Sunday, December 29, 2013

Holiday recap

In photos:
My parents' Christmas tree
put up just in time for my arrival in Iowa.

Christmas Eve fish dinner:
shrimp, calamari salad, scallops and pasta (of course).

The impressive engagement igloo my soon-to-be
brother-in-law built before asking my sister to marry him.

Back in Vermont at the teahouse
with my friend Harum who is visiting from Missouri.
The week has passed too quickly.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Snuggling in

Hibernation is the only way I can explain it.

I feel fine but have been sleeping an alarming number of hours. Once the sun sets, I yearn for bed. And once dinner is done, I go there straight away. Perhaps it's the ever earlier darkness or the warm cocoon of my apartment that lulls me.

I don't sleep immediately — I've gotten in the habit of watching an Australian mystery show on Netflix — but I drift off before the crime is solved. 

"Shouldn't I be going out? Making friends? Meeting people? Working on my personal writing?" These questions surface in my dreamy state. I snuggle deeper under the covers, turn up my electric blanket and feel content to let them pass.

I've given myself until the new year to occupy this sleepy state. Then I'll kick off the covers and get back to life. 

Just before dusk/bedtime

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Happy feet, heart

The podiatrist operated on my right foot just shy of one year ago and on the other in late May. Each recovery lasted eight weeks — two on bed rest and six on crutches. I've been back to my pre-surgery activities since late July but have not returned to running, which I abandoned in my early twenties.

With some trepidation, I agreed to accompany my friend Christine on Burlington's annual Santa run. She is an avid runner who regularly participates in all sorts of costumed races, which have included a superhero getup and a Christmas-lighted tutu. No longer a runner and never a silly costume sort of person, I dragged my feet about signing up and felt considerable anxiety once I did about being the slowest Santa on the course. 

Christine, who lives across the lake, came over an hour and a half early. We picked up coffee in full costume and watched the crowd of Santas accumulate.

At 10 a.m., a voice boomed over the Christmas carols. The sea of red began bobbing down the street. We were off. 

As I topped the first (and largest) hill, my anxiety about being too out of shape to run disappeared. I felt great. Absent was the throbbing pain in the bottom of my feet that I learned to tolerate in my running days. 

I ran the whole 5K and crossed the finish line feeling a little lightheaded but mostly elated.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The triumph of heat

Vermont received her first covering of snow, followed by the arrival of a frigid northern wind.

I'm keeping my radiator at 72 degrees when I'm home, and recognize that most people will find that excessive. But the warmth of my home represents more than temperature itself. I'm reminded of the last time I lived in this part of the country, in the servants quarters of a stone mansion that was heated just enough for the pipes not to freeze. The cold was paralyzing, and I spent most of my time at home in bed. 

Heat feels like a triumph. I can't get enough of it. I move my rocking chair closer to the vent. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

In my posting absence

I've been remiss in posting for almost a month. In my posting absence ...

Kitchen window rocking spot

Range, teapot, jars and loom

Place to rest my head

Place to curl up


I've moved and settled with the help and generosity of several friends as well as my Aunt Jani and Uncle Louis. With all their help, I have outfited my tiny two-room nest with everything from silverware to seating.

After several deep-dive cleaning extravaganzas, it's really starting to feel (and smell) like home ...

Two summer's ago, I was enrolled in a Virginia Woolf seminar at Bread Loaf School of English. On the first day, we discussed Woolf's hints of home in her writing and our own definitions. I said that home was a place with big shelves where I could keep my books. Thanks to Louis and Jani, I now have the shelves. And they have space to spare.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Revisiting an old haunt

I know Vermont best in the summer when I study at the Bread Loaf School English. The landscape is lush — verdant mountains, fields sprinkled with Indian paintbrush flowers, dark green mosses covering the rocks along the rivers, wide clearings with tiny flavor-packed low-bush blueberries. I wake up with the sun and get out of bed without hesitation. I go for a long walk almost every morning. 

I wanted to revisit the Robert Frost Trail in fall to see how I felt. I thought I might feel unwelcome, like arriving early to a party and finding the host not fully dressed.

Here's what I saw.

Rather than unwelcome, I felt an intimacy with the place. I know it dressed up in summer splendor and stripped down to rock and branch. Both beautiful.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Frost's October

I'm thinking of Robert Frost's poem "October."

It starts,

O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.

