and this incredible stage/journey of my life have been humbling and breathtaking. I am so deeply grateful to him in this moment of my life it literally makes me teary.
However I was as Hillary Clinton encourages, raised by the village, and anyone who knows me knows that before Justin there was one other great love in my life, one other main man, who also holds the role of father, friend, mentor, rule maker, rule keeper, tear dryer, laugh creator, and brunt of joke bearer – UK.
UK rolled into my life when I was a pre-teen. Though I was raised by a village (literally my parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, family friends etc), but AM lived in Austin and spent a good portion of her single 20s and 30s being my caregiver, and my mom’s brother, Lester, who passed away while I was living in Uzbekistan. I adored these two especially, and I thought if they could not be married, then they should be mine alone. Their future spouses were my arch nemesi. I hated UK. I had to be told to be nice to him, as in – I got in trouble for being so sour toward him. In my defense my entire family was hard on him, but they were joking… Little did UK know five short years into his marriage he would inherit this snarky, spoiled 16 year old as his own. It is from UK that I learned the ones you love can hurt and herald you more than anyone else in the world. His pride in me would send me soaring, and his disappointment send me reeling. When I left for college AM&UK could not dump me off and take the keys back to their house fast enough, it was many years before they would hand me freely my own set, and dedicate a room there as my own. In those years we shook off the dust of my teenage rebellion and early twenty faux pas, he grew in tenderness and fatherhood, and before we knew it the three of us had forged a deep and lasting bond of family.
I count AM&UK as our best friends, he had a mid-century birthday recently and a birthday party with dear friends, I called to wish him happy birthday, and when I hung up the phone I cried for two hours – Justin asking if we needed to just move home. Justin still says that it was like he murdered me, not married me. But our intimacy was hard fought, and distance will always feel difficult, 90, 900, or 9,000 miles.
Over the years I have learned to hide my most precious words in my heart and only share them in the most safe and treasured places, but here is what I can tell you about my UK. I would not have held out for the incredible man I married if UK hadn’t shown me what love and marriage should look like. He is the gold standard for men to me. He is a stand up man who loves his family relentlessly, lives forgiveness actively, and is literally generous in a way that I have not ever seen in another person – I am not talking about throwing money around, I am talking about conscientious contribution to humanity/society – often giving his life and his time. I love that he can walk into Farrell’s and still know people that he grew up with, or walk through Paris and see people he grew up with. I love that he is quick to laugh, help, enjoy, and jump in when needed. He is also loyal like no one I’ve ever known, and he is principled and moral by conviction. He was raised in a catholic family, heavily influenced by his Aunt Ethel who was a nun, he lives according to his conviction without being judgmental or preachy – and was incredibly patient with me when I was judgmental and preachy (even to him.) This does not mean that he will not lecture me about my civil responsibilities, wifely responsibilities, or simply being wrong – as a matter of fact we are both often so right that AM and Justin have to break up dinner time yelling matches (always trying to get ME to admit that I MIGHT BE WRONG – ugh) and I love this as well – the way he challenges me grows me and doesn’t allow me to get comfortable being less than the best of who I can be. More than anything UK has been relentlessly unconditional in his love and support of the ones that he loves, and as his daughter, this has molded and shaped me in ways that are indescribable.
Happy Birthday UK, I will cry every birthday you celebrate far away from me, because you are a life that I would love to be on hand to celebrate in the manner that’s worthy of you. With a 5 mile run, a slice of pizza and a Shiner for lunch, and Z Tejas for dinner (even if it’s not Thursday) – Justin is my main man, but you had my heart first.
When I got married UK picked Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground for us to dance to. Willie and his son Lukas covered this song on Willie’s latest album, Heroes, and the minute I heard it I thought of him. Watching them sing it together undid me. Especially in this moment of my life, on UK’s birthday, and the week of Father’s Day it feels right to let you guys hear it and know how much it makes me think of him and the way that he loves.
June 4, 2012 § 3 Comments
This subject has been coming up a lot lately. We’ve had another round of weddings, which I love. I just love love. There have been showers… Etc.