This hush has permeated my being. I've been sleeping more, sending letters, taking long slow walks, appreciating the filtered sunlight.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Late, but just in time

Last weekend, I drove 1,400 miles round trip (between Friday night and early Monday morning).
I worked until 8 p.m. Friday and immediately got on the road to drive four hours south so that I would have a manageable five hour drive to Gettysburg the next morning, and arrive with an hour to spare for the wedding ceremony of my grad school friends.
Everything went as planned (aside from the scary motel room next door to a group of bikers) until I drove through a small town about 45 miles from Gettysburg. At a stoplight I decided to be good and not take my left turn on the yellow.
The light turned red and a old man in a bright orange safety vest marched out from the sidewalk and placed an orange traffic cone in front of my car. He then walked up to my window and knocked.
"Dear, you're going to have to wait a few minutes. There's a parade coming through," he said when I rolled down my window.
The light changed three times; nothing happened.
And then I saw an ant-like army coming over a distant hill. As the parade moved closer I heard the honks and saw the POW flags. Turns out, the parade of motorcycles took five minutes to pass and I would follow it all the way to Gettysburg.
I arrived at the church a half hour after the ceremony started instead of the planned hour ahead of time. I did get there in time for the vows, which I heard thanks to the somewhat unnerving presence of a speaker installed in the bathroom. (I had been holding my bladder for the final leg of the journey so as not to lose any more time.)
After the dinner, and a quick conversation with the newlyweds, I drove the four hours to Pittsburgh. I spent the night with my sister Claire and the furry Leo. The next day we did some shopping in an old grocery district of the city, ate breakfast at a Jewish deli and visited Claire's sky-lighted office at Carnegie Mellon, where she now teaches.
The visit was too short, but knowing that I had to get back for work, I loaded up the car with all my things Claire had moved from Missouri (including winter coats, and less useful items like a table loom and a box of my childhood dolls).
I drove 12 hours straight and arrived in Burlington at 1 a.m., so exhausted that I actually walked into a wall in my apartment.
Although I worked a full week, I've had little energy for anything extra (aside from yoga classes which helped loosen my stiff neck). I slept 14 hours from Friday to Saturday afternoon. I feel pretty good this morning and happily return to my blog posting.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Reconnecting and remembering

I've been away for yet another weekend — went across Lake Champlain to spend the night at my aunt and uncle's house. My cousin, who's close to my age, was visiting from Austin. We had played together as children, but I hadn't seen her in a few years. She and I went for a hike up Coon Mountain which we had done together before, a long time ago.

View from the top of Coon Mountain.
Then, the whole family went out to dinner. When we got home, no one was ready for bed. We settled in front of the fireplace for what turned out to be a very late night of remembering shared experiences and filling each other in on the paths we've taken since.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Getting installed

I love my one-bedroom corner apartment with seven-foot-tall windows, but haven't spent much time at home.

A series of trips have taken me away from Burlington throughout the month of August. I've spent time in Rochester and  Essex, N.Y., Putney and Middlebury, Vt., and most recently Quebec.

In anticipation of visitors coming to see me over the next weeks, I hunkered down in Burlington to rest and get a more acquainted with the city where I now live. The timing couldn't have been better because Burlington's South End Art Hop was taking place. The waterfront neighborhood's seemingly defunct warehouses are actually divided into a surprising number of studios, workshops (even a small artisan bagel shop) and sprawling antique stores. For the celebration, the maze of  studios and workshops were opened to the public, bands played, food vendors filled the street and a Ben & Jerry's truck gave away free ice cream.

Here's a picture of me in an installation art exhibit.

Art Hop also spilled over on the central part of Burlington's Waterfront. Overnight, an impressive number of rock sculptures appeared on Lake Champlain's embankment.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

I remember

Je me souviens (I remember) appears on all the license plates in Quebec. My Uncle Louis pointed out the motto and translated the words for me while we were driving to our family's ancestral farmlands in the central Quebec municipality of B├ęcancour over Labor Day weekend. 

He suggested that we, along with our Montreal-based second cousin who came too, were enacting this motto. I thought his suggestion wasn't quite accurate, for me at least, as I'd never been there. I had nothing to remember. I drove on.

Although the farmhouse where my grandmother grew up burned down a number of years ago and none of us knew where my grandfather's farm even was, we did find plenty of hints from the past. 

We spent the day sightseeing the Catholic churches and cemeteries of the towns where my grandparents grew up, visiting our last remaining relative in my grandmother's town of St. Sylvere and eating Belgian-chocolate dipped ice creams the size of our heads. We even weaseled our way onto the farm where my grandmother grew up by buying eggs from the elderly farmer who now lives there. He took us around to see the chickens, goats and sheep.  