I am kind of off my game though, I am more in the baby game. This return to the wedding thing started with an epically embarrassing (even for me) rambling and OVERLY long (even for me) toast at a rehearsal dinner in Austin (new mercies every morning people – move on), a stunning and richly meaningful wedding the next night with one of the most powerful father of the bride moments I have ever witnessed at a wedding (think ugly cry kind of moving), I shot the wedding of some life long family friends the next weekend – an evening of fun I wished would never end – (being with AM&UK’s friends is like walking on clouds and I never want those nights to end, being able to do that with Justin was the ultimate in cloud walking, I am so incredibly proud to be his partner in life) – we danced the night a way and their love is beautiful and wonderful and all things lovely, my cousin got married in a perfect courthouse ceremony that I attended via texted photos (and cried the entire day), and we have recently been met by a mailbox stuffed with save the dates and shower invitations. In an era of life where most of my friends are birthing children this has been such an unexpected second wind, and a nice refresher for Justin’s and my relationship.
In total contrast, we have also seen some friends hit some real lows. Met with news of divorce, separations, painful struggle, and even the continued loneliness of some dear friends who are single. We have been reminded that While love is powerful, moving, and brings feeling of euphoria like little else in the world, it can also be the most gut-wrenching and painful thing in life. Even this morning as I offered thoughts and prayers for some specific situations different friends are in I thought about partnership and marriage.
Last Memorial Day some dear friends came in and we had been married one year and we were full of thoughts and advice.
This Memorial Day I am not sure I would offer much advice. This is what I think I am starting to learn about relationships, marriage, and partnership. There are some deep and abiding principles – but for the most part – they are incredibly individual and unique and you must simply sort it out for yourself. Yes, look at – even go to – couples you admire, relationships you respect, and ask, seek to learn what their “magic” is, but I honestly believe that each relationship will have a magic all its own. Unique, that could not be reproduced in another relationship. It’s what is so breathtaking about love. When you look at a couple it is their je ne sais quoi that touches you in that deep way, and moves you, that compels you to say, “Wow, they are really in love.” I believe that this is the THE POINT of love, its UNIQUENESS, it’s HOLINESS (unlike ANYTHING ELSE), our love for people and each other is individual and incomparable and therefore marriages and partnerships are going to be the same way. Why would they be, by principle and purpose, any different?
All this to say, in an imperfect relationship, as the MORE imperfect person, and the one who is probably the ROOT of most conflict, on a morning where I am more aware than ever how incredibly thankful I am for a partner in life that loves me enough to unpack my baggage with me instead of send me packing with my baggage… Here are some of the things I think I am starting to figure out, should they be helpful to you.
Marriage is not a point of arrival. It is a mile marker on a long, long, long journey. In the drive from Austin to San Diego – marriage is El Paso, or maybe even Clayton, NM. The point being if you are in a big fat hurry to GET there, you are going to be sorely disappointed, because there is a still a long, long, part of the journey to go. And many of those miles, someone has to sleep and someone has to drive – and in these moments the drive is not that different than when you were making it as one person.
Love is a bit like a garden, it requires more than watering, it must be tended to. We live next to an old cemetery and it’s a little like living next to a rain forrest or a jungle. That’s probably how Justin felt marrying a 33 year old. I want to go out and plant my plants and let the wet New England spring grow my cabbage and my cauliflower. However, what I have found is that there are these horrific tulip looking leaves that grow up in my plant beds, and when I go to pull them the leaves snap off in my hands. So I finally dug in with some gardening tools and found that these little leaves are connectes to bulbous roots, as many as 15 to 20 strong that are literally running throughout my garden. Every few days I have to go out and attack them bit by bit. I could never get them at one time, there are simply too many and they have been here too long. I can’t just leave them or they would take over. I can only get them as they come up. And I HAVE to get them as they come up – OR ELSE. There is no need to expound. These little weeds are in our relationships, there is no way around it, they have bulbous roots. We either take the time to deal with them or we do not. Sometimes we need to do it together, sometimes we need to weed our own hearts, but we MUST tend to our emotional gardens consistently – OR ELSE.
My spouse is ALWAYS right. When we get home, this may be a different story, and there may be a conversation to be had regarding the way one or the other of us felt about something, but to the rest of the world, we are a united front. I will defend this man to the death, and it is mine alone to pick out his faults (and only to him, and only with tender, careful, caution.) In a public arena it is important that my spouse knows I have his back at all times, and there is never a question about this. I think this is actually one thing that all serious relationships should have.