I took the opportunity to photograph the barns that are still standing.

As we drove back to Montreal at the end of the day, I felt like I had a fuller understanding of who my grandparents were and what kind of legacy they have passed down tho their children and grandchildren. A legacy of simple living, hard work and commitment to family. I come from a family of good and honest people. My mind wandered back the "I remember" motto. Now, I do.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Fast-fading summer

Autumn officially starts in mid-September, but my hallmarks of summer's end are fast approaching. School resumes this week in Burlington. A windfall of deep red skin-split tomatoes bestowed upon me by a friend whose husband grew "more than he knows what do with" fill my fridge. Warm middays. Cool nights. Corduroy.

Summer has discovered she can toddle away. She wriggles in my arms. I hold on just a bit longer.

I pack too much into one weekend. I sit in the sun longer than I had planned. I miss the  ferry from New York to Vermont (and have to wait for the next). I'm playing catch up. I write this blogpost on Monday rather than Sunday.

My weekend in photographs:

A trip to Middlebury

with Christine

where we had a picnic and looked at art

followed by an orange sunset back in Burlington

and a visit with family across the lake the next morning

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Finding the path

I found myself lost in the southern wilds of Vermont yesterday afternoon. To make matters more desperate, my cell phone had died after several hours of snaking around dirt roads and seasonal mountain passes.

My desired destination lay at the end of a little-known mountainside drive named Woodland Path. At the top of that path, my dear friend has a family camp at which she and hers were gathered to celebrate her 28th birthday. 

When she told me to use GPS to find Woodland Path, I had no idea how remote the camp actually was. The area has a verdant ridgy landscape dotted with small towns where business signs tell of wholesome work—Vermont Weaving School, Artisan Pottery and PYO (pick your own) blueberries. I was enchanted and didn't worry much about missing my estimated arrival time by one hour. 

But my worry rose as the sun began to sink. I worried about never being able to find my way out of these uninhabited roads. I worried about keeping my friend and her family waiting for me on her birthday dinner. 

Just before true panic set in, I saw a man walking along the road. He was outfitted like a wholesome Vermonter in Carhart cargoes, Keen sandals and a ponytail threaded through the back of his baseball cap.

I pulled up and asked directions, which he happened to know. A miracle in itself, he told me, because most locals aren't even aware of the subdivision. It just so happened that this man's drum repair guy lived on Woodland Path too. The man patiently gave me directions twice, once with me repeating and the second time while I took notes having realized that it was far too complicated to remember. 

As it turned out, I was about twelve miles from where I needed to be. I arrived shortly before sunset, just as my friend and her father headed down their long driveway to search for me. We almost hit each other.

I had missed the appetizer course, but was in time for the artisanal cheeses, a big glass of wine and the lobster and clam boil.

After dinner, my friend and I soaked in the hot-tub, made from a animal trough outfitted with a wood stove. The stars twinkled and the crescent moon hung high in the dark blue sky. It's a strange thing to go so quickly from being utterly lost to feeling like there is nowhere else you could possibly wish to be.

Oh yes, and I took my job back. That feels right too.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Thrown off, and getting back up

I lost my job in a round of company-wide layoffs two weeks ago.

It happened on the one month anniversary of starting the job as a story editor. On that day, I arrived at work with coffee in one hand and lunch in the other, ready to dig into the news flow. But something was amiss. People were visibly upset.

As I fired up my computer, my boss approached me and ushered me down the hallway to a conference room where woman from the company's human resources department informed me that she was there to speak with me about my unemployment benefits. 

As she talked me through a packet of instructions for laid off employees, I started silently crying. I felt shocked, but strangely calm. 

I asked the woman if all the information she was telling me could be found in the packet, and she said that it could. I then told her that at that moment I couldn't absorb what she was saying, and I would read the packet on my own time. 

I left the room with my boss, and he stopped in the hallway to apologize, adding that he never would have brought me out to Vermont had he known that layoffs were coming. I said that I believed him and asked him to get my purse. I needed to go for a walk.

He got it, and I left the building. I bumped into one of the reporters who had not lost her job but looked totally deflated and stunned. As we chatted for a minute, two other editors came outside to find me. We gave each other teary hugs, and I left to walk in the park and call my family.

The rest of the day was difficult, the kind of experience that allows you to prove that you are gracious, strong and resilient. A test of sorts. I returned to the newsroom said some more teary goodbyes, packed up my things and headed across Lake Champlain where I met with a dear friend for a few glasses of wine at the Essex Inn. Then I headed to my Uncle Louis and Aunt Jani's home for dinner and another glass of wine.