Every story is different, there is no right way. Some people date for 20 days, some people for 20 years. Some people never kiss… Some people kiss before they date. It’s easy to say that this is the way. There is no right way. This is something that you and your significant other have to work out together, and that you have to be able to live with with yourselves when your head hits the pillow at night. Someone was telling me Saturday that she and her husband had a broken engagement and when they got back together people said it would never work, they are happily married now and the parents of a VERY happy 19 month old golden-doodle. They are a couple of a certain faith and they allowed their faith to guide them through their journey instead of conventional wisdom, it was the right thing for them. YOU HAVE TO DO THIS. Justin and I continually said that we had to ‘answer to God’ for ourselves, not for other people, and so we did not take the decision to ‘re-meet’ and marry in 9 months lightly. Conventional wisdom said NO, it was the right thing for us, it won’t be the right thing for everyone and we couldn’t even ADVISE people on it, because EVERY situation is unique.
Fight to Stay in Love. Our Liz sent us the poster that says this that hangs on the only wall that we can see from our bed. It is there for a reason. It is one of my most treasured items. Love is not easy or simple. And love is not something that just naturally regenerates. Love must be nurtured. How love is nurtured in another person happens very uniquely in that person and the ability to go in and root that out is the very thing that makes love come alive. Embarking on our third year of marriage we have renewed our commitment to fight. This morning I am literally tearfully urgent about this, and feel compelled to encourage each of you whether you are married, single, widowed, divorced, separated, dating, or simply the parent of a cat… Fight to love someone in your life today. Love is an act, a practice, it is an emotion that results in action and today let’s fight to stay in love. This is where only you can know what that means for the people that you love, but today, let’s all fight for the one’s that we love. Love is a rare and wonderful thing, no matter what form it takes in our lives, and today I hope that we will all be warriors of love for one another.
The Boston Marathon: Running, Weight Loss, and the Merits of Having a Personality that is an Acquired Taste
March 20, 2012 § 2 Comments
As many of you know I will be running the Boston Marathon on April 16th. This was on my bucket list of things to do before 35 (a day fast approaching.) One of the things not on my list of things to do before 35 was get married, but unexpectedly in my 32rd year of life an incredible man waltzed in, and 22 days after my 33rd birthday I married him. He is a cyclist, or a recovering cyclist. He was in a terrible cycling accident about 4 years ago and his leg is held together by a steel and pins. He swims, he rides at the gym, and he is rapidly approaching his return to the road. When AM was diagnosed with cancer I began the journey of applying to run the Boston with TNT. I had been out of the running routine since getting married. I just like my husband so much and doing stuff without him is less fun than fun – and he simply cannot run. So I did Zumba, and Tracy Anderson, and ran occasionally. Justin and I both have lost significant amounts of weight on our lives. I’ve lost about 100 pounds and he’s lost roughly the same if not more… He’s not totally sure. We’ve both kept it off for many years, but obviously, it’s something that requires a lot of work and effort on our part.
When I found out that TNT had accepted me and I would be running the Boston, I had visions of grandeur about FINALLY having that runners body… Sarah Lynton-esque finishing times… and all my previously elusive pipe dreams becoming magically accessible to me. While I do feel like I have accomplished much, I still have these funny unrealistic goals mixed in with my heart dreams. Learning to sift through those has become a bit of an olympic sport lately. As well, people often ask me (for those of you who read the many years ago blog post, this will be familiar) HOW or WHY I started losing weight hoping to be inspired or get some sort of brilliant insight… The only problem is that, I have no idea. I remember being in my friend Marci’s wedding and needing to have the size 22 dress altered (bigger) so that it would fit me. It’s not that I wasn’t pretty, it’s just that I weighed over 230 pounds. That’s a lot of pretty…
This is not me at my biggest, but it’s an idea of the not small nature of me… And that I looked essentially the same, just, well, bigger (this was my Dad’s 50th birthday in Little Rock 10 years ago.)
After Marci’s wedding I felt sad that my clothes were so not hip, that every bridesmaids dress I wore had to be let out, even when I ordered it in the biggest size, that my excuse for all things was my size. AM&UK ran marathons and had always encouraged me to run. Keep in mind that I hadn’t run since the President’s Physical Fitness Test in 7th grade, when I essentially managed to complete that (ONE) mile in just under the 20 minute required time. Geez. But when I decided I wanted to loose weight I started by going out at night, in Waco, TX, (home of beautiful, physically picturesque women) and ‘run’ the bear trail. I ran at night because I couldn’t bear for people to see me. I would run until I couldn’t run anymore, and then I would finish by walking. The track was 2 1/4 miles long, within a month I could ‘run’ it. I decided to sign up for a half-marathon, I didn’t tell anyone but my roommate and AM&UK. Upon successful completion of the race I signed up for the marathon, and within 6 months of my first time out the door I ran the Austin Marathon in 6:42 (as in almost 7 hours.) I ‘ran’ the entire way. AM&UK ran me to the last .2 miles, or the shoot, my friends yelled and cheered from the sidelines, and one older lady with a finishers medal stood by the side clapping and cheering, and as I finished she looked me in the eye and said, “You are a finisher.” That marathon was one of the first things I ever successfully committed to and completed in my life, she had no idea what her words meant. It started a trend for me. Starting and finishing things. It also taught me something, that if I could run a marathon, ANYONE could run a marathon. Since that race, the Boston Marathon will be the first marathon that I will have run since then without a friend who has never run a marathon before (there are plenty of people on my team who are running their first.) The bigger point, is that I am running on behalf of those who cannot run, and I am running for my own dream. Something new I am learning to do.
The first year I ran I lost 60 pounds. It took me 3 or 4 more years to lose the other 40 – I currently toy around with 15 pounds on a consistent basis. I frequently get advice about how I could tighten and tone my body. By this I mean to say, that while I look fantastic, when you loose a lot of weight, though your skin is elastic to a point, it is only so elastic. And though you lose fat, you do not lose fat cells, so those empty fat cells hang out in the places they always did, and if you had enough of them, they add some girth. It is what it is. I say this to say, I am not a fast runner, but I am a strong runner. I am not thin, but I am fit. What you see is not what you get, and there is something to that. When you are running a marathon or living life, it is tempting to look around you and want to be as fast as that person in front of you. You can also look next to you and think, I want to look like them, I work harder, or eat healthier. I have had to learn to recognize this is what I am, who I am, how I am. I am probably never going to be a 7 minute mile girl, I am certainly never going to be a popsicle stick shaped woman – and if I can’t get comfortable with that then I will continually live striving or struggling against reality. I would rather run my race than someone else’s. This is really hard for me to settle into, and it is much easier for me to say and conceptualize than to live. But I am committed to learning the lesson and getting to the place where I am confident when I say I am a strong runner, and a beautiful woman.
Similarly, this weekend I had a bit of an out of body experience where I reverted to a younger, less favorable version of myself. I had to stop and remind myself that there was no reason for this, other than I was not living in my own race, running my own pace, and celebrating my own excellent life. My personality is an acquired taste, like Diet Coke, this is not something anyone needs to feel bad for me about, it simply is. I can make it easier to swallow, or more difficult. There are times when I feel myself, for some collection of reasons, allowing the more difficult aspect of my personality to shine like the Northern Lights this winter. It’s almost as if it takes off and I cannot reign it back in… Or I choose not to. Today on my run, as I thought and prayed about this, it occurred to me that this is not unlike when I am running in a race. If I am running in a race and I do not put my headphones in, tune the outside world out, and find my rhythm – within a few miles I am in a world of hurt because I am not running my own race and pace, I am running someone else’s. I often, when running, have to tell myself, “Run your race Steph, no one else’s. One step, one mile at a time.” It’s no different in life, there are simply moments, when it is crucial to tune the world out, cruel or kind, and find your own rhythm. I was thankful this weekend to find myself with friends, whom, while shaking their head (lovingly, patiently, knowlingly) at me, were able to say, “We love you, messy as you are.” What a gift. Thankful that there are a group of people in the world that just like Diet Coke, I on the other hand, had to learn to like it… God bless my friends and family.
All of this is to say, whatever it is, running, losing weight, going back to school, working through a difficult time in life, dealing with personal frustration, or even being frustrated with YOURSELF – the keys are the same. You have to start where you are, you have to build your strength, you can only run your race, and you you have to be proud of your great accomplishments and skills – no matter what the dark voices inside or outside say. You also have to be ok spending a little time in the ditch – unfortunately there are few great accomplishments or achievements that come in our life without some real setbacks. AM says for every mile on the road you spend two in the ditch. I don’t find this cynical, I find it heartening… It means those times in the ditch are temporary, and not permanent. That the sunny road is just ahead.