As the tipsiness wore off, exhaustion took over. I went to bed, but couldn't sleep due to a splitting stress headache. I was up most of the night sobbing my despair into the pillow. 

The next day, I rose early and set about my usual morning routines of stretching and checking my email. I still couldn't bring myself write in my journal, but I was moving forward nonetheless and continued to do so. Louis and I went for coffee at the nearby bakery and I spent the afternoon setting up my unemployment and going for a long walk.

Each day, I felt a bit stronger. I got back hopeful responses to some jobs I'd applied for. I went back to Vermont for a few days and got together for drinks with some of my former coworkers. I embraced the unknown.

Exactly one week after the layoff, I was contacted by my old boss. The other editor had stepped down and he wanted to offer me my job back (with a few different responsibilities).  I've taken the weekend to think about it. I've tried to relax and let the answer come to me. I know that I like living in Vermont. I know that I still want to be in the news business. I know that the salary I made will allow me to save so that I can feel comfortable and safe. 

I'm supposed to tell my decision to my boss tomorrow morning. I haven't made up my mind yet, but, in the meantime, I'm baking a blackberry-peach crisp to take to dinner a party this evening. 

The crisp

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Self imposed silent read

St. Pat's grade school had weekly half-hour session of "silent reading" — something I didn't know how to do until I started at the school in fourth grade. That time of the week served as a welcome break from my teachers' lectures and navigating the complicated interactions between girls on the edge of adolescence.

Instead of reading though, I retreated into the silence, my own head. I daydreamed. I simulated reading with page turns but made no attempt to register words. The half hour always ended too soon. 

After a busy week at my editors desk and anticipating another weekend away, I felt like lazing in the silence of my apartment. I went for my usual morning walks and picked up groceries for the week but spent most of my time at home. I played in the kitchen whipping up a batch of egg salad for lunches and wild rice and beans for dinners.

I also spent a good bit of time attempting to read silently. But snuggled onto my sheepskin covered sofa, drowsiness quickly overwhelmed me. Twice I woke up warm and relaxed with the golden late-afternoon light filling the room.

I didn't finish my book but feel complete anyway.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Girl's weekend in Montpelier

This post is a day late a line or two shorter than I'd like; I'm in a rush as I'm expected at work fully dressed and caffeinated in less than an hour.

It's been a silly, giddy, boozy weekend in Montpelier. I spent Saturday with my good friend and some of her good friends (who I'd like to think are my friends now too). We drank small batch local gin; ate at a trendy, highly-recommended restaurant called Salt; and stayed up late talking like junior-high girls. I got back to Burlington just in time to start cooking for my previously planned dinner party with a co-worker and her boyfriend.

I've had more than my share of delicious food, alcohol and conversation; and go to work happily.

Vermont's State Capitol taken on a morning walk
to clear our heads after the night of fun.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Computer kaput

My hard drive crashed and now I'm without a computing device for the next week. In its absence, I'm posting via my iPhone, which makes me feel like I have sausages for fingers.

In the interest of keeping typing to a minimum, I'm going to post two photos from the weekend--one of Maddie, Louis and Jani's very senior poodle mutt ( I to Essex, N.Y. for an overnight), and another of the sunny Burlington waterfront I returned to this morning.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Residing, reading in Vermont

I've traded my Iowa license for one from Vermont. Despite living in Boston, New York and Missouri, I'd never registered to drive or vote anywhere but Iowa until now.

Joan Didion once spoke of retaining her California license even after living most of her life in New York City. The license became an important tie to the place where she was born and where her parents and grandparents lived. I feel similarly.

So what made me drive to the Department of Motor Vehicles before work one morning last week? It was a the desire to be fully involved in the community where I live (and in small part the fact that if an Iowa license holder leaves the state they have 30 days to register in their new state of residence, as I learned while renewing my license this May). But this change goes deeper than following the law and does not indicate a weakening connection with the state where I've spent the majority of my life and my parents, sister and grandmother still live.

Instead, it represents my desire to pay attention to community issues and have a vote in decisions. It also demonstrates my readiness to put down roots in a single place after shuffling around to different states and countries for a few months here and a few years there.

While attending Bread Loaf in Vermont last summer a teacher asked me and my classmates to describe where home is. I said that I wasn't quite sure where mine was, but it would be a place with a big bookshelf that I could fill. Up to now, I've been reluctant to acquire too many books for fear of eventually having to lug them to my next temporary home.