As for me. I’ll be running at the back of the pack on April 16th and loving it! I’ll be running strong, steady, and for a cause. I’ll be fulfilling a life-long dream and I believe starting a beautiful new season of my own life. As well, I am reminding myself what my dear friend Dawn said to me this weekend, our momentary lapses and falls don’t define us if we don’t let them. My personality is quirky, strong, feisty, and sometimes it can be a bit much for even me - but I am a good friend, a great wife, devoted to my family, I love to laugh, and for those who have the pallet for me – I bring a lot of life and I am really proud of that.
February 7, 2012 § 4 Comments
I took this picture Sunday morning, right outside of Ted & Honey, in Cobble Hill in Brooklyn.
Burning question… How do I want it to feel?
I want it to feel like Brooklyn, with weather like Austin in March.
I think that New York and Austin may be the two greatest places in the world.
The problem? Justin hates heat and I hate cold. I think we could be a bi-coastal couple.
Gulf Coast and East Coast. That’s normal right?
Every time we go to Brooklyn, Justin fantasizes about living there. Every time we go to Austin, I cry when we leave.
In some ways Brooklyn is the perfect answer, because it guarantees that I could see my family a lot more and that they would be really happy when they came to visit (UK is from the neighborhood.) The problem is that I ache for Texas. Really, I ache for my family. Well, and maybe Mexican food. Well, authentic Tex-Mex. And my friends. And Shiner. I also ache for laying by the pool, and when my hair was naturally blonde. I ache for a town that is truly liberal, as opposed to Boston, which is liberal and provential/patriarchal which has a distinctly CONSERVATIVE feel. Almost like Mi Cocina in Highland Park, but with old money.
The interesting thing is that as I apply to transfer to four year schools, they are mostly in Mass.
I think we can understand why.
One thing Mass can do – fancy pants schools.
Geez Louise these people have more fancy pants schools per square capita than Texas has trucks.
Did I mention that one time I went on a tour of a school called Wellesley? I had never heard of Wellesley the school. You can bet your bottom dollar that I had heard of the cheese shop in Wellesley, damn, that place is GOOD. But the FAMOUS college Wellesley. Nope. The one where 2/3 of our female Secretaries of State attended – never heard of it. Anyway, when they gave me a tour and pointed out where Madeleine Albright lived, and Hillary Clinton lived (and my stomach was in my throat) I had that awkward Southern response, where I thought, “Yeah well, they know my name at George’s Bar.” I feel out of my league up here. The very, very best part is that they don’t let you feel out of your league and so as a community college student you can apply to schools where 2/3 OF THE FEMALE SECRETARIES OF STATE WENT TO COLLEGE! That’s like Brooklyn with Austin’s weather in March for sure!
I remember when I used to care that Valentine’s Day was coming…
I am trying to remember that I need to FIGHT TO STAY IN LOVE (follow me on Instagram.)
Maybe I should get Justin this card Via Rifle Paper Co. my new favorite Stationary Co. (no small task)
I love this Valentine’s Day card and can’t think of one person who wouldn’t be absolutely pleased to receive it. Justin’s definitely a fox. I am bad at forced sentimentality. But maybe I should make it into an opportunity to appreciate that I have someone to love after all those years of lamenting MY ALONENESS. No, seriously. 33 years of complaining and now I hardly appreciate what I’ve got. I am such a grass is greener girl.
I would like to send out condolences to my sister-in-law who lost her beloved Elle this morning. I know it will be such a difficult loss, and probably hardest on Grace. The dogs were their first children and they have been well loved and deeply adored. I know that they will be a pile of tears trying to cope with this. All I know about losing a pet is that I still miss Harry, and losing Jasper was so traumatic. So keep Alice and AJ in your thoughts tonight. Here are Grace and Elle (on the right) back when they were Beaumont dogs.
In other news, we stayed home sick today. I feel like I could sleep for eternity, and that someone has been raking my throat like a chicken with sharp talons. I washed our sheets in an act of desperation. I also almost forgot my phone interview with Smith, due to a cold & sinus medication induced fog. Thank goodness for iPhone apps which do not allow us to forget such important events in our lives.
I am honestly so nervous about this process. I am really relying on these schools to know what kind of student they are looking for and my pep-talk to myself is much like the one that I gave myself when I was single. You don’t want the wrong one, so be yourself. If you sell something other than who you are it’s going to make the whole thing wrong, so be who you are, and they will be who they are, and when the fit is right, you will know. You will both just know. And I really do believe that.
It will feel like Brooklyn, with Austin’s weather in March.