Since arriving in Vermont, I've been searching the Internet for a bookshelf to order when my paychecks start coming and dreaming of the books I'll collect.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Time passes

Virginia Woolf has a short chapter in her novel "To the Lighthouse" called 'Time Passes'. Many years of slow change get compressed into the shortest chapter of the novel.

My life seems to have done the opposite. Huge changes have taken place in just a few weeks. The short summary is that I got a job as an editor at the Burlington Free Press newspaper in Burlington, Vt., drove myself to there, rented an apartment, and will start work tomorrow.

Here are a few pictures of my new surroundings.

View of the Adirondacks where I used to live from
my new home—Burlington, Vt.

My cozy living room with flowers from a friend.

It's not home until a dress hangs
on the wall.

Pantry stocked.

I hope to resume my weekly blogging. Stay tuned.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Free wheelin' around

I've been feeling a bit stir crazy since my foot surgery. My mother and father (and brother Vinnie) are doing their best to help. They've been pushing me around Cedar Falls in a rented wheelchair. We've gone downtown for coffee, down the street to see my grandma, and around town on a late-night walk.

My dad pushing me on a Sunday afternoon

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

In the absence of posting

A lot of changes in the past two weeks ...

picture by my friend Tatiana Fernandez

The big change ... I graduated with my master's in journalism from the University of Missouri and moved from Columbia, Mo.

A familiar view

The small change (which feels quite big at the moment) ... I'm flat on my back recovering from foot surgery. Luckily, I am well cared for in Iowa.

More updates to come ...

Monday, May 13, 2013

Mother's Day, a day late

I've been tying up loose ends in Columbia, Mo.—packing, goodbyes, cleaning and finishing work. But that's no reason not to take time to recognize a mother of six, including me. I think we would all agree that she taught us a great deal and loved us well.

At the moment, I am drawing on a lesson that my mother taught her children by example. It is one that my sister Claire often repeats, "Onward!" (with her index finger raised). As I graduate, I am channeling this attitude. Don't be afraid. Pull yourself together, and embrace the next adventure.

My siblings (minus Marisa) reading with Mama, circa 1994.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

City sisters

Two years after exploring the beautiful (and not so beautiful) offerings of Buenos Aires, Marisa and I rendezvoused for the weekend in Chicago. We attended our friend's 30th birthday party and spent many hours walking through the city.

It was the perfect way to reflect on all that has happened in both our lives since our trip.

Photo taken on Marisa's iPhone at our friend's party

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Thesis discussion (defense)

This past Friday morning, I stepped across the invisible finish line of my journalism master's degree. I sat before my thesis committee (as well as my sister Claire and friend Kevin who attended for moral support) and discussed the research I've done over the past semester. My research was based upon 10 in-depth interviews with people ages 18 to 25 who are currently or had participated in community or youth media programs. We talked about their motivations, the lessons they learned and where they thought their work and they themselves fit into society.

It's been an intense two years, and I had a low key celebratory Friday afternoon and evening with drinks, dinner and good friends.

The dedication page (click to read)

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Turning 28

I had another wonderful and memorable birthday celebration this year. Best of all, my sisters, Marisa and Claire, treated me to a fancy dinner (at a place where you can write on the tablecloth) complete with cake and a candle.

The tablecloth

Marisa took this picture of me

Monday, April 15, 2013

Fast approaching end

I got back from Brussels less than two days ago. Upon my return the forsythia had bloomed and so had the tulips. I also got word from my advisor that my thesis is ready to defend. Changes are coming, fast.

Final group photo of the amazing journalists
I got to spend the week with in Brussels.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Jet lagged in Brussels

This is the fourth day of my Brussels-based conference. I've been far too tired to post anything until now. Considering it's 1:30 a.m., I'll make this quick and try to go back to sleep.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter, cerca 1989

I hear the snow trickle as it melts, but my favorite spring signifiers, the forsythia and daffodils, have yet to bloom. Thier absence has me daydreaming about the Austrian Easters of my past when the Stigliani children would have an egg hunt in the vibrant flower garden of our good friend Ulla.

The Stiglianis in Ulla's spring garden (minus the boys)

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Spring break and sickness

It's spring break! Only, I arrived in Cedar Falls, Iowa, with a head cold and a fever. At least I'm at home, the best place to be sick. I've been pampered with soup, slippers, hot rum, a seat next to the fireplace and the company of my parents and the dogs.

My seat by the fire ...
in Mama's craft studio ...
where she makes slippers like the pair she gave me ...
with Tina and Joshi nearby for company